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Chapter 42:

  • Subjugation of the States of Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Virginia
  • -- object of a state government; its powers ‘just powers’; how exercised; its duty; necessarily sovereign; its entire order; how founded; how destroyed -- the crime against constitutional liberty -- distinction between the governments of the States and that of the United States -- secession -- the government of the United States invades the state; Refuses to recognize its government; thus Denies the fundamental principle of popular liberty -- annihilation of unalienable rights -- qualification of voters fixed by military power -- condition of the voter's oath -- who was the sovereign in Tennessee? -- case of Louisiana -- registration of voters -- none allowed to register without taking a certain oath; its conditions -- election of state officers -- part of the state Constitution declared void.

The most painful pages of this work are those which now present the subjugation of the state governments by the government of the United States. The patriot, the lover of his country and of the liberties of mankind cannot contemplate these facts without a feeling of grief which will not be comforted. That the work of the fathers of the republic, that the most magnificent system of constitutional government which the wisdom of man has devised, should be turned from its object, changed from its order, rendered powerless to protect the unalienable rights and sovereignty of the people, and made the instrument by which to establish and maintain imperialism, is a revolution unlike any other that may be found in the history of mankind. The result established the truthfulness of the assertion, so often made during the progress of the war, that the Northern people, by their unconstitutional warfare to gain the freedom of certain negro slaves, would lose their own liberties.

It has been shown that the governments of the states were instituted to secure certain unalienable rights of the citizens with which they were endowed by their Creator, and that among these rights were life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that they derived their just powers from the consent of the governed; that these powers were organized by the citizens in such form as seemed to them most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Where must the American citizen look for the security of the rights which he has been endowed by his Creator? To his state [381] government. Where shall he look to find security and protection for his life, security and protection for his personal liberty, security and protection for his property, security and protection for his safety and happiness? Only to his state government.

The powers which the state government possesses for the security of his life, his liberty, his property, his safety, and his happiness, are ‘just powers.’ They have been derived from the unconstrained consent of the governed, and they have been organized in such form as seem most likely to effect these objects.

Is the citizen's life in danger from violence? The state guarantees his protection, and it is its duty to rescue him from danger and obtain redress from the offender, whether an individual or a foreign nation. Are the freedom and personal liberty of the citizen in danger from unlawful arrest and imprisonment? The state guarantees both, and it is its duty to secure and preserve his freedom. Is the property of the citizen in danger of a violent and unjust seizure and unlawful detention or destruction? The state governemnt guarantees his title, restores the property, or obtains damages. Is the personal property of the citizen in danger of robbery or abduction? The state government throws over it the shield of its protection, and regards the burglar and the robber as the enemies of society. It is unnecessary to proceed further with this enumeration.

The duty of the state government is to give to its citizens perfect and complete security. It is necessarily sovereign within its own domain, for it is the representative and the constituted agent of the inherent sovereignty of the individuals. For the performance of its duty of protection it may unite with other sovereignties; also, for better safety and security to its citizens, it may withdraw or secede from such union.

It will be seen that the entire order of the state government is founded on the free consent of the governed. From this it springs; from this it receives its force and life. It is this consent alone from which ‘just powers’ are derived. They can come from no other source, and their exercise secures a true republican government. All else are usurpations, their exercise is a tyranny, and their end is the safety and security of the usurper, to obtain which the unalienable rights of the people are sacrificed. The ‘just powers,’ thus derived, are organized in such form as shall seem to the governed to be most likely to secure their safety and happiness. It is the governed who determine the form of the government, and not the ruler nor his military force, unless he comes as a conqueror to make the subjugated do his will. The object or end for which [382] these ‘just powers’ are derived from the consent of the governed and organized in such form as seems most likely to effect that object, is solely to secure the unalienable rights of men—such as life, liberty, property, justice, peace and order, and the pursuit of happiness.

It will now be seen by the reader that whenever any one of the features of this order is perverted in its origin or progress, or thwarted, or caused to deviate from its natural operation by any internal or external interference, the order is destroyed, and the state government, which represents it, is subverted, turned from its object, changed from its natural purpose, rendered powerless to protect the unalienable rights of its citizens, and made an instrument to strengthen the hands of despotism. The commission of such a subversion of the peaceful and fraternal states of this once happy republic is fearlessly charged upon the government of the United States, as in itself constituting a monstrous crime against constitutional liberty; it is asserted that, when the circumstances attending the deed are considered—the rage against a whole people, the pillage, the arson, the inciting of servile war, the slaughter of defenseless noncombatants, the devastation of whole peaceful regions, the indiscriminate destruction of property—no parallel can be found in the annals of mankind.

What, then, is the government of the United States? It is an organization of a few years' duration. It might cease to exist, and yet the states and the people continue prosperous, peaceful, and happy. Unlike the governments of the states, which find their origin deep in the nature of man, it sprang from certain circumstances which existed in the course of human affairs. Unlike the governments of the states and of separate nations, which have a divine sanction, it has no warrant for its authority but the ratification of the sovereign states. Unlike the governments of the states, which were instituted to secure generally the unalienable rights of man, it has only the enumerated objects, and is restrained from passing beyond them by the express reservation of all undelegated functions. It keeps no records of property, and guarantees to no one the possession of his state. Marriage, from which springs the family and the state, it can neither confirm nor annul. It partakes of the nature of an incorporation for certain purposes, beyond which it has neither influence nor authority. It is an anomaly among governments, and arose out of the articles of agreement made by certain friendly states, which proposed to form a society of states and invest a common agent with specified functions of sovereignty. Its duration was intended to be permanent, as it was hoped thus to promote the peaceful ends for which it was [383] established; to have declared it perpetual, however, would have been to deny the right of a people to alter or abolish their government when it should cease to answer the ends for which it was instituted.

The objects which its creation was designed to secure to the states and their people were of a truly peaceful nature, and commended themselves to the approbation of men. They were stated by its authors in a form called the ‘preamble’ of their work, which is in these words:

We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States.

Mankind must contemplate with horror the fact that an organization established for such peaceful and benign ends did, within the first century of its existence, lead the assault in a civil war that brought nearly four millions of soldiers into the field, destroyed thousands and thousands of millions of treasure, trampled the unalienable rights of the people under foot, subverted and subjugated the governments of the states, and ended by establishing itself as supreme and sovereign over all. Some Christian writer has suggested the thought that there may not be a spot of the earth's surface in the Old World but has witnessed the commission of some human crime or been wet with human gore. How nearly true this may be of the New World's once vaunted asylum for the victims of despotism, misrule, and oppression, these pages can bear some testimony. After all, it is the civil disorders, the violations of rights, and the perversions of wise and useful institutions, that are the most disastrous in their consequences. They last for ages; often, too often, the lapse of time brings no remedy to the suffering people. In their despair, they say the past is gone forever—a new era has opened; what horrors may be developed, however, in its revolving years no mortal can foresee, so they hug the chains they feel powerless to break.

How distinct in its nature and objects was the government of the United States from the governments of the states, may be seen from that which has already been said. The former was established by common consent to look after the common interests. It was to make peace or war with foreign nations, protect the frontiers, extend the boundaries, decide disputes between citizens of different states, and administer general affairs in a manner to promote the peace, the order, and the happiness of all. But to the fostering care of the state government the man, the citizen, the head of the family, the parent, the child, the woman, the scholar, and the Christian all looked with full confidence as to their natural and divinely sanctioned protector against all foes within or [384] without; they relied upon its ever-present arm for the safety and security of their persons, their homes, their property, and their institutions. How wofully the confiding people were betrayed when the usurper came, let some of the Northern states answer!

Now let us proceed to notice the acts of the government of the United States, which subjugated the state governments. The details in the case of Tennessee have been already stated. In that instance, the government of the state, which derived its powers from the consent of the governed, so that they were ‘just powers,’ round, in the discharge of its duty to protect the institutions of its people, that there were no means by which it could fulfill that duty but by a withdrawal from the Union, so as to be rid of the government of the United States, and thus escape the threatened dangers of usurpation and sectional hostility. It therefore resolved to withdraw from the Union, and the people gave their assent to this resolution; the state therefore no longer considered itself a member of the Union, nor recognized the laws and authority of its government. The government of the United States, then, with a powerful military force, planted itself at Nashville, the state capital. It refused to recognize the state government, or any organization under it, as having any existence, or to recognize the people otherwise than as a hostile community. It said to them, in effect: ‘I am the sovereign and you are the subjects. If you are stronger than I am, then drive me out of the state; if I am stronger than you are, then I demand an unconditional surrender to my sovereignty.’ It is evident that the government of the United States was not there by the consent of those who were to be governed. It had not, therefore, any ‘just powers’ of government within the state of Tennessee. For, says the Declaration of Independence of our fathers, governments ‘derive their ‘just powers’ from the consent of the governed.’ It is further evident that, by this action, the government of the United States denied the fundamental principle of popular liberty —that the people are the source of all political power. In this instance it not only subverted the state government, but carried that subversion to the extent of annihilation. It therefore proceeded to establish a new order of affairs, founded, not on the principle of the sovereignty of the people, which was wholly rejected, but on the assumption of sovereignty in the United States government. It appointed its military governor the head of the new order, and recognized no civil or political existence in any man, except some of its notorious adherents, until, betraying the state, he had taken an oath of allegiance to the sovereignty of the government of the United States. Now commenced a system of denial of [385] unalienable rights, for the methods of the usurper are the same everywhere. Freedom of speech was suppressed by the imposition of fines on those using ‘seditious’ language, and the demand of security for their future humility. The freedom of the press was suppressed by suspension of publications and the confiscation of the offices. Personal liberty was destroyed by arrests, imprisonment, and exile.

In process of time an effort was made to erect a form of state government which should be subservient and subject to the United States government. For this purpose no one could be a voter until he had bound himself by an oath to support and defend the government of the United States. Under the state governments, manhood, which came by nature, and residence, which came by one's own will, were sufficient qualifications for the voter.

It will be apparent from this statement that the voter's right to cast his ballot came not to him as an unalienable right, but rested upon the permission of the government of the United States, as his sovereign, to whom his allegiance was due, and to whom he was required, in the first instance, to bind himself by an oath of allegiance without any mention whatever of a state government. Indeed, a little later, the same oath was required with additional conditions before a man was permitted to vote for a state constitutional convention, or for delegates to such a convention. These conditions were that he would faithfully support all acts of Congress and all proclamations of the President of the United States passed or made during the rebellion, having reference to slaves. Thus the voter's right was made to rest, not only upon his binding himself in allegiance to the United States as his sovereign, but in the binding by oath of his consent to certain unconstitutional acts and proclamations expressly designed to destroy one of the most important institutions of the state. This, sustained by a military force, was exacted by the United States government as the lord paramount—the sovereign within the state. At the same time the action of the voter, which should be perfectly free and unconstrained (for, under American political principles, he is the sovereign over all), is limited and bound down by an oath faithfully to support certain acts to which it was presumable he had ever been conscientiously opposed.

Under these circumstances, who was the sovereign in Tennessee? The government of the United States. Where was the government of the state of Tennessee and the sovereign people? The former was subverted and overthrown, and the later subjugated. The approval by Tennessee, under such circumstances, of Article XIII as an amendment of the [386] Constitution of the United States prohibiting the existence of slavery, was of no force; consent given by a party under constraint has neither legal nor moral validity. The state constitution was so amended as to contain certain new provisions prescribed by the government of the United States by a so-called convention of delegates elected by the voters above specified, then submitted to these voters and said to be ratified by them. They were little more in numbers than a handful of the people of Tennessee. Was this a Constitution amended and approved by the consent of the people of Tennessee, the only sovereigns known under our institutions, or was it a Constitution amended and voted for by a small fraction of its population acting under the authority of the government of the United States as the only sovereign in the state? Admitting, even, that those who voted for the amended Constitution were the only legal voters in the state, the government of the United States was no less an unlawful intruder and usurper when it prescribed the amendments to the Constitution and designated the voters. Nevertheless, this work was recognized by it as constituting a republican state government under the Constitution.

Let us next notice some points in the subversion of the state government of Louisiana. One of the earliest steps taken for a civil organization, after the occupation of New Orleans, was to make a registration of voters. The United States government was in possession by military force, and the object was to secure its permanent supremacy. Therefore the oath which was administered to the person applying for registration contained this condition:

I now register myself as a voter, freely and voluntarily, for the purpose of organizing a State government in Louisiana, loyal to the Government of the United States.

It was also announced, with the approval of the military governor, that any person swearing falsely to any material part of the oath would be deemed guilty of perjury, and be liable to prosecution and punishment. The effect of this measure was to secure a registration only of persons who would maintain the supremacy of the government of the United States. A proclamation was next issued by the commander of the United States forces for an election of state officers under the laws and constitution of the state. It was declared that these officers, when thus elected, would constitute the so-called civil government of the state, under the constitution and laws of Louisiana, ‘except so much of the said Constitution and laws as recognize, regulate, or relate to slavery,’ which were also declared to be inoperative and void. It was further provided, in the same proclamation, as follows: [387]

In order that the organic law of the State may be made to conform to the will of the people and harmonize with the spirit of the age, as well as to maintain and preserve the ancient landmarks of civil and religious liberty, an election of delegates to a convention for the revision of the Constitution will be held. . . .

The effect of these acts was to establish a number of persons, pledged to support the government of the United States, as the only qualified voters in the state, and to elect so-called state officers and delegates to a so-called constitutional convention by their ballots. But this was a work that could be done only by the sovereign people acting through their lawful state government. It was not so done, because the government of the United States, with a powerful military force, had taken possession of New Orleans, refused to recognize the officers of the state government, and sought to capture and imprison them, although it recognized the validity of the state constitution in part, and commanded these things to be done as if it was the ultimate sovereign over all.

Thus the government of the state was subverted, the constitution of the state in part set aside, and the sovereignty of the people trampled down by a power that had no rightful authority for such acts. Subsequently, a so-called convention was held, a so-called new constitution adopted complying with the views of the government of the United States, the amendment to the Constitution of the United States as above mentioned was adopted, the state Representatives were admitted to seats in Congress, and the people acquiesced in the fraud which they had not the power to correct.

The proceedings in the states of Arkansas and Virginia, which resulted in an entire subversion of the state governments, the destruction of the sovereignty of the people, and the establishment of the supremacy of the government of the United States, have been stated on a preceding page.

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