Browsing "Myth of Saving the Union"

Homage to the Hounds

“The children owned a pretty little pet, a grey hound . . . Gathering up a stone, one of the soldiers watched his moment, and approaching the group where they were at play, suddenly dashed out the brains of the little dog, at the very feet of the children.”

William Gilmore Simms, Columbia, South Carolina, 1865

“We were determined that no dogs should escape, be it a cur, a rat dog, or bloodhound; we exterminated all. The dogs are easily killed. All we had to do was bayonet them.”

Col. Oscar Jackson, Sixty-third Ohio Volunteers, 7 March 1865

“It was pitiful to see the poor, half-starved cur go up to the men with almost melancholy countenance, as much to say: “I have seen better days but now am starving. Just let me go along, and I will be a good, dutiful dog.” Sometimes he gets a kick or a bullet for his confidence . . . As for the general run of these animals, they were relentlessly shot down.”

David Conyngham, reporter, New York Herald, February 1865

 

Homage to the Hounds

“You suffered too.

It was war on dogs as well –

On every living thing it seems:

Ages of mutual friendship

All are betrayed

In one fire-breathing

Dragon day.”

 

(Poems from Scorched Earth, James Everett Kibler, Charleston Press, 2001, page 5)

 

Money Versus Morality Up North

In his “Lords of the Loom” study of the years preceding the war, author Thomas H. O’Conner asserts that “Throughout much of traditional historical literature, the conservative Northern Whigs in the decades before the Civil War have either been completely overlooked, or else dismissed out of hand with vague generalizations.” He further credits fellow author Vernon Parrington with cautioning his readers that “the Puritan and the Yankee were two halves of the New England whole.” Conner’s book is the story of what happened “when the Puritan conscience collided head-on with the Yankee zeal for profit – when the moral desire to uproot the evils of slavery reached the point where it had to be weighed against the economic demands for more slave-grown cotton” – for New England mills.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Money Versus Morality Up North

“In 1941, Philip Foner, in his “Business and Slavery,” made an appeal for a more detailed study of the Northern businessman and his reaction to the coming of the Civil War. Countering the popular interpretation that the war was a product of two conflicting economic systems, Professor Foner presented his own observations regarding the concerted efforts of the New York financial interests to check any and all movements which tended to precipitate an intersectional struggle.

Foner’s challenge has failed to arouse very much historical enthusiasm, apparently, for many recent historical treatments of the critical years before the Civil War continue to generalize upon the essential economic antagonisms of the North and the South, and still look upon the Northern industrialist as the catalytic agent which propelled the sections into bloody warfare.

One of the most distinctive presentations of this economic point of view came into the twentieth century with the writings of Charles Beard. The South, according to Beard, was an area of “planters operating in a limited territory with incompetent labor on soil of diminishing fertility,” in contrast to the industrial men of the North who “swept forward . . . exulting in the approaching triumph of machine industry, [and who] warned the planters of their ultimate subjection.”

The economic interpretation was carried into the twenties by the work of Vernon Parrington . . . enthusiastic about the “agrarian democracy” of the West, sympathetic at times toward the interest of the South, Parrington had little regard for the ideals of a middle class which was busily engaged in “creating a plutocracy.” In the decades before the war, claimed Parrington, the major parties of the United States chose to follow the economic interests of “master groups, heedless of all humanitarian issues”; and once the war was over, the “slave economy could never again thwart the ambitions of the capitalist economy.”

[Despite considerable evidence to the contrary], Writers continue to generalize upon New England’s “hatred of Southerners and their institutions” and often describe this hatred so intense that New England would “do everything possible to destroy slavery.”

(Lords of the Loom: The Cotton Whigs and the Coming of the Civil War, Thomas H. O’Conner, Charles Scribner’s & Sons, 1968, excerpts pp. 1- 6)

Virginia’s Killing Fields and War Profiteering

The immense carnage unleashed by Lincoln in 1861 led to Northern war-weariness by mid-1864 — and the suppression of liberties in the North had only increased opposition to his military regime. Lincoln’s war had unleashed another devil – war-profiteering. Historian James G. Randall wrote that “The relation of the War Department to the army on the one side and the contractors on the other is a sorry tale. Whether it was a matter of uniforms, food, horses, guns or munitions, the service was made to suffer while ill-gotten wealth was gathered in by shameless profiteers.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Virginia ‘s Killing Fields and War-Profiteering

By early June 1864, war-weary Northerners began to suspect that they had been betrayed by rosy promises of victory, just as they had been disappointed in every spring since 1861. They had been led to believe that the armies of Generals Grant and Sherman, in their combined offensives aimed at crushing the Confederacy, would finally achieve the triumph that had eluded Federal armies through three years of slaughter.

This time, Grant hurled 115,000 men across the Rapidan and attacked Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, a force only half as large but well entrenched behind elaborate defenses in the thicket of The Wilderness. Sherman led about 100,000 men out of Chattanooga, heading south to capture the railroad center of Atlanta . . .

As usual, the War Department sent forth cheerful bulletins about great “victories” and Northern newspapers blazoned headlines: “Glorious Successes – Lee Terribly Beaten.” “Our Army in Full Pursuit of the Enemy Towards Richmond.”

In fact, Secretary [of War Edwin] Stanton deliberately withheld the truth that Grant’s forces had suffered horrendous losses in the Wilderness, Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor battles and that they had finally moved across the James River to about the same place where General McClellan had been two years before.

In a few weeks of direct frontal attacks on Richmond’s defenses Grant lost more than 50,000 men – killed, wounded and missing – almost as many men as Lee had in his army. Other estimates of Union losses ran much higher. John Tyler, an officer with Lee’s staff, claimed that the total was 70,000.

“Grant has shown great skill and prudence combined with remorseless persistency and brutality,” Tyler commented.

Eventually the enormous casualties could no longer be concealed as the people read the lengthening lists of killed and wounded in their newspapers, and boatloads of maimed soldiers arrived at the Washington waterfront from the killing fields of Virginia.

Thurlow Weed observed a depressing scene in New York State: “Regiments are returning home worn, weary, maimed and depleted. Our cities and villages swarm with skulking, demoralized soldiers.” He also lamented that “there is a reckless, money-making spirit abroad which, profiting by our disasters, favors a long war.”

“The commercial metropolis of the Union is flushed with prosperity and riots in extravagance,” one newspaper found. Throughout the spring of 1864, the New York Times observed that speculation mounted madly, higher and higher. “It was openly proclaimed on the Street that too much could not be paid for railway shares or mining allotments, because the currency was going to the dogs.” War profiteers made a vulgar display of their ill-gotten wealth by wearing diamond-studded waistcoats and spending money freely on jewelry for their women, and riding in fancy carriages and entertaining with lavish parties in their expensive homes.

As far as wealthy pleasure-seekers were concerned, the war was only a dim and distant sound coming out of the South . . . They would not care if the war would go on for another year or so if they could keep their precious carcasses out of the army. They could hire their substitutes for a few hundred dollars each and let the Irish, Germans, and the freed slaves fill the ranks and endure the hardships of battle and risk their lives for the Union.”

(The Dark Intrigue: The True Story of a Civil War Conspiracy, Frank van der Linden, Fulcrum Publishing, 2007, excerpts, pp. 113-114)

 

Total War, Confiscation and Sheer Theft

Author Clyde Wilson asserts that “The triumph in 1861-65 of the Republican Party over the will of the American people and the invasion, destruction and conquest of the Southern States, like a foreign territory has somehow, strangely, gotten mixed up with the idea of government of, by and for the people.” The Republican president crowned his revolutionary actions with the creation of a nationalist mythology which we still live under today. The Union was preserved by Lincoln and his party in a territorial sense, but not the Founders’ Union.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Total War, Confiscation and Sheer Theft

“Another great moral cost of the War, as Richard Weaver pointed out, was inauguration by the Republicans of the “total war” concept, reversing several centuries of Western progress in restraining warfare to rules.

General Sherman himself estimated that in his march across Georgia and the Carolinas, only 20 percent of the destruction had any military value. The rest was sheer wanton terrorism against civilians – theft and destruction of their food, housing, and tools. One egregious example was the burning and sack of Columbia – a city which had already surrendered and was full of women and children and wounded soldiers – a looting which marked the emancipation of black women by their wholesale rape.

Along with destruction went immense confiscation and theft, much of it under cover of a Confiscation Act which was enforced without ever being legally passed. The Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives simply declared the bill passed and adjourned. This high-handed legislative practice continued throughout the War and Reconstruction.

The Republican Governor of Indiana suspended the legislature and acted as dictator for two years. Republicans continually agitated for an open dictatorship under Fremont or some other trustworthy Radical; all of this is known but seldom acknowledged.

In addition to the Confiscation Act, for rebel property there was a mechanism for the government to collect taxes in the occupied regions of the South to finance the War. At last $100,000,000 in cotton (the most valuable commodity in North America) was seized — $30,000,000 more or less legally under the confiscation and tax acts, the rest sheer theft. The rest was stolen by Republican appointees.

A Secretary of the Treasury commented that he was sure a few of the tax agents he sent South were honest, but none remained so very long. We know, for instance, of that great war hero Admiral [David] Porter, who with General [Nathanial] Banks was badly beaten by vastly inferior Confederate forces in the Red River campaign, yet emerged from that campaign with $60,000 worth of stolen cotton for his personal profit.

The confiscation and theft continued in full force until at least 1868; they did not end with the hostilities.”

(State Rights Revisited: War, Reconstruction and the End of the Union, Clyde N. Wilson; Defending Dixie, Essays in Southern History and Culture, Foundation for American Education, 2006, excerpts pp. 142-143)

Lincoln Needs General with Killer Instinct

General John Pope had a bad reputation for outright lies in post-battle reports and was said to have “excelled as a fiction writer.” After his message of glorious victory at the battle of Second Manassas in mid-1862, Lincoln and his cabinet were delighted and went to bed that night expecting “more glad tidings at sunrise.” Pope had actually been severely thrashed by Lee’s smaller army and his disorganized army straggled back toward Washington.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Lincoln Needs General with Killer Instinct

“McClellan presented the letter to Lincoln when they were alone on the [steamer] Ariel.

“First of all,” he wrote, “the Constitution and the Union must be preserved, whatever the cost in time, treasure and blood.” The war, he insisted, “must be conducted upon “the highest principles known to Christian civilization. It must not be a war looking to the subjugation of the people of any State . . . It should not be at all a war upon population, but against armed forces and political organizations.”

In a shaft at General Pope’s rough treatment of civilians in Virginia, McClellan continued: “Neither confiscation of property, political executions of people, territorial organization of States, or forcible abolition of slavery, should be considered for a moment,” continuing, “In prosecuting the war, all private property and unarmed persons should be strictly protected.”

Unless such a clear declaration of principles is made, the general warned, it would be “almost hopeless” to recruit enough men for the army. “A declaration of radical views, especially on slavery, will rapidly disintegrate our present armies.”

The president pocketed the letter without comment, leading the general to wonder what he really thought about it. When Lincoln read the letter to his cabinet a few days later, [Edwin] Stanton and Treasury Secretary [Salmon] Chase demanded McClellan’s immediate removal from command.

They realized that he was totally opposed to carrying on the war to subjugate the South and destroy slavery. Lincoln wanted a new general with a killer instinct who would march on Richmond by the overland route while still protecting Washington. He found his man in John Pope.”

(The Dark Intrigue: The True Story of a Civil War Conspiracy, Frank van der Linden, Fulcrum Publishing, 2007, excerpts, pp. 26-27)

 

American Historians Today

American Historians Today

“Our Union rests upon public opinion, and can never be cemented by the blood of its citizens shed in civil war. If it cannot live in the affections of its people, it must one day perish.” President James Buchanan, 1860

“A poll of American historians, not long ago, chose James Buchanan as “the worst” American president. But judgements of “best” and worst” in history are not eternal and indisputable truths. They are matters of perspective and values, even of aesthetics. They can change as the deep consequences of historical events continue to unfold and bring forth new understandings.

These historians show their characteristic failure to pursue balance and their subservience to presentism and state worship. They think Buchanan should have ordered a military suppression of the seceded Southern States during the last months of his term of office in 1861.

Not only do they have no sympathy for a desire to avoid civil war, but they totally fail to understand the context. There was only a small army, most of the best officers of which sympathized with the South, and there were eight States that had not seceded but were averse to the action against the Confederacy.

More importantly, there was an immense and powerful and even predominant States’ rights tradition that had its followers in the North as well as in the South. For most Americans, even many who had voted for Lincoln, coercion of the people of a State was unthinkable until it became a fact. These historians prefer Lincoln as our “greatest” president.

He had less than two-fifths of the popular vote, but he had an aggressive rent-seeking and office-seeking coalition behind him, and he did not hesitate to make war, though he had egregiously miscalculated, expecting an easy victory.

That there was much intelligent and respectable opposition to him in the North is perhaps the biggest untold story of American history. Ex-president [Millard] Fillmore said that Lincoln’s election justified secession. Horatio Seymour, the governor of New York, asked pointedly why Lincoln was killing fellow Americans who, indeed, had always been exemplary citizens and patriots ready to defend the North against foreign attack.

A New York editor wanted to know exactly where Lincoln got the right to steal the possessions and burn the houses of Southern noncombatants. On July 4, 1863, while the battle raged at Gettysburg, Buchanan’s predecessor, former President Franklin Pierce, denounced Lincoln’s war in plain words in an extended oration in the capitol at Concord, New Hampshire.

The predominant American historical perspective among American historians today is that imported by communist refugees from Europe in the 1930s. American history is now Ellis Island, the African diaspora and Greater Mexico, and Old America has almost disappeared from attention except as an object of hatred.

For today’s historians, unlike James Buchanan, Southerners are not fellow countrymen and real people, but class enemies who should have been destroyed.”

(Updike’s Grandfather. A Review of “Buchanan Dying: A Play”; Clyde Wilson, Chronicles, January 2014, excerpts pg. 24)

Oct 29, 2018 - Historical Accuracy, Lincoln Revealed, Myth of Saving the Union, Propaganda, Republican Party    Comments Off on Silly Remarks and Stoney Silence at Gettysburg

Silly Remarks and Stoney Silence at Gettysburg

Of Lincoln’s short address at Gettysburg in late 1863, the president’s secretary John G. Nicolay said “it was revised [for later publication].” Ward Lamon, intimate friend of Lincoln and his US Marshal for the District of Columbia; Historian Shepherd of Baltimore; W.H. Cunningham of the Montgomery (Missouri) Star, who all sat immediately behind Lincoln at Gettysburg, agreed and publicly stated that the speech published was not the one delivered by Lincoln. In addition, both Edward Everett and Seward expressed disappointment and there was no applause for Lincoln. (See: Abraham Lincoln & Jefferson Davis: Two Presidents, C.E. Gilbert & Tom Hudson, Naylor Company, 1973)

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Silly Remarks and Stoney Silence at Gettysburg

“On November 19, 1863, the State of Pennsylvania decided to dedicate the cemetery at Gettysburg. They sent the President of the United States an invitation which went out to many other dignitaries as a matter of courtesy. Pennsylvania had already made arrangements for that dedication.

The address was to be delivered by the foremost orator of the day, Edward Everett, President of Harvard, former Governor of Pennsylvania, and former Ambassador to the Court of St. James. In his 70th year Mr. Everett was a handsome man and a brilliant figure on the platform. The authorities of Pennsylvania gave him two months in which to prepare his address.

Meanwhile the President . . . was looking at this printed circular and thought that maybe he should go, even if only to sit and bow his head for the men and boys from both sides who were buried there.

When the President notified the committee that he would like to come, they were upset. They knew that protocol demanded that the President speak at such a function, and they were worried lest he spoil the effect of Everett’s address. As politely as they knew how they notified the President that Mr. Everett was to make the major address and that he (the President) would be called upon to “say a few words.”

When Everett was introduced, he bowed low to the President, then stood in silence before a crowd of 15,000 people that stretched far out to the limits of the cemetery field. Mr. Everett began low: “Overlooking these broad fields now reposing from the labors of the waning year, the mighty Alleghenies dimly towering before us, the graves of our brethren beneath our feet . . .” He then gave an outline of the causes of the Civil War, and described the terrible three-day battle at Gettysburg. He spoke for one hour and 57 minutes, closing with a peroration from Pericles: “The whole earth is a sepulcher of illustrious men.”

Then came the President’s turn to speak. He fumbled for his steel-rimmed glasses, put his high stove-pipe hat on the floor beside his chair, and took out a wrinkled piece of paper . . .

On the way back to Washington he said that his speech was a flat failure. He had not expected to get the cheers that Everett had received, but he certainly expected a little more than the stony silence that had greeted his remarks.

The next few days came the newspaper stories of the event. The Patriot, a local paper at nearby Harrisburg said: “The President acted without sense . . . so let us pass over his silly remarks.” “The cheek of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat utterances of the President.”

The correspondent for the London Times wrote: “Anything more dull and commonplace it would not be easy to reproduce.”

(The Press Panned Lincoln, But . . ., Harry Golden, Democratic Digest, Clayton Fritchey, editor, Democratic National Committee, December 1953, (reprinted from the Carolina Israelite, Charlotte, NC) excerpts pp. 28-29)

Desperate War Measures of Dunmore, Cochrane and Lincoln

Lincoln’s desperation card of emancipation was played after it was clear the Southern States had no interest in rejoining the 1787 Union, and as Northern public opinion was building against the increasing carnage of his war. Lincoln abandoned the goal of preserving the Union and decided to follow the same strategy as Royal Governor Lord Dunmore in November 1775 – issue an emancipation proclamation to free slaves who would be loyal to the Crown and thus incite a cruel race war to win the war against American colonists. Another emancipation proclamation was issued in 1814 by Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane to strengthen British forces with freed black men during the War of 1812.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Desperate War Measures of Dunmore, Cochrane and Lincoln

“Well-intentioned, right-thinking people equate anyone who thinks that the South did the right thing by seceding from the Union as secretly approving of slavery. Indeed, such thinking has now reached the point where people from both sides of the political spectrum . . . want to have the Confederate Battle Flag eradicated from public spaces. These people argue that the Confederate flag is offensive to African-Americans because it commemorates slavery and thus should be prohibited from public display.

In the standard account, the Civil War was an outcome of our Founding Fathers’ failure to address the institution of slavery in a republic that proclaimed in its Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal.”

But was it really necessary to wage a four-year war to abolish slavery in the United States, one that ravaged half the country and destroyed a generation of American men? Only the United States and Haiti freed its slaves by war. Every other country in the New World . . . freed them peacefully.

The war did enable Lincoln to “save” the Union, but only in a geographical sense. The country ceased being a Union, as it was originally conceived, of separate and sovereign States. Instead, America became a “nation” with a powerful federal government.

Although it freed 4 million slaves into poverty, it did not bring about a new birth of freedom, as Lincoln and historians such as James McPherson and Henry Jaffa say. For the nation as a whole it did just the opposite: It initiated a process of centralization of government that has substantially restricted liberty and freedom in America, as historians Charles Adams and Jeffrey Rogers Hummel have argued.

The term “Civil War” is a misnomer. The South did not initiate a rebellion. Thirteen Southern States in 1860-1861 simply chose to secede from the Union and go their own way, like the thirteen colonies did when they seceded from Britain. A more accurate name for the war that took place between the Northern and Southern American States would be the “War for Southern Independence.”

Mainstream historiography presents the victors’ view, an account which focuses on the issue of slavery and downplays other considerations.

The rallying cry in the North at the beginning of the war was “preserve the Union,” not “free the slaves.” In his first inaugural address, given five weeks before the war began, Lincoln reassured slaveholders that he would continue to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act.

After 17 months of war things were not going well for the North, especially in its closely-watch Eastern Theater. Did saving the Union justify the slaughter of such a large number of young men? The Confederates posed no military threat to the North. Perhaps it would be better to let the Southern States go, along with their 4 million slaves. If it was going to win, the North needed a more compelling reason to continue the war than to preserve the Union.

Five days after the battle of [Sharpsburg], on Sept. 22, 1862, Abraham Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation . . . a war measure, as Lincoln put it.”

(The Economic Roots of the Civil War, Donald W. Miller, Jr., Liberty, October 2001, Volume 15, No. 10, excerpts pp. 42-43)

A Colossal Waste of Life

As evidenced by sergeants and lieutenants commanding Southern regiments in early 1865, the Northern war killed off the promising political and social leadership of the South. These men would have risen to positions of authority, achievement and genius had it not been for a war against their homes, State and country, which they died defending.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

A Colossal Waste of Life

“As we prepare for another slam-dunk cakewalk preemptive war, this time with Iran, it may be well to recall that the GOP had its origins in big government, which leads to, and thrives on, war. Only weeks after the first Republican president took office, the United States were at war against their estranged sister States,

It proved to be the bloodiest war in American history, consuming 600,000 young Americans [and not including another 400,000 American civilians, black and white]. Setting moral and political questions aside, we can really never know what was lost. How many of these young men, had they lived, would have blossomed into Edisons, Fords, Gershwins and other geniuses whose fruits we would still enjoy and profit from?

All we know is that the country was perpetually impoverished by this colossal waste of life. You never hum the tunes that never got written.

Nevertheless, we still celebrate – no, deify – the man brought on this horror by refusing to countenance the peaceful withdrawal of seven States. Of course Lincoln is chiefly honored for ending slavery. It’s a nice story, but it isn’t exactly true.

When the Confederacy was formed, so many Southern Democrats left both houses of the U.S. Congress that both the House and Senate were left with were left with Republican majorities. With this near-monopoly of power, the GOP – in those days, the GYP, I suppose – passed two “confiscation “ acts in 1861 and 1862, authorizing the seizure of any private property used to assist the “rebellion.”

These powers were so vaguely defined that they permitted limitless repression, such as the closing of newspapers critical of Lincoln’s war. In combination with Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus, anyone could be arrested for anything in the Land of the Free.

The 1862 act expressly declared slaves in the seceding State “forever free.” This was the real Emancipation Proclamation, but Lincoln was actually reluctant to act on it, doubting its constitutionality. For months the radical Republicans attacked him and egged him on, and finally he gave it effect in the most famous executive order of all time. He argued that in wartime he might take a punitive step that would be illegal during a time of peace.

Lincoln had other plans for ending slavery. He’d always thought it should be done gradually, with “compensation” to the slaveowners and the freed blacks to be encouraged to leave the United States. It was his conviction, repeatedly and openly stated, that though all men are created equal, abstractly speaking, the Negro – “the African,” he called him – could never enjoy political and social equality with the white man in this country; the black man would find his equality somewhere else, “without [i.e., outside] the United States.”

So Lincoln waged war to prevent the political separation of North and South, but in the hope of achieving racial separation between black and white. Both goals entailed vast expansions of federal and executive power. Limited government, anyone?

With its current Jacobin-Wilson zeal for spreading “democracy” around the globe, the Republican Party today is more or less back where it started. And once again, a Republican president is claiming wartime powers, under the Constitution, to act outside the Constitution.

Still, the myth persists that Lincoln lived his whole for the purpose of abolishing slavery, and was finally able to do this with a single inspired sovereign act. Like most historical myths, this one ignores all the interesting details. As Lincoln himself said, “I have not controlled events, but plainly confess that events have controlled me.”

(The Reluctant Emancipator, Joseph Sobran, Sobran’s, Volume 13, Number 8, August 2006, excerpts pg. 12)

Fighting and Dying in an Unjust War

Lincoln’s congress passed the Enrollment Act on March 3, 1863, also known as the Conscription Act of 1863. When New York Governor Horatio Seymour feared riots against the July draft in New York City, Lincoln’s Provost Marshal General James B. Fry refused any postponement. Fry’s behavior confirmed Democrat fears that the draft’s intent was to provoke a riot as an excuse for martial law and using federal troops to supervise and manipulate votes in upcoming elections.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Fighting and Dying in an Unjust War

“On the same day it passed the new draft law in March, Congress had authorized the suspension of habeas corpus throughout the United States, enabling the administration to detain political prisoners indefinitely without charges or any other due process of law. The draft law also empowered the secretary of war to create a police arm, the office of the provost marshal general, whose assistants scoured the country arresting deserters, spies, traitors, and other people deemed disloyal to the Northern war effort.

When criticized for suspending the writ of habeas corpus, Lincoln replied that the rebels and their agents in the North were violating every other law of the land and using constitutional protections – including freedom of speech and assembly – to shield their destructive, subversive activity.

During the spring of 1863, Democrats had warned that Lincoln was amassing dictatorial powers and the expanding central government was poised to wipe out what little remained of States’ rights. The draft, they said, was the ultimate expression of arbitrary federal power: the States’ role in raising troops had been supplanted, and individuals – those who could not afford a substitute – were to be coerced by the distant bureaucracies in Washington into fighting and dying in an unjust war.

[New York’s Governor Horatio Seymour] not only asserted that the draft law was unconstitutional, but complained, rightly, that the Republican administration and its newly-created Bureau of the Provost Marshal General had set disproportionately high [troop] quotas for New York City – which was predominantly Democratic.

Along with Horatio Seymour, Manton Marble’s New York World had fiercely denounced the arrest [of Democrat Clement Vallandigham in Ohio] and the central government’s “despotic power,” . . . “When free discussion and free voting are allowed, men are not tempted to have recourse to violence and relief of bad rulers,” the World asserted.

“You may stigmatize these irregular avengers as a “mob,” but there are times when even violence is nobler than cowardly apathy.”

The Devil’s Own Work: The Civil War Draft Riots and the Fight to Reconstruct America, Barnet Schecter, Walker Publishing, 2005, excerpts pp. 23-24)

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