The United States treated secession as a political question and met it by Revolution.
The historian will note that while the United States
declared war on the ground that secession was treason, they practically treated it
as a political question of territorial integrity.
They accorded belligerent rights to the Confederacy
, exchanged prisoners, and gave paroles of war, and revolutionized all theories and constitutional mandates to carry their main point—the preservation of the Union
says of their legislation in his Memoirs: ‘Much of it was no doubt unconstitutional, but it was hoped that the laws enacted would subserve their purpose before their constitutionality could be submitted to the judiciary and a decision obtained.’
Of the war he says: ‘The Constitution was not framed with a view to any such rebellion as that of 1861-‘65.
While it did not authorize rebellion, it made no provision against it. Yet,’ he adds, ‘the right to resist or suppress rebellion is as inherent as the right of an individual to preserve his life when it is in jeopardy.
The Constitution was, therefore, in abeyance for the time being, so far as it in any way affected the progress and termination of the war.’
This is revolution.
Indicted for treason, Jefferson Davis
faced his accusers with the uplifted brow and dauntless heart of innocence, and eagerly asked a trial.
If magnanimity had let him pass it would have been appreciated; but they who punished him without a hearing, before they set him free, now proceeded to amend the Constitution
to disfranchise him and his associates, finding, like Grant
, nothing in it as it stood against such movement as he led.
It may be that but for the assassination of President Lincoln
—most infamous and unhappy deed—which
Uproared the universal peace
And poured the milk of Concord into hell,
the country would have been spared the shame of President Davis
's cruel incarceration and the maiming of the Constitution
For I can scarcely believe that he who three times overruled emancipation; who appealed to ‘indispensable necessity’ as justification for ‘laying strong hands on the colored element’; who candidly avowed Northern ‘complicity’ in the wrongs of his time; who said, ‘I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me’; who had preached revolution in 1848, and revolutionized all things to save the Union
in 1862—I can scarcely believe it possible that one of his broad mind and generous heart would have persecuted an honorable foe. It has been a wonder to me that those who justly applaud his virtues have not copied his example;
wonder, indeed, that all men have not seen that the events which controlled him controlled also his antagonist.