Lee and Lincoln

It has become trendy recently for “conservative-types” to declare that Gen. Robert E. Lee was a “traitor”, probably in response to the call by leftist-progressives to remove statues honoring Confederates. An interesting charge; Lee would certainly have disagreed with the underlying assumption that the Federal Government owned his allegiance to a greater degree than his home State of Virginia, but the self-described conservatives seem to have swallowed the narrative that the Federal Government somehow owns all of us, and so any action taken against that government is wrong, and immoral, and treasonous.

I would be curious to know if these supposed conservatives think that Gen. Lee should have been executed for his “crime”. If not, then they don’t consider treason that bad of a crime. If they think he SHOULD have been executed, then they are in conflict with the actual victors at the end of the war, who decided not to execute, permanently imprison, or otherwise severely punish the “traitors” of the South, apart from requiring oaths of allegiance, and preventing them from being elected for political office for a little while (many of the same people who effected Southern Secession were right back in power only a few years after the end of the Civil War).

Anyway, if we grant the supposed conservatives’ charge that Gen. Lee was a traitor, then so was Gen. Washington, and since the supposed conservatives are crying a river of tears over the thought of statues of Washington being removed, then, again, it’s not apparent that these same people consider treason to be that bad of a crime. Gen. Lee’s real crime, I guess, is being on the losing side of a war.

Also, Slavery. Slavery, Slavery, Slavery, Slavery. “Just say Slavery”. Ooh! The Slaves! The South had Slaves! And Slavery!

Interestingly, while defense and maintenance of Slavery can explain why the South seceded, it does not explain why the North invaded. In addition, even if the North had invaded the South for the express purpose of freeing the slaves, the war would still be more immoral than slavery, just like murder is more immoral than kidnapping and theft. But, that’s a different topic. Right now, we’re talking about treason.

Let us look, then, at the Constitutional description of treason in Article III, Section 3, Clause 1:

“Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.”

Okay; Gen. Lee did none of that at the beginning of the war. Neither did Jefferson Davis, nor Beauregard, nor any of the Southerners. The South did not invade the Northern States. Not at first, anyway. Lee’s attempted invasion into the Northern states happened long after the war started, and was not done in an attempt to conquer the Northern States, but to provide material relief (food and supplies) to the Southern armies, so that doesn’t really count. Had the North not invaded the South, first, in other words, then Lee would not have marched his armies into Maryland and Pennsylvania. Also, the Southern firing on Fort Sumter, which was in Charleston Harbor, can hardly be described as levying war against “the States”.

You know who did “levy war against THEM [i.e., the States]? Abraham Lincoln. Deploying troops to the fort for the purposes of collecting tribute was the original act of war. The counter-argument by supposed conservatives is that the Federal Government “owned” the fort, and so had eternal rights to its usage. Eh.

Imagine, if you will, that the United Nations started agitating for the United States to cough up more money. The United States refused, and declared that they will withdraw from the UN. The UN, in response, deploys troops to the UN Building in New York City, with the stated intention of collecting the fees, duties, and tributes that it claims the U.S. owes. The United States orders the U.S. military to fire on the building. Which side initiated hostilities?

Hint: It was the United Nations.

If the supposed conservatives claim that this imagined scenario is “different”; that the United States was not supposed to be a collection of independent nations that formed an alliance to effect actions for the common good of them all, and that the Constitution was instead an eternally binding compact that formed a single nation from component parts, then they demonstrate that they are interpreting Southerners’ perceptions of “the Union” through the prism of their own Federal-Government-worshipping understanding and biases.

Nevertheless, it’s politically expedient (in the minds of the supposed conservatives) to declare that “slavery, Jim Crow, and the KKK” are all elements of the Democrat Party. Please. The Dems purges those elements from their party long ago, so the charge is irrelevant. What these supposed conservatives are really doing is alienating potential allies: limited-government adherents who are also people who honor Southern heroes like Gen. Lee for their sustained fight against Federal tyranny. “Fine! Who needs you, anyway?” might be these supposed conservatives’ response, but they’re never going to get the America they want until they first acknowledge that the men of the seceding South were the Good Guys.

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