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Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 12/20/2010

Frank Williams: Did the national government or individual states own the federal forts in the South?

By Frank Williams

Chairman of The Lincoln Forum


Forts Sumter, Pinckney, Jefferson, etc. were built by the Federal government following the 1812 war with Britain to protect the United states from invasion. There is little question that they and other coastal fortifications like Pulaski in Savannah were Federal property. For Southerners to say these forts were state property is in Lincoln's words making " homeopathic soup out of the shadow of a pigeon that had starved to death." These Federal installations were designed and built by the U.S. Corps of Engineers and manned by Federal troops.

By Frank Williams  | December 20, 2010; 10:00 AM ET
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Fort Sumter and other federal forts were the property of the United States Government, and were held and defended by the U.S. Army, which was then under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of War. Fort Sumter was built using seventy thousand tons of granite shipped in from New England. It is astonishing that anyone would be so ill-informed as to question federal ownership of U.S. Army facilities, or to think that they were the property of individual states. The whole point of moving from the old Articles of Confederation to the creation of the United States under the U.S. Constitution between 1787 and 1789 was that, instead of simply being an alliance or loose coalition of individual states under the old Articles, the United States under the Constitution became a unified body in which the U.S. Government, i.e. the federal government, became a single entity which had constitutional and legal supremacy over the individual states. Even if and when one or more individual states sought to secede and join in a Confederacy modeled on the old pre-1787 Articles of Confederation, that did not void the Constitution, invalidate the existence of the U.S. Government or void its right and title to the properties and facilities it had acquired and continued to hold. No individual state had any valid right or claim to those. The Confederate attacks upon Fort Sumter thus constituted an act of military aggression not only against the soldiers of the U.S. Army and the property of the U.S. Government, but upon the People of the United States whom those soldiers and facilities served.

Posted by: 02Pete | December 20, 2010 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Conservatives are STILL fighting against the United States of America 150 years later. They don't seem to realize that they lost that war, and that a century and a half has passed.

Time for them to get their loyalties straight. They're either with the United States or they're with the confederacy/states rights concept. Which is it guys? To whom do you Pledge your Allegiance? Will we ever get an answer?

Posted by: B2O2 | December 20, 2010 6:17 PM | Report abuse

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