Opposed to the Name Rebellion

Submitted by Reverend J. William Jones, University of Virginia, July 18, 1894.

     Let me add my earnest and hearty protest against calling our war the “Rebellion.” It was no a rebellion, and we were not rebels and traitors. George Washington was a rebel because he fought against properly constituted  and legal authority, and if he, had failed he would probably have been tried as a rebel, and executed as a traitor. But Jefferson Davis was no rebel, when he led the great struggle to maintain proper authority, to uphold law and constitution; and when the Federal Government held him as a prisoner they never dared to bring him to trial, because they knew, under the advise of Chief Justice Chase and the ablest lawyers at the North, that they could never convict him of treason under the Constitution and laws of the United States.

     I remember that one day down at Beauvoir, several years before his death, the grand old chief of the Confederacy said to me alluding to this question: “Rebellion indeed! How can a sovereign State rebel? You might as well say that Germany rebelled against France, or that France, who was overwhelmed in the conflict, rebelled against Germany, as to say that sovereign States of the Confederacy rebelled against the North or the government. O that they had dared give me the trial I so much coveted, and for which I so earnestly begged, in order that I might have opportunity to vindicate my people and their cause before the world and at the bar of history! They knew that I would be triumphantly acquitted, and our people purged of all taint of treason, and they never dared to bring my case to trial.”

     Is it not time, then, for these people to cease talking about treason and rebellion, and to stop their insults in calling us rebels? If there were any rebels in that great contest, they were North of the Potomac and the Ohio – the men who trampled under foot the Constitution of our country and the liberties bequeathed us by our fathers.

     General Lee always spoke of the war as the “great struggle for Constitutional freedom,” and that is a truthful and  distinctive title which I prefer. “The War Between the States” was the title given by A. H. Stephens, and it is a good one. “Confederate War” would do, but that implies that we made the war, which, of course, we did not, our policy being peace. The “War of Coercion,” or the “War against State Sovereignty” would express it; but the “Rebellion” never!

From: Confederate Veteran Magazine, Volume II, No. 7, July, 1894, Page 199.