One-hundred and fifty-two years ago, April 9, 1865 was a Palm Sunday just as today, and in the central part of war-torn Virginia, a major turning point occurred in American history. General Robert E. Lee, that “chevalier sans peur“—that knight without fear—surrendered the tattered remnants of the proud Army of Northern Virginia to General Ulysses S. Grant, setting in motion the end phase of the War for Southern Independence.
That war was in reality not a “civil war,” that is, it was not a war between two aggrieved parties within the American nation. Rather, it was a war between two ideas of government, and, in reality, two ideas of history and progress. For the North, which now controlled the Federal government, it was a war to suppress what was seen as a rebellion against constituted national authority. For the states of the Southern Confederacy, it was a defense of their inherited and inherent rights under the old Constitution of 1787, rights that had never been ceded to the Federal government. And, more, it became for them a Second War for Independence against an arbitrary and overreaching government that had gravely violated that Constitution.
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