Browsing "Lincoln Revealed"

Martial Law in Maryland

As Lincoln prepared his invasion of the South after Fort Sumter, he responded to public outcry in Maryland with illegally suspending the right of habeas corpus, increasingly severe repression, and monitoring elections. The author below writes that Lincoln’s “clumsy response is better explained by psychological impulse than by political imperative,” as he could not abide having dissident Maryland citizens waving Southern banners so close to his political seat.

Bernhard Thuersam  www.Circa1865.org

 

Martial Law in Maryland

“[General Winfield] Scott . . . [issued the order] for the arrest of Baltimore’s city marshal, George P. Kane, and the entire board of police commissioners – all of whom [were] implicated in the imagined [Maryland secession] plot.

So it was that at an early hour on June 27, 1861, a detachment of troops marched through Baltimore’s streets . . . [to] Marshal Kane’s home. Within the hour Kane arrived at Fort McHenry . . . When the sun rose over the Eastern Shore on July 1, all four commissioners lay in the dank dungeon of Fort McHenry . . . Soldiers by the hundreds strode Baltimore’s streets with their bayonets fixed that morning, and citizens who dared to express disagreement with their government felt the teeth of martial law.

The United States Congress convened three days after the arrest of the commissioners and questioned the seemingly highhanded action taken against public officials of a loyal State. Knowing that Lincoln had already ignored judicial demands in such matters, the police commissioners bypassed the legal system to petition their congressional representative for relief, and twenty days into its session the House of Representatives adopted resolution requesting [Lincoln] to provide grounds and evidence for the arrests.

Lincoln declined to cooperate. Citing what would become the favorite excuse of future administrations seeking to invoke a dubious prerogative, he informed the elected representatives of the people that it was “incompatible with the public interest at this time” to release that information.

Some of the commissioners remained in confinement for months, and Marshal Kane was not released until November of 1862, but for the rest of the war and thereafter, revealing the reason for their detention remained incompatible with the public interest.”

(Mr. Lincoln Goes to War, William Marvel, Houghton Mifflin, 2006, excerpts pp. 104-105)

Bungling and Unprincipled Self-Seeking

As the invading Northern armies moved South, huge quantities of cotton were found and Yankee cotton-hunger “was fierce and insatiable.” Union officers could make a quick fortune seizing bales and shipping them northward to New England mills, the same ones who had themselves perpetuated slavery with dependence on Southern cotton.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Bungling and Unprincipled Self-Seeking

“The opening of the full length of the Mississippi by the capture of Vicksburg and Port Hudson augmented the illicit traffic from all river towns into the Confederacy. General [Stephen A.] Hurlbut, himself probably corrupt and certainly drunken, explained to his superiors [in Washington] the impossibility of imposing controls. “A perpetual flood of fraud, false-swearing, and contraband goods runs through the city,” he wrote. Even the pickets are bribed.

[US] Treasury agents were really no more culpable than Army officers, and old cotton-brokers no worse than Chicago commission-men; Yankees and foreigners could be equally unscrupulous.

Ben Butler, who had held command [at New Orleans] in 1862, believed in generous trade policies, and one recipient of his generosity was his brother, Andrew Jackson Butler. The operations of both the Butlers became highly complicated . . . When military expeditions were sent out ostensibly for the chastisement of guerillas, but with cotton also in view, and shallow-draft steamers began to scour the bayous with the same objectives, the situation became still more tangled.

[Secretary of the Treasury Salmon] Chase’s special agent, George S. Denison . . . found that a great deal of contraband material was being shipped to the Confederates in exchange for cotton, and that [Northern] military men of high rank who lent their cooperation were reaping large harvests.

It was clear, he wrote Chase, that Ben Butler “knows everything, controls everything, and should be held responsible for everything.”

On the Red River in the spring of 1864, the carnival of trade and speculation reached its height for a single campaign. General [Nathanial P.] Banks, who also had to carry the ignominy of defeat, suffered censure . . . Officer after officer, in testimony that runs for pages despite sharp questions put by Congressmen, charged that the Navy seized wagons and mules right and left, ranging far into the interior away from the Red River and branding cotton “C.S.A.” so that they with impunity then add “U.S.N.”

Porter went on to attack the Army, writing: “General Banks had come up in the steamer Black Hawk, loaded with cotton speculators, bagging, roping, champagne, and ice. The whole affair was cotton speculation . . .”

At times, in the aftermath of the Red River campaign, it seems that every participant was misrepresenting everyone else. The only definite certainty is that it was a time of bungling, lying, chicanery, corruption, and unprincipled self-seeking, all to the injury of the [Northern] war effort.”

 

(The War for the Union: the Organized War 1863-1864, Volume III, Allan Nevins, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971, excerpts pp. 355-361)

 

Lincoln’s Diplomatic Dilemma

Lammot Du Pont, member of the Du Pont powder business family and company agent (Captain Samuel Francis Du Pont was commandant of the Philadelphia Navy Yard), hurried to England in late 1861 with instructions from the United States government to purchase a year’s supply of saltpeter, or approximately three million pounds.

It was during his third day at sea that the British mail packet “Trent” was stopped and searched by the USS San Jacinto as it sailed through the Bahama Channel. Southern envoys James M. Mason and John Slidell, on their way to England, were forcibly removed over the protests of the British officers, and imprisoned at Fort Warren in Boston Harbor.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Lincoln’s Diplomatic Dilemma

“The magnitude of Du Pont’s purchases had not escaped official attention. On November 27 a certain J. MacKenzie wrote Lord John Russell, Foreign Secretary . . . “It is more than a year’s supply for that Government even in time of War . . . and [looks] as if the Federal Government, having decided on a rupture with this country, was desirous of first laying in a supply of saltpeter.”

In a memorandum to the members of the cabinet on November 30, Prime Minister Lord Palmerston proposed that at that day’s session they consider the proposal of Lord Russell to ban the exportation of arms, gunpowder and saltpeter. This was his comment on Anglo-American relations:

“. . . Every day brings us fresh evidence of settled determination of the Washington government to heap indignities and affronts upon us, to drive us to the wall taking their chance as to such a course leading to a war . . . This being the state of things, it being at least possible, if not probable, that we may in a short period of time find ourselves in hostilities with the Northern States, [and] would it not be weakness & folly in the extreme to allow them in the interval to draw from our storehouses and manufacturers those means and implements of war which they are now scantily supplied with, and which when obtained by them, would probably be turned against ourselves.

If our men are shot down by rifles made by us, and with gunpowder supplied by us, should we not as a Government be laughed to scorn as unfit to conduct the affairs of the country.”

Even if no rupture took place, Palmerston pointed out, it was to the British interest to shorten the war by withholding vital supplies in order that shipments of Southern cotton and normal trade relations could be resumed as soon as possible.

A furor of anti-American sentiment swept the British press when news of the Trent episode reached England. Believing that the embargo would not soon be lifted, Du Pont prepared to return home for further instructions. English arsenals and shipyards, he noted, were working night and day; troops were being readied for Canada; and Lord Lyons, British Minister in Washington, had been instructed to close the embassy and return home if England’s demands . . . were not satisfied.

And if war came, France would be England’s ally, for Napoleon III was very hostile to the North. Russia was the only major power friendly to the United States, Du Pont believed.

If Mason and Slidell were not released and proper apologies not made to England, the Union would stand alone against two great powers of Europe, and the Confederacy would gain them as outright allies or as friendly neutrals. Such a powerful alignment of strength against the North could not be allowed to materialize.”

(“The Devil to Pay!”: Saltpeter and the Trent Affair, Harold Hancock & Norman Wilkinson, Civil War History, Volume X, No. 1, March 1964, University of Iowa, excerpts, pp. 22-27)

German Forty-Eighters in Mississippi

Northern General Peter Osterhaus was born in Prussia, educated at the Berlin Military Academy and served as a Prussian officer, but later found himself on the losing side of the socialist revolutions of 1848. He then immigrated to the US and settled in Missouri where he raised a regiment of bounty-enriched German immigrants in June of 1861 to join Lincoln’s army — described by historian Ella Lonn (Foreigners in the Union Army, 1951) thusly: “The speech of almost every European nation might have been heard in the camps of the Army of the Potomac.” Osterhaus accompanied Sherman on his destructive path through Georgia and the Carolinas.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

German Forty-Eighters in Mississippi

“Landed neighbors just across the river from the Davises on the Louisiana side included John Perkins, a member of Congress . . . and Mrs. Sarah Dorsey of Elkton Plantation, who also owned Beauvoir [in Mississippi] and befriended Jefferson Davis in his declining years. Adjoining the farms of these friends stood the old Bowie home, where Jim Bowie of Alamo fame and his brother Resin lived as boys.

The big mansion at “Hurricane” is beyond the memory of living persons. On June 2, 1862, Union soldiers advancing toward Vicksburg landed on Davis Bend at night and burned “Hurricane” to the ground.

[Older brother] Joseph E. Davis complained that General Peter J. Osterhaus ordered the burning and gave the family only thirty minutes’ notice to vacate the house. The red glare from the rocketing flames at the western end of the bend could be seen in Vicksburg, eighteen direct miles away.

The soldiers piled library books on the lawn and lit bonfires. They dumped sets of china and crystal on the grass and gleefully shattered them with muskets. Paintings cherished by the Davises were gathered and slashed with bayonets.

[Brother Joseph E. Davis on] March 1, 1866, wrote to President Andrew Johnson from Vicksburg, Mississippi, making application for the restoration of his property” “I took no part in the war. I did not bear arms. I was not a member of the legislature nor of the convention nor attended any meetings. I contributed nothing, subscribed nothing, [and] made no investments in Confederate bonds or securities.

Under the assurances that those would not be molested who [remained] quietly at home, I remained at my place until almost all of my property was carried off, my cotton burned and an order was received from Gen’l Osterhaus to burn my house, giving me and my family half an hour to get out . . .”

(Brierfield, Plantation Home of Jefferson Davis, Frank Edgar Everett, Jr., University of Mississippi, 1971, excerpts pp. 18-19)

Destruction and Desolation Rather than Peace

By the spring of 1864, war weariness and long casualty lists at the North were bringing hope to the possibility of peace negotiations through an emerging Northern peace party. Though several previous peace initiatives had failed due to Lincoln’s intransigence, President Jefferson Davis again sought opportunities to end the bloodshed.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Destruction and Desolation Rather than Peace

“The cause of the South could no longer be submitted, to the arbitrament of battle unaided [by foreign intervention]. The opening campaign of the spring of 1864 was deemed a favorable conjuncture for the employment of the resources of diplomacy.

To approach the Federal government directly would be in vain. Repeated efforts had already demonstrated its inflexible purpose not to negotiate with the Confederate authorities.

A commission of three gentlemen was appointed by the President to visit Canada with the aim of negotiating with such persons at the North as might be relied upon to facilitate the attainment of peace.

The Confederate commissioners, Messieurs Clay of Alabama, Holcombe of Virginia, and Thompson, of Mississippi, sailed from Wilmington, North Carolina [in April, 1864], and arrived within a few weeks on the Canadian frontier in the execution of their mission. A correspondence with Mister Horace Greeley commenced on the twelfth day of July, 1864.

Through Mister Greeley the commissioners sought a safe conduct to the Federal capital. For a few days Lincoln appeared to favor an interview with the commissioners, but finally rejected their application, on the ground that they were not authorized to treat for peace. The attempted negotiation was a failure, and peace was impossible.

In the meantime President Lincoln had called, for three years’ service, another 500,000 men to start on March 10, an additional 200,000 for March 14, and 500,000 volunteers for July 18, 1864. Mr. Lincoln’s subsequent re-election dashed all hopes in the South for a peaceful settlement.

Meanwhile the war raged without a sign of abatement. Generals Grant and Meade attacked General Lee at Wilderness, Virginia, on May 5-6, and at Spotsylvania Court House, Virginia, from the 10th to the 12th of May. General Sherman attacked General J.E. Johnston’s army at Resaca on May 14; Butler attacked Beauregard at Drewry’s Bluff, Virginia, on the 16th of May; Grant and Lee fought at Cold Harbor on June 3 . . . and General Sherman occupied Atlanta, Georgia, on September 2, 1864.

The South began to read its fate when it saw that the North converted warfare into universal destruction and desolation. Long before the close of winter, popular feeling assumed a phase of sullen indifference which, while yet adverse to unconditional submission to the North, manifestly despaired of ultimate success. The people viewed additional sacrifices as hopeless, and anticipated the worst.”

(Jefferson Davis, Patriot, a Biography, 1808-1865, Eric Langhein, Vantage Press, 1962, excerpts pp. 75-77)

Lincoln’s New Frame of Mind

Allan Ramsey was a court painter to George III as well as a published political theorist, who argued, regarding the American revolutionists, that “should the people remain obstinate, their scorched and impoverished land could be occupied by loyal immigrants.” As he saw the inhabitants of British America as bidding defiance to the Crown and in a state of war with the King’s forces, they should expect no mercy and total war.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Lincoln’s New Frame of Mind

“We have here the germ of the twentieth-century rationale for total war: war aimed at the people of a nation, scorched-earth strategy, the bombing of civilian populations, massive deportations of people, and the enslavement of the vanquished. Total war is not unique to the twentieth century, nor is it due to “technology,” which has merely made its implementation more practicable and terrible.

Modern total war is possible only among “civilized” nations. It is shaped and legitimated by an act of reflection, a way of thinking about the world whereby an entire people become the enemy. This requires a prior act of total criticism, which is the characteristic mark of the philosophical act.

The concept of civilized warfare is unique to Europe and lasted about two centuries, roughly from the beginning of the eighteenth century until World War I. Civilized war was to be between combatants only and could not be directed against civilians as part of a strategy for victory.

The most important part of this system consisted of the rules for ending a war and establishing and equitable peace. The vanquished were to be treated with respect. Compensation to the victor was not to be conceived as punishment but as the cost of defeat in an honorable contest of arms. The idea of demanding unconditional surrender was out of the question. Such a demand denies the nation the right to exist and so would destroy the principle of the comity of nations.

The distinguished military historian B.H. Liddell Hart judged that the first break in the system came not from Europe but from America, when Lincoln shocked European opinion by directing war against the civilian population of the eleven American States that in State conventions (the same legal instrument that had authorized the State’s entrance into the union) had voted to withdraw from the federation and form a union of their own.

Lincoln’s scorched-earth policy and demand for unconditional surrender exhibited a new frame of mind that only eighty years later would reveal itself in the terror-bombing of Dresden and Hiroshima . . . it has been estimated that more than 135,000 perished in the British and American bombing of Dresden, carried out within three months of the end of the war, when the defeat of Germany was certain.

Dresden was a city of no military value and known to be packed with refugees, mostly women and children fleeing from the Soviet armies in the east.

[America entered World War I in 1917] and rather than [seek] a negotiated settlement . . . Social progressives now spiritualized the war into a holy crusade to restructure all of Europe, to abolish autocracy, and to establish universal democracy. The war was transformed by the language of totality. It was now the war to make the world safe for democracy, and the war to end all wars. The concept of the final war, the philosophically reflexive war, is perhaps the ultimate in the barbarism of refinement.”

(Philosophical Melancholy and Delirium, Hume’s Pathology of Philosophy, Donald W. Livingston, University of Chicago Press, 1998, excerpts pp. 297-299)

 

Lincoln Saves Ohio for the Union

When Ohio Democratic politician Clement Vallandigham was banished to the Confederacy by Lincoln in late May 1863, General Braxton Bragg congratulated the exile on his arrival in the land of liberty, and told that he would find freedom of speech and conscience in the Dixie. Vallandigham ran for Ohio governor in 1863 from exile in Canada, but was defeated by a well-oiled Republican machine and its soldier vote controlled by politically-appointed officers.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Lincoln Saves Ohio for the Union

“[Vallandigham’s banishment] seemed to substantiate Confederate contentions that Lincoln was a despot, that civil rights had evaporated in the North, and that secession had saved the Southern States from Lincolnian tyranny.

“The incarceration of Vallandigham,” wrote John Moncure Daniel of the Richmond Examiner, “marks the last step of despotism – there is now nothing now to distinguish the politics of the North from that of Austria under Francis, and that of Naples . . . under King Bomba [Ferdinand I].”

The editor of the Richmond Sentinel wrote in a like manner: “The trembling Chinaman prostrates himself no more submissively before the “celestial” sovereign . . . than they [Northerners] will henceforth before the majestic ABRAHAM, the joker.”

Vallandigham’s arrival in Canada coincided with the New York City anti-draft riots of July 13-16, 1863. Some Republican editors even made the wild charge that Vallandigham had connived with Confederate agents to bring about the riots . . . one Republican editor devised a forged letter . . . that the exile had helped plan the riots.

In the months that followed, Republicans in Ohio marshaled all their forces to defeat Vallandigham in the October 13 election. Since campaign money was plentiful, Republicans flooded the State with dozens of tracts and propaganda pamphlets . . . and anti-Vallandigham statements extracted from generals’ speeches and soldiers letters. Some of the quotations were genuine, others fabricated.

The Republicans disseminated their campaign propaganda through postmasters and the Union Leagues. Since every postmaster was a Republican – often the Republican editor in the village or the city, too – he had a vested interest in Vallandigham’s defeat.

[Ohio Democrats retorted that they] resented New England’s efforts to impose her moral, cultural and political views upon their section. They decried New England’s ascendancy in business and politics, her wish to hold the West in bondage. They ranted against the tariffs, against high railroad rates, and against the excise on whiskey . . . [and that Republican candidates] were railroad presidents and “tools” of the monopolists, speculators, and army contractors.”

But October 13 proved to be an unlucky day for Vallandigham, who went down to defeat by 100,000 votes. [His opponent] received 61,752 more “home” votes . . . and the “soldier vote” (collected in the field) added nearly 40,000 more to that majority.

Lincoln, jubilant, supposedly wired . . . “Glory to God in the highest; Ohio has been saved for the Union.”

(The Limits of Dissent, Clement L. Vallandigham & the Civil War, Frank L. Klement, Fordham University Press, 1998, excerpts pp. 202-203; 232-233-235; 252)

America’s Crisis of Nationalism

John Dalberg-Acton (1834-1902) was an English historian, politician and writer who was sympathetic toward the American Confederacy as he saw its constituent States defending themselves against an oppressive centralized government under Lincoln. He noted that though the United States had begun as a federated republic of sovereign States, it was fast becoming a centralized democracy operating on simple majority rule – “the tyrannical principle of the French Revolution.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

America’s Crisis of Nationalism

“The French Revolution constitutes a dividing line in history, before which the concept of nationality did not exist. “In the old European system, the rights of nationalities were neither recognized by governments not asserted by the people.” Frontiers were determined by the interests of ruling families. Absolutists cared only for the state and liberals only for the individual. The idea of nationality in Europe was awakened by the partition of Poland.

This event left, for the first time, a nation desiring to be united as a state – a soul wandering in search of a body, as [Lord] Acton put it. The absolutist governments which had divided up Poland – Russia, Prussia, and Austria – were to encounter two hostile forces, the English spirit of liberty and the doctrines of the French Revolution. These two forces supported the nascent idea of nationality, but they did so along different paths.

When the absolutist government of France was overthrown, the people needed a new principle of unity. Without this, the theory of popular will could have broken the country into as many republics as there were communes.

At this point the theory of the sovereignty of the people was used to create an idea of nationality independent of the course of history. France became a Republic One and Indivisible. This signified that no part could speak for whole. The central power simply obeyed the whole. There was a power supreme over the state, distinct from and independent of its members. Hence there developed a concept of nationality free from all influence of history.

The revolution of 1848, though unsuccessful, promoted the idea of nationality in two ways.

[Lord] Acton brought [the theory of nationality versus the right of nationality] to bear upon the American crisis of 1861. He . . . took the story of the American sectional conflict and [placed] it in the wider frame of the French revolutionary nationalism and the ensuing movements toward unification.

For Acton therefore the great debate over the nature of the American union and the Civil War was not a unique event, but part of that political spasm . . . which was then affecting Europe and erupting in military struggles.

Acton addressed himself to the problem in a long essay on “The Political Causes of the American Revolution” [in May 1861] . . . By “American Revolution” Acton meant the Civil War, then on the verge of breaking out. His essay was a causal exposition of the forces which had made this a crisis of nationalism.

His approval of [John C.] Calhoun centers really on one point: Calhoun had seen that the real essence of a constitution lies in its negative aspect, not in its positive one. It is more important for a constitution in a democracy to prohibit than to provide.

The will of the majority would always be reaching out for more power, unless this could be checked by some organic law, the end of liberty would come when the federal authority became the institute of the popular will instead of its barrier.”

(Lord Acton: The Historian as Thinker; In Defense of Tradition, Collected Shorter Writings of Richard M. Weaver, 1929-1963, Liberty Fund, 2000, excerpts pp. 624-628)

 

 

Preferring Compromise to War

Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois addressed the United States Senate on January 3, 1861 (below), after the Committee of Thirteen was unable to agree on a plan to remedy the escalating sectional crisis between North and South. He promoted several constitutional amendments to peacefully reestablish the Union on the basis of sectional integrity and national prosperity. The new Republican Party refused several attempts at compromise, and invaded the American South after provoking a conflict at Charleston harbor.  It should be remembered that Article 3, Section 3 or the Constitution defines treason as waging war against “them,” the united States.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Preferring Compromise to War

“In my opinion, the Constitution was intended as a bond of perpetual Union. It was intended to last [forever], and was so understood when ratified by the people of the several States. New York and Virginia have been referred to as having ratified with the reserved right to withdraw or secede at pleasure. This was a mistake. [Their intention was] that they had not surrendered the right to resume the delegated powers, [and] must be understood as referring to the right of revolution, which nobody acknowledges more freely than I do, and not the right of secession.

Nor do I sympathize at all in all the apprehensions and misgivings I hear expressed about coercion. We are told that inasmuch as our Government is founded upon the will of the people, or the consent of the governed, therefore coercion is incompatible with republicanism. Sir, the word government means coercion. There can be no Government without coercion.

But coercion must always be used in the mode prescribed in the Constitution and laws. But the proposition to subvert the de facto government of South Carolina, and reduce the people of that State into subjection to our Federal authority, no longer involves the question of enforcing the laws in a country within our possession; but does involve a question whether we will make war on a State which has withdrawn her allegiance and expelled our authorities, with the view of subjecting her to our possession for the purpose of enforcing our laws within her limits.

I desire to know from my Union-loving friends on the other side of the Chamber how they intend to enforce the laws in the seceding States, except by making war, conquering them first, and administering the laws in them afterwards.

In my opinion, we have reached a point where dissolution is inevitable, unless some compromise, founded upon mutual concession, can be made. I prefer compromise to war. The preservation of this Union, the integrity of this Republic, is of more importance than party platforms or individual records.

Why not allow the people to pass [judgment] on these questions? All we have to do is to submit [the constitutional compromises] to the States. If the people reject them, theirs will be the responsibility . . . if they accept them, the country will be safe, and at peace.

The political party which shall refuse to allow [the] people do determine for themselves at the ballot-box the issue between revolution and war on the one side, and obstinate adherence to a party platform on the other, will assume a fearful responsibility.

A war upon a political issue, waged by a people of eighteen States against a people of fifteen States, is a fearful and revolting thought. The South will be a unit, and desperate, under the belief that your object in waging war is their destruction, and not the preservation of the Union; that you meditate servile insurrection . . . by fire and sword, in the name and under the pretext of enforcing the laws and vindicating the authority of the Government.

You know that such is the prevailing opinion at the South; and that ten million people are preparing for the conflict under that conviction.”

(The Politics of Dissolution: the Quest for a National Identity & the American Civil War, Marshall L. DeRosa, editor, Transaction Publishers, 1998, excerpts, pp. 194-196; 201-202)

 

“On Whom Rests the Blame for the Civil War”

The Republican defeat of the Crittenden Compromise and subsequent thirteenth amendment to the Constitution, which Lincoln endorsed, opened the path to war prosecuted by the North. Lincoln let it be known to Republicans that no compromise or peaceful settlement of issues dividing the country would be tolerated before his inauguration, as he put his party above the safety and continuance of the Founders’ Union.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

“On Whom Rests the Blame for the Civil War”

“From Buffalo, on January 18, 1861, [Horatio Seymour] wrote Senator [John J.] Crittenden of Kentucky in support of his scheme of compromise. It was in his opinion that this “great measure of reconciliation” struck “the popular heart.” James Ford Rhodes fortified one’s belief in the good judgment of Seymour when he studied the defeat of Senator Crittenden’s proposals. In view of the appalling consequences the responsibility of both Lincoln and [William] Seward for that defeat is heavy, if not dark – in spite of all that historians of the inevitable have written of “this best of all possible worlds.”

The committee to which Crittenden’s bill for compromise was referred consisted of thirteen men. Crittenden himself was the most prominent of the three representatives from the Border States. Of three Northern Democrats, [Stephen] Douglas of Illinois, was the leader; of five Republicans, Seward was the moving spirit. Only two men sat from the Cotton States, [Jefferson] Davis and [Robert] Toombs. Commenting on the fateful vote of the committee, Rhodes observed:

“No fact is more clear than that the Republicans in December [1860] defeated the Crittenden compromise; a few historic probabilities have better evidence to support them than the one which asserts that the adoption of this measure would have prevented the secession of the cotton States, other than South Carolina, and the beginning of the civil war in 1861 . . . It is unquestionable, as I have previously shown, that in December the Republicans defeated the Crittenden proposition; and it seems to me likewise clear that, of all the influences tending to this result, the influence of Lincoln was the most potent.”

Two-thirds of each House . . . recommended to the States a compromise thirteenth amendment to the Constitution, as follows: “No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State.” Conservative Republicans voted with the Democrats to carry this measure of which Lincoln approved in his inaugural address.

“As bearing on the question on whom rests the blame for the Civil War,” observes Rhodes, this proposed thirteenth amendment and its fate is of the “highest importance.”

(Horatio Seymour of New York, Stewart Mitchell, Harvard University Press, 1938, pp. 223-224)

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