I decided that if I am to do my part in bringing back our State government to a point before we were occupied and trampled on then I needed to find the historical documents that defined our government back when we were free. I found the NC State Constitution as written in December 18, 1776 and all Amendments and Ordinances attached to it up to May 13, 1862. This includes the declaration of secession and ratification of the Constitution of the CSA in 1861.
In going back to these historical documents it was amazing to me how much can be learned about the actual events without the filter of present day government. In addition to the NC State Constitution, I found a letter that was written by the NC Governor, Z.B. Vance to Jefferson Davis (I presume) on May 17, 1864. This letter is titled “Message from the Governor” and I assume it was an open letter that was distributed to the NC citizens of the time. I was not prepared for what I read in that letter as I never thought there would have been much friction and/or disagreement between the politicians of the CSA. It seems though that they were as much human as we are and along with extremely hard times, hard decisions had to be made. It seems that the NC coast was a port of entry for smuggled goods and Jefferson Davis expected those goods to be delivered to the CSA general government in their entirety tax free while NC citizens paid a hefty tax on all items imported. Governor Vance had other ideas, in that while North Carolinians took the risk to smuggle the goods in, then NC should receive their fair share before they left NC.
This was but the first of many subjects covered in the letter (and the tone remained very friendly) but one topic stood out for me. Governor Vance compared the offer of peace that King George sent to the colonies during the Revolutionary War to the demands Lincoln laid out for the Southern States provided they gave up their fight. Keep in mind that King George actually offered a very generous “peace treaty” that included keeping ALL taxes within the colonies to be used here for our benefit only among other things. It may not have been clear if those promises would have been kept, but Governor Vance’s point was that King George’s offer had been so generous that it certainly had many in the colonies debate seriously whether a fight for Independence was worth it. Yet, George Washington and our other Fore Fathers did not waiver and continued to fight. Remember, Governor Vance is referring to General George Washington in the following writing:
“Strange as it may seem, these “specious allurements of peace,” described and denounced by Gen. Washington, have not been presented by the enemy. We are trying to delude ourselves. So great is the hostility and so furious the fanaticism of the dominant party at the North, that they have not even offered us terms that could be regarded by the most timid and wavering as “alluring.” Lincoln’s proclamation is so grossly outrageous and so repugnant to our every idea of liberty, property and honor, as to ensure the rejection of the terms it holds out, while it adds weight and gives a tone of authority to the oft-repeated assertions of their public men and presses, that they want no compromise but will only be content with our subjugation. If our enemy were really willing, under any circumstances, to compromise with us upon any terms short of our absolute submission, they would certainly say so, and that to those whom they know to be authorized to entertain their propositions. The insiduous attempts to invoke separate, individual and State action, proves this conclusively, and can have no other intention than to plunge us into civil war and to subjugate us beyond redemption. How strange then to think, as some our people honestly do, that the very plan proposed by the enemy for our destruction, is the best way to secure a speedy and honorable peace! I respectfully submit that my plan, based on the wisdom and patriotism of Washington, and the universal teaching of history–to strengthen and sustain the army, and negotiate through the proper channels–is the safer and the better one.”
It is truly amazing to read the actual words of our Fore Fathers and hear directly what was in their hearts and minds. I believe that like they had to do, we may find ourselves having to compromise some of our own policies during the transition from an occupied land to Freedom. In his letter, Governor Vance protested the requirement of tax collection at the hands of the CSA general government because it violated the very principle that the CSA was founded upon. However, the War of Northern Aggression forced the hand of the CSA to take extreme measures. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do in order to win the war. We just have to have the discipline to let go when we have our Independence secured.
In any case, I highly recommend to all CSA citizens to do a search for the old documents for your State during the 1860-1865 timeframe. You’ll be amazed at what you will find.
By Douglas McCue, Representative for The Confederate State of North Carolina