served." "The boundary between the reserved and the delegated powers marks the limits of the Union. The States are united to the extent of the latter, and separated beyond that limit."
I beg to repeat that I am not arguing but only stating the position of the Secessionists. It follows from the premises of the Secessionists (and the argument must turn on the premises which foreigners seem unable to understand) that the relation of the citizen to the Federal government was through the State; that the Union was a union of political communities and not of individual persons; that the States, as communities in ratifying the constitution, entered the Federal government only quoad hoc, and that whether a power exercised by the government was within its constitutional competency was to be judged by the creator and not by the creature. The State declared for her citizens the extent of their obligations to the general government, and such declaration was binding on the citizen—code of military ethics, official oaths, acts of Congress, proclamations of the President, to the contrary notwithstanding. All this of course depends on whether the right to secede, to control citizens, was delegated or transferred: and that brings up the underlying question, who is to judge whether the transfer has been made, the general government through some of its departments, or the States who were the grantors of all the powers possessed by the general government. If the States-rights theory be the sound one, then General Lee violated no oath, committed no breach of trust in obeying the commands of Virginia, nor did any citizen of the South in siding with his seceded State.
Let it be borne in mind that this question of paramount allegiance of citizens, of the right of a State to decide upon infractions of the constitution, or to anticipate perilous possibilities, had never been decided prior to the war. It was an open question, hotly contested, and the equal honesty of the disputants must be presumed. How far the ratio regium, the wager of battle, the avoir-dupois of numbers, can determine a question of conscience or law, need not now be discussed. Secession is now as practically dead as slavery, but it was too unsettled in 1860 to justify these efforts to pillory as a perjured traitor a veritable chevalier Bayard, sans peur et sans reproche. Whatever foreigners or prejudiced Americans may say or think to the reverse, when the passions and prejudices of the war shall have subsided, and the historic muse shall record an impartial verdict, the eulogy pronounced by Brougham on another illustrious Southerner will be equally applicable to Lee: