In the last commentary (HERE) I ran out of words to explain my claim that Southern officers and enlisted personnel (and their leaders and civilians) were NOT traitors to the United States.
So here is the next commentary:
WHY do I say that (most of) the officers and enlisted members of the Confederate States Army and the Confederate States Navy and Confederate States Marine Corps were NOT traitors?
Yes, I know what the Constitution says: Under Article III, Section 3, of the Constitution, any person who levies war against the United States or adheres to its enemies by giving them Aid and Comfort has committed treason within the meaning of the Constitution.
BUT – like many other provisions of the Constitution, this ONLY applies to persons under the jurisdiction or authority of the Constitution. It does not apply to a foreigner residing in the States – not even a green card holder. Some border jumper from El Salvador or Haiti does not become a traitor by sneaking across the border and attacking Fort Bliss or Fort Sam Houston. He may be an enemy but he is not a traitor.
It does not apply to someone who has renounced their citizenship in the United States (a concept that really didn’t exist until the post-WBTS amendments to the US Constitution). Usually, people have renounced such American citizenship to become a citizen or subject of another nation, but that is not a requirement. In fact, the US State Department itself explains that you CAN renounce US national status (that is generally, as a citizen) without already having another nationality. You can become a “stateless person!”
But that wasn’t the case of the military officers (or anyone else) in 1861. They HAD a State of which they were a “national” (a citizen).
In the case of the CSMC, CSN and CSA, their members’ States renounced their membership in the Union. Therefore, all the citizens of Texas remained citizens of Texas (not just “residents” as people like to say today), but were no longer American citizens or nationals – legally or morally – when Texas left the Union after just sixteen years. (Texas was an independent Republic from 1836 to 1845 – when its application (made by the Texian Congress) for admission to the Union was approved by the US Congress. Therefore, by definition, those men were not traitors.
Actually, pedantically, look at this definition of traitor in legal terms from Cornell University Law School: The offense of betraying one’s own country by attempting to overthrow the government through waging war against the state or materially aiding its enemies.
Texans, Virginians – yes, even Floridians and South Carolinians – were NOT seeking to “overthrow the [federal] government” and certainly not their own State government by waging a DEFENSIVE war against “Honest Abe” and his minions (and the rump Congress). And would not have been even if they fought in an OFFENSIVE war of aggression against DC and the rump of the Union.
Indeed, it might be more appropriate (but still wrong) to say that the traitors in that horrific and tragic conflict were those men who remained in the United States Army and Navy (including the Marine Corps!) when their State left the Union.
To me, that violates a fundamental principle of liberty under God – the right of self-determination, of an individual to withdraw their consent to be governed. (With the understanding that we are responsible for our actions and will pay the consequences of our actions.)
Or perhaps we can brand as traitors those men whose State did NOT secede but themselves resigned from the United States armed forces? And then joined the OTHER American armed forces? (The Confederate ones?
Except that even then, the right to relinquish your citizenship in one State and migrate to another was recognized. I am not sure that any seceding State ever attempted to try someone who remained in the US forces for treason. They seem to have respected the right of free association more than we do today.
So, Nathan, you ask, WERE there traitors during the so-called American Civil War?
Absolutely. They were the men who stayed in their elected or appointed office – federal or state – who betrayed their oaths to support and defend the Constitution and violated it time and time and TIME again in four years of war and continued to do so long after. Who threatened and then used force against their brother Americans who wanted to leave – exactly as their fathers and grandfathers had done in 1774-1783 with the Kingdom of Great Britain. The Tyrants starting with Lincoln showed far more evidence of being traitors than Lee, Hood, Gordon, or any other CSA or CSN member.
Perhaps this is one of the reasons that no Confederate officer or office holder was ever convicted of treason after the collapse of the Confederacy and the occupation of the South. Or even after their “readmission” under the evil framework of “Reconstruction.” Indeed, so biased and bigoted a source as Smithsonian Magazine has at least some truth to its article. Jefferson Davis, former US Senator, former US Secretary of War, was ACCUSED of treason and imprisoned for two years, but NEVER tried. In 1867, he was prepared to argue in court that he did not betray the country because once Mississippi left it, he was no longer a U.S. citizen. Fearful of the outcome of such a trial (apparently, there were still honest judges and un-cowed juries back then), US President Andrew Johnson “pardoned” Jeff Davis of treason – even though he had never been convicted of such a thing.
So when you see and hear the scumbags who are “social justice warriors” or claim to be honest “historians” or whatever, who call Southerners in 1861-1865 “traitors,” just ignore them. And call them liars to their face. Politely, of course, but these days, best armed and having them aware that you might be.