Browsing "Abolitionists & Disunionists"

Lincoln's Instrument of Subjugation

Lincoln was not the first to invoke an emancipation of slaves in the South for the purpose of carrying off his enemy’s agricultural labor and inciting a bloody race war – Virginia’s Royal Governor Lord Dunmore did this in 1775 and Rear Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane the same in 1814. As enlistments for his war machine had virtually ceased after the carnage of 1862, Lincoln saw more blue-clad troops in slaves carried off from their Southern plantation homes.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Lincoln’s Instrument of Subjugation

“Lincoln had laid aside his [emancipation] proclamation waiting for a victory. He waited two months, meanwhile giving out public statements based on his previous noncommittal attitude [regarding African slavery]; then on September 22, after Lee’s invasion had been foiled at [Sharpsburg], he issued the preliminary proclamation.

That this proclamation was far from an abolition document is shown by a careful reading of its provisions. The President began by reiterating that the purpose of the war was the restoration of the Union and reaffirming his intention still to labor for compensated emancipation. He then declared that on January 1, 1863, slaves in rebellious States should be “then, thenceforward, and forever free” . . .

The proclamation was not expressive of any general antislavery policy. On January 1, 1863, the definitive proclamation was issued, its chief provision being that in regions then designated as “in rebellion,” (with certain notable exceptions) all slaves were declared free. [But] the stereotyped picture of the emancipator suddenly striking the shackles from millions of slaves by a stroke of the presidential pen is altogether inaccurate.

The whole State of Tennessee was omitted [from the proclamation]; none of the Union slave States was included; and there were important exceptions as to portions of Virginia and Louisiana, those being portions within Union military lines. In fact freedom was decreed only in regions then under Confederate control.

“The President has purposely made the proclamation inoperative [declared the New York World] in all places where we have gained a military footing which makes the slaves accessible. He has proclaimed emancipation only where he has notoriously no power to execute it. The exemption of the accessible parts of Louisiana, Tennessee and Virginia renders the proclamation not merely futile, but ridiculous.

The proclamation is issued as a war measure, as an instrument for the subjugation of the rebels. But that cannot be a means of military success which presupposes this same . . . success as the condition of its own existence . . . A war measure it clearly is not, inasmuch as the previous success of the war is the thing that can give it validity.”

“We show our sympathy with slavery, [Secretary of State William] Seward is reported to have said, “by emancipating slaves where we cannot reach them and holding them in bondage where we can set them free.”

The London Spectator declared (October 11, 1862): “The government liberates the enemy’s slaves as it would the enemy’s cattle, simply to weaken them in the . . . conflict . . . The principle is not that a human being cannot justify owning another, but that he cannot own him unless he is loyal to the United States.”

Earl Russell in England declared: “The Proclamation . . . appears to be of a very strange nature. It professes to emancipate all slaves in places where the United States authorities cannot exercise any jurisdiction . . . but it does not decree emancipation . . . in any States, or parts of States, occupied by federal troops . . . and where, therefore, emancipation . . . might have been carried into effect . . . There seems to be no declaration of a principle adverse to slavery in this proclamation.”

It will be noted that Lincoln justified his act as a measure of war. To uphold his view would be to maintain that the freeing of enemy slaves was a legitimate weapon of war to be wielded by the President . . . [and] in the new attitude toward slavery which the war produced [in the North] it was natural to find considerable support for the view that slavery was a legitimate target o the war power [of the President]; but it is a matter of plain history that prior to the Civil War the United States had emphatically denied the “belligerent right” of emancipation.

Indeed, John Quincy Adams, who has been credited by his grandson [Charles Francis Adams] with having originated the idea of the emancipation proclamation, declared officially while secretary of state in 1820 that “No such right [emancipation of slaves] is acknowledged as a Law of War by writers who admit any limitation.”

To Lincoln’s mind the war emergency justified things normally unconstitutional. “I felt that measures otherwise unconstitutional,” he said, “might become lawful by becoming indispensible to the preservation of the Constitution through the preservation of the nation.”

(The Civil War and Reconstruction, J.G. Randall, D.C. Heath and Company, 1937, pp. 489-493)

 

An End to Southern Abolition

Left alone regarding African slaves in their midst, Southerners, like the North before them, would have found solutions to what they saw as a great alien population among them, and a labor system they saw as detrimental to their progress. Southern emancipation efforts halted after the Nat Turner massacres in Virginia, which the South saw as fomented by fanatical abolitionists. Had the North channeled its energies into practical and peaceful solutions rather than violent ones, the country might have avoided that destructive war.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

An End to Southern Abolition

“I had a very interesting conversation with Governor [William] Graham on the subject of slavery, when I passed the day with him in the Spring of 1874. I told him that I had recently seen the commencement oration of my uncle, the Rev. John Haywood Parker, delivered at his graduation in 1832; and that it was an argument in favor of the abolition of slavery in North Carolina.

He replied that it was at that same commencement of 1832 that Judge Gaston, in his address to the Literary Societies, had made his famous plea to the young men of the State, that they should realize their duty of taking up that great problem and removing the burden of slavery which was depressing the influence, the development, and the best interests of the State. Governor Graham said that in 1832 the abolition of slavery was freely discussed in the State and was favored by many of our best and wisest men.

I asked him how it came about that there was such a sudden and total change in public opinion within the next twenty years. He replied that there were several concurrent causes of this. In the first place Nat Turner’s Insurrection in Southampton County, Virginia in 1831, had much to do with it. That short but bloody outbreak excited such horror and alarm that people feared talk of freeing the Negroes lest it might tend to suggest the idea of freedom to their minds and lead them to similar attempts at freeing themselves by force.

Also it was just about this period that the Quakers and others in the North began to send to Congress petitions for the abolition of slavery; and the struggles in Congress and the resentment of the people of the South at what they considered an interference in their domestic affairs caused a great revulsion of feeling. The Southern people were willing to consider the subject themselves, but they would not be dictated to.

I afterwards mentioned this conversation to Judge [George] Howard who agreed with Governor Graham; but he added that another element in the problem of abolition of slavery was the acquisition of immense territory by the Mexican War and then the discovery of gold in California immediately afterwards.

This opened so much additional territory for the extension of slavery in Texas and the Southwest, and so stimulated all values that slave property was more than doubled in value. When a Negro man was worth three or four thousand dollars, as he was before 1832, the abolition of slavery was one question. When the same Negro came to be worth one thousand dollars, as he came to be before many years had passed, the question of abolition had become a quite different one.”

(Nonnulla, Memories, Stories, Traditions More of Less Authentic, Joseph Blount Cheshire, UNC Press, 1930, pp. 136-137)

Emancipation in 1845 South Carolina

Always fearful of slave revolts as the black population steadily grew, and shaken by reality in the Nat Turner massacre of women and children, Southerners logically erected anti-emancipation laws to control slave populations. The constant agitation of slave revolt by Northern abolitionist fanatics, culminating in John Brown’s 1859 crime in Virginia, was an effective means to end even voluntary emancipation in the South. Peaceful emancipation initiatives from the North would have had a better effect and avoided war.

Bernhard THuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Emancipation Sentiment in 1845 South Carolina

“In 1840 there came up to the Court of Appeals the noted Carmille case. A slaveowner, Carmille, had died leaving a will which with reference to his slaves provided that they should be set free if possible . . . or conveyed in trust to certain trustees who would allow them to hire their time, paying only a nominal sum to the trustees.

This was unquestionably in conflict with the policy of the [South Carolina] statutes on the subject of emancipation. [A] court held that the will of the testator was not contrary to the principles of the act of 1820 and was not in violation of the State’s policy toward the Negro, and that the will ought to be carried out.

The decision . . . aroused the sentiment of the legislature and caused the passage of the sweeping act of 1841. The act of 1841 was intended apparently to close every avenue of approach to emancipation. These laws are always of course to be taken as a final indication of public sentiment. There was evidently a large class of persons who honestly desired to see a less severe policy pursued. Their views cannot be better expressed than in the clear and rugged style of Justice O’Neall. In 1845 he said:

“I think its policy [i.e., of the legislature against emancipation] so questionable that it ought to be repealed. A law, evaded as it is, and against which public sentiment, within and without the State, is so much arrayed, ought not to stand. It is better by far, that a wise and prudent system of emancipation, like that of 1800, should exist, rather than that unlicensed emancipation according to private arrangement should take place.

What is there in the policy of South Carolina to forbid emancipation by an owner, of a faithful, honest, good slave? Have we anything to fear from such a liberal and humane course?

Until fanaticism and folly drove us from that position of the law our State had uniformly favored emancipation by owners, of their slave property, with such limitations and guards as rendered the free Negro not a dangerous, but a useful member of the community, however humble he may be. It is time we should return to it and say to all at home and abroad, we have nothing to fear from occasional emancipation.”

(Control of Slaves in South Carolina, H.M. Henry, PhD Dissertation Vanderbilt University, 1914, pp. 173-174)

Emancipation Regardless of the Consequences

Today’s progressive religion of empathy with oppressed peoples worldwide emulates that of the antebellum abolitionist, who expressed deep concern with people he had never met, could not understand, and whose world was alien to him. To salve their own guilt and difficult grasp of reality, the abolitionist fomented a bloody conflict which unleashed forces no one could control, and an oppressive result we live with today.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Emancipation Regardless of Consequences

“Most Northerners before the Civil War, and indeed many slaveholders, were “against” slavery.” The abolitionists recognized also that they must continually reinforce their own commitment to their cause. The frequent meetings and intra-group journals of any movement for change serve an indispensable function even when they repeatedly pass the same resolutions and proclaim familiar truths to the already committed.

The twin tasks of refreshing the commitment of abolitionists and of converting outsiders’ passive disapproval of slavery into active opposition differed only in emphasis, especially after the movement had grown from a handful of pioneers into a network of societies with thousands of members.

In propaganda aimed at both groups, the abolitionists relied heavily on the same arguments: among others, that slavery denied the humanity of the Negro and prevented the slave from having normal family relations and religious life, that the North shared the slaveowners’ guilt, that absolute power of one individual over another encourages atrocities, that slavery was responsible for the degraded condition of Northern free Negroes . . . ”

[William Lloyd Garrison] deliberately [pictured] himself in the place of the oppressed. On the first anniversary of his marriage, he wrote to his brother-in-law describing his happiness and extolling the institution of marriage; and he added, how horrible it would be if he and Helen were slaves and were separated by sale. All the more reason, then, to rededicate his life to the abolition of slavery.

This theme, which for convenience will be referred to as “empathy,” appears repeatedly in abolitionists’ private discourse and public propaganda, in exhortations among themselves to increase their zeal and in efforts to induce complacent whites to imagine themselves in the place of the slaves.

But the abolitionist movement comprised mainly white men and women, most of whom had never been in the South. The empathy theme can thus be seen, perhaps, as a substitute for direct involvement in the suffering that movement was dedicated to end. It appeared in other forms as well. When Abby Kelley Foster was asked how she could leave her baby with others, to travel the abolitionist lecture circuit, she replied, “For the sake of the mothers who are robbed of all their children.” Beriah Green . . . [said]: You can act as if you felt that you were bound with those who are in bonds, as if their cause was all your own . . .”

Abolitionist propaganda reiterated that Northern whites were in fact indirectly “bound with” the slaves. Paradoxically, the North was not only an accessory to the enslavement of the Negroes; it was at the same time a secondary victim of the slaveowners. With their strong religious motive for proclaiming the duty of emancipation regardless of the consequences, the abolitionists could not in good conscious appeal to the North solely or chiefly on the basis of interest.

The empathy theme enabled them in a remarkable way to combine interest with principle, for if a Northern white could be made to feel bound with the slave he would fight the slave power to defend himself, as Beriah Green suggested, as well as to exculpate himself. To free the slave would be to free himself of both guilt and bondage; the two motives would become one.”

(Means and Ends in American Abolitionism, Aileen S. Kraditor, Pantheon Books, 1967, pp. 235-238)

Rochester's Spirit of Hate

The vigilante justice of lynching was not confined to the South as is commonly believed, and race relations in the North, before and after the war, were not as harmonious as abolitionists and accounts of the mythical underground railroad claimed.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865

 

Rochester’s Spirit of Hate

“After his Rochester, New York, home was burned to the ground by incendiary on June 1, 1872, Frederick Douglass expressed his anger in his weekly New National Era: “Was it for plunder, or was it for spite? One thing I do know and that is, while Rochester is among the most liberal of Northern cities, and its people are among the most humane and highly civilized, it nevertheless has its full share of the Ku-Klux spirit . . . It is the spirit of hate, the spirit of murder.”

Race relations were often contentious in Rochester due in part to Douglass’s strong civil rights voice. By 1870, although Rochester’s African-American population was minute – just 427 out of a total population of 62,386 – racial tension, especially over employment, prompted concern by whites.

On Saturday, December 30, 1871, the [Rochester Daily] Union’s third edition published the city’s first report of the rape of an eight-year-old German girl by a black man after she had returned from a church event. News of the crime “spread like wild fire” after the child was returned to her parents. She had been brutally beaten but described her attacker to the police who began a frantic search for him.

Early Monday morning officers arrested William Edward Howard, and he was identified as the rapist by the girl at her home. Her father later “apologized to [a] reporter for not having killed the Negro when he was in the house.” Howard was not a stranger to the city’s police. In early 1871, he was arrested for voting illegally, and he served six months in jail. At the time of his arrest for rape, there was a warrant for his arrest for stealing from a local German woman.

Douglass’s son, Charles, who worked with his father on New National Era, wrote to his father on January 20: “That Howard boy was in my company in the 5th Cavalry. He came to the regiment as a [paid] substitute, and asked to be in my Co. I had to tie him up by the thumbs quite often. His offence was stealing.”

Outside the jail an agitated mob assembled . . . composed mainly of Germans, was intent on taking the law into its own hands, and the jail became Howard’s fortress. The [Rochester Daily] Union’s reportage was most descriptive: “Threats were made to lynch him and matters looked serious . . . four or five hundred people in the assemblage . . . [and cries of] “kill the nigger, give us the nigger” were loud and frequent.” [Judge R. Darwin Smith pronounced] “The sentence of the Court is that you be confined to Auburn State Prison for the period of twenty years at hard labor. The law formerly punished your crime with death.”

At the prison entrance, Howard turned toward [an angry crowd of several hundred men] and with his free hand placed his thumb on his nose and waved his fingers to mock them. Once in jail, Howard renounced his guilty plea, and professed his innocence.”

(The Spirit of Hate and Frederick Douglass, Richard H. White, Civil War History, A Journal of the Middle Period, Volume 46, Number 1, March 2000, pp. 41-47)

The Drift of the Republicans

Criticizing Lincoln’s brutal policies against Americans both North and South, Democratic United States Representative Samuel “Sunset” Cox of Ohio said in late 1862 that Republicans were “determined to make this a war against populations, against civilized usage . . . and defeated the cause of the nation, by making the old Union impossible.” August Belmont, national Democratic Committee Chairman warned at the same time the North “was and still is ready to fight for the union and the Constitution, but it is not ready to initiate a war of extermination.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The Drift of the Republicans

“The trouble with the Republicans,” Horatio Seymour charged, is that “one wing . . . is conservative and patriotic, the other is violent and revolutionary.” Before very long after March 1861, Democrats saw abolitionists in the ascendancy, setting the war policies of the government and successfully perverting the war’s aims. They were “getting wild on everything.”

Whatever Lincoln had started out to do, some Democrats charged, by 1862 the war had become “an abolition war – a war for general emancipation.” “No one talks of conservatism any longer,” Samuel Barlow was told, “or speaks of the old Constitution or of anything but a renewed and desperate raid for subjection of the rebels.”

They saw in the Thirty-seventh Congress a prime example of what the Republicans were up to. [A Democratic editor said]: “the evil in our system was not slavery, but unwarranted, meddlesome attacks upon slavery.” At the same time that the Republican party had entered into a policy of abolition, Democrats believed that it had also begun to destroy the liberties of the Northern people. The situation in the Border States where, in the name of national security military occupation and restrictions on individual rights had become a persistent fact of life, particularly troubled them.

[Former President] Franklin Pierce discerned federal agents spying on him wherever he went, in furtherance of their “reign of terror.” The actions of individual Union generals in suppressing newspapers and Democratic speakers also “put a gag into the mouths of the people.” Every action of the government “has been a glaring usurpation of power, and a palpable and dangerous violation of that very Constitution which this Civil War is professedly waged to support.”

They could only look on in dismay at “the drift of the Republicans,” which was, the editor of the Albany [New York] Atlas and Argus summed up, to subvert the Constitution by “perpetuating a bloody war, not to sustain, but to overthrow it.”

(A Respectable Minority, The Democratic Party in the Civil War Era, 1860-1868, Joel H. Silbey, W.W. Norton & Company, 1977, pp. 49-52)

Sumner the Accidental Senator

After his richly deserved gutta-percha thrashing by Preston Brooks, Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner feigned serious injury for advantage over his political opponent. As a Radical Republican and abolitionist, he provided much of the impetus for bringing on the war that destroyed the Founders’ Republic.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Sumner the Accidental Senator

“If (Charles) Sumner had been given to self-criticism, the firing of Fort Sumter might have caused him to ponder what part he himself had played in bringing on the sectional conflict. In the minds of many Southerners, extremists like Sumner were responsible for the breakup of the Union. As a “Conscience Whig,” he had helped kill the national Whig party, which had once bound together conservatives of both North and South.

As a Free Soil senator, he had seized every opportunity to attack the South and embitter sectional feelings. As Republican martyr, he had been instrumental in keeping his party committed to an antislavery course and in scotching efforts at compromise. “By degrees,” as Carl Sandburg has remarked, “”Sumner had come to stand for something the South wanted exterminated from the Union; he was perhaps the most perfect impersonation of what the South wanted to secede from.”

He might also have reflected upon the role that chance had played in elevating him to his prominent position. He had stumbled into politics largely by accident. He rose to leadership in the Massachusetts Free Soil movement as much through the unavailability of his rivals as through his own talents and exertions. Candidate of a minority party, he was first chosen to the Senate through the devious workings of a political coalition.

At nearly every point during his first five years in office, had he been up for reelection, he would almost certainly have been defeated. Then Preston Brook’s attack gave him his second term in the Senate and thereby assured him seniority and prestige within the Republican party.

Never chosen by direct popular vote for any office, Sumner, by 1861, nevertheless had become one of the most powerful men in the United States.”

(Charles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil War, David H. Donald, Fawcett Columbine, 1960, pp. 387-388)

 

 

Craven Abolitionist Creatures

Ohio Congressman Samuel S. “Sunset” Cox and other Northern Democrats encouraged Lincoln to end his war with a convention of the States. They believed the States held the key to reunion or separation, not the federal agent at Washington which held strictly delegated powers.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Craven Abolitionist Creatures:

“President Lincoln, proceeding on his own initiative, suspended habeas corpus in specified areas and directed summary arrest of suspected persons. In September 1862 he proclaimed that, for the duration of the war, individuals engaging in disloyal activities would be subject to martial law and trial by military commission. Under this directive the War Department jailed thousands of offenders without civil trial. Democratic success in the elections of 1862 sprang partly from popular reaction to this policy of arbitrary arrest.

Cox, outraged by the charge of disloyalty against Northern Democrats, turned the charge against the Radicals. It was not Democrats “who urged the “Wayward sisters” to depart in peace,” he said. “Were they Democrats,” he asked . . . who hounded on the war, and then brought Southern Negroes to fight the battles in which they would not risk their own lives? . . . How many abolitionist . . . were hiding from the draft, or paying . . . substitutes?

It was such craven creatures as these, who charged Northern Democrats with secession sympathy . . . By what irony of events was it that these creatures – who were at times more disloyal to a constitutional Union than the most violent secessionists – who wormed themselves and their plots into national affairs, and prolonged the war in which they had no part, except to incite the conflict and fan the flames of passion.”

(“Sunset” Cox, Irrepressible Democrat, David Lindsey, Wayne State University Press, 1959, pg. 68)

Lincoln's Muscovite Friends

Lincoln’s Muscovite Friends

The lack of foreign recognition, especially from England and France, during the War Between the States is often cited as a primary reason for the fall of the Southern Confederacy. It is commonly related by historians that those two countries and others would not support the South after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of January 1863 as anti-slavery sentiment was ascendant internationally.

Though Radical Republicans viewed the proclamation as a diplomatic trump card which assured no European recognition for the American South, it was seen abroad for what it was – incitement to race warfare and virtually identical to England’s two previous emancipation proclamations. The first was issued by Virginia’s Royal Governor, Lord Dunmore, in November 1775; the second proclamation was made by Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane in 1814. Both had freed slaves who flocked to His Majesties banners and were intended to bring colonists to their knees as their slaves reverted to massacre as occurred in Santo Domingo.

Lincoln was aware that he held no authority as president to interfere with a State’s labor force and policies, but his proclamation was simply a war strategy designed to strike at the agricultural strength of the South. This is why invading Northern forces seized African workers and carried them off – thus denying the South of the ability to plant and harvest crops.

The Russian minister at Washington, Baron de Stoeckl, expressed dismay over Lincoln’s proclamation to Secretary of State William Seward, and referred to it “as but a futile menace” because “it would set up a further barrier to the reconciliation of the North South – always the hope of Russia.” Writing to his government, Stoeckl charged the radical Republicans with forcing Lincoln to issue the decree out of desperation, and with plans to inaugurate a reign of terror to silence critics of their regime.

Stoeckl questioned the Emancipation Proclamation’s intent as it offered the protection of Lincoln’s government as a premium to slave owners who remained loyal to his regime, and was simply a military weapon rather than an important document proclaiming human liberty.

It is worth pointing out here that Lincoln could have played a more humane trump card by encouraging a convention of the States to settle the problems of the Union in 1861 – much the same as was done in 1787 to revise the Articles of Confederation that some said were not effective – and the new federated arrangement agreed upon in 1789. The convention would have found a peaceful solution to a more perfect union, or unions.

A more plausible explanation for the reluctance of the British and French to intervene on behalf of the South is not well known, but very well-documented in several important volumes. The most revealing is James Morton Callahan’s “Russo-American Relations during the American Civil War” published in January, 1908 in West Virginia Studies in American History, Series 1, Number 1. In this paper Callahan begins: “After the grand and sudden emancipation of [twenty million] serfs by the Czar” on March 3, 1861, “the admiration for Russia was assiduously cultivated in the North for intimate political reasons.”

Foremost among the reasons behind this Northern interest in Russia was the neutral attitude of England and France in 1861, as well as later British shipbuilding aid to the Confederacy and the offer of French mediation – not to mention French intervention in Mexico for unpaid debts.

The Czar applauded Lincoln’s efforts to suppress an internal rebellion which he equated with the independence-minded Poles resisting Russian troops. Ironically, both the Czar and Lincoln were emancipating serfs and slaves respectively while crushing independence movements with an iron hand.

It should be kept in mind that despite Russian serfdom being somewhat different than the African slavery inherited from British colonialism, Czar Alexander II was well-aware of the numerous serf uprisings that had caused his father, Nicholas I, such anguish, especially after the 1848 socialist revolts in Europe. Alexander saw more revolts inevitable and used an autocratic decree to hasten the act after his nobles could not agree upon a gradual solution. Perhaps Lincoln was influenced by the Czar’s actions and concluded that slavery could only be abolished if the Union was saved – even by fire, sword and a million perishing in the act.

Though many heralded the Czar’s humanitarianism toward the lowly serf, former Cornell President Andrew Dickson White, who served for a time in St. Petersburg in 1855 and 1892-94 wrote that “I do not deny the greatness and nobleness of Alexander II . . . [but] feel obliged to testify that thus far . . . there is, as yet, little, if any, practical difference between the condition of the Russian peasant before and since obtaining his freedom.”

As Lincoln’s minister at St. Petersburg, Cassius M. Clay, began his diplomatic duties in June 1861 and soon reported to Secretary of State Seward that the Czar was earnest in “the hope of the perpetuity of friendship between the two nations” which was “increased by the common sympathy in the cause of emancipation.” Clay suggested to Seward the potential alliance of Russia, Mexico and the United States in an effort to discourage European recognition of the Confederacy. He reasoned that if France or England dared recognition, they would have to face the Russian fleets in addition to Lincoln’s ever-increasing war machine.

Clay added in his message to Seward that the United States “could not trust England with our national life,” and that in “Union with Russia land and army at no distant day to settle accounts with her in China and the Indies.”

General Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania was selected to succeed Clay in St. Petersburg in January 1862, and according to a published statement by Senator James Harlan of Iowa, Cameron was secretly charged by Lincoln to interview Czar Alexander II. Lincoln was troubled by “the possibility of interference by England or France in behalf of the Confederacy” and subsequently received the Czar’s assurance that in the event of intervention, the friendship of Russia for the United States will be known in a decisive manner, which no other nation will be able to mistake.” The Crimean defeat administered by England and France was not forgotten.

After Northern defeats and reverses mounted by October 1862 and France sought British and Russian aid in mediating the American conflict, Lincoln wrote the Czar in search of an alliance should European recognition of the South become reality. He was assured that Russia would not be a party to any mediation, and that Lincoln could rely upon Russian support.

In May 1863 Clay returned as minister at St. Petersburg and found that England, Austria and France were desirous of mediating the Polish-Russian conflict on behalf of the Poles, and with hopes that the United States would join. Clay was instructed by Seward to refuse any and all intervention into Russian affairs which of course pleased the Czar, and the United States was rewarded with a grant of a charter for a telegraph line through Russian territory

In his “Lincoln and the Russians” Albert A. Woldman notes that years before in Springfield, Illinois, Lincoln took a leading part in protesting against “the foreign despot” Russia who “in violation of the most sacred principles of the laws of nature and of nations” had conquered Hungary with an unwarranted armed intervention when she was fighting to break free of Austrian tyranny.

Lincoln may have held some sympathy with the rebellious Poles, but the need for a strong Russian ally to help defeat his own “rebellion” modified previous views. He and Seward issued an official statement that “Polish grievances would be righted by the liberalism, sagacity and magnanimity of Czar Alexander II.”

Lincoln’s refusal to help mediate the Polish uprising drew sharp criticism from the Missouri Republic, charging in an editorial that “the pale corpse of Poland’s murdered liberty” would continue to haunt Lincoln for years to come. Britain’s Punch magazine characterized Lincoln as collaborating with the Russian bear, and the French depicted Lincoln shaking the bloody hand of the Czar.

The French newspaper La Patrie of January 12, 1864 wrote “is it right that fifty million Muscovites should unite to retain ten or twelve million Poles under a detested yoke? Is it right that twenty million Northern Germans and Irishmen [the North’s immigrant population] should unite to impose on eight million Southerners an association they spurn?”

The strong international denunciations of his ruthless Polish campaign caused the Czar concern regarding the possibility of war and reminded him of his fleets bottled up in the Baltic and Mediterranean by the British and French navies in the Crimean War ten years earlier. He made secret arrangements to send his fleets to the open sea and friendly ports of the United States, which would then be in “a favorable position for cruising against British commerce in the Atlantic and Pacific, should war suddenly break out over the tempestuous Polish question.”

Those fleets were ordered to remain in American ports and await the outcome of negotiations regarding Poland. Though nothing in the fleet admirals’ orders referred to assisting Lincoln in his war upon the American South, the inference was clear that Britain and France should not interfere with the conquest of the South lest they hasten war with Russia.

At the same time it was clear to Lincoln, Seward and Clay that an alliance with Russia against England and France would be beneficial in thwarting French designs on Mexico. Clay wrote Seward in September 1863 that “the time had come for all America to unite in a defensive alliance to sustain the Monroe Doctrine.”

Callahan writes that “While rumors of contemplated Franco-English intervention in favor of the Confederacy were still afloat, Russia sent a fleet under Admiral [Andrei Alexandrovich] Popov to San Francisco, and soon thereafter (September 11 and 24) sent another under Admiral S.S. Lessoffsky to New York.

Americans in both cities and across the North interpreted this show of naval force as evidence “of sympathy and encouragement for the Union,” and both San Francisco and New York held endless “receptions, processions and various festivities” which “finally ended in a great Russian ball in honor of the guest.” Harper’s Weekly opined that the United States had outgrown Washington’s policy against entangling alliances and that diplomatic relations and an alliance with Russia would prevent European interference in US affairs and “mark an important epoch.”

In a further gesture of friendship with his new ally, Seward provided navigation charts for the American coast to the Russian fleets. Additionally, the governor of Rhode Island invited Admiral Lessoffsky to visit that State with his fleet; on December 5, 1863 Seward welcomed the same fleet after it had ascended the Potomac to Washington.

The Continental Monthly of February 1864 commented upon Northern enthusiasm for their new friends and especially New York City, which “had gone mad over the Muscovites, forgetting the woes of Poland while they kissed the hands of the knout-bearers of the Czar, and agitated for alliance between what they called the twin sister empires of the future . . . “

Admiral Lessoffsky and his officers were given a grand banquet at Boston in June 1864 with an oration by the renowned New Englander, Edward Everett.

Some questioned the true purpose of the Russian visit with Charles Sumner of Massachusetts writing a friend in October 1863 that “foreign intervention will introduce a new, vast and incalculable element . . . You will observe the hob-nobbing at New York with the Russian admiral. Why is that fleet gathered there?”

Callahan tells us that “it was believed that Lessoffsky had secret orders to place his fleet at the disposal of the President in case the United States should be attacked by France and England. There is no doubt the appearance of the fleets in American harbors caused apprehension in the European courts as they saw the Russians posturing for war. In his memoirs, Cassius Clay wrote of the Russian fleets: “Whatsoever may have been the ultimate purpose – Russia thus made a masterly exhibition which broke up the Mexican invasion [by France] and prevented a foreign invasion of the United States.”

New York banker Henry Clews related (Literary Digest, March 5, 1904) that Seward had informed him that when Confederate armies threatening Washington, he had requested a Russian fleet be sent to New York as a shrewd manner of demonstrating to Europe a Russo-American alliance.

There is no doubt that both Lincoln and Seward were well aware of Russian intentions and that their “action toward us . . . were but moves made by her upon the chessboard of European diplomacy,” though both “took full advantage of the fortuitous circumstance and used it astutely for the best interest of the Union cause.”

An interesting commentary on Lincoln’s wartime leadership came from another foreign observer, Rudolf M. Schleiden, Minister to the United States from the Bremen Republic. In February 1864 he mentioned in a dispatch “that Lincoln said to a Judge Thomas, of Massachusetts, that he would be satisfied if his successor was elected from the Republican Party. If that did not take place [Lincoln] feared that he would spend the rest of his life in jail for repeated violations of the Constitution.” (Rudolf Schleiden and the Visit to Richmond, April 25, 1861, Ralph Haswell Lutz, American Historical Association Annual Report, 1915, Washington, 1917, pp. 212-216)

The appearance of Russian friendship at that time was described by the Odessa-born American historian Frank A. Golder in 1915: “It was a most extraordinary situation, Russia had not in its mind to help us but did render us distinct service; the United States was not conscious that it was contributing in any way to Russia’s welfare and yet seems to have saved her from humiliation and perhaps war [with England and France]. There is probably nothing to compare with it in diplomatic history.”

As a postscript to the Russo-American friendship, Callahan notes the 1867 treaty whereby Russia transferred Alaska to United States control which few understood the logic of. Given the anticipation of war, those like Charles Sumner saw Russia “stripping for the contest with England,” providing North Pacific ports for the American navy and setting the stage for American absorption of Canada.

Intimately informed of Russian motives, Clay wrote from St. Petersburg that “the Russians hoped the cession might ultimately lead to the expulsion of England from the Pacific.” Secretary Seward, interviewed shortly after the Alaska purchase explained that it was an effort “to limit England’s coast line on the Pacific, strengthen American influence in British Columbia,” and to hasten the destiny of Canada into political union with the United States.

For the same purpose of hostility toward England, Northern politicians suggested the acquisition of Greenland and Iceland from Denmark as a further step toward “hemming in” Great Britain. The Alaska cession was viewed by many in the North as the beginning of a new national policy which would continue with annexation of British Columbia and Canada, the Sandwich Islands and naval stations for the US Navy on the coasts of China, Japan, West Indies and Caribbean. Seward’s nationalist energies had now broadened as he envisioned the United States joining the major powers of the world and pursuing even grander opportunities.

Keeping in mind that the 1867 Act of Confederation [strongly influenced by former Confederate Secretary of State Judah Benjamin] was prompted by fears of a two million-man Northern war machine marching northward after 1865, and Russia’s hatred for England, Canadian motivations seem clear.

Though it seemed the United States was doing Russia a favor by purchasing Alaska, American consul to France John Bigelow said in 1867 that “I doubt if there was any member of either house of Congress who supposed the government then had any other motive in the purchase of Alaska than to recognize its obligations to the Czar.”

Charles Sumner Plays the Victim

Charles Sumner’s well-deserved injuries from Senator Preston Brook’s gutta-percha were slight according to his Capitol physician, though his condition were transformed into life-threatening when an opponent appeared and Sumner required a political edge.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Charles Sumner Plays the Victim

“The day after the [caning] attack, Senator [Henry] Wilson, of Massachusetts, denounced Brook’s action as “brutal, murderous and cowardly assault.” [Senator Andrew Pickens] Butler, who had that morning returned, retorted “You are a liar,” and Brooks soon challenged Wilson to a duel, but he declined, as did a Connecticut Congressman.

As Brooks challenged and Northern Senators and Representatives declined, the North grew restive and a young Massachusetts House member saw an opportunity. This was Anson Burlingame, an anti-slavery man ambitious to be elected to Sumner’s Senate seat, of which there had been some chance. He now made a vitriolic speech denouncing Brooks’ assault, concluding with the statement that, if challenged, he would fight.

Brooks challenged promptly, but Burlingame sought out Lewis D. Campbell, of Ohio, for help in devising an acceptance which would preserve his reputation but avert the duel. They finally picked the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, a ruse which worked. “I could not reach Canada,” Brooks later said, “without running the gauntlet of mobs and assassins, prisons and penitentiaries, bailiffs and constables . . . I might as well have been asked to fight on Boston Common.”

When Brooks asked that another place be selected for the meeting, the Northern papers spoke of his cowardice, and praised Burlingame to the skies. But they said nothing of Brooks’ renewed insistence and Burlingame’s stubborn declination to name a closer point. At length, Burlingame left Washington secretly for the Middle West, thus avoiding further danger. A few months later Brooks died.

When Sumner was carried home after the assault, Dr. Cornelius Boyle, one of the Capitol’s best-known physicians, who attended, found him suffering solely from flesh wounds. The next day Sumner told the Doctor that he had not lost a single day’s session that Congress and he wanted to go to the Senate.

But Burlingame’s comedy of dueling had a fine Massachusetts reaction; there was some talk of electing him to the Senate and Sumner’s friends grew worried. His brother arrived and began playing up the gravity of Sumner’s wounds. Articles began appearing in the Intelligencer that Sumner had had a relapse. Dr. Boyle, who was calling twice a day, never detected any sign of fever, nor a pulse beat higher than 82 and gave the Intelligencer a correction. Soon thereafter he was discharged from the case.

The anti-slavery surgeon then employed, understanding the situation, sent Sumner back to bed and published that his condition had become quite dangerous. The Senator came forth again to testify to the House Committee but soon left Washington . . . and carried his martyrdom across the seas to European spas.”

[Note: When Dr. Boyle was before the House Committee of Investigation, he was questioned by Representative Cobb as to the nature of Sumner’s injuries. “They are nothing but flesh wounds,” he answered and repeated. “How long need he be confined on account of these wounds?” Cobb continued. “His wounds do not necessarily confine him one moment,” Dr. Boyle answered. “He would have come to the Senate on Friday if I had recommended it . . . He could have come with safety, so far as his wounds are concerned . . . Mr. Sumner might have taken a carriage and driven as far as Baltimore [47 miles] on the next day without any injury.” See also New York Herald, May 25, 1856; Washington Union, May 28, June 19, 1856]

(The Eve of Conflict, Stephen A. Douglas and the Needless War, George Fort Milton, Houghton Mifflin, 1934, pp. 236-237)