Browsing "Bringing on the War"

The Fort on South Carolina's Sovereign Soil

When South Carolina resumed its full sovereignty through the consent of their citizens in December 1860, the United States soldiers in Charleston Harbor became foreign troops and should have been recalled by their government.  To refuse to abandon the forts caused South Carolina to forcibly eject them as they were then hostile military forces threatening the political independence of that State.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The Fort on South Carolina’s Sovereign Soil

“For well over one hundred years, uninformed and liberal historians and others have charged South Carolina with starting the Civil War when the shore batteries at Charleston fired on the Federally-held Fort Sumter in the bay. These writers have stated that this fort was the property of the federal government. This statement is false.

On March 24, 1794, the US Congress passed an act to provide for the defense of certain ports and harbors of the United States. The sites of forts, arsenals, navy yards and other public property of the federal government were ceded or assigned by the States within whose limits they were, and subject to the condition, either expressed or implied, that they should be used solely and exclusively for the purpose for which they were granted. The ultimate ownership of the soil, or eminent domain, remains with the people of the State in which it lies, by virtue of their sovereignty.

South Carolina, in 1805 by legislative enactment, ceded to the United States in Charleston Harbor and on the Beaufort River, various forts and fortifications and sites for the erection of forts. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts enacted the same in its legislature in 1836. New York State, in granting the use of the site for the Brooklyn Navy Yard says: “The United States are to retain such use and jurisdiction so long as said tract shall be applied to the defense and safety of the city and port of New York and no longer . . .” The cession of the site of Watervliet Arsenal was made on the same terms.

It has been said by many historians that these sites were purchased outright by the federal government. This is also false. The Act of 1794 clearly states, “that no purchase shall be made where such lands are the property of the State.”

When General George B. McClellan and his federal army of 112,000 men landed on the tip of the Virginia peninsula April12, 1862 and occupied Fortress Monroe, this action verified the Southern charge of Northern aggression.

A State withdrawing from the union would necessarily assume the control theretofore exercised by the general government over all public defenses and other public property within her limits. The South, on the verge of withdrawal (from the union) had prepared to give adequate compensation to an agent of the Northern government for the forts and other public works erected on the land. Therefore, three commissioners from South Carolina, one from Georgia, and one from Alabama were sent to Washington to negotiate for the removal of federal garrisons from Southern forts.

The commissioners, all prominent men, were Messrs. Robert W. Barnwell, James H. Adams, and James L. Orr of South Carolina; Martin Crawford of Georgia, and John Forsythe of Alabama, and arrived in Washington on the 5th of March.

On March 12th they addressed an official communication to Mr. [William] Seward, Secretary of State, explaining their functions and their purpose. Mr. Seward declined to make any formal recognition of the commissioners, but assured them in verbal conferences of the determination of the government at Washington to evacuate Fort Sumter; of the peaceful intentions of the government, and that no changes in the status prejudicially to the Confederate States were in contemplation; but in the event of any change, notice would be given to the commissioners.

The commissioners waited for a reply to their official communication until April 8th, at which time they received a reply dated March 15th by which they were advised that the president had decided not to receive them, nor was he interested in any proposals they had to offer. During this time the cabinet of the Northern government had been working in secrecy in New York preparing an extensive military and naval expedition to reinforce the garrison at Fort Sumter in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina.

As they had tried to deceive the people of the North and South in January 1861 with the Star of the West [expedition to Sumter], loaded with troops and ammunition, the radical Republicans again advised the press that this mission was also a mission of mercy for the garrison of Fort Sumter, and on April 7th the expedition set sail southward bound loaded with troops and arms.

At 2PM, April 11, 1861, General Beauregard demanded that Major Anderson of Fort Sumter evacuate the works, which Anderson refused to do. At a little after 3AM, General Beauregard advised Major Anderson that “in one hour’s time I will open fire.”  At 4:40AM, from Fort Johnson the battery opened on Fort Sumter, which fire was followed by the batteries of Moultrie, Cummings Point and the floating battery.

At this time a part of the federal naval force had arrived at the Charleston bar, but strange to say, Captain Fox, after hearing the heavy guns of the bombardment decided that his government did not expect any gallant sacrifices on his part, and took no part in the battle. On April 13 after the Confederate guns had reduced Sumter to a smoking heap of ruin, Major Anderson surrendered, with no loss of life on either side.

[Reverend R.C. Cave said in 1894] “On one side of the conflict was the South led by the descendants of the Cavaliers, who with all their faults had inherited from a long line of ancestors a manly contempt for moral littleness, a high sense of honor, a lofty regard for plighted faith, a strong tendency for conservatism, a profound respect for law and order, and an unfaltering loyalty to constitutional government.”

Against the South was arrayed the power of the North, dominated by the spirit of Puritanism which, with all its virtues, has ever been characterized by the pharisaism which worships itself, and is unable to perceive any goodness apart from itself, which has ever arrogantly held its ideas, its interests, and its will, higher than fundamental law and covenanted obligations; which has always “lived and moved and had its being, in rebellion against constituted authority.”

(Not Civil War But Northern Agression, Lewis P. Hall, Land of the Golden River, Vol. II, Hall’s Enterprises, 1980, pp. 77-78)

Lincoln's Duplicity at Fort Sumter

The land ceded to the federal agent at Washington for forts, arsenals and yards by individual States were intended for the protection, not destruction, of the States they were located in. If a fort was to be used by that agent for a warlike purpose against a State, it is obvious that State would immediately eject the federal employees. Lincoln in early 1861 sent spies to Charleston to gather intelligence before he commenced war.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Lincoln’s Duplicity at Fort Sumter

“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 H.W. 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 Robert] Anderson would be withdrawn from Sumter “was the universal opinion in Washington (Rhodes, U.S., vol. iii, p. 332). Welling, of the National Intelligencer, was requested by [William] Seward to communicate the Cabinet’s purpose to George W. Summers, member of the Virginia Convention (The Nation, Dec. 4, 1879). 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.”

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

Fort McHenry's Guns Turned on Baltimore

The commandant of historic Fort McHenry in 1861 simply followed orders from his superiors to turn his guns on Maryland citizens, though military officers are sworn to defend the United States Constitution and know when not to obey orders contrary to that document.  The land was ceded by Maryland and the fort was constructed to defend Baltimore from its enemies.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Fort McHenry’s Guns Turned on Baltimore

“On Saturday, April 20, Captain John C. Robinson, now a Major-General, then in command of Fort McHenry, which stands at the entrance to the harbor, wrote to Colonel L. Thomas, Adjutant-General of the United States Army, that he would probably be attacked that night [by Baltimore citizens], but he believed he could hold the fort.

[Robinson stated] that about nine o’clock on the evening of the 20th, Police Commissioner Davis called at the fort, bringing a letter dated eight o’clock of the same evening, from Charles Howard, the president of the board . . . that from rumors that had reached the board, they were apprehensive that the commander of the fort might be annoyed by lawless and disorderly characters approaching the walls of the fort, and they proposed to send a guard of perhaps two hundred men to station themselves on Whetstone Point, of course beyond the outer limits of the fort . . . a detachment of the regular militia of the State, then called out pursuant to law, and actually in the service of the State.

“. . . then the following conversation occurred:

Commandant: I am aware sir, that we are to be attacked to-night. I received notice of it before sundown. If you go outside with me you will see we are prepared for it. As for the Maryland Guards, they cannot come here. I am acquainted with some of those gentlemen, and know what their sentiments are.

Commissioner Davis: Why Captain, we are anxious to avoid a collision.

Commandant: So am I sir. If you wish to avoid a collision, place your city military anywhere between the city and that chapel on the road, but if they come this side of it, I shall fire on them.

Commissioner Davis: You would fire into the city of Baltimore?

Commandant: I should be sorry to do so, sir, but if it becomes necessary in order to hold this fort, I shall not hesitate for one moment.

Commissioner Davis (excitedly): I assure you Captain Robinson, if there is a woman or child killed in that city, there will not be one of you left alive here, sir.

Commandant: Very well, sir, I will take the chances. Now, I assure you Mr. Davis, if your Baltimore mob comes down here to-night, you will not have another mob in Baltimore for ten years to come, sir.”

His interview was not, however, confined to Captain Robinson, but included other officers of the fort . . . A junior officer threatened, in case of an attack, to direct fire of a cannon on the Washington monument, which stands in the heart of the city, and to this threat Mr. Davis replied with heat, “If you do that, and if a woman or child is killed, there will be nothing left of you but your brass buttons to tell who you are.”

(Baltimore on the 19th of April, 1861, George William Brown, Johns Hopkins Press, 2001, pp. 67- 69)

Lack of Northern Devotion to the Union

The North’s incessant slavery agitation caused the South’s peaceful secession from the Union in 1861, though this did not warrant a war waged against it. When eleven States seceded from the Articles of Confederation, Rhode Island and North Carolina did not wage war to bring the eleven back into that Union.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Lack of Northern Devotion to the Union

“As, then, the North has the absolute control over the government, it is manifest that on all questions between it and the South where there is a diversity of interests, the interest of the latter will be sacrificed to the former, however oppressive the effects may be, as the South possesses no means by which it can resist, through the action of the government.

[The] relation between the two races in the Southern section [constituted] a vital portion of her social organization . . . [and] Every portion of the North entertains views and feelings more or less hostile to it. Those most opposed and hostile regard it as a sin, and consider themselves under the most sacred obligation to use every effort to destroy it . . . While those who are least opposed and hostile regard it as a blot and a stain on the character of what they call the nation, and feel themselves bound to give it no countenance and support.

On the contrary, the Southern section regards the relation as one which cannot be destroyed without subjecting the two races to the greatest calamity, and the section to poverty, desolation, and wretchedness, and accordingly feel bound, by every consideration of interest and safety, to defend it.

This hostile feeling on the part of the North . . . long lay dormant, but it only required some cause to act on those who felt most intensely that they were responsible for its continuance to call it into action. The increasing power of this [federal] government, and of the control of the Northern section over all its departments, furnished the cause. This was sufficient of itself to put the most fanatical portion of the North in action, for the purpose of destroying the existing relation between the two races in the South.

The first organized movement towards [slavery agitation] began in 1835. Then, for the first time societies were formed, presses established, lecturers sent forth to excite the people of the North, and incendiary publications scattered over the whole South, through the mail. [By Congress refusing to hear antislavery petitions] . . . That was the time for the North to have shown her devotion to the Union; but unfortunately both of the great parties of that section were so intent on obtaining or retaining party ascendancy that all other considerations were overlooked or forgotten.

With the success of their first movement, this small fanatical party began to acquire strength, and with that, to become an object of courtship to both the great parties. The necessary consequence was a further increase of power, and a gradual tainting of the opinions of both of the others parties with their doctrines, until the infection has extended over both, and the great mass of the population of the north, who, whatever may be their opinion of the original abolition party . . . hardly ever fail [to] cooperate in carrying out their measures.

Instead of being weaker, all the elements in favor of abolition are stronger now than they were in 1835, when it first commenced, while all the elements of influence on the part of the South are weaker. Unless something decisive is done, I again ask, what is to stop this agitation . . . if something is not done to arrest it, the South will be forced to choose between abolition and secession? Indeed, as events are now moving, it will not require the South to secede, in order to dissolve the Union. Agitation will of itself effect it, of which its past history furnishes abundant proof . . .”

(The Life of John C. Calhoun, Gustavus M. Pinckney, Walker, Evans & Cogswell, 1903, excerpts, pp. 180-187)

From Eli Whitney to Southern Nationalism

Prior to Massachusetts inventor Eli Whitney’s gin of the mid-1790s, cotton cultivation was a labor-intensive and unprofitable operation. The gin led to New England’s cotton mills which needed slave-produced cotton and Manhattan banks offering low-interest loans to planters for expansion into the new territories. This perpetuated slavery in the South, and kept employed the African brought to America in the holds of New England slavers.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

From Eli Whitney to Southern Nationalism

“Except in the rice districts, Southern opinion by 1795 was turning very definitely against slavery and the antagonism was based, not on humanitarian, but on economic grounds. The overwhelming majority of the 2,000,000 Southern people [were] agricultural, and Charleston and Baltimore were the only towns of more than 10,000 population.

But slave labor could be profitably employed only in the production of staples, and of the two staples in the South, rice was restricted to a very narrow area. Tobacco could be grown as far south as the Piedmont of Georgia and South Carolina, but by 1795 its cultivation was unprofitable in the tidewater on account of soil exhaustion and in the back county because of lack of transportation facilities.

Unless the South could find a new staple slavery would be doomed, or else the South would be forced into an extensive program of soil fertilization and internal improvements to aid the tobacco grower.

What happened was that the South obtained a new staple through the invention of the cotton gin. Cotton quickly took its place as a staple complementary to tobacco, not competitive, for the two crops were radically different in their soil and climatic requirements.

The first conquests of “King Cotton” were the upland regions of South Carolina and Georgia, the inhabitants of which had hitherto eked out an unsatisfactory existence by cattle-raising, by a production of food crops, and by a desultory cultivation of tobacco. This was followed by a demand for new lands which resulted in cotton extending its area of cultivation to the Mississippi as tobacco had already done.

It is evident from the number of slaves that Mississippi Territory was a planting community from the beginning. Cotton, in fact, had been cultivated by the Indians even before the Revolution, and the United States had in 1801 established a gin for them on the upper Tombigee at a place which thereafter was called Cotton Gin Port.

Two new States of the cotton kingdom adopted constitutions differing in many respects from those of the eastern States from which their people were drawn. Neither Alabama or Mississippi had a property qualification for voting, both elected their governors as well as their legislatures by popular vote, and both apportioned their legislatures on the basis of free white inhabitants. In all, the cotton kingdom had a population of 1,000,000 of which nearly one-half was slave.

Prior to 1820 South was an indefinite term which could only be defined, if defined at all, as the region inhabited by Southerners. Southerner could only be defined as meaning one descended from the colonial settlers below [Mason and Dixon’s] line. But the controversy over the admission of Missouri gave new meaning to these terms. It reduced the South to the limits of slavery and intensified within those limits the sentiment of unity among the people.

This new intensified feeling of unity deserves to be called [Southern] nationalism rather than sectionalism inasmuch as it was based on sentiment rather than interest. After 1820 there existed among the people of the South a “consciousness of kind” and a feeling of aloofness from the people of the North. They felt, and continue to feel, themselves a separate people: the other people of the United States they consider as aliens.

That the Missouri controversy resulted in the creation of Southern nationalism is clear . . . If northern unanimity [against slavery then] was due to a devotion to principle, it must be conceded that the devotion was of sudden growth for there is no indication of any deep-seated anti-slavery feeling in the North prior to this time.

The Northern States, to be sure, had either outlawed slavery or “put it in the course of ultimate extinction,” but their action had been the result of economic realism rather than of moral indignation. The attack on slavery was perhaps designed for the purpose of forcing Southern congressmen to give up Texas. The northeast wished to surrender Texas, not because Texas was Southern, but because it was Western; the jealousy of the East toward the West was the result of conflicting interests and had often been displayed in our early history.

(The Old South, R.S. Cotterill, Arthur H. Clark Company, 1939, pp. 108-109; 117; 125-126; 142-145)

Lincoln's War Against Right, Reason, Justice and Nature

Confederate Vice President Alexander Hamilton Stephens asked for what reason the North arrayed its armies against the South, and why the North denies the spirit and essence of Jefferson’s Declaration to them. Stephen’s said the struggle for independence by the South was not Lincoln’s “idle and absurd assumption of the existence of a riot which was to be dispersed by a posse comitatus,” but the birth of a new American republic with the consent of the governed, and a more perfect American union.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Lincoln’s War Against Right, Reason, Justice and Nature

In a speech delivered during the second year of the war, [Mr. Stephens] said:

“The States South had done nothing but what was their right – their inalienable right to do, the same as their ancestors did, in common with the North, when they severed their connection with the British Government.

This war was waged by the North in denial of this right, and for the purpose of conquest and subjugation. It was therefore, aggressive, wanton, and unjust. Such must be the judgment of mankind, let its results be what they may. The responsibility, therefore, for all its sacrifices of treasure and blood, heretofore and hereafter to be made in its prosecution, rests not upon us.

What is all this for? Why this array of armies? Why this fierce meeting in mortal combat? What is all this carnage and slaughter for? Why the prolongation of this conflict? Why this lamentation and mourning going up from almost every house and family from Maine to the Rio Grande, and from the Atlantic and Gulf to the Lakes, for friends and dear ones who have fallen by disease and violence in this unparalleled struggle?

The question, if replied from the North, can have but one true answer. What is all this for, on their part, but to overturn the principle upon which their own Government, as well as ours, is based – to reverse the doctrine that governments derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed?”

What is it for but to overturn the principles and practice of their own Government from the beginning? That Government was founded and based upon the political axiom that all States and peoples have the inalienable right to change their form of government at will.

This principle was acted on in the recognition by the United States of the South American republics. This principle was acted on in the recognition of Mexico . . . the struggle of Greece to overthrow the Ottoman rule . . . the recognition of Texas, when she seceded, or withdrew, from the Government of Mexico.

Well may any and every one, North and South, exclaim, what is all this for? What have we done to the North? When have we ever wronged them? We quit them, it is true, as our ancestors and their ancestors quit the British Government. We quit as they quit – upon a question of constitutional right. That question they determined for themselves, and we have but done the same. What, therefore, is all this for?

It is a war, in short, on their part against right, against reason, against justice, against nature. If asked on our side what is all this for, the reply from every honest breast is that it is for home, for firesides, for our altars, for our birthrights, for property, for honor, for life – in a word, for everything for which freemen should live, and for which all deserving to be freemen should be willing, if need be, to die.”

(A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Confederacy, 1861-1865, James D. Richardson, Volume I, US Publishing Company, 1906, pp. 175-176)

Flight to Exile and Freedom in the Confederacy

Former Vice President John C. Breckinridge sat in the US Senate as a representative of Kentucky in July 1861. He denounced Lincoln’s concentration of power in Washington as an act “which, in every age of the world, has been the very definition of despotism.” He also saw the Republican party using the war to change the very character of our government, and the reduction of the resisting State’s into territories governed by Lincoln’s appointees.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Flight to Exile and Freedom in the Confederacy

“On September 18 [1861], the Kentucky legislature formally ended neutrality and took the side of the Union. The arrests began the same night, and among the first to be taken was former Governor [Charles] Morehead of Louisville. At the same time, the pro-Southern Louisville Courier was suppressed. That same day several men throughout the nation advised Washington authorities that Breckinridge should be arrested.

The Republican Cassius Clay, who believed that “John C. Breckinridge . . . was never at heart a Secessionist.” Even a bearded little Union general, U.S. Grant, sympathized with the senator in some degree. “He was among the last to go over to the South,” Grant would say, “and was rather dragged into the position.”

He had fought for compromise and failed; he had sought peace and moderation and found only bitterness; and had proclaimed his devotion to the Union to the best of his ability . . . He was an innocent man, but he would be taken, denied his rights, and like Morehead, spirited away to a prison deep in the North to sit for months without hope.

On October 8, 1861, from Bowling Green, he issued his last address as a statesman, and his first as a Confederate. He returned the trust given him to represent Kentucky in the Senate, he said. He could no longer keep it. He had tried to stand for the State’s wishes in Washington, he had opposed Lincoln’s war policy at every step, even to refusing Kentucky’s men and money . . . ”I resign,” he said, “because there is no place left where a Southern Senator may sit in council with the Senators of the North. In truth, there is no longer a Senate of the United States within the meaning and spirit of the Constitution.”

The Union no longer existed, he continued, Lincoln had assumed dictatorial powers. The rights of person and property were being flagrantly violated every day. Unlawful arrests were the rule. The subjugation and conquest of the South were the rallying cries in the Federal Congress.

As for Kentucky, her rights of neutrality had been violated repeatedly, arms secretly supplied to Federal sympathizers, troops unlawfully raised within her borders, the legislature intimidated and packed with the minions of Washington, freedoms of speech, press, and assembly, restricted, and hundreds forced to flee their homes for safety. He explained his own flight to avoid arrest, saying he would have welcomed it if he had any assurance that it would have been followed by a trial of judge and jury, but he knew that would not be.

Would Kentucky stand by while all of this went on? Would she consent to the usurpations of Lincoln and his hirelings; would she suffer her children to be imprisoned and exiled by the “German mercenaries” that the Union was enlisting to fights its war? Never, he said.

Whatever might be the future relations of the two nations, the old Union could never again be reunited as it once was. He wanted peace between the them lest one conquer the other and the result be military despotism. To defend his own birthright and that of his fellow Kentuckians who had been denied the protection due them, and were forced to choose between arrest, exile, or resistance, he now exchanged the “with proud satisfaction, a term of six years in the Senate of the United States for the musket of a soldier.” As one of those forced to make that choice, he said, “I intend to resist.”

(Breckinridge, Statesman, Soldier, Symbol, William C. Davis, LSU Press, 1974, pp. 287- 290)

Fanatical and Intransigent Abolitionists

The antebellum abolitionists saw in majority rule the basis of power – that “might makes right” and through their higher law fiction new laws could be manufactured that would impose punishment on those they disliked. It should be noted that the author below mentions “the free States” as many historians do, but should rightly be identified as “former slave States.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Fanatical and Intransigent Abolitionists

“The abolitionist, sharing the transcendentalist’s refusal to accept the dictum vox populi vox dei, had to carry that refusal one step further: public opinion at any given time before the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth could never be the voice of God, and if it were, the reformer would lose his vocation. The voice of the reforming minority was the voice of God.

But the majority was also teachable; the reformer was God’s instrument to teach the nation the truth and the vanguard in its march to a better social order. [T]he abolitionist would insist that truth is not ascertained by public opinion polls, and he would point out that the majority in the 1830s and 1840s would vote against abolition of slavery, against prohibition (a few abolitionists would too), for capital punishment, and for Jim Crow laws in the free States.

The laws, customs, even the Constitution, reflecting the general will in the unregenerate state, could not be the authority on which the reformer based his claim to the role of teacher. His authority to a higher law as embodied in the Bible and conveniently set forth, in part, in the first sentence of the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. The corrupt majority prevailed not because it was right, but because it could enforce its will. “Might makes right” was in the abolitionist’s view logically deducible from the principle of majority rule.

It follows that the reforming minority, while necessary, must always be unpopular. As Wendell Phillips put it, when explaining why even abolitionists who employed conciliatory and moderate language “found every man’s hand against them”: “our unpopularity is no fault of ours, but flows necessarily and unavoidably from our position.” [Those abolitionists who carried this logic to its conclusion would suggest . . . that public acceptance would be a sign that their duty was to move on to a new unpopular position.]

Their refusal to water down their “visionary” slogan was, in their eyes, eminently practical, much more so than the course of the antislavery senators and congressmen who often wrote letters to abolitionist leaders justifying their adaptation of antislavery demands to what was attainable.

The abolitionist, while criticizing such compromises, would insist that his own intransigence made favorable compromises possible. He might have stated his position thus: If politics is the art of the possible, agitation is the art of the desirable. For one thing, [this] can be useful to the political bargainer; the more extreme demand of the agitator makes the politician’s demand seem acceptable and perhaps desirable in the sense that the adversary may prefer to give up half a loaf rather than the whole.”

(Means and Ends in American Abolitionism, Aileen S. Kraditor, Pantheon Books, 1967, pp. 25-28)

Northern Hatred Shrouded in False Humanitarianism

Lincoln as president-elect had ample opportunity to tour the South to better understand the region, as well as chastise the fanatic abolitionists who fueled the secessionist impulses of the South. He did neither, and after his unconstitutional call for troops to levy war upon a State, gave North Carolina Unionists no alternative but to join their brethren in what they regarding as a more perfect American union.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Northern Hatred Shrouded in False Humanitarianism

“Appealing to his constituents on a platform which included a protective tariff, internal improvements, free homesteads to free-soilers, and limiting slavery to its current borders, Abraham Lincoln won the presidency by pulling in the electoral votes of all the Northern States with the exception of New Jersey. In ten Southern States he pulled no votes at all and consequently had no electors from that section. The national voting performance indicated that Lincoln drew considerably fewer votes than the total number of ballots cast for his three rivals, Douglas, Breckinridge, and Bell.

In searching for solutions to the troubling problems following the national elections, alert citizens wanted to know more about the kind of program the new president intended to implement during his administration. To effectively counter secession arguments, Southern Unionists needed answers to vital questions – answers only the president-elect could give.

Reflecting the anxiety of many was North Carolina Congressman John A. Gilmer’s letter of December 10, 1860, to Lincoln . . . [that] before assuming his high office, should “give the people of the United States the views and opinions you now entertain on certain public questions now so seriously distract[ing] the country.”

Lincoln, in his return letter . . . chose to continue his policy of silence relative to his pending administration. Giving assurance he did not intend to interfere with slavery in the District of Columbia, [and] seemed to imply flexibility “on everything except the territorial question, and on this he would not yield.”

To those citizens both North and South who were thoroughly convinced that slavery extension existed more in theory than in fact, the president-elect’s position bordered on absurdity. In truth, the plantation system was not destined to expand into any existing territories of the United States. The territory of New Mexico, for ten years open to settlement by slaveholders, recorded not one slave in the census of 1860. Colorado and Nevada were likewise without slaves. A few bondage blacks were to be found in Utah, and for the same year, census statistics indicated that two slaves resided in all of Kansas.

Thoughtful observers knew it would be a tragic mistake for Lincoln to proceed without a thorough understanding of the present South, reflecting the conditions brought on by a decade of intense and often bitter sectional rivalry with the North. Republican leaders, convinced as they were that an inevitable climax to the slavery issue was drawing near, surely would not overlook the strong likelihood that resolution was not attainable without secession and war.

Also, might certain essential observations have escaped Lincoln in his firm belief that there still remained throughout the South a strong residue of Union support and loyalty? In truth, Union sentiment in the region was much weaker than it had been in years past. The loyalty that had made North Carolinians proud to send James K. Polk to the presidency had now been supplanted by new and disturbing sensations.

For reasons valid or otherwise, there was furthermore a persistent suspicion that selfish and sinister forces were behind or perhaps a part of the Northern anti-slavery movement. If an irrepressible conflict lay ahead, as contended by some, how accurate was it to conclude that black people held in forced labor were the major cause of this impending crisis?

Tariffs revised upward, a national government favorable to the industrialization and capital investments so essential to expanding industry and commerce – these and related matters occupied the attention of Northern entrepreneurs and political leaders. Could it be that when spokesmen for these special interests lashed out critically against slavery, very often their zeal was intended not so much to liberate unfortunate black people as to obliterate the political power of the region in which they resided?

Was not the South – represented by its phalanx of representatives in Congress, by its dominance of the Supreme Court and almost continuous control of the executive branch, and by its agriculturally-oriented society . . . the real target of North attacks? Until this establishment was dismantled, impatient but determined Northern economic forces would continue to be held in check. So why not strike at the South’s Achilles’ heel by mounting a convincing humanitarian campaign against its “peculiar” institution?”

(Matt W. Ransom, Confederate General From North Carolina, Clayton C. Marlow, McFarland & Company, 1996, pp. 3-5)

Northernizing the South

Arguably the first shots of the War Between the States were fired by Reverend Beecher’s guns in mid-1850s Kansas; John Brown’s armed attack on Virginia in 1859 was a logical result of abolitionist fanaticism. Unwilling to work toward a practical and peaceful solution to the riddle of African slavery in the United States, they plunged the country into revolution and war costing nearly a million lives.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Northernizing the South

“By the fall of 1856, some members of the Massachusetts aid committee, concluding that private support for the Kansas free-State settlers was not sufficient to protect them from proslavery advocates there, were urging northern State governments to intervene in the territory. [Amos Lawrence] consulted with some of his conservative friends about the idea and was told the State of Massachusetts had no constitutional authority to act in Kansas affairs.

Lawrence admitted that such an action could then only be justified upon “higher law” ground. The concept of higher law was one abolitionists were fond of invoking, and Lawrence confessed that it was a concept “which I never believed tenable, except for extreme cases, which come up once in a lifetime.”

[Lawrence] told Samuel Gridley Howe that he deemed the denial of honest elections in Kansas to be “a sufficient cause for revolution.” Lawrence hoped to avoid civil war in the territory, but if it came to that, he predicted, “it will be a contest between liberty and slavery, and it cannot last long for the slaves will not wait for its termination.” Instead, they would revolt and the uprising would spread into neighboring Missouri, toppling slavery there.

The leaders of the [New England Emigrant Aid] company made every effort to divorce themselve’s from the abolitionist camp. Rather than emphasize the evils of slavery for the slave, most of the men active in the [company] stressed the threat of slavery to northern values and institutions . . . New Englanders believed that the very future of republican government was at stake in Kansas and, furthermore, the nation.

Thus for them, Kansas became battleground between New England and Southern ways of life.   Eli Thayer, who founded the company, shared in this New England sense of mission. He hoped to keep the Emigrant Aid Company alive and to use it to promote free-labor colonies north and south of Kansas. By 1858, he was even proposing to “New Englandize” Central America . . . “we [will] send steam engines sir, which are the greatest apostles of liberty that this country has ever seen.”

[At] . . . the company’s annual meeting in 1856 he raised the possibility of colonizing Virginia . . . and in 1857 settled some northerners in western Virginia, near the Ohio River. By such means, Thayer proposed to “Northernize the South.”   [Lawrence]. . . preferred to secure the western territories for freedom and let the superiority of the northern economic system eventually transform the South. Until then, the Southerners should be left alone to bear responsibility for owning slaves; “it is not for us who imported their ancestors to complain.”

(Cotton and Capital, Boston Businessmen and Anti-Slavery Reform, Richard H. Abbott, UMass Press, 1991, pp. 42-47)