Browsing "Bringing on the War"

Party Above Country

Trying to save his party and opposed to any compromise with the South, Lincoln wrote Pennsylvania Congressman James Hale that accepting the Crittenden Compromise would mean the end of their Republican party and control of the national government.  Lincoln had sent similar letters to other important Republicans well before the Committee of Thirteen met to consider Crittenden’s solution to the sectional divide.

Party Above Country

“The Republican decision to frustrate compromise efforts was one of the most significant political decisions in American history. Although it would be unreasonable to assert that had the Republicans supported compromise they would definitely have ended the secession movement and prevented the Civil War, such a result was quite possible given the wide support that Crittenden’s plan attracted.

The Republican motivation for opposing Crittenden’s plan is, therefore, of prime importance.

Why didn’t Republicans promote conciliation and save Abraham Lincoln from the terrible burden of having to decide whether to allow secession or fight a civil war to restore the union?

Although Republicans explained at the Washington Peace Conference that they did not want to tie Lincoln’s hands, the answer lies much deeper. All the pro-southern aspects of the compromise disturbed Republicans; but their ire was raised in particular by the territorial provisions.

The Republican party’s strength was contained in its anti-slavery wing, which was held together by opposition to any [Southern labor taken into the territories or new States]. Had Republicans abandoned opposition to [this] in 1860, they would have committed political suicide.

Such a concession to the South would have constituted a repudiation of their own platform, “an admission that Southern complaints were valid,” and a confession that Lincoln’s election as president warranted secession. The result could only have been Republican disintegration.”

(The Glittering Illusion: English Sympathy for the Southern Confederacy, Sheldon Vanauken, Regnery Gateway, 1989, excerpt pg. 216-217)

 

 

War was Lincoln’s Choice

President James Buchanan disagreed with secession as the prerogative of a State, but admitted that he as president held no authority to levy war to stop it — and his attorney general concurred. Both were well-aware of Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying was against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” Buchanan could not use military force against a State without committing treason.

War was Lincoln’s Choice

“The States of the deep South dissolved their connection with the voluntary union of the United States with marked legality at the beginning of 1861. For a quarter of a year no one knew that there was to be a war. Then Lincoln (unauthorized by the Constitution) called for troops; and the upper South, led by Virginia, seceded.

The point is, Lincoln could have chosen to let the South go in peace on the grounds that a just government depends on the consent of the governed, and the Southern States had withdrawn that consent.

But, said the North, the majority do consent, since there are more people in the North. Even if most of the people in the South do not consent, we in the North are the majority of the whole nation. Thus, the rights of a minority, although a minority of millions, mean nothing.

This is precisely what [Alexis] de Tocqueville warned against: the tyranny of the majority. And Lord Acton was deeply convinced that the principle of States’ rights was the best limitation upon the tyranny of the majority that had ever been devised.

Thus Lee did represent the cause of freedom, and Lord Acton broke his heart over Lee’s surrender because the principle of States’ rights was finally and forever denied.

The America of today is the America that won that immense triumph in the war – the triumph of unlimited, equalitarian democracy. And its leaders have blurred the distinction between freedom and equality to the point where many people use those words as virtually interchangeable terms.”

(The Glittering Illusion: English Sympathy for the Southern Confederacy, Sheldon Vanauken, Regnery Gateway, 1989, excerpt pg. 142)

Converting Preachers into Devils

John Hay was one of three Lincoln secretaries, along with John Nicolay and William Stoddard, and it was they who most likely revised the Gettysburg speech which was described as “a wet blanket,” for publication. Hay was a young man who idolized Lincoln from his prewar days, and was quickly admitted to his inner circle at president.

Converting Preachers into Devils

“On April 29 we have this entry [in Hay’s diary]: “Going to Nicolay’s room this morning, C. [Carl] Schurz and J. [James] Lane were sitting. Jim was at the window, filling his soul with gall by steady telescopic contemplation of a Secession flag impudently flaunting over a roof in Alexandria. ‘Let me tell you,’ said he to the elegant Teuton, ‘we have got to whip those scoundrels like hell, C. Schurz. They did a good thing stoning our men at Baltimore and shooting away the flag at Sumter. It has set the great North a-howling for blood, and they’ll have it.’

‘I heard,’ said Schurz, ‘you preached a sermon to your men yesterday.’

“No, sir! This is not a time for preaching. When I went to Mexico there were four preachers in my regiment. In less than a week I issued orders for them all to stop preaching and go to playing cards. In a month or so, they were the biggest devils and best fighters I had.’

‘An hour afterwards, C. Schurz told me he was going home to arm his [German] clansmen for the wars. He has obtained three months’ leave of absence from his diplomatic duties, and permission to raise a cavalry regiment. He will make a wonderful land pirate; bold, quick, brilliant and reckless. He will be hard to control and difficult to direct.’

Hay and Nicolay, drawn to Lincoln by his unusual geniality, little suspected at first that he was destined to be . . . the savior of the Republic.

Hay [later] referred to [Orville] Browning’s suggestion that the North should subjugate the South, exterminate the whites, set up a black republic, and protect the Negroes “while they raised our cotton.” Optimists predicted that at the first reverse the Southern Confederacy would collapse . . . The North, however, clamored for action. It felt the sting of the humiliation of Sumter and Baltimore and of more recent rebuffs: it believed that the Government was now strong enough to crush the Rebellion . . .

Monday, the 22nd of July, was one of the [most dismal] days Washington had ever seen. Before afternoon the news spread that the Rebels, having given up the pursuit [after victory at Manassas], were not about to attack the outposts; but everyone realized that the war, alternately dreaded and doubted for forty years, had come in earnest.”

(The Life of John Hay, Vol. I, William R. Thayer, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1908, excerpts pp. 102-105; 107-110)

The Real Motives of the War

The British were comfortable with a near-aristocratic political system in the American South and feared the popular democracy of the North. They clearly saw the division since the early 1840s of the United States into two distinct peoples splitting into two independent countries.

The Real Motives of the War

“The ruling classes in Britain were inclined to accept the Confederacy’s leaders’ portrayals of themselves as defenders of liberty and independence and their portrayals of Northern leaders as tyrants seeking to impose their will on the South. The Liberal Party in England stood for the kind of political and economic liberalism that stressed limits on the powers of government.

A British scholar, Martin Crawford, described the newspaper’s persistent belief that the North could not win the war and that continued separation of North and South was inevitable:

“The longer the conflict lasted, the more convinced The Times became that Lincoln’s government should accept disunion for what it was, a sad and irrevocable fact . . . The critique of the American conflict which The Times fashioned in the late summer and autumn of 1861 would remain virtually unchanged for the duration of the war . . . Britain’s leading newspaper had established itself as a committed opponent of the federal cause, with the result that its capacity for independent judgment of American affairs was substantially impaired.”

The Times had no monopoly on anti-Northern prejudices. The conservative London Dispatch compressed into a single sentence most of the upper class prejudices against the North:

“The real motives of the civil war are the continuance of the power of the North to tax the industry of the South and the consolidation of the huge confederation to sweep every other power from the American continent, to enter into the politics of Europe with a Republican propaganda, and to bully the world.”

(One War at a Time: The International Dimensions of the American Civil War, Dean B. Mahin, Brassey’s, 1999, excerpt, pp. 27-30)

The High Functionary’s War

President Jefferson Davis’ message to the Third Session of the Provisional Congress of the Confederate States at Richmond, Virginia, July 20, 1861 (excerpts):

“Commencing in March last, with an affectation of ignoring the secession of the seven States which first organized this Government; persisting in April in the idle and absurd assumption of the existence of a riot which was to be dispersed by a posse comitatus; continuing in successive months the false representation that these States intended offensive war, in spite of conclusive evidence to the contrary . . . the President of the United States and his advisors have succeeded in deceiving the people of those States into the belief that the purpose of [the Confederate] Government was not peace at home, but conquest abroad; not the defense of its own liberties, but the subversion of those of the people of the United States.”

Under cover of [an] unfounded pretense that the Confederate States are the assailants, that high functionary, after expressing his concern that some foreign nations “had so shaped their action as if they supposed the early destruction of our National Union was probable,” abandons all further disguise, and proposes “to make this conflict a short and decisive one,” by placing at the control of the Government for the work at least 400,000 men and $400,000,000. The Congress, concurring in the doubt thus intimated as to the sufficiency of the force demanded, has increased it to a half a million of men.

These enormous preparations in men and money, for the conduct of a war on a scale more gigantic than any which the world has ever witnessed, is a distinct avowal, in the eyes of civilized man, that the United States are engaged in a conflict with a great and powerful nation; they are at last compelled to abandon the pretense of being engaged in dispersing rioters and suppressing insurrections . . . and are driven to the acknowledgement that the ancient Union has been dissolved.

In 1781 Great Britain, when invading her revolted colonies, took possession of the very district of country near Fortress Monroe, now occupied by troops of the United States. The houses then inhabited by the people, after being respected and protected by avowed invaders, are now pillaged and destroyed by men who pretend that the victims are their fellow-citizens.

Mankind will shudder to hear the tales of outrage committed on defenseless females by soldiers of the United States now invading our homes; yet these outrages are prompted by inflamed passions and the madness of intoxication. But who shall depict the horror with which they will regard the cool and deliberate malignity which, under pretext of suppressing an insurrection, said by themselves to be upheld by a minority only of our people, makes special war on the sick, including the women and the children, by carefully devised measures to prevent their obtaining the medicines necessary for their cure.

The sacred claims of humanity, respected even during the fury of actual battle, by careful diversion of attack from the hospitals containing wounded enemies, are outraged in cold blood by a government and people that pretend to desire a continuance of fraternal connections . . . The humanity of our [Southern] people would shrink instinctively from the bare idea of waging a like war upon the sick, the women, and the children of the enemy.”

(Messages and Papers of the Confederacy, 1861-1865, Volume I, James D. Richardson, editor, US Publishing Company, 1906, excerpts, pp. 118-120)

Slavery and Secession

Though the British discovered a peaceful path to end African slavery in its empire, no practical or peaceful solutions to end slavery in the United States came from New England abolitionists. Rather than look back at their section’s role in the transatlantic slave trade which brought Africans traded for Yankee notions and rum to the West Indies and the South, Massachusetts inventor Eli Whitney’s gin and New England cotton mills which perpetuated slavery, and New England’s threatened secession since 1804, blaming the South for slavery became popular. They would also have found that New England’s financial basis for its industrial revolution was acquired through its African slave trade, which helped Providence, Rhode Island surpass Liverpool as the center of that transatlantic slave trade by 1750.

Slavery and Secessionists

“Soon after the assassination of President Lincoln, the Rev. Daniel C. Eddy of the Baldwin Place Congregational Church in Boston spoke of the fundamental differences he perceived between the South and the North:

“Argue as we may, our Southern people are a different race. Slavery has given them a different idea of religion . . . Slavery has barbarized them, and made them a people with whom we have little in common. We had an idea of Southern civilization when Judge Hoar was driven out of Charleston . . . when Sumner was bleeding in the Federal Senate . . . when ornaments were made for Southern ladies of the bones of the brave soldiers killed at Bull Run . . . in the atrocities perpetrated upon our poor soldiers . . . And now we have another exhibition of it in the base, wanton, assassination of the President.”

In the antebellum years some Northern clergy looked upon the South as a distasteful part of the Union that they advocated the Garrisonian position whereby the South should separate itself from the South. In 1851 Charles G. Finney, coming to the realization that revivalism was not going to bring an end to slavery, suggested “the dismemberment of our hypocritical union.” Finley detested the thought of living in a nation where slavery existed. It was better to separate from such an evil.

In two sermons delivered in 1854, Eden B. Foster, a Congregationalist minister from Lowell, Massachusetts, proposed the secession of the North from the Union as a last resort to check the spread of slavery. Inherent in the slavery system, said Foster, were such evils as cruelty, ignorance immorality and sin. On April 4, 1861, less than two weeks before the cannons at Charleston began to bombard Fort Sumter, [Boston preacher] . . . Eddy urged the North to free itself from the burden of Union with the South so that the North might more fully “develop all those forces of a high-minded Christian civilization.”

Later that month, on April 28, after the surrender of Fort Sumter, Eddy changed his mind and advocated war to save the Union.”

(God Ordained This War: Sermons on the Sectional Crisis, 1830-1865, David B. Chesebrough, University of South Carolina Press, 1991, excerpt pp. 58-59)

No Indissoluble Union

Before the war, Senator Judah P. Benjamin of Louisiana was insulted by a Boston newspaper which wrote: “We ask whether the Jews, having no country of their own, desire to put other nations in the same unhappy condition.”  He shrugged off anti-Semitic comments of other Northern critics as he did a reference to him as one of the “Israelites with Egyptian principles.”

Senator G.G. Vest of Kentucky quoted Benjamin’s response to a Senate opponent: “It is true that I am a Jew and when my ancestors were receiving their Ten Commandments from the immediate hand of the Deity, amidst the thunderings and lightning of Mount Sinai, the ancestors of the distinguished gentleman who is opposed to me were herding swine in the forest of Scandinavia.”

No Indissoluble Union

“Benjamin’s reasoning, with that of most of the other conservatives who saw no alternative but secession, was that upon the North American continent were two peoples, one building an industrial empire and the other content to remain a race of planters and staple producers.

Each could best work out its own destiny . . . And as long as the two were bound into one country, there would be strife. Since they had so little in common, the sensible solution to the impasse they had reached would be the severance of political ties. Certainly he felt he was not without precedent in holding the federal compact to be terminable at the will of its member States. He saw scarcely any evidence that it was intended by those who wrote it to be anything more.

The simple truth is that he aligned himself against the North at least partly because he felt he could not subscribe to the principle of an indissoluble Union. The North embraced the principle of nationality – the South sought, in Benjamin’s words, divorcement “from a compact all the obligations of which she is expected scrupulously to fulfill, from the benefits of which she is ignominiously excluded.” It was as simple as that to him.”

(Judah Benjamin: Mystery Man of the Confederacy, S.I. Neiman, Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1963, excerpt pp. 92-93)

War for Economic Greatness

Author Philip Leigh below writes that in late March 1860 as Lincoln wrestled with the question of whether to abandon Fort Sumter and preserve peace, or commit to war, he was visited by a group of New York merchants. Their desire for profits prevailed as it was “better to pay for armed conflict now than suffer prolonged economic disaster in a losing trade war.”

War for Mercantile Greatness

“[A] low tariff Southern Confederacy was an economic threat to a truncated Federal Union, particularly considering the North’s growing expectations for economic hegemony as the South lost influence in the Government. About a month before Fort Sumter surrendered, the Boston Transcript concluded on March 18, 1861 that the South did not seceded to protect slavery, but to become the North’s economic competitor:

“Alleged grievances in regard to slavery were originally the causes for the separation of the cotton States, but the mask has been thrown off, and it is apparent that the people of the seceding States are now for commercial independence . . . the merchants of New Orleans, Charleston and Savannah are possessed with the idea that New York, Boston and Philadelphia may be shorn . . . of their mercantile greatness by a revenue system verging upon free trade. If the Southern Confederation is allowed to carry out a policy by which only a nominal duty is laid upon imports, no doubt the businesses of the chief Northern cities will be seriously injured.

The difference is so great between the tariff of the Union and that of the Confederacy that the entire Northwest [present day Midwest] must find it to their advantage to purchase imported goods at New Orleans rather than New York. In addition, Northern manufacturers will suffer from the increased importations resulting from lower duties . . .”

More than a month before South Carolina started the secession trend and about two weeks after the election, outcome was known, the Boston Herald concluded on November 12, 1860: “[Should South Carolina secede] she will immediately form commercial alliances with European countries [that] . . . will help English manufacturing at the expense of New England. The first move the South would make would be to impose a heavy tax upon the manufacturers of the North, and an export tax on the cotton used by Northern manufacturers. In this way she would seek to cripple the North. The carrying trade, which is now done by American [Northern] vessels, would be transferred to British ships.”

(Causes of the Civil War, Philip Leigh, Shotwell Publishing, 2020, excerpt pp. 133-134)

Republicans to Restore the Good Old Days

From its formation from the ashes of the Whig party in 1856, the Republican party in less than 5 years drove the Southern States to secession and engulfed the country in a devastating war which destroyed the American republic of 1789.  This party was formed in violation of Washington’s solemn warning against the formation of geographical political parties which he knew would endanger the very existence of the Union.

Republicans to Restore the Good Old Days

“The Republican leaders sought to convince the Northern voter that there would be no just cause for secession in the event of the election of the sectional president: that the Southern leaders were only bluffing and were trying to intimidate the Northern voter into voting against the dictates of his conscience.

[William] Seward, the author of the “Irrepressible Conflict” oration, explained that “the South would never in a moment of resentment expose themselves to war with the North while they have such a great domestic population ready to embrace any opportunity to assert their freedom and inflict revenge.”

He further explained that the election of Lincoln would terminate the conflict he had prophesied – not begin it. “Vote for us,” he cried, “and you will have peace and harmony and happiness in your future years.” And again he said, “When the Republicans are in office, what may we expect then? . . . I answer, “No dangers, no disasters, no calamities . . . all parties will rejoice in the settlement of the controversy which has agitated the country and disturbed its peace for so long.”

However, the New York Herald openly accused Seward of “pussyfooting.” Seward, it asserted, was a “moderate anti-slavery man at Detroit, a radical abolitionist at Lansing, a filibusterer at St. Paul, and the Brother Seward of John Brown did not hesitate to claim to be a good conservative, Union-loving patriot in New York.”

The election of Lincoln, according to Salmon P. Chase, another of the Republican leaders, would mean a restoration of the good old days of concord and goodwill between the North and the South, Tranquility, liberty and Union under the Constitution.” [Horace] Greeley, the Republican editor whose paper had the largest circulation of any paper in the United States, solemnly assured his readers that the election of Lincoln would be like “oil on troubled waters and would promptly remove all sectional excitement.”

(The Peaceable Americans of 1860-1861: A Study in Public Opinion, Mary Scrugham, Columbia University, 1921, excerpt pp. 45-46)

Paying Tribute to the North

The prewar national dominance of the North eventually gave rise to those who thought that economic and political measures were not sufficient to put the South on a par with the North. They saw that the only way the South could rid itself of subservience to the North was to leave the Union, and do so with the Founders’ Constitution.  The South’s attempts to reduce tariffs had been increased in 1842, and in 1846 with the help of a Southern president and secretary of the treasury, forced through Congress the Walker Tariff which was so low as to be practically revenue only.  Additionally, President John Tyler’s vetoes of a national bank were upheld by Southern votes in Congress.

Northern commercial interests were determined to reclaim their government subsidies and establish national banking, with Lincoln and his new party a convenient vehicle to permanent national dominance.

Paying Tribute to the North

“There were other methods by which the profits from the cotton crop found their way into Northern pockets. Since two-thirds of the cotton crop went to England, the freight charges on its transportation across the sea amounted to a large sum.  Although the river boats of the South were generally Southern-owned and Southern- built, the South never engaged in the building or operating of ocean-going ships, principally because capital could more profitably employed in agriculture.

Most of the cotton sold was carried on coastwise ships to New York, and the great part transshipped from that place to England. All the coastwise ships and most of the ocean-going shipping was Northern-owned and consequently the freight charges went into Northern pockets. In 1843 this amounted to nearly a million dollars. In addition the insurance costs while the cotton was in transit were generally paid to Northern firms.

Not only did the cotton growers pay “tribute” to the North through their exports, but through their imports as well. The imports to the South came through Northern ports; the exports of the South amounted to two-thirds the total of the United States but her direct imports were less than one-tenth. The freight charges to New York and Boston, the tariff duties, and the cost of transportation on coastwise vessels to the South all added to the cost of merchandise.

In the hard times of the forties, Southern economists were prone to find the explanation for their distress in the “tribute” paid to the North. They came to believe that the economic progress of the North depended on this “tribute,” and epitomized their opinion in the phrase “Southern wealth and Northern profits.”

By the phrase “operation of the federal government” the South meant bounties to New England fisheries, internal improvements in the North such as harbors, roads, canals, and public buildings, tariff duties, and deposits of government funds.”

(The Old South: The Geographic, Economic, Social, Political and Cultural Expansion, Institutions and Nationalism of the Antebellum South, R.S. Cotterill, Arthur H. Clark Company, 1939, excerpts pp. 192-199)

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