Browsing "Bringing on the War"

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)

Virginia’s Effort to Abolish the Slave Trade

In the first Congress under the United States  Constitution, Josiah Parker of Virginia attempted to insert a clause in the Tariff Bill to levy a ten dollar tax on every slave brought into this country on foreign ships, and especially those of New England.  Parker was supported in this by two other Virginians, Theodoric Bland and James Madison.  In a March 1790 Virginia petition to Congress, the slave trade was denounced as “an outrageous violation of one of the most essential rights of human nature.”

In an unclean bargain to extend the slave trade until 1808, the commercial interests of New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut allied with South Carolina and Georgia rice planters – while Virginia strenuously protested. The slave traders of New England continued their nefarious traffic until the eve of the Civil War.

Virginia’s Efforts to Abolish the Slave Trade

“Despite Virginia’s failure to secure the immediate suppression of the foreign slave trade, her sons were active in their efforts to restrict its growth and at the earliest possible moment to drive the slave ships from the seas.

“ . . . James Madison [declared] . . . By expressing a national disapprobation of that trade it is hoped we may destroy it, and so save ourselves from reproaches and our posterity from the imbecility ever attendant on a country filled with slaves.”

In his message to Congress, at its session 1806-07, Mr. Jefferson, then President, brought to the attention of that body the fact that under the Constitution the time was at hand when the African slave trade could be abolished, and urged a speedy enactment of such a law. He said:

I congratulate you, fellow-citizens, on the approach of a period at which you may interpose your authority constitutionally to withdraw the citizens of the United States from all further participation in those violations of human rights which have so long been continued on the unoffending inhabitants of Africa, and which the morality, the reputation and the best interests of our country have long been eager to proscribe.”

[Later], In his message to Congress, December 5, 1810, President [James] Madison declares: “Among the commercial abuses still committed under the American flag . . . it appears that American citizens are instrumental in carrying on the traffic in enslaved Africans, equally in violation of the laws of humanity and in defiance of those of their own country.”

(Virginia’s Attitude Toward Slavery and Secession, Beverly Munford, L.H. Jenkins, 1909, excerpts pp. 33-35)

 

A War of Conquest, Not Philanthropy

Fearing slave rebellion from its highly concentrated black population, the South wanted free access to the Territories to lessen this; the North wanted to restrict black people to the South and open the Territories to white-only immigration. A great irony of history is the blame the American South receives for African slavery: the South did not bring the black man to America, British and New England slave ships did after purchasing their human cargoes from African chieftains.

A War of Conquest, Not Philanthropy

“The initial sympathy of the British people for the North because of the belief that the South had seceded to set up a slave state and that the North stood for freedom of the slave was soon to be destroyed, and a strong conviction arose that the freedom of the slave was not an issue in the war. One can hardly escape the logic of events which forced this conclusion upon the English mind.

During the winter of [early] 1861, it will be recalled, numerous compromises of the American troubles were discussed, the most important of which was the Crittenden compromises conceding a permanent share of the territories to slavery. The Economist upon hearing of such proposals spoke of the measures as iniquitous, and was not willing to believe that Lincoln would yield to them.

But the final disillusionment came when in his inaugural address Lincoln said: “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where is exists . . . I believe I have no lawful right to do so and I have no intention to do so. “

This was, in truth, the death knell of British sympathy based upon the moral righteousness of the Northern cause. If freedom was not the cause, then what was it?

The Economist late in the summer of 1861 pronounced a little stronger upon the issue of the war: It was not for freeing the slave on the part of the North or preserving slavery on the part of the South, but was for dominion and power on the part of the one and the right of self-government on the part of the other.

After Lincoln’s message to Congress, which was as tender of the rights of slavery as had been in his inaugural, the Economist was completely convinced, if there had been any doubts, that Lincoln and the North would be more than glad to continue or restore the old Federal union on the basis of slavery and all its abuses if the South would only return.

The inevitable conclusion was that the war was “a war of conquest and not of philanthropy.”

(King Cotton Diplomacy: Foreign Relations of the Confederate States of America, Frank L. Owsley, University of Chicago Press, 1931, pp. 187-188)

A New Nation of Men of Lesser Minds

The brief Gettysburg address of Lincoln was described by listeners as “a wet blanket” after Edward Everett’s stirring oration, but it did announce the end of the original confederation of States. While Northern governors expected words of appreciation for the sacrifices of the various States supporting his war, “Lincoln rose at Gettysburg to talk of the nation.” He did not “mention that four score and seven years before, the Father had brought forth thirteen independent States.”  As Lincoln spoke of government of the people and by the people, few were aware that a hundred miles away General Robert Schenck’s blue-clad soldiers were patrolling the election polls in Delaware.

A New Nation of Men of Lesser Minds

“Only three times did groups of [Northern] governors assemble to formulate policy. The Cleveland meeting of Western governors and [Pennsylvania’s Governor] Curtin in May 1861 came at the height of initial enthusiasm for the war, and the governors merely demanded that more attention be given to the West.  Lincoln accepted their pledge of cooperation and gave the governors so much work in raising troops that they had no time for further consultation over campaign strategy.

The Providence meeting of New England governors sent a committee to Lincoln to demand cabinet changes, but the President skillfully . . . turned them away. [Massachusetts Governor] Andrew led his neighbors from Providence to Altoona, but was unable to get agreement from other governors for schemes to use Negro troops [to avoid drafting white men] and replace McClellan with Fremont.

On the eve of the conference Lincoln issued the preliminary emancipation proclamation and cut the ground out from under Andrew’s radical plot.  Thereafter the governors attempted no meeting, and Lincoln dealt with them separately.

Lincoln had an enormously swollen patronage to dispense . . . but no part of the patronage was at the disposal of the governors. Moreover, the military patronage was at the President’s disposal. Governors might appoint company and regimental officers, but promotions from grade to grade and the selection of general officers depended on the President. The army and the civil patronage – as the experiences in the Border States, in Ohio in 1863, and in the campaign of 1864 proved – put the Republican Party exclusively in Lincoln’s hands.

But in the long run Lincoln’s victory over the governors was the triumph of a superior intellect. Of the sixty-three chief executives of the States only [New York’s] Horatio Seymour could approach the President in quality of mind. Seymour’s partial success in blocking conscription was a tribute to his intellectual power [and he] might have prevented the destruction of States’ rights [in the North].  But Seymour stood alone [and most] of the others were mediocrities who owed their positions to “availability” rather than to ability.

And this, above all, made Lincoln the architect of the new nation. The victory of nationalism over localism, of centralization over States’ rights, was, in the last analysis, a victory of a keener intellect over men of lesser minds. The new nation that emerged from the Civil War was not solely the result of the military defeat of the armies of Robert E. Lee. It was equally the result of the political victory that Abraham Lincoln’s mind and personality won over the governors of the Northern States.”

(Lincoln and the War Governors, William B. Hesseltine, Albert A. Knopf, 1955, pp. 391-392)

President Buchanan’s Last Annual Message

President James Buchanan’s last annual message of December 3, 1860, placed the blame for the country’s sectional divide squarely upon the Republican party and its adherents. Below, the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Patriot and Union cited and commented upon the message in its December 6, 1860 issue.

President Buchanan’s Last Annual Message

“At no previous period of our national history has the message of the President of the United States been looked for with more solicitude than was the last annual message of Mr. Buchanan; for it was felt that upon his recommendation might depend the future of the country, and that the issues of peace or civil war were, to a great extent, in his hands.

If any man in the country has the right to speak with authority to the South it is JAMES BUCHANAN, as President of the United States and head of the Democratic party; for in his official capacity he has ever been faithful to all his constitutional obligations, and as a party leader has endeavored to bring about those just concessions which, had they been granted, would have saved the country from the perils that now environ it.

The President traces our present difficulties to their true source when he attributes them to the persistent agitation of years against the system of Negro slavery as it exists in the Southern States, and to the alarming sense of insecurity growing out of that agitation . . . growing and extending, until it culminated in the formation of a sectional Northern party, thoroughly imbued and entirely controlled by hostility to the institutions of the Southern States.

It is true that the platforms and creeds of the Republican party profess loyalty to the spirit of the Constitution, and disclaim any intention of interfering with the domestic institutions of the Southern States. But professions weigh nothing when contrasted with facts.

Since the organization of the Republican party the Abolitionists have ceased to exist in this latitude as a separate party, because they merged themselves in the Republicans, deeming that the best means of promoting their ultimate objects.

Every form and degree of Abolitionism has flourished and developed under the fostering care of this Republican party, which, when confronted with the fruits of its own teaching, meekly points to its platform, and says, “we mean no harm to the Southern States.”—Turning from fair words to foul deeds, the Southern people find that the consequences of Republicanism are—the encouragement of Abolitionism, which does not hesitate to avow hostility to slavery wherever it exists; the enactment of unconstitutional laws by Republican Legislatures to nullify the fugitive slave law; the circulation of incendiary publications throughout the South, calculated, if not designed, to encourage servile insurrections, and endanger the lives of the Southern people; the promotion of John Brown raids, and the subjection of the Southern States and people to a position of inferiority.

These are unmistakably indicated as the consequences of the existence of the Republican party, which, however moderate its professions, cannot escape direct responsibility for what it promotes or encourages, and is naturally judged by the Southern people from its fruits, and not from its platforms.

The President shows conclusively that secession is not a remedy conferred upon any State by the Constitution against the encroachments of the General Government, but that it would be a revolutionary step, only justifiable “as the last desperate remedy of a despairing people, after every other constitutional means of conciliation has been exhausted.”

Notwithstanding that the message takes grounds against the constitutional right of any State to secede from the Union, the position is maintained that the Constitution has delegated to Congress no power to coerce a State into submission; and this doctrine is fortified with powerful arguments. We do not see how they can be controverted.

The proceedings of the Convention that framed the Constitution—the very highest authority—show that “Mr. Edmund Randolph’s plan, which was the ground work of the Constitution, contained a clause to authorize the coercion of any delinquent State. But this clause was struck out at the suggestion of Madison, who showed that a State could be coerced only by military force; that the use of military force against a State as such would be in the nature of a declaration of war; and that a state of war might be regarded as operating the abrogation or dissolution of all pre-existing ties between the belligerent parties, and it would be of itself the dissolution of the Union.” Thus it appears that the idea of coercing disobedient States was proposed in the Constitutional Convention and rejected.

But the President advances one step further in the argument. Suppose a State can be coerced, how are we to govern it afterwards? Shall we invite the people to elect Senators and Representatives after they are subdued and conquered? Or shall we hold them as subjects, and not as equals? How can we subdue the unconquerable will? And how can we practically annul the maxim that all governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed? Such a process would undermine the foundations of the government and destroy the principles upon which it is reared more certainly than to admit the want of coercive power in the general government.

The President concludes that portion of the message relating to our domestic troubles by suggesting that they may be settled by amending the Constitution, in the way provided by that instrument, so as to secure to the South the rights for which she contends.

Let the South pause before striking the last fatal blow at the Union, and await the time when a returning sense of justice shall induce the North to concede all her just demands . . . Let the North cease its unmanly aggressions—repeal its unconstitutional statutes—stop its reckless agitation against an institution for which it is not responsible and over which it has no control—overthrow any man or party that seeks to perpetuate strife—and the Union may yet be preserved, and even made stronger and more enduring by reason of the shock it has endured.

But without this spirit of concession and mutual forbearance, there is nothing to hope for in the immediate future but contention and disunion.”

(The President’s Message: Harrisburg (Pennsylvania) Daily Patriot and Union, December 6, 1860)

 

How Fort Sumter Came to be Fired Upon

Jefferson Davis wrote of President James Buchanan, that “he as soon as thought of aiding in the establishment of a monarchy among us as of accepting the doctrine of coercing the States into submission to the will of a majority, in mass, of the people of the United States. When discussing the question of withdrawing the troops from the port of Charleston, he yielded a ready assent to the proposition that the cession of a site for a fort, for purposes of public defense, lapses whenever that fort should be employed by the grantee against the State by which the cession was made, on the familiar principle that any grant for a specific purpose expires when it ceases to be used for that purpose.” (Rise and Fall, Vol. I, pg. 185)

How Fort Sumter Came to be Fired Upon

“There are many matters of interest and importance connected with the firing upon Fort Sumter which are not generally mentioned in our American histories. These are given in some detail in Dr. H.A. White’s “Life of Robert E. Lee. Such information is essential to an understanding of the whole subject of the beginnings of the sectional conflict.

. . . “ ’It will be an advantage for the South to go off,’ said [Henry Ward] Beecher. After the inauguration of Mr. Lincoln there was a strong current opinion in the North that the Federal troops should be withdrawn from the Southern forts. President Lincoln’s ‘organ,’ the National Republican, announced that the Cabinet meeting of March 9 had determined to surrender both Sumter and Pickens. That [Major] Anderson would be withdrawn from Sumter ‘was the universal impression in Washington’ (Rhodes, U.S., vol. iii., p. 332).

Welling, of the National Intelligencer, was requested by Seward to communicate the Cabinet’s purpose to George W. Summers, member of the Virginia Convention (The Nation, Dec. 4, 1879).  [On] March 15 Secretary Seward unofficially notified the Confederate Commissioners, through Justice Campbell of the Supreme Court that Sumter would be yielded at once to the Southern Confederacy.”

. . . “March 24 brought Colonel Ward H. Lamon of Washington to Fort Sumter. He obtained permission from Governor Pickens to visit Major Anderson upon the representation that he had come as ‘confidential agent of the President,’ to make arrangements for the removal of the garrison. “The impression produced upon Major Anderson by Lamon, as well as upon the officers and men of the garrison, was that the command was to be withdrawn.’ Lamon informed Governor Pickens ‘that the President professed a desire to evacuate the work.’

After Lamon’s return to Washington he sent a written message to Pickens, that he ‘hoped to return in a very few days to withdraw the command.’ “

(Women of the South in War Times, Matthew Page Andrews, Norman, Remington Company, 1920, pp. 59-60)

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