by AL BENSON JR.
A few years ago I read an interesting book written by Cliffor Dowdey entitled "The History Of The Confederacy 1832-1865." While I did not agree with all that Mr. Dowdey said, I felt that, in the main, he sought be fair to the South. His book brought out a point I had never even considered until I read it. He stated on pages 411 and 414 of his book that the Confederacy never had a formal, or official end. He noted that all the Confederate generals surrendered their armies, as none of them had the authority to surrender anything more, except possibly Robert E. Lee, as supreme commander of all Confederate forces in the field. Yet even he only surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia. Even President Jefferson Davis, when captured, was only captured. There was NEVER any formal surrender of the Confederate States as a nation or country. After World War 2 Germany and Japan surrendered and surrender documents were signed. No such event occurred for the Confederate States.
Although I mention Mr. Dowdey's book as my source for this information, I have checked out other sources and have not, to this point, found any information to contradict Mr. Dowdey's assertion. Other histories of the Confederate States have been checked into and they seem to be in silent agreement that the Confederacy never had an "official" end. Two of the best known are "A History of the Southern Confederacy" by Clement Eaton and "The Story of the Confederacy" by Robert Selph Henry. These books, both reliable histories, can be duly noted for their lack of any mention of a formal end for the Confederate States. They record the surrender of the various armies and all the horrible history that followed, but no mention is ever made at all of the Confederate States ever being formally terminated.
Alexander Stephens, in his monumental two-volume work "A Constitutional View of the Late War Between the States" said much the same thing, except he expressed it in different terms. Stephens noted, in Volume One, the main reason for the War: "The conflict in principle arose from differing and opposing ideas as to the nature of what is known as the General Government...It was a strife between the principles of Federation on the one side, and Centralism, or Consolidation, on the other." Stephens was clearly stating that the struggle was over liberty on the one (Confederate) side vs. collectivism on the other (Northern) side. We might well ask, is our struggle today any different? Are we not still engaged in this battle? Stephens went on to disclaim slavery as the real cause of the war. He noted that "Some of the strongest anti-slavery men who ever lived were on the side of those who opposed the centralizing principles which led to the war." Stephens reiterated that fact on page 631 of Volume Two.
Moreover, Mr. Stephens contended that the true cause of the War for Southern Independence was not lost in the surrender of the various Confederate armies. He stated, in Volume Two of his work, starting on page 651: "So you see, my opinion is that the Cause which was lost at Appomattox Court House, was not the Federative Principles upon which American Free Institutions was based, as some have erroneously supposed. This is far from being one of the results of the War. The cause which was lost by the surrender of the Confederates, was only the maintenance of this principle by arms. It was not the principle they abandoned! They only abandoned their attempt to maintain it by physical force...This principle, therefore, though abandoned in its maintenance on battle-fields, still continues to live in all its vigor, in the forums of Reason, Justice, and Truth, and will, I trust, there continue to live forever."
Stop and analyze what Stephens has told us. The causes for which the Confederate States came into being, Christian self-government and the rights of the individual states within the framework of a federation (Confederacy) still exist. They have not been, nor can they ever be, truly done away with. They can not be done away with because the concepts of self-government and limited national power are scriptural. (Galatians 5:22-23 and Romans 13:1-7)
The true reasons for which the Confederate States were organized (even though some of the original founders may not have fully realized them) are not gone. They remain to this day. The struggle we blithly refer to as the "Civil War" did not resolve anything except which side had the most money, guns, and men. All it proved is that one country can prevail over another militarily if it has superior numbers and resources. The Northern bayonet drove truth to the ground, but it will not be able to keep it there forever.
It just may be, in God's Providence, that the Confederate States had no formal end because the truths she stood for (albeit imperfectly), rooted in Holy Scripture, also have no end.
Alexander Stephens bore eloquent testimony that the Cause still lives, even as its adherents still live today. The spirit of secession, which is akin to biblical separation, thrives in our day. What remains is for those that understand these truths in this hour in our history to proclaim them and to teach them to their children, and their neighbors, and their fellow church members, as opportunity is provided.
This article originally appeared on the web site of the Southern Independence Party of Louisiana.
Check out this website, as well as the web site for the Federation of States.