Browsing "Bringing on the War"

Sumter: The Republican Party’s Salvation

Clearly, the immediate cause of war in 1861 was the Republican Party. Rather than pursue compromise in the Peace Conference led by former President John Tyler, or follow former President James Buchanan’s [and Kentucky’s] suggestion of solving the issues in a National Convention of the States, the turbulent party of Lincoln chose “party over country” and plunged the country into a destructive war which claimed the lives of a million people, and sacrificed the Constitution to a military dictatorship.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Sumter: the Republican Party’s Salvation

“After the failure of the Crittenden Compromise, Kentuckians refused to call it an ultimatum. They seemed to have felt that if an earthquake should swallow up the State it would not be more disastrous to them than disunion and civil war. They, therefore, responded with alacrity to the Virginia summons for a Peace Conference.

Unfortunately, the delegations from the northern States were made up of carefully picked “not-an-inch” Republicans, and the Peace Conference made no headway toward conciliation.

In the meantime, the Kentucky Legislature suggested the calling of a great national convention freshly elected by the American people, to deal with the subjects in controversy as became a free, intelligent and enlightened people. Kentucky did not want the Union to be broken in the “mortar of secession to be strung together on a rope of sand”, but neither did she want a higher law than the Constitution of the United States interpreted by the Supreme Court to be set up by a Republican minority.

However, the reinforcement of Fort Sumter directly brought on a so-called disturbance of the public peace and a call for 75,000 troops was thus substituted for the call of a National Convention. Of course, it was obvious after the spring elections that the non-compromising Republicans could secure only a minority of the delegates to such a Convention freshly elected by the people.

Moreover, the calling of such a convention would have been a substantial admission on the part of the Republican leaders that they, themselves, were not representative of the nation and that their argument in favor of a sectional control of the national government was invalid.

In other words, the calling of a National Convention would have amounted to an admission that the Republican party leaders were wrong in the premises – not on the slavery question, but on their advocacy of a sectional control of the national presidency. Lincoln’s statement that if [Major Robert] Anderson came out of Sumter, he, himself, would have to come out of the White House, was doubtless a correct estimate of the effect a withdrawal of troops from Sumter and the calling of a National Convention would have had on the political fortunes of the sectional Republican party.

It can be readily understood just why Republican party politicians would prefer the reinforcing of Sumter to the calling of a National Convention. An appeal to the brain of the nation meant the party’s annihilation, while an appeal to the brawn of the north meant the party’s salvation.”

(The Peaceable Americans of 1860-1861: A Study in Public Opinion, Mary Scrugham, Columbia University Press, 1921, excerpts pp. 111-113)

 

Lincoln’s Minority Government

Voter turnout in 1860 presidential election was 81.2%, the largest to that date. Lincoln won the Electoral College with only 39% of the popular vote – all in Northern States and the emerging West. Due somewhat to the split in the Democratic Party, his victory, refusal to compromise and constitutional usurpations led to a devastating war and political upheaval from which the country has yet to recover.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Lincoln’s Minority Government

“In view of the fact that three-fifths of the American people voted against Lincoln, and that probably more than four-fifths of the American people preferred compromise to civil war or to a dissolution of the Union, it is important to note that Lincoln based his attack upon secession and refusal to acknowledge it as one of the rights of a State upon the fact that secessionists were not a majority, but a minority of the American people.

“If the minority,” he said, “will not acquiesce, the majority must, or the government must cease. There is no other alternative; for continuing the government is acquiescence on one side or the other. If a minority in such case secede rather than acquiesce they make a precedent which in turn will divide and ruin them: for a minority of their own will secede from them whenever a majority refuses to be controlled by such a minority.”

This is a very true statement.

A majority had voted against Lincoln and a majority had wanted compromise, while Lincoln, representing a minority, refused to accede to the wishes of the majority. It was perfectly true that the majority of the nation were opposed to secession or the breaking up of the nation, but they were in favor of preserving the national unity, not by war, but by the time-honored method of conciliation.

It is highly probable that a majority of Americans believed that Lincoln’s above statement applied to the secessionist per se minority – because a majority of American voters did not know then, and do not know now, that a man can be legally elected President when a vast majority have voted against him.”

(The Peaceable Americans of 1860-1861: A Study in Public Opinion, Mary Scrugham, Columbia University Press, 1921, excerpts pp. 85-86)

 

The Gist of the Matter

The cause of the War Between the States was the Republican Party. This party fielded its first purely sectional presidential candidate in 1856, and only five years later elected, with a bare plurality, such an objectionable president as to drive several States to independence. After launching total war against the States desiring independence, and in the face of dwindling enlistments to fight his war, Lincoln resorted to William Seward’s view of the South’s internal vulnerability. Lincoln’s proclamation mimicked Lord Dunmore’s in 1775, and Vice-Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane’s in 1814, and for the same purpose: to emancipate slaves and to enslave free men.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The Gist of the Matter

“Given secession as a fact, the gist of the matter was then: “Were the northern people willing either to sacrifice the union or to engage in civil war (accepting force as an essential principle of government for the South), for the sake of making a declaration in favor of freedom in the Territories where freedom was to exist anyway by the law of nature?”

Thus, the northern people were called upon to consider not only whether they were in favor of a declaration of freedom for the Territories, but also, to decide how badly they wanted to make such a declaration.

The Republican platform contained a “rotten plank” on the main point at issue, namely, what the party would do in case of secession. This plank consisted in a quotation from the Declaration of Independence in regard to the inalienable rights of man, and to a government’s deriving its just power from the consent of the governed.

This quotation was incorporated to gain the allegiance of the abolitionists whom Lincoln had held out hopes to in the House-Divided speech and whom Seward had catered to in his “Irrepressible Conflict” oration. It was understood to have reference to including the Negroes within the scope of the liberty mentioned among the inalienable rights of man.

Furthermore, the “rotten” planks use of the words of Andrew Jackson in regard to the preservation of the union of the States . . . [suggesting] the words “must and shall be preserved” in regard to the union of the States when South Carolina nullified the federal tariff law of 1832.

It so happened in 1860, a number of northern States had acts on their statute books, nullifying the federal fugitive slave law. Nullification and secession were both rights of a State according to the States’ Rights School of statesmen.

The references to the preservation of the union and the rights of the States in the Republican platform condoned the nullification of the northern States and at the same time condemned that of the southern States.

The Republican leaders sought to convince the northern voters that there would be no just cause for secession in the event of the election of a sectional president: that the Southern leaders were only bluffing and were trying to intimidate the northern voter into voting against the dictates of his conscience.

Seward, the author of the “Irrepressible Conflict” oration, explained that the South would never in a moment of resentment expose themselves to war with the North while they have such a great domestic population of slaves ready to embrace any opportunity to assert their freedom and inflict revenge.”

(The Peaceable Americans of 1860-1861: A Study in Public Opinion, Mary Scrugham, Columbia University Press, 1921, excerpts pp. 42-45)

John Brown’s Co-Conspirators

In the mid-1850s there appeared the political assassin who murdered the obscure and innocent rather than the mighty, as was often financed by the latter as an instrument for political purposes. The mighty who encouraged and financed John Brown included preacher Theodore Parker, physician Samuel Gridley Howe, manufacturer George Stearns, teacher Franklin Sanborn and millionaire Gerrit Smith. Add to this group Frederick Douglass, who fled to Canada rather than face trial for complicity in Brown’s crime.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

John Brown’s Co-Conspirators

“Meanwhile, John Brown passed on through to Ohio, continuing eastward and arriving in Boston, Massachusetts on January 4, 1857, where he first called on Franklin Sanborn, Secretary of the Massachusetts Kansas Aid Committee. Two days later he called on Amos Lawrence . . . who noted him to be, “a calm, temperate and pious man, but when aroused ifs a dreadful foe.”

Lawrence was sizing up Brown to ascertain his future usefulness, for Lawrence was both wealthy and influential.

Charles Howe invited influential activists and newspapermen to meet with John Brown in the offices of his Institute for the Blind . . . [where] Brown outlined his plans for leading a band of 100 Terrorists to “Fight for Exclusion in Kansas [Territory]” and “carry the war into [the homeland of bonded African Americans in the Southern States].”

During these days in Boston, Brown also met with Charles Howe, Thomas Higginson, George Stearns . . . Theodore Parker, but not all together at the same time, and thereby he kept some from knowing about the other’s involvement.

With Stearns sitting as Chairman and Sanborn as Secretary, the Massachusetts Kansas Aid Committee “voted to give John Brown control over the 200 Sharps rifles stored in the cellar of the minister, John Todd, in Tabor, Iowa, plus 4,000 ball cartridges and 31,000 percussion caps.” That same day, January 7, [reporter] James Redpath’s commendation of Brown appeared in the New York Tribune.

About this time Redpath took Brown to call on Charles Sumner [where] Brown admired the coat Sumner had been wearing during his caning at the hands of Preston Brooks. Then on January 11, Brown was a dinner guest of George Stearns and family at their home in Medford, Massachusetts. During the visit, Brown captivated George, his wife and children with tales of alleged attacks by settlers from the Southern States. From that point forward, George Stearn’s wife would often urge her husband to help finance Brown’s campaign.”

(Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced the American Civil War, Volume Two, the Demagogues; Howard Ray White, excerpts pp. 268-269)

The Revolution and the Rights of Man

Author John Keats argues that “the American Revolution was neither wholly American nor revolutionary,” and “represented the transatlantic evolution of European ideas whose origins were as old as Europe itself” – and territorial expansion. Add to this a poisonous mix of sharp-trading Puritans, pacifist Quakers and self-reliant Southern planters – “too many lumps of self-interest that simply would not melt” — and Jefferson’s borrowing and modifying phrases from Locke and Rousseau.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The Revolution and the Rights of Man

“The American Revolution was particularly dangerous to America and the world because the ostensible reason for fighting was to proclaim and protect the rights of man. Since these were seen to be natural and universal, the American Revolution was implicitly designed for export.

The Revolutionary veterans began to export it without waiting for their government’s approval. Within nine years after the war ended, there were no less than two hundred thousand Americans – one tenth of the national population – settled in the eastern Mississippi valley lands claimed by Spain.

To the Spanish, the newcomers were violent, armed revolutionary republicans. Worse, they were heretics who belonged to a race long inimical and dangerous to the Spanish one.

But the pursuit of [westward expansion] policies could not be undertaken by anything so weak and vague as the [Articles of Confederation]. Worse, the confederation was unable to exert any effective control over the scores of thousands of Americans who were taking land for themselves in the west.

Some of these self-reliant and self-confident, people, very much afire with Revolutionary ardor, were entertaining ideas of capturing New Orleans, invading Mexico, liberating people there from Spanish rule, and so extending the blessings of republican liberties to a people tyrannously denied their natural human rights.

The soberest of the leaders of the confederation were well-aware that the military power of the United States was non-existent, and that its political power were nearly so. [It was time] to weld thirteen separate republican States into a single military power that could control and protect its property.

The delegates succeeded in producing a powerful legal instrument to this end, but two years after the Constitution was adopted, a popular concern to protect the gains of the Revolution demanded that the other shoe be dropped: A Bill of Rights was tacked on. Once this was done, the Revolution was now legally ready for export, because the ostensible reason for going to Valley Forge was built into the law of the land. In defending [the Bill of Rights], the Americans would always be on the side of humanity.

The Revolutionary Americans, caught in the mystique of their own ardent rhetoric, believed this at the time, and many Americans have believed it ever since: what is good for Americans is good for anyone in the world; the world must be made safe for republican democracy whether the world liked it or not.

So the Constitution, as amended, was a document that first created a military power, and then in the names of God, natural law and human rights gave the people of the United States a sacred and legal command to use. It is not, therefore, a historical accident that in its 193-year history, the United States of American has engaged in more wars with more different people in more parts of the world than any other nation in the long history of man on earth.”

(Eminent Domain: the Louisiana Purchase and the Making of America, John Keats, Charterhouse, 1973, excerpts pp. 215; 217-218)

 

New World African Slavery

One of the first slave owners in the Virginia colony was African, Anthony Johnson, an Angolan indentured servant who became free in 1621 and later a successful tobacco farmer in Maryland. Massachusetts was the first colony in British America to legislate regarding slave status, captured and enslaved Pequot men, women and children, and was an active participant in the transatlantic slave trade which populated the American South, especially, with Africans. This source book is available online at www.Amazon.com, and via free download from www.southernhistorians.org.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

New World African Slavery

“In 1619 a ship arrived in Jamestown, Virginia colony with 20 indentured servants of African ancestry. Purchased by tobacco farmers, thus began the history of people of African ancestry living in what would become the United States of America.

But before long African laborers were purchased as bonded persons, slaves for life, and laws soon permitted owners to also own the children of their female slaves. Puritan Separatists began the northeastern colonies at Plymouth in 1620 and soon afterward joined the British and others in the trans-Atlantic slave trade business.

They sailed to African seaports, purchased Africans captured by rival tribes, brought them back across the Atlantic and sold them at New World seaports, including the 13 British colonies. Descendants of African ancestry living today are in the US are here, not Africa, because of this slave trade.

The 1810 census reported 1,304,151 people of noticeable African ancestry. Not all were slaves, for 97,284 were living in the Southern States as independent persons and 76,086 were living independently in the Northern States. Over the next 200 years, to 2010, the African American population grew 6,173 percent to 37,035,333. With few exceptions, these people are descended from the original 600,000.”

(Understanding the War Between the States, A Supplemental Booklet, Clyde N. Wilson, Howard White, et al, 2015, excerpts editor’s introduction, Chapter 10)

A “Forbidden Journey”

New Hampshire native President Franklin Pierce was well-aware of the increasing sectionalism pushing the South toward secession, and Northern States erecting laws in conflict with federal law. He would not countenance State obstruction of constitutional obligations while they remained within the Union. He also understood, as Lincoln seemed not to, that the comity of the States was the glue binding the Union together. Without this, the Union was at an end and brute force could not save it.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

A “Forbidden Journey”

“President Pierce’s affinity for the rule OF law in contrast to the rule BY law explains why such scorn has been heaped upon his presidency.

President Lincoln, had he complied with the rule of law and deferred to the U.S. Constitution on the issues of secession, the writ of habeas corpus, the blockade of Southern ports, etc., may have presided over the realignment of the Union, but he also would have placed the rule of law on a constitutional pedestal that would have constrained subsequent presidents from disregarding constitutional constraints in the quest for power.

But Lincoln’s claim to fame is not that he adhered to the rule of law, but that he had the audacity to disregard it.

Lincoln’s unfortunate legacy is that he destroyed American federalism by creating a coercive indissoluble Union. Consequently, the policy prerogatives of imposition, nullification, and secession are now placed beyond the grasp of the States. Nevertheless, the ever-expanding national government’s powers continued to occupy the efforts of the courts in post-bellum America.

A case in point is Justice [George A.] Sutherland’s opinion in Carter v. Carter Coal Company (1936) a case which stemmed from FDR’s expansion of national powers vis-à-vis the States Tenth Amendment police powers. Justice Sutherland articulates the anti-Lincoln premise that “The States were before the Constitution; and consequently, their legislative powers antedated the Constitution.”

To concede otherwise is to begin a “forbidden journey” through which the national government takes over the “powers of the States” and the States “are so despoiled of their powers” that they are reduced to “little more than geographical subdivisions of the national domain. It is safe to say that when the Constitution was under consideration, it had been thought that any such danger lurked behind its plain words, it never would have been ratified.”

Justice Sutherland’s logic is just as applicable today, with the qualification that the “forbidden journey” has progressed to where the national government may be so “despoiled of its powers” that it will be reduced to “little more than geographical subdivisions” of the international domain.

In conclusion, America is in trouble. With unmanageable public debt . . . and fiscal obligations in excess of one hundred trillion dollars, not to mention the cultural and political state of the Union, Americans continue to pay homage to the villains that laid the tracks to our present sorry state of affairs.”

(President Franklin Pierce and the War for Southern Independence, Marshall DeRosa; Northern Opposition to Mr. Lincoln’s War, D. Jonathan White, editor, Abbeville Institute Press, 2014, excerpts pp. 38-40)

 

Second Appomattox

Second Appomattox

“A visitor to the United States from abroad, ignorant of recent American history, might find himself perplexed by the fact that the further the War Between the States recedes into the past, the larger it looms as the angry obsession of “progressive” Americans – the same people who insist that the country needs to “move on” from one thing or another (usually something that makes progressives uneasy).

The latest round of progressive outrage sparked by the continued presence anywhere of monuments to the Confederacy suggests that what progressives want is not the total absence of those monuments, or a formal apology (but from whom?) for slavery and the CSA, but a Second Surrender staged at the famous McLean House, perhaps with Attorney General Sessions taking the role of Lee and Loretta Lynch playing the part of Grant.

The progressive crusade to extend a war that concluded 152 years ago into the present (and, no doubt, into the future) is probably less an exercise in reimagining and rewriting history to suit the left’s purposes than its tacit, implicit admission that the reality of 21st century America is an insufficient Mordor to justify their dire indictments of it, an unworthy target on which to train their biggest ideological guns.

In other words, progressives have, realistically speaking, no great encompassing Evil to oppose in their day as the Abolitionists of the antebellum period did, no monster to slay at the conclusion of a noble crusade. No imaginable microaggression is a satisfactory substitute for black chattel slavery, nor is the observation by the secretary of health and human services that poverty is (among other things) a state of mind.

Though [Dr. Ben] Carson did not think to mention the fact, poverty in America today is a mental state not just of the material poor, but the ideological poor as well. The urge to refight in the 21st century the war of 1861-65 is explained, first and foremost, by the ideological and political impoverishment of the American left today.”

(Second Appomattox, Chilton Williamson, Jr., Chronicles Magazine, July 2017, pg. 8; www.chroniclesmagazine.org)

Hamilton Envisions an American Pericles

Hamilton and Washington both foresaw ways in which future demagogues would undermine the Constitution by usurping powers reserved to other branches, and leading the country into war to hold onto power and increase their wealth. The usurper would be Lincoln, who wielded the power of an absolute dictator between April and July 1861, and by the time Congress had assembled in the latter month, could arrest and imprison anyone as he launched a ruinous and bloody war upon his own people.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Hamilton Envisions an American Pericles

“The Founders all knew war first hand; war on American soil, with a full third of their own countrymen against them, often in arms alongside the enemy. They built into their [Constitution] machinery to handle treason and rebellion. But they knew that crisis and war were favorite tools of demagogues. Hamilton reminded his readers of “the celebrated Pericles,” leader of Athens, motivated by fear and pique, who led his nation into a bloody and ruinous war to save his own political skin and to escape economic damage he had helped visit upon the state.

Hamilton saw that a leader who took America into war could use the circumstance to rob her of cherished liberties: “The violent destruction of life and property incident to war, the continual effort and alarm attendant on a state of continual danger, will compel nations the most attached to liberty to resort to repose and security to institutions which have a tendency to destroy their civil and political rights. To be more safe, they at length become willing to run the risk of being less free.”

“If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, Washington wrote, “let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit, which the use can any time yield.”

In Washington’s “Farewell Address,” the connection between perpetual voluntary union, and obedience to the Constitution, is explicit. His prayer for the country, he said, was “that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free Constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained.”

The cult of the union, as it evolved in the Civil War era, identified “liberty” and “union” as essentially identical. But to the Founders, “liberty” was tied to the balance of powers they had carefully woven into the Constitution: “Liberty itself will find in such a government, with powers properly distributed and adjusted, its surest guardian.” Washington wrote.

A little-known fact of the Constitution is that two of the largest States — Virginia and New York – made the right to withdraw from the union explicit in their acceptance of the Constitution. And in such an agreement between parties as is represented by the Constitution, a right claimed by one is allowed to all.”

(The Legality of Secession, excerpts, www.etymonline.com)

 

The Seeds of Sectionalism and War

Both Jefferson and Hamilton recognized that sectionalism had been a part of American politics since colonial days, and the emerging West was adding a third section to the political landscape. The political problem facing Federalists and Republicans was “how to win the allegiance of the absconding swindlers, murderers, fugitive slaves, bankrupts, brigands and failures” who settled the wild areas of the West. And certainly those Westerners would give their political allegiance to whomsoever got them what they wanted. Therein lay the seeds of future war.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The Seeds of Sectionalism and War

“[Jefferson] saw that factions were forming in the United States, and the political parties were emerging. This was something the Founding Fathers had not envisioned when they wrote and agreed upon the Constitution. But it was clear enough to Jefferson that, on one side, there was a Federalist Party, led by Hamilton.

This party, he felt, had made a virtual prisoner of Washington . . . and was hiding behind his prestige to effect its nefarious scheme of converting the United States into a monarchy for the specific benefit of Northern financiers. Hamilton, Jefferson somewhat wildly wrote, “was not only a monarchist, but for a monarchy bottomed on corruption.”

Jefferson saw the Federalists as aristocrats who were the enemies of natural law and the rights of man. They interpreted the Constitution to mean the Federal government could seize any rights not specifically denied it, in order to destroy liberty. They were hand in hand with the financiers of Great Britain, and their opposition to slavery was not humanitarian, but just a hypocritical way of seeking to undermine the economy, and hence the power, of the agricultural Southern States.

On the other side, in Jefferson’s view, there ought to be the “anti-Federalist” party, which would stand for strict construction and the rights of States in order to safeguard the rights of man. As he saw them, the anti-Federalists were those who feared the creation of a national bank as another Federalist plot to destroy these rights; they were the true revolutionaries, whereas the Federalists represented the forces of reaction.

As revolutionaries, the republicans were therefore the enemies of monarchical Great Britain and the friends of revolutionary France. If they believed in slavery, it was because – well, of course nobody could really believe in slavery; the South was at heart republican and of course someday slavery would be abolished, but not right now. It was not the time to raise that question: the times now demanded opposition to the anti-revolutionary Federalists.

The anti-Federalists should form a party.”

There was meanwhile a nation to govern – one whose destiny lay clearly in the West. Here, between the Appalachians and the Mississippi, were two-hundred thousand American settlers whose political opinions could be decisive. Both saw opportunities to speculate in western lands [but] both feared that the balance of political power might shift from the East Coast to these broad western lands with the swift growth of population there. It was a possibility that occurred to western politicians as well.”

(Eminent Domain: the Louisiana Purchase and the Making of America, John Keats, Charterhouse, 1973, excerpts pp. 242-244; 247-248)

 

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