Browsing "Myth of Saving the Union"

Buchanan Identifies the Reason for War

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

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Buchanan Identifies the Reason for War

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fake News and Collusion

Charles A. Dana is a seldom mentioned figure in wartime incidents, though he became an internal spy for Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and monitored Grant’s early activities in the western theater of war. When Jefferson Davis was placed in irons in Fortress Monroe, it was Dana who wrote the order. In the prewar period, Dana was a member of the utopian Brook Farm commune in Massachusetts, and encouraged Karl Marx to contribute to Horace Greeley’s Tribune. Dana later admitted that the entire power of the War Department was utilized to ensure Lincoln’s reelection in 1864.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Fake News and Collusion

“White-haired and long faced, [Secretary of War Simon] Cameron was turning army procurement into a fish fry for manufacturers of his native Pennsylvania. Not a word of criticism, however, came from the [New York] Tribune, normally freighted to the water’s edge with brickbats for public officials suspected of mischief . . . Part [of editor Horace Greeley’s reason] was due to the fact that Cameron, in an early draft, proposed a favorite Greeley scheme of arming escaped slaves.

Part of it, however, mirrored the touching understanding between the war minister and his favorite news-gatherer [the Tribune’s Samuel Wilkeson]. Wilkeson would send Cameron a clipping of one of his more flattering articles on the existing management of the war, and
Cameron would respond in a way that counted, by dropping a note to the telegraph censor and requesting that Wilkeson’s dispatches be sent through untouched.

[The] New York Herald ferretted out of an investigation of Cameron’s contracts a story which charged the Washington correspondent and two of the Tribune’s commercial and financial writers had secured the charter of a Connecticut gun manufacturer and submitted a bid to supply the government with 25,000 muskets at twenty dollars apiece.

Wilkeson (whose name was twisted by the Herald to Wilkinson) had supposedly used his influence to have the Ordnance Department hurry matters along. The Tribune denied that any of its men had owned any part of the contract in question; Wilkeson admitted to an act of “disinterested kindness” and nothing more, but soon thereafter left Washington for the army.

[Cameron in January 1862 was replaced with Edwin M.] Stanton, [and who] almost as soon as he was installed at his desk, wrote to Charles A. Dana, the managing editor, confiding that his mission tended toward the same end as that of the paper.

In an early entanglement over a censored dispatch Stanton admitted that he and Dana were of “one heart and mind” in the cause of victory. He meant it, apparently, for Dana subsequently left Greeley’s payroll and, under the title of Assistant Secretary of War, ventured afield to keep an eye on various headquarters for Stanton.”

(Reporters for the Union, Bernard A. Weisberger, Little, Brown and Company, 1953, excerpts pp. 175-178)

Hostile Colonies and States United

The American Revolution involved two groups fighting the British: the conservatives, who reluctantly left British control as it guaranteed their power and wealth; and the radicals who wanted to overturn the aristocratic colonial structure as well as British rule from afar. The latter desired sovereign States with a weak central government, the former desired the reverse.

The author below notes “the writing and ratification of the Articles of Confederation is merely the first chapter in the constitutional history of the United States. In the years to come, section was to be arrayed against section, class against class, and party against party in an effort to determine the province of the central government and that of the States.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Hostile Colonies and States United

“The fundamental difference between the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution of 1787 lies in the apportionment of power between the States and the central government. In the first the balance of power was to the States, and in the second to the central government. The first constitution was one of a federal organization; the second was in essence that of a national government, although political realities demanded the retention of federal features.

The difference between the two was the result of the shifting balances of political power within the thirteen States, which enabled first one party and then the other to write its desires, its beliefs, and its interests into the colorless language of a constitution.

Hence it was the nature of union, and not its desirability, that was the major issue between the parties in 1776. The conservatives wished for the recreation, as nearly as might be, of the system that had existed before the Revolution.

The radicals tended to desire a union chiefly for the purpose of carrying on the war, but a union that would not infringe upon the sovereign authority of the individual States. They believed profoundly that only under such a system was democracy possible.

The greatest obstacle to a union of almost any kind was the States’ independence of one another. The colonies had been founded individually and had developed different traditions and attitudes in spite of a common heritage of language, law, and government.

Their relations with each other were often unfriendly, especially after the middle of the eighteenth century, as a result of rival land claims. Actual warfare had been prevented only by the external power of Britain, which subdued them but did not eliminate their animosity toward one another.

Above all, the radicals believed that the independence of the States was the guarantee of the kind of government they desired. Speaking broadly, it was democracy they wanted, and they knew full well that the kind of democracy they wanted was incompatible with centralization. Their experience with the British Empire had taught them that much, and they were not soon to forget the lesson.”

(The Articles of Confederation, an Interpretation of the Social-Constitutional History of the American Revolution, 1774-1781, Merrill Jensen, University of Wisconsin Press, 1940, excerpts pp. 109-110; 116-117)

The Problem of Sovereignty

Regarding the location of sovereignty in the American system of government, Jefferson Davis, in his postwar “Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government,” stated: “If any lingering doubt could have existed as to the reservation of their entire sovereignty by the people of the respective States when they organized the federal Union, it would have been removed by the adoption of the tenth amendment to the Constitution, which was not only one of the amendments proposed by various States when ratifying that instrument, but the particular one in which they substantially agreed, and upon which they most urgently insisted.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The Problem of Sovereignty

“The fundamental issue in the writing of the Articles of Confederation was the location of the ultimate political authority, the problem of sovereignty. Should it reside in Congress or the States?

Many conservatives in 1776-1777, as in 1787, believed that Congress should have a “superintending” power over both the States and their individual citizens. They had definite reasons for such a desire.

They feared mob action and democratic rule.

The radicals, on the other hand, were fighting centralization in their attack upon the British Empire and upon the colonial governing classes, whose interests were so closely interwoven with the imperial relationship. Furthermore, the interests of the radicals were essentially local.

To them union was merely a means to their end, the independence of the several States. Hence centralization was to be opposed. Finally, the democratic theory of the time was antagonistic to any government with pretensions toward widespread dominion. Theorists believed that democratic government was impossible except within very limited areas.

Thus the conflict between those who were essentially “nationalists” and those who were forerunners of the “States rights” school.

The real significance of this controversy was obscured during the nineteenth century by historians and politicians who sought to justify the demands of rising industrialism on the central government and the Northern attitude toward the South’s secession in 1860-61.

The Southern contention that the Union was a compact between sovereign States was opposed by the contention that the Union was older than the States. North historians insisted that the first Continental Congress was a sovereign body, and that it represented the people of the United States as a whole, not the people of the several States as represented in their State governments.

To prove their contentions the Northerners cited such documents as the Declaration of Independence and the preamble to the Constitution of 1787 . . . [and italicizing] to place undue emphasis on the portions of the documents which seemed to prove their arguments.

This is essentially the technique of argument used by small boys and would be unworthy of consideration had it not been so effective in shaping certain ideas which have profoundly influenced the interpretation of American history.”

(The Articles of Confederation, an Interpretation of the Social-Constitutional History of the American Revolution, 1774-1781, Merrill Jensen, University of Wisconsin Press, 1940, excerpts pp. 161-163)

 

Martial Law in Maryland

As Lincoln prepared his invasion of the South after Fort Sumter, he responded to public outcry in Maryland with illegally suspending the right of habeas corpus, increasingly severe repression, and monitoring elections. The author below writes that Lincoln’s “clumsy response is better explained by psychological impulse than by political imperative,” as he could not abide having dissident Maryland citizens waving Southern banners so close to his political seat.

Bernhard Thuersam  www.Circa1865.org

 

Martial Law in Maryland

“[General Winfield] Scott . . . [issued the order] for the arrest of Baltimore’s city marshal, George P. Kane, and the entire board of police commissioners – all of whom [were] implicated in the imagined [Maryland secession] plot.

So it was that at an early hour on June 27, 1861, a detachment of troops marched through Baltimore’s streets . . . [to] Marshal Kane’s home. Within the hour Kane arrived at Fort McHenry . . . When the sun rose over the Eastern Shore on July 1, all four commissioners lay in the dank dungeon of Fort McHenry . . . Soldiers by the hundreds strode Baltimore’s streets with their bayonets fixed that morning, and citizens who dared to express disagreement with their government felt the teeth of martial law.

The United States Congress convened three days after the arrest of the commissioners and questioned the seemingly highhanded action taken against public officials of a loyal State. Knowing that Lincoln had already ignored judicial demands in such matters, the police commissioners bypassed the legal system to petition their congressional representative for relief, and twenty days into its session the House of Representatives adopted resolution requesting [Lincoln] to provide grounds and evidence for the arrests.

Lincoln declined to cooperate. Citing what would become the favorite excuse of future administrations seeking to invoke a dubious prerogative, he informed the elected representatives of the people that it was “incompatible with the public interest at this time” to release that information.

Some of the commissioners remained in confinement for months, and Marshal Kane was not released until November of 1862, but for the rest of the war and thereafter, revealing the reason for their detention remained incompatible with the public interest.”

(Mr. Lincoln Goes to War, William Marvel, Houghton Mifflin, 2006, excerpts pp. 104-105)

One Hundred Years After 1865

The Immigration Act of 1965, also known as the Hart-Celler Act, was a radical departure from previous immigration policies which restricted African and Asian immigration while favoring those coming from northern and western Europeans. Promoted by civil rights activists, as well as Lyndon Johnson and Ted Kennedy, proponents “argued that the new policies would not significantly influence American culture.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

One Hundred Years After 1865

“Since 1965, farsighted critics with an understanding of history and human nature have warned that the new immigration would lead, and is leading, to the balkanization of the United States of America. Democrats and liberals, as well as radicals, have steadfastly denied the likelihood, even the possibility, of such a thing; whoever argues otherwise, they say, is a racist and xenophobe.

Liberals persist in maintaining this fantasy, whose falsity is demonstrated by liberalism itself in its new guise of identity politics, whose rise coincides exactly with the arrival of scores of millions of nonwhite, non-Christian, and non-Western peoples and whose program is ideally fixed to the phenomenon, as well as a reflection of it.

In 1861, the United States was a house divided (though not nearly so widely as she is thought to have been). In 2018, she is a house shattered and tottering.

As for democracy, only the politicians profess to believe that the US is any such thing anymore. The majority of Americans are weary of war, weary of financial and human sacrifice, weary of unsavory allies, weary of unpleasantly foreign, unsuitable, and unassimilable hordes arriving from uncivilized places to transform their country into a congeries of crowded International Houses subsidized at their expense.”

(One Nation Divided, Chilton Williamson, Jr., Chronicles, June 2018, excerpts pp. 9-10)

Bungling and Unprincipled Self-Seeking

As the invading Northern armies moved South, huge quantities of cotton were found and Yankee cotton-hunger “was fierce and insatiable.” Union officers could make a quick fortune seizing bales and shipping them northward to New England mills, the same ones who had themselves perpetuated slavery with dependence on Southern cotton.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Bungling and Unprincipled Self-Seeking

“The opening of the full length of the Mississippi by the capture of Vicksburg and Port Hudson augmented the illicit traffic from all river towns into the Confederacy. General [Stephen A.] Hurlbut, himself probably corrupt and certainly drunken, explained to his superiors [in Washington] the impossibility of imposing controls. “A perpetual flood of fraud, false-swearing, and contraband goods runs through the city,” he wrote. Even the pickets are bribed.

[US] Treasury agents were really no more culpable than Army officers, and old cotton-brokers no worse than Chicago commission-men; Yankees and foreigners could be equally unscrupulous.

Ben Butler, who had held command [at New Orleans] in 1862, believed in generous trade policies, and one recipient of his generosity was his brother, Andrew Jackson Butler. The operations of both the Butlers became highly complicated . . . When military expeditions were sent out ostensibly for the chastisement of guerillas, but with cotton also in view, and shallow-draft steamers began to scour the bayous with the same objectives, the situation became still more tangled.

[Secretary of the Treasury Salmon] Chase’s special agent, George S. Denison . . . found that a great deal of contraband material was being shipped to the Confederates in exchange for cotton, and that [Northern] military men of high rank who lent their cooperation were reaping large harvests.

It was clear, he wrote Chase, that Ben Butler “knows everything, controls everything, and should be held responsible for everything.”

On the Red River in the spring of 1864, the carnival of trade and speculation reached its height for a single campaign. General [Nathanial P.] Banks, who also had to carry the ignominy of defeat, suffered censure . . . Officer after officer, in testimony that runs for pages despite sharp questions put by Congressmen, charged that the Navy seized wagons and mules right and left, ranging far into the interior away from the Red River and branding cotton “C.S.A.” so that they with impunity then add “U.S.N.”

Porter went on to attack the Army, writing: “General Banks had come up in the steamer Black Hawk, loaded with cotton speculators, bagging, roping, champagne, and ice. The whole affair was cotton speculation . . .”

At times, in the aftermath of the Red River campaign, it seems that every participant was misrepresenting everyone else. The only definite certainty is that it was a time of bungling, lying, chicanery, corruption, and unprincipled self-seeking, all to the injury of the [Northern] war effort.”

 

(The War for the Union: the Organized War 1863-1864, Volume III, Allan Nevins, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971, excerpts pp. 355-361)

 

War for Immense Profits

On April 9, 1863, the Greensboro (North Carolina) Patriot wrote that blockade-runners arrived at Wilmington and Charleston every week, “all doing thrifty business with their Yankee friends in Boston and New York through Nassau.” Gen. W.H.C. Whiting wrote President Davis late in the war from Fort Fisher that runners carrying Northern goods seemed to penetrate the enemy blockade easily.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

War for Immense Profits

“The amount of greed and corruption that attended the business of blockade-running was about what might have been anticipated, and involved not only Southerners and Britons, but some grasping Yankees. The contraband commerce had all the attractions of gambling for high stakes . . . the stocks of some blockade-running corporations, Southern or British, rose to mountain heights – even $6,000 a share!

More than half the ships and cargoes tried in the New York prize-court were British, but the British name too often concealed Northern interests. Some Yankees were as ready to evade trading-with-the-enemy laws as their fathers had been in 1812.

Northern goods, their labels altered to flaunt famous British names, passed through Boston or New York on long roundabout trips, Boston-Bermuda-Wilmington, or New York-Nassau-Mobile, and sometimes shipped with bold directness to Charleston or Matamoros.

At its height, the New York trade with Bermuda, Nassau and Havana was scandalously large. A “ring” of dealers, shippers and blockade-runners helped organize the traffic and made arrangements with the Custom House for shipments.

By the autumn of 1862 a brisk traffic, half-furtive, half open, sprung up, not only in occupied areas but where Union troops faced Confederate troops. Scores of [Northern] officers intent upon commercial deals, and a much greater number of merchants anxious to trade in cotton, tobacco and general merchandise flocked down, first to Memphis, then to Little Rock and Helena, and finally to Vicksburg.

Read Admiral [David] Porter said of the [United States] Treasury agents sent down by [Secretary Salmon] Chase to control the situation: “A greater pack of knaves never went unhung.” Yet his own gunboat crews were equally unscrupulous, one Senator later declaring that they had made a hundred millions during the war.

And David Perry of the Fifth Illinois Cavalry, son of a mayor of Bloomington, Illinois, made a yet graver charge: “Many lives have been sacrificed during the past summer and fall,” he informed his father as the year 1862 ended, “that certain high officers might make their fortunes with cotton-trade, and many a poor darkey who had fled to us has been traded off, by officers holding high positions in the army and before the world, for cotton.

The truth is, when an impartial history of this war shall be written, it will expose a greater amount of fraud and corruption than the world has ever before seen. Even your Bloomington general, Hovey, traded Negroes for cotton and sacrificed many lives . . . for the sole purpose of making money.”

(The War for the Union: the Organized War 1863-1864, Volume III, Allan Nevins, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971, excerpts pp. 342-343; 353-354)

The South Weighs Heavily on Communist Minds

The early years of the civil rights movement in the US included many black leaders who embraced Marxism and communism, seeing it as a way to advance their race: WEB DuBois, Marcus Garvey, James Weldon Johnson, A. Philip Randolph, Ben Davis, Paul Robeson, Walter White, M.L. King, and Bayard Rustin. In the 1930s, the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee became a training ground for revolutionary unionizing activities in the South, where activists King and Rosa Parks were both trained.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The South Weighs Heavily on Communist Minds

“In the 1910s and 1920s the Bolsheviks believed that taken at the flood, the system of Communism they had recently institutionalized would spread across their new nation and around the world.

In this system, racism would be outlawed as “social poison,” workers would own the means of production, and town meetings, called soviets, would ensure that everyone’s voice would be heard. Ethnic differences and historic hatreds would be banished through the multicultural practice of nurturing each group’s language and culture. No one would have too much, and no one would have too little.

It promised to liberate colonized peoples and demonstrate to poor white Southerners their class solidarity with poor black Southerners.

A decade after the Bolshevik Revolution, Communists in the USSR and the USA [Communist Party USA] created a Negro Policy that left no action to chance. In the first place, there must be absolute equality between individuals in all social relations.

Then it moved to from the personal to the political to guarantee equality to all ethnic groups. The system, which most people called social equality, offered a simple mandate for all human activity . . . Because it was so all-encompassing, it required constant, vigorous policing and swift punishment of violations, wilful or not. In theory, equality extended to every phase of public and private life. Living this new reality required practice.

The Bolshevik Revolution’s success offered a persuasive final solution to the labor problem. Communists did not have to resort to ethnic cleansing to bring minorities into their nation, and social equality could elevate racially-diverse workers into their rightful place. If managed properly, the system would produce ever more committed Communists in each succeeding generation. It was a modern, well-organized and efficient way to remove the stumbling blocks of race and class in the worldwide contest for advancement.

Because the South represented the least industrialized and least unionized part of the United States, the region weighed heavily on Communist minds. If Southern African-American became Communists, they could lead the revolution in their region. Black Southerners might open the door to that possibility.

The international Soviet governing body, the Comintern, welcomed the “rising tide of color” that it could turn against imperialist nations. In speaking for the Southern masses, African-American Communists had an influence on domestic and international Communist policy disproportionate to their meager numbers.”

(Defying Dixie, the Radical Roots of Civil Rights, 1919-1950, Glenda E. Gilmore, W.W. Norton, 2008, excerpts, pp. 29-32)

Lincoln’s Diplomatic Dilemma

Lammot Du Pont, member of the Du Pont powder business family and company agent (Captain Samuel Francis Du Pont was commandant of the Philadelphia Navy Yard), hurried to England in late 1861 with instructions from the United States government to purchase a year’s supply of saltpeter, or approximately three million pounds.

It was during his third day at sea that the British mail packet “Trent” was stopped and searched by the USS San Jacinto as it sailed through the Bahama Channel. Southern envoys James M. Mason and John Slidell, on their way to England, were forcibly removed over the protests of the British officers, and imprisoned at Fort Warren in Boston Harbor.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Lincoln’s Diplomatic Dilemma

“The magnitude of Du Pont’s purchases had not escaped official attention. On November 27 a certain J. MacKenzie wrote Lord John Russell, Foreign Secretary . . . “It is more than a year’s supply for that Government even in time of War . . . and [looks] as if the Federal Government, having decided on a rupture with this country, was desirous of first laying in a supply of saltpeter.”

In a memorandum to the members of the cabinet on November 30, Prime Minister Lord Palmerston proposed that at that day’s session they consider the proposal of Lord Russell to ban the exportation of arms, gunpowder and saltpeter. This was his comment on Anglo-American relations:

“. . . Every day brings us fresh evidence of settled determination of the Washington government to heap indignities and affronts upon us, to drive us to the wall taking their chance as to such a course leading to a war . . . This being the state of things, it being at least possible, if not probable, that we may in a short period of time find ourselves in hostilities with the Northern States, [and] would it not be weakness & folly in the extreme to allow them in the interval to draw from our storehouses and manufacturers those means and implements of war which they are now scantily supplied with, and which when obtained by them, would probably be turned against ourselves.

If our men are shot down by rifles made by us, and with gunpowder supplied by us, should we not as a Government be laughed to scorn as unfit to conduct the affairs of the country.”

Even if no rupture took place, Palmerston pointed out, it was to the British interest to shorten the war by withholding vital supplies in order that shipments of Southern cotton and normal trade relations could be resumed as soon as possible.

A furor of anti-American sentiment swept the British press when news of the Trent episode reached England. Believing that the embargo would not soon be lifted, Du Pont prepared to return home for further instructions. English arsenals and shipyards, he noted, were working night and day; troops were being readied for Canada; and Lord Lyons, British Minister in Washington, had been instructed to close the embassy and return home if England’s demands . . . were not satisfied.

And if war came, France would be England’s ally, for Napoleon III was very hostile to the North. Russia was the only major power friendly to the United States, Du Pont believed.

If Mason and Slidell were not released and proper apologies not made to England, the Union would stand alone against two great powers of Europe, and the Confederacy would gain them as outright allies or as friendly neutrals. Such a powerful alignment of strength against the North could not be allowed to materialize.”

(“The Devil to Pay!”: Saltpeter and the Trent Affair, Harold Hancock & Norman Wilkinson, Civil War History, Volume X, No. 1, March 1964, University of Iowa, excerpts, pp. 22-27)

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