North Carolina Civil War Documentary

By W. Buck Yearns; John G. Barret | Go to book overview

XVII
STATE RIGHTS AND STATE PRIDE

Secession apologists had argued that the writers of the Constitution of 1787 had precisely divided the powers of government between the states and the nation, and that each was sovereign in its own sphere. They maintained that they had supported the Union as long as the Constitution had been interpreted in the spirit of Jefferson and Madison; but that sacred compact had become so distorted by interpretations beneficial to the North and injurious to the South that the latter had been forced to exercise the ultimate state right--secession. The Confederate Constitution incorporated a few safeguards to prevent future misinterpretations, but radical alteration seemed unnecessary for presumably the South would never again be threatened by aggressive nationalism.

But paradoxically the only president of the Confederacy was one of its strongest nationalists. Jefferson Davis had used state rights arguments and rhetoric throughout his political career but probably had never fully believed in them. Now that he was Confederate president he found them impractical. He was convinced that the disparity of resources between the contestants made centralism vital to Confederate survival. For this reason he was quite willing to establish as powerful a central government as was needed. Neither the rights of a state nor of its citizens should be allowed to endanger the war effort.

Until the Conscription Act of April 1862, the extent of the Confederacy's authority in North Carolina was not seriously argued, for the moderate war measures of the first year posed no threat to state authority or individual freedom. For the most part North Carolina's grievances stemmed from the neglect of its defenses. Typical of Governor Clark's many letters to the War Department was his plea "I cannot refrain from referring you again to the urgent necessity . . . for more arms and munitions . . . for the . . . defense of the coast."1 The North Carolina

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1
H. T. Clark to J. P. Benjamin, 25 Sept. 1861, Official Records, Ser. 1, 4: 658.

-272-

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North Carolina Civil War Documentary
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • ILLLUSTRATIONS ix
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgments xvii
  • I- a Time for Decision 3
  • II- North Carolina Secedes 18
  • III- North Carolina Invaded, 1861-1862 28
  • IV- War in Eastern North Carolina, 1862-1864 43
  • V- Blockade-Running 65
  • VI- Fort Fisher 79
  • VII- War in Central and Western Countries 93
  • VIII- The Call to Arms 125
  • IX- Problems of Procurement 155
  • X- State Socialism 174
  • XI- Bearing the Costs of War 188
  • XII- The War and the Rairoads 204
  • XIII- The Economy of Scarcities 213
  • XIV- Church and School 225
  • XV- Victims of Attrition 246
  • XVI- Life Goes on at Home 265
  • XVII- State Rights and State Pride 272
  • XVIII- The Peace Movement 291
  • XIX- Wartime Politics 307
  • XX- Sherman in North Carolina 321
  • Bibliography 343
  • Index 351
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