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Jefferson Davis Views on State Rights and Secession
Jefferson Finis Davis or more popularly known as "Jeff" Davis was born on June 3rd 1808 to the Kentucky couple Samuel and Jane Cook Davis. He passed away on December 6th, 1889 but not before he served as an American statesman and leader from the Confederacy throughout the American Civil War entire duration of the Civil War as well as the history that was made in that era. In his early life, he attended and graduated from the Transylvania University, and West Point which he followed up by fighting in the Mexican -- American War. He served as the colonel of one of the many volunteer forces fighting the war at the time. He followed that by serving the United States as the Secretary of War. He completed this tenure under the democratic governmental structure of President Franklin Pierce. He continued to serve the American government after the Pierce administration; his primary post in the government was that of a Democratic U.S. who was in charge of the State of Mississippi. Even though his opinion and standing as the senator was not in favor of secession, he did agree on the need for all states to remain sovereign with the categorical right to secede from the State if and when the action of secession was justifiably correct (Cooper, 2000).
His most important work when it comes to the state rights discussion and secession started in 1861 when he resigned on his tenure from the U.S. Senate and was unanimously elected as the provisional President of the Confederate States of America. He served a complete six-year term as the President and immediately worked towards a strategy that would counter the Confederate war plans; but did so in vain, as the larger Union continued to grow and execute its plans (Cooper, 2000). Even though this paper focuses on the overall opinion of Davis on the state rights and secession, it is important to note here that most of his opinions were influenced by other leaders at the time or prior to it aside from Pierce, but also that his leadership in dealing with the war at the time failed too. Whether or not this was due to his opinions on state rights and secession is a different debate. From here on forth, we will discuss the state rights and secession as viewed by Davis as well as the influences and similarities of these viewpoints found in other leaders.
Davis on equal rights of States
We see quite a few similarities between Davis' approach to tackling state rights and secession to some of the other leaders of his time. One such leader was Thomas Jefferson who also served as President of the United States. The parliament has existence owing to the people, and it enjoys the authority and powers given by the voters. Hence, it can put into effect those powers and enjoy certain privileges but with the dissolution of the legislative bodies and any other administrative branch, the power goes back to the people who can exercise these powers without any restriction (Peterson, 1984; Collins, 2005). This is precisely the kind of approach that Davis promoted where even though a sense of secession exists, but the states have equal rights to not only themselves but also the government and the people.
While summarizing the debate over state rights, Thomas Jefferson criticized the parliament by stating that the social contract doesn't give the parliament an unlimited political power to control and administer colonies. While discussing the subject, Jefferson asserted that the parliament should stop sacrificing the privileges of one part of the kingdom for the unnecessary wishes of other; instead, it should deal with every part on an equal basis because all of them have equal rights and privileges. It should not pass the laws that might cripple the powers and snatch the rights of other bodies and localities (Peterson, 1984). Jefferson Davis similarly utilized the argument below in favor from the equal rights of states: he acknowledged that the unison of all the States basically rests with the completion of their equal rights and privileges that they share amongst and with their members. He also asserted that it was particularly the duty of the Parliament and the Senate to block any and all attempts to differentiate the rights of the states irrespective of whether they were in relation to the individual or property rights enjoyed by the state. He said that the Senate was the representative of all the member States and must fulfill its responsibility to highlight their complete sovereign capacity. This was important in his view as, within the regions that are under the U.S. government, benefits towards the masses of a State were to be fulfilled but within a structure that ensure the equal security f guarantee of fulfillment of rights for other states as well (The Papers of Jefferson Davis, 1860).
It was Davis who thoroughly supported the Preamble that was published for the Confederate States Constitution which began its declaration by asserting that all confederate members states were equal and acted in sovereign and independent manners (The Papers of Jefferson Davis, 1860).
Furthermore, Thomas Jefferson was opposed to the Unitarian philosophy of United Kingdom, which has given the national supervisory and administration a federation's right. United Kingdom has always remained the champion of strong central and national government, while Jefferson was an advocate of delegated authority to the states and local bodies. This type of power balance can be seen in the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution of 1787 (Wilson, 1992). Similarly, we see a pattern in Davis' approach too towards a social culture but one that is marred with controversy and contradiction.
Whilst the often-expressed opinion that the cause for the South's secession was solely according to the State's Rights opinion, there's a substantial quantity of contemporary literary historical record that indicates that numerous of the State's Rights advocates (Jefferson Davis included) had been actually a lot much more concerned for the upkeep of the then-cultural structure of the South. These reports claim that the abstract idea of States Rights was much less essential than getting the South's present slave-supported aristocracy maintained (Cooper, 2008).
If such a study or approach is right, then Jefferson Davis would happen to be in favor of a powerful Federal Government, instead of equal or sovereign States Rights primarily because the Federal Government's approach was one that supported the notion of sustaining slavery (Cooper, 2008).
Davis on Secession
We again see that Davis had a very similar approach and opinion of secession as that of Thomas Jefferson. Although, Jefferson and Davis both advocated for both levels and types of the government as we can see in their dedicated personal services at many administrative positions, however, due to the fact that state governance involves less dictatorial attitude, they leaned more towards it. They always adhered to standards of every layer of governance as dreamed by the founders (also see, Collins, 2005). Jefferson's views on Hamiltonian are regarded as the best example in the field as he faulted the mentioned law just because of the constitutional disrespect it exhibited. The National Bank, in spite of having many advantages, was still not able to justify the adoption of unconstitutional methods (Wilson, 1992).
As per the study conducted by Sheldon (1991), Jefferson's views and opinion about the Alien and Sedition Acts exhibit his approach towards consolidation. In Kentucky Resolutions' case, the visible delegation of power to the states was an infringement of the civil liberties. Here again, he opined and realized this consolidation of power to states as a next step towards dictatorship and hence his approach to oppose the legislations like Alien and Sedition Acts was an attempt to defend public liberties and civil rights (Sheldon, 1991). We see similar stances form Davis taken in his approach to deal with the inappropriate state appointments that were designated by Governor Brown from Georgia in his era. He tried to uphold some form of civil liberties when the Governor had enlisted 10,000 military men by commandeering them from their duties. His efforts were in vain as he was unable to retain the civil liberties of these enlisted men. Brown asserted that this stance was necessary to maintain so as to ensure that the states remained loyal to the confederate. This was perhaps the first time where the importance that Davis gave to civil liberties was highlighted as well as his stance on the right to secession. Yes, Davis was against secession but still believed that, if and when secession was justifiable, the states could implement it and in standing by that stance, he also tried to relinquish whatever militaristic approach that Brown was implementing (Swanson. 2010).
The overall controversy with regards to the state right of secession continued along logical frameworks for quite some time with quite a few debates emerging from the Calhounian doctrine. There were quite a few statesmen who agreed on the need of…[continue]
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