Browsing "Lincoln’s Blood Lust"

New Yorker Antagonism Toward the War

In May, 1863 New York’s Democrat Governor Horatio Seymour pointed out to his constituents “that New York’s [troop] quota was too high and draft districts that were Democratic in their voting habits were called upon to furnish higher ratios of their population than Republican areas.”

It is worth noting that New York Democrats, in addition to opposing Lincoln’s war, opposed political and social equality of Negro citizens; the 1865 Republican State Convention dodged the issue and did so once again in 1866. The long-established “Jim Crow” limitations of Negro voting rights continued unabated in the Empire State.

New Yorker Antagonism Toward the War

“The political opposition contended, from the first, that the war was unnecessary because they felt that differences between North and South could be and should be compromised. To them there was no other goal superior to the preservation of the Union, and they saw the war primarily as a result of a Republican power drive wherein that party had refused to give up its advantages to save the nation.

[New Yorkers] voted Democrats into power along with Seymour in the election of 1862 after having voted Republicans into office in 1858 and 1860. This was a real blow to the Republican administration both in Albany and in Washington and possibly could be interpreted as a repudiation of the party’s policies and actions.

New Yorker’s enthusiasm for “Mr. Lincoln’s War,” it appeared was not running very high in 1862, and they expressed themselves at the polls.

General George B. McClellan’s Peninsula campaign in Virginia collapsed in July 1862 and started the disillusionment. This military failure of the North was quickly followed by General Robert E. Lee’s defeat of General John Pope at [Second] Manassas in August.

Meanwhile, Democratic electioneering and political carping in the fall of 1862 pointed to the failure of Lincoln’s administration to win the war and excoriated his effort to make emancipation a war aim . . . which did not sit well with a great number of New Yorkers.

As a result, when Lincoln sent out another call for troops after [Sharpsburg], local boards in New York counties refused to cooperate in drafting, under State law, about 60,000 militia men for nine months duty. So disastrous was the response that Republican Governor Morgan and the Republican Secretary of War arranged for suspension of the call.

New Yorkers, evidently, were not inspired in the face of impending defeat and a new humanitarian goal of emancipation to rise to either cause. Passively, they avoided service in the armed forces.

In December [1862], just before Christmas, General Burnside’s troops were decimated at Fredericksburg. The defeat produced a wail of despair in the North, and, as the new year of 1863 began, New Yorker’s antagonism to the war heightened.

In New York City a giant mid-May [1863] mass meeting of 30,000 people was promoted by [Mayor] Fernando Wood’s Peace Democrats and held at Union Square. The language of the speakers was incendiary . . . [one] reminded “the George III of the present day [Lincoln] that he too may have his Cromwell or his Brutus . . .”

(New York State in the Civil War, Robert J. Rayback, New York History, New York State Historical Association, Volume XLII, No. 1, January 1961, excerpts pp. 64-66)

Lincoln’s Proclamation

Faced with numerous American farmers in the South opposing his will and defeating his armies, a desperate Lincoln merely copied Royal Governor Lord Dunmore’s emancipation proclamation of November 1775. In mid-1862, Lincoln’s war was going as badly as was Dunmore’s, and the solution was to incite a slave insurrection to teach the independence-minded Americans a stern lesson. The British did this once more in 1814, as Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane issue an emancipation edict to incite a race war, for the same reasons.

Lincoln’s Proclamation

“Official history venerates Abraham Lincoln as an apostle of American democracy who waged war on the South to preserve the Union and free the slaves. Official history is a lie.

Lincoln was a dictator who destroyed the Old Republic and replaced the federal principles of 1789 with the ideological foundations of today’s welfare/warfare state. His administration was characterized by paranoia, a lust for power, and rampant corruption. The magnitude of that paranoia was evidenced by Lincoln’s secretary of war, Edwin M. Stanton, who declared that:

“Every department of the Government was paralyzed by treason.” “Traitors” were to be found “in the Senate, in the House of Representatives, in the Cabinet, in the Federal Courts . . . Treason was flagrant in the revenue and in the post-office service, as well as in the Territorial governments and in the judicial reserves.”

In his bid for absolute power, Lincoln used “treason” as a pretext to unleash war and shred to Constitution. Freedom of the press was curtailed. The Chicago Times was one of 300 Northern newspapers suppressed for expressing “incorrect” views. As late as May 18, 1864, Lincoln ordered his military to “arrest and imprison . . . the editors, proprietors and publishers of the New York World and the New York Journal of Commerce.”

Lincoln suspended habeas corpus. He criminalized speech and legalized arbitrary arrests. Twenty thousand prisoners were held incommunicado and denied legal counsel. Maryland’s legislature was overthrown, and New York City was placed under military occupation.

Lincoln’s war against the South was not to preserve the Union from treasonous secessionists. Lincoln himself had championed the right of secession [during the Mexican War] . . . Nor did Lincoln wage war . . . to emancipate black slaves.

In his First Inaugural Address, on March 4, 1861, Lincoln emphatically declared: “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery . . . on September 11, 1861, he countermanded General Fremont’s order freeing the slaves in Missouri. And on May 19, 1862, he countermanded General Hunter’s order emancipating the slaves in Georgia, Florida and South Carolina.

With the demise of the Confederacy nowhere in sight, however, Lincoln changed his position on emancipation. On September 13, 1862, Lincoln explained . . . “I view this matter as a practical war measure, to be decided on according to the advantages or disadvantage it may offer to the suppression of the rebellion.”

The Emancipation Proclamation was an act of military desperation designed to realize two goals . . . to dissuade the British and the French governments from intervening militarily on behalf of the South. Second, Lincoln hoped to incite slaves to murder defenseless white women and children on the farms and in the cities of the Confederacy in the expectation that the Confederate army would disintegrate as soldiers abandoned the field to return home to save the lives of their families.”

(Lincoln and the Death of the Old Republic, Joseph E. Fallon, Chronicles, August 2002, excerpts pp. 43-44 – www.chroniclesmagazine.org) )

Americans Face Total War

The manner of conducting civilized war changed with the French Revolution of 1789, which introduced mass conscription and the mobilization of entire societies to the fighting. Armies formerly of several thousand gave way to armies of hundreds of thousands, and unimaginable carnage.

Added to this were technological advancements in weaponry which only increased the carnage; in the case of the American Civil War, the great advantage of war material production inherent in the industrial North, a navy with which to blockade the South, and the impressment of immigrants and black freedmen into the mercenary ranks gave the South little chance for independence.

By the last year of the American Civil War, the North had 2 million under arms against the dwindling Southern ranks. Southern units were assailed by infantry and cavalry armed with Henry repeating rifles, and Gatling guns were making their appearance on the battlefield by 1864.

Additionally, Sherman’s infamous march through poorly-defended Georgia and the Carolinas, destruction of the South’s agricultural strength, and his waging of war against defenseless civilians brought an inhuman total war to Americans in the South.

Total War

“Solitudinem faciunt pacem appellant.” They make a desert and call it peace.” (A Briton of the first century A.D., speaking of the Romans, as quoted by Tacitus, Agricola, 30 (A.D. 98)

“Diplomacy without armaments is like music without instruments.” (Frederick the Great of Prussia, 1712-1786)

“I have heard it said that peace brings riches; riches bring pride; pride brings anger; anger brings war; war brings poverty; poverty brings humanity; humanity brings peace; peace, as I have said, brings riches, and so the world’s affairs go round.” (Italian historian Luigi da Porto, 1509)

“To wage war, you need first of all money; second, you need money; and third, you also need money.” (Prince Montecuccolli of the Hapsburg court (1609-1680).

“The crowd is unable to digest scientific facts, which it scorns and misuses to its own detriment and that of the wise. Let not pearls, then, be thrown to swine.” (Roger Bacon (1214-1292), explaining why he hid his formula for gunpowder in a cryptogram)

“Wars are not paid for in wartime, the bill comes later.” (Benjamin Franklin)

“I don’t want to set fire to any town, and I don’t know any other use of rockets.” (The Duke of Wellington, following the burning of Copenhagen by 25,000 British rockets in 1806.)

“I begin to regard the death and mangling of a couple thousand men as a small affair, a kind of morning dash.” (General Sherman to his wife, Ellen, in a letter dated June 30, 1864) “If the people raise a howl against my barbarity and cruelty, I will answer that war is war, and not popularity-seeking. If they want peace, they and their relatives must stop the war.” (General Sherman to General Halleck, September 4, 1864, justifying his scorched-earth policy)

“The main thing in true strategy is simply this: first deal as hard blows at the enemy’s soldiers as possible, and then cause so much suffering to the inhabitants of a country that they will long for peace and press their Government to make it. Nothing should be left to the people but eyes to lament the war.” (General Philip Sheridan (1831-1888)

“It is useless to delude ourselves. All the restrictions, all the international agreements made during peacetime are fated to be swept away like dried leaves on the winds of war.” (Italian theorist of air power and strategic bombing, Gen. Giulio Douhet, 1928)

“Sixty percent of the bombs dropped are not accounted for, less than one percent have hit the aiming point and about three percent [land] within 500 feet.” (Letter from then-Colonel Curtis LeMay to an old friend, January 12, 1943, describing difficulties bombing German targets accurately.)

“We should never allow the history of this war to convict us of throwing the strategic bomber at the man in the street.” (Gen. Ira C. Eaker, commander of the Eighth Air Force in Britain during WW2, in a letter of January 1, 1945.)

[Captain Robert] Lewis, co-pilot of the Enola Gay, silently wrote in his log of the mission, “My God, what have we done?”

“Hundreds of injured people who were trying to escape to the hills passed our house. The sight of them was almost unbearable. Their faces and hands were burnt and swollen; and great sheets of skin had peeled away from their tissues to hang down like rags on a scarecrow. They moved like ants.” (Dr. Tabuchi, reporting on what happened to him in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945).

“Mr. President, I have blood on my hands.” (Scientist Robert Oppenheimer to Truman in 1946.)

(Total War: What it is, How it Got That Way, Thomas Powers and Ruthven Tremain, William Morrow & Company, 1988, excepts)

Human Fungi Confronting Gen. Johnston

“The greatest pleasure is to vanquish your enemies and chase them before you, to rob them of their wealth and see those dear to them bathed in tears, to ride their horses and clasp to your bosom their wives and daughters.” Genghis Khan (1162-1227)

Human Fungi Confronting Gen. Johnston

“[At Savannah, Sherman wrote his wife, there] are some elegant people whom I knew in better days, who do not seem ashamed to call on “the vandal in chief.” They regard us just as the Romans did the Goths, and the parallel is not unjust.”

[Terror], as he later admitted, was to be Sherman’s ally in the new campaign. “My aim then was to whip the rebels, to humble their pride, to follow them to their inner recesses, and make them fear and dread us. “Fear is the beginning of wisdom” . . .

From the start, the campaign was called the Smokey March. In spite of wet weather, fires licked at railroad cars, depots, ties, at bales of cotton and bins of cottonseed, at acres of pine trees, at barrels of resin, at factories, at public buildings – sometimes at whole towns. Rail fences smoldered when not too deep in water. Barns blazed after foragers had emptied them, and houses that farmers had deserted glowed on the horizon where bummers explored.”

“[The Richmond Examiner of March 29, 1865 wrote] of 487 Yankee captives, shoeless, hatless, blackened by pine smoke . . . sent by Wade Hampton to prison in the Confederate capital. The prisoners were:

“scabs, scavengers and scum of creation. Never since the war began has such a crew of hell-born men, accursed and God-forsaken wretches polluted the air and defiled the highways of Richmond with the concentrated essence of all that is lecherous, hateful and despised. All these are part and parcel of that human fungi Johnston’s noble army are confronting . . . If he cannot successfully resist them, God help Richmond and her citizens.”

(Sherman: Fighting Prophet, Lloyd Lewis, Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1932, excerpts pp. 474; 488; 493; 512)

A Part of the Southern Family

The fidelity of black people is attested by many reports during the war, such as when Northern soldiers seized plantation hands to help them locate buried valuables. In front of Hopewell Associated Reformed Presbyterian Church in Chester, South Carolina, is a memorial stone to Robert Hemphill, the slave of Robert Hemphill — both were church members. The stone commemorates the fact that Burwell was hung by Northern soldiers who wanted the location of buried valuables on the plantation. They hung him briefly several times before killing him for refusing to answer, and died rather than be unfaithful to those he loved and served.

Part of the Southern Family

“As the tension between the two races who live side by side in our land seems to be increasing, I am glad to remember my colored friends with sincere appreciation of their merits, their keen sense of humor, and their loyalty. Should these words ever reach the rising generation, I hope it will give them a pleasant picture of the friendly relations between those who served and those who expected service.

The present-day movies and comics present our Negroes as “step-and-fetch-it” or a caricature of a would-be heavy sport. Gone is the real affection that made a white child cling with both arms around his nurse’s neck, or that prompted a gentleman to sit in open court beside an ex-slave being tried for his life.

In a friend’s house stands a gun, an old muzzle-loading gun long enough to reach from here to yonder. During the Civil War a raiding party from the Northern Army carried off a young Negro and the long gun. The boy patiently followed his captors, and then escaped one night to come safely back home to tell his master where the gun had been sold for $1.00. It was quickly rescued and is today a priceless antique in [a residence in] Brevard, North Carolina.

There was little black Liza . . . who sang me to sleep in my infancy, and lived to launder my wedding lingerie and to welcome my son when he entered the University of North Carolina. She and her husband, John Evans, were respected and useful citizens of Chapel Hill all their lives.

My children’s “Mammy” was “Aunt” Rilla McDonald. As a nurse of babies and sick people, her patience and fidelity were beyond praise; the touch of her hands brought comfort and peace. Only a few moments did she need to subdue the most rebellious infant; the very sound of her voice was soothing, and her presence in a sick room brought comfort and security.

Sixty years ago Southern people had not forgotten to call elderly Negroes “Aunt” or “Uncle” and to treat them with the courtesy their innate dignity demanded.

I do not know how many years “Aunt” Bina Ledbetter served Mr. Thomas Leak’s family, but I do know she was as much a part of the family as the mistress she served with unswerving fidelity. “Aunt” Bina was a large, black woman with a mien of commanding dignity and always extremely neat in her dress. “Aunt” Bina once got into a controversy with a tan-colored member of her church, being taunted with the words: “Ef I was as black as you I would keep my mouth shet.” She replied: “Tain’t so much the color that makes the difference between people – it’s the blood!”

(A Rare Pattern, Lucy Phillips Russell, UNC Press, 1957, excerpts pp. 165-167)

Incurring Great Evils for the Greater Good

Faced with military defeats, setbacks, dwindling enlistments and unable to conquer the American South as quickly as expected, Lincoln and his party Radicals converted the war from that of restoring the Union to one of emancipation and subjugation.

The North had become a despotism of taxes, conscription, political surveillance and arbitrary arrest, with paupers and immigrants filling the ranks for bounty money. Captured slaves from areas overrun by Northern troops netted black soldiers for heavy labor, guard and occupation duties —  who would be counted against State troop quotas – thus relieving white Northern men from fighting the unpopular war.

Four of the “great evils incurred” below were the loss of the United States Constitution, one million deaths, the subjugation of Southern Americans, and inciting racial antagonisms which remain with us today.

Incurring Great Evils for the Greater Good

“What Lincoln’s Proclamation Will Do: (from the New York Round Table, Republican)

Not only the overthrow of the rebellion as a military power, but the complete subjugation of the Southern people, until they are so utterly crushed and humbled as to be willing to accept life on any terms, is the essential condition of the President’s scheme. It may therefore prolong the war, and after the war is substantially ended, it may defer reunion . . .

It cannot be doubted that the President contemplates all this, and that in his mind, the removal of slavery being considered the most essential condition of the most desirable and permanent peace, he felt justified in incurring great evils for the sake of a greater ultimate good.

In plain English, we are informed that in order to abolish slavery the war is to be prolonged, and the day of the restoration of the Union deferred.”

(What Lincoln’s Proclamation Will Do: From the Republican New York Round Table, 1863; Logic of History: Five Hundred Political Texts, Being Concentrated Extracts of Abolitionism; Also, Results of Slavery Agitation and Emancipation; Together with Sundry Chapters on Despotism, Usurpations and Frauds. Stephen D. Carpenter, S.D. Carpenter, Publisher, 1864, excerpts pg. 304)

An Army of Plunderers

Lincoln was well-aware of the atrocities committed against Americans in Georgia and South Carolina by his military, and this would neither diminish or end in North Carolina. The war against civilians in no way contributed to “saving the Union” or healing the political divisions of 1861. Americans, North and South, now saw vividly the destructive results of seeking political independence from the new imperial regime in Washington.

An Army of Plunderers

“Foraging was still necessary to sustain the great number of troops until the Federal Army reached Goldsboro. Vandalism, stealing, and burning continued along their path. Neighbors recalled that “Mrs. Mary Corbett of Ivanhoe [Sampson County, NC] had just delivered a baby when the marauders came into her home. In order to make her reveal where the valuables were hidden, they started a fire at her bedroom window. Petrified with terror, Mrs. Corbett gave them up.”

In Johnston County, the bummers were especially harsh. They locked Mrs. Henry Finch in her home and set it afire. She jumped out the window.

Archibald Buchanan, similarly plundered like his neighbors of everything edible, found himself reduced to eating kernels of corn scattered by [enemy] cavalry “feeding their horses, and washing and grinding these handfuls for meal.”

Mrs. Rachel Pearson, of Duplin County, witnessed her aged, very ill aunt tossed from the bed onto the floor by the bummers looking for treasure. The Federals also killed Dr. Hicks by hanging him. Apparently they wanted to know the whereabouts of his hidden valuables, and he died before confessing.

As he resisted the plundering of his plantation east of Fayetteville, John Waddell was shot. [Enemy] Negro soldiers hung an old Negro man three times because he would not reveal where the owner’s valuables lay hidden. Older men and young boys suffered the same fate.

In Wayne County, Mrs. Cobb was in bed very ill when Sherman’s troops came to pillage. They destroyed every useful thing in her house except for articles in the room she lay in.

As the last few months of the war lowered its curtain, the US Army in the East began its march toward Goldsboro . . . The land between New Bern and Kinston was described as a wasteland. Homes had been burned, stock stolen or driven off, and gardens untended.

Sherman was quoted in December, 1864: “We are not fighting armies, but a hostile people.” He further stated: “The simple fact that a man’s home has been visited by an enemy makes a soldier very, very, anxious to get home to look after his family and property.”

This apparently was his reason to permit his soldiers to pillage, burn and terrorize North Carolina’s citizens.”

(Blood and War at My Doorstep, Volume II, Brenda Chambers McKean, Xlibris, 2011, excerpts pp. 1011-1012; 1016; 1019)

An Army of Plunderers “Foraging was still necessary to sustain the great number of troops until the Federal Army reached Goldsboro. Vandalism, stealing, and burning continued along their path. Neighbors recalled that “Mrs. Mary Corbett of Ivanhoe [Sampson County, NC] had just delivered a baby when the marauders came into her home. In order to make her reveal where the valuables were hidden, they started a fire at her bedroom window. Petrified with terror, Mrs. Corbett gave them up.” In Johnston County, the bummers were especially harsh. They locked Mrs. Henry Finch in her home and set it afire. She jumped out the window. Archibald Buchanan, similarly plundered like his neighbors of everything edible, found himself reduced to eating kernels of corn scattered by [enemy] cavalry “feeding their horses, and washing and grinding these handfuls for meal.” Mrs. Rachel Pearson, of Duplin County, witnessed her aged, very ill aunt tossed from the bed onto the floor by the bummers looking for treasure. The Federals also killed Dr. Hicks by hanging him. Apparently they wanted to know the whereabouts of his hidden valuables, and he died before confessing. As he resisted the plundering of his plantation east of Fayetteville, John Waddell was shot. [Enemy] Negro soldiers hung an old Negro man three times because he would not reveal where the owner’s valuables lay hidden. Older men and young boys suffered the same fate. In Wayne County, Mrs. Cobb was in bed very ill when Sherman’s troops came to pillage. They destroyed every useful thing in her house except for articles in the room she lay in. As the last few months of the war lowered its curtain, the US Army in the East began its march toward Goldsboro . . . The land between New Bern and Kinston was described as a wasteland. Homes had been burned, stock stolen or driven off, and gardens untended. Sherman was quoted in December, 1864: “We are not fighting armies, but a hostile people.” He further stated: “The simple fact that a man’s home has been visited by an enemy makes a soldier very, very, anxious to get home to look after his family and property.” This apparently was his reason to permit his soldiers to pillage, burn and terrorize North Carolina’s citizens.” (Blood and War at My Doorstep, Volume II, Brenda Chambers McKean, Xlibris, 2011, excerpts pp. 1011-1012; 1016; 1019)

Jackson Versus Two Amateurs of War

Stonewall Jackson’s stunning success in the Valley was truly Napoleonic as he fought against enormous odds and sent opponents reeling in defeat. One, Northern General James Shields, an Irish-born politician-general who boasted that Jackson feared him, had only days before their clash vowed that he would clear the Shenandoah Valley of Jackson’s patriot army. In truth, Jackson benefited as well from the hand of Providence and inept enemy leadership in Washington.

Jackson Versus Two Amateurs of War

“Next, Lincoln tried his hand in strategy.  He ordered [Major-General John C.] Fremont into the Shenandoah to Jackson’s rear, and after countermanding the order to join [Major-General George B.] McClellan, directed [Major-General Irvin] McDowell instead to send 20,000 men to the Shenandoah to assist Fremont, or to capture Jackson if he could not effect the junction.

More disaster followed when Jackson routed [General Nathaniel P.] Banks at Winchester on May 25 and drove him in wild flight thirty-five miles across the Potomac. Stanton, believing Washington in imminent danger, telegraphed the Northern governors to send militia for its defense.

Lincoln seized the railroads, recalled part of McDowell’s corps to Washington, and ordered Fremont, Banks and McDowell – still separated – to capture Jackson. On June 8, Fremont overtook the retreating Jackson at Cross Keys, but was repulsed; so was Shields who next day struck at Jackson at Port Republic.

Colonel [David] Henderson said that Jackson “fell as it were from the skies into the midst of his astonished foes, struck right and left before they could combine, and defeated in detail every detachment that crossed his path.”

With 17,000 men Jackson in a month won four battles and captured many prisoners. More important, he terrorized Washington and kept 40,000 men from joining McClellan [in his advance on Richmond]. Margaret Leech observed: “Divine interposition could scarcely have scattered the Federal forces more perfectly than had those two amateurs of war, Mr. Stanton and Mr. Lincoln.”

(The Edge of Glory: A Biography of General William S. Rosecrans, William M. Lamers, LSU Press, 1961, excerpts pg. 81)

Republican Rule in Indiana

Though Lincoln initially acted unilaterally to launch his war against Americans in the South, he did seek absolution when Congress convened in July 1861 – though the threat of arrest and imprisonment became common for those who opposed his will. In his treatment of what he or his minions believed to be “disloyal” practices, Lincoln carried his authority far beyond the normal restraints of civil justice, and in violation of fundamental concepts of Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence.

Republican Tyranny in Indiana

“Before Abraham Lincoln ordered a national draft, which would cause insurrections throughout the North, the President put into law the involuntary call-up of each State’s militia. Indiana inducted 3,090 men into the national army this way, but this caused a major backlash of violent resistance. More significantly, the Democrats won substantial victories in both houses of the Indiana Assembly in the fall of 1862.

With the loss of Republican power, [Governor] Oliver P. Morton became more emotionally unbalanced. He saw treason everywhere, and expected a revolution at any moment. At the beginning of 1863, Indiana’s Democrats voted for peace negotiations with the Confederacy. Simultaneously, many Republican army officers, appointed by Morton, resigned their commissions over Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, and the governor’s support of this radical document, which would destroy State sovereignty. Army recruitment stagnated and desertions increased.

[Morton] blamed “organized conspirators” — meaning Democrats. Under his orders, Indiana soldiers threatened Senator Thomas Hendricks and Daniel Voorhees, both leading Democrats. Then these troops destroyed Democratic newspapers in Rockport and Terre Haute.

On January 8, 1863, amidst military failures and malignant partisanship, the Indiana legislature began its bi-annual session. Morton telegraphed Secretary of War [Edwin] Stanton that the legislature intended to recognize the Confederacy, implying that the federal army’s interference was required to arrest the “traitors” in the Assembly, as had been done in Maryland [in April 1861].

The Republican members determined to withdraw from the House . . . thus the legislature came to an end . . . [and] Morton would administer the State all alone. His first problem was to secure the money to rule as a tyrant for the next two years [and] with the President’s approval collected $90,000 “for ammunition for the State arsenal.” The Republican Indiana State Journal triumphantly announced that this money would really be used to carry on the functions of government.

Governor Morton quickly exhausted these funds. Once again he met with . . . Lincoln . . . An appropriation of 2.3 million dollars had need made by Congress in July 1862, to be expended by the President “to loyal citizens in States threatened with rebellion,” and in organizing such citizens for their own protection against domestic insurrection.

When Stanton placed [Lincoln’s] order in Morton’s hands, both men appreciated the great risk they were incurring. “If the cause fails, we shall both be covered in prosecutions,” Morton said. Stanton replied, “if the cause fails, I do not wish to live.”

(Northern Opposition to Mr. Lincoln’s War, D. Jonathan White, editor, Abbeville Institute Press, 2014, excerpts pp. 217-221)

Lincoln the Tragic Hero

Lincoln the Tragic Hero

“[Lincoln’s] favorite play was Macbeth. He had read it often, he wrote to the actor James Hackett, “perhaps as frequently as any unprofessional reader . . . I think nothing equals Macbeth. It is wonderful.” He had seen Booth in that role too.

Lincoln’s fascination with this play is itself interesting. He knew that much of the country saw him as a Macbeth – a tyrant, a usurper, a murderer, and his conscience may have promoted him to ask whether he could reasonably be seen in that light. He had expected a quick end to the “rebellion,” but the war had dragged on for years, claiming hundreds of thousands of lives.

Many Northerners clamored for a peace settlement. If the war was not justified, Lincoln had much to answer for, infinitely more than he could have imagined at the beginning.

Apart from the scale of violence against the South, including its civilian population and their property, Lincoln aroused angry opposition in the North. “Saving the Union” had required him to transgress against the Constitution and civil liberties; he acted as a dictator, assuming both legislative and executive powers.

An Illinois newspaper accused him of “seeking to inaugurate a reign of terror in the loyal States by military arrests . . . of citizens without a trial, to browbeat all opposition by villainous and false charges of disloyalty against whole classes of patriotic citizens, to destroy all constitutional guarantees of free speech, a free press, and the writ of habeas corpus.”

His biographer David Donald notes: “Editors feared that they might be locked up in Fort Lafayette or in the Old Capitol Prison in Washington if they voiced their criticisms too freely, and even writers of private letters began to guard their language.”

As the ghastly war continued inconclusively, Lincoln must have pondered Macbeth’s words:

“I am in blood

Stepp’d in so far, that should I wade no more

Returning were as tedious as go o’er”

In scale of character, in eloquence, and in impact on his country, Lincoln had the dimensions of a Shakespearean tragic hero. Aristotle wrote in his Poetics that tragic action must have “magnitude”; and Lincoln’s action certainly had that quality. He also displayed the tragic flaw of rash judgment; despite his deliberation, he had ignored the advice of his cabinet by launching war over Fort Sumter, failing to foresee the madly disproportionate violence that would ensue from a legalistic dispute over secession.

The tragic hero is neither saint, villain, nor passive victim: he is the cause of his own and his society’s ruin, in spite of his own intention. As Aristotle says, the ruin of a purely innocent man is not tragic, it is injustice. That of a purely evil man is not tragedy, but justice.

Lincoln was driven to meditate on the events he had set in motion. By the fall of 1862 he was reflecting: “In the present civil war it is quite possible that God’s purpose is something different from the purpose of either party.” In 1864 he wrote: “I claim not to have controlled events, but plainly confess that events have controlled me.”

Was he trying to disclaim responsibility? He always insisted that the South “began” the war, which, even if true, would not necessarily mean that the South bore the guilt for what the war became. Perhaps sensing this, he referred the problem to Providence, which had allowed the war to continue and spread.”

(America’s Tragic Hero, Joseph Sobran, Sobran’s Real News of the Month, March 2001, Volume 8, Number 3, excerpts pp. 4-5)

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