Browsing "Lincoln’s Revolutionary Legacy"

British Sympathy for American Independence

Though unofficial Southern support in England was evident through most of the war, by mid-1864 Lincoln’s unofficial alliance with the British-hating Czar along with coming Alabama claims caused postwar British official opinion to take a northward turn. The Russian sale of Alaska in 1867 was to ensure that it did not fall into British hands, and the victorious North threatened an invasion of Canada and seizure of Greenland with its 2-million-man army in blue. This would have been punishment for expressing Southern sympathy.

British Sympathy for American Independence

“But in the course of the war, between 1861 and 1865, James Mason, Confederate States Commissioner to England, wrote confidentially to his Secretary of State in Richmond, Virginia, that “there can be no mistake that with all classes in England which have an opinion, their entire sympathy is with us.”

Captain James Bulloch, C.S.N., wrote that “personal observation, confirmed by the testimony of every other agent of the Confederate States Government whose duties compelled him to reside in England . . . , convinced me that the great majority of the people in Gret Britain – at least among the classes a traveler, or a man of business, or a frequenter of the clubs, would be likely to meet – were on the Southern side.”

Lest this be supposed but Southern optimism, the United States Consul at Liverpool wrote: “It was evident from the commencement [of war] that the South . . . had the sympathy of the people of England . . . I speak now of the great mass of the English people.” Henry Adams, the son and secretary of the United States minister in London, wrote: “As for this country, the simple fact is that it is unanimously against us and becomes more firmly set every day.”

An English partisan of the North wrote to a member of the opposite camp about the Southern supporters: “I fear you do not overstate your constituency when you put it at three-fourths of educated Englishmen.”

After a debate in the House of Commons on recognition of the Confederacy, the Manchester Guardian said that the debate “should not be thought to have anything to do with the sentiments and sympathies of the English people, for these were entirely with the South.” The manager of The Times wrote to a strongly pro-Southern correspondent: “Your views are entirely in accordance with those of this paper & I believe of the majority in this country.” The pro-Northern Spectator said: “The educated million in England, with here and there an exception, have become unmistakably Southern.”

(The Glittering Illusion: English Sympathy for the Southern Confederacy. Sheldon Vanauken. Regnery Gateway, 1989. pp. 1-2)

Martial Law is the Absence of Law

Martial Law is the Absence of Law

A review of the martial law imposed upon the island of Key West 1861-1865 was recently presented by a local college history teacher, and as a part of the North’s comprehensive military strategy during the Civil War. The audience was a local Civil War Roundtable (CWRT) group.

The lecturer noted the military takeover of the civilian government on the island in mid-January 1861 as the local commander, Capt. James Brannan surreptitiously barricaded his 44 men in the nearly completed Fort Zachary Taylor and turned its guns on the town. Overnight, the US military’s local friends and neighbors became an enemy to be treated with suspicion and contempt. Now fearing bombardment of their homes from the nearby fort, the residents became prisoners in their homes.

The reason cited for Brannan’s warlike action was overhearing “secession” talk among the residents as well as Florida’s recent decision to formally withdraw from the United States federation and become an independent State. Florida was to remain independent until it formally voted to join the Confederate States of America on April 22, 1861.

The arrival in March 1861 of more Northern troops increased armed patrols roaming the town and surveilling citizens. Arbitrary arrests were common, and Fort Taylor became an American bastille to hold prisoners of conscience. Locals, especially merchants with inventories to sell, sought favor with the military as willing informants, reporting on anyone complaining of military rule. Elected officials who disagreed with the military faced arrest and confinement, and new elections of approved candidates were held under armed supervision. Those considered “dangerous secessionists” were deported to the mainland.

What Capt. Brannan accomplished with his unilateral action, and unfortunately not pointed out by the lecturer, was to wage war against a State which is the very definition of treason in the US Constitution – Article III, Section 3. Though Brannan was applauded by his fellow officers and eventually promoted for his act, this does not absolve him of treason.

It was highly likely that Brannan was emulating Major Robert Anderson at Charleston as news of the Fort Sumter seizure could have reached him at Key West in early January. As Anderson suffered no adverse consequences for his fort seizure, Brannan perhaps saw a green light to do the same but should have been more circumspect as he certainly was aware that John Brown was hung in 1858 for waging war against Virginia – the crime being treason. Noteworthy is that Brown was tried and convicted in Virginia, where he committed his crime.

Though this speaker outlined how the island was placed under military rule, no adequate or honest discussion was provided regarding how or why military rule had suddenly materialized, how it was justified under American law, or who specifically ordered it. Martial law is generally considered to be the absence of law with arrests and detentions made at the discretion of the military commander, or those commanded by him. Missing was any explanation of how easily Northern commanders could ignore habeas corpus which was so deeply rooted in Anglo-American jurisprudence. But importantly, as Lincoln ignored the Constitution and approved the repressive actions of those like Brannan, it only encouraged more violations of the law.

The seizure of Fort Taylor came at the whim of a local military commander who was sworn to uphold the United States Constitution – and who should have clearly understood the definition of treason. Though simplistically following orders to protect the fort he was charged with commanding, the withdrawal of the State of Florida and its relationship with the United States government at Washington took precedence. After being officially advised of Florida’s decision to formally declare independence, and lacking any reason to remain on the island, which was no longer part of the United States, Capt. Brannan should have sought Florida officials to provide him with receipts for all equipment left behind before departing with his command. Though he likely would have been court-martialed for doing this, he would have been true to his oath to support the United States Constitution.

The above indicates that there is more than one viewpoint regarding this particular topic, and a more well-versed history teacher should have been able to present all credible perspectives beyond their own. In this particular case, the audience deserved a far better explanation of how military rule quickly overwhelmed a peaceful American town. The listeners were unfortunately left with a partial and limited view of this important and most revealing topic.

(For more information on this topic, see: “Key West’s Civil War: Rather Unsafe for a Southern Man to Live Here.” John Bernhard Thuersam – Shotwell Publishing and available on Amazon)

Conquest, Not Union

On April 12, 1864, Fort Pillow, located north of Memphis on the Mississippi River, was surrounded by some 1,500 troops under Gen’s. Nathan Bedford Forrest and James Chalmers. After sending an ultimatum to surrender or suffer “no quarter” and the enemy rejecting capitulation, Forrest’s men attacked and caused most of the enemy’s 600 soldiers to flee into the river. As northern colored troops were half of the fort’s garrison, they suffered great loss along with their white counterparts, and the usual cries of “massacre” were heard from northern reporters anxious to sell newspapers to a gullible public. The Radical Republicans were also quick to establish a congressional committee to investigate Fort Pillow for political purposes.

This pattern was repeated late in the war as the northern public was fed atrocity stories of Georgia’s Andersonville prison stockade. Missing from the stories were the pleas of President Davis and other Southern leaders for prisoner exchanges, including safe passage for medical supplies and food to sustain the inmates. These were all refused by Grant, with Lincoln’s approval.

Conquest, Not Union

“What exactly did the [Committee on the Conduct of the War] uncover and how objective was its investigation? Critics have assumed that the committee deliberately exaggerated Southern atrocities to smear Forrest’s reputation, inflame public sentiments, and serve its own narrow partisan agenda.

The committee’s most thorough historian, T. Harry Williams, for instance, argues that Benjamin Wade used this investigation, as well as previous atrocity reports, as a means to create a consensus for an even more radical reconstruction. By deliberately exaggerating Rebel brutalities, he would cause the public to support a reconstruction policy that would treat the South as a conquered territory.

There is little doubt that the issue of reconstruction was on the minds of committee members and other Republicans during the Fort Pillow investigation. George Julian, chairman of the House Committee on Public Lands, was already busy sponsoring legislation to confiscate the large holdings of Rebel planters and redistribute them to veterans of the Union armies, both white and black.

In remarks to the House of Representatives shortly after Fort Pillow, Julian castigated the Confederates as “devils” and argued that the [alleged] massacre provided additional reasons to support the program of confiscating [Southern property].

Even before the war, there were many in the North who viewed the South as backward and in need of radical reordering along the outline of Northern free labor institutions. The war accelerated such beliefs. “The war is quickly drawing to an end,” the Continental Monthly predicted in the summer of 1862, “but a greater and nobler task lies before the soldiers and free men of America – the extending of civilization into the South.”

In formulating its Fort Pillow findings, the committee reflected Northern opinion as much as it sought to shape it.”

(“These Devils Are Not Fit to Live on God’s Earth”: War Crimes and the Committee on the Conduct of the War, 1864-1865”. Bruce Tap. Civil War History – A Journal of the Middle Period, John Hubbell, ed. Kent State University Press, June 1996, Vol. XLII, No. 2, pp. 121-122)

Thomas Jefferson’s “Rupture”

Author Roger Lowenstein writes that on Christmas Eve, 1825, “Thomas Jefferson let out an anguished cry. The government of the country he had helped to found, half a century earlier, was causing him great distress. It was assuming vast powers, specifically the right to construct canals and roads, and to effect other improvements. Jefferson thought of the federal government in the most restrictive terms: as a “compact” or a “confederated fabric” – that is, a loose affiliation of practically sovereign States.”

Thomas Jefferson’s “Rupture”

“He was roused at the age of eighty-two to issue a “Solemn Declaration and Protest” against what he termed the “usurpation” of power by the federal branch. Jefferson was so agitated that he declared that the “rupture” of the United States would be, although a calamity, not the greatest calamity. Even worse, reckoned the sage of Monticello, would be “submission to a government of unlimited powers.”

Though Federalists led by Alexander Hamilton had sought to establish a strong central government, Jeffersonians adamantly objected. No fewer than six of President Jefferson’s successors vetoed or thwarted federal legislation to build roads and canals, improve harbors and riverways, maintain a national bank, [and] fund education . . .”

Had Jefferson survived until 1860, the federal government of that day would not have displeased him. Its main vocation was operating the postal service and collecting customs duties at ports, [and] its army consisted of merely sixteen thousand troops scattered mostly among a series of isolated forts west of the Mississippi. The federal payroll was modest . . . the civilian bureaucracy in Washington consisted of a mere two thousand employees.

The modest federal purse was supported by tariff duties and a smattering of land sales. Federal taxes (an unpleasant reminder of the English Parliament) were reflexively scorned. Then came the “rupture.”

The Republicans – [Lincoln elected in November 1860] – vastly enlarged the federal government . . . [and] accomplished a revolution that has been largely overlooked.”

(Ways and Means: Lincoln and His Cabinet and the Financing of the Civil War. Roger Lowenstein, Penguin Books, 2022. pp. 1-2)

Antebellum Race Relations

Antebellum Race Relations

Clifton Rodes Breckinridge (1846-1932) was the son of former US Congressman, Vice President and Major-General John C. Breckinridge (1821-1875). Clifton served in the war under his father and in the CS Navy; was elected to the House of Representatives from Arkansas and served as US Minister to Russia.

The following is excerpted from his early May 1900 address to the Southern Society for the Promotion of the Study of Race Conditions and Problems in the South,” held in Montgomery, Alabama.

“Take the period of slavery. For generations, and under conditions generally considered the most trying, the races lived together in peace. If we had reason to believe that, with the great and permanent racial differences which exist, the nature of the races, or the nature of either of them, were truculent, then, indeed, would the future be dark.

But during all that period the relations of the races were not only peaceful, but, in the main, they were most kindly. Side by side with the assured power of the law, there were the associations of childhood, the sports and domestic service of later life, the care of sickness and old age, uniform consideration for good character of old age, and the respect and fidelity which were fit reflections of the manly honor, womanly care and refined and elevated rule which generally marked the domestic authority of the times.

All had their influence. All were developed under and enlightened construction of the Christian religion, and the aggravated crimes of later days were absolutely unknown.”

(Published in the Negro Universities Press, 1969, pp. 171-172)

The War Against the States

“[The] fact remains that that the Civil War was a political and constitutional watershed in United States history. Although the Civil War draft was primarily an inducement to volunteering [with ample financial incentives], the arbitrary arrests [of civilians] and first use of [a clearly unconstitutional] national conscription established important precedents. Economically, power shifted toward the industrialized North.  Moreover, at war’s end the very concept of State sovereignty established by the Founders had little meaning.

As Professor William B. Hesseltine said many years later, it was a “war against the States, both North and South. Within half a century after Appomattox, the federal government began to regulate certain businesses and introduced a graduated income tax. These innovations would have been inconceivable prior to 1860.” Larry Gara, Wilmington College.

(Review of “The North Fights the Civil War: The Home Front,” J. Matthew Gallman (Dee Publishing, 1994. Published in Civil War History – A Journal of the Middle Period, Vol. 42, No. 3. September 1996).

“This Country Splitting Business”

After the Japanese capitulation in 1945 the US government stymied an already-existing pan-Korean government, albeit leftist, in favor of installing Syngman Rhee, who ruled the south as a virtual dictator. The latter used former Japanese soldiers as police and government officials, with the support of the Americans. The 1950 war, which many believe was initiated by Rhee, cost the lives of a million Koreans and virtually leveled the country with bombing. Today, North Korea is the real Korea and ruled by Koreans; and South Korea remains a US-controlled colony.

“This Country Splitting Business”

“Senator Stuart Symington: ‘We go into this country splitting business . . . First, we split Germany. Then we split China. We stay with billions and billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of people in the case of Germany; China we stay with billions and billions of dollars and thousands of people. Then we split Korea and stay there with billions of dollars and tens of thousands of military [troops], all at heavy cost to the American taxpayer. Then we split Vietnam . . . now we split Laos . . . Do you know of any other country we plan to split pretty soon?

Mr. [William J.] Porter (US Ambassador to South Korea): No sir.

Senator Symington: This has been quite an interesting policy, hasn’t it, over the years? Our allies don’t do [this], nor do our possible enemies. We do it all over the world . . . ‘

(Hearings before the Subcommittee on US Security Agreements and Commitments Abroad of the Committee on Foreign Relations, US Senate, 91st Congress, 2nd Session, 1970, pp. 1579-82)

 

Aggressive Abroad, Despotic at Home

On December 15, 1866, Gen. Robert E. Lee wrote Britain’s Lord Acton that he believed the victorious North’s consolidation of all the American States into “one vast republic . . . will be the certain precursor to ruin which has overwhelmed all those that have preceded it.” Lee. Like many others, saw the authority reserved to the States and the people, now destroyed by the war, had been “the only safeguard to the continuance of free government.”

Below, author Gore Vidal wrote in 2002 of the national security state’s creation by Harry Truman, though it was certainly put into motion first by Lincoln, reinforced by Woodrow Wilson and perfected by Roosevelt the Second. Unfortunately, Vidal’s research does not reveal the military-industrial, security state apparatus created by Lincoln.

Aggressive Abroad and Despotic at Home

“Fifty years ago, Harry Truman replaced the old republic with a national security state whose sole purpose is to wage perpetual wars, hot, cold and tepid. Exact date of replacement? February 27, 1947. Place: White House Cabinet Room. Cast: Truman, Undersecretary of State Dean Acheson, and a handful of congressional leaders.

Republican Senator Arthur Vandenburg told Truman he could have his militarized economy only if he first “scared the hell out of the American people” that the Russians were coming. Truman obliged.

The perpetual war began. Representative government of, by and for the people is now a faded memory. Only corporate America enjoys representation by the Congresses and presidents that it pays for in an arrangement where no one is entirely accountable because those who have bought the government also own the media.

Now with the revolt of the Praetorian Guard at the Pentagon, we are entering a new and dangerous phase. Although we regularly stigmatize other societies as rogue states, we ourselves have become the largest rogue state of all. We honor no treaties. We spurn international courts. We strike unilaterally whenever we choose. We give orders to the United Nations but do not pay our dues. We complain of terrorism, yet our empire is now the greatest terrorist of all. We bomb, invade, subvert other states.

We have allowed our institutions to be taken over in the name of a globalized American empire that is totally alien in concept to anything our Founders had in mind.”

(Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace: How We Got to be So Hated. Gore Vidal. Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2002, pp. 158-159)

Lincoln’s Tariff War

Lincoln, in his first inaugural address, promised no interference with the South’s labor system and admitted that a president lacked the authority to do so. But he did threaten to invade any State that failed to collect federal tariff revenues – despite the US Constitution’s Article III, Section 3, declaring treason to be waging war against one of “Them”, the States, or adhering to their enemy, giving them aid and comfort.

Lincoln’s Tariff War

“Once the Republicans were confident that Lincoln would win the 1860 election, and especially once the Southern Democrats began leaving the U.S. Congress, they did what they had been dreaming of doing for decades: They went on a protectionist frenzy that lasted for decades after the war.

The Morrill Tariff was passed by the House of Representatives in May 1860 and by the Senate in March 1861, just prior to Lincoln’s inauguration. Thus, the apparatus of protectionism was initiated before Fort Sumter and before the war. The Morrill Tariff was not passed to finance the war; it was passed because the old-line Whigs, who were now Republicans [including Lincoln], finally had the power to do it.

Even though it was passed before Lincoln officially took office, it is important to note that, as the Republicans’ presidential candidate, he was the leader of the party and, as such, most likely had a great deal to do with the political maneuvering on behalf of the tariff.

[In his classic 1931 book, “The Tariff History of the United States”] Frank Taussig explains that “in the next regular [congressional] session, in December 1861, a still further increase of [tariff] duties was made. From that time until 1865, no session, indeed, hardly a month of any session, passed in which some increase in of duties on imports were not made.” By 1862, the average tariff rate had crept up to 47.06 percent which “established protective duties [for Northern industries] more extreme than had been ventured on in any previous tariff act in our country’s history.”

The Republicans openly admitted that the purpose of their protectionist policy was not necessarily to raise money to finance the war but to pay off Northern manufacturers for their political support. The manufacturers were being taxed explicitly (through excise taxes) to help finance the war, and the tariff was a way to offset those losses.  Congress enacted and Lincoln signed into law tariff legislation “whose chief effect was to bring money into the pockets of private individuals.”

Long after the war, Taussig concluded, “almost every increase in duties demanded by domestic producers was readily made” and “great forces were made by changes in legislation urged and brought about by those who were benefited by them.”

(Abraham Lincon and the Triumph of Mercantilism, Thomas J. DiLorenzo. Reassessing the Presidency. John V. Denson, ed., Mises Institute Press, 2001, pp. 220-221)

Lincoln’s War to Establish Government Superiority

Lincoln’s War to Establish Government Superiority

“Abraham Lincoln, we are taught, fought the Civil War to free the Negro slaves. The truth is that the war was fought primarily because the Southern States, whom the Northern States had continually burdened with stifling tariffs and levies, wanted to secede from the Union.

What Lincoln accomplished was to reestablish government’s superiority over the individual, i.e., that men had to “belong to the country whether they wanted to or not.” After the North’s victory, the issue of the federal government’s authority over all people within “its” borders was never again seriously challenged.

In a letter to Horace Greeley in 1862, Lincoln wrote “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the union and it is not either to save or destroy slavery. And in a [prewar] debate with Stephen Douglas, Lincoln stated: “I am not nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social or political equality of white and black races . . . there must be the position of the superior and inferior, and as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.”

(Restoring the American Dream, Robert J. Ringer. Fawcett Crest Books, 1979, pp. 294-295)

Pages:1234567...52»