Obliterate the Sophism that Confederates Were Traitors

Confederates seceded legally and peacefully and if they were traitors then so were the patriots of 1776.

The following is a letter-to-the-editor of the Charleston, SC Post and Courier September 15, 2018 defending the crew of the Confederate submarine CSS Hunley against a letter-writer's accusation that they were traitors. It applies to all Confederates. This letter was not published by the Post and Courier but has been published in the Abbeville Institute Blog ("Confederate Soldiers Were Not Traitors", October 3, 2018) and other places.

 

Dear Editor of The Post and Courier,

A letter writer on September 12, 2018 is adamant that the proposed museum for the Confederate submarine H. L. Hunley should not be incorporated into Patriot's Point because Patriot's Point honors the U.S. Navy and those "who defended the U.S. and its Constitution" whereas the CSS Hunley crew were traitors.

He is correct that the Hunley's sinking of the USS Housatonic to become the first submarine in history to sink an enemy ship in combat was an historic event, but he errs grievously when he says the Hunley should also be remembered "for their pardons for treason." That is fake history.

The Hunley crew gave their lives for their country. They were not charged with treason and nobody associated with the Hunley sought a pardon.

The writer is confused about our country's founding because nowhere in the U. S. Constitution in 1861 did it say the Federal Government had a right or obligation to wage war against any state in the Union for any reason.

The country was not centralized in those days and each state was sovereign and independent and had been since the Colonists won the Revolutionary War. King George III agreed to the Treaty of Paris, September 3, 1783, which stated:

Article 1st. His Britannic Majesty acknowledges the said United States, viz, New-Hampshire, Massachusetts-Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New-York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, to be free, sovereign and independent states . . . .

No state ever rescinded its sovereignty or gave up its independence.

In fact, three states were so protective of their independence that they insisted, before they would join the new Union, that they could secede from it if it became tyrannical in their eyes. Those states were New York, Rhode Island and Virginia. Because all the states were admitted to the Union as equals, the acceptance of the right of secession demanded by New York, Rhode Island and Virginia, gave that right to all the other states.

The right of secession was not questioned during the antebellum era. It was taught in places like the United States Military Academy at West Point in famous texts such as William Rawle's "A View of the Constitution of the United States of America." The New England states with their Hartford Convention almost seceded over the War of 1812, but the Southern boys under Andrew Jackson defeated the British in New Orleans and ended the war. New England threatened secession again with the admission of Texas in 1845. Even Horace Greeley believed in the right of secession ("let the erring sisters go") until he realized the loss of his Southern manufacturing market and cotton threatened to destroy the Northern economy, and along with it, his wealth and power. Then he wanted war.

In the Constitutional Convention of 1787, the Founding Fathers called for the Constitution to be ratified by each state through a special convention of the people to decide that one issue, rather than through their legislatures. If they ratified it through their legislatures, a later legislature might rescind the ratification of an earlier legislature, therefore a convention of the people was a more sound basis for a state to approve the Constitution.

When the Southern States seceded, they followed the exact precedent set by the Founding Fathers in the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Each Southern state called a convention of the people (commonly called a secession convention), elected delegates as Unionists or Secessionists, debated the single issue of whether to stay in the Union or leave, then seven states voted to secede. Four rejected secession for the time being.

When the guns of Fort Sumter sounded, there were more slave states in the Union (eight, soon to be nine) than the Confederacy (seven). Of course, the four that had rejected secession, immediately seceded when Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to invade the South because they did not believe the Federal Government had a right to invade a sovereign state or coerce it to do anything.

Secession was their legal right and they did it properly. So, the idea that the crew of the CSS Hunley were traitors, is ludicrous.

I might remind the letter writer that the Hunley crew's ancestors, like all Confederate ancestors, gave our country independence because the Revolutionary War was won in the South.

And the Hunley crew's descendants, being from the South - a region that reveres military service - helped mightily to win every other American war.

Patriot's Point represents the highest ideals of American valor and patriotism, and there is none greater than that exhibited by the crew of the CSS Hunley.

The Hunley museum should not only be at Patriot's Point, it should be the star of Patriot's Point. The Hunley is only part of the story of the Siege of Charleston, which was one of the longest sieges in history. Anyone who has seen some of the hundreds of pictures of Charleston destroyed from the Battery to Calhoun Street by Union shelling from ships such as the USS Housatonic, knows there is a tremendous story here. The Confederate semi-submersible cigar-shaped vessels (Davids) that harassed the Union blockade as well as the ironclads, Palmetto State and Chicora, and blockade runners, are not as well known as the Hunley but just as fascinating. All of this should be told at Patriot's Point.

Patriot's Point could become one of the greatest historical assets on the planet. With Fort Sumter, Fort Moultrie, and the new International African-American Museum coming soon, Charleston could dominate history tourism like nowhere on earth and take us to a level we can't even imagine right now.

Gene Kizer, Jr.
Charleston Athenaeum Press
P.O. Box 13012
Charleston, SC 29422-3012

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2 Comments

  1. Mr. Kizer: It is indeed refreshing to read your letter and all of the good information contained in it. Being a native Southerner, I have had many a long and heated discussion with friends to the North over the word “Traitor” and how it is used in a derogatory manner to describe our Confederate Generals, Officers, and Enlisted men. I’m frankly offended when I hear somebody, who obviously knows little, if any, history about the late War Between the States, use that term….particularly now as the country is awash with statue toppling, burning, pillaging, and general insurrection. So, thank you for a breath of fresh air and your keen observations. Having visited Patriot’s Point on several occasions over the years, I believe it is a perfect home for the Hunley. I certainly hope that we will see her take a rightful place along with the other famous fighting vessels there in lovely Charleston.

    • Les,

      Thanks so much for writing!

      I would have posted your comment Thursday but had a random problem with a plugin on the website and could not access my dashboard for several hours to approve and respond. Thank God the website was fine. I was in a chat session with Godaddy for four hours in the wee hours Friday morning and finally got into the dashboard. Gotta say, Godaddy is GREAT.

      Ended up losing your comment but I had printed it and was able to retype it in, and now can respond!

      That “Traitor” issue is absurd. I deal with it even better in the blog article “President Dwight D. Eisenhower Loved Robert E. Lee; Gen. Jack Keane Is Clueless.” Here’s a link: https://www.charlestonathenaeumpress.com/president-dwight-d-eisenhower-loved-robert-e-lee-gen-jack-keane-is-clueless/

      You are right about the insurrection going on. I would have never thought in my life we’d see such a thing in America. The politicization of history since the ’60s and the hate and ignorance of academia and the news media is the basic cause of it. It’s all come to the surface after eight years of hate-America Barack Obama, and four of Democrat Party Trump Derangement Syndrome.

      The next four months leading up to the election is going to be interesting.

      I think our country’s foundation is good, and the economy will right itself over the next few months as COVID is finally whipped or gotten under control, so things will begin to settle down.

      Maybe. Maybe not, though.

      Frankly, I don’t know how we come back from the 4th of July and Mount Rushmore now being racist, and the mob destroying Columbus statues along with all others.

      I am anxious to see the rule of law restored totally and people pay for the violence and mayhem of the past three months. That needs to happen.

      I would love to see the Hunley at Patriot’s Point in its own museum and area. All the Hunley crews are buried at Magnolia Cemetery just across the river. I bet as the crow flies they are only a mile or so from Patriot’s Point.

      I have more books and articles coming out, defending the South and setting the record straight from the fraud that passes for history in this day and age.

      A couple other excellent places for Southern history are the Abbeville Institute (http://www.AbbevilleInstitute.org) and Phil Leigh’s excellent blog, https://civilwarchat.wordpress.com/.

      Good luck with all, and Deo Vindice!

      Gene

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