With a major hat-tip to “What Would the Founders Think?”, I wish to present the case of one Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar, Jr., as my study for the Confederate side of the Lincoln-understanding-secession series. [I highly recommend taking a look at the entire series of posts (one, two, three) regarding the fascinating case of U.S. Marshal James Pierce, who served in Mississippi during Reconstruction, and whose story inspired the WWTFT blog to look at Lamar.] My post here isn’t about Lincoln directly, except to show that other perspective to which Lincoln alluded in his inaugural train journey remarks. Here is my Part 1 on the subject instant, and Part 2.
As mentioned on WWTFT, a book titled South of Appomattox included Lamar as one of ten great Confederate leaders whose post-Civil-War stories were featured. Similar to WWTFT, I found the following passage on Lamar, the man who authored Mississippi’s Ordinance of Secession, to be more than relevant:
To the grave he bore in his right hand a copy of the United States Constitution he had carried with him for many years. … Certainly Lamar’s veneration for it was something more than a lawyer’s quest for ultimate law or politician’s last resort for winning arguments. … Lamar had lived with this Constitution for years, carrying it as it were, next to his heart, as soldiers do Testaments to ward of bullets. When the Union was sundered in ’61, he would have no new constitution, only the old one kept inviolate like a cherished relic. When the Union was restored in ’65, he could see no other course but a rigid adherence to the ancient gospel which had reconciled a disunited Republic in 1787 and must become the only workable basis for the reconciliation of a divided Union scarcely a century later.
Well ain’t that a kick in the pants? Here was a man who literally authored dissolution of the Union under the Constitution, who exclaimed, “Thank God, we have a country at last: to live for, to pray for, and if need be, to die for,” and who, upon doing so, fought in battle in defense of those things, but yet during the war when the South considered itself no longer bound by the compact known as the Constitution, he revered that very same Constitution as “ancient gospel” (not Lamar’s words, but still). Why? Well, it goes back to Lincoln’s words in New York City: “There is nothing that can ever bring me willingly to consent to the destruction of this Union … unless it were to be that thing for which the Union itself was made.” Clearly, Lamar believed that that thing for which the Union itself was made was the Constitution and he believed in it. When he became convinced that the Union was no longer going to adhere to that thing for which it was made, he met the requisite, set by Lincoln’s own words, that brought him to willingly consent to the destruction thereof. And when the Confederate effort failed, and there was no question as to the status of the “ship”, he did not change his views but remained true to what he believed to be the Constitution, the same one that he knew Lincoln had believed in, new Amendments and all.
Thus is the story of how two men and two sides could view the same ship with the same cargo in two very different ways, how they understood opposing viewpoints (Lincoln much more overtly so than Lamar), and how they still stood their ground without letting the validity of their differences blur things to the point of no meaning.