Browsing "Lincoln’s Re-election"

Lee’s Only Chance

Though Lincoln doubted that he would be reelected in 1864, and was heard to state that he hoped another Republican would replace him as he feared being imprisoned by a Democrat for his numerous unconstitutional acts, his Assistant Secretary of War Charles A. Dana said “the whole power of the War Department was used to secure Lincoln’s re-election in 1864.” By that time there were far too many whose careers and wealth depended upon the powerful centralized government Lincoln had created, and which the Radical Republicans wanted to rule.

The starving, ragged soldiers of Lee and Johnston were the last remaining barriers to full Radical control of the destiny of the “nation conceived in liberty” declared at Gettysburg in November 1863.  

Lee’s Only Chance

“In Lee’s ranks there was less fear of Grant than of that grim enemy, hunger. George Cary Eggleston [A Rebel’s Recollections] reports the rigid economies in food which his men practiced; then he adds:

“Hunger to starving men is wholly unrelated to the desire for food as that is commonly understood and felt. It is a great agony of the whole body and the soul as well. It is unimaginable, all-pervading pain inflicted when the strength to endure pain is utterly gone. It is a great despairing cry of a wasting body – a cry of flesh and blood, marrow, nerves, bones, and faculties for strength with which to exist and to endure existence. It is a horror which, once suffered, leaves an impression that is never erased from memory, and to this day the old agony of that campaign comes back upon me at the mere thought of any living creature’s lacking the food it desires, even though its hunger be only the ordinary craving and the denial be necessary for the creature’s health.”

In the whole campaign from the Wilderness to Cold Harbor, the Union losses were 55,000, nearly as much as Lee’s whole army. Grant, however, could find new recruits; he was amply reinforced; and he had no embarrassment from the lack of food or equipment. As a defensive accomplishment in fighting off superior numbers, the campaign stands as a significant chapter in Confederate annals.

Confederate losses in the Wilderness campaign were proportionally heavier than those of Grant, behind whom stood the North with its numbers, wealth, organization, and equipment.  Lee’s chance of conquering the Northern armies had gone.  His only chance was in the doubtful hope that a stout and desperate defense, if continued long enough, would wear down the Northern will to fight, produce Lincoln’s defeat in the election of 1864, and by the sheer force of war weariness bring peace on terms acceptable to the South.”

(The Civil War and Reconstruction, James G. Randall, D.C. Heath and Company, 1937, excerpts pp. 544-547)

Unceasing Blows and Sheer Attrition

In early May 1864, Grant moved across the Rapidan River in Virginia to pass quickly through the Wilderness before giving battle. Instead, there he lost some 26,000 men in the dense thickets. On June 3rd Grant lost “more men in the eight minutes of hottest fighting than in any period of the war.”  Though this carnage intensified the peace movement in the North, Lincoln provided Grant with an endless supply of immigrants, substitutes and conscripted men to continue this fearful slaughter. Lincoln, despite ruling the North with near-dictatorial powers, was well-aware 1864 was an election year and victories at any cost were needed before November.

Unceasing Blows and Sheer Attrition

“With the spring of 1864, the war entered a new phase. Union victories in the West had cut deeply into the economic and military strength of the Confederacy.  They had done more, for they had associated the names of Grant and his lieutenants with a habit of mind which connoted aggressiveness, strategy on a large scale, and victory.

It was not that Grant was a supreme master of the “science of war,” nor even that he merited full credit for the victories under his command . . . It was rather that a situation had been reached where, with Northern recruiting, Confederate depletion, and Grant’s sledge-hammer blows, the essential conditions of Union triumph had been presented.

Almost immediately [after Grant’s elevation to lieutenant-general] the final grand strategy of the war began to unfold itself, a strategy by which Grant used his numerical superiority and plunged ruthlessly ahead in Virginia, losing an enormous number of men, but wearing out the Confederates by sheer attrition; while in the lower South Sherman attained unenviable laurels by destroying vast amounts of food and other supplies in his “march” through Georgia and the Carolinas.  

It was by these unceasing blows at the heart of the Confederacy that the war, which had dragged on indecisively for three years, was brought to an end in 1865.”

(The Civil War and Reconstruction, James G. Randall, D.C. Heath and Company, 1937, excerpts pp. 539-543)

Economic and Political Opportunity in Florida

Almost immediately after war commenced the New England Emigrant Aid Company envisioned the national benefits of “transplanting friends of the Union” in conquered States and flooding them with “Energetic, loyal, liberty-loving colonists.” The promoters avowed that their goal was “to aid in the political, industrial and social regeneration of the South.” In the case of Florida, the emigrants would settle the rich soil, open resorts for invalids, and build permanent homes for “those whose delicate constitutions cannot endure the severe weather of the North.”

In early 1864, Salmon Chase’s presidential ambitions were assisted by increased military invasions of Florida to occupy more land area and establish a new State government dominated by his political appointees. They were then expected to declare Florida’s 3 electoral votes for him come November.

Economic and Political Opportunity in Florida

“Almost from the beginning of the fratricidal conflict of 1861-1865 far-seeing politicians and interested economic groups from the North began an economic invasion of the South. First, a Confiscation Act made all property used in support of the rebellion subject to seizure by the federal government. Later in 1861, despite Abraham Lincoln’s questioning of its constitutionality, Congress passed a second Confiscation Act which made the property of all Confederate officials subject to immediate confiscation by Union officials.

The authors of the Act, by a provision that gave people supporting the Confederacy sixty days to drop their support or have their property become liable to federal confiscation, struck below the upper stratum of the Southern official family and at the roots of Southern life.

Then, in the summer of 1862, Congress passed the Direct Tax Set which, once Union troops occupied rebel territory, made Southern homes, lands, farms and plantations subject to sale or seizure by the federal government if the owners failed to pay the assessed taxes.

The avowed objectives of the laws were to “relieve” rebels of their war-producing materiel and to finance the [cost of the] war; but under them Northerners could transfer Southern wealth to themselves at the same time they emasculated the South politically.

Among the most frank in expressing their desire to exploit the South and guide Southern political development were the directors of the New England Emigrant Aid Company. This company had already experimented with sending emigrants to Kansas in an effort to flood that blood-stained territory with abolitionist settlers. Now with the war hardly more than a year old, the directors saw the South as a land of opportunity for Northerners and Northern ideals.

To them, the war presented an opportune time for settling in the South Northern workmen in numbers large enough to “support presses, schools, and churches true to their own principles and to the interests of freedom.” Land for the emigrants would be no problem since the government was sure to acquire considerable quantities through confiscation and defaulted direct taxes.

The implications of these plans were great. Should they succeed, Southerners would lose both their wealth, and their voice in the national political arena.”

(Northern Plans for the Economic Invasion of Florida, 1862-1865, Robert L. Clarke, Florida Historical Quarterly, Volume XXVIII, No. 4, April 1950, excerpt pp. 262-263)

Grant Impressed with Free Institutions

Lincoln’s reelection was won by those around him, and with Assistant Secretary of War Charles A. Dana testifying that “the whole power of the War Department was used to secure Lincoln’s reelection in 1864.” After 1862, it was common for Federal troops to patrol polling places, inspect the ballots of voters, arrest Democratic candidates for office on treason charges, seized groups of opposition voters just before elections, as well as furlough soldiers at election time to encourage Republican victory. At election time, Republican newspaper headlines trumpeted that “tens of thousands of national soldiers . . . were deliberately shot to death, as at Fort Pillow, or frozen to death at Belle Isle, or starved to death at Andersonville, or sickened to death by swamp malaria in South Carolina.” All did service for Lincoln’s reelection.

Historian William Hesseltine wrote: “Although the election of 1864 gave no decision on the methods of reconstruction, it proved again Lincoln’s power to control elections. The system of arbitrary arrests, military control of the polling places, and soldier voting, first applied to the Border States and then extended into the North, had saved the Republican party in 1862 and 1863. The election of 1864 saw a new extension of the system and demonstrated its continuing value in winning elections.” (Lincoln’s Plan of Reconstruction, pg. 124)

Grant Impressed with Free Institutions

“Lincoln’s friends saw danger in every quarter. No doubt a large minority of the North was tired of war; no doubt many who had a sentimental regard for the Union thought that the emancipation of the slaves had been wrongly given prominence. Every discontented officer – every disgruntled politician – every merchant whose business was bad – every civilian who dreaded the draft – the ambitious leader like [Salmon P.] Chase – the party boss – the army of unappeased office-seekers – the jealous – the vindictive – all these, and everyone else with a greed or grievance, would unite to defeat Lincoln. Thus at least, it appeared to his foreboding lieutenants.

Even [Lincoln secretary John] Hay, who was no alarmist, felt little confidence. “There is a diseased restlessness about men in these times,” he wrote [John G.] Nicolay on August 25, 1864, “that unfits them for steady support of an administration. It seems as if there were appearing in the Republican Party the elements of disorganization that destroyed the Whigs. If the dumb cattle of the North are not worthy of another term of Lincoln, then let the will of God be done, and the murrain of McClellan fall on them.”

The October returns went far to relieve anxiety. The President, with Hay, heard the returns at the War Department. Early news from Indiana and Ohio was cheering, but that from Pennsylvania was “streaked with lean” . . . [though] The Ohio troops voted about ten to one for the Union . . .

At the Cabinet meeting on the 11th . . . “[he reminded the officers that it seemed last August] entirely probable that this Administration will not be reelected. Then it will be my duty to so co-operate with the President-elect as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he cannot possibly save it afterwards.”

Lincoln went on to say . . . that he had resolved, if McClellan were elected, to talk matters over with him.” On November 12, 1864, Hay, with a large party, went down to Grant’s headquarters at City Point. Grant was “deeply impressed with the vast importance and significance of the late [November 8th] Presidential election.” The orderliness of it “proves our worthiness of free institutions, and our capability of preserving them without running into anarchy and despotism.”

(Life and Letters of John Hay, Volume I, William Roscoe Thayer, 1908, Houghton Mifflin Company, excerpts pp. 212-214; 216-218)

The Famed Army of Northern Virginia

Captain John De Forest of the Twelfth Connecticut regiment was a veteran of Louisiana’s military occupation when it was hurried to Washington to defend it from General Jubal Early’s march up the Shenandoah. In his letters home De Forest wrote that army regulations did not provide Northern officers with rations or credit for obtaining them, thus he often went hungry when short of money. “In addition, he remarked bitterly to his brother in a letter, “many of the commissaries are scamps, who charge us a profit over and above the government price for the article. I have known the same article to vary in price the same day . . . I cannot help suspecting that some of the generals share with the commissaries in this kind of plunder.”

The Famed Veterans of the Army of Northern Virginia

“Halltown, Virginia, August 8, 1864:

A column of cavalry four or five miles long is in sight coming up the Potomac Valley. Possibly they have been hunting Mosby’s guerillas, who are said to be troubling our communications with Washington. Early with his main force is at Winchester seven miles southerly from us.

The Sixth Corps, one of the best in the Army of the Potomac, is lying near us. They seem to be badly demoralized by the severe service and the disastrous battles of the campaign in Virginia. Their guns are dirty; their camps are disorderly clutters of shelter tents; worst of all, the men are disrespectful to their officers. I heard a private say to a lieutenant: “I’ll slap your face if you say that again.”

“Looking for guns [Captain]?” Drawled a sergeant. “Well, if you find a clean gun in this camp, you claim it.” We hain’t had one in our brigade since Cold Harbor.” Their talk about the war and our immediate military future had a tone of depression which astonished me.

“But don’t you believe in Grant at all?” I finally asked.

“Yes, we believe in Grant,” replied the colonel. “But we believe a great deal more in Lee and in that Army of Northern Virginia.”

Near Charles Town, Virginia, August 21, 1864:

Thus far General Sheridan is cautious about fighting, perhaps because of instructions from high political authority. With the elections at hand, including the presidential, it would not do to have this army beaten and the North invaded. So, whenever Early is reinforced, Sheridan retreats to a strong position and waits to be attacked. It is to the enemy’s interest just now to take the offensive, but we doubt if Early has men enough to risk it.

Three points I noted with regard to our opponents, the famed veterans of “the Army of Northern Virginia.” They aimed better than our men; they covered themselves (in case of need) more carefully and effectively; they could move in a swarm, without much care for alignment and touch of elbows. In short, they fought more like redskins, or like hunters, than we. The result was that they lost fewer men, though they were inferior in numbers, and perhaps not half our number.”

(A Volunteer’s Adventures: A Union Captain’s Record of the Civil War, John William De Forest, Archon Books, 1970 (original 1946), excerpts pp. 165-166; 190)

Other Voices of the North

Charles H. Lamphier, editor of the Illinois State Register in Lincoln’s hometown of Springfield, referred to the president as “the ineffable despot, who, by some inscrutable dispensation of Providence presides over the destinies of this vast republic.” Lincoln’s reelection victory led Lamphier to write that “this result is the heaviest calamity that ever befell this nation . . . the farewell to civil liberty, to a republican form of government . . . his election has filled our hearts with gloom.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Other Voices of the North

“On the Fourth of July, when Lee’s army was dragging itself from the [Gettysburg] battlefield, the North was electrified by news that Vicksburg had fallen. But the national holiday also heard voices in the North declaring the people had lost their liberties. Franklin Pierce, former President of the United States, spoke to 25,000 at Concord, N.H., denouncing the war as “sectional and parricidal.”

“Even here in the loyal States,” he said, “the mailed hand of military usurpation strikes down the liberties of the people, and its foot tramples on a desecrated Constitution.”

New York’s Governor [Horatio] Seymour – who deplored the election of Lincoln as a “great calamity,” made formal protests against “arbitrary arrests,” and vetoed a bill to permit soldiers in the field to vote on grounds it was unconstitutional – spoke before a large audience at the Academy of Music in New York City.

He asserted that not only was there a “bloody civil war” in progress but that a “second revolution” was threatening in the North because of the hostility between the two political parties. Then he said, “Remember that the bloody, and treasonable, and revolutionary doctrine of public necessity can be proclaimed by a mob as well as by a government.”

Benjamin Wood, Democratic Congressman and editor of the New York Daily News, published an editorial attack on President Lincoln, charging that he was trying to preach “passive submission,” through the columns of [John W.] Forney’s Chronicle at Washington. The editorial spoke of the Chronicle as “the salaried organ of the bloodstained criminals at Washington.”

[Many German language] newspapers deserted Lincoln . . . [such as] the Illinois Staats-Anzeiger of Springfield, a newspaper once secretly owned by him. In announcing its break with Lincoln, the newspaper said:

“Reviewing the history of the last four years, nothing is left to us but to cut loose decidedly and forever from Lincoln and his policy, and to protest against his reelection under all circumstances and at any price. No reasons of expediency can influence us ever to ever accept Lincoln as our President again . . .”

(Lincoln and the Press, Robert S. Harper, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1951, excerpts pp. 271-272; 304)

Lincoln’s Legacy of Political Assassination

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

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Lincoln’s Legacy of Political Assassination

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Second War on the Liberties of American Citizens

In September 1864, the New York World editorialized “for the simple reason that, after [peace candidate George B. McClellan’s] inauguration, the character of the war will have so changed that the Southern people will no longer have a sufficient motive to stand out.” Despite a critical New York press, Lincoln barely won the State’s 212 electoral votes in November 1864 against McClellan, the manipulated soldier vote assisting greatly in the .92% margin of victory. After Lincoln’s assassination in mid-April 1865, the Yonkers Herald-Gazette condemned it as “the darkest crime” but added that “it might have been a wise move at the beginning of the war during the darker days of the struggle.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The Second War on the Liberties of American Citizens

“For the Democrats of Westchester County [New York], the presidential contest of 1864 appears as the last opportunity for opposition to Lincoln, his policies, and the future course of the war. This time, they could rally around a single candidate, George B. McClellan.

For Mary Lydig Daly, having Lincoln as president once again was a repulsive thought. [She] wrote in her diary . . . “We are at present ruled by New England, which was never a gentle or tolerant mistress, and my Dutch and German obstinate blood begins to feel heated to see how arrogantly she dictates and would force her ideas down our throats, even with the bayonet.”

In 1864, McClellan made it clear he would continue the war to its successful conclusion, that is, the restoration of the Union as it was. He did not advocate “peace at any price,” in spite of the sentiments of some members of his party.

Should he have won the presidency in 1864, he would have dismantled the repressive aspects of Lincoln’s policies against civil liberties and civilians. He would have undone the Republican experiments in social engineering, especially emancipation.

When his Northern solders commented on the evils of slavery (many of them having seen the institution for the first time), what they were really seeing were the consequences and disorder of emancipation. The Reconstruction Era presented a clear picture of what that was like, resulting in “nothing but freedom” for the ex-slaves.

When Lincoln was nominated that June [1864], the Yonkers Herald-Gazette . . . commented “Another four years of “Honest old Abe” would leave nothing but the shadow of a Republic on the American continent. The Republican papers in the county, such as the rival Yonkers Statesman, trotted out their familiar epithet of “disloyalty” against this paper and other Democratic sheets . . .

The Yonkers Herald-Gazette retorted: “We confess to the smallest possible amount of respect for the Republican professions of “loyalty,” or Republican charges of “disloyalty.” The word is not American, nor Republican even – here it originally expressed the treasonable attachment of the loyal Tories to George the Third, in his wanton war against American liberty; and as now used, it general means partisan devotion to Abraham Lincoln, not in resistance to a Southern Rebellion, but in a would-be second war on the liberties of American citizens.”

(The Last Ditch of Opposition: The Election of 1864 and Beyond; Yankees & Yorkers: Opposition to Lincoln’s Policies in Westchester County, New York, and the Greater Hudson Valley, Richard T. Valentine; Northern Opposition to Mr. Lincoln’s War, D. Jonathan White, editor, Abbeville Institute Press, 2014, excerpts pp. 204-206)

Havoc in 1864 New York City

In mid-July of 1864, opposition to Lincoln’s oppressive regime made him see his reelection as improbable, despite offering prestigious governmental posts to newspaper opponents. Even Thurlow Week, recognized as a great political seer in New York, told Lincoln in early August 1864 “that his reelection was an impossibility.” Though Lincoln’s faction-ridden party was collapsing in the face of McClellan’s candidacy and wide support, the War Department’s manipulation of the soldier vote, and monitored election polls, resulted in Lincoln’s victory.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Havoc in 1864 New York City

“Francis P. Blair, Lincoln’s friend, support and father of Montgomery Blair, the postmaster general, went to New York City in the hope of waylaying [General George B.] McClellan’s [presidential] candidacy. [Publisher] James Gordon Bennett . . . advised Blair, “Tell him [Lincoln] to restore McClellan to the army and he will carry the election by default.”

The month of August 1864 was so depressing for the Republicans that the Democrats had good reason to dream of glory. [Former New York City Mayor] Fernando Wood . . . had said “that the national [Democratic Party] was unqualifiedly opposed to the further prosecution of the war of emancipation and extermination now being waged against the seceded States, and will continue to demand negotiation, reconciliation and peace.”

The more moderate August Belmont sounded no less harsh when he addressed the Chicago convention. “Four years of misrule,” he said, “by a sectional, fanatical and corrupt party have brought our country to the very verge of ruin.” Four more years of Lincoln would bring “utter disintegration of our whole political and social system amidst bloodshed and anarchy.”

Also in August the Confederates dealt a demoralizing blow to New York City. The Confederate steamer Tallahassee audaciously captured two Sandy Hook pilot boats off New York Harbor, bringing the war close to home. The rebel ship laid in wait for outbound vessels and in less than two weeks, according to official records, destroyed or damaged more than thirty ships. Some estimates ran as high as fifty-four ships destroyed, and insurance men shivered over the consequences.

John Taylor Wood, grandson of President Zachary Taylor and captain of the Tallahassee . . . longed to create havoc in New York. He knew which ships were in port from newspapers he had taken from captured ships, and he hoped to set fire to the ships in the harbor, blast the navy yard in Brooklyn, and then escape into Long Island Sound.

During these unpleasant days, [Lincoln] called for five hundred thousand more men for the army. [This] prompted John Mullaly to publish an article called “The Coming Draft” in his paper . . . which resulted in his arrest for counseling Governor Seymour and others to resist the draft. [Mullaly] . . . continued to express his belief that the South had the right to select its own government and that the North “in the endeavor to force her into a compulsory Union is violating the principle of universal suffrage, which we claim to be the foundation of our democratic system. By this right we shall continue to stand, for it is a right older and more valuable than the Union itself.”

(The Civil War and New York City, Ernest A. McKay, Syracuse University Press, 1990, excerpts pp. 269-270; 272-273)

Buchanan Identifies the Reason for War

Though opposed to secession while president, though admitting the Constitution gave him no authority to wage war upon a State, James Buchanan nonetheless saw little reason for the needless slaughter of Americans on both sides. Though desiring a reunited country, he should have wondered by 1864 how the Southern people could reconcile the brutality, savagery and wanton destruction caused by the Northern invasion.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Buchanan Identifies the Reason for War

“But Buchanan, like many of the peace Democrats, disapproved of abolitionists and the policy of emancipation. (He later stated that he delayed becoming a member of the Presbyterian Church until after the war because of the anti-slavery stand of the Northern wing of that church).

The Emancipation Proclamation, he asserted in 1864, demonstrated that “the [Lincoln] administration, departing from the principle of conducting the war for the restoration of the Union as it was, and the Constitution as it is, had resolved to conduct it for the subjugation of the Southern States and the destruction of slavery.

Buchanan had taken a firm stand against the discussion of peace proposals with the Confederacy; as the years passed, however, without modifying his demand that the Union must be preserved, he expressed approval of negotiations with the South.

After the reelection of Lincoln in 1864, (Buchanan had supported McClellan), he urged conciliation based on ignoring the slavery issue. “Now”, he wrote in November 1864: “would be the time for conciliation on the part of Mr. Lincoln. A frank and manly offer to the Confederates that they might return to the Union just as they were before they left it, leaving the slavery issue to settle itself, might be accepted.”

Buchanan spent much of his time during the war in preparing a defense of his actions as President . . . He was unfailingly critical of secessionism . . . But the basic cause of the sectional struggle and war was in operation long before 1860, and Buchanan insisted that this basic cause was not the institution of slavery or any other difference between North and South, but the agitation over slavery.

[Buchanan] always placed primary blame [for war] upon the Northern abolitionists. The original cause of all the country’s troubles, he wrote, was to be found in:

“[The] long, active and persistent hostility of the Northern Abolitionists, both in and out of Congress, against Southern slavery, until the final triumph of their cause in the election of President Lincoln . . .”

If there had been no opposition to slavery, was the theme of Buchanan’s reasoning, there would have been no sectional conflict or war.”

(Americans Interpret their Civil War, Thomas J. Pressly, Collier-MacMillan Company, 1954, excerpts pp. 140-141)

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