Friday, June 5, 2015

The Doctrine of State's Rights

 Jefferson Davis 1875

This piece originally appeared in the North American Review, February 1890.

To DO justice to the motives which actuated the soldiers of the Confederacy, it is needful that the cause for which they fought should be fairly understood; for no degree of skill, valor, and devotion can sanctify service in an unrighteous cause.

We revere the memory of Washington, not so much for his achievements in arms as for his self-abnegation and the unfaltering devotion with which he defended the inalienable rights of the people of all the United States. This made him first in peace, first in war, and first in the hearts of his countrymen, and for this the great English poet wrote: “But one were worthy of the name of Washington.” Yet he was what no Southern soldier in the War Between the States could, with truth, be called–a rebel–and, without much extravagance in the figure, was said to have fought the battles of the Revolution with a halter round his neck. Had there been no inalienable rights, or had they not been violated, he could not rightfully have been absolved from his allegiance to the crown, or conscientiously have felt that he had not broken his faith as subject to the lawful powers of the British Government, in taking up arms against it.

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