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The Clarion Call of Freedom

(The Desire of the Southern States)


Ray L. Parker


America: the Land of Historic Freedom


            The fire of freedom burned hot in the soul of early America. The founding-fathers reacted to British overreach in the Colonies. The British monocracy viewed their American holdings as a means of wealth and cared not for the self-determination or wellbeing of the people. The people, in the view of the King, were to be used for the advancement of the British Empire. 


            The culmination of British tyranny is well documented. The people of the Colonies eventually pushed back against British power. This "push" meant war in the homeland with destruction and death. In spite of the price that must be paid, the Colonies took a firm and sacrificial stand.


            In this historic time the Declaration of Independence was crafted. The Colonies stood as free and independent States in defiance against a tyrannical government. The cost of such a stand was significant indeed. There were many times in the struggle that the outcome seemed in doubt; but the Colonies fought on.


            Out of this struggle for freedom came the Constitution of the united States of America. This document, unique and futuristic, stands as testimony to freedom-loving people who desired a Republic. For over two-hundred years America has sought governance via this sacred text. Governmental leaders pledge to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution."


            The States, creating the Federal Government under the stipulations of the Constitution, understood the dangers of overreaching governments. It was accepted truth that if at any time the Federal Government ignored the sovereignty of the States and began to disregard Constitutional guidelines, said States could withdraw from the Constitutional agreement and once again function as independent entities.


            The Southern States faced such a dilemma in the mid-1800s. Southern leaders sought relief from the Federal Government overreach. Many discussions and debates are noted in this historic time. The Southern attempt to bring the Federal government back to Constitutional restraints was unsuccessful. The overreach continued and with the election of Abraham Lincoln to the office of President, there seemed to be no political solution.


The Confederacy: An Attempt to Continue American Freedom


            Before the War of 1812 Federal Tariffs on imported goods were rather modest and were basically designed to provide additional revenue to the US Treasury (at this point in history there was no Federal income tax). Following the War of 1812 many in political power developed the concept of protectionism. Applying this philosophy the governmentally imposed tariff became a means to discourage American purchase of foreign goods and protected the industries of the Northern States – thus the term protectionism.


            On May 19, 1828 Congress adopted what came to be called the “Tariff of Abominations.” This tariff raised the average duties on goods imported into the United States to fifty percent. This action had an adverse impact on Southern States.  The British, for example, faced with a reduced market for their goods in the United States slowed their purchase of cotton, which weakened the Southern economy.


            Southern states contended that the tariff was unconstitutional and thus they were opposed to these newer protectionist tariffs; however New England’s industrialized states favored these newer protectionist tariffs.


            Federal tariffs therefore were a grievance to Southern States. It was certainly most disturbing to Southerners as Abraham Lincoln early in his campaign for President of the United States declared his support for such tariffs. Southerners were determined to find release from these excessive Northern prices crafted by the Federal Government to benefit Northern businesses.


            In the 1860 South Carolina Session Convention, Robert Barnwell Rhett stated,  "And so with the Southern States, towards the Northern States, in the vital matter of taxation. They are in a minority in Congress. Their representation in Congress, is useless to protect them against unjust taxation; and they are taxed by the people of the North for their benefit, exactly as the people of Great Britain taxed our ancestors in the British parliament for their benefit. For the last forty years, the taxes laid by the Congress of the United States have been laid with a view of subserving the interests of the North. The people of the South have been taxed by duties on imports, not for revenue, but for an object inconsistent with revenue— to promote, by prohibitions, Northern interests in the productions of their mines and manufactures."


            The Southern States seeing the overreach of the Federal Government and the refusal of the Federal Government to recognize the Constitutional powers given to the individual States, began to exercise their Constitutional rights of secession On December 20, 1860 South Carolina seceded from the Union. On January 9, 1861 Mississippi seceded from the Union. On January 10, 1861 Florida seceded from the Union. On January 11, 1861 Alabama seceded from the Union. On January 19, 1861 Georgia seceded from the Union. On January 26, 1861 Louisiana seceded from the Union. On February 23, 1861 Texas seceded from the Union. On April 17, 1861 Virginia seceded from the Union. On May 6, 1861 Arkansas seceded from the Union. On May 20, 1861 North Carolina seceded from the Union.  On June 8, 1861 Tennessee seceded from the Union.



            On February 18, 1861 Jefferson Davis was inaugurated President of the Confederate States of America. A new breath of freedom swept across the South land. Following Davis’ swearing in, he spoke to the crowd:


Our present political position has been achieved in a manner unprecedented in the history of nations. It illustrates the American idea that governments rest on the consent of the governed, and that it is the right of the governed, and that is the right of the people to alter or abolish them at will whenever they become destructive of the ends for which they were established. ... Obstacles may retard, but they cannot long prevent, the progress of a movement sanctified by its justice and sustained by a virtuous people.  


                        Thus, the secession of the Southern States was to maintain the Constitutional freedoms guaranteed in that sacred document. Southern leaders had no desire to dismantle the Federal Government or to control Northern States. They only wanted to be left alone and to enjoy the freedom won in the American Revolution and protected by the Constitution. Their struggle was a fight for liberty and justice. The clarion call of freedom rang loudly in the Southern States.   



Dr. Ray L. Parker, Chaplain-in-Chief

Sons of Confederate Veterans