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The American Revolution Reversed

The American Revolution Reversed

“In 1863 Abraham Lincoln declared in pseudo-biblical language that our forefathers had brought forth “a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” and that “we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.” Lincoln at Gettysburg committed a quadruple lie that has since become standard American doctrine about the Revolution.

First, what was created in 1776 was not a nation but an alliance. At that time there was not even the Articles of Confederation. Second, he elevated the bit of obiter dicta about equality above the Declaration’s fundamental assertion of the right of societies of men to govern themselves by their own lights, attaching a phony moralistic motive to the invasion and conquest of the South – what [historian Mel] Bradford called “the rhetoric of continuing revolution.”

Third, Lincoln was not engaged in preserving the Union. The Union was destroyed the moment he had undertaken to overthrow the legitimate governments of 15 States by force. He was establishing the supremacy of the government machinery in Washington, which he controlled, over the many self-governing communities of Americans.

Fourth, he cast the Revolution in a mystical way, as if the forefathers had met on Mount Olympus and decreed liberty. But governments, even of the wisest men, cannot decree liberty. The Americans were fighting to preserve the liberty they already had through their history, which many saw as a benevolent gift of Providence. The American Revolution was reversed, its meaning disallowed, and its lesson repudiated.

Did not Jefferson Davis have a better grasp of the Revolution when he said that Southerners were simply imitating their forebears, and that the Confederacy “illustrates the American idea that government rests upon the consent of the governed?

Lincoln could launch a war against a very substantial part of the people. To this end he was willing to kill 300,000 Southerner soldiers and civilians and even more of his own native and immigrant proletariat. The crackpot realist General Sherman said it well: “We are now in the enemy’s country, and I act accordingly . . . The war will soon assume a turn to extermination, not of soldiers alone, that is the least part of the trouble, but the people.”

Clearly, the government, the machinery controlled by the politicians in Washington, who had been chosen by two-fifths of the people, now had supremacy over the life and institutions of Americans.”

(Society Precedes Government: Two Counterrevolutions, Clyde N. Wilson, Chronicles, April 2015, excerpts pp. 17-18) www.chroniclesmagazine.org

The Meaning of Freedom

The author below writes that in early postwar South Carolina, slave “desertion on . . . plantations became increasingly frequent . . . to enjoy the freedom the Yankey’s have promised the Negroes.” Rather than remain with the people and place they had known most if not all their lives, domestic Patience Johnson told her mistress that “I must go, if I stay here I’ll never know I am free.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The Meaning of Freedom

“Christmas Day, 1865, saw many South Carolina plantations entirely deserted by their Negro populations. After visiting the plantation of a relative on February 9, 1866, the Reverend John Hamilton Cornish reported that, “Not one of their Negroes is with them, all have left.”

Like many domestics, most of those field hands who remained . . . were very old, very young or encumbered. The mistress of the Ball plantation in Laurens District recalled . . . at end of 1865 “many of the Negroes sought employment on other places, but the least desirable stayed with us, for they could not easily find new homes and we could not deny them shelter.”

Large numbers of agricultural laborers left their native plantations during the Christmas season to camp in a neighboring village while they searched for an employer. Employment, however, was not always easily found. David Golightly Harris, visiting Spartanburg on New Year’s Day, 1866, “saw many Negroes enjoying their freedom by walking about the streets & looking much out of sorts . . . Ask who you may “What are you going to do,” & their universal answer is “I don’t know.”

Augustine Smythe found much the same conditions prevailing in . . . the Orangeburg District. “There is considerable trouble & moving among the Negroes,” he reported. “They are just like a swarm of bees all buzzing about & not knowing where to settle.”

Apparently, many freedmen were driven to return to their old places by economic necessity. Isabella A. Soustan, a Negro woman who had somehow found freedom in a place called Liberty, North Carolina, in July 1865, expressed her thoughts on the dilemma that many ex-slaves faced in their first year of emancipation. “I have the honor to appeal to you one more for assistance, Master,” she petitioned her recent owner. “I am cramped [here] near to death and no one [cares] for me [here], and I want you if you [please] Sir, to send for me.”

Some few freedmen were willing to exchange freedmen for security. “I don’t care if I am free,” concluded Isabella, “I had rather live with you, as I was as free while with you as I wanted to be.”

(After Slavery: The Negro in South Carolina During Reconstruction, 1861-1877, Joel Williamson, UNC Press, 1965, excerpts pp. 39-41)

Nov 18, 2018 - America Transformed, Costs of War, Economics, Lincoln's Grand Army, Lincoln's Revolutionary Legacy, Northern Culture Laid Bare, Northern Pensions    Comments Off on Congressional Demagogues and Conscienceless Profiteers

Congressional Demagogues and Conscienceless Profiteers

By 1890 the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), as a fraternal order of Northern veterans, had become not only indispensable to politicians for election victory, a guiding light for “correct” histories of the war in textbooks and a Northern view of American nationalism, but most importantly, a very powerful lobby for pensions.

In late January 1879, Congress passed the Arrears of Pension Act for Northern veterans who could collect past monies due for any claimed disability, which “placed a tremendous premium on deception and fraud.” Men who had an attack of fever while in the army persuaded themselves that every ill since being discharged was caused by that fever. By the time Grover Cleveland became president in 1885, the pension list had grown to 385,125 who drew more than $65 million annually from the public treasury, North and South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Congressional Demagogues and Conscienceless Profiteers

“It has ever been easy to arouse popular excitement upon the treatment of wounded or disabled soldiers, and this noble sentiment has been often played upon by designing men. Moreover, the Democratic party has always been compelled to deal with more than the usual caution with the question when it affected soldiers who served in the Federal ranks . . . as any unwillingness to pass pension bills for such soldiers was certain to be interpreted as reflecting sympathy for the lost cause.

For this reason Grover Cleveland, as he looked over the pension system of the nation of which he was chosen president, must have summoned all of his courage. To allow the [pension] scandals which had developed to pass unrebuked was impossible for a man with his views of the duty as a President; to attempt to end them was to bring down more abuse from his enemies in both political parties.

Under a just system of army pensions the maximum of expenditure on account of any war is reached within eight or ten years of its close. Thereafter death steadily diminishes the number of legitimate pensioners . . . In 1866 there had been 126,722 pensioners drawing from the public treasury, all told, about thirteen and a half million dollars annually. As the years passed these numbers increased until, in 1873, there were more than 238,000 names on the roll, which called for some $29,000,000 a year.

From that time mortality should have materially reduced the number of pensions; and if the congressional demagogues had kept their hands off, this would certainly have happened.

In his first annual message to Congress [Cleveland] used the words: “It is fully as important that the rolls should be cleansed of all those who by fraud have secured a place within, as that meritorious claims should be speedily examined and adjusted.”

Conscienceless profiteers, intent upon coining into gold a noble public sentiment, had adopted the practice of disregarding the decisions of the Pension Bureau, and taking spurious claims directly to Congress in the form of private pension bills, which dishonest manipulators or too sentimental patriots steered through, as secretly as the rules would allow. It was a practice safe as well as profitable, for few politicians dared to resist, lest they be regarded as unpatriotic.”

(Grover Cleveland: The Man and the Statesman, Volume I, Robert McElroy, Harper and Brothers, 1923, excerpts pp. 189-191)

Lincoln’s Legacy of Political Assassination

Lincoln’s array of assumed extra-constitutional powers is broad, and one was the authority to order the assassination of Jefferson Davis and his cabinet in early 1864. One could certainly envision Ford’s Theater as a retaliatory measure more than a year later, but that was clearly the work of Lincoln’s own radical opponents in his own party – eliminating him through political assassination.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Lincoln’s Legacy of Political Assassination

“The United States emerged from World War II militarily victorious but politically deformed. Instead of a republic, it was now a superpower with military and economic capabilities previously unimagined. In place of a constitutional government of limited powers and official accountability was a national-security regime of executive orders, the CIA, and plausible deniability.

Instead of “no entangling alliances,” the US government not only entered alliances, but created and fostered them . . . Instead of respecting the sovereignty of other nations, Washington subscribed to the messianic ideology of American Exceptionalism, the belief that the United States is politically and morally superior to other countries and, therefore, entitled to intervene in their domestic affairs.

Arguably, not since the Lincoln regime had the federal government usurped so much power or imbibed such a messianic doctrine. This shaped its foreign policy, which occasionally has been conducted less by diplomacy than by selective political assassination. Here, again, Lincoln provided a precedent.

By February 1864, Lincoln’s attempt to defeat the Confederacy – first by starving and bombarding Southern civilians, and later, by striving to foment a race war in the South – had failed. With antiwar sentiment growing and a presidential election looming in November, Lincoln desperately needed a major military victory. To that end, he authorized a cavalry raid on Richmond, Virginia, the capital of the Confederacy.

[The] raid’s ostensible goal was to rescue 1,500 Union officers incarcerated in Richmond and another 10,000 rank and file soldiers imprisoned on nearby Belle Isle. Taking part in this raid was Col. Ulric Dahlgren, son of Lincoln’s close friend Rear Admiral John Dahlgren.

The raid, which began as a comedy of errors, ended as a military fiasco. Among those killed by Confederate defenders was Colonel Dahlgren, on whose body was found an order describing the true purpose of the raid – “the city [Richmond] must be destroyed and Jeff Davis and [his] cabinet killed.”

Such an act would be entirely consistent with how Lincoln waged his war against the South. It is more than likely that an increasingly desperate and despondent Lincoln sought his reelection in the political assassination of his Confederate counterpart.

The precedent Lincoln established was adopted by the US government during the Cold War. Executing political assassinations is the responsibility of the CIA under the supervision of an oversight committee, called the Special Group . . . To ensure plausible deniability, the CIA often employs citizens of the targeted regime, frequently military officers, to perform the actual assassinations.

If the US government can assassinate foreign opponents by demonizing them as “terrorists” or supporters of terrorism, what is to prevent Washington from employing this tactic against domestic opponents? The process Lincoln began is now complete.”

(Lincoln’s Legacy: Foreign Policy by Assassination, Joseph E. Fallon, Chronicles, January 2003, excerpts pp. 50-51)

Homage to the Hounds

“The children owned a pretty little pet, a grey hound . . . Gathering up a stone, one of the soldiers watched his moment, and approaching the group where they were at play, suddenly dashed out the brains of the little dog, at the very feet of the children.”

William Gilmore Simms, Columbia, South Carolina, 1865

“We were determined that no dogs should escape, be it a cur, a rat dog, or bloodhound; we exterminated all. The dogs are easily killed. All we had to do was bayonet them.”

Col. Oscar Jackson, Sixty-third Ohio Volunteers, 7 March 1865

“It was pitiful to see the poor, half-starved cur go up to the men with almost melancholy countenance, as much to say: “I have seen better days but now am starving. Just let me go along, and I will be a good, dutiful dog.” Sometimes he gets a kick or a bullet for his confidence . . . As for the general run of these animals, they were relentlessly shot down.”

David Conyngham, reporter, New York Herald, February 1865

 

Homage to the Hounds

“You suffered too.

It was war on dogs as well –

On every living thing it seems:

Ages of mutual friendship

All are betrayed

In one fire-breathing

Dragon day.”

 

(Poems from Scorched Earth, James Everett Kibler, Charleston Press, 2001, page 5)

 

Virginia’s Killing Fields and War Profiteering

The immense carnage unleashed by Lincoln in 1861 led to Northern war-weariness by mid-1864 — and the suppression of liberties in the North had only increased opposition to his military regime. Lincoln’s war had unleashed another devil – war-profiteering. Historian James G. Randall wrote that “The relation of the War Department to the army on the one side and the contractors on the other is a sorry tale. Whether it was a matter of uniforms, food, horses, guns or munitions, the service was made to suffer while ill-gotten wealth was gathered in by shameless profiteers.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Virginia ‘s Killing Fields and War-Profiteering

By early June 1864, war-weary Northerners began to suspect that they had been betrayed by rosy promises of victory, just as they had been disappointed in every spring since 1861. They had been led to believe that the armies of Generals Grant and Sherman, in their combined offensives aimed at crushing the Confederacy, would finally achieve the triumph that had eluded Federal armies through three years of slaughter.

This time, Grant hurled 115,000 men across the Rapidan and attacked Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, a force only half as large but well entrenched behind elaborate defenses in the thicket of The Wilderness. Sherman led about 100,000 men out of Chattanooga, heading south to capture the railroad center of Atlanta . . .

As usual, the War Department sent forth cheerful bulletins about great “victories” and Northern newspapers blazoned headlines: “Glorious Successes – Lee Terribly Beaten.” “Our Army in Full Pursuit of the Enemy Towards Richmond.”

In fact, Secretary [of War Edwin] Stanton deliberately withheld the truth that Grant’s forces had suffered horrendous losses in the Wilderness, Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor battles and that they had finally moved across the James River to about the same place where General McClellan had been two years before.

In a few weeks of direct frontal attacks on Richmond’s defenses Grant lost more than 50,000 men – killed, wounded and missing – almost as many men as Lee had in his army. Other estimates of Union losses ran much higher. John Tyler, an officer with Lee’s staff, claimed that the total was 70,000.

“Grant has shown great skill and prudence combined with remorseless persistency and brutality,” Tyler commented.

Eventually the enormous casualties could no longer be concealed as the people read the lengthening lists of killed and wounded in their newspapers, and boatloads of maimed soldiers arrived at the Washington waterfront from the killing fields of Virginia.

Thurlow Weed observed a depressing scene in New York State: “Regiments are returning home worn, weary, maimed and depleted. Our cities and villages swarm with skulking, demoralized soldiers.” He also lamented that “there is a reckless, money-making spirit abroad which, profiting by our disasters, favors a long war.”

“The commercial metropolis of the Union is flushed with prosperity and riots in extravagance,” one newspaper found. Throughout the spring of 1864, the New York Times observed that speculation mounted madly, higher and higher. “It was openly proclaimed on the Street that too much could not be paid for railway shares or mining allotments, because the currency was going to the dogs.” War profiteers made a vulgar display of their ill-gotten wealth by wearing diamond-studded waistcoats and spending money freely on jewelry for their women, and riding in fancy carriages and entertaining with lavish parties in their expensive homes.

As far as wealthy pleasure-seekers were concerned, the war was only a dim and distant sound coming out of the South . . . They would not care if the war would go on for another year or so if they could keep their precious carcasses out of the army. They could hire their substitutes for a few hundred dollars each and let the Irish, Germans, and the freed slaves fill the ranks and endure the hardships of battle and risk their lives for the Union.”

(The Dark Intrigue: The True Story of a Civil War Conspiracy, Frank van der Linden, Fulcrum Publishing, 2007, excerpts, pp. 113-114)

 

Total War, Confiscation and Sheer Theft

Author Clyde Wilson asserts that “The triumph in 1861-65 of the Republican Party over the will of the American people and the invasion, destruction and conquest of the Southern States, like a foreign territory has somehow, strangely, gotten mixed up with the idea of government of, by and for the people.” The Republican president crowned his revolutionary actions with the creation of a nationalist mythology which we still live under today. The Union was preserved by Lincoln and his party in a territorial sense, but not the Founders’ Union.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Total War, Confiscation and Sheer Theft

“Another great moral cost of the War, as Richard Weaver pointed out, was inauguration by the Republicans of the “total war” concept, reversing several centuries of Western progress in restraining warfare to rules.

General Sherman himself estimated that in his march across Georgia and the Carolinas, only 20 percent of the destruction had any military value. The rest was sheer wanton terrorism against civilians – theft and destruction of their food, housing, and tools. One egregious example was the burning and sack of Columbia – a city which had already surrendered and was full of women and children and wounded soldiers – a looting which marked the emancipation of black women by their wholesale rape.

Along with destruction went immense confiscation and theft, much of it under cover of a Confiscation Act which was enforced without ever being legally passed. The Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives simply declared the bill passed and adjourned. This high-handed legislative practice continued throughout the War and Reconstruction.

The Republican Governor of Indiana suspended the legislature and acted as dictator for two years. Republicans continually agitated for an open dictatorship under Fremont or some other trustworthy Radical; all of this is known but seldom acknowledged.

In addition to the Confiscation Act, for rebel property there was a mechanism for the government to collect taxes in the occupied regions of the South to finance the War. At last $100,000,000 in cotton (the most valuable commodity in North America) was seized — $30,000,000 more or less legally under the confiscation and tax acts, the rest sheer theft. The rest was stolen by Republican appointees.

A Secretary of the Treasury commented that he was sure a few of the tax agents he sent South were honest, but none remained so very long. We know, for instance, of that great war hero Admiral [David] Porter, who with General [Nathanial] Banks was badly beaten by vastly inferior Confederate forces in the Red River campaign, yet emerged from that campaign with $60,000 worth of stolen cotton for his personal profit.

The confiscation and theft continued in full force until at least 1868; they did not end with the hostilities.”

(State Rights Revisited: War, Reconstruction and the End of the Union, Clyde N. Wilson; Defending Dixie, Essays in Southern History and Culture, Foundation for American Education, 2006, excerpts pp. 142-143)

Desperate War Measures of Dunmore, Cochrane and Lincoln

Lincoln’s desperation card of emancipation was played after it was clear the Southern States had no interest in rejoining the 1787 Union, and as Northern public opinion was building against the increasing carnage of his war. Lincoln abandoned the goal of preserving the Union and decided to follow the same strategy as Royal Governor Lord Dunmore in November 1775 – issue an emancipation proclamation to free slaves who would be loyal to the Crown and thus incite a cruel race war to win the war against American colonists. Another emancipation proclamation was issued in 1814 by Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane to strengthen British forces with freed black men during the War of 1812.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Desperate War Measures of Dunmore, Cochrane and Lincoln

“Well-intentioned, right-thinking people equate anyone who thinks that the South did the right thing by seceding from the Union as secretly approving of slavery. Indeed, such thinking has now reached the point where people from both sides of the political spectrum . . . want to have the Confederate Battle Flag eradicated from public spaces. These people argue that the Confederate flag is offensive to African-Americans because it commemorates slavery and thus should be prohibited from public display.

In the standard account, the Civil War was an outcome of our Founding Fathers’ failure to address the institution of slavery in a republic that proclaimed in its Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal.”

But was it really necessary to wage a four-year war to abolish slavery in the United States, one that ravaged half the country and destroyed a generation of American men? Only the United States and Haiti freed its slaves by war. Every other country in the New World . . . freed them peacefully.

The war did enable Lincoln to “save” the Union, but only in a geographical sense. The country ceased being a Union, as it was originally conceived, of separate and sovereign States. Instead, America became a “nation” with a powerful federal government.

Although it freed 4 million slaves into poverty, it did not bring about a new birth of freedom, as Lincoln and historians such as James McPherson and Henry Jaffa say. For the nation as a whole it did just the opposite: It initiated a process of centralization of government that has substantially restricted liberty and freedom in America, as historians Charles Adams and Jeffrey Rogers Hummel have argued.

The term “Civil War” is a misnomer. The South did not initiate a rebellion. Thirteen Southern States in 1860-1861 simply chose to secede from the Union and go their own way, like the thirteen colonies did when they seceded from Britain. A more accurate name for the war that took place between the Northern and Southern American States would be the “War for Southern Independence.”

Mainstream historiography presents the victors’ view, an account which focuses on the issue of slavery and downplays other considerations.

The rallying cry in the North at the beginning of the war was “preserve the Union,” not “free the slaves.” In his first inaugural address, given five weeks before the war began, Lincoln reassured slaveholders that he would continue to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act.

After 17 months of war things were not going well for the North, especially in its closely-watch Eastern Theater. Did saving the Union justify the slaughter of such a large number of young men? The Confederates posed no military threat to the North. Perhaps it would be better to let the Southern States go, along with their 4 million slaves. If it was going to win, the North needed a more compelling reason to continue the war than to preserve the Union.

Five days after the battle of [Sharpsburg], on Sept. 22, 1862, Abraham Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation . . . a war measure, as Lincoln put it.”

(The Economic Roots of the Civil War, Donald W. Miller, Jr., Liberty, October 2001, Volume 15, No. 10, excerpts pp. 42-43)

A Colossal Waste of Life

As evidenced by sergeants and lieutenants commanding Southern regiments in early 1865, the Northern war killed off the promising political and social leadership of the South. These men would have risen to positions of authority, achievement and genius had it not been for a war against their homes, State and country, which they died defending.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

A Colossal Waste of Life

“As we prepare for another slam-dunk cakewalk preemptive war, this time with Iran, it may be well to recall that the GOP had its origins in big government, which leads to, and thrives on, war. Only weeks after the first Republican president took office, the United States were at war against their estranged sister States,

It proved to be the bloodiest war in American history, consuming 600,000 young Americans [and not including another 400,000 American civilians, black and white]. Setting moral and political questions aside, we can really never know what was lost. How many of these young men, had they lived, would have blossomed into Edisons, Fords, Gershwins and other geniuses whose fruits we would still enjoy and profit from?

All we know is that the country was perpetually impoverished by this colossal waste of life. You never hum the tunes that never got written.

Nevertheless, we still celebrate – no, deify – the man brought on this horror by refusing to countenance the peaceful withdrawal of seven States. Of course Lincoln is chiefly honored for ending slavery. It’s a nice story, but it isn’t exactly true.

When the Confederacy was formed, so many Southern Democrats left both houses of the U.S. Congress that both the House and Senate were left with were left with Republican majorities. With this near-monopoly of power, the GOP – in those days, the GYP, I suppose – passed two “confiscation “ acts in 1861 and 1862, authorizing the seizure of any private property used to assist the “rebellion.”

These powers were so vaguely defined that they permitted limitless repression, such as the closing of newspapers critical of Lincoln’s war. In combination with Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus, anyone could be arrested for anything in the Land of the Free.

The 1862 act expressly declared slaves in the seceding State “forever free.” This was the real Emancipation Proclamation, but Lincoln was actually reluctant to act on it, doubting its constitutionality. For months the radical Republicans attacked him and egged him on, and finally he gave it effect in the most famous executive order of all time. He argued that in wartime he might take a punitive step that would be illegal during a time of peace.

Lincoln had other plans for ending slavery. He’d always thought it should be done gradually, with “compensation” to the slaveowners and the freed blacks to be encouraged to leave the United States. It was his conviction, repeatedly and openly stated, that though all men are created equal, abstractly speaking, the Negro – “the African,” he called him – could never enjoy political and social equality with the white man in this country; the black man would find his equality somewhere else, “without [i.e., outside] the United States.”

So Lincoln waged war to prevent the political separation of North and South, but in the hope of achieving racial separation between black and white. Both goals entailed vast expansions of federal and executive power. Limited government, anyone?

With its current Jacobin-Wilson zeal for spreading “democracy” around the globe, the Republican Party today is more or less back where it started. And once again, a Republican president is claiming wartime powers, under the Constitution, to act outside the Constitution.

Still, the myth persists that Lincoln lived his whole for the purpose of abolishing slavery, and was finally able to do this with a single inspired sovereign act. Like most historical myths, this one ignores all the interesting details. As Lincoln himself said, “I have not controlled events, but plainly confess that events have controlled me.”

(The Reluctant Emancipator, Joseph Sobran, Sobran’s, Volume 13, Number 8, August 2006, excerpts pg. 12)

Fighting and Dying in an Unjust War

Lincoln’s congress passed the Enrollment Act on March 3, 1863, also known as the Conscription Act of 1863. When New York Governor Horatio Seymour feared riots against the July draft in New York City, Lincoln’s Provost Marshal General James B. Fry refused any postponement. Fry’s behavior confirmed Democrat fears that the draft’s intent was to provoke a riot as an excuse for martial law and using federal troops to supervise and manipulate votes in upcoming elections.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Fighting and Dying in an Unjust War

“On the same day it passed the new draft law in March, Congress had authorized the suspension of habeas corpus throughout the United States, enabling the administration to detain political prisoners indefinitely without charges or any other due process of law. The draft law also empowered the secretary of war to create a police arm, the office of the provost marshal general, whose assistants scoured the country arresting deserters, spies, traitors, and other people deemed disloyal to the Northern war effort.

When criticized for suspending the writ of habeas corpus, Lincoln replied that the rebels and their agents in the North were violating every other law of the land and using constitutional protections – including freedom of speech and assembly – to shield their destructive, subversive activity.

During the spring of 1863, Democrats had warned that Lincoln was amassing dictatorial powers and the expanding central government was poised to wipe out what little remained of States’ rights. The draft, they said, was the ultimate expression of arbitrary federal power: the States’ role in raising troops had been supplanted, and individuals – those who could not afford a substitute – were to be coerced by the distant bureaucracies in Washington into fighting and dying in an unjust war.

[New York’s Governor Horatio Seymour] not only asserted that the draft law was unconstitutional, but complained, rightly, that the Republican administration and its newly-created Bureau of the Provost Marshal General had set disproportionately high [troop] quotas for New York City – which was predominantly Democratic.

Along with Horatio Seymour, Manton Marble’s New York World had fiercely denounced the arrest [of Democrat Clement Vallandigham in Ohio] and the central government’s “despotic power,” . . . “When free discussion and free voting are allowed, men are not tempted to have recourse to violence and relief of bad rulers,” the World asserted.

“You may stigmatize these irregular avengers as a “mob,” but there are times when even violence is nobler than cowardly apathy.”

The Devil’s Own Work: The Civil War Draft Riots and the Fight to Reconstruct America, Barnet Schecter, Walker Publishing, 2005, excerpts pp. 23-24)

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