Browsing "Bringing on the War"

Convincing Southerners of Republican Hostility

Lincoln’s only attempt at including a Southerner in his cabinet was sounding out North Carolinian and Congressman John Gilmer, who was “wary, mistrustful of Lincoln and reluctant to ally himself with an administration” opposed to the interests of his State and section. Conservatives feared that should Gilmer not accept, Lincoln would select radical hard-liner Montgomery Blair and add fuel to the sectional fire.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Convincing Southerners of Republican Hostility

“[Far from Fort Sumter] the president-elect was still at work composing his cabinet . . . [and] the impossibly tangled party considerations that continued to vex him. As [President James] Buchanan’s advisors planned their reinforcement expedition . . . Lincoln was committing the first major blunder of his administration. It began on Sunday, December 30 . . . when he met with that “greatest of Pennsylvania wirepullers,” Simon Cameron, about a place in the cabinet.

[Lincoln] knew it would be a controversial appointment. For one thing, Cameron’s easy movements from the [Democrats] to the Know Nothings to the Republicans had gained him a reputation as an unprincipled opportunist.

More damaging was the taint of corruption that surrounded him. Known to his critics as “the Great Winnebago Chief” for his mishandling of Indian funds in the 1830s, Cameron was also charged with manipulation elections and legislatures through bribery. Yet so many recommendations poured into Springfield that Lincoln could hardly see how not to appoint him.

It was one of the first important choices Lincoln had made for himself since the election, and he immediately had cause to regret foregoing his usual process of passing his decisions by [Lyman] Trumbull and [Hannibal] Hamlin . . . word of the selection [of Cameron] provoked a flood of outraged letters and visits from Republican leaders.

Displaying an indecision that was characteristic in those early months, Lincoln immediately reversed himself . . . [and] addressed a short, private note to Cameron rescinding his offer . . . [but] the imbroglio . . . exploded into what one historian has called “a mighty battle of Republican factions.” For the next several weeks Republican managers throughout the North appeared considerably more concerned with the patronage than with secession.

Placing [Salmon P.] Chase at the head of the Treasury Department [would reconcile] the powerful New York radicals to [William] Seward’s appointment [as Secretary of State].

[But] Lincoln was aware of the predicament of Southern unionists and the damage Republican rigidity [against compromise] might do to their cause. Nominating Chase, a long-acknowledged leader of the radicals, would give secessionists a powerful weapon in their fight to convince Southerners of Republican hostility.”

(Lincoln and the Decision for War, the Northern Response to Secession, Russell McClintock, UNC Press, 2008, excerpts pp. 123-125)

 

 

 

The Men of America’s Natural Aristocracy

American political theorist and historian Russell Kirk wrote that the Framers of the United States Constitution were gentlemen-politicians rather than philosophers, “whose perceptions of the human condition came from the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer.” Kirk contrasted these learned men who fought to preserve their British heritage with the arrogant French revolutionaries who were drunk on theories and revenge, who opened the way for a self-appointed emperor. The men of America’s natural aristocracy governed the Republic from 1775 to 1825 — their Republic afterward frayed and was pulling apart by 1830. By 1850, constituent States were speaking loudly of withdrawal, and by 1861 it had unraveled completely with an American dictator enthroned.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Men of America’s Natural Aristocracy

“Sometimes the Constitution of the United States is commended as if it had been created out of whole cloth, overnight, from the glowing imagination of the Framers. That notion is far from the truth. Sometimes the Framers themselves are spoken of with the veneration like that accorded to the Hebrew prophets or the mystical founders of Greek cities. But actually the Constitution grew out of centuries of practical experience on either side of the Atlantic, rather than springing from ingenious fine-spun innovating theory.

Truly the Constitution is a bundle of compromises among interests and classes: a principal merit of the Framers was their ready recognition of this electable fact. As Burke said of government generally, it is a contrivance of human wisdom to supply human wants. In the sagacious words of Daniel Boorstin, “The American future was never to be contained in a theory.”

The politicians who framed the Constitution were not an elite of theorists, but an assembly of governors, in the old signification of that word “governor.” They were representatives of a class, in every former colony, that had exercised authority almost from the early years of British settlement in North America; they were drawn from a natural aristocracy.

Experience, education, and wealth, passed on from generation to generation of Americans, tended to develop a continuity of public influence within leading families; while the relatively broad franchises that came to pass in most colonies nevertheless gave provincial and local government a democratic cast.

Broadly speaking, it was the body of men familiar with America’s provincial and local governments who made both the Revolution and the Constitution. This was a class that, far from intending any subversion of the social and moral order in America, took alarm at Shay’s Rebellion and so forged a strong Constitution.

Long participation in provincial and local public affairs shaped this American natural aristocracy; while the French revolutionaries, for the most part, were men previously excluded from any effective exercise of power, and so naïve in great questions of political policy.”

(The Essential Russell Kirk, Selected Essays, George A. Panichas, editor, ISI Books, 2007, excerpts, pp. 452-453)

 

The Southern Confederacy’s Objective

If we are true to the English language and its usage, what is referred to as the American Revolution was in reality a civil war as opposing sides fought for control of the governance of the American Colonies.  The 1861-1865 war was not a civil war as several Southern States had withdrawn from their voluntary political compact with other States, and formed their own voluntary Union.  The South, then, had no interest in governing the North and truly fought in self-defense; the North, then, truly fought the war for conquest.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Lincoln’s War

“Matthew Forney Steele in his 1951 American Campaigns points out that the American Civil War was unusual for a civil war in having a purely sectional bias. Allegiance in this civil war was decided by one’s geographic location rather than class, religion, political allegiance, ethnicity or other factors that usually set the battling factions in a civil war apart from each other.  This meant, in practical terms, that in the American Civil War the sides fought not among themselves but arrayed against each other.

The Southern Confederacy’s objective was simply to be left alone.  The Union’s determination was to deny them that forbearance.  Thus, an “invasion” of the Southern portion of the country, in Abraham Lincoln’s blandly legal phraseology, to “subdue combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings,” became the war’s inevitable strategy.”

(Maps and Mapmakers of the Civil War, Earl B. McElfresh, H.N. Abrams Publishers, 1990, excerpt, pg. 20)

The Mine Laid at Washington

Lincoln chose to ignore the advice of the most prescient Cabinet members who could foresee where his aggressive and warlike actions would take him. The inexperienced new president had seen the result of Buchanan’s provocative Star of the West expedition to Sumter in early January 1861, but still rushed headlong into a collision and bloody war which followed. It should also be noted that Southern Unionists who opposed secession were looking to Lincoln for a peaceful settlement of the crisis, and pleaded with him to evacuate Sumter and let time cool the debate.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Mine Laid at Washington

On the 15th of March, 1861, President Lincoln submitted the following request in writing to each member of his Cabinet:

“My Dear Sir, Assuming it to be possible to now provision Fort Sumter, under all the circumstances is it wise to attempt it? Please give your opinion in writing on this question.”

Secretary Cameron wrote that he would advise such an attempt if he “did not believe the attempt to carry it into effect would initiate a bloody and protracted conflict.”

Secretary Welles wrote:

“By sending or attempting to send provisions into Fort Sumter, will not war be precipitated? It may well be impossible to escape it under any course of policy that may be pursued, but I am not prepared to advise a course that would provoke hostilities . . . I do not, therefore, under all the circumstances, think it wise to provision Fort Sumter.”

Secretary Smith wrote:

“The commencement of civil war would be a calamity greatly to be deplored and should be avoided if the just authority of the Government may be maintained without it. If such a conflict should become inevitable, it is much better that it should commence by the resistance of the authorities or people of South Carolina to the legal action of the Government in enforcing the laws of the United States . . . in my opinion it would not be wise, under all the circumstances, to attempt to provision Fort Sumter.”

Attorney General Bates wrote:

“I am unwilling, under all circumstances . . . to do any act which may have the semblance before the world of beginning a civil war, the terrible consequences of which would, I think, find no parallel in modern times . . . upon the whole I do not think it wise now to provision Fort Sumter.”

Postmaster-General Blair and Secretary Chase united in the opinion that it would be wise to make the effort to provision Fort Sumter.

[Secretary Salmon P. Chase] then proceeded to declare that, if such a step would produce civil war, he could not advise in its favor, but that, in his opinion, such a result was highly improbable, especially if accompanied by a proclamation from the President, reiterating the sentiments of his inaugural address. “I, therefore,” concluded Secretary Chase, “return an affirmative answer to the question submitted to me.”

It will be seen . . . that five of the seven members of the Cabinet concurred in the opinion that no attempt should be made to provision or reinforce Fort Sumter, and that such an attempt would in all probability precipitate civil war.

As Mr. Seward expressed it, “We will have inaugurated a civil war by our own act without an adequate object”; or, in the language of Secretary Welles, “By sending or attempting to send provisions into Fort Sumter, will not war be precipitated?” . . . I am not prepared to advise a course that would provoke hostilities.”

If such were the opinions of leading members of President Lincoln’s Cabinet, expressed in confidential communications to their chief, as to the character of the proposed action, can it be deemed unreasonable that the people of Virginia held similar views?

Fourteen days later, the President made a verbal request to his Cabinet for an additional expression of their views on the same subject. Seward and Smith adhered to their former opinions. Chase and Blair were joined by Welles. Bates was noncommittal, and no reply was made by Cameron, so far as records show.

In the light of the facts and arguments presented by the members of the President’s Cabinet, men, not a few, will conclude that, if the explosion occurred at Fort Sumter, the mine was laid at Washington.”

(Virginia’s Attitude Toward Secession, Beverley B. Munford, L.H. Jenkins, Richmond Virginia, 1909, excerpts, pp. 285-289)

 

 

The First American Slave Ship at Marblehead

It can be rightly said that the Northern States by 1860 were “former slave States,” rather than all free labor. The Southern States were by then partly slave States, as most of its residents were free labor. Had the North not incited and waged war upon the South, allowed the latter to continue its post-Revolution phase of manumission and emancipation on its own without interference, the South might have ended the relic of British colonialism peacefully and without the animus which continues unabated today.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The First American Slave Ship at Marblehead

“Slavery was . . . historically speaking, a very recent period, as much a Northern institution as it was a Southern one; it existed in full vigor in all the original thirteen colonies, and while it existed it was quite as rigorous a system in the North as at the South.

Every law which formed it code at the South had its counterpart in the North, and with less reason; for while there were at the South not less than 600,000 slaves – Virginia having, by the census of 1790, 293,427 – there were at the North, by the census of 1790, less than 42,000.

Regulations not wholly compatible with absolute freedom of will are necessary concomitants of any system of slavery, especially where the slaves are in large numbers; and it should move the hearts of our brethren at the North to greater patience with us that they, too, are not “without sin.”

Massachusetts has the honor of being the first community in America to legalize the slave trade and slavery by legislative act; the first to send out a slave-ship, and the first to secure a fugitive slave law.

Slavery having been planted on this continent (not by the South, as has been reiterated until it is the generally received doctrine, but by a Dutch ship, which in 1619 landed a cargo of “twenty neggers” in a famished condition at Jamestown) it shortly took general root, and after a time began to flourish.

Indeed, it flourished here and elsewhere, so than in 1636, only seventeen years later, a ship, the Desire, was built and fitted out at Marblehead as a slaver, and thus became the first American slave ship but by no means the last.

The fugitive slave law . . . had its prototype in the Articles of Confederation of the United Colonies of New England (19th May 1643), in which Massachusetts was the ruling colony.”

(The Negro: The Southerners Problem, Thomas Nelson Page, C. Scribner’s Sons, 1904, excerpt, pp. 222-224)

Rhode Island’s Profitable Past

Though the smallest State of the United States, Rhode Island’s contributions toward populating America with enslaved Africans was massive, and they were joined in this endeavor by New York and Massachusetts. It is said that Liverpool shipbuilders complained to Parliament of trained British shipwrights being lured across the Atlantic with higher pay, and which allowed Rhode Island to surpass Liverpool as the center of the transatlantic slave trade by 1750.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Rhode Island’s Profitable Past

“Soon after its settlement, Bristol [Rhode Island] people began to engage in commerce with the West Indies and the Spanish Main. The first recorded shipment (November 6, 1686) consisting of a number of horses, was consigned to the “Bristol Merchant,” bound for Surinam, British Guiana. [The] Slave trade was introduced in Rhode Island about 1700, and Bristol was not slow in joining Newport and Providence in this highly profitable industry.

It has been estimated that over a fifth of the total number of slaves crossed the Atlantic to British America in Rhode Island vessels, and that of this fifth Bristol slavers carried the largest share. Horses, sheep, pickled fish, onions, carrots, etc. made up the cargo on the outward voyage, and coffee, molasses, sugar, rum and tropical fruits were imported. The outbreak of the Revolution struck hard at the prosperity of this flourishing commercial town.

After the war the people of Bristol rebuilt the town and commerce was soon revived, especially the slave trade with Africa and molasses and rum trade with Cuba.”

(Rhode Island, A Guide to the Smallest State, Louis Cappelli, Houghton Mifflin, 1937, excerpts pp. 184-185)

Richard Henry Lee Rails Against England’s Slave Trade

The responsibility for populating its American colonies with enslaved Africans rests with the British, who needed cheap labor for the plantations producing profit for England. Southern colonists, alarmed at the increasing numbers of black slaves arriving in British and New England hulls, repeatedly called for an end to the cruel trade. As Richard Henry Lee (father of Robert E. Lee) suggests below, any and all demands by Virginians and Carolinians to halt the slave-trade were nullified by the British Crown.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Richard Henry Lee Rails Against England’s Slave Trade

“Massachusetts invalidated the British commercial system, which Virginia resisted from abhorrence of the slave-trade. Never before had England pursued the traffic in Negroes with such eager avarice.

The remonstrances of philanthropy and of the colonies were unheeded, and categorical instructions from the [British] Board of Trade kept every American port open as markets for men.

The Legislature of Virginia had repeatedly showed a disposition to obstruct the commerce; a deeply-seated public opinion began more and more to avow the evils and the injustice of slavery itself; and in 1761, it was proposed to suppress the importation of Africans by a prohibitory duty.

Among those who took part in the long and violent debate was Richard Henry Lee, the representative of Westmoreland. Descended from one of the oldest families in Virginia, he had been educated in England and had returned to his native land familiar with the spirit of Grotius and Cudworth, of Locke and Montesquieu; his first recorded speech was against Negro slavery, in behalf of human freedom.

In the continued importation of slaves, he foreboded danger to the political and moral interests of the Old Dominion; an increase of the free Anglo-Saxons he argued, would foster arts and varied agriculture, while a race doomed to abject bondage was of necessity an enemy to social happiness. He painted from ancient history the horrors of servile insurrections. He deprecated the barbarous atrocity of the trade with Africa, and its violation of the equal rights of men created like ourselves in the image of God.

“Christianity,” thus he spoke in conclusion, “by introducing into Europe the truest principles of universal benevolence and brotherly love, happily abolished civil slavery. Let us who profess the same religion practice its precepts, and by agreeing to this duty, pay a proper regard to our rue interests and to the dictates of justice and humanity.”

The tax for which Lee raised his voice was carried through the Assembly of Virginia by a majority of one; but from England a negative followed with certainty every colonial act tending to diminish the [British] slave-trade. South Carolina, also appalled by the great increase of its black population, endeavored by its own laws to restrain the importation of slaves, and in like manner came into collision with the same British policy.”

(History of the United States, from the Discovery of the American Continent, Volume IV; George Bancroft, Brown, Little and Company, 1856, excerpts, pp. 421-422)

The Revolution of 1787 Ends the Founders Union

Several attempts were made to revise or replace the original founding document, the Articles of Confederation, after their ratification in 1781. By the fall of 1786, a majority of Congress thought an amendment necessary to grant Congress the power to regulate trade, though members warned that a proposed constitutional convention might grant unlimited powers to a national government, and that such a convention would be dangerous to the liberties of the people. Two of New York’s three delegates to the convention were selected because of their opposition to any fundamental reform of the Articles; Virginia included in its delegation Richard Henry Lee (father of Robert E. Lee) and Patrick Henry, both of whom were outspoken opponents of centralized political power.  The nine States (of 13) that ratified the new Constitution seceded from the Articles of Confederation.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Revolution of 1787 Ends the Founders’ Union

“In proposing a second constitutional convention, [Elbridge] Gerry, [George] Mason and [Edmund] Randolph embraced the revolutionary decision of the convention to bypass the amendment procedures of the Article of Confederation. The convention delegates merely asked the members of the Confederation Congress to forward the Constitution to the States with a recommendation that the State legislatures call special conventions to assent to and ratify the Constitution. As soon as nine States had ratified the Constitution it would become operable among those [nine] States.

Gerry, Mason and Randolph accepted the basic outlines of that plan but wanted to allow the States to propose amendments to “be submitted to and finally decided on by another general convention” before the Constitution would finally become the law of the land [in nine States].

Under both proposals the Confederation Congress was being asked to act as an agent in its own destruction and the State legislatures, hitherto bastions of hostility to centralized power, to vest State conventions with the authority to adopt a new form of government that materially restricted their own powers.

Despite the enormity of these requests there was a considerable likelihood they would be approved . . . In addition, the membership of the [constitutional] convention and Congress overlapped significantly. Richard Henry Lee complained that this overlap was so great that “it is easy to see that Congress could have little opinion [of its own] upon the subject.”

Finally, the Federalists, as the proponents of the new Constitution chose to call themselves, seized the initiative. They had a concrete proposal and a clear-cut plan of action. The revolution of 1787 was well underway.

(The Politics of Opposition, Antifederalists and the Acceptance of the Constitution, Stephen R. Boyd, KTO Press, 1979, excerpt, pg. 15)

Speaking the Language of Monuments

Historians record Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) leader General John Logan of Illinois as a creative political opportunist: a prewar Stephen Douglas Democrat who favored conciliatory measures toward the South to prevent war — but correctly sensing Radical Republican power he allied with them to keep his political star ascendant. Feeling slighted as West Point-educated commanders refused him promotions he developed an aversion to that institution; in the postwar he was known for his “bloody-shirt” oratory and catering to the pension desires of GAR veterans, serving as their commander for three terms. Logan’s postwar writings underscore the Republican Party ideology of containing slaves, and later freedmen, in the South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Speaking the Language of Monuments

“In short, the Grand Army [of the Republic] memory of the war represented the persistence into peacetime of the millennial, republican vision prevalent in the North before 1860 . . . [and this] older ideology of republicanism lived blissfully on in the campfires of the GAR until at least 1900.

In that view, the virtuous nation, saved until [Fort] Sumter from the ordinary travails of history, had come through the war purified of the blot of slavery and ready to lead the rest of the world into the sunshine of universal democracy. Despite the painfully obvious failure of Gilded Age America to live up to that vision, the Grand Army of the Republic (the name of the order itself is highly significant) strained to see the nation in those terms.

The past was the past, With the Republic secure, the saviors could return to lives as simple citizens. “There is not in human history, a case cited except ours, in which a million soldiers were, in a day, removed from belligerent to peaceful life,” Logan told the 1869 national encampment. “Probably, there is no government on earth, except our own, that would have dared try the experiment. I am confident there is no other in which such trial would be safe.”

These were not the words of realists trying to come to grips with a bloody and divisive war, nor those of militarists with a present-day political agenda. The members of the Grand Army had no such words in their vocabulary. Instead, the spoke the language of monuments.

[Logan announced] that “that the late war between the American States was the legitimate climax of several cooperating forces.” The North American continent, he wrote, was reserved for European civilization through “a marvelous ordering of events.” The Revolution, though it “arrested the attention of the world,” was actually the product of trends dating back “forty centuries.”

The Civil War, by removing the blot of slavery, had rendered the Declaration of Independence “the Magna Carta of all mankind, destined to last while the human race endures.” The main threat to [Logan’s] yeoman’s paradise was “class distinction,” both in the slaveholding South and at “aristocratic” West Point . . . [and] argued that the Southern slave system had been the legitimate child of monarchy.” Once cured, the country presumably could return to its pristine state, provided that “class distinction” did not come back to ravage it.” To avoid that fate, Logan wrote, the “restrictive, inadequate, and wholly un-American” military academies need to be overhauled in the interests of democracy.”

(Glorious Contentment, the Grand Army of the Republic, 1865-1900; Stuart McConnell, UNC Press, 1992, excerpts, pp. 192-198)

 

The Gratification of a Favorite Passion

The mass immigration from Europe during the late antebellum years changed the social and cultural profile of the Northern States and deeply affected how that section viewed the new western territories, which they desired for expansion and free of a black population. Those immigrants being unfamiliar with the Anglo-Saxon culture, laws and traditions of their new home helped create a North which differed greatly with the South, and helped create two distinct sections that would either separate, or come to blows.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Gratification of a Favorite Passion

“The more Southerners viewed their own civilization the more they feared the dangers of its disintegration by the infiltration of Northern radicalism and its actual overthrow by continued Northern agitation and outright attack. They shuddered at the thought that they should ever by forced to embrace Northern ways.

The deluge of immigrants with their strange and dangerous ideas had made of Northerners another race. Even basically, it was held, Northerners and Southerners were of different origins. It was the open-hearted Cavalier against the tight-fisted Puritan of the North – “the advocate of rational liberty and the support of authority, as against the licentiousness and morbid impulse of unregulated passion, and unenlightened sentiment. “

As William H. Russell put it, Southerners believed that the “New Englander must have something to persecute, and as he has hunted down all his Indians, burnt all his witches, and persecuted all his opponents to the death, he invented abolitionism as the sole resource left to him for the gratification of his favorite passion.”

In the North, there was corruption in State and municipal governments; the rulers were King Numbers, agrarian mobs, lawless democracies, black and red Republicans. There were overgrown grimy cities filled with crime and poverty. Beggars were everywhere – not like the South where an Englishman had spent six months and could say, “I never saw a beggar.”

There was free-soilism, abolitionism, freeloveism, Fourierism, Mormonism, a fanatical press “without honor or modesty,” free thought and infidelism, “intemperance and violence and indecorum” of the clergy . . . Northerners were a people whose wisdom is paltry cunning, whose valor and manhood have been swallowed up in corruption, howling demagoguery, and in the marts of dishonest commerce.

Capital and labor were in perpetual conflict; there was neither the orderly relation which existed between master and slave nor the social security the slave possessed. There was likely to be a violent social upheaval, not unlike the French Revolution, and the South did not care to be a part of the country undergoing it. The Southerner wanted his own country, one that he could love and take pride in.”

(A History of the South, Volume VII, The Confederate States of America, 1861-1865, E. Merton Coulter, LSU Press, 1950, excerpts, pp. 11-13)

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