Browsing "Lincoln’s Re-election"

Lincoln Feared Re-election Loss

Rudolf Mathias Schleiden was Minister to the US from the Bremen Republic from 1853 through the War Between the States. He reported to his government on February 26 [1861] that “like a thief in the night, the future President arrived here [Washington] on the morning of the 23rd.” Schleiden offered to mediate the coming conflict, but met indifference and resistance at Washington.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Lincoln Feared Re-election Loss

“Immediately upon arriving in Richmond, Schleiden wrote to Vice President [Alexander H.] Stephens asking for an interview, to which the latter replied that he would be happy to see him immediately. During the course of a confidential talk which lasted for three hours Stephens declared that he believed all attempts to settle peacefully the differences between the two sections were futile.

“The actions of Seward and Lincoln had filled the South with suspicion,” Stephens said, “but neither the Government at Montgomery nor the authorities of Virginia contemplated an attack on Washington. Public opinion was embittered against the United States because of its strengthening of Fort Pickens and Fort Monroe, and the destruction of the arsenal at Harpers Ferry, and the navy yard at Norfolk . . . ”

In a formal letter written after the conference Schleiden asked for a frank statement of the terms which the South would be ready to grant and accept for the purpose of securing the maintenance peace and gaining time for reflection. To this letter Stephens replied, stating that the Government of the Confederacy had resorted to every honorable means to avoid war, and that if the United States had any desire to adjust amicably the question at issue it should indicate a willingness in some authoritative way to the South.

However, he added . . . ”it seems to be their policy to wage a war for the recapture of former possessions looking to the ultimate coercion and subjugation of the people of the Confederate States to their power and domain. With such an object on their part persevered in, no power on earth can arrest or prevent a most bloody conflict.”

The reelection of Lincoln was almost unanimously predicted by the diplomatic corps in January 1864. In February Schleiden mentioned in a dispatch that Lincoln said to Judge Thomas, of Massachusetts, that he would be satisfied if his successor was elected from the Republican Party. If that did not take place the President feared that he would spend the rest of his life in jail for repeated violations of the Constitution. About this time [Salmon P.] Chase remarked to Schleiden that the war would never end so long as Lincoln was president.”

(Rudolf Schleiden and the Visit to Richmond, April 25, 1861, Ralph Haswell Lutz, American Historical Association Annual Report, 1915, Washington, 1917, pp. 212-216)

Power, Plunder and Extended Rule

Lincoln’s continued military defeats caused Radical Republicans to oppose his reelection, until Gen. George B. McClellan became the Democratic presidential nominee in 1864. As Charles Sumner put it privately, “Lincoln’s reelection would be a disaster, but McClellan’s damnation.” After winning their war against the South, Republicans extended their rule over the new empire beyond the turn of the century, except for the two terms of Democrat Grover Cleveland. For further reading on Lincoln’s opponents within his party see: Ward Hill Lamon’s “Recollections of Abraham Lincoln, 1847-1865,” published in 1895.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Power, Plunder and Extended Rule

“Surgeon [Francis Marion] Robertson equates the Union logic of war with that which was being espoused by a set of Union opponents of President Abraham Lincoln’s conduct of the war.

Following the long series of Federal military disasters leading up to and including their defeats in the battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville in 1863, there arose a movement within the Army and Federal Congress that reached a fever pitch in its call to displace President Lincoln, in effect, by the appointment of a dictator to direct the war effort.

Members of Congress called for appointing a vigilant “committee on the conduct of the war” to watch and supervise Lincoln’s movements and decisions. Supporters of this cabal included (a), political activists who sought increased military victories and preservation of their personal and party power, (b), commercial zealots who desired spoliation and plunder of the South, and (c), religious abolitionists whose sympathy for the slave had degenerated into envenomed hostility toward his owner.

These aggressive enemies of Lincoln in the North and within his own party summed up the logic of war in the comprehensive formula, “Power, plunder and extended rule.”

This phrase summarized the vindictive motivation that the seceding Southerners both expected and feared from the Union, if they should lose the war. The collection of attitudes has later been described by historians as the Radical Republican philosophies.

So Lincoln, faced with fire in both his front and rear, finally concluded that he must assert himself. Lincoln exclaimed, “This state of things shall continue no longer. I will show them at the other end of the Avenue whether I am President or not!” From soon after this moment, “his opponents and would-be masters were now, for the most part, silenced; but they hated him all the more cordially.”

In the end, after the Southern surrender and Lincoln’s assassination, the worst apprehensions of white Southerners about “power, plunder and extended rule” at the hands of the Republican North and the carpetbaggers would largely come true.”

(Resisting Sherman, A Confederate Surgeon’s Journal and the Civil War in the Carolinas, 1865, Thomas Heard Robertson, Jr., editor, Savas-Beatie, 2015, pg. 64)

Lincoln’s Northern Opposition

Lincoln’s Northern Opposition

After Sharpsburg in mid-1862, and especially Fredericksburg in late December 1862, the tremendous casualties all but stopped volunteering in the North and Lincoln considered conscription – in reality a whip to encourage enlistments. Northern governors feared electoral defeat at the hands of their constituents, which Lincoln solved by allowing paid substitutes, generous enlistment bounties and captured Southern blacks to meet State quotas.

Horatio Seymour, himself elected governor of New York during the tidal wave of Democratic Party victories in the fall of 1862, rightly felt that a majority of Northerners did not support Lincoln in his prosecution of the war. To combat Northern Democrats who questioned his war, Lincoln, his Republican governors and political generals tarred them with treasonous activities and threats of imprisonment.  Northern newspapermen who editorialized against the war found the latter a reality.

In an early October 1864 speech in Philadelphia, Seymour told his audience that the Northern armies crushing the South would imperil their own liberties, stating that “only then would the deluded people of the North see the full extent of Lincoln’s dictatorial administration – the price of the South’s conquest would be a government by bayonets.

“These victories will only establish military governments at the South, to be upheld at the expense of Northern lives and treasure. They will bring no real peace if they only introduce a system of wild theories, which will waste as war wastes; theories which will bring us to bankruptcy and ruin. The [Lincoln] administration cannot give us union or peace after victories.”

Calling attention to the fact that Senator Charles Sumner would “reduce the Southern States to the condition of colonies” – whereas the President planned to receive them back into the Union whenever one-tenth of the population should declare itself loyal – Seymour foresaw the stubborn conflict which followed the murder of one President and provoked a brazen plan to remove another.

Pointing to the words and acts of members of Congress like Thaddeus Stevens, he declared that “neither Mr. Lincoln nor his Cabinet” now had “control over National affairs.” They were powerless to induce Congress to undo all it had done; the President’s hands were now manacled.”

If the voters returned the Republicans to power, they would learn two bitter lessons: first, that it “is dangerous for a government to have more power than it can exercise wisely and well,” and second, that they could not “trample upon the rights of the people of another state without trampling on [their] own as well.”

Seymour was the Democratic candidate for president in 1868, opposing Grant.  The latter won a close victory by a majority of 300,000 votes out of 5,700,000 cast; historians credit Republican regimes in the South with disenfranchising whites while delivering the 500,000 freedmen votes which lifted Grant to victory.

(See: Horatio Seymour of New York, Harvard University Press, 1938, pp. 374-375)

Keeping the Loyal States in Harness

In mid-1864 General Ulysses S. Grant was greatly concerned about massive draft resistance and the need to send troops northward despite outnumbering General Robert E. Lee at least four to one in Virginia. President Davis in April 1864 sent three commissioners and agents to Canada for the purpose of opening a northern front on the border after freeing Southern prisoners – in hopes of a negotiated peace and independence for the South. It is reported that Lincoln feared losing reelection to a Democrat, and spending the rest of his life in prison for repeated violations of the United States Constitution.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Keeping the Loyal States in Harness

“The slow and bloody progress through Virginia to the James [River], the failure of the first assaults on Lee’s lines around Petersburg, the appearance of [General Jubal] Early before the gates of [Washington, DC], produced a greater sense of disillusionment and of disappointment than had followed Burnside’s [1862] repulse at Fredericksburg or Hooker’s [1863] failure at Chancellorsville. The New York World, which had been exceptionally friendly to the commander in chief, asked on July 11:

“Who shall revive the withered hopes that bloomed on the opening of Grant’s campaign?”

And nine days before Congress had invited the President to appoint a day for national prayer and humiliation. Horace Greeley attempted to open negotiations for peace by meeting Confederate commissioners at Niagara [Falls], and in the middle of July two other semi-official seekers of peace, James F. Jacques and J.R. Gilmore, had gone to Richmond, only to be told by the Southern President:

“If your papers tell the truth, it is your capital that is in danger, not ours . . . in a military view I should certainly say our position is better than yours.”

Greeley, despite the failure of his journey to Niagara, resumed his efforts to end the war, and on August 9, wrote to the President:

“Nine-tenths of the Whole American people, North and South, are anxious for peace – peace on almost any terms – and utterly sick of human slaughter and devastation. I beg you, implore you, to inaugurate or invite proposals for peace forthwith. And, in case peace cannot now be made, consent to an armistice of one year, each party to retain unmolested all it now holds, but the rebel ports to be opened.”

Not only was there this pressure from outside; there was discord within. [Secretary Salmon P.] Chase had resigned, a presidential election was drawing near, and there were outspoken predictions of a Republican defeat. The North was feeling as it had never felt before the strain of prolonged conflict . . . the rumblings of opposition to the draft, which had just become law, were growing daily louder [and] surely Lincoln would have been justified in [opening negotiations] in August, 1864. But what happened?

Early in August the grumblings against the draft had alarmed [General Henry] Halleck, and on the eleventh of that month he told Grant: “Pretty strong evidence is accumulating . . . to make forcible resistance to the draft in New York, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Kentucky, and perhaps some of the other States. The draft must be enforced for otherwise the army cannot be kept up. But to enforce it, it may require the withdrawal of a considerable number of troops from the field . . . ”

Four days later, on the evening of August 15, Grant answered . . . ”If there is any danger of an uprising in the North to resist the draft . . . our loyal governors ought to organize the militia at once to resist it. If we are to draw troops from the field to keep the loyal States in harness, it will prove difficult to suppress the rebellion in the disloyal States. My withdrawal from the James River would mean the defeat of Sherman.”

(A Southern View of the Invasion of the Southern States and War of 1861-65, Capt. S. A. Ashe, Raleigh, NC, 1935 pp. 66-67)

 

Vote for Abraham Lincoln!

Assistant Secretary of War Charles A. Dana, testified after the war that the whole power of the war department was used to secure Lincoln’s reelection in 1864. It was essential to obtain the soldier vote and politically-connected Northern officers helped distribute Republican ballots to their commands while Democrat ballots were lost. In cities Republican newspapers spread fear among voters should Democrat George B. McClellan be elected.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Vote for Abraham Lincoln!

[Diary entry] Chicago, November 5, 1864:

“It was one of those amazing [newspaper] appeals to the voters that is half circus poster and half sermon . . . the sort of thing that shows how the Americans excel in catering to the lowest levels of public taste.

It carried this portentous title in large black type: “THE TRUTH!” There followed a long list of the dire consequences that will be sure to follow the election of [George B.] McClellan.

“Twenty million people under the heel of 300,000 slave-owners!” – “A Confederacy of the Northwest!” – “A Democratic insurrection (see the threats in the World and the Chicago Times)!” – “McClellan leading the revolt (see the speeches at the Chicago Convention)!” –“The theatre of war shifted from Atlanta and Richmond to New York, Cincinnati, Philadelphia and Chicago (see the Richmond papers supporting the Copperheads)!” – “Barricades; civil war” — “Our streets drenched with blood – our countryside laid waste – Our country’s credit ruined – Gold at 2,000 and the price of necessities in proportion (see the history of the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror in Paris)!”

Do you doubt any of this? Here is a table comparing “Republican Prices,” Democratic Prices,” McClellan Prices (those that would result from his compromise with Jefferson Davis – that is, guaranteeing the Rebel debt and paying the Southern States for their war costs,” – and finally, “Rebel Prices” such as will be seen “if [August] Belmont succeeds in raising a Democratic insurrection.”

But if, on the contrary, you want the Union’s flag to “float gloriously from the Great Lakes to the Gulf, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, over a hundred free States without a single despot, over fifty million — soon to be a hundred million — people without a single slave, then sweep the country clean, once and for all, of the party that is so greedy . . . this gang of slave-merchants and perpetrators of rebellion, debts and taxes that calls itself the Democratic party! . . . Vote for Abraham Lincoln!”

One must distrust all such accounts of triumphal demonstrations, of “gigantic mass-meetings,” that fill the newspapers of the two parties at this time. People lie as shamelessly in America as in Europe, with the sole difference that since here everyone has the right to lie, no one has the privilege of being believed.”

(A Frenchman in Lincoln’s America, Ernest Duvergier de Huaranne, Donnelly & Sons, 1975, pp. 3-7)

Lincoln’s Soldier Vote

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

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Lincoln’s Soldier Vote

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Halleck, Agent of Revolution

Gen. Henry W. Halleck, one of the most vilified of all generals of that era, was described by a reporter as a “cold, calculating owl,” brooding “in the shadows,” and “distilling evil upon every noble character.” He married the granddaughter of Alexander Hamilton and ironically held the same nationalist and centralizing views of his wife’s grandfather. Halleck predicted before 1861 that the North “will become ultra-antislavery, and I fear, in the course of the war will declare for emancipation and thus add the horrors of a servile to that of a civil war.” He saw Lincoln adopt the same policy as the British in the Revolution and War of 1812: emancipating slaves by edict to incite the horrors of race war in the American South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Halleck, Agent of Revolution

“During the excitement following Lincoln’s death [Secretary of War Edwin M.] Stanton virtually took over the government. Among other high-handed acts, he did what the martyred President never desired – the Secretary ordered Halleck out of Washington. [Working to] ingratiate himself with his superiors, Halleck, in Richmond, did everything he could to gain Stanton’s approval.

[Told by Richmond bankers of] wild rumors about “Jeff. Davis and his partisans” fleeing with a large amount of [gold] specie” . . . Halleck . . . ordered Sheridan to Sherman’s headquarters , in Greensboro, North Carolina, telling him to look for Davis and his “wagons” of gold on the way. [On] April 23 [1865], Halleck wired Sheridan: “Pay no attention to the Sherman-Johnston truce. It has been disapproved by the President. Try to cut off Jeff. Davis’ specie.”

The Treasury Department had issued special permits and only those possessing them were entitled to buy or sell in the South. “It is now perfectly evident that these [treasury] agents are resolved that no one shall buy or sell even the necessities of life except through themselves or their favorites,” Halleck fumed. “I know of no better system for robbing the people and driving them to utter desperation.” Old Brains’ greatest objection was that if the system continued “the military must feed the people or permit them to starve.”

Still Halleck could not resist the temptation to use his power occasionally. On April 28 he issued a series of General Orders, one of which proclaimed: “No marriage license will be issued until the parties desiring to be married take the oath of allegiance to the United States, and no one can marry them unless he has.”

To insure that Virginians received proper indoctrination, Halleck closed all churches in which the clergyman refused to read the prescribed prayer for the President – they would be opened by “any other clergyman of the same denomination will read such service.”

While attempting to bring Southern churches under Northern control, Halleck also did his bit in the attempt to prove that secession had been a conspiracy on the part of a few high-placed Confederates He seized former Cabinet member Robert M.T. Hunter’s papers and forwarded them to Stanton with the notation that they included “inclosures of a suspicious character.”

[Halleck] was anxious to use the Civil War to build up the regular army (as opposed to an armed mob composed of State militia troops) serving under nationally-trained professionals. From the day they mustered in until the day they mustered out, Halleck tried to make the Federal troops feel the hand of the national army. Conscription, which increased the power of the nation and its army as opposed to the States and their militia forces, received active support from Halleck.

He was convinced that opposition [to conscription] came not from idealists but from traitors [and] had no qualms about the means used to enforce national conscription: “Loyal men at home must act at home,” he felt. “They must put down the slightest attempt at disorder.”

Halleck saw to it that conscription was merely the beginning of the contacts with the federal government and its army that the American citizen soldier experienced. Once the men were in the service, Halleck and his staff, rather than the State governments, supplied their needs. The operating procedure was brutally simple and efficient; and it was part of a general trend toward centralization in all areas of American life. The total result was revolution.

And it was a nation, not a Union, that the troops had saved. Politically, economically, socially, and militarily, the Civil War had created a new nation upon the wreck of the old Union. Halleck, who realized that the powerful army he wanted needed a powerful nation to support it, was an important agent in the revolution.

He used troops to quell draft riots, break strikes that threatened the national effort, ensure Republican victories at the polls and suppress traitorous politicians. He rejected the democratic ideal that opposition is not only loyal but necessary. He constantly condemned those who opposed, not just Lincoln’s administration, but the whole fabric of centralization; he believed that only centralization could lead to victory.

During the political campaign of 1864, Halleck supported Lincoln as the lesser of evils [though] would have preferred Lincoln to act with Bismarckian ruthlessness . . . Old Brains realized that America’s entrance into the modern world [of centralization] might be slightly hindered, or slightly helped, by individuals, but that by 1864 it could no longer be halted. Politically, socially, and militarily, centralization had become institutionalized; Halleck had done his share in making that possible.”

Halleck: Lincoln’s Chief of Staff, Stephen E. Ambrose, LSU Press, 1962, (pp. 199-200; 202-203; 208-211)

Politicizing the Soldier Vote

At their 7 June 1864 meeting in Vichy Baltimore, the “National Union Party” re-nominated Lincoln for a second term in office. This party was in reality Lincoln’s party of Radical Republicans which began the war, and repackaged as an energized patriotic organization. The soldier volunteers referred to below were paid generous State and federal bounties in appreciation of their volunteerism.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Politicizing the Soldier Vote

“The Union Party appeal also helped to consolidate the support of soldiers for Abraham Lincoln. In November 1864, they gave him an estimated 78 percent of their ballots (as compared to 53 percent of the civilian vote) and, at least in New York and Connecticut, their support probably made the crucial difference that carried those States for the Union Party.

The demographic and ethnic profile of soldiers – especially the volunteers who made up the vast bulk of the Union army – made them more likely to be Republicans than Democrats. It is also undoubtedly the case that intimidation and interference of various kinds meant that a certain amount of bravery was required to cast a Democratic ballot in the army.

Among the most important reasons for the support Lincoln received from the army, though, was that fighting for the Union was a powerful experience that politicized many young men who had previously been unmoved by politics. Moreover, distanced from the pressures of their communities, soldiers were open to the influence, both direct and indirect, of their officers and comrades and, whatever their past political associations may have been, many were apt to see the northern party battle through the sobering lens of their enemies: if Confederates were praying for McClellan’s victory [in 1864], Lincoln must be sustained.”

(No Party Now, Politics in the Civil War North, Adam I.P. Smith, Oxford University Press, 2006, pp. 156-157)

 

Lincoln's 1864 Reelection Assured

Commenting on the presidential election of 1864, Lincoln’s Assistant Secretary of War, Charles A. Dana, stated that the whole power of the War Department was used to secure Lincoln’s reelection. Dana was in earlier days a Brook Farm socialist, and while employed by Horace Greeley’s prewar New York Tribune, contracted with Karl Marx to write a weekly column on his radical social views. It was Dana who ordered the imprisoned Jefferson Davis to be manacled in irons.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Lincoln’s 1864 Reelection Assured

“During the fall of 1864 it became evident that Pennsylvania was a “doubtful” State. Gen. McClellan, the candidate of the Democratic party, was not only popular there as a native Pennsylvanian, but, even among those loyal to the administration, he had a strong following and great sympathy, from the belief that he had been a much abused man.

Lincoln was advised by the Republican State Committee of Pennsylvania that the prospect was very uncertain. It was felt that, on the result of the Keystone State, hinged the fate of the national election. A gentleman belonging to the Republican Committee then, as now, one of the leading politicians of the State, had a consultation with the President on the situation. He thus relates the interview:

“Mr. President,” I said, “the only sure way to organize victory in this contest, is to have some fifteen thousand, or more, Pennsylvania soldiers furloughed and sent home to vote. While their votes in the field would count man for man, their presence at the polls at home would exert an influence not easily to be estimated, by exciting enthusiasm and building up party moral[e]. I would advise you to send a private message to Gen. Grant, to be given in an unofficial way, asking for such issuance of furloughs to Pennsylvania soldiers in the field.”

Lincoln was silent for some moments and seemed to be pondering. Then he answered: “I have never had any intimation from Gen. Grant as to his feelings for me. I don’t know how far he would be disposed to be my friend in the matter, nor do I think it would be safe to trust him.”

The President’s interlocutor responded . . . ”Then, let it be done through Gen. [George] Meade, the direct commander of the Army of the Potomac – and Gen. [Philip] Sheridan, how about him?” At this question, Lincoln’s face grew sunny and bright. “I can trust Phil.” He said; “he’s all right!”

As a result of this conference, one of the assistant secretaries of war was sent to Petersburg with a strictly unofficial message to Gen. Meade, and another agent was deputed to visit Gen. Sheridan. Some 10,000 or more Pennsylvania soldiers went home to vote when the time came, and Pennsylvania was carried by a handsome majority for the [Lincoln] administration.”

(The South’s Burden, The Curse of Sectionalism, Benjamin Franklin Grady, Nash Brothers, 1906, pp. 131-132)

Lincoln's Muscovite Friends

Lincoln’s Muscovite Friends

The lack of foreign recognition, especially from England and France, during the War Between the States is often cited as a primary reason for the fall of the Southern Confederacy. It is commonly related by historians that those two countries and others would not support the South after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of January 1863 as anti-slavery sentiment was ascendant internationally.

Though Radical Republicans viewed the proclamation as a diplomatic trump card which assured no European recognition for the American South, it was seen abroad for what it was – incitement to race warfare and virtually identical to England’s two previous emancipation proclamations. The first was issued by Virginia’s Royal Governor, Lord Dunmore, in November 1775; the second proclamation was made by Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane in 1814. Both had freed slaves who flocked to His Majesties banners and were intended to bring colonists to their knees as their slaves reverted to massacre as occurred in Santo Domingo.

Lincoln was aware that he held no authority as president to interfere with a State’s labor force and policies, but his proclamation was simply a war strategy designed to strike at the agricultural strength of the South. This is why invading Northern forces seized African workers and carried them off – thus denying the South of the ability to plant and harvest crops.

The Russian minister at Washington, Baron de Stoeckl, expressed dismay over Lincoln’s proclamation to Secretary of State William Seward, and referred to it “as but a futile menace” because “it would set up a further barrier to the reconciliation of the North South – always the hope of Russia.” Writing to his government, Stoeckl charged the radical Republicans with forcing Lincoln to issue the decree out of desperation, and with plans to inaugurate a reign of terror to silence critics of their regime.

Stoeckl questioned the Emancipation Proclamation’s intent as it offered the protection of Lincoln’s government as a premium to slave owners who remained loyal to his regime, and was simply a military weapon rather than an important document proclaiming human liberty.

It is worth pointing out here that Lincoln could have played a more humane trump card by encouraging a convention of the States to settle the problems of the Union in 1861 – much the same as was done in 1787 to revise the Articles of Confederation that some said were not effective – and the new federated arrangement agreed upon in 1789. The convention would have found a peaceful solution to a more perfect union, or unions.

A more plausible explanation for the reluctance of the British and French to intervene on behalf of the South is not well known, but very well-documented in several important volumes. The most revealing is James Morton Callahan’s “Russo-American Relations during the American Civil War” published in January, 1908 in West Virginia Studies in American History, Series 1, Number 1. In this paper Callahan begins: “After the grand and sudden emancipation of [twenty million] serfs by the Czar” on March 3, 1861, “the admiration for Russia was assiduously cultivated in the North for intimate political reasons.”

Foremost among the reasons behind this Northern interest in Russia was the neutral attitude of England and France in 1861, as well as later British shipbuilding aid to the Confederacy and the offer of French mediation – not to mention French intervention in Mexico for unpaid debts.

The Czar applauded Lincoln’s efforts to suppress an internal rebellion which he equated with the independence-minded Poles resisting Russian troops. Ironically, both the Czar and Lincoln were emancipating serfs and slaves respectively while crushing independence movements with an iron hand.

It should be kept in mind that despite Russian serfdom being somewhat different than the African slavery inherited from British colonialism, Czar Alexander II was well-aware of the numerous serf uprisings that had caused his father, Nicholas I, such anguish, especially after the 1848 socialist revolts in Europe. Alexander saw more revolts inevitable and used an autocratic decree to hasten the act after his nobles could not agree upon a gradual solution. Perhaps Lincoln was influenced by the Czar’s actions and concluded that slavery could only be abolished if the Union was saved – even by fire, sword and a million perishing in the act.

Though many heralded the Czar’s humanitarianism toward the lowly serf, former Cornell President Andrew Dickson White, who served for a time in St. Petersburg in 1855 and 1892-94 wrote that “I do not deny the greatness and nobleness of Alexander II . . . [but] feel obliged to testify that thus far . . . there is, as yet, little, if any, practical difference between the condition of the Russian peasant before and since obtaining his freedom.”

As Lincoln’s minister at St. Petersburg, Cassius M. Clay, began his diplomatic duties in June 1861 and soon reported to Secretary of State Seward that the Czar was earnest in “the hope of the perpetuity of friendship between the two nations” which was “increased by the common sympathy in the cause of emancipation.” Clay suggested to Seward the potential alliance of Russia, Mexico and the United States in an effort to discourage European recognition of the Confederacy. He reasoned that if France or England dared recognition, they would have to face the Russian fleets in addition to Lincoln’s ever-increasing war machine.

Clay added in his message to Seward that the United States “could not trust England with our national life,” and that in “Union with Russia land and army at no distant day to settle accounts with her in China and the Indies.”

General Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania was selected to succeed Clay in St. Petersburg in January 1862, and according to a published statement by Senator James Harlan of Iowa, Cameron was secretly charged by Lincoln to interview Czar Alexander II. Lincoln was troubled by “the possibility of interference by England or France in behalf of the Confederacy” and subsequently received the Czar’s assurance that in the event of intervention, the friendship of Russia for the United States will be known in a decisive manner, which no other nation will be able to mistake.” The Crimean defeat administered by England and France was not forgotten.

After Northern defeats and reverses mounted by October 1862 and France sought British and Russian aid in mediating the American conflict, Lincoln wrote the Czar in search of an alliance should European recognition of the South become reality. He was assured that Russia would not be a party to any mediation, and that Lincoln could rely upon Russian support.

In May 1863 Clay returned as minister at St. Petersburg and found that England, Austria and France were desirous of mediating the Polish-Russian conflict on behalf of the Poles, and with hopes that the United States would join. Clay was instructed by Seward to refuse any and all intervention into Russian affairs which of course pleased the Czar, and the United States was rewarded with a grant of a charter for a telegraph line through Russian territory

In his “Lincoln and the Russians” Albert A. Woldman notes that years before in Springfield, Illinois, Lincoln took a leading part in protesting against “the foreign despot” Russia who “in violation of the most sacred principles of the laws of nature and of nations” had conquered Hungary with an unwarranted armed intervention when she was fighting to break free of Austrian tyranny.

Lincoln may have held some sympathy with the rebellious Poles, but the need for a strong Russian ally to help defeat his own “rebellion” modified previous views. He and Seward issued an official statement that “Polish grievances would be righted by the liberalism, sagacity and magnanimity of Czar Alexander II.”

Lincoln’s refusal to help mediate the Polish uprising drew sharp criticism from the Missouri Republic, charging in an editorial that “the pale corpse of Poland’s murdered liberty” would continue to haunt Lincoln for years to come. Britain’s Punch magazine characterized Lincoln as collaborating with the Russian bear, and the French depicted Lincoln shaking the bloody hand of the Czar.

The French newspaper La Patrie of January 12, 1864 wrote “is it right that fifty million Muscovites should unite to retain ten or twelve million Poles under a detested yoke? Is it right that twenty million Northern Germans and Irishmen [the North’s immigrant population] should unite to impose on eight million Southerners an association they spurn?”

The strong international denunciations of his ruthless Polish campaign caused the Czar concern regarding the possibility of war and reminded him of his fleets bottled up in the Baltic and Mediterranean by the British and French navies in the Crimean War ten years earlier. He made secret arrangements to send his fleets to the open sea and friendly ports of the United States, which would then be in “a favorable position for cruising against British commerce in the Atlantic and Pacific, should war suddenly break out over the tempestuous Polish question.”

Those fleets were ordered to remain in American ports and await the outcome of negotiations regarding Poland. Though nothing in the fleet admirals’ orders referred to assisting Lincoln in his war upon the American South, the inference was clear that Britain and France should not interfere with the conquest of the South lest they hasten war with Russia.

At the same time it was clear to Lincoln, Seward and Clay that an alliance with Russia against England and France would be beneficial in thwarting French designs on Mexico. Clay wrote Seward in September 1863 that “the time had come for all America to unite in a defensive alliance to sustain the Monroe Doctrine.”

Callahan writes that “While rumors of contemplated Franco-English intervention in favor of the Confederacy were still afloat, Russia sent a fleet under Admiral [Andrei Alexandrovich] Popov to San Francisco, and soon thereafter (September 11 and 24) sent another under Admiral S.S. Lessoffsky to New York.

Americans in both cities and across the North interpreted this show of naval force as evidence “of sympathy and encouragement for the Union,” and both San Francisco and New York held endless “receptions, processions and various festivities” which “finally ended in a great Russian ball in honor of the guest.” Harper’s Weekly opined that the United States had outgrown Washington’s policy against entangling alliances and that diplomatic relations and an alliance with Russia would prevent European interference in US affairs and “mark an important epoch.”

In a further gesture of friendship with his new ally, Seward provided navigation charts for the American coast to the Russian fleets. Additionally, the governor of Rhode Island invited Admiral Lessoffsky to visit that State with his fleet; on December 5, 1863 Seward welcomed the same fleet after it had ascended the Potomac to Washington.

The Continental Monthly of February 1864 commented upon Northern enthusiasm for their new friends and especially New York City, which “had gone mad over the Muscovites, forgetting the woes of Poland while they kissed the hands of the knout-bearers of the Czar, and agitated for alliance between what they called the twin sister empires of the future . . . “

Admiral Lessoffsky and his officers were given a grand banquet at Boston in June 1864 with an oration by the renowned New Englander, Edward Everett.

Some questioned the true purpose of the Russian visit with Charles Sumner of Massachusetts writing a friend in October 1863 that “foreign intervention will introduce a new, vast and incalculable element . . . You will observe the hob-nobbing at New York with the Russian admiral. Why is that fleet gathered there?”

Callahan tells us that “it was believed that Lessoffsky had secret orders to place his fleet at the disposal of the President in case the United States should be attacked by France and England. There is no doubt the appearance of the fleets in American harbors caused apprehension in the European courts as they saw the Russians posturing for war. In his memoirs, Cassius Clay wrote of the Russian fleets: “Whatsoever may have been the ultimate purpose – Russia thus made a masterly exhibition which broke up the Mexican invasion [by France] and prevented a foreign invasion of the United States.”

New York banker Henry Clews related (Literary Digest, March 5, 1904) that Seward had informed him that when Confederate armies threatening Washington, he had requested a Russian fleet be sent to New York as a shrewd manner of demonstrating to Europe a Russo-American alliance.

There is no doubt that both Lincoln and Seward were well aware of Russian intentions and that their “action toward us . . . were but moves made by her upon the chessboard of European diplomacy,” though both “took full advantage of the fortuitous circumstance and used it astutely for the best interest of the Union cause.”

An interesting commentary on Lincoln’s wartime leadership came from another foreign observer, Rudolf M. Schleiden, Minister to the United States from the Bremen Republic. In February 1864 he mentioned in a dispatch “that Lincoln said to a Judge Thomas, of Massachusetts, that he would be satisfied if his successor was elected from the Republican Party. If that did not take place [Lincoln] feared that he would spend the rest of his life in jail for repeated violations of the Constitution.” (Rudolf Schleiden and the Visit to Richmond, April 25, 1861, Ralph Haswell Lutz, American Historical Association Annual Report, 1915, Washington, 1917, pp. 212-216)

The appearance of Russian friendship at that time was described by the Odessa-born American historian Frank A. Golder in 1915: “It was a most extraordinary situation, Russia had not in its mind to help us but did render us distinct service; the United States was not conscious that it was contributing in any way to Russia’s welfare and yet seems to have saved her from humiliation and perhaps war [with England and France]. There is probably nothing to compare with it in diplomatic history.”

As a postscript to the Russo-American friendship, Callahan notes the 1867 treaty whereby Russia transferred Alaska to United States control which few understood the logic of. Given the anticipation of war, those like Charles Sumner saw Russia “stripping for the contest with England,” providing North Pacific ports for the American navy and setting the stage for American absorption of Canada.

Intimately informed of Russian motives, Clay wrote from St. Petersburg that “the Russians hoped the cession might ultimately lead to the expulsion of England from the Pacific.” Secretary Seward, interviewed shortly after the Alaska purchase explained that it was an effort “to limit England’s coast line on the Pacific, strengthen American influence in British Columbia,” and to hasten the destiny of Canada into political union with the United States.

For the same purpose of hostility toward England, Northern politicians suggested the acquisition of Greenland and Iceland from Denmark as a further step toward “hemming in” Great Britain. The Alaska cession was viewed by many in the North as the beginning of a new national policy which would continue with annexation of British Columbia and Canada, the Sandwich Islands and naval stations for the US Navy on the coasts of China, Japan, West Indies and Caribbean. Seward’s nationalist energies had now broadened as he envisioned the United States joining the major powers of the world and pursuing even grander opportunities.

Keeping in mind that the 1867 Act of Confederation [strongly influenced by former Confederate Secretary of State Judah Benjamin] was prompted by fears of a two million-man Northern war machine marching northward after 1865, and Russia’s hatred for England, Canadian motivations seem clear.

Though it seemed the United States was doing Russia a favor by purchasing Alaska, American consul to France John Bigelow said in 1867 that “I doubt if there was any member of either house of Congress who supposed the government then had any other motive in the purchase of Alaska than to recognize its obligations to the Czar.”

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