Browsing "Lincoln Revealed"

New England Rebels and Tyrants

Admiral Raphael Semmes wrote in the immediate postwar that “Constitutions are made for the protection of minorities,” that “they naturally cling to the guarantees and defences provided for them in the fundamental law; it is only when they become strong” and become majorities “that their principles and their virtues are really tested.” He was referring to New England which when in the minority was firmly for States’ rights, but in 1860 when it became the majority, became strongly nationalist and embarked on a path to subjugate the South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

New England Rebels and Tyrants

“The American Constitution died of a disease that was inherent in it. It was framed on false principles inasmuch as the attempt was made, through its means of binding together, in a republican form of government, two dissimilar peoples, with widely dissimilar interests.

Monarchical governments may accomplish this since they are founded by force, but republican governments never. The secession of the Southern States was a mere corollary of the American proposition of government; and the Northern States stultified themselves, the moment they started to resist it. The consent of the Southern States being wanted, there should have been an end of the question.

If the Northern States were not satisfied to let them go, but entertained, on the contrary, a desire to restrain them by force, this was a proof that those States had become tired of the republican form and desired to change it.

So loth was the South to abandon the Union that she made strenuous efforts to remain in it, even after Mr. Lincoln had been made president in 1860. In this election that dreaded sectional line against which President Washington had warned his countrymen in his Farewell Address, had at last been drawn . . . There had at last arisen a united North, against a untied South.

[Lincoln’s election] was purely geographical; it was tantamount to a denial of the co-equality of the Southern States with the Northern States, since it drove the former out of the common Territories. In both houses of Congress the Northern faction which had so recently triumphed in the election of their president, was arrayed in hostility to the South, and could not be moved [to compromise] an inch. Rebels, when in a minority, [New Englanders] had become tyrants now that they were in a majority.

Nothing remained to the South, but to raise the gauntlet which had been thrown at her feet. The federal government which had been established by our ancestors had failed of its object. Instead of binding the States together, in peace, and amity, it had, in the hands of one portion of the States, become an engine of oppression of the other portion. It so happened, that the slavery question was the issue which finally tore them asunder, but . . . this question was a mere means, to an end.

[That] end was empire . . . in this hemisphere, the drama which had so often been enacted in the other, of the more powerful nation crushing out the weaker.

The war between the American sections was but the prototype of many other wars, which have occurred among the human race. It had its origin in the unregenerated nature of man, who is only an intellectual wild beast, whose rapacity has never yet been restrained, by a sense of justice. The American people thought, when they framed the Constitution that they were to be an exception to mankind, in general.

History had instructed them that all other peoples, who had gone before them had torn up paper governments, when the paper was the only bulwark that protected such governments, but then they were the American people, and no such fate could await them.”

(Memoirs of Service Afloat During the War Between the States, Raphael Semmes, 1868, LSU Press, 1996, excerpts, pp. 53-70)

 

Why Cannot We Act as Our Fathers Did?

Lincoln as a senatorial candidate used his opponent’s popularity to gain valuable platform time, but ended up losing the race anyway. In these famous debates, he exposed not only his own, but also his own party’s uncompromising vision of sectional hatred, and ultimate war between Americans.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Cicra1865.com

 

Why Cannot We Act as Our Fathers Did?

“Before the debates, in their Senatorial campaign, Douglas had arranged speeches at Chicago and Springfield. His popularity brought great crowds to hear him. Lincoln sat in the back of the crowds both times, waited for Douglas to finish, and then, as the crowd started to leave, Lincoln announced from the platform that in an hour, “so you can eat dinner,” he would answer Judge Douglas’ speech. The crowd roared, “We’ll be here.”

Douglas publicly denounced this tactic. Then Lincoln proposed that the candidates meet jointly, one against the other, several times in the future. Douglas’ advisors urged him to refuse. Why should he provide the big crowds of voters to hear Lincoln? However, it appeared that it would be politically advisable to go ahead and agree to the debates.

Telegraph lines worked all night and nearly all of America read the next morning what the candidates had said and read greatly contradictory reports on who won the last debate. For example, as to one debate, Republican newspapers said, “Honest Abe chewed up the Little Giant and spit him out to the delight of the crowd.” Of the same debate, Democratic newspapers said, “Douglas knocked out Lincoln’s spindly shanks from under him and as he struggled for composure, the crowd roared at the spectacle.

At a subsequent debate, the “House Divided” speech came up again and Douglas said,” Why cannot we act as our fathers did? In Washington’s army there was no sectional strife. These brave soldiers fought under a common policy; they sought a common destiny, and no one was ready to forego a common aim because he did not agree with his fellows on every idea.”

You might say that Douglas won the debates because after the campaign, the Illinois Legislature voted 54 to 46 in favor of Douglas, and he returned to his senatorial seat.”

(The Lincoln-Douglas Debates, R.D. Douglas, Jr., North Carolina State Bar Journal, Fall 2009, pp. 16-17)

The Responsibility for Suffering Prisoners

Southern men held captive and starving in cold Northern prisons were surrounded by bountiful harvests and plentiful medicines while Northern prisoners shared the meager rations of their guards. Though the South had little medicine and scarce foodstuffs, a lower percentage of Northern prisoners died in the South than the reverse. Below are excerpts from the Joint Select Committee of the Confederate States Congress, investigating the conditions of prisoners after the US Congress issued a report condemning alleged Confederate mistreatment of Northern prisoners.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Responsibility for Suffering Prisoners

“[We] deem it proper at this time to make a preliminary report, founded on evidence recently taken, relating to the treatment of prisoners of war by both belligerents. This report is rendered especially important, by reason of persistent efforts lately made by the Government of the United States . . . to asperse the honor of the Confederate authorities, and to charge them with deliberate and willful cruelty to prisoners of war.

The candid reader of [Northern publications claiming Southern cruelties] will not fail to discover that, whether the statements they make are true or not, their spirit is not adapted to promote better feelings between the hostile powers. They are not intended for the humane purpose of ameliorating the condition of the unhappy prisoners held in captivity.

They are designed to inflame the evil passions of the North; to keep up the war spirit among their own people; to present the South as acting under the dominion of a spirit of cruelty, inhumanity and interested malice, and thus to vilify her people in the eyes of all on whom these publications can work.

They are justly characterized by the Hon. James M. Mason as belonging to that class of literature called the “sensational” – a style of writing prevalent for many years at the North, and which, beginning with the writers of newspaper narratives and cheap fiction, has gradually extended itself, until it is now the favored mode adopted by medical professors, judges of courts and reverend clergymen, and is even chosen as the proper style for a report by a committee of [the Northern] Congress.

The intent and spirit of this [Northern congressional] report may be gathered from the following extract: “The evidence proves, beyond all manner of doubt, a determination on the part of rebel authorities, deliberately and persistently practiced for a long time past, to subject those of our soldiers who have been so unfortunate to fall into their hands, to a system of treatment which has resulted in reducing many of those who have survived and been permitted to return to us, to a condition both physically and mentally, which no language we can use can adequately describe.”

The evidence proves that the rations furnished to prisoners of war in Richmond and on Belle Isle, have been never less than those furnished to the Confederate soldiers who guarded them, and have at some seasons been larger in quantity and better in quality than those furnished to Confederate troops in the field. How often the gallant men composing the Confederate army have been without meat, for even long intervals, your [US Congressional] committee does not deem it necessary to say.

Once and only once, for a few weeks, the prisoners were without meat, but a larger quantity of bread and vegetable food was in consequence supplied to them.

The scarcity of meat and of bread stuffs in the South in certain places has been the result of the savage policy of our enemies in burning barns, filled with wheat or corn, destroying agricultural implements, and driving off or wantonly butchering hogs or cattle. Yet amid all these privations, we have given to their prisoners the rations above mentioned.

But the question forces itself upon us why have these sufferings been so long continued? Why have not the prisoners of war been exchanged, and thus some of the darkest pages of history spared to the world. In the answer to this question must be found the test of responsibility for all the sufferings, sickness and heart-broken sorrow that have visited more than eighty thousand prisoners within the past two years. On this question, your committee can only say that that the Confederate authorities have always desired a prompt and fair exchange of prisoners.

Soon after [a] cartel was established, the policy of the enemy in seducing Negro slaves from their masters, arming them and putting white officers over them to lead them against us, gave rise to a few cases in which questions of crime under the internal laws of the Confederate States appeared. Whether men who encouraged insurrection and murder could be held entitled to the privileges of prisoners of war under the cartel, was a grave question.

But these cases were few in number, and ought not to have interrupted the general exchange. We were always ready and anxious to carry out the cartel in its true meaning . . . but the fortunes of war threw the larger number into the hands of our enemies. Then they refused further exchanges – and for twenty-two months this policy has continued.

Secretary Stanton, who has unjustly charged the Confederate authorities with inhumanity, is open to the charge of having done all in his power to prevent a fair exchange and thus prolong the sufferings [of Northern prisoners in the South]. [Gen. Benjamin Butler] has declared that in April 1864, the Federal Lieut. General Grant forbade him to deliver to the Rebels a single able-bodied man” . . .

These facts abundantly show that the responsibility of refusing to exchange prisoners of war rests with the Government of the United States, and the people who have sustained that government; and every sigh of captivity, every groan of suffering, every heart broken by hope deferred among these eighty thousand prisoners, will accuse them in the judgement of the just.

Their own savage warfare has wrought all the evil. They have blockaded our ports; have excluded from us food, clothing and medicines; have even declared medicines contraband of war, and have repeatedly destroyed the contents of drug stores and the supplies of private physicians in the country; have ravaged our country, burned our houses, and destroyed the growing crops and farming implements. These desolations have been repeated again and again in different parts of the South. Thousands of our families have been driven from their homes as helpless and destitute refugees.

While thus desolating our country, in violation of the usages of civilized warfare, they have refused to exchange prisoners; have forced us to keep fifty thousand of their men in captivity, and yet have attempted to attribute to us the sufferings and privations caused by their own acts. We cannot doubt that, in the view of civilization, we shall stand acquitted, while they must be condemned.”

(The Treatment of Prisoners During the War Between the States, compiled by the Secretary of the Southern Historical Society, Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume One, excerpts, pp. 132- 148)

Lincoln’s Soldier Vote

New York Governor Horatio Seymour vetoed the Republican effort to enable soldiers absent in the field to vote, believing that this would open the door to vote fraud and manipulation by politically-appointed officers. New York Secretary of State Chauncey Depew, a Republican, writes of Lincoln’s assistance to locate New York’s soldiers and delivered Republican ballots to them via American Express – though Democratic ballots were lost, and agents sent by the Democratic governor were arrested by Lincoln’s political machine.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Lincoln’s Soldier Vote

“The secretaryship of the State of New York is a very delightful office. Its varied duties are agreeable, and the incumbent is brought in close contact with the State administration, the legislature and the people.

In view of the approaching presidential election, the [New York] legislature passed a law, which was signed by the governor, providing machinery for the soldiers’ vote. New York had at that time between three and four hundred thousand soldiers in the field, who were scattered in companies, regiments, brigades, and divisions all over the South.

This law made it the duty of the secretary of state to provide ballots, to see that they reached every unit of a company, to gather the votes and transmit them to the home of each soldier. The State government had no machinery by which this work could be done.

I then sent for old [bankrupt freight and mail operator] John Butterfield [and] he at once organized what was practically an express company . . . for the sole purpose of distributing the ballots and gathering the soldiers’ votes.

Of course, the first thing was to find out where the New York troops were, and for that purpose I went to Washington, remaining there for several months before the War Department would give me the information. The interviews were brief and disagreeable, and the secretary of war very brusque.

[I then] met Elihu B. Washburne, who was a congressman from Illinois and an intimate friend of the president. I told him my story [and that] “I must report to the people of New York that the provision for the soldiers’ voting cannot be carried out because the administration refuses to give information where the New York soldiers are located.”

“Why,” said Mr. Washburne, “that would beat Mr. Lincoln. You don’t know him . . . he is also the keenest politician alive. If it could be done no other way, the president would take a carpet-bag and go around and collect those votes himself. I will go at once and see the president.”

In about an hour a staff officer stepped up to me . . . “The Secretary of War wishes to see you at once, he said.” [The secretary of war] gave a preemptory order to one of his staff that I should receive the documents in time for me to leave Washington on the midnight train.

The magical transformation was the result of a personal visit of President Lincoln to the secretary of war. Mr. Lincoln carried the State of New York by a majority of only 6,749, and it was the soldiers’ vote that gave him the Empire State.”

(My Memories of Eighty Years, Chauncey M. Depew, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1924, pp. 52-55)

Witness to Sorrow

Though opposed to his State’s secession, South Carolinian William J. Grayson saw the true face of the Northern-dominated union as Lincoln’s army murdered and plundered his neighbors. In like manner, North Carolina Unionist Edward Stanly, Lincoln’s proconsul in occupied New Bern, lost faith in the conquerors as he witnessed Northern troopships returning north laden with stolen furniture, artwork and jewelry.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Witness to Sorrow

“For this calamity, this crime of War between North and South, Northern people are chiefly chargeable. The cupidity and intermeddling spirit of New England were the main causes of dissention. Her greedy tariff exaction, her perpetual irritating interference with Negro slavery in the Southern States, her avaricious monopolists & political priests sowed the seed of which we are reaping the natural harvest.

If ever a people destroyed their own prosperity it is the people of New England. They are accustomed to call the brain of New England the brain of the Union — it is the brain of a lunatic who cuts his own throat. No chain of cause and effect in all history is more clearly traceable than the destruction of the Federal Union by Northern folly and madness.

If they succeed in the war they will be the rulers over insurgent provinces ready at the first opportunity to renew the contest. The restoration of the union is an impossibility. There must succeed to it another government with standing armies, enormous taxes and despotic power beneath whose influence Northern liberty will wither and perish. In the early part of November [1861] the Northern government began a series of predatory expeditions on the Southern coast. The first under Sherman and Dupont disembarked at Port Royal. They presented to the world a striking evidence of the ease with which men strain at gnats and swallow camels.

They were prosecuting as felons in New York the captured privateersmen of the South, and were seizing all the cotton and other property of widows, children and noncombatants on the islands of South Carolina, contrary to every usage of civilized war.

The robbery has been approved and applauded throughout the Northern States. They talk with exultation of cultivating the plantations of Port Royal on Federal account as a sort of financial appendage to the Washington government. The rights of the owners are disregarded.

To the people of St. Helena parish and the adjoining country the disaster was incalculable. They lost everything; houses, plantations, Negroes, furniture, clothing. They became fugitives. Northern men engaged formerly in surveying the coast served as guides for the marauding parties. With their wives and children they had spent months in the families of the planters, had eaten dinners and drank wine, and now they acted as pioneers of plunder to the scenes of the feast.

They were better able to discover the stores of old Madeira from having frequently joined the owners in drinking it. Their first question asked of the servants on entering a house from which their cannon had driven the owner was — “where is the wine kept?”

There was something indescribably mean in the conduct of these parties but very characteristic of the people whose officers they were. They are a thrifty race, not scrupulous about the means if their end be attained. Our worthy friends of Massachusetts treat us (as) they did the Indians, witches, Quakers, Baptists and other heretics of earlier times. There are many pious Christians but not a voice is heard in favor of peace. So far as we can judge from their acquiescence in Sewardism, they have fallen into the strange delusion that Christian Charity is consistent with rape, rapine and murder.

They pray and preach not for peace, but for the more earnest prosecution of a bloody war and the enactment of general confiscation acts. They [Northerners] exulted . . . a manifest judgment of Providence on the home of rebels and traitors. They believed that Heaven had put the torch to Southern homesteads to avenge the abolition party and support the cause.”

(Witness to Sorrow, the Antebellum Autobiography of William J. Grayson. University of South Carolina Press, 1990, pp 185-201)

Minnesotans for Lincoln’s Army

Immediately after Fort Sumter surrendered, Governor Alexander Ramsey “tender[ed] to Secretary of War Simon Cameron 1,000 men from Minnesota “to defend the Government.” This was the first State to offer men to Lincoln’s regime, though Minnesota’s principal Democratic newspaper pointed out that it was the only Northern State which demanded federal money before troops were released to Lincoln.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Minnesotans for Lincoln’s Army

“Ramsey’s patriotic tender [of April 14] was not as magnanimous as it appeared at first glance. In the written tender he commented that since the Minnesota legislature was not in session [until early 1862], he felt justified in requesting the Federal government to provide the “reasonable expenses” involved in readying the men for service.

On the following day, April 15, Lincoln issues a call for 75,000 militiamen to serve for three months . . . His authority was an act of Congress passed in 1795. Included in the act were provisions that no militiaman could be compelled to serve longer than three months; nor could the militia as a whole be continued on active duty thirty days after the commencement of the next session of Congress.

The response of the [Minnesota] volunteer militia was less than gratifying [to the Governor]. The Clearwater Guards held a meeting on April 22. In reply to the query “Will the Guard volunteer its services . . . for a term of three months . . .” the vote was twenty yeas and twenty three nays; eleven members were absent. Similarly, the volunteer militia company near St. Cloud, a German unit, decided against being activated. The members argued that if both they and the regular army troops who had been guarding the frontier left the State, there would be no protection for the settlers from Indian raids.

The companies from Chatfield, Mankato, and New Ulm were also conspicuously absent later at St. Paul. The remaining three companies: the Minnesota Pioneer guard from St. Paul, the St. Anthony Zouaves, and the Stillwater guard, were likewise reluctant to enlist for three months.

The Minnesota Pioneer Guard was the oldest, best known, and at the time thought to be the best trained of the three. Social exclusiveness rather than military efficiency was reflected by the qualifications for membership. As a bona fide member of the Pioneer Guard the recruit could look forward to active participation in 4th of July celebrations, steamboat excursions . . ., and other festive doings. Military activities, while of some significance, were not the primary concern of the company.

Cameron’s [new] directive was determined by a proclamation by Lincoln on May 3 [1861] which called for 42,034 volunteers to serve for three years unless discharged at an earlier date. Lincoln had no authority to issue an executive order requiring men to serve as volunteers for three years. In illegally doing so, he indicated that Congressional approval would be asked for as soon as possible.

Many of the men were hesitant to sign up for the extended term. Few were of the opinion that the war would be a short one. They did not relish the thought of continuing their present mode of living for the next three years. Approximately 600 of the original three-month men signed up for the three-year tour of duty. A total of 345 declined. No company re-enlisted as a single unit. Whether undue pressure was exerted upon the men is difficult to determine.

[A] letter from a member of the Wabasha company to [Lt. Governor Ignatius] Donnelly stated that: “The officers went to work to get the consent of the men. The Col. Gets drunk – rolls out half a dozen kegs of beer, issues orders that clothing shall not be given to those who will not enlist. Those who don’t enlist will be discharged and disgraced . . .”

In addition to the enlistment problem . . . Mage Eustis of Minneapolis and John Lamb of St. Paul negotiated a contract to provide rations for the regiment at a rate of fifty cents per man per day. The first meal on April 29 . . . was satisfactory. Complaining commenced with the breakfast the following morning and eventually resulted in the so-called “bad beef riots.” The men pelted the cooks and the cookhouse with plates along with their contents consisting mainly of foul-smelling beef.”

(The First Minnesota, John Quinn Imholte, Ross and Haines, 1963, excerpts, pp. 6-10; 19-22)

The Lincoln-Stowe Propaganda

That England did not officially recognize the American Confederacy had less to do with cotton but more to do with fears of a Northern invasion of Canada, and the two Russian fleets in San Francisco’s and New York’s harbors in 1863-64. France feared the latter as well. While both Lincoln and Alexander I of Russia allegedly emancipated slaves and serfs respectively, both at the same time were ruthlessly crushing independence movements in the South and Poland. Lincoln and Seward always had their eyes on the tariffs coming from Southern ports, and re-establishing Northern control over them; Stowe’s book was a novel from a person who had not visited the South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Lincoln-Stowe Propaganda

“In 1859 the South provided nearly 90 percent of the cotton reaching the European market. England alone took over a billion pounds a year; one-fifth of her population was said to be dependent upon cotton manufacture. By January 1861 Southern exports had all but stopped. Production that year reached an all-time high of 4.5 million bales, but only ten thousand bales were exported – down from 3.5 million in 1859 and 0.6 million in 1860.

Realistic Southern diplomats made petitions to Napoleon III in Paris. In return for French help in breaking the blockade, the Confederacy was prepared to give France not less than one hundred thousand bales of American cotton . . . the Emperor [suggested enlisting] the cooperation of the British in the undertaking.

There are Southerners who insist to this day that Anglo-French aid would have materialized except for a personal appeal by Mr. Lincoln “To the Workingmen of Manchester” on the issue of slavery, coupled with the great emotional appeal of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, [a novel] which seems to have become required reading for every spinner and weaver in England after 1860.

So effective was the Lincoln-Stowe propaganda that the London Index was moved to say: “The emancipation of the Negro from the slavery of Mrs. Beecher Stowe’s heroes – has become the one idea of millions of British who know no better and do not care to know.”

Nonetheless, British shipyards were constructing two ironclad men-of-war for the Confederacy. To counteract their potential, [Lincoln’s government] sent strong military and naval expeditions to occupy Southern ports and seize cotton which then be doled out to the British in sufficient quantity to “hold them out of the war.”

So when Port Royal [South Carolina] was taken by the Federals [early in the war], the planters burned their entire harvest rather than let it fall into enemy hands. How much cotton was actually destroyed in this way will probably never be known. However, about this time (July, 1862) US Secretary Seward reported to his Minister [Charles Francis Adams] in London that as many as 3.5 million bales remained in the South, though large quantities of it are yet unginned.”

(King Cotton, George Herbert Aul; This is the South, Hodding Carter, Rand McNally, 1959, pp. 143-144)

Lincoln’s Youthful Mercenaries

The Northern army consisted mostly of younger men more drawn by the money rather than saving the territorial Union.  Author Ella Lonn writes that “it was no uncommon thing to find bounties of $1200 to $1500 offered for three year recruits; [and] the average sum paid to a recruit in an Illinois district once rose to $1,055.95.” The average Southern soldier fought with his home and family to his back, little food and for near-worthless money. 

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Lincoln’s Youthful Mercenaries

“The Grand Army of the Republic [veterans’] organization was founded by Dr. Stephenson, in Decatur, Illinois in 1866.  The final encampment was in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1949. The number of men, by age, who served the Union (from the Adjutant General’s report):

Age 15 and under: 104,987; Age 16 and under: 231,051; Age 17 and under: 844,891;

Age 18 and under: 1,151,438; Age 21 and under: 2,159,798; Age 22 and over: 618,511;

Age 25 and over: 46,626; Age 44 and over: 16,071.

Total of [men in Northern service:] 2,778,304.”  

(Civil War Union Monuments, Baruch and Beckman, Daughters of Union Veterans, 1978, page 183)

 

The North Shifts the Issue

The victor of wars writes the official history, inflates his lofty intentions and controls what is set in the historical record. William Joseph Peele was a simple North Carolinian who is credited with the creation of the Agricultural and Mechanic Arts schools in the State, and support for a State Historical Commission which would set the record straight.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa 1865.com

 

The North Shifts the Issue

“Mr. Peele could not get away from the idea that the cause of the Civil War was commercial jealousy. Henry Adams and Mill say that in ’61 the people of England entertained the same opinion. Peele did give credit to the North for so shifting the issue that it seemed to be a war for freedom.

“The agitation about the Negro, as a counter-irritant to distract attention from the injustice of Federal revenue laws, was [said Peele] more than a success; for the shallow politicians of both sections forgot the real issue; but the beneficiaries never lost sight of it. I will use a homely illustration:

A and B are doing business on the opposite sides of a street; B begins to undersell A; A becomes angry, but cannot afford to tell his customers the cause; he hears that B once cheated a Negro out of a mule; he makes that charge; they fight; the court record of the trial shows that the fight was about the Negro and the mule; but there is not a business man on the street who does not know that the record speaks a lie.”

(William Joseph Peele, by Robert W. Winston, Proceedings of the North Carolina Historical Commission, November, 1919, page 116)

Happy Forgetfulness

Author Robert Penn Warren writes below of “The Treasury of Virtue,” the psychological heritage left to the North by the War and the irrefutable basis of its long-serving Myth of Saving the Union. With his armies victorious the Northerner was free “to write history to suit his own deep needs . . . and knows, as everybody knows, that the war saved the Union.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Happy Forgetfulness

“When one is happy in forgetfulness, facts get forgotten. In the happy contemplation of the Treasury of Virtue it is forgotten that the Republican platform of 1860 pledged protection to the institution of slavery where it existed, and that the Republicans were ready, in 1861, to guarantee slavery in the South, as bait for a return to the Union.

It is forgotten that in July, 1861, both houses of Congress, by an almost unanimous vote, affirmed that the War was waged not to interfere with the institutions of any State but only to maintain the Union.

The War, in the words of the House resolution, should cease “as soon as these objects are accomplished.” It is forgotten that the Emancipation Proclamation, issued on September 23, 1862, was limited and provisional: slavery was to be abolished only in the seceded States and only if they did not return to the Union before the first of the next January.

It is forgotten that the Proclamation was widely disapproved [in the North] and even contributed to the serious setbacks to Republican candidates for office in the subsequent election.

It is forgotten that, as Lincoln himself freely admitted, the Proclamation itself was of doubtful constitutional warrant and was forced by circumstances; that only after a bitter and prolonged struggle in Congress was the Thirteenth Amendment sent, as late as January, 1865, to the States for ratification; and that all of Lincoln’s genius as a horse trader (here the deal was Federal patronage swapped for Democratic votes) was needed to get Nevada admitted to Statehood, with its guaranteed support of the Amendment.

It is forgotten that even after the Fourteenth Amendment, not only Southern States, but Northern ones, refused to adopt Negro suffrage, and that Connecticut had formally rejected it a late as July, 1865.

It is forgotten that Sherman, and not only Sherman, was violently opposed to arming Negroes against white troops. It is forgotten that . . . racism was all too common in the liberating army. It is forgotten that only the failure of Northern volunteering overcame the powerful prejudice against accepting Negro troops, and allowed “Sambo’s Right to be Kilt,” — as the title of a contemporary song had it.

It is forgotten that racism and Abolitionism might, and often did, go hand in hand. This was true even in the most instructed circles [as James T. Ayers, clergyman, committed abolitionist and Northern recruiting officer for Negro troops confided to his diary] that freed Negroes would push North and “soon they will be in every whole and Corner, and the Bucks will be wanting to gallant our Daughters Round.” It is forgotten, in fact, that history is history.

Despite all this, the war appears, according to the doctrine of the Treasury of Virtue, as a consciously undertaken crusade so full of righteousness that there is enough oversurplus stored in Heaven, like the deeds of the saints, to take care of all small failings and oversights of the descendants of the crusaders, certainly unto the present generation. The crusaders themselves, back from the wars, seemed to feel that they had finished the work of virtue.

[Brooks Adams pronounced] “Can we look over the United States and honestly tell ourselves that all things are well within us?” [Adams] with his critical, unoptimistic mind, could not conceal it from himself, but many could; and a price was paid for the self delusion.

As Kenneth Stampp, an eminent Northern historian and the author of a corrosive interpretation of slavery, puts it: “The Yankees went to war animated by the highest ideals of the nineteenth-century middle classes . . . But what the Yankees achieved – for their generation at least – was a triumph not of middle class ideals but of middle class vices. The most striking products of their crusade were the shoddy aristocracy of the North and the ragged children of the South. Among the masses of Americans there were no victors, only the vanquished.”

(The Legacy of the Civil War, Robert Penn Warren, University of Nebraska Press, 1998, pp. 60-65)