(17) comments Back to story

Bailey Jones

In May, 1866, a year after having been captured and imprisoned, Jefferson Davis was indicted for treason, defined in the US Constitution - "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort". Davis, along with every other confederate was granted a pardon on Christmas Day, 1868, by President Andrew Johnson, "unconditionally, and without reservation ... a full pardon and amnesty for the offence of treason against the United States, or of adhering to their enemies during the late Civil War, with restoration of all rights, privileges, and immunities under the Constitution and the laws."

Kimberley Jones Yancy

Yes. Southerners who had lost the war glamorized treason and America looked away as a way to move forward and it back fired and led to the legalization of Jim Crow laws.

Carlos Ponce

You left out something, Kimberly: "Yes. Democrat Party Southerners who had lost the war glamorized treason and America looked away as a way to move forward and it back fired and led to the legalization of Jim Crow laws."

Gary Scoggin

Carlos. I believe there is a 100 year statute of limitations on blaming Democrats for the Civil War.

Carlos Ponce

You are entitled to your beliefs.

Don Schlessinger

Gary have you forgotten about the 50's and 60's? People like George Wallace, Orval Fabous, William Fulbright, Strom Thurmond, and Hugo Black? These famous Democrats, governors senators and a Supreme Court Justice, lived and fought against Civil Rights less than 60 years ago. Have the Dems erased this part of their history also?

Bailey Jones

Don, Strom Thurmond (who names their kid Strom?) was a Democrat until 1964 when he became a Republican. Like many southern Democrats he couldn't abide what my (most) racist aunt called "the civil rights". In the 50s - 70s there was a mass exodus of Democrats to the Republican Party. But you're old enough to remember that. I still remember when John Connolly made the switch. Texans voting Democratic had their high point in 1932, with FDR at 88%. The low point was 1972, with George McGovern, at 33%. Maybe you remember the "Texas Democrats for Nixon" TV ads.

The big jump was between the 1944 election and the 1952 election when Republican votes went from 17% to 47% while the Dems dropped from 71% to 53%. This was also the time of the great awakening of "the civil rights" in the Democratic Party. As the Dems veered left, the Republicans veered right, and Texas has been solidly red since 1980.

Bailey Jones

Kimberly, I'm not sure "backfired" is the correct term. I think things worked out exactly as planned. The (to make Carlos happy - Republican) north was very much on board with the end of political rights for southern blacks.

Robert Braeking

Lest we forget....The Declaration of Independence is a treasonous document. "When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another..."

Bailey Jones

That's probably why you don't see a lot of statues to the Sons of Liberty in London. But yeah it was treason. I think sometimes that America's armchair patriots forget just how radical of a political act the revolution was. Those guys weren't interested in preserving the status quo, of diddling around the edges. They threw the whole thing out and built something new. These days, try to do that with even a local police department and people call you crazy.

Robert Braeking

Perhaps our original Declaration of Independence needs to be dusted off for those cities experiencing occupation and riots: "When a government has ceased to protect the lives, liberty and property of the people, from whom its legitimate powers are derived, and for the advancement of whose happiness it was instituted, and so far from being a guarantee for the enjoyment of those inestimable and inalienable rights, becomes an instrument in the hands of evil rulers for their oppression."

Santa Anna wasn't too pleased with the document so we had to whup his behind.

Ted Gillis

I think we snuck somebody into his tent.

Wayne D Holt

There are several references in these comments to a very significant but little discussed principle: does any federal system have the lawful right to force its federated states to remain in a union? I say no, and here's why.

The term treason can logically only be applied when you are trying to subvert and/or take over an established system. If you have tried within the system's legal process to separate peacefully from that system and been denied that right, it is not the secessionists but the unionists who are committing treason; that is treason to the rationale of a federal system.

We had no national government established in our founding documents. We had a federation of freely associating states that banded together for their mutual benefit. The was no national government to commit treason against; the national government is an abstraction that later was manufactured out of subsequent decisions to centralize power and authority in Washington and not the states. Anyone who does even a modicum of research can see the myriad subterfuges that have been used to further this unconstitutional end.

We can discuss the value of a national government vs federation, the morality of states rights regarding universally repugnant practices like slavery, the necessity of a strong national posture in a world of other large political states...all these are legitimate issues.

What is not legitimate is to say a freely associated state or states that wish to peacefully leave that association are committing treason; they are doing no such thing. To say otherwise is to say I have the right to hold a gun to your head and force you to volunteer. If that is the case, there is no such thing as slavery, either. Your're just being forced to volunteer.

Bailey Jones

Andrew Jackson disagrees:

Because the Union was formed by a compact, it is said the parties to that compact may, when they feel themselves aggrieved, depart from it; but it is precisely because it is a compact that they cannot. A compact is an agreement or binding obligation. It may by its terms have a sanction or penalty for its breach, or it may not. If it contains no sanction, it may be broken with no other consequence than moral guilt; if it have a sanction, then the breach incurs the designated or implied penalty. A league between independent nations generally has no sanction other than a moral one; or if it should contain a penalty, as there is no common superior it cannot be enforced. A government, on the contrary, always has a sanction, express or implied; and in our case it is both necessarily implied and expressly given. An attempt by force of arms to destroy a government is an offense, by whatever means the constitutional compact may have been formed; and such government has the right by the law of self-defense to pass acts for punishing the offender, unless that right is modified, restrained, or resumed by the constitutional act. In our system, although it is modified in the case of treason, yet authority is expressly given to pass all laws necessary to carry its powers into effect, and under this grant provision has been made for punishing acts which obstruct the due administration of the laws.

It would seem superfluous to add anything to show the nature of that Union which connects us, but as erroneous opinions on this subject are the foundation of doctrines the most destructive to our peace, I must give some further development to my views on this subject. No one, fellow citizens, has a higher reverence for the reserved rights of the states than the magistrate who now addresses you. No one would make greater personal sacrifices or official exertions to defend them from violation; but equal care must be taken to prevent, on their part, an improper interference with or resumption of the rights they have vested in the nation. The line has not been so distinctly drawn as to avoid doubts in some cases of the exercise of power. Men of the best intentions and soundest views may differ in their construction of some parts of the Constitution; but there are others on which dispassionate reflection can leave no doubt.

Of this nature appears to be the assumed right of secession. It rests, as we have seen, on the alleged undivided sovereignty of the states and on their having formed in this sovereign capacity a compact which is called the Constitution, from which, because they made it, they have the right to secede. Both of these positions are erroneous, and some of the arguments to prove them so have been anticipated.

The states severally have not retained their entire sovereignty. It has been shown that in becoming parts of a nation, not members of a league, they surrendered many of their essential parts of sovereignty. The right to make treaties, declare war, levy taxes, exercise exclusive judicial and legislative powers were all of them functions of sovereign power. The states, then, for all these important purposes, were no longer sovereign. The allegiance of their citizens was transferred, in the first instance, to the government of the United States; they became American citizens and owed obedience to the Constitution of the United States and to laws made in conformity with the powers it vested in Congress. . . .

This, then, is the position in which we stand. A small majority of the citizens of one state in the Union have elected delegates to a state convention; that convention has ordained that all the revenue laws of the United States must be repealed, or that they are no longer a member of the Union. The governor of that state has recommended to the legislature the raising of an army to carry the secession into effect, and that he may be empowered to give clearances to vessels in the name of the state. No act of violent opposition to the laws has yet been committed, but such a state of things is hourly apprehended. And it is the intent of this instrument to proclaim, not only that the duty imposed on me by the Constitution "to take care that the laws be faithfully executed" shall be performed to the extent of the powers already vested in me by law, or of such others as the wisdom of Congress shall devise and intrust to me for that purpose, but to warn the citizens of South Carolina who have been deluded into an opposition to the laws of the danger they will incur by obedience to the illegal and disorganizing ordinance of the convention; to exhort those who have refused to support it to persevere in their determination to uphold the Constitution and laws of their country; and to point out to all the perilous situation into which the good people of that state have been led, and that the course they am urged to pursue is one of ruin and disgrace to the very state whose rights they affect to support. . . .

Disunion by armed force is treason. Are you really ready to incur its guilt? If you are, on the heads of the instigators of the act be the dreadful consequences; on their heads be the dishonor, but on yours may fall the punishment. On your unhappy state will inevitably fall all the evils of the conflict you force upon the government of your country. It cannot accede to the mad project of disunion, of which you would be the first victims. Its first magistrate cannot, if he would, avoid the performance of his duty. . . .

-Proclamation to the People of South Carolina, December 10, 1832.

Wayne D Holt


1) There is no reason to hold Andrew Jackson's singular opinion any higher than any other citizen who has read on the subject and comes to a different conclusion.

2) "An attempt by force of arms to destroy a government is an offense," is all that is needed to defeat this apologia for the later Northern aggression. The South did not attempt to destroy a government, it wished to disassociate in peace from that government. It was the North that decided force of arms should answer that peaceful petition.

3) I am shocked--shocked I tell you--that the humanitarian we all recognize you for would stoop to rely for your argument's validation on Andrew Jackson's opinion. After all, it was Jackson as president who was so committed to "Indian removal," which was often done with no supplies to the native Americans on their journey; thousands died. Are you sure you want to use his voice for your authority? I will be combing the area for a Bailey Jones statue to deface if true.

4) You're well read so you are probably familiar with this reference but for those who aren't, I suggest reading Lysander Spooner's Constitution of No Authority for a bracing re-evaluation of the legitimacy of binding unborn generations to a compact they did not agree to.

Bottom line for me is that voluntarism is the method of social organization that I find most moral, most agreeable to human progress. I do not accept the notion that my neighbors have a right to rob me of my freedom of choice in freely associating if they can just get a big enough mob together to do it.

Bailey Jones

Yeah, Jackson was a genocidal racist. I used his proclamation solely for the purpose of demonstrating that, even a generation before the civil war, the concept of "one nation, indivisible", was well founded. But sure - "There is no reason to hold Andrew Jackson's singular opinion any higher than any other citizen who has read on the subject". And this citizen believes that secession is treason. As far as I'm concerned, the deaths of more than 600,000 American lives have made that opinion an established fact.

Carlos Ponce

That's why he adopted a Native American boy.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

Thank you for reading!

Please log in, or sign up for a new account and purchase a subscription to read or post comments.