Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 06.djvu/67

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57
Did Lee Violate his Oath in Siding with the Confederacy?

Prior to the late amendments it is extremely doubtful whether such a thing as citizenship in the United States, apart from citizenship in a particular State, had any existence. Certainly General Lee was a citizen of Virginia, was a citizen of the United States only by virtue of being a citizen of Virginia, and no one who understands the A, B, C's of our government would pretend that to be an officer of the United States operated as an extinguishment of State citizenship, absolved from its obligations or debarred from its privileges and immunities.

A "Prussian officer" may not understand our Federal system, may fail to comprehend the simple truth that the very idea of the people of the United States, as constituting a single political community, is the veriest delusion, but every moderately well-informed American ought to know that the Union as a government sprang from the people of the several States, acting in their separate and sovereign character as distinct political communities. Its origin every historical fact conclusively establishes not to be due to the people of the States forming one aggregate community. Now, whether the States, as parties to the constitution, had a right to judge of the infractions of the instrument and of the mode and measure of redress, and to protect their citizens against encroachments or imminent peril, or whether they delegated to the general government the final and exclusive right to determine upon the kind and extent of the delegated and reserved powers, are questions which originated in the infancy of our of government. Nay, like the struggle between Jacob and Esau in the womb of Rebecca, presaging two manner of peoples, the conflict began in the convention that framed the constitution and in the separate State conventions which ratified it, and was the "great divide" betwixt the parties of the early and better days of the Republic. The States-rights' men or Republicans, as contradistinguished from the Federalists, held that it was futile to attempt to distinguish "between a government of unlimited powers and one professedly of limited, but with an unlimited right to determine the extent of its powers." The general government being the creature of the States could not, by possibility, have any original powers, and beyond its defined sphere its limitations could have no more power than if it did not exist at all. Mr. Calhoun aphoristically said, "a State is, at all times, so long as its proper position is maintained, both in and out of the Union; in for all constitutional purposes, and out for all others, in to the extent of the delegated powers, and out to that of the re-