Browsing "Bringing on the War"

The American Revolution Reversed

The American Revolution Reversed

“In 1863 Abraham Lincoln declared in pseudo-biblical language that our forefathers had brought forth “a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” and that “we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.” Lincoln at Gettysburg committed a quadruple lie that has since become standard American doctrine about the Revolution.

First, what was created in 1776 was not a nation but an alliance. At that time there was not even the Articles of Confederation. Second, he elevated the bit of obiter dicta about equality above the Declaration’s fundamental assertion of the right of societies of men to govern themselves by their own lights, attaching a phony moralistic motive to the invasion and conquest of the South – what [historian Mel] Bradford called “the rhetoric of continuing revolution.”

Third, Lincoln was not engaged in preserving the Union. The Union was destroyed the moment he had undertaken to overthrow the legitimate governments of 15 States by force. He was establishing the supremacy of the government machinery in Washington, which he controlled, over the many self-governing communities of Americans.

Fourth, he cast the Revolution in a mystical way, as if the forefathers had met on Mount Olympus and decreed liberty. But governments, even of the wisest men, cannot decree liberty. The Americans were fighting to preserve the liberty they already had through their history, which many saw as a benevolent gift of Providence. The American Revolution was reversed, its meaning disallowed, and its lesson repudiated.

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?

Lincoln could launch a war against a very substantial part of the people. To this end he was willing to kill 300,000 Southerner soldiers and civilians and even more of his own native and immigrant proletariat. The crackpot realist General Sherman said it well: “We are now 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 pp. 17-18) www.chroniclesmagazine.org

Lincoln’s European Revolutionaires

Lincoln’s election owed much to the Italian, Hungarian, German, French, Spanish, Polish and Irish exiles who fled Europe after their failed socialist revolutions. In appreciation for swinging the foreign vote to him, Lincoln offered military command to Italy’s Garibaldi early in the war, and made Carl Schurz and Franz Sigel generals. Austrian Charge d’affairs to Washington, Chevalier J.G. Huelsemann, viewed Lincoln as a rude politician “who emerged from a log cabin to become the symbol of republican democracy and the very antithesis of” his emperor. The Chevalier found Jefferson Davis “definitely superior” to Lincoln.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Lincoln’s European Revolutionaries

“The sympathy of the United States in general, and Lincoln’s Republicans in particular, for the revolutionaries of Europe was a long-established fact. Chevalier Huelsemann had frequently expressed indignation at the cordiality displayed in America toward exiles of the anti-Habsburg revolutions.

He never forgot his bitter feud with Daniel Webster over favors shown to Hungary’s Kossuth, and he also remembered that Abraham Lincoln, back in the Springfield days, had offered a resolution at a public meeting which called for recognition “in governor Kossuth of Hungary the most worthy and distinguished representative of the cause of civil and religious liberty on the continent of Europe.”

This, however, had taken place about ten years before when Mr. Lincoln was just a local politician and could be ignored by an envoy of the Emperor. But the righteous ire of the Chevalier rose to the boiling when President Lincoln, in the first month of his administration, announced the “provocative appointment” of Anson Burlingame, a “violent radical,” to the post of Minister Extraordinary at the Court of His Apostolic Majesty Francis Joseph I.

Former Senator Burlingame was guilty of giving moral support to the revolutionary leaders of Europe and, above all, of having sponsored legislation in favor of recognizing the new, anti-Austrian Italy of the Risorgimento. Plainly, such a man could not be allowed to enter the exalted presence of the Emperor. The Secretary of State [William Seward] rejected all protests of Huelsemann and instructed Burlingame to proceed to Vienna.

Burlingame, on his arrival in Paris, was informed by Austrian Ambassador Prince Metternich that his American Excellency would not be received by the Emperor.

At this point Lincoln intervened . . . [with orders that Burlingame] “has been commissioned United States Minister to China.”

(Lincoln and the Emperors, A.R. Tyrner-Tyrnauer, Harcourt, Brace & World, 1962, excerpts pp. 32-34)

 

Lincoln Cultivates the German Vote

Lincoln set out to cultivate the German vote while campaigning for the first Republican candidate John C. Fremont in 1856, using the popular expression “God Bless the Dutch” (Deutsche) at rallies. In this, Lincoln had to distance himself from the Republican party’s absorption of nativist “Know-Nothing” party members who distrusted foreigners. To further his own presidential ambitions in 1860, he purchased a German language newspaper in Springfield, Illinois – the result was that German Protestants and refugee 1848 revolutionists helped assure him of the presidential nomination.

Lincoln repaid his important German supporters with patronage positions: Carl Schurz became the United States Minister to Spain; Herman Kreismann to the Berlin legation; Georg Wiss, Consul to Rotterdam; George Schneider, Consul to Denmark; Theodore Canisius, Consul at Vienna; Johann Hatterscheidt, Consul to Moscow; Charles Bernays, Consul at Zurich; Heinrich Boernstein, Consul at Bremen. Other German-born naturalized American citizens receiving European consulates included August Wolff, August Alers, and Francis Klauser. To former Prussian military officers went regiments, brigades and preferential promotions.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Lincoln Cultivates the German Vote

“The proportion of foreigners grew from 13 percent to 19 percent. For all these newcomers to Illinois, the Homestead [Act] was the promise of an easy settlement in the West. Among them, foreigners, especially the Germans, constituted a particularly active and militant group in favor of the Homestead. It was, in fact, in response to the Germans of Cincinnati in 1861 that Lincoln would make his first declaration on the subject.

Lincoln entrusted to Gustave Koerner, the direction of efforts extended toward the Germans. Koerner, a lawyer from Belleville, put him in touch with [Theodore] Canisius, editor in chief of the Frei Presse of Alton, and, on May 30, 1860, Lincoln confided to the latter the management of the Illinois Staats Anzeiger, which he had recently acquired. An important role went to Friedrich Hecker, hero of [the] 1848 [German socialist revolution], who . . . established himself as the principal organizer among Germans . . .

In the person of Koerner, Lincoln brought into his campaign a moderate anti-slavery man who had broken with [Stephen] Douglas in 1854, two years after being elected lieutenant governor of Illinois.

By 1860 Lincoln enjoyed several advantages with German voters. He was known as the main adversary to nativism within the Illinois Republican party. The Caucus of German delegates at the [Republican’s 1860] Chicago Convention brought together . . . Caspar Butz, former Forty-eighter and representative in the Illinois house . . . Keorner; Hecker; George Schnieder, the founder of the Illinois Staats Zeitung and a collaborator of Lincoln since 1856 . . . and Joseph Weydemeyer, a former Prussian artillery officer, friend of [Karl] Marx, editor of the Voice of the People [Stimme des Volkes] in Chicago in 1860, genera of a Missouri regiment, and principal correspondent of Marx and Engels on military questions in the Civil War.”

(Lincoln, Land and Labor, 1809-1860, Olivier Fraysse, University of Illinois Press, 1988, excerpts pp. 138-141)

The South Loyal to that Which No Longer Exists

President James Buchanan should receive higher marks for his presidency as he rightfully admitted having no authority to wage war against a State, despite holding personal views against secession. Being a diplomat, he saw a peaceful Constitutional Convention of the States as preferable to military force to settle the crisis. Buchanan also well understood Article III, Section 3 of the United States Constitution which reads: “Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” His successor violated this section inserted by the Founders.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The South Loyal to that Which No Longer Exists

“[The] onrushing revolution distressed President Buchanan and most of his Northern supporters, who had long proclaimed the North altogether wrong in the sectional controversy that now they were caught in their own emotional fixations. The Northerners who wrote Buchanan were chiefly men who had acquired their mental patterns decades earlier, and could regard the present scene in the light of the past.

For example, Judge Woodward, of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, who regarded himself “a Northern man of common sense,” believed slavery was “a special blessing to the people of the United States,” and wrote Attorney General [Jeremiah] Black that he “could not, in justice, condemn the South for withdrawing from the Union.” The truth was that the South had been “loyal to the Union formed by the Constitution – Secession was not disloyal to that, for that no longer exists – the North has extinguished it.”

The Administration should urge the Southern States “to bear and forbear a little longer,” but if they would not do so, “let them go in peace – I wish Pennsylvania could go with them.” The Attorney-General read this letter to the Cabinet, where it “excited universal admiration and approbation for its eloquence and its truth,” and the President was anxious to publish it to the world.

The fact that Buchanan applauded such views, added to his irresolution, led Radical Republicans to say that he was almost as much involved in Secession as were Cobb, Thompson, Slidell and Yancey.

These critics seldom gave sufficient weight to the inherent difficulties of Buchanan’s situation. As Black saw it in November [1860], if the President made any show of force, the Cotton States would “all be in a blaze instantly.” If no show of force were used, and the early seceders could show the other Slave States “the road to independence and freedom from Abolition rule without fighting their way,” each Slave State would before long secede.

The North had already turned against Buchanan, and the South would do so as quickly as he refused to “abandon his sworn duty of seeing the laws fully executed.”

But probably ineptitude more than turpitude bottomed Buchanan’s course from Lincoln’s election to inauguration. While his hatred of Douglas had made him the chief architect of the Democratic ruin, Buchanan never admitted his own part in it, for the dead hand of the past directed the mind of the President.

On November 9, at a Cabinet meeting . . . [he] suggested a plan for calling a general Constitutional Convention to propose some compromise. Should the North decline, the “South would stand justified before the whole world for refusing longer to remain within a Confederacy where her rights were so shamefully violated.”

(The Eve of Conflict: Stephen A. Douglas and the Needless War, George Fort Milton, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1934, excerpts pp. 505-507)

Portuguese Trade with Africa

It is said that a Portuguese merchant was the first to purchase slaves in 1441 from an African chieftain, who were then taken to Portugal. This country had emerged as the first European country and viable political unit which could raise sufficient revenues through taxation to sustain overseas expeditions for future trade relations. And, like their European counterparts, African coastal slave catchers viewed their captives as marketable objects.

The African slave trade monopoly developed by the Portuguese spread to other European powers, and eventually New England, which created its own “rum triangle” of the transatlantic trade in slaves. Thus, the agrarian Southern colonies of British America became populated with African slaves to work the British plantation labor system. It is then clear who developed, profited from and perpetuated the existence of African slavery, and where condemnation should be accurately directed.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Portuguese Trade with Africa

“The transatlantic trade affected the coastal area of West Africa that became Liberia in 1822. Before the arrival of Europeans in the fifteenth century, coastal pre-Liberia had been affected by internal and external social dynamics. The Mande, Mel and Kwa were the first linguistic groups to reside in the region . . . [and] Dei, Bassa, Kran, Kru and Glebo came to pre-Liberia in about 988 AD.

Nearly all these ethnic groups practiced some form of slavery prior to the arrival of the Europeans. [The European] discovery of the New World brought significant demands for . . . a large number of Africans to meet the demand for labor. [North and South American] Indians were enslaved, but frequently escaped. As many as 30 million Indians were killed by diseases such as smallpox and chicken pox . . .

Attempts were made to enslave poor Europeans. Some poor Irish, Scots and English were reduced to indentured servitude to meet the increasing demands for labor in the New World.

The first group of African slaves sent to the West Indies in 1510, had been bought in Portugal. Owing to the increasing significance of the slave trade, King John III activated the monopoly that had been established over the coastal pre-Liberian trade, even though the Portuguese monopoly was ignored by other European powers as the transatlantic slave trade, started by Portugal, was taken over by Spain and then the Netherlands.

Nearly all the major European powers came to be involved with the trade from the 1400s to the 1800s. It has been estimated that as many as 9.5 million Africans were transported to the Americas between 1510 and 1870.

The prosperity of the Vai, Kissi, Kry, Bassa and Glebo merchants was directly tied to their participation in the Atlantic trade . . . [and] African coastal merchants perceived slavery as a commercial action. The African slavers sent “gampisas”, professional slave captors, into the interior to hunt for slaves for their western allies.”

(Transatlantic Trade and the Coastal Area of Pre-Liberia, Amos J. Beyan, The Historian, Phi Alpha Theta, Volume 57, No. 4, Summer 1995, excerpts pp. 757-758; 763-768)

Money Versus Morality Up North

In his “Lords of the Loom” study of the years preceding the war, author Thomas H. O’Conner asserts that “Throughout much of traditional historical literature, the conservative Northern Whigs in the decades before the Civil War have either been completely overlooked, or else dismissed out of hand with vague generalizations.” He further credits fellow author Vernon Parrington with cautioning his readers that “the Puritan and the Yankee were two halves of the New England whole.” Conner’s book is the story of what happened “when the Puritan conscience collided head-on with the Yankee zeal for profit – when the moral desire to uproot the evils of slavery reached the point where it had to be weighed against the economic demands for more slave-grown cotton” – for New England mills.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Money Versus Morality Up North

“In 1941, Philip Foner, in his “Business and Slavery,” made an appeal for a more detailed study of the Northern businessman and his reaction to the coming of the Civil War. Countering the popular interpretation that the war was a product of two conflicting economic systems, Professor Foner presented his own observations regarding the concerted efforts of the New York financial interests to check any and all movements which tended to precipitate an intersectional struggle.

Foner’s challenge has failed to arouse very much historical enthusiasm, apparently, for many recent historical treatments of the critical years before the Civil War continue to generalize upon the essential economic antagonisms of the North and the South, and still look upon the Northern industrialist as the catalytic agent which propelled the sections into bloody warfare.

One of the most distinctive presentations of this economic point of view came into the twentieth century with the writings of Charles Beard. The South, according to Beard, was an area of “planters operating in a limited territory with incompetent labor on soil of diminishing fertility,” in contrast to the industrial men of the North who “swept forward . . . exulting in the approaching triumph of machine industry, [and who] warned the planters of their ultimate subjection.”

The economic interpretation was carried into the twenties by the work of Vernon Parrington . . . enthusiastic about the “agrarian democracy” of the West, sympathetic at times toward the interest of the South, Parrington had little regard for the ideals of a middle class which was busily engaged in “creating a plutocracy.” In the decades before the war, claimed Parrington, the major parties of the United States chose to follow the economic interests of “master groups, heedless of all humanitarian issues”; and once the war was over, the “slave economy could never again thwart the ambitions of the capitalist economy.”

[Despite considerable evidence to the contrary], Writers continue to generalize upon New England’s “hatred of Southerners and their institutions” and often describe this hatred so intense that New England would “do everything possible to destroy slavery.”

(Lords of the Loom: The Cotton Whigs and the Coming of the Civil War, Thomas H. O’Conner, Charles Scribner’s & Sons, 1968, excerpts pp. 1- 6)

American Historians Today

American Historians Today

“Our Union rests upon public opinion, and can never be cemented by the blood of its citizens shed in civil war. If it cannot live in the affections of its people, it must one day perish.” President James Buchanan, 1860

“A poll of American historians, not long ago, chose James Buchanan as “the worst” American president. But judgements of “best” and worst” in history are not eternal and indisputable truths. They are matters of perspective and values, even of aesthetics. They can change as the deep consequences of historical events continue to unfold and bring forth new understandings.

These historians show their characteristic failure to pursue balance and their subservience to presentism and state worship. They think Buchanan should have ordered a military suppression of the seceded Southern States during the last months of his term of office in 1861.

Not only do they have no sympathy for a desire to avoid civil war, but they totally fail to understand the context. There was only a small army, most of the best officers of which sympathized with the South, and there were eight States that had not seceded but were averse to the action against the Confederacy.

More importantly, there was an immense and powerful and even predominant States’ rights tradition that had its followers in the North as well as in the South. For most Americans, even many who had voted for Lincoln, coercion of the people of a State was unthinkable until it became a fact. These historians prefer Lincoln as our “greatest” president.

He had less than two-fifths of the popular vote, but he had an aggressive rent-seeking and office-seeking coalition behind him, and he did not hesitate to make war, though he had egregiously miscalculated, expecting an easy victory.

That there was much intelligent and respectable opposition to him in the North is perhaps the biggest untold story of American history. Ex-president [Millard] Fillmore said that Lincoln’s election justified secession. Horatio Seymour, the governor of New York, asked pointedly why Lincoln was killing fellow Americans who, indeed, had always been exemplary citizens and patriots ready to defend the North against foreign attack.

A New York editor wanted to know exactly where Lincoln got the right to steal the possessions and burn the houses of Southern noncombatants. On July 4, 1863, while the battle raged at Gettysburg, Buchanan’s predecessor, former President Franklin Pierce, denounced Lincoln’s war in plain words in an extended oration in the capitol at Concord, New Hampshire.

The predominant American historical perspective among American historians today is that imported by communist refugees from Europe in the 1930s. American history is now Ellis Island, the African diaspora and Greater Mexico, and Old America has almost disappeared from attention except as an object of hatred.

For today’s historians, unlike James Buchanan, Southerners are not fellow countrymen and real people, but class enemies who should have been destroyed.”

(Updike’s Grandfather. A Review of “Buchanan Dying: A Play”; Clyde Wilson, Chronicles, January 2014, excerpts pg. 24)

Desperate War Measures of Dunmore, Cochrane and Lincoln

Lincoln’s desperation card of emancipation was played after it was clear the Southern States had no interest in rejoining the 1787 Union, and as Northern public opinion was building against the increasing carnage of his war. Lincoln abandoned the goal of preserving the Union and decided to follow the same strategy as Royal Governor Lord Dunmore in November 1775 – issue an emancipation proclamation to free slaves who would be loyal to the Crown and thus incite a cruel race war to win the war against American colonists. Another emancipation proclamation was issued in 1814 by Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane to strengthen British forces with freed black men during the War of 1812.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Desperate War Measures of Dunmore, Cochrane and Lincoln

“Well-intentioned, right-thinking people equate anyone who thinks that the South did the right thing by seceding from the Union as secretly approving of slavery. Indeed, such thinking has now reached the point where people from both sides of the political spectrum . . . want to have the Confederate Battle Flag eradicated from public spaces. These people argue that the Confederate flag is offensive to African-Americans because it commemorates slavery and thus should be prohibited from public display.

In the standard account, the Civil War was an outcome of our Founding Fathers’ failure to address the institution of slavery in a republic that proclaimed in its Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal.”

But was it really necessary to wage a four-year war to abolish slavery in the United States, one that ravaged half the country and destroyed a generation of American men? Only the United States and Haiti freed its slaves by war. Every other country in the New World . . . freed them peacefully.

The war did enable Lincoln to “save” the Union, but only in a geographical sense. The country ceased being a Union, as it was originally conceived, of separate and sovereign States. Instead, America became a “nation” with a powerful federal government.

Although it freed 4 million slaves into poverty, it did not bring about a new birth of freedom, as Lincoln and historians such as James McPherson and Henry Jaffa say. For the nation as a whole it did just the opposite: It initiated a process of centralization of government that has substantially restricted liberty and freedom in America, as historians Charles Adams and Jeffrey Rogers Hummel have argued.

The term “Civil War” is a misnomer. The South did not initiate a rebellion. Thirteen Southern States in 1860-1861 simply chose to secede from the Union and go their own way, like the thirteen colonies did when they seceded from Britain. A more accurate name for the war that took place between the Northern and Southern American States would be the “War for Southern Independence.”

Mainstream historiography presents the victors’ view, an account which focuses on the issue of slavery and downplays other considerations.

The rallying cry in the North at the beginning of the war was “preserve the Union,” not “free the slaves.” In his first inaugural address, given five weeks before the war began, Lincoln reassured slaveholders that he would continue to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act.

After 17 months of war things were not going well for the North, especially in its closely-watch Eastern Theater. Did saving the Union justify the slaughter of such a large number of young men? The Confederates posed no military threat to the North. Perhaps it would be better to let the Southern States go, along with their 4 million slaves. If it was going to win, the North needed a more compelling reason to continue the war than to preserve the Union.

Five days after the battle of [Sharpsburg], on Sept. 22, 1862, Abraham Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation . . . a war measure, as Lincoln put it.”

(The Economic Roots of the Civil War, Donald W. Miller, Jr., Liberty, October 2001, Volume 15, No. 10, excerpts pp. 42-43)

A Colossal Waste of Life

As evidenced by sergeants and lieutenants commanding Southern regiments in early 1865, the Northern war killed off the promising political and social leadership of the South. These men would have risen to positions of authority, achievement and genius had it not been for a war against their homes, State and country, which they died defending.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

A Colossal Waste of Life

“As we prepare for another slam-dunk cakewalk preemptive war, this time with Iran, it may be well to recall that the GOP had its origins in big government, which leads to, and thrives on, war. Only weeks after the first Republican president took office, the United States were at war against their estranged sister States,

It proved to be the bloodiest war in American history, consuming 600,000 young Americans [and not including another 400,000 American civilians, black and white]. Setting moral and political questions aside, we can really never know what was lost. How many of these young men, had they lived, would have blossomed into Edisons, Fords, Gershwins and other geniuses whose fruits we would still enjoy and profit from?

All we know is that the country was perpetually impoverished by this colossal waste of life. You never hum the tunes that never got written.

Nevertheless, we still celebrate – no, deify – the man brought on this horror by refusing to countenance the peaceful withdrawal of seven States. Of course Lincoln is chiefly honored for ending slavery. It’s a nice story, but it isn’t exactly true.

When the Confederacy was formed, so many Southern Democrats left both houses of the U.S. Congress that both the House and Senate were left with were left with Republican majorities. With this near-monopoly of power, the GOP – in those days, the GYP, I suppose – passed two “confiscation “ acts in 1861 and 1862, authorizing the seizure of any private property used to assist the “rebellion.”

These powers were so vaguely defined that they permitted limitless repression, such as the closing of newspapers critical of Lincoln’s war. In combination with Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus, anyone could be arrested for anything in the Land of the Free.

The 1862 act expressly declared slaves in the seceding State “forever free.” This was the real Emancipation Proclamation, but Lincoln was actually reluctant to act on it, doubting its constitutionality. For months the radical Republicans attacked him and egged him on, and finally he gave it effect in the most famous executive order of all time. He argued that in wartime he might take a punitive step that would be illegal during a time of peace.

Lincoln had other plans for ending slavery. He’d always thought it should be done gradually, with “compensation” to the slaveowners and the freed blacks to be encouraged to leave the United States. It was his conviction, repeatedly and openly stated, that though all men are created equal, abstractly speaking, the Negro – “the African,” he called him – could never enjoy political and social equality with the white man in this country; the black man would find his equality somewhere else, “without [i.e., outside] the United States.”

So Lincoln waged war to prevent the political separation of North and South, but in the hope of achieving racial separation between black and white. Both goals entailed vast expansions of federal and executive power. Limited government, anyone?

With its current Jacobin-Wilson zeal for spreading “democracy” around the globe, the Republican Party today is more or less back where it started. And once again, a Republican president is claiming wartime powers, under the Constitution, to act outside the Constitution.

Still, the myth persists that Lincoln lived his whole for the purpose of abolishing slavery, and was finally able to do this with a single inspired sovereign act. Like most historical myths, this one ignores all the interesting details. As Lincoln himself said, “I have not controlled events, but plainly confess that events have controlled me.”

(The Reluctant Emancipator, Joseph Sobran, Sobran’s, Volume 13, Number 8, August 2006, excerpts pg. 12)

Disruptive and Inharmonious Boston Abolitionists

The aristocratic cotton manufacturers who supported Henry Clay’s “American System” organized the Massachusetts Whig party out of the chaos of Andrew Jackson’s reelection in 1832. They and their allies saw high tariffs as job insurance, and resented Jackson’s appeal to immigrant labor, farmers and urban workers. These Massachusetts Whigs had grown wealthy from Eli Whitney’s invention and slave-produced cotton from the South, and considered abolitionists as enemies of the Constitution and peace. Both Whitney and the mill owners were responsible for perpetuating slavery in the South as they made cotton production highly profitable.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Disruptive and Inharmonious Boston Abolitionists

“The leaders of the Whig party, for a number of reasons, were particularly responsive to the abolitionist threat. Several members of their class, including Sewall, Edmund Quincy, Ellis Gray Loring, Francis Jackson, James Russell Lowell, William Ellery Channing, and Wendell Phillips, had entered abolitionist ranks and so threatened the newly-restored [upper Boston] class unity.

Although the aristocrats were engaged in a great many reforms, abolitionism never became fashionable or even acceptable to the social elite as a whole, and aristocrats who associated with the abolitionists were quickly ostracized. Consequently, many of the leading abolitionists came from less socially-distinguished families and were most successful in their appeals to the middle class.

The Whig leaders, who regarded abolitionism as a disruptive influence in American society and deplored the abolitionists’ opposition to harmony with the South and the maintenance of the Union, seldom distinguished the moderate abolitionists from the Garrisonian extremists.

Worst of all, from the Whig point of view, the abolitionists, in their demand for immediate, uncompensated emancipation, had attacked property right which the conservative Whigs regarded as fundamental to every other right.

The Whig leaders opposed all denunciations of slavery and slaveholders, many of whom were personal friends, business associates, and political allies. They considered slavery a redundant issue in Massachusetts politics and anti-slavery propaganda worse than meaningless in the North. Although most of them, to be sure, considered slavery an evil, they emphasized that it was an institution wholly controlled by the States, and as such was protected by the Constitution, which was no to be tampered with.

Anti-slavery agitation in the North would only bring about sectional disharmony and, in addition, worsen the condition of the slave in the South. Abbott Lawrence summed up the conservative Whig position when he wrote:

“I am in favor of maintaining the compact as established by our fathers. I am for the Union as it is. I have no sympathy with the abolition party of the North and East. I believe they have done mischief to the cause of freedom in several States of the Union. The abolition of slavery in the States is exclusively a State question and one with which I do not feel that I should meddle or interfere in any shape or form.”

(Cotton Versus Conscience: Massachusetts Whig Politics and Southwestern Expansion, 1843-1848, Kinley J. Brauer, University of Kentucky Press, 1967, excerpts pp. 22-24)

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