Browsing "Bringing on the War"

The Emergence of the Radical

John C. Calhoun witnessed the rise of Northern radicalism and his keen political insight saw a problematic future for the American South. He did not live to see the secession crisis fully develop, but his countrymen later anticipated “that Lincoln’s election was only the first step” toward the eventual destruction of their political liberty and the Union of their fathers.

Calhoun accurately predicted that the North would monopolize the new federal territories and acquire a three-fourths majority in Congress to force a restructuring of the Union. Once the South’s freedmen were admitted to the franchise by the North’s radical Congress, Republican political hegemony was virtually uninterrupted until 1913.

The Emergence of the Radical

“In the 1830’s . . . the North had become a prolific seedbed of radical thought. The rural South, on the other hand, showed little tolerance for radicals. The hostility to the proponents of revolutionary ideas seems at first inconsistent with the individualism which Southerners generally displayed. The Southern brand of individualism, however, was of manners and character rather than of the mind.

The Southerner vigorously resisted the pressure of outside government, he was cavalier in the observance of the laws; the planter on his semi-feudal estate was a law unto himself. The yeomen, too, living largely on land that they owned and regarding themselves as “the sovereign people,” were among the freest and most independent of Americans.

[In the 1840s and 1850s], editors, preachers, and politicians launched a vigorous propaganda campaign against Southern youth attending Northern schools and colleges. In the minds of conservative Southerners public education now became associated with the “isms” of the North – abolitionism, feminism, pacifism, Fourierism, Grahamism. Thus Southerners tended to regard the great majority of Northern people as sympathetic to the wilds visions and schemes of reform advocated by the northern extremists.

For many years Yankee professors and teachers had staffed Southern colleges and schools to a large extent, but in the last two decades of the antebellum period a pronounced hostility arose against the employment of educators from the North.

When [University of North Carolina] President David L. Swain defended the appointment [of a Northern teacher, he cited] earlier examples [of] employing foreign professors, the highly influential [Fayetteville News & Observer] editor, E.J. Hale replied: “In [two Southern] institutions, filled with foreigners and Northern men, there have been most deplorable outbreaks & riots and rows. Both have been noted for the prevalence and propagation of infidel notions to religion.”

(The Mind of the Old South, Clement Eaton, LSU Press, 1964, pp. 110; 305-306)

Tampering with New England’s Slave Trade

Much of Britain’s difficulty with its American colonies came from New England smuggling and dependence upon French West Indies molasses which it distilled into rum, which in turn fueled its slave trade. In his last years, Boston’s John Adams “saw the Revolution, at least in part, as a struggle over molasses. He said “I know not why we should blush to confess that molasses was an essential ingredient in American independence.

It takes no great imagination to conclude that without British and New England populating the American colonies with African slaves, and perpetuating this into the mid-nineteenth century, the war which destroyed the American republic in 1861 might not have occurred.

Tampering with New England’s Trade in Slaves

“[The Molasses Act of 1733 enacted by the British Parliament] was introduced as a result of complaints from the British islands in the West Indies, whose economy was based on the production of sugar, against the competition of the French sugar islands – St. Dominique, Guadeloupe and Martinique. The British West Indies – Antigua, Barbados, Jamaica, Monserrat and St. Christopher – were such an immense source of wealth that they were considered at the time to be more important to the empire than the North American colonies.

Molasses, a by-product of the islands’ sugar mills, was turned into rum in New England. There were so many distilleries in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut that they were known as the Rum Coast. Rum, to a degree hard to believe in a later and much different world, was essential to the New England economy.

It was one of the main means of profitable exchange for furs from the Indians and slaves and ivory from Africa. Some of the greatest early New England fortunes were based on the rum trade, most of which was carried on illegally. Boston alone was said to have about fifty distilling houses. Nothing could set off a panic in New England more surely than tampering with this trade.

The trouble arose because the British islands could not supply all the molasses needed by the North American distilleries or supply them as cheaply as the French islands. The French West Indian molasses manufacture and the New England rum production were as if made for each other. By [Sir Robert] Walpole’s time, an immensely important trade had developed between the French islands and the New England colonies. Everyone benefited, except the British sugar islands.

The result was the Molasses Act, which was designed to cut off the [French-New England] trade by putting a 100 percent duty upon non-British sugar. The agent of Massachusetts and Connecticut in London foretold funereally that the act was bound to ruin “many thousand families there.” Richard Partridge, the New York agent in London, brought up the argument of nonrepresentation in Parliament to denounce the act . . .”

By passing the act, [Walpole] legally appeased the British East West Indian planters. By doing little or nothing to enforce it, he appeased New England rum merchants. Smuggling was not a particularly American vice. Even when Secretary at War he had been engaged in smuggling his wines up the Thames.”

(The Struggle for Power: The American Revolution, Theodore Draper, Vintage Books, 1997, excerpts pp. 95-96)

Targeting Key West Civilians

The State of Florida withdrew from the Union on January 10, 1861 – three days afterward a US Army captain moved his troops into the nearly-complete Fort Zachary Taylor at Key West, a fortress built specifically to protect the city and State from invasion.

Though then-President James Buchanan admitted no authority to wage war against a State — which was the very definition of treason in Article III, Section 3 – his actions with regard to reinforcing US forts were viewed as hostile and intended to precipitate a conflict.

The economic reality of an industrial North seeking protectionist tariffs and an agricultural South seeking the opposite would eventually lead to separation. A local newspaper had editorialized its concern over Northern sectionalism in 1832 during the heat of the discussion over the National Tariff Act of that year. It read:

“We have always thought that the value of the union consisted in affording equal rights and equal protection to every citizen; when, therefore, its objects are so perverted as to become a means of impoverishment to one section, whilst it aggrandizes another, when it becomes necessary to sacrifice one portion of the States for the good of the rest, the Union has lost its value to us; and we are bound, by a recurrence to first principles, to maintain our rights and defend our lives and property.”

Targeting Key West Civilians

“Construction of Fort [Zachary] Taylor [at Key West] was nearly complete when Florida seceded from the Union. On the night of January 13, 1861, Capt. [John] Brannan marched his [44] men from the barracks to Fort Taylor – taking possession of the fort while the city slept.

While the majority of the citizenry was for the Confederacy, there were some Union supporters on the island. Throughout the war, pro-Union supporters, white and black, tattled on the doings of their pro-Confederate neighbors, but island life in general remained calm.

One incident in February 1863, however, united all the residents against the Union army. The commander of the fort was ordered to round up “all persons who have husbands, brothers or sons in Rebel employment, and all other persons who have at any time declined to take the oath of allegiance, or who have uttered a single disloyal word, in order that they may all be placed within the Rebel lines.”

Six hundred citizens, including some staunch Union supporters whose sons had joined the Confederate army, fell into these categories. They were ordered to pack up and board ships that would take them to Hilton Head, S.C. According to one citizen:

“. . . The town has been in the utmost state of excitement. Men sacrificing their property, selling off their all, getting ready to be shipped off; women and children crying at the thought of being sent off among the Rebels. It was impossible for any good citizen to remain quiet and unconcerned at such a time.”

At the last moment, orders arrived superseding the operation. The protests of the “good citizens” had been heard.”

(Key West, Images of the Past, Joan & Wright Langley, Belland & Swift Publishers, 1982, excerpts pp. 20-21)

Southern Fears of Northern Interests

Patrick Henry of Virginia was one of the most vocal opponents of the constitution which eventually would supersede the Articles of Confederation. He predicted that members of Congress would become a new aristocracy and vote themselves large salaries; that national control over State militia was dangerous to freedom; that Northern commercial interests would menace the South. James Madison could only reply that the “Constitution was not perfect, but as good as might have been made.”

Southern Fears of Northern Interests

“The Virginia delegates returning from Philadelphia had hardly reached their firesides when a long campaign began against the Constitution. In letters, pamphlets and speeches there poured forth almost every conceivable argument against it. It contained no bill of rights, and its adoption would lead to the destruction of personal liberties; it would bring back monarchy; it would create a ruling aristocracy; and it protected the abominable slave trade.

But above all, the Constitution was a dagger aimed at the South, and its point must be blunted or avoided. It must be amended to protect against all these evils. Were it not possible to secure changes, Virginia must think of creating a Southern federation in which the rights of person, republicanism, and Southern interests would be effectively defended.

One of the more moderate enemies of the Constitution was Richard Henry Lee . . . [writing that] “the Constitution threatened Southern interests; and he emphatically declared that Congressional authority to regulate commerce was a menace to the South. Said he:

“In this congressional legislature a bare majority can enact commercial laws, so that the representatives of seven Northern States, as they will have a majority, can, by law, create the most oppressive monopolies upon the five Southern States, whose circumstances and productions are essentially different from theirs, although not a single man of their voters are the representatives of, or amenable to, the people of the Southern States . . . it is supposed that the policy of the Southern States will prevent such abuses! But how feeble, sir, is policy when opposed to interest among trading people.”

Far more forthcoming in denunciation was Benjamin Harrison, who wrote to Washington: “If the constitution is carried into effect, the States south of the [Potomac], will be little more than appendages to those northward of it. . . . In the nature of things they must sooner or later, establish a tyranny, not inferior to the triumvirate or centum viri of Rome.”

Equally vigorous language was used by George Mason [who] wanted amendments protecting both personal and States’ rights. He feared the Constitution would bring either oligarchy or monarchy and Northern dominion.

[Patrick] Henry . . . aroused the fears of men indebted to British merchants: those grasping enemy creditors who would make use of the Federal courts-to-be . . . [and that] the Northerners would control that government, and they would discriminate grievously against the Southern people whenever they could secure gain for themselves.”

(The First South, John Richard Allen, LSU Press, 1961, excerpts pp. 111-114)

General Scott’s Fearful Foreboding

General Winfield Scott’s (1786-1866) view of peacefully allowing the American South pursue independence aligns with that of Thomas Jefferson’s regarding State sovereignty and newer States formed out of Louisiana.

In a letter to John C. Breckinridge in August 1803, Jefferson wrote: “[We] see their happiness in the union, and we wish it. Events may prove otherwise . . . God bless [both old and new States], and keep them in union, if it be for their good, but separate them, if it be better.”

Scott’s war cost estimates below were very low. The direct financial cost of the war’s operation was about $8 billion, which, eventually increased to $30 billion factoring in the destruction of property, derangement of the labor power, the Northern pension system and other economic losses. In human cost: one soldier, North and South, died for every six slaves freed and for every ten white Southerners saved for Lincoln’s union.

In addition, “The money spent to field the two armies would have purchased the liberty of the four million slaves five times over. (Tombee, Portrait of a Cotton Planter, Theodore Rosengarten, Morrow & Company, 1986, page 212.)

General Scott’s Fearful Forebodings

“[Scott’s] opinion on the 3rd of March [1861 was sent by letter] to Secretary [William] Seward. In this he exclaims: “Conquer the seceded [cotton] States by invading armies. No doubt this might be done in two or three years by a young and able general – a Wolfe, a Dessaix, a Hoche, with three hundred thousand disciplined men, estimating a third for garrisons, the loss of yet a greater number by skirmishes, sieges, battles and Southern fevers.

The destruction of life and property on the other side would be frightful, however perfect the moral disciple of the invaders. The conquest completed, at that enormous waste of human life to the North and the Northwest, with at least $250,000,000 added thereto, and cui bono [who benefits]?

Fifteen devastated provinces! [Not] to be brought into harmony with their conquerors, but to be held for generations by heavy garrisons, at an expense quadruple the net duties or taxes it would be possible to extort from them, followed by a protector or emperor.” In view of these fearful forebodings, we are not surprised that he should have despaired of the Union, and been willing to say to the cotton States, “Wayward sisters, depart in peace.”

Nor that he should have fallen back on his opinion in the “Views” (29 October 1860), that “a smaller evil [than such a civil war] would be to allow the fragments of the great Republic to form themselves into new Confederacies.” [Scott] advises Mr. Lincoln’s administration “to throw off the old [sectional Republican party] and assume a new designation – the Union party; adopt the conciliatory measures proposed by Mr. Crittenden, or the Peace Convention, and my life upon it, we shall have no new cases of secession, but, on the contrary, an early return of many if not all of the States which have already broken off from the Union.”

(Mr. Buchanan’s Administration on the Eve of Rebellion, James Buchanan, D. Appleton and Company, 1866, excerpts pp. 172-173)

Lincoln’s Momentous Decision

The Republican party platform of 1860 was skillfully drawn to win support from East and West conservatives and radicals. It advanced a protective tariff for Northern industries, internal improvement subsidies, and the right of each State to control its own domestic institutions.

The Republicans were not anti-slavery, but opposed to its extension into the territories which they wanted preserved for their immigrant supporters.

What are referred to as “free States” of that period were actually “formerly free States,” as all the original States all inherited the British colonial slave-labor system. It follows that the Southern States of 1860 were all free States with a different labor system than the North.

It is important to point out that Lincoln carried no Southern States, and won election by plurality with only 39% of the vote. His party’s purely sectional character was what George Washington warned of in his farewell address.

Lincoln’s Momentous Decision

“Following the news of Lincoln’s election, South Carolina seceded from the Union in December of 1860. Senator Andrew Johnson of Tennessee, the poor white who would succeed Lincoln as President, denounced this act. “Whoever fires on our flag and attacks our forts I pronounce a traitor and he should meet a traitor’s doom.”

Davis retaliated by calling Johnson a “degenerate son of the South unworthy to sit in the Senate.” The die was cast: Davis argued before the Senate the Constitution right of secession.

Lincoln took the news of South Carolina’s secession calmly, but sent word to [Secretary of State William] Seward not to agree to the Crittenden Compromise, which would have preserved the Union without resort to war.

Commenting on Lincoln’s attitude, William E. Dodd wrote in his “Jefferson Davis”: “The popularity of the greatest war President has made students of the subject overlook his responsibility for this momentous decision.”

(The Iron Will of Jefferson Davis, Cass Canfield, Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1978, excerpts pp. 42-43)

The Same Principles as the Revolution

Author John Vinson (below) asserts that “The motive for secession was not defending slavery, but defense against an aggressor trampling on States’ rights and local rule – the same principles for which the American Revolution was fought. The South fought not to keep slavery, but for the right to deal with the institution in its own way and time.”

Thomas Jefferson wrote in July 1775 that “In defense of our persons and properties under actual violation, we took up arms. When that violence shall be removed, when hostilities shall cease on the part of the aggressors, hostilities shall cease on our part also.”

Some eighty-seven years later, Jefferson Davis no doubt pondered Jefferson’s letter to John Randolph in August 1775: “I hope the returning wisdom of Great Britain will, ere long, put an end to this unnatural contest.”

Same Principles as the Revolution

“One more point to be made on freedom is to refute, briefly, the charge of professional South-haters that the Old South did not stand for freedom, but slavery. They allege that it was the cause for which the Confederacy went to war.

A few reflections on the past show this to be nonsense. Slavery came about during British rule. Southern colonists admittedly purchased slaves, but shipping and selling them were British and Yankee shippers.

New England grew rich from slave commerce. Africans who enslaved and sold their fellow Africans supplied cargoes for slave shippers. Following the American Revolution, sentiment against slavery grew in the South. Jefferson spoke out against it. By 1830, a majority of anti-slavery societies were in the South. Shortly thereafter, Virginia came within a few votes of abolishing slavery.

In 1833, the British Empire peacefully ended slavery. Certainly this could have happened in America. But it was not to be. Self-righteous fanatics in the North, the abolitionists, called the South wicked and demanded immediate emancipation, regardless of the consequences. As time went on some even encouraged slave revolt and a massacre of Southern whites.

Stunned and put on the defensive, the South dug in its heels, and the movement toward peaceful abolition stopped. No less a Unionist than Daniel Webster conceded that the South might have ended slavery had it not been for the abolitionists fanatic crusade.

In 1859, abolitionist John Brown was tried, convicted, and hanged after trying unsuccessfully to incite a slave revolt in Virginia. He had the backing of powerful Northern interests and a significant body of Northern opinion hailed him as a hero. The next year Abraham Lincoln, a president identified with the abolitionists, came to power in Washington.

At this point, many Southerners questioned allegiance to a Union that seemed indifferent to their rights and even safety. Initially the Upper South States of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas refused to leave the Union.

The Lincoln government could have conciliated these States and perhaps defused the Southern independence movement. Instead, it provoked the Confederacy to fire on Fort Sumter, and then called for 75,000 volunteers to invade the South. Rather than participate in the invasion of their sister States, the Upper South withdrew.”

(Southerner, Take Your Stand, John Vinson, Shotwell Publishing, 2016, excerpts pp. 10-11)

The War to Resist Centralization

Lincoln, in his war of 1861-1865, was victorious where King George III had failed in his attempt to prevent the political independence of the thirteen American colonies. It was not just the South that was subjugated by 1865, but the North as well with most State governments securely under Radical Republican control. No longer was the consent of the governed in the national conscience – the threat of invasion, violence and conquest of recalcitrant States replaced it.

The War to Resist Centralization

“If centralism is ultimately to prevail, if our entire system of free institutions as established by our common ancestors is to be subverted, and an Empire to be established in their stead; if that is to be the last scene of the tragic drama now being enacted: then, be assured, that we of the South will be acquitted, not only in our own consciences, but in the judgment of mankind of all responsibility for so terrible a catastrophe, and from all guilt of so great a crime against humanity.” Alexander H. Stephens

If the Civil War had merely been a power struggle between the Northern and Southern States, with the winning of the war leaving the Northern States with political power over the Southern States, the likely long-term effects would have inflicted much less damage to all the States.

No, this was a war between the Southern States and the federal government in Washington. It was a war to resist the centralization of economic, cultural, political, and military power. It was a war to uphold the most revolutionary principle ever asserted by man. That principle, the “consent of the governed,” was the basis upon which the Thirteen Colonies seceded from England.

As expressed by Jefferson [in the Declaration of Independence] and unanimously adopted by the Founding Fathers, the sole purpose of government is to secure the right of its citizens – nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. The concept of consent of the governed is the ultimate revolution, which throws off the shackles of tyranny from whichever direction it comes on the political spectrum.

The Lincoln scholars attribute the freeing of the slaves and the preserving of the Union to the federal government’s winning of the war, as if no other course of events could possibly have accomplished the same result. Their belief system about history is quite nearly predestination . . . [that] war was the only way slavery could have ended. Finally, since the war was inevitable [between North and South], the federal government is absolved from all violence, carnage and crimes against the States, the Constitution and civilians.

The idea that the Civil War was fought to “preserve” the Union is one of the most ridiculous ideas foisted on history. The only thing preserved was the federal government’s authority over the Southern [and Northern] States. Lincoln certainly fought to keep the Southern States under Union control as conquered provinces, not States.”

(Lincoln Uber Alles: Dictatorship Comes to America, John Avery Emison, Pelican Publishing Company, 2009, excerpts pp. 255-257; 259)

Immigrants, Riots and Cannon Fodder

For five bloody days in mid-July 1863, armed mobs of draft resisters, mostly immigrants, fought on New York City streets against enforcement of Lincoln’s conscription law – what began as a simple demonstration on July 13 devolved into wholesale destruction of property and life – 120 black people were killed and many fled the city in fear of their lives. This carnage was the result of Lincoln’s insatiable need for troops, as volunteers were coming to the end of their enlistments, horrifying news came from the front, and the State drafts of 1862 met with widespread evasion. Also unpopular was Lincoln’s new war aim of freeing slaves. 

To combat the rioters, nearly ten thousand Northern troops and artillery units were brought in from Gettysburg to patrol the streets.

Immigrants, Riots and Cannon Fodder

“[The] film [Gangs of New York] gives a glimpse of the rather nasty nativism among Northerners, a great many of whom hated Catholics and immigrants as much or more than they hated Southerners. None of the above fit into the Yankee ideal of true Americanism. Nativist gangs burnt down convents in Philadelphia and Boston when such things were never dreamt of in the South.

The film can open the door to another dirty little secret. We have heard a lot about immigrant criminal gangs. The fact that vigilante law prevailed over much of the North during the War has been conveniently forgotten. Besides the thousands of his critics Lincoln jailed without due process, thousands more were killed, injured, intimidated, and run out of town by proto-fascist gangs of Republican bully boys called “Wide Awakes.” They played a major role in making sure Northern elections turned out right, i.e., Republicans won.

The “riots” did not start out as race pogroms, though they degenerated into that. They started out as organized civic resistance to the draft, encouraged by the Democratic State government. Everyone knew that the Lincolnites enforced the draft at a much higher rate in areas that opposed them than they did in friendly areas – according to forthcoming studies by the New York playwright and historian John Chodes, the draft was imposed at four times the rate for Massachusetts. And the conscripts were well aware that they stood a good chance of being used up as cannon-fodder by Republicans who knew if they lost four men for every Southerner killed they would still end up on top, as long as the immigrant flow kept up.

About a fourth of the total enrollment of Lincoln’s armies were immigrants, many of whom were brought over and paid bounties for enlisting. The situation was so bad that the Pope sent one of his most persuasive priestly orators to Ireland to warn the people about being used up for Union cannon fodder.

Perhaps we can begin to recognize the historical fact that millions of Northern citizens did not willingly go along with Lincoln’s War. And the opponents were not limited to the New York City draft rioters.

The truth is that Lincoln’s party did not save the Union and the Constitution. It was a Jacobin party that seized power and revolutionized the North as well as conquering the South. The Gangs of New York can perhaps open a window that will encourage further historical discovery along these lines.”

(Scorcese’s Gangs of New York; Defending Dixie: Essays in Southern History and Culture, Clyde N. Wilson, Foundation for American Education, 2006, excerpts pp. 220-221)

A Party Quite Revolutionary

The Republican Party, even after subjugating Americans in the South in 1865 and holding the North under virtual martial law during the war, “maintained its power by force and fraud, known as Reconstruction.”

The author below asserts that it “would have been far better to allow the American Union to dissolve at the will of the people” . . . as there was “nothing whatever in the legacy of the founders or in the theory of self-government to prevent this, or that argues against it.”

A Party Quite Revolutionary

“Though it is not widely known, the Confederacy had commissioners in Washington ready to make honorable arrangements – to pay for the federal property in the South, assume their share of the national debt, and negotiate all other questions. Lincoln would not deal with these delegates directly. Instead, he deceived them into thinking that Fort Sumter would not be reinforced – thus precipitating reaction when reinforcement was attempted. Even so, the bombardment of Fort Sumter was largely symbolic. There were no casualties, and, remember, almost all other forts in the South had already peacefully been handed over.

Sumter itself did not necessarily justify all-out civil war; it was simply the occasion Lincoln was waiting for. Even after the War progressed it would have been possible, with a Northern government on traditional principles, to have made peace short of the destruction that ensued.

Or it would have been possible, as millions of Northerners wanted, to have sustained a war for the Union, a gentlemen’s disagreement over the matter of secession that was far less destructive and revolutionary than the War turned out to be. Many Northerners favored this and supported the War reluctantly and only on such grounds – a suppressed part of American history. A great deal of death and destruction, as well as the maiming of the Constitution, might have been avoided by this approach.

This did not happen. Why?

Because, in fact, for Lincoln and his followers it was the revolution that was the point. Throughout the War and Reconstruction, the Republican Party behaved as a revolutionary party – though sometimes using conservative rhetoric – a Jacobin party, bent on ruling no matter what, on maintaining its power at any cost. At times they even hampered the Northern war effort for party advantage. It is very hard to doubt this for anyone who has closely studied the behavior of the Republicans during this period rather than simply picking out a few of Lincoln’s prettier speeches to quote.

Lord Acton, the great English historian of liberty, wrote: “The calamity . . . was brought on . . . by the rise of the republican party – a party in its aims and principles quite revolutionary.” And when it was all over, Acton remarked that Appomattox had been a greater setback for the cause of constitutional liberty than Waterloo had been a victory. James McPherson, the leading contemporary historian of the Civil War, though he approves rather than deplores the revolution that was carried out, agrees that it was a revolution.”

(Defending Dixie: Essays in Southern History and Culture, Clyde N. Wilson, Foundation for American Education, 2006, excerpts pp. 138-139)

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