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Public Debt, Then and Now

Abraham Lincoln was a devotee of the Alexander Hamilton/Henry Clay “American System” of public debt, tariff protectionism, government subsidies and a national bank. To finance his war in 1861, Lincoln turned to an income tax, and then succumbed to printing money. Nowhere in the United States Constitution is the federal government authorized to make paper money legal tender. By 1865, the public debt was $2.6 billion, and the direct/indirect cost of Lincoln’s war would reach $8 billion by 1900.

www.Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Public Debt, Then and Now

“Contrary to official capitalist wisdom, debt does not create economic growth. This idea is a swindle. Interest to the very rich . . . does not produce anything. It does not multiply creatively into new enterprises and jobs; it merely diverts ever-greater proportions of earning that might be fruitfully invested.

The proof is all around us. How could the vast unpayable federal debt, which absorbs much of the government’s income just for the interest bondholders, foreign and domestic, possibly be an economic stimulus? How can the immense and near universal burden of personal mortgage and credit card debt possibly indicate a healthy economy and commonwealth?

The matter is simple, obvious to anybody except a politician, a captive economist, or a media flack, and it ought to be conveyed to the people at every opportunity. Debt is killing us. Every wise man in recorded history has affirmed that debt is not a good thing. Debt can destroy a family, a government, a society.

Alexander Hamilton, an upwardly mobile immigrant bastard with a Napoleon complex, declared that “a public debt is a public blessing.” Troubled, but not surprised, Jefferson noted a connection between debt cruel taxation that undermined the independence of the citizens, warning that “we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt.”

Weighed down by government debt, the people would have to labor ever harder to pay the debt-holders, leaving them “no time to think, no means of calling the managers to account.” Jefferson avowed as a core principle that “the earth belongs in usufruct to the living,” but the living had no right to consume the earnings of posterity.

Antebellum statesmen like John Taylor of Caroline and John C. Calhoun and economists like William Gouge and Condy Rageut made the same case. After the War Between the States, so did William Graham Sumner, Thomas E. Watson and countless other public men and thinkers.

Republicans (and their predecessors) have always been the party of bankers and bondholders, service to the rich being for them a natural and essential function of the federal government. Opposition to the federal debt was long a plank in the Democratic platform, but Democrats today are just as guilty as the Republicans in regard to the issue.

Lip service to the virtue of “low public debt” continued until Franklin Roosevelt discovered Keynes and declared that debt is no problem “because we owe it to ourselves” – “ourselves” being a conveniently vague and collective being.

The bipartisan bailout of misbehaving bankers and brokers that we saw a few years ago, and the failure of a multitude of presidential candidates to mention the matter, is not promising.”

(It’s the Debt, Stupid, Clyde N. Wilson, Chronicles, February 2016, excerpt pg. 16)

Unproductive Republican Economic Policies

April, 1865 witnessed the victory of Northern industrial capitalism over the conservative, agrarian South – no longer could Southern statesmen restrain the North in the halls of Congress. Post-1865 America saw the rise of corporations, the completion of Manifest Destiny and near-extermination of the Indians, and the gilded age of “evil robber barons.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Unproductive Republican Economic Policies

“Historians have tended to treat the Civil War as a boon to industry and the American economy. Thomas C. Cochrane cites several prominent historians . . . who variously praised the impact of the conflict on wartime production and its stimulating effect on postwar economic and industrial development.

Cochrane . . . examined statistical data on industrial production and found that, in general, there was not a strong case for a positive impact and that the war had a retarding effect on industry and the economy. Cochrane also found little support for the claims of beneficial effects of the Civil War on postwar development. He concludes with this speculation:

“From most standpoints the Civil War was a national disaster, but Americans like to see their history in terms of optimism and progress. Perhaps the war was put in a perspective suited to the culture by seeing it as good because in addition to achieving freedom for the Negro it brought about industrial progress.”

[Charles and Mary] Beard’s claim that the Civil War was a spur to industry and the rise of the American economy is based on the lasses-faire philosophy of the Republican Party and its success in implementing its major policy goals, such as subsidies to the intercontinental railroads, the establishment of a national currency and the protective tariff.

The Republican’s economic philosophy was not truly laissez-fair. In fact, their policy agenda was the opposite . . . in that it advocated special treatment for big business and a much larger role for the federal government. This can be seen in Republican policies to subsidize railroads, provide protective tariffs [for select private industries], and increase government debt and government control over money and banking as well as in their attitude toward labor.

Their policies [of tariffs and subsidies] . . . are now considered economically wasteful . . . and considered nothing more than special interests seeking a handout from the taxpayer through the government. [That Republican policies were productive] ignores the negative effects on the agriculture, service and cultural sectors. The Republicans’ policy would be better labelled as mercantilist in that it facilitated rent-seeking behavior.

Capital diverted to railroad building would surely have been put to good use elsewhere in the economy . . . [and] Moreover, had railroads not been highly subsidized, a better built, lower cost, and more timely system could have been put in place.

Tariffs were a centerpiece of Republican policy. They reversed a relatively free-trade policy . . . [and] protectionism forced consumers to pay higher prices for both imported and domestically produced goods protected by the tariff – that is, they purchased fewer of these products, used less desirable substitutes, and had a lower standard of living.

On net, the losses to consumers and the overall economy are greater than the gains to the protected producers and the tax revenue that accrues to the government.”

(Tariffs, Blockades and Inflation, the Economics of the Civil War; Mark Thornton and Robert B. Ekelund, Jr., Scholarly Resources Books, 2004, excerpts, pp. 84-87)

Our Inhuman Foe

Though Northern General David Birney was born in Alabama, his Kentucky abolitionist father moved the family to Philadelphia where he was educated and indoctrinated. A thoroughly political general who rose through the ranks by self-promotion and connections, his career was dotted with discipline issues and courts martial. He was described as a “pale, Puritanical figure, with a demeanor of unmovable coldness . . .” He ordered the indiscriminate bombardment of women, children and old men in mid-1864 Petersburg, which offered no military targets.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Our Inhuman Foe

“The war against the civilian population of the Cockade City began in earnest on June 16. The 10th Massachusetts Battery took an advanced position near the Hare House Hill, from which, one artilleryman later recalled, the “spires of Petersburg were now in full view, though distant, perhaps, two miles.”

Two days of bitter fighting remained before the Union leaders would admit failure in their attempt to storm Petersburg, but the targeting of noncombatants did not wait that long. “By order of Gen. Birney we gave our pieces ample elevation and fired the first shots known to have been thrown into the city,” cannoneer John D. Billings noted.

“What a night was the last,” Fanny Waddell wrote the next morning. “Our inhuman foe without a single warning opened their guns upon us, shelling a city full of defenseless women, children and old men.” The bombardment that began on June 16 lasted well into the early hours of June 17.

“I lay quietly until nearly one o’clock listening the bursting of the shells when one exploded so near that the light flashed in my face,” Mrs. Waddell recollected. Ah! The bitterness of that night will never pass from our hearts and memories.”

The correspondent for the Savannah Republican reported on June 19 that a “number of shells have exploded in the streets [of Petersburg], but thus far only eleven persons have been hurt, including one old Negro woman killed.”

An officer visiting Petersburg shortly after this report was filed thought that everything seemed “exceedingly depressing. The streets were almost deserted, and the destructive work of the shells was visible on every hand. Here a chimney was knocked off, here a handsome residence was deserted, with great rents in its walls, and the windows shattered by explosion; here stood a church tower mutilated, the church yard filled with new-made graves.”

Large numbers of civilians fled the Petersburg battle zone within days of Grant’s approach. James Albright, a Virginia artilleryman, wrote in his diary on June 20, “The vandals are still throwing shells into the city, and it is very distressing to see the poor women and children leaving. It is hard on all; but to see the poor women with the children on one arm and their little budgets on the other seeking a safe place – is enough to move the hardest heart.”

The civilian exodus was accelerated by rumors that the Yankees planned to celebrate the Fourth of July with “a furious bombardment of the City.” Another Petersburg diarist noted that during one bombardment “pieces of shell [were] rattling like hail about our house.” There were so many burning structures that one Southern artilleryman angrily declared that the “Yankees appear[ed] to be throwing incendiary shells into the city – as some five buildings were on fire at the same time.”

At least one Union battery did use Petersburg to test its homemade incendiary shells. These were concocted by Major Jacob Roemer and thrown into the city in late July, doing “a great deal of damage there.” Another heavy Union bombardment on July 28 started a number of blazes, all noted by Union observers.

To add to the fire hazard, the Union artillery would concentrate its shelling on the burning structures, so that the air around the men battling the flames would be filled with a “perfect storm of shot and shell.”

(The Last Citadel, Petersburg, Virginia, June 1864-April 1865, Noah Andre Trudeau, Little, Brown and Company, 1991, excerpts pp. 91-92; 95-96)

Striving to Maintain the Union

The departure of Southern States from the fraternal Union came as no surprise to many, and those like Alexander H. Stephens of Georgia forecast disunion to President James Buchanan if he would not end his warfare with Stephen Douglas. Noting the refusal of Republicans to compromise and not wanting to return to Congress to witness the death of the Union, Stephens returned Georgia to await the unfolding events.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Striving to Maintain the Union

“The [Cincinnati] speech was intended as a solemn warning not only to his constituents and people of the South, but the whole country, that in his opinion the peace and prosperity of the country depended upon a strict and inflexible adherence to the principles of the adjustment measures of 1850 upon the subject of slavery, as carried out and expressed in the Democratic Baltimore platform of 1852, with the additional plank inserted in the Cincinnati Convention of 1856.

It was well known then that Mr. Stephens had serious apprehensions that those principles would be departed from in the next Democratic Convention to be held in Charleston the following year. It was also known that he did not finally determine to withdraw from Congress until after a personal interview with Mr. [James] Buchanan, in which he had urged the President to cease his warfare against Mr. [Stephen] Douglas, and the support of the paper known as his organ in Washington in insisting upon the insertion of a new plank in the next Convention, asserting it to be the duty of Congress to pass acts to protect slavery in the Territories, and not to leave that subject, as the Cincinnati platform had done, with the people of the Territories.

Mr. Stephens most urgently urged the President that if he continued to pursue the line of policy he was then following there would be a burst-up at Charleston, and with that burst-up of the Union – temporary or permanent – “as certainly as he would break his neck if he sprang from that window” [of the reception-room at the White house, in which they were conversing] “or as the sun would set that night.”

Mr. Buchanan seemed surprised at this opinion, but was unshaken in his determination to adhere to the policy he was then following. Mr. Stephens, in taking leave, told the President that his object in seeking the interview was to know if his purpose was as stated, and if that was so, his own intention was, not to be allowed to return to the next Congress.

He had spent sixteen years of life in striving to maintain the Union upon the principles of the Constitution; this he thought could be done for many years to come upon the principles set forth in the Cincinnati platform. The Government administered on these principles he thought the best in the world; but if it was departed from, he saw nothing but ruin ahead. He did not wish to be in at the death; but if disunion should come in consequence of this departure, he should go with the people of his own State.

Another fact connected with the retirement of Mr. Stephens from Congress may be noted here. When leaving Washington, with a number of other Southern members, on the beautiful morning of the 5th of March, 1859, he stood at the stern of the boat for some minutes, gazing back at the Capitol, when someone jocularly said, “I suppose you are thinking of coming back to those halls as a Senator.” (It was known that he had announced his intention not to return as a Representative.)

Mr. Stephens replied, with some emotion, “No; I never expect to see Washington again, unless I am brought here as a prisoner of war.” This was literally fulfilled in the latter part of October 1865, when he passed through Washington on his way to his home as a paroled prisoner from Fort Warren.”

(Life of Alexander H. Stephens, R.M. Johnston & W.H. Brown, J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1883, excerpts, pp. 347-348)

 

 

Corporate Tricks and Devices

Few, if any, Gilded Age tycoons were expert economists – but all understood theories of supply and demand, the law of diminishing returns, and assumed that every man was motivated by the selfish love of gain. Most also believed in unfettered competition, theoretically, unless bribed government officials could be used to handicap competitors. U.S. Grant’s notorious administration of corrupt and bought politicians helped pave the way into the Gilded Age – the predictable outcome of Lincoln’s revolution.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Corporate Tricks and Devices

“Nobody expounded the folly of tampering with the laws of economics more eloquently than Yale’s great teacher of political economy, the dynamic William Graham Sumner. In his book What Social Classes Owe to Each Other, published in 1883, he had put the reformers to rout.

“The yearning after equality,” he had written, “”is the offspring of envy and covetousness, and there is no possible plan for satisfying that yearning which do aught else than rob A to give to B; consequently all such plans nourish some of the meanest vices of human nature, waste capital, and overthrow civilization.”

This emphatically did not mean that Sumner was opposed to a better life for everybody. On the contrary, as a man of high and generous principle – he had begun his working life as a clergyman – he was heartily in favor of it. But he believed in the wider extension of opportunity, not in changing the rules under which business was conducted. He argued that:

“[Instead] of endeavoring to redistribute acquisitions which have been made between the existing classes, our aim should be to increase, multiply, and extend the chances. Such is the work of civilization. Every improvement in education, science, art or government expands the chances of man on earth. Such expansion is no guarantee of equality. On the contrary, if there be liberty, some will profit by the chances eagerly and some will neglect them altogether. Therefore, the greater the chances, the more unequal will be the fortune of these two sets of men. So it ought to be, in all justice and right reason.”

Sumner would not have argued that there were not some ways in which legislation could protect the economically helpless. But he thought that most reform legislation was conceived in ignorance and drafted in folly.

“You need not think it necessary,” he would tell his Yale classes, “to have Washington exercise a political providence over the country. God has done that a good deal better by the laws of political economy.”

The irony of the situation lay in the fact that for generations men have been tinkering with economic law to their own advantage, and in the process had produced institutions which were emphatically not God’s work – as most of Sumner’s hearers presumably supposed them to be – but man’s.

The corporation, for instance, was not an invention of God’s. It was an invention of man’s. It was a creature of the state . . . [and] one of the great inventions of the nineteenth century . . . Yet be taking adroit advantage of the legislative acts which defined its privileges, one could play extraordinary tricks with it. Corporate devices could be used to permit A to rob B – or, let us say, more charitably, to permit A to drain off all the gravy in sight and leave none for B.

It was largely as a result of the discovery of tricks that could be played with corporations, and particularly with their capital stock, that the wealth produced in such a tremendous spate at the turn of the century flowed in large proportion into a few well-placed hands.”

(The Big Change, America Transforms Itself, 1900-1950, Frederick Lewis Allen, Harper & Brothers, 1952, pp. 67-69)

 

Suppressing the Consent of the Governed

As asserted below, Americans in general seem unaware of the enormity of the Southern experience 1861-1865 and the aftermath of devastating defeat and subjugation. The author’s analogy brings needed perspective to an unnecessary war and death of a million Americans, counting military and civilian casualties.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Suppressing the Consent of the Governed

“Imagine America invaded by a foreign power, one that has quadruple the population and industrial base. Imagine that this enemy has free access to the world’s goods as well as an inexhaustible supply of cannon fodder from the proletariat of other countries, while America itself is tightly blockaded from the outside world.

New York and Cincinnati have been taken. For months, Boston and Chicago have been under constant siege, the civilian population driven from their homes. Enemy forces roam over large parts of the country burning the homes, tools and food of the noncombatants in a campaign of deliberate terrorism.

Nearly eighty-five percent of the nation’s able-bodied men (up to 50 years of age) have been called to arms. Battlefield casualties have run to 39 percent and deaths amount to half of that, far exceeding those from any other war.

On the other hand, the enemy, though its acts and domestic propaganda indicate otherwise, is telling the American population that it only wants peace and the restoration of the status quo antebellum. Lay down your arms and all will be as before. What would be our state of morale in such conditions? Americans have never suffered such misfortune, have they?

Alas, they have. This was the experience of the Southern people from 1861-1865 in their lost War for Independence.

How hard the Southerners struggled for independence from the American Empire has been, and continues to be, suppressed by a nationalist culture that can only wonder: How could any group possibly have dissented from the greatest government on earth? But a very large number of Americans did no consent that government (the regime, after all, was supposed to be founded on the consent of the governed).

They were willing to put their dissent on the line in a greater sacrifice than any large group of Americans has ever been called on to make. Until finally, as a disappointed Union officer quoted by [author Gary] Gallagher remarked: “The rebellion [was] worn out rather than suppressed.”

(An Honorable Defeat, Clyde Wilson, Chronicles, October 1998, pg. 28)

Lincoln and the Supreme Court

Lincoln infamously ignored Chief Justice Roger B. Taney’s order finding that the president held no constitutional authority to suspend the writ of habeas corpus – and, reportedly had drafted an order to arrest the Chief Justice. Though Taney would remain Chief Justice during most of the war, his Court was on notice that arrest and imprisonment awaited Lincoln’s dissenters.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Lincoln and the Supreme Court

“The [Lincoln] administration would await no debacle, no breath-taking defeat at the hands of the Supreme Court. It could ill-afford such a calamity. It would move to make such a defeat less likely [and] it would be folly to permit Supreme Court decisions to add to the travail.

President Lincoln and the Republicans were now to decide, concerning the size of the Supreme Court, that the number “ten” was much more convenient than the number “nine.” Under the leadership of Representative James F. Wilson the committee on the judiciary reported to the house a bill to create a tenth circuit . . . [meaning] a tenth Justice. It was prudence that dictated a packed Court in order to strengthen the position of those Justices who would view with favor the acts that the administration deemed necessary.

Admittedly this was a moderate packing of the Court, but the tenth Justice in addition to the three other Lincoln appointees and other friendly Justices on the bench would provide an adequate margin of safety. So it was in the same days that the Prize Cases were being considered by the Court that Congress went about the task of creating . . . a tenth Justice. The Court could not fail to see the implications.

To pack it just at this time was a sharp warning that its size, its powers, and its role rested upon the will of the Congress and the President. There was no delay [in the appointment]. The Senate, deeming that swift action was necessary, passed the bill the same day that it took up consideration of it.

Keep[ing] the power of the Court “right.” That was the strongest motivation for adding a tenth justice . . . during the Civil War. Senator Garrett Davis of Kentucky stated on the floor of the Senate on January 14, 1868, that the Radicals forced the creation of the tenth justiceship.

The power of the government to defend itself would be questioned again before the Supreme Court, and a tenth Justice would at least make certain “that questions of the power of government to suppress rebellion would not come before a Court too hopelessly weighted on the side of the old-line Democratic view of public policy.” The Supreme Court had to be removed as a factor potentially dangerous to the Union. A Congress and a President that had experience the debacles of 1862 would not stand idly by to experience disaster at the hands of the Supreme Court.”

(Lincoln’s Supreme Court, David M. Silver, University of Illinois Press, 1998, pp. 84-88)

A Palpable Violation of the Constitution

Clearly defined in the United States Constitution is this: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only of Levying war against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort . . .” Note the word “them” – not the United States collectively, and that John Brown was convicted of treason against Virginia.  Though Lincoln’s predecessor did not agree with secession, he saw no constitutional authority to coerce a State, and knew that to wage war against a State was treason. Lincoln had no such inhibitions. The following is excerpted from a letter from Jefferson Davis to Mississippi newspaper publisher and war veteran J.L. Power, dated June 19, 1884.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

A Palpable Violation of the Constitution

“Dear Sir,

[From] the statement in regard to Fort Sumter, a child might suppose that a foreign army had attacked the United States – certainly could not learn that the State of South Carolina was merely seeking possession of a fort on her own soil, and claiming that her grant of the site had become void.

The tyrant’s plea of necessity to excuse despotic usurpation is offered for the unconstitutional act of emancipation, and the poor resort to prejudice is invoked in the use of the epithet “rebellion” – a word inapplicable to States generally, and most especially so to the sovereign members of a voluntary union. But, alas for their ancient prestige, [the States] have even lost the plural reference they had in the Constitution . . . Such language would be appropriate to an imperial Government, which in absorbing territories required the subject inhabitants to swear allegiance to it.

Ignorance and artifice have combined so to misrepresent the matter of official oaths in the United States that it may be well to give the question more than a passing notice. When the “sovereign, independent States of America,” formed a constitutional compact of union it was provided in the sixth article thereof that the officers “of the United States and of the several States shall be bound by oath or affirmation to support this Constitution . . .”

That was the oath. The obligation was to support the Constitution. It created no new obligation, for the citizen already owed allegiance to his respective State, and through her to the Union of which she was a member.

The conclusion is unavoidable that those who did not support, but did not violate the Constitution, were they who broke their official oaths.

The General Government had only the powers delegated to it by the States. The power to coerce a State was not given, but emphatically refused.

Therefore, to invade a State, to overthrow its government by force of arms, was a palpable violation of the Constitution, which officers had sworn to support, and thus to levy war against States which the Federal officers claimed to be, notwithstanding their ordinances of secession, still in the Union, was the treason defined in the third section of the third article of the Constitution, the only treason recognized by the fundamental law of the United States.

By all that is revered in the memory of our Revolutionary sires, and sacred in the principles they established, let not the children of the United States be taught that our Federal Government is sovereign; that our sires, after having, by a long and bloody war, won community independence, used the power, not for the end sought, but to transfer their allegiance, and by oath or otherwise bind their posterity to be the subjects of another government, from which they could only free themselves by force of arms.”

Respectfully, Jefferson Davis”

(Jefferson Davis, the Essential Writings, William J. Cooper, Jr., editor, Modern Library, 2003, excerpts, pp. 431-432)

 

For What are They Waging War?

Jefferson Davis referred to Lincoln’s proclamation of emancipation in early 1863 as affording “our whole people the complete and crowning proof of the true nature of the designs of the party which elevated to power the present occupant of the Presidential chair at Washington and which sought to conceal its purpose . . .” Davis, like others familiar with the United States Constitution, saw that only the individual States could emancipate, not the government created by the States. And waging war upon the States was an act of treason under that same Constitution.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

For What are They Waging War?

January 5, 1863

“Friends and Fellow Citizens . . .

I am happy to be welcomed on my return to the Capital of our Confederacy – the last hope, as I believe, for the perpetuation of that system of government which our forefathers founded – the asylum of the oppressed and the home of true representative liberty.

Anticipating the overthrow of that Government which you had inherited, you assumed the right, as you fathers had done before you, to declare yourselves independent, and nobly have you advocated the assertion which you have made. You have shown yourselves in no respect to be degenerate sons of your fathers.

Men who were bound to you by the compact which their fathers and themselves had entered into the secure to you the rights and principles not only guaranteed by the Declaration of Independence, but rights which Virginia wisely and plainly reserved in her recognition of the government in which she took a part, now come to you with their hands steeped in blood, robbing the widow, destroying houses, seizing the grey-haired father, and incarcerating him in prison because he will not be a traitor to the principles of his fathers and the land that gave him birth.

Every crime which could characterize the course of demons has marked the course of the invader. The Northern portion of Virginia has been ruthlessly desolated – the people not only deprived of the means of subsistence, but their household property destroyed, and every indignity which the base imagination of a merciless foe could suggest inflicted, without regard to age, sex or condition.

In like manner their step has been marked in every portion of the Confederacy they have invaded.

They have murdered prisoners of war; they have destroyed the means of subsistence of families, they have plundered the defenceless, and exerted their most malignant ingenuity to bring to the deepest destitution those who only offence is that their husbands and sons are fighting for their homes and their liberties. Every crime conceivable, from the burning of defenceless towns to the stealing of our silver forks, and spoons, has marked their career.

It is in keeping, however, with the character of the people that seeks dominion over you, claim to be your masters, to try to reduce you to subjection – give up to a brutal soldiery your towns to sack, your homes to pillage and incite servile insurrection.

They have come to disturb our social organizations on the plea that it is military necessity. For what are they waging war? They say to preserve the Union.

Can they preserve the Union by destroying the social existence of a portion of the South? Do they hope to reconstruct the Union by striking at everything which is dear to man? BY showing them so utterly disgraced that if the question was proposed to you whether you would combine with hyenas or Yankees, I trust every Virginian would say, give me the hyenas.”

(Jefferson Davis, the Essential Writings, William J. Cooper, Jr., editor, Modern Library, 2003, excerpts, pp. 285-287)

 

The Republican’s Stubborn Purpose

The following is excerpted from a postwar letter written by Clement C. Clay of Alabama, to review the facts leading to the withdrawal of the Southern States in 1861, and Jefferson Davis’ efforts to forestall secession, seek conciliation with Northern leaders, and preserve the Union. It clearly identifies those wanting to preserve the Union, and lays the responsibility for disunion at the feet of Lincoln’s party.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Republican’s Stubborn Purpose

“Mr. Davis did not take an active part in planning or hastening secession. I think he only regretfully consented to it, as a political necessity for the preservation of popular and State rights’ which were seriously threatened by the triumph of a sectional party who were pledged to make war on them.

No “plan of secession” or “scheme of revolution” was, to my knowledge, discussed – certainly none matured – at the [Democratic] caucus, 5th of January, 1861 . . . I have never heard that the caucus advised the South “to accumulate munitions of war,” or “to organize and equip an army of one hundred thousand men,” or determined “to hold on as long as possible to the Southern seats [in Congress].”

So far from it, a majority of Southern Senators seemed to think there would be no war; that the dominant party in the North desired separation from the South, and would gladly let their “erring sisters go in peace.” I could multiply proofs of such a disposition.

As to holding on to their seats, no Southern legislature advised it, no Southern Senator who favored secession did so but one, and none others wished to do so, I believe.

The “plan of secession,” if any, and the purpose of secession, unquestionably, originated, not in Washington City, or with the Senators or Representatives of the South, but among the people of the several States, many months before it was attempted. They followed no leaders at Washington or elsewhere, but acted for themselves, with an independence and unanimity unprecedented in any movement of such magnitude.

Before the election of Lincoln, all the Southern States, excepting one or two, had pledged themselves to separate from the Union upon the triumph f a sectional party in the Presidential election, by acts or resolutions of their Legislatures, resolves of both Democratic and Whig State Conventions, and of primary assemblies of the people – in every way in which they could commit themselves to any future act.

Their purpose was proclaimed to the world through the press and telegraph, and criticized in Congress, in the Northern Legislatures, in press and pulpit, and on the hustings, during many months before Congress met in December, 1860.

Over and above all these facts, the reports of the United States Senate show that, prior to the 5th of January 1861, Southern Senators united with Northern Democratic Senators in an effort to effect pacification and prevent secession, and that Jefferson Davis was one of a committee appointed by the Senate to consider and report such a measure; that it failed because the Northern Republicans opposed everything that looked to peace; that Senator [Stephen A.] Douglas arraigned them as trying to precipitate secession, referred to Jefferson Davis as one who sought conciliation, and called upon Republican Senators to tell what they would do, if anything, to restore harmony and prevent disunion. They did not even deign a response.

Thus by their sullen silence, they made confession (without avoidance) of their stubborn purpose to hold up no hand raised to maintain the Union . . .”

(The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, Volume One, Jefferson Davis, D. Appleton and Company, 1881, excerpts, pp. 206-209)

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