Browsing "Bringing on the War"

Buchanan Initiates War

Though President James Buchanan disagreed with the political remedy of State secession from the Union, he publicly stated that as President he was powerless to oppose it. But it was Buchanan who later began hostilities when he dispatched the Star of West with armed troops aboard from New York harbor and destined for Charleston.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Buchanan’s Initiates War

“Buchanan had firmly endorsed the war policy since the attack on Fort Sumter, and in September, 1861, sent a letter to a Democratic political meeting in Chester County [Pennsylvania]. He emphasized in this message that the war would have to be loyally sustained until the bitter end and urged the Democrats to stop wasting their time on a futile demand for peace proposals. The minute he saw this letter, [Jeremiah] Black wrote:

“Your endorsement of Lincoln’s policy will be a very serious drawback upon the defense of your own. It is vain to think that the two administrations can be made consistent. The fire upon the Star of the West was as bad as the fire on Fort Sumter; and the taking of Fort Moultrie & Pinckney was worse than either. If this war is right and politic and wise and constitutional, I cannot but think you ought to have made it. I am willing to vindicate the last administration . . . but I can’t do it on the ground which you now occupy.”

“. . . Buchanan would not agree with Black that there was anything but a superficial similarity between the threatening incidents at the end of his Administration and the sustained bombardment of Fort Sumter on April 12.

He also disagreed with Black’s view that the war itself was unconstitutional, that Lincoln started it, and that it ought to be stopped as soon as possible by a negotiated peace. “. . . [As] to my course since the wicked bombardment of Fort Sumter,” he told Black, “it is but a regular consequence of my whole policy towards the seceding States. They had been informed over and over again by me what would be the consequence of an attack upon it. They chose to commence civil war, & Mr. Lincoln had no alternative but to defend the country against dismemberment. I certainly should have done the same thing had they begun the war in my time, & this they well knew.”

(President James Buchanan, A Biography, Philip S. Klein, American Political Biography Press, 1962, pp. 416-417)

 

The North's Path to Bloodshed

President James Buchanan knew precisely the origin of the troubles plaguing the country at mid-nineteenth century. The radical abolitionists and the purely sectional Republican party were threats to the peace of the country as they both fomented race war in the South. Not forthcoming from either were peaceful and practical proposals to end slavery.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The North’s Path to Bloodshed

“In his message of December 3, 1860, President Buchanan said to Congress, and virtually to the people of the North (p. 626 Vol. 5, Richardson):

“The long continued and intemperate interference of the Northern people with the question of slavery in the Southern States has at length produced its natural effects.  I have long foreseen and often forewarned my countrymen of the new impending danger. The immediate peril arises not so much from these causes as from the fact the incessant and violent agitation of the slavery question throughout the North for the last quarter of a century has at length produced its malign influence on the slaves and inspired them with vague notions of freedom.

Hence a sense of security no longer exists around the family altar.  This feeling of peace at home has given place to apprehension of servile insurrections. Many a matron throughout the South retires at night in dread of what may befall herself and children before the morning. Self-preservation is the first law of nature and has been implanted in the heart of man by his Creator for the wisest purpose. But let us take warning in time and remove the cause of danger.”

It cannot be denied that for five and twenty years the agitation of the North against slavery has been incessant.  In 1835 pictorial hand-bills and inflammatory appeals were circulated extensively throughout the South of a character to excite the passions of slaves, and in the language of Genl. Jackson, to stimulate them to insurrection and produce all the horrors of a servile war. At the Presidential election in 1860 the Republican Party was greatly agitated over the Helper Book which instigated massacre.

Lincoln and Seward would not say that they were for massacre, but the Abolitionists had the vision of the X-ray and could see through such false pretenses. The doctrine of both “the irrepressible conflict” of Seward and “a house divided against itself cannot stand” of Lincoln, pointed directly to bloodshed.

The Abolitionists voted for Lincoln, and Wendell Phillips, who rejoiced at his election, said in a speech at Tremont Temple, Boston, a few days later: “There was a great noise at Chicago, much pulling of wires and creaking of wheels, then forth stept Abraham Lincoln.  But John Brown was behind the curtain, and the cannon of March 4 will only echo the rifles at Harper’s Ferry.

The Republican Party have undertaken the problem the solution of which will force them to our position.  Not Mr. Seward’s “Union and Liberty” which he stole from Webster’s “Liberty first” (a long pause) then “Union afterwards” (Phillips, Speeches and Lectures, pp. 294, 314).

(A Southern View of the Invasion of the Southern States and War of 1861-65, Captain S. A. Ashe, Raleigh, NC, 1935)

South Sinned Following Massachusetts Example

During the period in which the Constitution was adopted, “it was taken for granted that any State becoming dissatisfied might withdraw from the compact, for cause of which she was to be her own judge.” One of the loudest voices during ratification concerning the encroachment of the federal agent upon the authority of the States was Massachusetts.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

South Sinned Following Massachusetts Example

“I shall endeavor to entertain you for a brief space with the ideas and observations of occurrence as they appeared to a Southern man concerning the great civil war. It is proper that you should hear the inscription read upon the other side of the shield.

This generation is yet too near the great struggle to deal with it in true historic spirit. Yet it is well for you to remember that the South is quite as far removed from it as is the North; and the North has industriously undertaken from the beginning to write the history of that contest between the sections, to set forth its causes and to justify its results – and naturally in the interest of the victorious side.

It is both wise and considerate of you to let the losing side be heard in your midst. If you should refuse to do so it will nevertheless be heard in time, before that great bar, the public opinion of the world, whose jurisdiction you cannot avoid, and whose verdict you cannot unduly influence. Neither side acts wisely in attempting to forestall that verdict!

It is well to remember, too, that epithets and hard names, which assume the guilt that is to be proven, will not serve for arguments for [future historians] of the Republic, except for the purpose of warning them against the intemperate partiality of their authors. The modest action of the common law should be imitated in the treatment of historic questions, which considers every accused person as innocent until his guilt is proven. Murder is treated as simply homicide until there is proof that the killing was felonious.

In treating, for example, of all questions pertaining to the war, you assume the guilt of your adversaries at the outset. You speak of the secession movement as a rebellion , and you characterize all who participated in it as “rebels and traitors.” Your daily literature, as well as your daily conversation, teems with it. Your school histories and books of elementary instruction impress it in almost every page upon the young. Your laws, State and Federal, have enacted the terms. Yet every lawyer and intelligent citizen among you must be well aware that in a technical and legal sense there was no rebellion, and there were no rebels!

In attempting to withdraw herself from the Union of the States by repealing, on the 20th of May, 1861, the ordinance by the adoption of which she had entered the Union on the 21st of November 1789, against whom and what did North Carolina rebel?

To whom had she sworn allegiance? Certainly to nobody; to no government; to nothing but the constitution of the United States. Was she violating that oath when she thus withdrew?

When Virginia and New York reserved, upon their accession to the constitution, their right to withdraw from the same, and declared that the powers granted might be resumed whenever the same shall be perverted to “their injury or oppression,” did those States reserve the right to commit treason?

When Massachusetts openly threatened to separate from the union upon the admission of Louisiana as a State, was she conscious that she was threatening treason and rebellion? When her Legislature, in 1803, “resolved that the annexation of Louisiana to the Union transcends the constitutional power of the United States,” and that it “formed a new Confederacy to which the States united by the former compact are not bound to adhere,” was that not a declaration that secession was a constitutional remedy?

Again, the same principle was proclaimed by the authority of Massachusetts in the Hartford Convention, where it was declared “that when emergencies occur which are either beyond the reach of judicial tribunals or too pressing to admit of delay incident to their forms, States which have no common umpire must be their own judges and execute their own decisions.”

With such a record, to which might be added page after page of corroborating quotation from her statesmen and her archives, should not the ancient Commonwealth of Massachusetts be a little modest in denouncing as “traitors” those whose sin consisted in following her example?”

(Life of Zebulon B. Vance, Clement Dowd, Observer Publishing, 1897, pp. 431-433)

Nov 27, 2014 - Bringing on the War    No Comments

Massachusetts Aristocracy Arms for War

Radical Republican Governor John Andrew of Massachusetts loudly encouraged war against the South in 1861, yet he worked hard purchasing the patriotism of non-Massachusetts men who would serve in his regiments. Faced with the necessity of raising 4,000 men by Lincoln’s draft and expecting a riot in Boston, he held troops in readiness and asked Secretary Stanton to institute courts martial against his enraged citizens. At Andrew’s request, Lincoln allowed him to enlist captured Africans in South Carolina for his State quota of regiments – thus keeping white Bay State men at home.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Massachusetts Aristocracy Arms for War

“Even as conservatives were exploring the possibilities of conciliation and seeking means of influencing [president-elect] Lincoln, Massachusetts’ newly elected Governor, John Andrew, was kindling the fires of radicalism. Southern society, he declared, must be entirely reorganized, and the federal government ought to be driven to aid in the work.

There must be no “weak-kneed” measures. “I am for unflinching firmness in adhering to . . . all our principles.” “We must conquer the South,” he said, and “to do this we must bring the Northern mind to a comprehension of this necessity.” “War is in the air,” he later confessed, “and some of us breathed it.”

As Congress gave more attention to compromise measures, Andrew hurried to Washington to consult with congressional radicals. A Virginia congressman, John Y. Mason, swore to Andrew that never could the South be induced to rejoin a Union of which Massachusetts was a member.

Thus confirmed in his direst apprehensions, Andrew held conference, on Christmas Eve, with Senators Doolittle of Wisconsin, Trumbull of Illinois, and Sumner and Wilson of his own Massachusetts. Solemnly the radical coterie decoded that the integrity of the Union must be preserved, “though it cost a million lives.”

The Governor-elect’s impassioned and sanguinary pronouncements chilled conservative hearts in Massachusetts. Boston Brahmins were horrified and indignant; they distrusted Andrew, whom they believed to be wanting in good judgment, common sense and practical ability.

“What was apprehension about Andrew,” ruefully admitted Sam Bowles, “is now conviction.” He wobbles like an old cart – is conceited, dogmatic, and lacks breadth and tact for government.” Democrats, sickened by the radicals’ willingness to sacrifice other men’s lives, asked whether people wished to die for the radical cause.

[On his inauguration day January 1, 1861, the new governor stated that] South Carolina’s secession was an injury to the Old Bay State, which was ready to endure once more, if need be, the sacrifices it had borne during the Revolution. So saying, the newly-sworn Governor called on the legislature to arm the State for war.

The entire address, sneered the Boston Post, was a lamentable appeal to passion, combining “the narrowness of a mere lawyer, with the intenseness of a fanatic.” It was “sophomoric in style, immature in thought, wretched in argument, and small in political knowledge.”

To assist him in his work, Andrew chose four aides – carefully culled from Harvard graduates and the better families – bestowed military titles upon them, and put them to gathering steamboats, purchasing supplies and inspecting the militia. The people, [Andrew] said, must become used to the smell of gunpowder.”

(Lincoln and the War Governors, William B. Hesseltine, Alfred A. Knopf, 1948, pp. 110-112)

Andrew Johnson's Ingenious Sophism

George Herbert’s 1884 history text exemplified what Northerners were led to believe about the war, and what Southern parents sought to exclude from their children’s schools. With a severely distorted understanding of the framers’ Constitution of 1787, including its provisions regarding the writ and presidential powers, Lincoln and his followers interpreted the Constitution as they saw fit. Apparently unknown to Andrew Johnson, the Treaty of Paris recognizing the independence of the thirteen former colonies, each individually as sovereigns, had preceded the new Constitution of 1787. And all thirteen voluntarily ratified the document before joining this new union.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Andrew Johnson’s Ingenious Sophism

“In the Senate Andrew Johnson appeared as the Senator from Tennessee . . . [and] we may take occasion, presently, to quote from his powerful speech in defense of the Union, delivered in the Senate on the 27th of July [1861]:

“It is believed that nothing has been done [by the President since Fort Sumter] beyond the Constitutional competency of Congress. Soon after the first call for militia, it was considered a duty to authorize the commanding general, in proper cases, to suspend the Writ of Habeas Corpus; or, in other words, to arrest and detain, without resort to the ordinary processes and forms of law, such individuals as he might deem dangerous to the public safety. The authority has been exercised but sparingly.

It was decided that we have a case of rebellion, and that the public safety does require the qualified suspension of the writ, which was authorized to be made. Now it is insisted that the Congress, and not the Executive, is vested with this power. But the Constitution is silent as to which or who is to exercise the power; and as the provision is plainly made for a dangerous emergency . . . No more extended argument is now offered, as an opinion at some length will probably be presented by the Attorney General.

It might seem at first thought to be of little difference whether the present movement in the South be called Secession or Rebellion. The movers well understand the difference. At the beginning they knew they could never raise their treason to any respectable magnitude by any name which implies violation of law . . . [but they accordingly] . . . commenced by an insidious debauching of the public mind; they invented an ingenious sophism, which, if conceded, was followed by perfectly logical steps through all the incidents of the complete destruction of the Union. The sophism itself that any State of the Union may, and therefore lawfully and peaceably, withdraw from the Union without the consent of the Union or of any other State.

With little disguise that the supposed right is to be exercised only for just cause, themselves to be the sole judges of its justice, is too thin to merit any notice within the rebellion. Thus sugar-coated they have been dragging the public mind of these sections for more than thirty years, and until at length they have brought many good men to a willingness to take up arms against the Government the day after some assemblage of men have enacted the farcical pretense of taking their State out of the Union, who could have been brought to no such thing the day before.

Our States have neither more nor less power than that reserved to them in the Union by the Constitution, no one of them ever having been a State out of the Union. The original ones passed into the Union before they cast off their British Colonial dependence . . . Having never been States, either in substance or in name, outside of the Union, whence this magical omnipotence of State rights, asserting a claim of power to lawfully destroy the Union itself?”

(The Popular History of the Civil War, Illustrated, George B. Herbert, F.M. Lupton, 1884, pp. 116-119)

Nov 23, 2014 - Bringing on the War    No Comments

No Risking Profits for Sectional Harmony

It was the tariff issue which had driven South Carolina to nullification thirty years earlier, and ever since it was Southern pressure in Congress that kept the grasping Yankee at bay. With a tariff increase being one of the major planks in the Republican’s Chicago platform, the South was forced to recalculate the true value of political union with the North.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

No Risking Profits for Sectional Harmony

“At the March [1861] meeting of the New York Chamber of Commerce there was one item that hardly anyone noticed except the merchants. They were considering a proposal to repeal the Federal law giving American shippers a monopoly of the coasting trade and to open this lucrative business to the British on a reciprocal basis. Except to these commercial men the final disposition of the matter seemed to be of small importance during the dramatic weeks of the secession crisis.

And yet nothing illustrated more clearly the real essence of sectionalism and the tendency of Northern compromisers either innocently to deceive themselves or deliberately deceive others.

Conservative New York merchants had spent three months passing resolutions, circulating petitions, and visiting Washington to advance the cause of appeasing the secessionists. Repeatedly they had professed their friendship for the South and their eagerness to defend her rights in the Union.

Now they had an opportunity to give tangible proof of their sincerity, not by the sacrifice of some remote territory to slavery but at the cost of risking their own profits for the sake of sectional harmony. For many years Southerners had protested against the monopoly enjoyed by Northern ship owners in the coasting trade and had charged that it was one of the artificial devices by which the [Southern] States were subjected to Yankee exploitation.

The repeal of the law would reduce the freight charges levied upon the planters by exposing Northern traders to foreign competition. It would have removed one source of Southern complaint.

Nevertheless a special committee of the Chamber of Commerce reported against sharing with Britain “our great and rapidly increasing coasting trade.” Rather, the committee believed, “our interests demand we should cherish this trade, and establish our own system, irrespective of this or other nations.” Ultimately the whole subject was indefinitely postponed.

This decision of the New York merchants was no isolated phenomenon. Throughout the secession winter, the Northern compromisers generally showed great enthusiasm for concessions on matters that seemed to have no direct bearing upon their particular interests, but they displayed an unfeeling obduracy toward concessions on subjects that touched them closely.

In Congress nearly every type of sectional legislation came up for debate; and Northerners, whether radical or conservative, Republican or Democrat, refused to surrender any law which brought special benefits to their constituents. Southerners could cry out against discrimination and Northern tyranny, but Yankee congressmen were unmoved.

As a result, when Congress adjourned, the navigation laws which benefited eastern merchants were still on the statute books. So was the grant of Federal bounty to New England fishermen. Even though an Alabama congressman bitterly called the fishing bounty a device by which Northerners were “permitted to fleece” his constituents, a Southern proposal that it be repealed was defeated.”

(And the War Came, the North and the Secession Crisis of 1861, Kenneth M. Stampp, pp. 159-160)

Nov 23, 2014 - Bringing on the War    No Comments

The War to Save the Republican Party

The young Republican party of 1860 was a polyglot of radical Jacobins and abolitionists, ex-Whigs, Free Soilers, Know Nothings, anti-slavery Democrats, protective tariff demanding Eastern manufacturers, free-trade Western farmers, hardened machine politicians of the North, as well as myriad visionary reformers. A war against the South was seen as the only way to save the party from post-election disintegration.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

The War to Save the Republican Party

“Just as politics had helped determine the outcome of the [sectional] compromise struggle it also played its part, openly or covertly, in shaping the final decision to fight for the Union. Sooner or later the Republicans were obliged to recognize that violence was the logical consequence of their rejection of [compromise with the South]. Some faced that fact realistically from the beginning; others tried to dodge it for a time with a course of “masterful inactivity,” or to disguise it with soothing words like “defense” or the “enforcement of the laws.”

But one thing the Republicans knew for certain: The acceptance of peaceful secession would demolish their party as surely as would the betrayal of its platform.

They realized, as one Democrat predicted, that Southern independence would cause the North to “look upon . . . [Republicans] as the destroyers of the Union of our fathers.” That would arouse “an agitation . . . that would know no rest, day or night, until Black Republicanism . . . should be effectually destroyed.” Accordingly, Republicans fully understood that the Union must be saved to make their future secure.

Some of Lincoln’s followers evidently believed that a war for the Union promised other political benefits. It appeared to many, in fact, as the only program that could hold their organization together. For what other purpose could the diverse elements of Republicanism cooperate?

[Salmon P.] Chase wrote apprehensively that the most dangerous disunion threat he perceived was “the disunion of the Republican party.” No sooner was the election over than many Democrats waited expectantly for the disintegration of their rivals. [A Stephen Douglas supporter noted that] “It is morally impossible for any man . . . to distribute his patronage and shape the policy of his administration as to gratify and keep together such a heterogenous combination of discordant materials as that of which the “Republican” party is composed.”

Here was a solution to the Republican problem: A stand for the Union would certainly bind all the factions together. More, it would provide an appeal which, properly stated, few in the opposition would be able to resist. With that in mind, one Republican urged his political friends to “drop the slavery question . . . & appeal to the national feeling of the North” so that Democrats would be “swayed to our side.” Republicanism and loyalty were soon to become synonymous.

It is impossible to determine precisely how prominent the political motive was in the calculations of Republican leaders. Simply to prove that the Civil War saved their party from disintegration, as it may well have done, would not be to prove that Republicans deliberately started the war for that purpose. Yet the evidence is conclusive that politics was at least one factor, and often a surprisingly conscious one, which directed some of Lincoln’s friends toward war.”

(And the War Came, the North and the Secession Crisis of 1861, Kenneth M. Stampp, pp. 205-208)

Nov 7, 2014 - Bringing on the War    No Comments

Preaching Higher Law Treason

If the United States Constitution is the highest authority of law, then it follows that those who undermine or resist it commit treason against the United States.  Those like William Seward of New York who asserted a higher law than the Constitution fall within this definition.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Preaching Higher Law Treason

“It was against Seward and his followers that the South directed its “higher law” attack in the later fifties. On October 19, 1858, Jefferson Davis delivered a stirring address in New York City upon this subject, and in the course of his daring denunciation of the advocates of this theory, he declared:

“You have among you politicians of a philosophical turn, who preach a higher morality; a system of which they are the discoverers . . . They say, it is true the Constitution dictates this, and the Bible inculcates that; but there is a higher law than those, and they call upon you to obey that higher law of which they are the inspired givers.

Men who are traitors to the compact of their fathers—men who have perjured the oaths they have themselves taken . . . these are the moral law-givers who proclaim a higher law than the Bible, the Constitution, and the laws of the land . . . These higher law preachers should be tarred and feathered, and whipped by those they have thus instigated . . . The man who . . . preaches treason to the Constitution and the dictates of all human society, is a fit object for a Lynch law that would be higher than any he could urge.”

The South As A Conscious Minority, Jesse T. Carpenter, New York University, 1930, pp. 159-160)