Today is July 2, 2017 so I thought it appropriate to write a blog which pertains to the 4th of July or our Independence Day.
I often see people who refer to Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee as “Traitors”. This is a tiresome observation and it points directly to the ignorance of our history by whoever made this particular observation.
Here’s my reasoning for this –
Back in the contentious pre-Civil War 19th Century, which was a turbulent time and a completely different era with a completely different set of morals and mentality than what we have today.
During that time, the Union of the United States only consisted of 34 States which were awaiting the inclusion of territories such as Nebraska and Kansas to be included into the fold. This was also a time which included the mentality of Manifest Destiny, which was the belief that white men, under the auspices of the Divine Christian God had to right to expand the territories against the heathen savages who were the Native Americans and who have lived on that land desired by the white men. Remember, Native Americans didn’t think of land as “property” as white men do but considered land in the same way that white men would consider air or water and not something that can be “owned”. The land, to them, was someplace that was where they lived on, hunted on and was given as a gift to them from a Great Spirit Being and they were the Guardians of it. This concept was foreign to the white man who considered it their destiny to be able to drive out the “savages” so that they could take it for themselves.
There were issues such as the Sovereignty of the individual states and states rights to consider. This included issues such as the Missouri Compromise of 1920, which states that above the latitude 36°30´will not be a “Slave State”. With the inclusion of Missouri into the Union, the Federal Government also included Maine, which was a part of Massachusetts at the time to become a separate State in order to “balance” out and equalize between the Slave States and the Free States.
The Nebraska-Kansas Act of 1854 basically repealed the Missouri Compromise because this act said that any State which wanted to become a part of the Union can decide for themselves whether they wanted to become a Slave State or Free.
After the Mexican War of April 25, 1846 – February 2, 1848, there were factions in the Federal Government who advocated for Imperialistic Expansionism of the United States to annex territories all the way down to Central America and also Cuba. This was, of course, not realized and the expansion only included territories of Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and California, all of which belonged to Mexico before the war.
Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee were no more traitors than our Founding Fathers were traitors to the English government with King George as the Monarch and the Colonies were part of English Rule, which, of course, our Founding Fathers rebelled against and won, creating our United States of America.
Back to the mid 19th Century, if you were to ask somebody what country they were from, they would have said the name of their state, such as Virginia or Georgia and not the U.S.A.
If for example, the Federal Army of the U.S.A. were successful in annexing Mexico and Cuba, and you asked somebody in those countries, which would logically be a part of the U.S.A., what country they were from, they would have said Mexico or Cuba and not the U.S.A.
A good example would be our current Puerto Rico and Guam as territories. When you ask those people what country they are from, they would say Puerto Rico and Guam, not the U.S.A.; even though they’re United States Citizens by right of birth in those “countries”.
The big question now would be the “right” of the States which succeeded from the Union to indeed succeed.
At the time of the Civil War, it was not illegal as the ruling by Supreme Court came later in 1869 (after the war) that unilateral secession was unconstitutional.
With that in mind, were Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee “Traitors”? I would say, No they were not. In their minds during that time, they thought they were doing the right thing by supporting their country, which was their individual states and which they believed had every right to secede.
Neither of them wanted the Union dissolved but both of them felt bound to protect their countries right to do so against the ruling tyrannical Federal Government, much in the same way that our Founding Fathers felt against King George’s rule in England.
It’s easy enough to forget this fact when discussing these issues but our United States of America was founded by the enactment of our Declaration of Indepence from England, which was considered a Traitorous act with dire consequences which lead to the Revolutionary War. The men who founded the Confederate States of America felt that they were fighting the Second Revolutionary War in fact.
So before oversimplifying things by referring to the Confederacy as “Traitors”; it’s best to consider matters from a differenct perspective. This all disregards the matter of Slavery of course, which is an entire different issue.