Browsing "Aftermath: Despotism"

The Radical Cause Uber Alles

By the time of the July-August 1861 special session of Congress, Lincoln had already raised an army, as well as money, without congressional approval – and defied the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. After the disasters of First Manassas and Ball’s Bluff, the Republican Radicals, or, “Jacobins” of Lincoln’s party, began their ruthless investigations into generals who were deemed lacking in sufficient zeal in destroying Southern resistance.

This was the Republican Committee on the Conduct of the War, whose targets were not permitted to know the charges against them, so-called evidence was kept secret, and prejudgment of the unfortunate general was common. Usually the officer under investigation was held in confinement without charges; “the defamation of character, however, could not be outdone; petty persecution continued to plague him; and at last, finding his usefulness to the army destroyed, he resigned” (Civil War and Reconstruction, Randall, pg. 370).

The Radical Cause Uber Alles

“In Washington [in January 1862], [Gen. William S.] Rosecrans was summoned to appear before the Committee on the Conduct of the War. This joint committee of the Congress, called by T. Harry Williams the “unnatural child of lustful radicalism and a confused conservatism,” grew out of Northern differences regarding war aims.

Conservatives, Lincoln the foremost, declared themselves for restoration of the Union, even with slavery. The Radicals considered Lincoln’s war policy mild; they shuddered to think that Democratic generals might convert battlefield victories into election victories; and they seized upon the minor disaster at Ball’s Bluff to set up machinery to investigate the whole conduct of the war.

[Major] John C. Fremont, the “Pathfinder” and Republican presidential candidate in 1856 . . . [in the West] had won no victories, but had declared martial law, confiscated property, disregarded Washington, become involved in procurement scandals, allowed his accounts to become muddled, declared emancipated the slaves of Missourians convicted of bearing arms against the United States, and finally had been removed [by Lincoln].

The Radicals proclaimed him a martyr, and determined to restore him to command. Lincoln yielded to their pressures.

Behind Lincoln’s hesitancy [of directing McClellan’s movements in Virginia] lay complex pressures, obscure and sometimes contradictory forces. T. Harry Williams comments: “Plots and counterplots boiled beneath the troubled surface. [Secretary of War Edwin] Stanton hatched innumerable schemes to destroy his enemies. McClellan twisted and turned as the Radicals struck. And behind all was the implacable Committee. It seems possible that a meeting between Stanton and the Committee on the Conduct of the War was worked out to cause McClellan to fail in his campaign.

The Radicals apparently wanted a quick victory, but not at the expense of abolition; a great victory, but not one that would make Democrat McClellan a national hero and hurt them personally or the Radical cause.”

(The Edge of Glory: A Biography of General William S. Rosecrans, William M. Lamers, LSU Press, 1961, excerpts pp. 66-69)

Believing the Cheerful Myth

“Nearly everyone believes the cheerful myth that nothing has changed since 1789.”

“As for the Electoral College, it is indeed an anachronism that serves no real purpose. It certainly doesn’t do what is was supposed to do: elect presidents who are, in Alexander Hamilton’s words, “pre-eminent for ability and virtue.” So wrote Hamilton, as “Publius,” in Federalist No. 68.

For what it’s worth, the Framers of the Constitution didn’t want the president elected by direct popular vote. Simple majority rule was alien and abhorrent to them, as the present two-party duopoly and the popular election of senators would have been; as Hamilton put it, direct election of presidents would produce “tumult and disorder.”

They prescribed that the people of each State should elect a body of presumably incorrupt and disinterested electors, men who possessed the requisite “information and discernment” to choose among candidates for the presidency. Those electors, in Hamilton’s words, should be “men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station [of the presidency]. They should not be officeholders, who might have “too great [a] devotion” to the incumbent president; their number would be a safeguard against corruption.” But if no winner emerged, the election would fall to the House of Representatives, where each State delegation would cast a single vote.

Subsequent generations, missing its inner spirit, have ruined it, like a vain fool daubing new streaks on an old masterpiece in the conviction he is improving it when it’s no longer even recognizable. Modern democracy has destroyed the essence of the thing; yet it flatters itself that it has preserved the Constitution, only because it has preserved its words while ignoring, or willfully forgetting, their import.

[The] original Senate no longer exists. The Seventeenth Amendment virtually abolished it by requiring the popular election of senators; before that, senators were chosen by State legislatures, because the Senate was supposed to represent the interests of State governments and to prevent usurpation of their powers. The House was to speak for the people, the Senate for the States.

When the Senate was converted to a popular body too, it lost its rationale and became as superfluous as the Electoral College now is, imperfectly duplicating functions better performed by the House: instead of representing the States equally, it represents the people unequally. The States, meanwhile, have been reduced to mere administrative subdivisions of a monolithic nation-state. They have lost the defining mark of a true State, which is sovereignty, and such powers that they retain are held not by right, but by the sufferance of the federal government.

But not one American in a hundred (and perhaps not one senator in a hundred) understands all this. Nearly everyone believes the cheerful myth that nothing has changed since 1789.

But everything has changed. No American should read the Constitution without a sense of loss. We would all be much freer if the US government played by its own rules. But there is no way to force it to do so as long as Americans remain ignorant of their own political heritage.”

(A Weird Election, Joseph Sobran, Sobran’s Real News of the Month, March 2001, Volume 8, Number 3, excerpts pp. 3-4)

Lincoln’s Broad Economic Revolution

In the four prewar years 1856-1860, total federal expenditures were a mere $274 million, and financed by tariffs (disproportionately paid by the South), and the sale of public lands. The direct costs of the Northern war effort 1861-1865 is estimated at $2.3 billion; when indirect costs such as outright destruction and soldier pensions are included the estimate rises to $8 billion. “[The] Union’s expenditures on the war were equivalent to more than 70% of the North’s share of the 1859 gross domestic product. Lincoln’s war economy enabled Philip Amour to make $2 million selling pork to the Northern army; Clement Studebaker amassed a fortune providing wagons to Northern forces, and Andrew Carnegie grew rich as an iron merchant.

Lincoln’s Broad Economic Revolution

“First . . . the [Northern] citizenry remained passionately resistant to any form of federal income tax. A second option was to turn to borrowing. The great advantage of this choice was that it would pass some of the cost of the war on to future generations (in the form of interest and debt). A final choice was to print money and declare it legal tender – a policy not without cost. The printing of currency not backed by specie would raise prices, thus financing the war through inflation.

As soon as the war began, President Lincoln ordered Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase to begin taking steps to fund the war. Chase faced an economy that had barely recovered from the Panic of 1857 before being thrown into recession by the secession crisis. Chase initially turned to increase import fees, excise taxes and the sale of government land, but he soon shifted his attention to the sale of [war] bonds [hoping] to fund its war effort through a form of borrowing.

Congress [passed] the revolutionary Legal Tender Act [in] February 1862 [which] provided for the issuance of $150 million in non-interest bearing notes. Although not backed by gold or silver, these “greenbacks” were legal tender for all debts except import duties and interest on government loans. By issuing notes without the backing of specie, the government risked serious inflation.

In August 1861 Congress passed a 3 percent tax on incomes of more than eight hundred dollars, but it was a year before those funds were collects. The following July a new revenue measure expanded income taxes and added an assortment of other levies.

In late summer 1862 bond sales had dwindled [and] Secretary Chase turned to Philadelphia broker Jay Cooke to orchestrate a massive campaign to stimulate them. This strategy [of 2500 agents nationwide] anticipated the patriotic war bond drives of World Wars I and II. [Roughly] one in four Northern families [purchased them,] Yet it appears most war bonds ended up in the hands of banks and wealthy investors.

The final piece of Chase’s financial program did not fall into place until midway through the war. The National Banking Act of February 1863 (and legislation of June 1864) established a new system of banks. Finally, in March 1865, Congress passed a 10 percent tax on all notes issued by State banks [which was sufficient to] drive most State banks into the new banking system.

When all was said and done bond sales funded two-thirds of the North’s military expenses. Various forms of wartime taxation funded 21 percent of the war’s cost, and the remaining costs were financed through inflation. By printing greenbacks the federal government caused an increase in prices, which had a measurable impact on the Northern economy. At their peak, prices rose to 80 percent above antebellum levels.

The funding legislation passed by the war Congress raises a broader issue. How did wartime measures reshape the American economy?

One long-standing interpretation is that the war was a triumph of industrial capitalism. With for decades the intellectual heirs of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton had battled over the constitutionality of federal measures to assist economic development.

With the [Southern] congressmen safely out of the way [in 1861] – so the interpretation goes – Republicans were free to pursue an agenda which features protective tariffs and strong banking legislation. The Civil War provide the perfect excuse for imposing a broad economic revolution.”

(The North Fights the Civil War: The Homefront, J. Matthew Gallman, Ivan R. Dee, 1993, excerpts pp. 96-99)

Party Above Country

The scramble to organize the Republican party in the conquered States in 1867-68 was critical to maintain party ascendancy – the black man was to be enfranchised and told that voting Democratic would return them to the chains of slavery – their Republican friends would keep them free with Grant elected in 1868. Thus the freedmen were turned against their friends and neighbors by the infamous Union League in return for minor patronage positions for those delivering the black vote to the Republican party. Grant won the presidency against Horatio Seymour of New York by only 300,000 votes – a narrow victory achieved with 500,000 black votes.

Party Above Country

“Immediately after the war there a brief period of uncertainty [in Republican ranks] about the course to follow in reconstruction the Union. However, when several of the lately seceded States refused to accept in complete good faith Andrew Johnson’s plan of restoration, the Republicans were all but unanimous in imposing a much more stringent set of terms designed to remake the entire electoral system of the South. Purely political considerations were undoubtedly a factor.

The three-fifths clause of the Constitution having become a dead letter with the abolition of slavery, the Southern States stood to gain thirteen seats in the House of Representatives and thirteen votes in the Electoral College. Were the “solid South” to join just two Northern States – New York and Indiana – voting Democratic, the party of [Stephen] Douglas, [James] Buchanan and Jefferson Davis would recapture the presidency and resume control of the nation’s destiny.

It was an appalling prospect for any sincere Republican to contemplate; so the party had no choice but to follow the lead of Charles Sumner and Thaddeus Stevens on the questions of Reconstruction.

[Conservatives] within the party, who in no way shared the Radicals concern with equal political rights for Negroes, accepted black suffrage in 1867 and 1869 because the exigencies of the situation seemed to demand it [if Republicans were to maintain political dominance].”

(The Politics of Inertia: The Election of 1876 and the End of Reconstruction, Keith Ian Polakoff, LSU Press, 1973, excerpts pp. 14-15)

No Union Saved

No Union Saved

“The notion that Lincoln “saved the Union” is as naïve as the notion that he “freed the slaves.” The Union he saved was not the one he set out to save. The Civil War destroyed the “balance or powers” between the States and the federal government which he had promised to protect in his 1861 inaugural address.

This was not Lincoln’s intention, but it is the reason many of his champions praise him. James McPherson celebrates Lincoln’s “second American Revolution”; Gary Wills exults that Lincoln “changed America” with the Gettysburg Address, which he admits was a “swindle” (albeit a benign one).

In other words, Lincoln’s war destroyed the original constitutional relation between the States and the federal government. His own defenders say so – in spite of his explicit, clear and consistent professed intent to “preserve” that relation.

The Civil War wasn’t just a victory of North over South; it was a victory for centralized government over the States and federalism. It destroyed the ability of the States to protect themselves against the destruction of their reserved powers.

Must we all be happy about this? Lincoln himself – the real Lincoln, that is, – would have deprecated the unintended results of the war. Though he sometimes resorted to dictatorial methods, he never meant to create a totalitarian state.

It’s tragic that slavery was intertwined with a good cause, and scandalous that those who defend that cause today should be smeared as partisans of slavery. But the verdict of history must not be left to the simple-minded and the demagogic.”

(Slavery, No; Secession, Yes, Joseph Sobran, Sobran’s Real News of the Month, March 2001, Volume 8, Number 3, excerpts pg. 9)

Republican Rule in Indiana

Though Lincoln initially acted unilaterally to launch his war against Americans in the South, he did seek absolution when Congress convened in July 1861 – though the threat of arrest and imprisonment became common for those who opposed his will. In his treatment of what he or his minions believed to be “disloyal” practices, Lincoln carried his authority far beyond the normal restraints of civil justice, and in violation of fundamental concepts of Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence.

Republican Tyranny in Indiana

“Before Abraham Lincoln ordered a national draft, which would cause insurrections throughout the North, the President put into law the involuntary call-up of each State’s militia. Indiana inducted 3,090 men into the national army this way, but this caused a major backlash of violent resistance. More significantly, the Democrats won substantial victories in both houses of the Indiana Assembly in the fall of 1862.

With the loss of Republican power, [Governor] Oliver P. Morton became more emotionally unbalanced. He saw treason everywhere, and expected a revolution at any moment. At the beginning of 1863, Indiana’s Democrats voted for peace negotiations with the Confederacy. Simultaneously, many Republican army officers, appointed by Morton, resigned their commissions over Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, and the governor’s support of this radical document, which would destroy State sovereignty. Army recruitment stagnated and desertions increased.

[Morton] blamed “organized conspirators” — meaning Democrats. Under his orders, Indiana soldiers threatened Senator Thomas Hendricks and Daniel Voorhees, both leading Democrats. Then these troops destroyed Democratic newspapers in Rockport and Terre Haute.

On January 8, 1863, amidst military failures and malignant partisanship, the Indiana legislature began its bi-annual session. Morton telegraphed Secretary of War [Edwin] Stanton that the legislature intended to recognize the Confederacy, implying that the federal army’s interference was required to arrest the “traitors” in the Assembly, as had been done in Maryland [in April 1861].

The Republican members determined to withdraw from the House . . . thus the legislature came to an end . . . [and] Morton would administer the State all alone. His first problem was to secure the money to rule as a tyrant for the next two years [and] with the President’s approval collected $90,000 “for ammunition for the State arsenal.” The Republican Indiana State Journal triumphantly announced that this money would really be used to carry on the functions of government.

Governor Morton quickly exhausted these funds. Once again he met with . . . Lincoln . . . An appropriation of 2.3 million dollars had need made by Congress in July 1862, to be expended by the President “to loyal citizens in States threatened with rebellion,” and in organizing such citizens for their own protection against domestic insurrection.

When Stanton placed [Lincoln’s] order in Morton’s hands, both men appreciated the great risk they were incurring. “If the cause fails, we shall both be covered in prosecutions,” Morton said. Stanton replied, “if the cause fails, I do not wish to live.”

(Northern Opposition to Mr. Lincoln’s War, D. Jonathan White, editor, Abbeville Institute Press, 2014, excerpts pp. 217-221)

Lincoln’s Counterrevolution to the Revolution

In truth, New England led the secession movement from Britain with its revolt against British Navigation Acts. In contrast, the Southern colonies were exporters and did well as British Americans, though they had formed a provincial identity of independence, or, “States’ Rights.” This of course preceded the Articles of Confederation and 1787 Constitution.

Regarding the counterrevolution of the 1860’s and its result, the author quoted below writes: “the revolution of the 1860’s ended up devastating New England almost as much as it did the South. What emerged in the late 19th century, as John Quincy’s grandson Henry described it, was a country ruled by speculators, stockjobbers and imperialists. Boston rule would have been infinitely preferable to rule by the set of gangsters who engineered the election of Grant, Arthur, McKinley, and Harding and their spiritual descendants who control both parties today.”

Lincoln’s Counterrevolution to the Revolution

“Lincoln did not initiate the political revolution that destroyed the American republic. The bandwagon was hurtling along in its course long before he leaped aboard and seized the reins. The effect of his presidency and of the war he either brought on deliberately or blundered into was to annul the American Revolution, which might be more accurately described as a counterrevolution. But if we are going to stick to conventional language, we can say that Mr. Lincoln’s project in national democracy as the counterrevolution to the revolution of 1776.

To understand why some Americans – and not just in the South – opposed the Lincolnian counterrevolution, we have to first understand why so many Americans had been willing to go to war in the 1770’s.

In Massachusetts, of course, one can find sound economic reasons. The British government was eager to find ways to make the colonies pay for the wars that had been undertaken on their behalf, and taxation and regulation of industry and commerce seemed to be – and indeed was – a solution that was both reasonable and just. New Englanders, feeling the pinch of mercantilist policies, were understandably annoyed, and when the insult of constitutional innovation (the suspension of charters and the so-called Intolerable Acts) was added to the injury inflicted on their economic life, they were ripe for revolution.

The planters and merchants of Charleston and the South Carolina Lowcountry, by contrast, were making out rather well within the [British] empire. In the 1770’s, Charelston was one of the wealthiest and by far the most civilized city in North America. By the outbreak of the Revolution, Charleston merchants and Lowcountry planters formed an American aristocracy.

While most historians and political ideologues have claimed, over and over, that the American rebels were devotees of John Locke’s theory of natural rights and the social contract, there is very little evidence of this. Every important statement and virtually all the little manifestos of church parishes and small townships stake their claim on the Common Law rights of Englishmen.

A key word was equality, not of all human beings, but the equality of Americans in possessing the rights of the English. Patrick Henry put it succinctly: The colonists are entitled “to all the liberties, privileges, franchises that have at any time been held, enjoyed, and possessed by the people of Great Britain.” Provincials resented the fact that Parliament denied them the benefits of several significant statutes, such as the Habeas Corpus Act, the Act of Settlement, and the Bill of Rights.”

(Why They Fought, Thomas Fleming, Chronicles, April 2015, excerpts pp. 8-9) www.chroniclesmagazine.org

Lincoln’s War Against the People

Lincoln’s War Against the People

“Did not Jefferson Davis have a better grasp of the Revolution when he said that Southerners were simply imitating their forebears, and that the Confederacy “illustrates the American idea that government rests upon the consent of the governed?

The desire for [centralized government] “consolidation on the part of some Americans, perhaps not a majority, had reached a point that the observations made by [Alexis de] Tocqueville and [James Fennimore] Cooper were no longer relevant. Lincoln could launch war against a very substantial part of the people. To this end he was willing to kill 300,000 Southern soldiers and civilians and even more of his native and immigrant proletariat.

The crackpot realist General Sherman said it well: We are in the enemy’s country, and I act accordingly . . . The war will soon assume a turn to extermination, not of soldiers alone, that is the least part of the trouble, but the people.” Clearly, the government, the machinery controlled by the politicians in Washington, who had been chosen by two-fifths of the people, now had supremacy over the life and institutions of Americans.”

(Society Precedes Government: Two Counterrevolutions, Clyde N. Wilson, Chronicles, April 2015, excerpts pg. 18) www.chroniclesmagazine.org

“High in the Confidence and Employ of the Party in Power”

With the deaths of Calhoun, Clay and Webster, it is said that the spirit of the Union died as well. For the rising class of Northern abolitionists, the legalities did not matter. Those like Theodore Parker linked antislavery actions with the “law of God,” and declared the Constitution not morally binding. Outside the small numbers of fanatical abolitionists were the many, North and South, who thought of African slavery – in truth a relic of the British colonial labor system – as an institution that would collapse with changes in time. The disunionist abolitionists, together with the new and purely sectional Republican party, lost no time in fomenting war with the American South and ending the Founders’ republic.

High in the Confidence and Employ of the Party in Power

“Let us enquire about the whereabouts and status of some of the leading Abolitionists.” Where is Senator [Benjamin] Wade, who declared there was no Union in the United States Senate? As one of the President’s constitutional advisers.

Where is Senator [John P.] Hale, who in 1850 introduced resolutions for a dissolution of the Union in the United States Senate? As one of the President’s constitutional advisers.

Where is Senator Charles Sumner who said at Worcester, the 7th of September 1854, that it was the duty of the people to resist a law even after it was decided constitutional by the highest Federal Court? [He] is in the United States Senate, re-elected as one of the President’s constitutional advisers.

Where is Mr. [William] Seward, the author if the “Irrepressible Conflict,” and who voted to receive a petition for Dissolution of the Union, in 1848? In Mr. Lincoln’s Cabinet.

Where to-day do you find the man who declared that any people had the right to revolutionize their Government and establish another – who pronounced the Mexican war a wicked war, and declared that this Union could “not exist half free and half slave,” and bestows the blessings of his power on those who have for over a quarter of a century denounced the Government of our fathers? Acting as President of the United States.

Where to-day is Thaddeus Stevens, who scouted the idea that he obeyed his oath to support the Constitution, in voting to dismember Virginia? Chairman of the most important committee in the American House of Representatives.

Where to-day is [Nathaniel] P. Banks, whose easy loyalty would “let the Union slide?” A Major-General in the loyal army.

Where have you found Anson Burlingame, the Abolitionist who declared for a new Constitution, a new Bible – a new God – in short, a new deal all around? Appointed by Mr. Lincoln to drink tea and eat ornamental mince pies in the Celestial Empire.

Where do you find Joshua R. Giddings, who in 1848 introduced a petition for the dissolution of the Union? As Mr. Lincoln’s Consul to the Canadas.

Where do you find Hannibal Hamlin, the Vice President of the United States? Leaving the presiding officer’s chair to welcome Wendell Phillips upon the floor of the Senate, a courtesy rarely accorded to any civilian.

Where to-day do you find Horace Greeley, the man who stigmatized the American flag as a “flaunting lie” and cried “tear it down?” As the editor of THE leading Republican paper in America.

Where is now Wm. Lloyd Garrison, who pronounced the Constitution “a covenant with death, an agreement with hell?” You will find him feted by Republicans, and addressing the “loyal Union” meetings.

Thus we might go on ad infinitum, and show that each and every one we have quoted “disloyal,” “disunion,” and “treasonable” sentiments, are now high in the confidence and employ of the party in power.”

(The Power and Influence of Abolitionists, The Logic of History, Five Hundred Political Texts, Chapter XIX, Stephen D. Carpenter, 1864, S.D. Carpenter, Publisher, excerpts pp. 106-107)

“Thou Wicked Servant”

Though opposed to Lincoln’s violations of the Constitution in his war against the American South, Northern Democrats saw the need to crush secession, which was a manifestation of the Tenth Amendment and inherent right of the people of a State to withdraw from a federal compact to which they conditionally assented. Those Northern Democrats did not see that due to the vast differences between the sections by 1861, peaceful separation was the only logical solution for the Southern people to pursue free, representative government. Connecticut Senator William C. Fowler (below) was born in 1793, during Washington’s presidency – living long enough to see the end of Washington’s Union.

“Thou Wicked Servant”

“Expressing opposition to secession, [Northerners Clement] Vallandigham, [Samuel S.] Cox, [Stephen D.] Carpenter, and Fowler maintained that they desired not an independent Confederacy but simply a restoration of the “Constitution as it is” and the “Union as it was.” They declared they were in favor of a constitutional war to crush secession, but they charged that Lincoln was waging a battle for the conquest and subjugation of the South and that he was conducting it in a despotic fashion, subverting the constitutional liberties of individuals and the rights of States.

Opposing military conscription, they also criticized the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus and declared that freedom of speech had been abolished in the Union.

In particular, they attacked Lincoln’s policy of emancipation. Spurning the argument that emancipation was a legitimate measure adopted to aid the prosecution of the war, they pictured it as an unconstitutional act by which the President had changed the war aims of the North from the preservation of the Union to abolition of slavery.

“If,” said Fowler in the Connecticut State Senate in 1864, “the President should avow the fact that he has violated the Constitution, in order to save the Union, as the President did in a letter to Mr. Hodge, let us say to him “out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant.”

The peace advocates placed special blame for war upon the abolitionists of the North, stating repeatedly that it was not the institution of slavery but the agitation of the slavery question by the abolitionists that had caused hostilities.

For the immediate outbreak of fighting, the three Midwesterners placed responsibility upon Lincoln and the Republicans because of their refusal to compromise with Southerners in the crisis of 1860-1861.”

(Americans Interpret Their Civil War, Thomas J. Pressly, 1954, Princeton University Press, excerpts pp. 131-133)

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