Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
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Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
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CONFEDERATE STATES, The (IN U. S. HISTORY), a government formed in 1861 by the seven states which first seceded. Belligerent rights were accorded to it by the leading naval powers, but it was never recognized as a government, notwithstanding the persevering efforts of its agents near the principal courts. This result was mainly due to the diplomacy of the federal secretary of state, Wm. H. Seward, to the proclamations of emancipation in 1862-3, which secured the sympathy of the best elements of Great Britain and France for the federal government, and to the obstinate persistence of the federal government in avoiding, so far as possible, any recognition of the existence, even de facto, of a confederate government. The federal generals in the field, in their communications with confederate officers, did not hesitate, upon occasion, even to give "president" Davis his official title, but no such embarrassing precedent was ever admitted by the civil government of the United States. It at first endeavored, until checked by active preparations for retaliation, to treat the crews of confederate privateers as pirates; it avoided any official communication with the confederate government, even when compelled to exchange prisoners, confining its negotiations to the confederate commissioners of exchange; and, by its persistent policy in this general direction, it succeeded, without any formal declaration, in impressing upon foreign governments the belief that any recognition of the confederate states as a separate people would be actively resented by the government of the United States as an act of excessive unfriendliness. (See SECESSION, EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION, ALABAMA CLAIMS.)


—The federal courts have steadily held the same ground, that "the confederate states was an unlawful assemblage, without corporate power;" and that, though the separate states were still in existence and were indestructible, their state governments, while they chose to act as part of the confederate states, did not exist, even de facto.


—Early in January, 1861, while only South Carolina had actually seceded, though other southern states had called conventions to consider the question, the senators of the seven states farthest south practically assumed control of the whole movement, and their energy and unswerving singleness of purpose, aided by the telegraph, secured a rapidity of execution to which no other very extensive conspiracy of history can afford a parallel. The ordinance of secession was a negative instrument, purporting to withdraw the state from the Union and to deny the authority of the federal government over the people of the state; the cardinal object of the senatorial group was to hurry the formation of a new national government, as an organized political reality which would rally the outright secessionists, claim the allegiance of the doubtful mass, and coerce those who still remained recalcitrant. At the head of the senatorial group, and of its executive committee, was Jefferson Davis, senator from Mississippi, and naturally the first official step toward the formation of a new government came from the Mississippi legislature, where a committee reported, Jan. 19, 1861, resolutions in favor of a congress of delegates from the seceding states to provide for a southern confederacy, and to establish a provisional government therefore. The other seceding states at once accepted the proposal, through their state conventions, which also appointed the delegates on the ground that the people had intrusted the state conventions with unlimited powers. The new government, therefore, began its existence without any popular representation, and with only such popular ratification as popular acquiescence gave. (See DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE.)


—The provisional congress met, Feb. 4, at Montgomery, Ala., with delegates from South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Florida and Mississippi. The Texas delegates were not appointed until Feb. 14. Feb. 8, a provisional constitution was adopted, being the constitution of the United States, with some changes. Feb. 9, Jefferson Davis, of Mississippi, was unanimously chosen provisional president, and Alexander H. Stephens, of Georgia, provisional vice-president, each state having one vote, as in all other proceedings of this body. By acts of Feb. 9 and 12 the laws and revenue officers of the United States were continued in the confederate states until changed. Feb. 18, the president and vice-president were inaugurated. Feb. 20-26, executive departments and a confederate regular army were organized, and provision was made for borrowing money. March 11, the permanent constitution was adopted by congress. It generally follows the constitution of the United States (see CONSTITUTION), substituting "confederate states" for "United States," "confederacy" for "Union," and (in Art. VI.) "provisional government" for "confederation." The other changes are as follows. (Preamble): "We, the people of the confederate states, each state acting in its sovereign and independent character, in order to form a permanent federal government, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity—invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God—do ordain and establish this constitution for the confederate states of America." (ART. I.): In § 1, "delegated" is substituted for "granted." In § 2, ¶ 1, the words "be citizens of the confederate states, and" are added after the words "the electors in each state shall." In § 2, ¶ 3, "fifty thousand" is substituted for "thirty thousand"; "slaves" is substituted for "other persons"; and the following change is made in the conclusion: "the state of South Carolina shall be entitled to choose six, the state of Georgia ten, the state of Alabama nine, the state of Florida two, the state of Mississippi seven, the state of Louisiana six, and the state of Texas six." In § 2, ¶ 5, there is added: "except that any judicial or other federal officer, resident and acting solely within the limits of any state, may be impeached by a vote of two-thirds of both branches of the legislature thereof." In § 4, ¶ 1, the words "subject to the provisions of this constitution" are added after the word "thereof"; and there is substituted "times and places" for "place." In § 6, ¶ 1, the word "felony" is omitted. In § 6, ¶ 2, there is added: "But congress may, by law, grant to the principal officer in each of the executive departments a seat upon the floor of either house, with the privilege of discussing any measure appertaining to his department." In § 7, ¶ 2, there is added: "The president may approve any appropriation and disapprove any other appropriation in the same bill. In such case he shall, in signing the bill, designate the appropriations disapproved; and shall return a copy of such appropriations, with his objections, to the house in which the bill shall have originated; and the same proceedings shall then be had as in case of other bills disapproved by the president." In § 8, ¶ 1, there is inserted "for revenue necessary," before the words "to pay," and instead of the words "and general welfare of the United States; but" there is substituted the following: "and carry on the government of the confederate states; but no bounties shall be granted from the treasury, nor shall any duties or taxes on importations from foreign nations be laid to promote or foster any branch of industry." In § 8, ¶ 3, there is added: "but neither this, nor any other clause contained in the constitution, shall be construed to delegate the power to congress to appropriate money for any internal improvement intended to facilitate commerce; except for the purpose of furnishing lights, beacons, and buoys, and other aids to navigation upon the coasts, and the improvement of harbors, and the removing of obstructions in river navigation; in all which cases, such duties shall be laid on the navigation facilitated thereby, as may be necessary to pay the costs and expenses thereof." In § 8, ¶ 4, there is added: "but no law of congress shall discharge any debt contracted before the passage of the same." In § 8, ¶ 7, there is added: "but the expenses of the postoffice department, after the first day of March, in the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and sixty-three, shall be paid out of its own revenues." Instead of § 9, ¶ 1, there are substituted two paragraphs as follows: "1. The importation of negroes of the African race, from any foreign country, other than the slaveholding states and territories of the United States of America, is hereby forbidden, and congress is required to pass such laws as shall effectually prevent the same. 2. Congress shall also have power to prohibit the introduction of slaves from any state not a member of, or territory not belonging to this confederacy." ¶ 2 thus becomes ¶ 3, and ¶ 3 becomes ¶ 4, inserting in it "or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves," after "ex post facto law." ¶ 4 becomes ¶ 5, and ¶ 5 becomes ¶ 6, adding thereto "except by a vote of two-thirds of both houses." ¶ 6 becomes ¶ 7, omitting the last sentence "nor shall vessels, etc." ¶ 7 becomes ¶ 8, and ¶ 8 becomes ¶ 11, two new paragraphs being inserted, as follows: "9. Congress shall appropriate no money from the treasury except by a vote of two-thirds of both houses, taken by yeas and nays, unless it be asked and estimated for by some one of the heads of departments, and submitted to congress by the president; or for the purpose of paying its own expenses and contingencies; or for the payment of claims against the confederate states, the justice of which shall have been judicially declared by a tribunal for the investigation of claims against the government, which it is hereby made the duty of congress to establish. 10. All bills appropriating money shall specify in federal currency the exact amount of each appropriation and the purposes for which it is made; and congress shall grant no extra compensation to any public contractor, officer, agent, or servant, after such contract shall have been made or such service rendered." Amendments 1.-VIII. of the constitution are inserted as ¶¶ 12-19, and a new paragraph added, as follows: "20. Every law, or resolution having the force of law, shall relate to but one subject, and that shall be expressed in the title." In § 10, ¶ 1, the words "emit bills of credit," are omitted. In § 10, ¶ 3, there is inserted, after the word "tonnage": "except on sea-going vessels, for the improvement of its rivers and harbors navigated by the said vessels; but such duties shall not conflict with any treaties of the confederate states with foreign nations; and any surplus of revenue, thus derived, shall, after making such improvement, be paid into the common treasury"; and there is added, at the end of the paragraph, "But when any river divides or flows through two or more states, they may enter into compacts with each other to improve the navigation thereof." (ART. II.): In § 1, ¶ 1, instead of the second sentence, there is inserted: "He and the vice-president shall hold their offices for the term of six years; but the president shall not be reeligible. The president and vice-president shall be elected as follows." Instead of ¶ 3 of § 1 are inserted, as ¶¶ 3, 4 and 5, the three paragraphs of amendment XII. of the constitution. ¶¶ 4-8 thus become ¶¶ 6-10, inserting in the new ¶ 7, at the beginning: "No person except a natural born citizen of the confederate states, or a citizen thereof at the time of the adoption of this constitution, or a citizen thereof born in the United States prior to the 20th December, 1860, shall be eligible," etc., and adding at the end; "as they may exist at the time of his election." Before ¶ 3 of § 2 is inserted a new paragraph, as follows: "3. The principal officer in each of the executive departments, and all persons connected with the diplomatic service, may be removed from office at the pleasure of the president. All other civil officers of the executive department may be removed at any time by the president, or other appointing power, when their services are unnecessary, or for dishonesty, incapacity, inefficiency, misconduct, or neglect of duty; and when so removed, the removal shall be reported to the senate, together with the reasons therefor." ¶ 3 thus becomes ¶ 4, adding to it: "But no person rejected by the senate shall be re-appointed to the same office during their ensuing recess" (Art. III.): In § 1, ¶ 1, "supreme" is changed to "superior." The latter part of ¶ 1 of § 2 is changed to read as follows: "between a state and citizens of another state, where the state is plaintiff; between citizens claiming lands under grants of different states, and between a state or the citizens thereof, and foreign states, citizens, or subjects; but no state shall be sued by a citizen or subject of any foreign state." (ART. IV.): In § 2, ¶ 1, there is added: "and shall have the right of transit and sojourn in any state of this confederacy, with their slaves and other property; and the right of property in said slaves shall not be thereby impaired." In § 2, ¶ 2, there is inserted "against the laws of such state," after "other crime." § 2. ¶ 3, is altered to read: "No slave or other person held to service or labor in any state or territory of the confederate states, under the laws thereof, escaping or unlawfully carried into another;" and the words "to whom such slave belongs; or" are inserted after "on claim of the party." In § 3, ¶ 1, instead of the first eleven words there is substituted: "Other states may be admitted into this confederacy by a vote of two-thirds of the whole house of representatives and two thirds of the senate, the senate voting by states." In § 3, ¶ 2, the last twenty-three words are omitted, and there is substituted: "concerning the property of the confederate states, including the lands thereof." A new paragraph is added, as follows: "3. The confederate states may acquire new territory; and congress shall have power to legislate and provide governments for the inhabitants of all territory belonging to the confederate states, lying without the limits of the several states, and may permit them, at such times and in such manner as it may by law provide, to form states to be admitted into the confederacy. In all such territory the institution of negro slavery, as it now exists in the confederate states, shall be recognized and protected by congress and by the territorial government; and the inhabitants of the several confederate states and territories shall have the right to take to such territory any slaves lawfully held by them in any of the states or territories of the confederate states." § 4 is altered to read: "to every state that now is or hereafter may become a member of this confederacy." ART. V. is altered to read as follows: "Upon the demand of any three states, legally assembled in their several conventions, the congress shall summon a convention of all the states, to take into consideration such amendments to this constitution as the said states shall concur in suggesting at the time when the said demand is made; and should any of the proposed amendments to the constitution be agreed on by the said convention—voting by states—and the same be ratified by the legislatures of two-thirds of the several states, or by conventions in two-thirds thereof—as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the general convention—they shall thenceforward form a part of this constitution. But no state shall, without its consent, be deprived of its equal representation in the senate." (ART. VI.): For § 1, ¶ 1, a new paragraph is substituted, as follows: "1. The government established by this constitution is the successor of the provisional government of the confederate states of America, and all the laws passed by the latter shall continue in force until the same shall be repealed or modified; and all the officers appointed by the same shall remain in office until their successors are appointed and qualified, or the offices abolished." ¶ ¶ 1-3 thus become ¶¶ 2-4, and amendments IX. and X. of the constitution are added as ¶ ¶ 5 and 6. (ART. VII.): In this article "five states" is substituted for "nine states," and the following is added: "When five states shall have ratified this constitution in the manner before specified, the congress, under the provisional constitution, shall prescribe the time for holding the election of president and vice-president, and for the meeting of the electoral college, and for counting the votes and inaugurating the president. They shall also prescribe the time for holding the first election of members of congress under this constitution, and the time for assembling the same. Until the assembling of such congress, the congress under the provisional constitution shall continue to exercise the legislative powers granted them; not extending beyond the time limited by the constitution of the provisional government."


—This constitution was ratified in all the states by the still existing state conventions, not by popular action. An examination of the changes which it introduced will divide them into two general classes, executive, and political. Of the executive changes, intended to amend the administration of government, there are a number fairly open to discussion, some which have since been proposed for adoption by the United States, and some which have been already adopted by several state governments. The political changes were evidently not merely declarative, intended to guard against false constructions of the constitution of 1787, but were actively remedial, intended to revive the state sovereignty of the confederation by withdrawing complete control over commerce and internal improvements from the central government, and, further, to rest the foundations of the new government (to quote vice-president A. II. Stephens), not upon Jefferson's "fundamentally wrong" "assumption of the equality of races," but upon "the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition." The confederate constitution is, therefore, itself a public confession that southern democratic politicians were consciously in error from 1840 until 1860 in claiming the constitution as the palladium of slavery; that, under the constitution's fair construction, slavery was in truth protected by the states, not by the nation; and that "We, the people," of 1787, must be changed by violence, and not by construction, into "We, the states," of 1861.


—The internal legislation of the provisional congress was, at first, mainly the adaptation of the civil service in the southern states to the uses of the new government. Wherever possible, judges, postmasters, and civil as well as military and naval officers, who had resigned from the service of the United States, were given an equal or higher rank in the confederate service. Postmasters were directed to make their final accounting to the United States, May 31, thereafter accounting to the confederate states. April 29, the provisional congress, which had adjourned March 16, re-assembled at Montgomery, having been convoked by president Davis in consequence of president Lincoln's preparations to enforce federal authority in the south. Davis' message announced that all the seceding states had ratified the permanent constitution; that Virginia, which had not yet seceded, had entered into alliance with the confederacy, and that other states were expected to follow the same plan. He concluded by declaring that "all we ask is to be let alone." May 6, an act was passed recognizing the existence of war with the United States. Congress adjourned May 22, re-convened at Richmond, Va., July 20, and adjourned Aug. 22 until Nov. 18. Its legislation had been mainly military and financial. Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas had passed ordinances of secession, and been admitted to the confederacy. (See the states named, and SECESSION.) Although Missouri and Kentucky had not seceded, delegates from these states were admitted in December, 1861.


—Nov. 6, 1861, at an election under the permanent constitution, Davis and Stephens were again chosen to their respective offices by unanimous electoral vote. Feb 18, 1862, the provisional congress (of one house) gave way to the permanent congress, and Davis and Stephens were inaugurated Feb. 22. The cabinet, with the successive secretaries of each department, was as follows, including both the provisional and permanent cabinets: State Department—Robert Toombs, Ga., Feb. 21, 1861; R. M. T. Hunter, Va, July 30, 1861; Judah P. Benjamin, La., Feb. 7, 1862. Treasury Department—Charles G. Memminger, S. C., Feb. 21, 1861, and March 22, 1862; James L. Trenholm, S. C., June 13, 1864. War Department—L. Pope Walker, Miss., Feb. 21, 1861; Judah P. Benjamin, La., Nov. 10, 1861; James A. Seddon, Va., March 22, 1862; John C Breckinridge, Ky, Feb. 15, 1865. Navy Department—Stephen R. Mallory, Fla., March 4, 1861, and March 22, 1862 Attorney General—Judah P. Benjamin, La., Feb 21, 1861; Thomas H. Watts, Ala., Sept. 10, 1861, and March 22, 1862; George Davis, N. C., Nov. 10, 1863. Postmaster General—Henry J. Ellet, Miss., Feb. 21, 1861; John H. Reagan, Texas, March 6, 1861, and March 22, 1862.


—As has already been said, the provisional congress held four sessions, as follows: 1, Feb. 4 - March 16, 1861; 2, April 29 - May 22, 1861; 3, July 20 - Aug. 22, 1861; and 4, Nov. 18, 1861 - Feb. 17, 1862. Under the permanent constitution there were two congresses. The first congress held four sessions, as follows: 1, Feb. 18 - April 21, 1862; 2, Aug. 12 - Oct. 13, 1862; 3, Jan. 12 - May 8, 1863; and 4, Dec. 7, 1863 - Feb. 18, 1864. The second congress held two sessions, as follows: 1, May 2 - June 15, 1864, and 2, from Nov. 7, 1864, until the hasty and final adjournment, March 18, 1865. In the first congress members chosen by rump state conventions, or by regiments in the confederate service, sat for districts in Missouri and Kentucky, though these states had never seceded. There were thus thirteen states in all represented at the close of the first congress; but, as the area of the confederacy narrowed before the advance of the federal armies, the vacancies in the second congress became significantly more numerous. At its best estate the confederate senate numbered 26, and the house 106, as follows: Alabama, 9; Arkansas, 4; Florida, 2; Georgia, 10; Kentucky, 12; Louisiana, 6; Mississippi, 7; Missouri, 7; North Carolina, 10; South Carolina, 6; Tennessee, 11; Texas, 6; Virginia, 16. In both congresses Thomas S. Bocock, of Virginia, was speaker of the house.


—The only noteworthy feature of the political history of the confederate states was the insignificance of the legislative. The original revolutionary, or provisional, government was not the result of popular initiative, but was directly due to the energy of a senatorial clique, actively assisted by a few leading men in each state The demoralizing influences of a great civil war, which even the solidest and most firmly based form of popular government can only imperfectly resist, were almost instantly fatal to the inchoate political character of the confederacy. The strongest and most self-assertive spirit of the senatorial clique, having been chosen president, at once began to quarrel with his associates, and to drive them from his counsels; there was no popular strength in the provisional congress to resist him; and even before the inauguration of the permanent government, the confederacy had become a military despotism of the executive. The sittings of congress were almost continuously secret, and its acts, generally prepared in advance by the executive, the cabinet having seats in congress, were made conformable to his known wishes, or were interpreted by him to suit his own pleasure. As the war became more desperate, and the most capable leaders went into the army, the morale of congress further decayed, and this process was increased by the presence of a cohort of members from states which had never seceded, or had since been conquered, who represented no constituencies and were to a great degree dependent on the executive for their political future. The business of congress thus grew to be mainly the registering of laws prepared by the executive, the passing of resolutions to continue the war to the end, the debate of resolutions to retaliate or to fight under the black flag, and the preparation of addresses to their constituents, whose earnestness of tone may be estimated from the following sentence in one of them: "Failure will compel us to drink the cup of humiliation even to the bitter dregs of having the history of our struggle written by New England historians."


—Outside of the ordinary powers conferred by the legislative, the war powers openly or practically exercised by the executive were more sweeping and general than those assumed by president Lincoln. The confederate treasury was held subject to executive drafts to any extent, and without audit or account, the state governments were expected to act, and state judges to decide, in conformity with the president's wishes in small or great matters, under penalty of presidential displeasure and punishment; not only individuals, but whole communities (as in East Tennessee), were held liable to summary military execution by the mere warrant of the executive; and his dictatory meddlesomeness in the management of the army was so notorious and so uniformly unfortunate that Foote, of Tennessee, did not hesitate to declare, in the house, in December, 1863, that "the president never visited the army without doing it injury—never yet, that it has not been followed by disaster." The interferences of the committees on the conduct of the war in the federal congress often seemed unwarrantable or unfortunate; but they justly represented the feeling of a people bent not only upon fighting but on keeping to themselves the control of the fighting, a feeling of which there is not a trace in the brief legislative history of the confederate states. The rout of Bull Run, and the expected advance of the triumphant enemy upon Washington, only extorted from the federal congress the resolve to vote every dollar and every man which the president might find necessary in suppressing the rebellion; a similar state of affairs in Richmond, early in 1865, drew from the confederate congress an angry vote that Davis' incompetency was the cause of the disasters, and a substitution of Lee as commander-in-chief with unlimited powers. This final and spiteful exposure of its own nullity was the only known instance of entirely independent action or initiative in important matters by the permanent congress during its three years of existence. The government was merely a military despotism, very thinly clothed in the forms of law, in which parties and party politics could have no existence. (See SLAVERY, NULLIFICATION, STATE SOVEREIGNTY, ALLEGIANCE, SECESSION, DRAFTS, REBELLION, UNITED STATES.)


—See Jefferson Davis' Rise and Fall of the Confederate States; A. H. Stephens' War Between the States; Pollard's Life of Davis, First Year of the War, and Lost Cause; Draper's Civil War; Greeley's American Conflict; Victor's History of the Rebellion; Moore's Rebellion Record; Appleton's Annual Cyclopœdia (1861-5); von Borcke's Memoirs of the Confederate War for Independence; Hitchcock's Chronological Record of the American Civil War; Centz's Davis and Lee; Lunt's Origin of the Late War; Bartlett's Bibliography of the Rebellion, and other authorities under REBELLION; authorities under articles above referred to. For confederate constitution in full see Confederate Statutes at Large (1864), 5; Appleton's Annual Cyclopædia (1861), 627; McPherson's History of the Rebellion, 98, (with an index comparative of the confederate constitution and that of the United States); also Foote's War of the Rebellion; J. H. Gilmer's Southern Politics; Dabney's Defense of Virginia and the South; Daniel's "Richmond Examiner" During the War.


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