Walter E Williams on Washington and Lee

If the leaders professing to be speaking for the black community would take men like Walter E Williams for their role models, then that community would be in much better shape than it is. Williams writes on the similarities between the so-called treason of Lee and other Confederates and that of the 1775-1776 secessionists of the First War for American Independence:

There are a few facts about our founding that should be acknowledged. Let’s start at the beginning, namely the American War of Independence (1775-1783), a war between Great Britain and its 13 colonies, which declared independence in July 1776. The peace agreement that ended the war is known as the Treaty of Paris signed by Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, John Jay, and Henry Laurens and by British Commissioner Richard Oswald, on Sept. 3, 1783. Article I of the Treaty held that “New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, to be free sovereign and Independent States.”

Delegates from these states met in Philadelphia in 1787 to form a union. During the Philadelphia convention, a proposal was made to permit the federal government to suppress a seceding state.

Minutes from the debate paraphrased his opinion: “A union of the states containing such an ingredient [would] provide for its own destruction. The use of force against a state would look more like a declaration of war than an infliction of punishment and would probably be considered by the party attacked as a dissolution of all previous compacts by which it might be bound.”

During the ratification debates, Virginia’s delegates said “the powers granted under the Constitution being derived from the people of the United States may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression.”

The ratification documents of New York and Rhode Island expressed similar sentiments; namely, they held the right to dissolve their relationship with the United States. Ratification of the Constitution was by no means certain. States feared federal usurpation of their powers. If there were a provision to suppress a seceding state, the Constitution would never have been ratified. The ratification votes were close with Virginia, New York, and Massachusetts voting in favor by the slimmest of margins. Rhode Island initially rejected it in a popular referendum and finally voted to ratify — 34 for, 32 against.

The Confederacy, operating under the Jeffersonian tradition which was carried down through the Democratic Party, reacted to the usurpation of the Federal government the same way that their ancestors had against the Crown:

Confederate generals fought for independence from the Union just as George Washington fought for independence from Great Britain. Those who label Robert E. Lee and other Confederate generals as traitors might also label George Washington a traitor. Great Britain’s King George III and the British parliament would have agreed.

Of course, these arguments hold little weight with the ideologues of today, who regard both Washington and Lee as traitors to the present-day norms, though such norms did not exist in those times. However, Williams’ words might sway the rare individual who cares about history and heritage.

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