Browsing "Bringing on the War"

Return to Original Principles

Below, Jefferson anticpates the constitutional crisis of the late 1850s and the need for the States to “arrest the march of government” which had been threatening its creators with military action since the days of Andrew Jackson. As he instructs, the solution to the crisis was a convening of the States to modify their agreement, not the agent warring upon a free people.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Return to Original Principles

“The [Supreme Court] judges are practicing on the Constitution by inferences, analogies, and sophisms, as they would on an ordinary law. They do not seem aware that it is not even a constitution, formed by a single authority, and subject to a single superintendence and control; but that it is a compact of many independent powers, every single one of which claims an equal right to understand it, and to require its observance.

However strong the cord of compact may be, there is a point of tension at which it will break. A few such doctrinal decisions . . . may induce [two or three large States] to join in arresting the march of government, and in arousing the co-States to pay some attention to what is passing, to bring back the compact to its original principles, or to modify it legitimately by the express consent of the parties themselves, and not by the usurpation of their created agents.

They imagine they can lead us into a consolidated government, while their road leads directly to its dissolution. (Jefferson to Edward Livingston, 1825; The Jefferson Cyclopedia, Funk & Wagnalls, 1900, page 191)

The Changed North

Well before 1860 the American experiment in government was severely fractured and the territorial Union split ideologically into two warring camps. The first shots of the coming war between them could be said to have been threatened over nullification in 1832, but open warfare was a reality by 1854 in Kansas. The North had changed greatly as it achieved a huge numerical advantage over the South, and its ascent to national power in 1860 with a mere 39% plurality gave it the political, military and financial control it craved. The North could have allowed the peaceful departure of the South, had it wanted.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Changed North

“An Anti-Slavery man per se cannot be elected; but a [protective] Tariff, River-and-Harbor [improvements], Pacific Railroad [subsidies]. Free Homestead [for immigrants] man, may succeed although he is Anti-Slavery.” Horace Greeley on the 1860 Republican Convention.

Ask any trendy student of history today and he will tell you that without question the cause of the great American bloodletting of 1861-1865 was slavery. Slavery and nothing but slavery. The unstated and usually unconscious assumption being that only people warped by a vicious institution could possibly fight against being part of “the greatest nation on earth.”

There is an even deeper and less conscious assumption here: malicious, unprovoked hatred of Southern people that is endemic in many American elements. Thus, according to the wisdom of current “scholars” no credit is to be given to anything that Southerners might say about their own reasoning and motives. They are all merely repeating “Lost Cause myths” to cover up their evil deeds.

One of Lincoln’s many deceptions was the claim that the Founders had intended to abolish slavery but had not quite got around to it. The Southerners of his time, thus, were rebelling against the true Founding by insisting on non-interference, while he and his party were upholding the settled understanding of the Founders.

James McPherson, perhaps the “leading” historian of today in regard to the Great Unpleasantness and no Southern apologist, along with many others, points out that it was the North that had changed by 1860. Now one may be glad, as McPherson is, that the North changed and triumphed with a new version of America, but to deny which side was revolutionary is merely dishonest.

Historians have devoted vast attention to the South, feeling it was necessary to explain where the South went wrong, find the source if the perversion that led it to a doomed attempt to escape the greatest country on earth. For, after all, “American” is the norm of the universe and any divergence is a pathology. But if it was the North that changed, ought our primary focus in understanding American history to be on why and how the north changed during the pre-war period?”

(The Yankee Problem, an American Dilemma, Clyde N. Wilson, Shotwell Publishing, 2016, excerpts, pp. 52-53)

 

Lincoln Revives a Dying Party

It was a commonly held opinion by 1860 that the western territories were not conducive to large plantation and the black labor required to make it economically feasible. It was Lincoln in his “House-Divided” speech who fanned the flames of sectional discord and set the South on its path toward political independence, and the North on its path to war. Washington in his farewell address warned of the dangers of sectionalism – the same that Lincoln and his party created and nourished.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Lincoln Revives a Dying Party

“The defeat of the slave-State constitution in Kansas made it certain that none of the land [Stephen] Douglas had opened to slavery north of 36-30 [latitude] would become slave. In view of the economic circumstances it was becoming more and more evident that unless the Republican party acquired new tenets there was no reason for continuing its organization.

[William] Seward, one of the leading lights of the party, and [Horace] Greeley, the leading editor of the party, were willing at this time to dissolve the party, but Lincoln was unwilling for the Republicans to disband their distinctive anti-slavery [expansion] organization and have nobody to follow but Douglas, who did not care whether slavery was “voted up or voted down.”

Accordingly, in his debate with Douglas, [Lincoln] had to supply additional material for the sustenance of his party’s life; for the time was rapidly approaching when it would become obvious to everybody that the extension of slavery into the territories had been checked permanently by prevailing economic conditions.

In order to win victory at the polls in 1858 it would be necessary for a Republican candidate not only to hold persons already enrolled in the moribund political organization, but also to gain recruits to the cause of prohibition of slavery in the territories by federal law.

The two groups from which new members could be drawn were the bona-fide abolitionists and the Henry Clay “Whigs” who had hitherto refused to enroll themselves in a sectional political party. The abolitionists supplied the soul of the anti-slavery movement of the North, but they had in general refused to vote for anybody who compromised on anything less than a declaration in favor of abolition of slavery in the slave States.

The Henry Clay Whigs of the North opposed further acquisition of territory which could be devoted to slavery but desired ultimate abolition of slavery only under conditions equitable to the South. They had most kindly feelings toward the Southern whites and like Clay they preferred the liberty of their own race to that of any other race, although they were no friends of slavery.

Lincoln so skillfully calculated the wording of his famous House-Divided speech that it won converts to his following from both sides of the above-mentioned groups. It carried water on both shoulders, so to speak, for it was so constructed that it was acceptable to both radicals and moderate conservatives. [The speech] contained bait for abolitionist consumption . . . and [it also] veils the radicalism . . . and makes of the whole what many Henry Clay Whigs even in the South hoped.

The idea presented . . . to the effect that the advocates of slavery intended to push slavery forward into the Northern States unless the system was checked . . . contained a powerful cement for amalgamating the heterogeneous elements of the North into one sectional party opposed to such extension. [Lincoln’s speech] was sufficiently nourishing to the party’s life to have “all free” enshrined as an ultimate ideal and to spread the idea that the South would be satisfied with nothing less than “all slave.”

(The Peaceable Americans of 1860-1861, A Study in Public Opinion, Mary Scrugham, Doctoral Dissertation, Philosophy, Columbia University, 1921, excerpts, pp. 18-21)

The Great Glacier of Conservative Thought

Author Clement Eaton wrote that “the decline of the tradition of nationality below he Mason and Dixon line which began in the decade of the 1830’s was one of the great tragedies of our history.” He asserted that despite the secession of the lower South, strong unionism survived in the upper South until Lincoln forced the issue at Fort Sumter. At that point the upper South was forced to either help invade their neighbors, or help defend their neighbors.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Great Glacier of Conservative Thought

“Beyond the wave of emotionalism that took South Carolina and later the other cotton States out of the Union lay a great glacier of conservative thought. From being the most liberal section of the nation in the period of Jefferson and Madison the Southern States had become one of the most conservative areas of civilized life in the world.

Moreover, the leaders of the South regarded this conservatism with pride as an evidence of a superior civilization, forming a balance wheel of the nation, a counterpoise to Northern radicalism.

The American Revolution and the French Revolution were led by radicals and opposed by conservatives. The secession movement of the South, on the other hand, was truly a conservative revolt in that the South would not accept the nineteenth century.

By 1860-1861 many invisible bonds which held the Union together had snapped – one by one. The division of the Methodist and Baptist churches in 1844-1845 . . . was prophetic of a political split. The great Whig party which had upheld the national idea so strongly had disintegrated; Southern students attending Northern colleges had returned home; and Northern magazines and newspapers were being boycotted in the South.

As Carl Russell Fish has observed, “The Democratic party, the Roman Catholic Church, the Episcopal Church, the American Medical Association, and the Constitution were among the few ties that had not snapped.”

The tensions between the North and the South had become so great that the admirable art of compromise, which had hitherto preserved the American experiment of democratic government, failed to function in 186-1861. Only in the border States was there a strong movement for conciliation. The evidence indicates that Lincoln and the Republican party leaders entertained serious misconceptions about the strength and nature of Union sentiment in the South. They were not disposed therefore to appeasement.

The leaders of secession in the lower South also were in no mood for compromise. Representative David Clopton of Alabama, for example, wrote . . . “Many and various efforts are being made to compromise existing difficulties and patch up the rotten concern. They will all be futile.” He declared that the general impression in Congress among all parties was that the dissolution of the Union was inevitable.

Nevertheless, there was much conservative sentiment in the lower South as well as in the border States which would have welcomed a compromise to preserve the Union . . . In the election of 1860 Georgia and Louisiana, as well as the States of the upper South, had given a majority of their popular vote to [John] Bell and [Stephen] Douglas, the Union candidates – a fact which indicated that the people of these States had no desire to follow the lead of the fire-eaters.

Undoubtedly man of those who voted for [John] Breckinridge, the candidate of Southern extremists although he himself was a Unionist, desired to remain in the Union if a settlement protecting Southern rights could be secured [from the Republicans].

Whatever chance there may have been for a compromise was frustrated . . . [as] The Republican members [of the Senate Committee of Thirteen] voted against . . . concession [regarding the Crittenden Compromise]. Perhaps the best avenue toward a compromise would have been a national convention [of States] which was proposed by President [James] Buchanan and others; but it was not seriously considered.

Some modern students of the Civil War have emphasized economic factors as the most important factors as the most important reason for secession and the subsequent outbreak of war. Charles A. Beard minimizes slavery as a cause of the conflict and interprets the Civil War as produced by the struggle between rival industrial and agricultural societies to control the Federal government for their selfish economic ends.”

(A History of the Southern Confederacy, Clement Eaton, Macmillan Company, 1954, excerpts, pp. 11- 17)

War with Mexico and a Million Dead Gringos

As it did before and during the war several times, the South promoted compromise to maintain peace between the sections – and had the new Republican Party been interested in true compromise and saving the Union, there might have been a Compromise of 1861. The author below traces the thread that led to war, though secession of the American South did not cause war – it did cause the North to choose war and conquest.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

War with Mexico and a Million Dead Gringos

“Even before the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo had been ratified, the Texas legislature on March 14, 1848, created Santa Fe County, which included almost all of New Mexico east of the Rio Grande. Military and civil officials in New Mexico were anxious to prevent the region from coming under Texas jurisdiction.

[Newly-elected President Zachary Taylor] was forthright in his statements regarding the Texas claim . . . and issued orders to the army to prevent county organization of New Mexico by the Texans. Southerners became so incensed that they were threatening to join the Lone Star State in secession if New Mexico east of the Rio Grande was not given to Texas.

Governor Peter H. Bell of Texas convened the legislature there in special session in August 1850 . . . and told [them] that they must meet the federal impediment “boldly, and fearlessly and determined. Not by further supplications or discussion . . .; not by renewed appeals to their generosity and sympathy . . . but by action . . . at all hazards and to the last extremity.”

This attitude was seconded by other Southerners; Alexander Stephens of Georgia declared in a speech before the House of Representatives that the first federal gun fired on Texas officials would be a signal for “free men” from the Delaware [River] to the Rio Grande to rise up against the Union. Taylor remained adamant, however; to such talk he crisply replied, “Disunion is treason.”

Fortunately for the nation the “Old Giants” were still active in Congress: Clay, Calhoun and Webster. Clay called for a compromise in a speech on January 29, 1850. California would enter as a free State; New Mexico would be given separate territorial status; Texas would be paid $10,000,000 for ceding its claim to New Mexico, thereby allowing it to pay its debts; and Utah would be given territorial status. Clay’s proposal met bitter debate, perhaps the most bitter in the history of Congress.

By September 5 all the measures proposed by Clay had been passed. Lumped together, these measures were called the Compromise of 1850 [and without] a doubt they preserved the Union and postponed civil war for a decade. But they killed the Whig Party . . . made . . . war almost inevitable [and led to the doctrine of popular sovereignty just four years later when the Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed.

Perhaps it is cold comfort to dismembered Mexico, but the “Mexican Cession” led in the next two decades to the death of a million gringos, as well as to sectional hatreds that persist to the present.”

(North America Divided, The Mexican War, 1846-1848, Seymour V. Conner & Odie B. Faulk, Oxford University Press, 1971, excerpts, pp. 173-176)

They Have Made a Nation

Lincoln appointed no one to his cabinet who were familiar with Southern sentiment or sensitivities – an act which might have avoided a collision and perhaps have truly “saved the Union.” The Republican Party won the contest and would not be denied the fruits of victory no matter the cost. Charles Francis Adams was appointed minister at London by Lincoln, somewhat appropriate as Adam’s grandfather himself viewed the presidency as monarchical. More important, Adams was a Republican politician with little regard for the American South or its concerns within the Union.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

They Have Made a Nation

“For the post at London Lincoln had made one of his best appointments. As a boy [Charles Francis Adams] had witnessed stirring events in Europe; in the company of his mother he had taken the long and arduous winter journey by carriage from St. Petersburg to Paris to join his father John Quincy Adams. Passing through the Allied lines, he reached Paris after Napoleon’s return from Elba.

By 1861 he had served as legislator in Massachusetts, had become prominent as a leader of the “conscience” Whigs and the Free-Soilers, and had achieved the position of an influential leader of the national House of Representatives where his main contribution was as a moderate Republican earnestly engaged in the work of avoiding war.

Though depressed at the nomination of Lincoln, whom he never fully admired, he accepted appointment as minister to England and gave of his best as a loyal servant of the Lincoln administration.

Through all the diplomatic maneuvers there ran the central question of recognition of the Confederacy and the related questions of mediation, intervention and the demand for an armistice. Had the South won on any of these points, victory would have been well-nigh assured. By September of 1862 [Lord] Palmerston and Russell’s deliberations had reached the point where, in view of the failures of McClellan and Pope and the prospects of Lee’s offensive, Palmerston suggested “an arrangement upon the basis of separation” (i.e., Southern victory); while Russell, the foreign minister, wrote in answer that his opinion the time had come “for offering mediation . . . with a view to the recognition of the independence of the Confederates.”

[Just] at this juncture there came a bombshell in the speech of the chancellor of the exchequer, W.E. Gladstone, at Newcastle (October 7) in which he said:

“Jefferson Davis and other leaders of the South have made an army; they are making, it appears, a navy; and they have made what is more important than either, — they have made a nation . . . We may anticipate with certainty the success of the Southern States so far as regards their separation from the North.”

(The Civil War and Reconstruction, James G. Randall, D.C. Heath & Company, 1937, pp. 461-462; 468-469)

Those Responsible for Secession

It is said that the shooting conflict between North and South had begun in Kansas in the mid-1850s, and the movement of John Brown’s violent revolution eastward had dark consequences.  He and others provoked many Southern States into secession from a political union that no longer benefited them — but war to keep those States in that union was commenced by Lincoln.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Those Responsible For Secession

“[John] Brown talked freely, too freely for the benefit of his friends and supporters, who were quickly identified when his papers were found. They were to set the South aflame when they were made public, for they showed clearly that Brown had not been alone in what might otherwise have seemed like a mad scheme to incite slave insurrection single-handed. Noted Northern men had supplied him with money and moral support. Many of them had only a vague idea of what he intended to do, for he was very secretive about his plans.

Southerners learned only that such men as George L. Stearns, Samuel Gridley Howe, Theodore Parker, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, F.S. Sanborn (all from Massachusetts), and Gerrit Smith of New York had actively given aid to a man who had invaded Virginia with fire and sword; then they read in the newspapers that Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson (also from Massachusetts) were openly praising Brown. The prairie fire which had been lighted was to scorch an entire nation, destroying, maiming and killing in the North and South alike.”

(Robert E. Lee, The Man and Soldier, Philip Van Doren Stern, Bonanza Books, 1963, page 114)

The Party of Slave Insurrections

That John Brown was encouraged, armed and financed by wealthy Northern supporters, and the torrent of Northern sympathy that followed his hanging, convinced Southerners that there was no peaceful future with neighbors who would unleash race war upon them.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Party of Slave Insurrections

“Then John Brown, after raising a considerable sum of money in Boston and elsewhere and obtaining a supply of arms, on Sunday, October 16, 1859, started on his mission. With a force of seventeen whites and five negroes, he captured the arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, expecting the slaves to rise and begin the massacre of the white slaveholders. The military was able to prevent that, and Brown was tried and executed. Then, throughout the North, John Brown was said to have gone straight to heaven – a saint!

In the Senate, Stephen A. Douglas, pursuant to the Constitution, introduced a bill to punish those people who seek to incite slave insurrections. “Abraham Lincoln, in his speech at New York City, declared it was a seditious speech” – “his press and party hooted at it.” “It received their jeers and jibes.” (See page 663, Stephen’s Pictorial History).

Then came the election of President. The party of negro insurrections swept the Northern States. The people of the South had realized the possible results. With the people and the State governments of the North making a saint of a man who had planned and started to murder the slaveholders – the whites of the South – and the Northern States all going in favor of that party which protected those engaged in such plans, naturally there were in every Southern State those who thought it best to guard against such massacres by separating from those States where John Brown was deified.

When the news came that Lincoln was elected, the South Carolina Legislature, being in session, called a State Convention. When the Convention met, it withdrew from the Union. In its declaration it said: “Those States have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection. For twenty-five years this agitation has been steadily increasing, until now it has secured to its aid the power of the common government.”

[In late August 1862] . . . Lincoln thought that by threatening to free the negroes at the South he might help his prospects in the war. There were those [in Chicago] who deemed it a barbarity to start an insurrection of the negroes. The French paper at New York said: “Does the Government at Washington mean to say that, on January 1, it will call for a servile war to aid in the conquest of the South? And after the negroes have killed all the whites, the negroes themselves must be drowned in their own blood.”

Charles Sumner in his speech at Faneuil Hall said of Southern slaveholders: “When they rose against a paternal government, they set an example of insurrection. They cannot complain if their slaves, with better reason, follow it.” And so the North was for the insurrection! It was feared that the Government would not seek to prevent John Brown insurrections, and the better to guard against them, the cotton States withdrew from the Union.”

(A Southern View of the Invasion of the Southern States and War of 1861-65, Captain S.A. Ashes, Raleigh, NC, 1935, pp. 46-47)

Those Who Would Dissolve the Union

Abolitionist agitation over the presence of African slavery in the South created the crisis of the Union, and clearly the South only wanted the provisions of the United States Constitution enforced. It should be added that not once was a practical and reasonable scheme of compensated emancipation advanced by abolition societies — only war and destruction satisfied their moral indignation.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Those Who Would Dissolve the Union

“Mr. Randolph thought and expressed the opinion to Mr. [James] Buchanan, that the Anti-Slavery agitation in the North was the only thing that had prevented the passage of a law in the Southern States for gradual emancipation [of slaves].

When the agitation was fairly inaugurated the legitimate uses of the Post-office Department were perverted from their end by packing the mails full of incendiary documents urging our slaves to servile insurrections. General [Andrew] Jackson, on December 2, 1835, recommended that a penalty should be attached to the dissemination of these documents. A bill to restrict the circulation of incendiary matter was introduced and defeated June 8th, by 19 to 25 votes. Not a single New England senator voted for General Jackson’s measure.

From the [Northern] State legislatures, the press, the county meetings, the pulpit, the different societies, no matter what their object, the lecturers, and above all the abolitionists, came this downpour of petitions . . . and those who stood behind this mass of misinterpretation and invective presented it with insulting epithets and groundless accusations.

The petitions prayed for the dissolution of the Union, reviled it as a compact with hell, and left nothing unsaid which could insult a patriotic, law-abiding, humane gentleman from the South.

Daily the Southern men were called on to suspend the legislation of Congress needful to carry on the business of the country, in order to hear themselves insulted by petitions reviling them and their institutions.  The legislatures of several [Northern] States prohibited the rendition of fugitive slaves, and the master who demanded his [reciprocal] rights in these States risked his life doing so.

In this state of excitement the Thirty-First Congress met, to deliberate on the needs of the country; but instead, one party fulminated curses and abuse, and the other, under a sense of insult, repelled it with indignation; indeed, the Southern leaders came at last to the conclusion that no people on earth were so alien to them at heart as those who wielded unlawful weapons against them, under the same flag and the same Constitution.

The country was full of English emissaries sent out be the committees of Exeter Hall, who, knowing nothing of either the free men of the South or their slaves, were hired to break up the public peace and amity by those who forgot that their miners and their ten-year old white slaves, harnessed to the coal carts in the depths of the earth, had not excited their attention or appealed so earnestly to their sympathies as did the comfortable Negroes of the South, whose children at that age were as free as air.”

(Jefferson Davis, A Memoir By His Wife Varina Davis, Volume I, N&A Publishing, 1990, pp. 419-422)

 

 

The Cause of America’s New Version

The seemingly settled question today is that the American South withdrew from the Union because of a desire to perpetuate African slavery, and that no other issues of that period in our history ought to be considered. And beyond this settled question, Southerners who attempt any favorable motives to their ancestors are “merely repeating Lost Cause myths” to cover up their evil intent of their ancestors. The author below recommends investigating any mythology created by the winning side.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Cause of America’s New Version

“Set aside that the question of causation in history is a complex one, to say the least. Still it is true that historians of other generations, of vastly greater breadth of learning than most of today’s, ascribed other “causes” to t most critical event in American history: clash of economic interests and cultures, blundering politicians, irresponsible agitators. There is a bit of sleight-of-hand along with today’s false assumptions.

Even if slavery may have in some simplistic and abstract sense “caused” the secession of the first seven Southern States, it does not establish that it “caused” the war. The war was caused by the determination of Lincoln and his party to conquer the Southern States and destroy their legal governments.

Caused, one might say by Northern nationalism – nationalism being a combination of romantic identification with a centralized state and interest in a unitary economic market. The war, after all, consisted in the invasion and conquest of the South by the U.S. government. A very simple fact that most Americans, it would seem, are unable to process, along with the plain fact that Northern soldiers did not make war for the purpose of freeing black people.

One of Lincoln’s many deceptions was the claim that the Founders had intended to abolish slavery but had not quite got around to it. The Southerners of his time, were rebelling against the true Founding by insisting on non-interference, while he and his party were upholding the settled understanding of the Founders.

James McPherson, perhaps the “leading” historian of today in regard to the Great Unpleasantness and no Southern apologist, along with many others, points out that it was the North that had changed by 1860, while the South had remained attached to the original concept of the Union.

Now one may be glad, as McPherson is, that the North changed and triumphed with a new version of America, but to deny which side was revolutionary is merely dishonest.

Historians have devoted vast attention to the South, feeling it was necessary to explain where the South went wrong, find the source of the perversion that led to a doomed attempt to escape the greatest country on earth. But if it was the North that changed, ought our primary focus in understanding American history to be on why and how the North changed during the prewar period?”

(The Yankee Problem: An American Dilemma, Clyde N. Wilson, Shotwell Publishing, 2016, pp. 52-53)

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