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1865 March 25: The Rest of Rebel Governor Brown’s Message

March 29, 2015

The following speech by Georgia Governor Joseph E. Brown took up most of the front page of the March 25, 1865, issue of The Polk County Press.  The headings were added by the Press’ editor.  Due to its length, it was split between yesterday’s posting and today’s.

The Rebel Governor Brown’s Message.

The following highly interesting extracts are from the recent message of Gov. [Joseph E. Brown] Brown of Georgia :


The President [Jefferson F. Davis] having failed in his military administration and brought the country to the verge of ruin by his military policy, should be relieved of that part of his duties by amendment of the constitution to provide for the appointment of a commander-in-chief of the armies of the confederacy by the President, by and removable only by the same power by which he was appointed.  This would place the best military talent of the country in the command of our armies, not in name only but in fact, and would save us in future from the heavy calamities which have befallen us by the capricious removal of a great commander at a most critical juncture of an ably conducted defensive campaign.  The late act of Congress did not and could not take from the President his constitutional power as commander-in-chief.  It provides for the appointment of general-in-chief.  Robert E. Lee [Robert E. Lee] as general-in-chief is as subject to the orders of the President as he was before the act of Congress and his appointment under it, and the President may at any moment frustrate his plans by orders which he is obliged to obey.  Congress cannot divest the President of this power over all the generals in confederate service, including the general-in-chief.  This power is conferred by the Constitution, and can only be taken away by an amendment of that instrument.

These changes may be made without the evils of revolution—within revolution.  The Constitution provides for its own amendment.  The remedy is perfectly peaceful.  It declares that upon the demand of any three States, legally assembled in their several conventions, Congress shall summon a convention of all the States to take into consideration such amendments to the Constitution the said States shall concur in suggesting, at the time when said demand is made.  It is perfectly legitimate and proper for three States to demand such convention, whenever in the opinion of their people public good or the common safety require it.  In my opinion the best interests of the country requires that such a convention meet with as little delay as possible, to propose such amendments to the Constitution as will reform abuse by settling disputed points, and effect a speedy and thorough change of policy in conducting the war and filling up and sustaining our armies.

By the construction placed upon the Constitution as it now stands, by those who administer the confederate government, these great principles have been disregarded, and the government of the States, and rights of the people, lost sight of in the great struggle for independence.—The achievement of our independence seems to be the great end and only good aimed at by those who wield the power at Richmond.  We have been told from the halls of Congress that courts must be closed and state lines obliterated, if necessary, to accomplish this object.  Indeed some persons in authority seem to have forgotten that we are fighting for anything but independence.  If so the whole struggle is in vain, for we had that with the old government, consecrated by the blood of our ancestors and transmitted from sire to son.  We were independent of all other powers.  But the people of the Northern States got control of that government and so administrated it as to imperil not our independence, but our rights.

We then separated from them and are fighting for our rights and liberties ;  and as a means of maintaining and securing those rights and liberties we declared our independence.  Independence with these is worth all these sacrifices which we have made or can make.  Our rights and our liberties are not secondary to our independence, but our independence is only necessary to protect our rights and liberties.  Russia is independent of all the world, so is Turkey, while the government of each is a despotism, and the people have only the rights and liberties which the sovereigns choose to permit them to exercise.  If this is the sort of independence for which we are fighting, our great sacrifices have been made to but little purpose.  The recognition by foreign powers of the independence of our rulers and of their rights to govern us without the recognition of our rights and liberties by our rulers. is not worth the blood of the humblest citizen.  We must gain more than this in the struggle, or we have made a most unfortunate exchange.  The further pursuit of our present policy not only endangers our rights and liberties, but our independence also, by destroying the institutions and breaking the spirits of our people.  Let us beware how we trifle with the rights and liberties, and happiness of millions.

I am aware that the freedom and plainness which a sense of duty to my country has compelled me to exercise in discussing the measures of the administration and the policy of the government, may subject my motives to misconstruction.  I feel the proud consciousness, however, that I have been actuated only by a desire to promote the cause so dear to every patriot’s heart, and thereby secure the independence of the Confederacy, with the civil and religious liberties and constituted rights of the people, without which independence is an empty name, and the glory and grandeur of our republican system is departed forever.

No one can be more virtually interested than myself in the success of our cause.  I have staked life, liberty, and property, and the liberty of my posterity, upon the result.  The enemy have burned my dwelling and other houses, destroyed my property, and shed, in rich profusion, the blood of my nearest relatives.  My destiny is linked with my country.  If we succeed, I am a free man ;  but if, by the obstinacy, weakness, or misguided judgement of our rulers we fail, the same common ruin awaits me which awaits my countrymen.  It is no time to conceal ideas in courtly phrase.  The night is dark, the tempest howls, the ship is lashed with turbulent waves, the helmsmen is steering to the whirlpool, our remonstrances are unheeded, and we must retrain him, or the crew must sink together submerged in irretrievable ruin.


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