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And oftentimes, to win us to our harm, The instruments of darkness tell us truths, Win us with honest trifles, to betray ’s In deepest consequence.

The politics of the Confederacy was, in many ways, a mirror image of the politics of the north – the same but reversed. The great failure of the Confederacy is that they attempted to restore a form of government that had existed under the Articles of Confederation whose drafting had started in 1776 coincident with the Declaration of Independence and had been the governing law from 1781 to 1789 when the present Constitution was ratified.

Unfortunately the Articles of Confederation proved largely unworkable because:

  • Each state only had one vote in Congress, regardless of size.
  • Congress had not have the power to tax.
  • Congress did not have the power to regulate foreign and interstate commerce.
  • There was no executive branch to enforce any acts passed by Congress.
  • There was no national court system.
  • Amendments to the Articles of Confederation required a unanimous vote.
  • Laws required a 9/13 majority to pass in Congress.

Under the Articles of Confederation, states often argued amongst themselves. They also refused to financially support the national government. The national government was powerless to enforce any acts it did pass. Some states began making agreements with foreign governments. Most had their own military. Each state printed its own money. There was no stable economy.

In fact the first act of “secession” came in 1786,  when Shays’ Rebellion occurred in western Massachusetts as a protest to rising debt and economic chaos. However, the national government was unable to gather a combined military force amongst the states to help put down the rebellion. Over the next two years the Constitution would come into being, Washington would become president [1789-1797], and the national government would begin its path to dominance all the while fighting the tensions created by having sovereign states in a union.

Some of the major players in how this tension played out in the Confederacy are presented in the following posts of background information.

Dixie betrayed : how the South really lost the Civil War    New York : Little, Brown, 2006   David J. Eicher Confederate States of America History Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. x, 338 p., [16] p. of plates : ill., maps ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 316-324) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG  

A study in how governments can self-destruct during wartime. For more than a century, the conventional wisdom has been that the South lost because of overwhelming Union strength and bad luck. The Confederates have been lionized as noble warriors who fought for an honorable cause with little chance of succeeding. But historian Eicher reveals a calamity of political conspiracy, discord, and dysfunction. Drawing on previously unexplored sources, Eicher shows how President Jefferson Davis viciously fought with the Confederate House and Senate, governors, and his own cabinet. Confederate senators threatened each other with physical violence; some were brutal drunks, others, hopeless idealists. Military commanders were assigned not by skill but because of personal connections. Davis frequently interfered with his generals in the field, ignoring the chain of command. Also, some states wanted to set themselves up as separate nations, further undermining efforts to conduct a unified war effort.

 

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