Sunday, March 02, 2014

"Orders to disarm the people have always been the forerunners of despotic military rule...."

Impressment of Arms

   Every citizen of the State who has a double-barrel gun or rifle, which can be used against the enemy, and which he can spare, should not hesitate a moment to sell or give it to the government. Gov. Clarke has had agents all or the State, collecting such arms as the people could spare; and it is said that agents of other States and of the Confederate government have been doing the same thing. But we utterly deny the right of President Davis to "request" Maj. Ashe, or any one else, to enter the houses of our people and impress their Arms against their will. The 13th and 15th clauses of section 9th of the Confederate Constitution are as follows:

   "13. A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

   15. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated; and no warrants shall issue but on probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

   The above clauses contain principles as ancient as liberty itself. These principles ought never to be violated. From the beginning of free government until now, no people ever parted with liberty as a means of achieving liberty, without finding themselves in the end the subjects of despotism. The world has seen but one Washington. Clothed at one time with supreme military power, he hastened, as soon as he had performed the work of liberating his country, meekly to lay down that power at the feet of civil rule, Jefferson Davis is not George Washington. He is scarcely warm in his seat, to which he was called by the general acclaim of the whole people, before he "requests" one of his agents to violate material portions of the Constitution which he has sworn to support. The government over which he presides is one of delegated powers. The power which be claims, of search and seizure, and which he has assumed to delegate to Maj. Ashe, is expressly forbidden by the Constitution to be exercised by him, but is "reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." The " right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed "--and "the right of the people to bo secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated."--But Maj. Ashe says, "by request," that if the arms are not forthcoming, he will seize them by force; and the Major furthermore declares in advance, " by request," that those who do not promptly obey his call, are "cravens" and "disloyalists" that is, cowards and traitors. Maj. Ashe expects the "true patriots" to send in their arms at once, but the arms of the cowards and traitors he will forcibly seize. Now we repeat, that every double-barrel gun and rifle which can be spared, should be promptly sold or given to the government; but there are instances and there are localities in which the people ought to retain their arms; and even if this were not so, and if all the guns and rifles could be spared, Mr. Davis must not attempt by force to disarm our people. We charge no improper motive on Mr. Davis or his agent but we tell the people that they should not only protest against a violation of their Constitution, but resist the very beginnings of despotic rule, A people jealous of their liberties, and fighting as ours are against tyranny from without, should vigilantly guard against the possibility, not to say probability, of tyranny within. With sixty thousand of our troops as conscripts, under the control of the President, and with our home population disarmed, we should be at the mercy of any movement which radical and dangerous leaders might inaugurate. The whole character of our government might be changed, and, though our people might protest against it, they would be powerless to prevent it. Orders to disarm the people have always been the forerunners of despotic military rule. Macaulay states that a favorite project with James the Second, was the disarming the population of Ireland, or rather that portion of them who disagreed with him, in his peculiar views. Dick Talbot Earl of Tyrconnel, who was given more to "wine and wassail" then he was to truth, justice, and judgment, and who was charged with the military administration in Ireland, executed the "royal order which came from Whitehall for disarming the population." This order was "strictly executed as respected the English; and though the country was infested by predatory bands, a Protestant gentleman could scarcely obtain permission to keep a brace of pistols." We leave it with our readers to say if there are not suspected persons in this State--suspected only bccause they did not prefer to break up the old government, and because they insist on a better administration of Confederate and State affairs as essential to the achievement of our independence, who are not regarded as "true patriots," and the disarming of whom, whatever might be the indulgence shown to others, would be undertaken and accomplished with peculiar pleasure by certain persons. But however this may be, we protest against this order ef the President to impress private property, as unnecessary, as insulting to our people, as detrimental to the cause, and also as a violation of the Constitution. Our people have evinced no backwardness in this war. They have rushed to it as men crowd to a festival. They have given their money, their arms, and their blood without stint to the cause. But they are still free, and they will do nothing on compulsion. In the glowing account given by Mr. Bancroft, of the early settlers of North-Carolina, he says--"careless of religious sects, or colleges, or lawyers, or absolute laws, the early settlers enjoyed liberty of conscience and personal independence, freedom of the forest and of the river:"--and, he adds--"North-Carolina was settled by the freest of the free." The descendants of these settlers are just as free as they were. They regarded secession at will as the parent of anarchy, and coercion by the federal government as the parent of despotism; and they sought to avoid both. But they restated and are resisting coercion, not so much on their own account as on that of others. Mr. Davis should remember this. We fought and offered Mr. Davis all our treasure and blood, as soon as, and because his State was threatened. This consideration should induce him to treat us justly, if not generously.

   We have nothing to say against Maj. Ashe personally. He is good-natured and clever to his friends, and public-spirited and active in the Southern cause; but it seems to us he might have executed his despotic mission with less of denunciation and threatening in advance than we find in his card. But his threats will alarm no one; and his own unselfishness will not shine with striking conspicuity when it is remembered that he holds two profitable offices--that of President of the Wilmington and Weldon Road, and Major in the Confederate service. The remedy of "peaceable secession" is likely to pay in his case indifferently well.

[Semi-Weekly Standard, Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, April 12, 1862. Vol. XII. No. 30. Pg. 3]

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