Tuesday, November 18, 2008

An Act to provide for the Public Defence

At TOCWOC, Brett Schulte posted recently concerning an email he received from a reader concerning the creation of the Confederate Army. The e-mailer (is that a word?) had read that the Confederacy had authorized the creation of a 100,000 man army just two days after Lincoln’s inauguration as president:
I just finished reading a biography of Winfield Scott and ran across a piece of info I have never noted before. I went back through my somewhat extensive library and have taken part in a number of discussions about the origins of the Civil War, but no where have come across the fact that two days after Lincoln was inaugurated the Confederate govt called authorized [sic] an army of 100,000. This would be proposing the biggest army that had ever existed in the western hemisphere and was akin to the mobilization orders that began WWI. Why does this not get more notice?

Ah, the internet is a wonderful thing. All of the laws enacted by the Provisional Government of the Confederate States of America are available online. On March 6, 1861, President Jefferson Davis did indeed sign into a law a bill, entitled An Act to provide for the Public Defence. The first section of the Act authorized Davis, as President, to accept up to 100,000 men into military service:
The Congress of the Confederate States of America do enact, That in order to provide speedily forces to repel invasion, maintain the rightful possession of the Confederate States of America in every portion of territory belonging to each State, and to secure the public tranquility and independence against threatened assault, the President be, and he is hereby authorized to employ the militia, military and naval forces of the Confederate States of America, and to ask for and accept the services of any number of volunteers, not exceeding one hundred thousand, who may offer their services, either as cavalry, mounted riflemen, artillery or infantry, in such proportion of these several arms as he may deem expedient, to serve for twelve months after they shall be mustered into service, unless sooner discharged.

About the lithograph:
The Confederate leaders are portrayed as a band of competing opportunists led by South Carolina governor and secessionist Francis Pickens (far left). The artist criticizes the January 1861 secession of five states from the lower South, following the lead of South Carolina, which had formally declared its independence a month before. Armed with a whip and a pistol, Pickens sits on the back of a young slave, pronouncing, "South Carolina claims to be file leader and general whipper in of the new Confederacy, a special edict! Obey and tremble!" The other leaders are also armed. Pickens's tyranny is met by expressions of self-interest from the other confederates. The nature of these individual interests are conveyed pictorially and in the text. Leaders from Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia sit on bales of cotton, while Florida and Louisiana sit on a wrecked ship's hull and a barrel of sugar respectively. Florida (represented by a bearded man, possibly Stephen R. Mallory, senator and later secretary of the Confederate navy ): "We want it distinctly understood that all the lights on the Coast will be put out, in order to facilitate wrecking business." Alabama (William L. Yancey): "Alabama proclaims that Cotton is King,' and the rest of the Confederacy "must obey" that Sovereign. Mississippi (Jefferson Davis): "We came in, with the understanding that we shall issue bonds to an unlimited extent, with our ancient right of repudiation when they became due." Georgia (Governor Joseph E. Brown): "Georgia must have half the honors, and all the profits, or back she goes to old Pluribus Unum.'" Louisiana (a mustachioed man): "A heavy duty must be levied on foreign sweetening in order to make up for what we have sacrificed in leaving the Union, otherwise we shall be like a Pelican in the wilderness!'" Although Texas, which seceded on February 1, is not represented here, the print probably appeared at the time of the Montgomery convention in early February when the Confederate States of America was formed, but before Jefferson Davis assumed its presidency. Texas did not attend that convention.

1 comment:

  1. Sean Nalty12:55 PM

    Dear Elektratig,

    Sorry that it has taken me a while to get back to you. I have been in the throes of dissertation writing of late. Sunday sounds great and I will definitely be around. I am not very experienced in the tour guide aspect, but I will try to read up a bit before you and the rest of your traveling party arrive. I can be available anytime after 10am.



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