Lincoln as president-elect had ample opportunity to tour the South to better understand the region, as well as chastise the fanatic abolitionists who fueled the secessionist impulses of the South. He did neither, and after his unconstitutional call for troops to levy war upon a State, gave North Carolina Unionists no alternative but to join their brethren in what they regarding as a more perfect American union.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
Northern Hatred Shrouded in False Humanitarianism
“Appealing to his constituents on a platform which included a protective tariff, internal improvements, free homesteads to free-soilers, and limiting slavery to its current borders, Abraham Lincoln won the presidency by pulling in the electoral votes of all the Northern States with the exception of New Jersey. In ten Southern States he pulled no votes at all and consequently had no electors from that section. The national voting performance indicated that Lincoln drew considerably fewer votes than the total number of ballots cast for his three rivals, Douglas, Breckinridge, and Bell.
In searching for solutions to the troubling problems following the national elections, alert citizens wanted to know more about the kind of program the new president intended to implement during his administration. To effectively counter secession arguments, Southern Unionists needed answers to vital questions – answers only the president-elect could give.
Reflecting the anxiety of many was North Carolina Congressman John A. Gilmer’s letter of December 10, 1860, to Lincoln . . . [that] before assuming his high office, should “give the people of the United States the views and opinions you now entertain on certain public questions now so seriously distract[ing] the country.”
Lincoln, in his return letter . . . chose to continue his policy of silence relative to his pending administration. Giving assurance he did not intend to interfere with slavery in the District of Columbia, [and] seemed to imply flexibility “on everything except the territorial question, and on this he would not yield.”
To those citizens both North and South who were thoroughly convinced that slavery extension existed more in theory than in fact, the president-elect’s position bordered on absurdity. In truth, the plantation system was not destined to expand into any existing territories of the United States. The territory of New Mexico, for ten years open to settlement by slaveholders, recorded not one slave in the census of 1860. Colorado and Nevada were likewise without slaves. A few bondage blacks were to be found in Utah, and for the same year, census statistics indicated that two slaves resided in all of Kansas.
Thoughtful observers knew it would be a tragic mistake for Lincoln to proceed without a thorough understanding of the present South, reflecting the conditions brought on by a decade of intense and often bitter sectional rivalry with the North. Republican leaders, convinced as they were that an inevitable climax to the slavery issue was drawing near, surely would not overlook the strong likelihood that resolution was not attainable without secession and war.
Also, might certain essential observations have escaped Lincoln in his firm belief that there still remained throughout the South a strong residue of Union support and loyalty? In truth, Union sentiment in the region was much weaker than it had been in years past. The loyalty that had made North Carolinians proud to send James K. Polk to the presidency had now been supplanted by new and disturbing sensations.
For reasons valid or otherwise, there was furthermore a persistent suspicion that selfish and sinister forces were behind or perhaps a part of the Northern anti-slavery movement. If an irrepressible conflict lay ahead, as contended by some, how accurate was it to conclude that black people held in forced labor were the major cause of this impending crisis?
Tariffs revised upward, a national government favorable to the industrialization and capital investments so essential to expanding industry and commerce – these and related matters occupied the attention of Northern entrepreneurs and political leaders. Could it be that when spokesmen for these special interests lashed out critically against slavery, very often their zeal was intended not so much to liberate unfortunate black people as to obliterate the political power of the region in which they resided?
Was not the South – represented by its phalanx of representatives in Congress, by its dominance of the Supreme Court and almost continuous control of the executive branch, and by its agriculturally-oriented society . . . the real target of North attacks? Until this establishment was dismantled, impatient but determined Northern economic forces would continue to be held in check. So why not strike at the South’s Achilles’ heel by mounting a convincing humanitarian campaign against its “peculiar” institution?”
(Matt W. Ransom, Confederate General From North Carolina, Clayton C. Marlow, McFarland & Company, 1996, pp. 3-5)