Your View: Honor the conquered, not the conqueror


To the editor:

As a fellow journalist, David F. Shermans letter complaining about his ancestor Col. Elmer Ellsworth not being mentioned in the memorial plaque at the Marshall House site rightfully earned top billing in the letters section of May 26, 2011(Remember Ellsworth, martyr for the Northern Cause). 
Nevertheless, there are good reasons for omitting mention of him.   
As the Alexandria Times acknowledges, the events of May 24, 1861 constituted an invasion. The states, both conceptually as institutions and, specifically in Virginias case, physically antedated the federal government as colonies before the War of Independence and members under the Articles of Confederation, which preceded the Constitution.
The Constitution acknowledged pre-existing legal arrangements Americas colonies entered into and never specifically prohibited secession (in fact, the 10th Amendments reservation clause could readily be interpreted to allow it precisely because it is not expressly prohibited).
The founders never asserted the Constitution precluded secession and, if only to assuage anti-Federalist fears about it, acknowledged circumstances which might give rise to it during ratification conventions in New York, Virginia and other states.    
Had Alexandrias city council, confronted with a demand to quarter the troops, done so, it might not have been an invasion, but they refused. The Third Amendment prohibited the quartering of troops without the owners consent, except in time of war, and only then in a manner prescribed by law. Congress, hiding behind the rubric of the Confederacy being in rebellion, never officially declared war, so clearly quartering constituted an invasion.
No other proper legal measure, such as a federal lawsuit against James W. Jackson ordering him to remove the secessionist flag from his boarding house, was ever undertaken. Instead, Ellsworth transgressed against Jacksons First Amendment right to free expression by trespassing on his property and removing Jacksons flag. 
Secessions legality or illegality was not writ in ink in the Constitutions text, but in blood by the Civil Wars outcome. The original Constitution never uses the term in a context whereby singular could be distinguished from plural, such that, before the Civil War, the United States was usually used as a plural, sometimes as these United States. 
Only after the Civil War did the United States become a singular proper noun.  Where the pen had failed, cannons spoke in its stead. Because secessions illegality was writ in blood, it was not, and under the Constitution could not be, applied ex post facto. 
Just as our war memorials do not acknowledge the Japanese pilots who perished at Pearl Harbor, even though Japan still insists (and our interventions in Iraq and Libya might confirm) its first strike was defensive, because we do not acknowledge the invader. And acknowledging the invader when he is us inches us closer to acknowledging the invader when he is not.