Lincoln, the North, and Secession: Questions for
Michael T. Griffith
@All Rights Reserved
As I dialogue with people who defend
* "Southern states seized federal installations, in some cases before the state had seceded."
* "The South fired the first shot by
* "Secession was the same as rebellion
because it would have broken up the
* "The Southern states had no right to
In response to these and other arguments, I
pose the following questions to those who defend what
1. If the South had offered to allow all federal installations to be manned and maintained by federal troops, would this have made any difference in how Lincoln responded to the South's desire for independence? Would he have decided against invading the South? Would he have dropped his threat to invade if the South didn't pay the recently hiked tariff? If the answer is no, which it obviously is, then isn't it invalid to cite the Southern states' seizure of federal installations as justification for the North's invasion of those states? And isn't it therefore invalid to cite the Confederate "attack" on Ft. Sumter as justification for the North's invasion?
2. Why was it ok for the original thirteen colonies to forcefully secede from England, even though this was in clear violation of British law, but not ok for the Southern states to peacefully secede from the Union, even though the Constitution is silent on the issue of secession, even though three of the original thirteen states specified in their ratification ordinances that the people of those states reserved the right to resume the powers of government, and even though Thomas Jefferson said he would allow a state that wanted to separate to do so?
3. Does anyone believe that states like
4. Why was it ok for the people of that part of northern Mexico that would later be known as the state of Texas to forcefully secede from Mexico, in an undeniable act of aggression and in clear violation of Mexican law, but not ok for the Southern states to peacefully secede from the Union, even though the Southern states offered to pay their share of the national debt, offered to pay compensation for all federal installations within their borders, and sought peaceful relations with the North?
5. What does the Declaration of Independence
mean when it says that governments derive their just powers "from the
consent of the governed"? Can anyone deny that the vast majority of
Southern citizens no longer wanted to be governed by the
6. Nearly all Americans supported
7. With regard to Lithuania's desire for independence, if you're going to reply that Lithuania had a right to independence because it didn't voluntarily join the Soviet Union, are you making the argument, then, that a union has the right to use force against member states that want independence if those states joined peacefully and voluntarily, but that it doesn't have the right to use force against seceding states if those states were forced the join the union? In other words, if a state is forced into a union, then the state has the right secede, but if the state joins peacefully and voluntarily, then the union has the right to use force to keep it from seceding? Isn't that a rather anti-democratic theory of government?
8. If you're saying secession is only acceptable if the seceding states can fight their way out, isn't this nothing but mob rule, tyranny by the stronger, dictatorship by majority, might makes right?
9. If the overwhelming majority of citizens of eleven states want to form their own nation, and if they express this desire in democratic elections conducted by their respective states, and if those states then offer to pay their fair share of the national debt, if they offer to pay for all federal forts within their borders, and if they seek peaceful relations with the Union, what moral or ethical grounds would you have for forcing them to remain in the Union? Of course, this was what happened when the Southern states seceded.
11. Wasn't leading abolitionist and Republican leader Horace Greeley expressing a sentiment in keeping with the traditional American principles of liberty and freedom of choice when he said shortly before the war began that "We hope never to live in a Republic where one section is pinned to the other section by bayonets"?
12. After the
13. Isn't it revealing that
14. Was the attack on Fort Sumter really a valid reason to declare war and to invade the South, given the fact (1) that South Carolina and then the Confederacy had been trying for weeks to arrange for the peaceful evacuation of the fort, (2) that the Confederacy had been promised repeatedly by Lincoln's own Secretary of State that the fort would be evacuated, (3) that the South was prepared to pay compensation for the fort, (4) that not one of the federal troops at the fort was killed in the attack, (5) that those troops were allowed to leave in peace and to return to the North after the attack, and (6) that the convoy of ships that Lincoln sent to "resupply" the fort included warships and armed troops?
Griffith holds a Masterís degree (Magna Cum Laude) in Theology from The
Catholic Distance University, a Graduate Certificate in Ancient and Classical
History from American Military University, a Bachelorís degree in Liberal Arts
from Excelsior College, two Associate in Applied Science degrees from the
Community College of the Air Force, and an Advanced Certificate of Civil War
Studies and a Certificate of Civil War Studies from Carroll College.† He is a two-time graduate of the Defense
Language Institute in