Browsing "Northern Culture Laid Bare"

“Thou Wicked Servant”

Though opposed to Lincoln’s violations of the Constitution in his war against the American South, Northern Democrats saw the need to crush secession, which was a manifestation of the Tenth Amendment and inherent right of the people of a State to withdraw from a federal compact to which they conditionally assented. Those Northern Democrats did not see that due to the vast differences between the sections by 1861, peaceful separation was the only logical solution for the Southern people to pursue free, representative government. Connecticut Senator William C. Fowler (below) was born in 1793, during Washington’s presidency – living long enough to see the end of Washington’s Union.

“Thou Wicked Servant”

“Expressing opposition to secession, [Northerners Clement] Vallandigham, [Samuel S.] Cox, [Stephen D.] Carpenter, and Fowler maintained that they desired not an independent Confederacy but simply a restoration of the “Constitution as it is” and the “Union as it was.” They declared they were in favor of a constitutional war to crush secession, but they charged that Lincoln was waging a battle for the conquest and subjugation of the South and that he was conducting it in a despotic fashion, subverting the constitutional liberties of individuals and the rights of States.

Opposing military conscription, they also criticized the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus and declared that freedom of speech had been abolished in the Union.

In particular, they attacked Lincoln’s policy of emancipation. Spurning the argument that emancipation was a legitimate measure adopted to aid the prosecution of the war, they pictured it as an unconstitutional act by which the President had changed the war aims of the North from the preservation of the Union to abolition of slavery.

“If,” said Fowler in the Connecticut State Senate in 1864, “the President should avow the fact that he has violated the Constitution, in order to save the Union, as the President did in a letter to Mr. Hodge, let us say to him “out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant.”

The peace advocates placed special blame for war upon the abolitionists of the North, stating repeatedly that it was not the institution of slavery but the agitation of the slavery question by the abolitionists that had caused hostilities.

For the immediate outbreak of fighting, the three Midwesterners placed responsibility upon Lincoln and the Republicans because of their refusal to compromise with Southerners in the crisis of 1860-1861.”

(Americans Interpret Their Civil War, Thomas J. Pressly, 1954, Princeton University Press, excerpts pp. 131-133)

The Real Cause of Secession

The protectionist Morrill Tariff passed the Senate on March 2, 1861, with many Southern members already having resigned their seats due to their States no longer being part of the United States. In response, Virginia Senator Roger Pryor delivered a blistering tirade against the Northern protectionists: “The importune protectionists of Pennsylvania . . . after higgling successively with every party for a stipend from the Treasury, at last caught the Republicans in a moment of exigent need, and from their lust for place, extorted the promise of a bounty to iron. This bill is the issue of a carnal coalition between the Abolitionists of New England and the protectionists of Pennsylvania.” The low, free trade tariff passed by the Confederate Congress would be ruinous to high-tariff Northern ports.

The Real Cause of Secession

“Southern agrarians had made known their intense hostility to protective [import] duties which they considered a burdensome tax upon their enterprise for the benefit of Northern manufacturers. It was the issue that drove South Carolina to the edge of rebellion thirty years before, and ever since 1846 Southern influence had kept tariff schedules at low levels.

But a tariff increase had been one of the major planks in the Republicans’ Chicago [party] platform. Its appeal had won them many votes in the East, especially in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Accordingly they were determined to redeem their pledge without delay; indeed they were warned repeatedly that failure to act would ruin them in Pennsylvania.

[Republican Simon] Cameron’s correspondence made it evident that conservative Pennsylvanians were determined to have a higher tariff regardless of the consequences; that this was not an issue which they regarded as properly open to compromise. Harry C. Carey of Philadelphia, the doctrinaire protectionist who was ready to concede almost anything else to the South, comforted his sympathizers with a unique diagnosis of the secession crisis which absolved them of any responsibility. In begging Northern congressmen to raise the tariff, he argued that free trade was actually “the cause of the discord with which we are troubled.” Only protection [of Northern manufacturers] could form a sound foundation for a prosperous and harmonious Union.

In any event, Republicans wasted no time in bringing the tariff question before Congress. A bill sponsored by Representative Justin S. Morrill of Vermont, which provided substantial protection for Pennsylvania iron and other Northern manufactures, had passed the House at the previous session. Cameron pressed for its consideration in the Senate as early as the second day of the new session.

Senator Hunter of Virginia, defending the rights of farmers and consumers, led the opposition to the new tariff . . . [as to] Virginia and the rest of the South this bill would be ruinous. “I know that we here are too weak to resist or to defend ourselves; those who sympathize with our wrongs are too weak to help us . . . No sir, this bill will pass. And let it pass into the statute-book; let it pass into history, that we may know how it is that the South has been dealt with when New England and Pennsylvania had the power to deal with her interests.”

A week later an amended version of the Morrill Tariff passed the Senate by a vote of 35 to 14, the opposition coming exclusively from Southerners and western Democrats. Representative [Daniel] Sickles of New York City reflected the views of the merchants when he protested that this bill would further alienate the South from the Union, for “our Southern friends perceive that . . . you intend . . . to tax them on the necessaries of life in order to enrich the manufacturing classes of the North . . .”

(And the War Came: The North and the Secession Crisis, 1860-1861, Kenneth M. Stampp, LSU Press, 1950, excerpts pp. 161-164)

African Slavery in America

Nearly always missing in a discussion of slavery in North America is the question of how Africans arrived and who conveyed them – and it was not slave ships flying the Confederate Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia.

The responsibility for African slavery begins with the African tribes themselves who enslaved each other, then the Portuguese, Spanish, French and British who needed labor for their New World colonies, and the New England slavers who ruled the transatlantic slave trade in the mid-1700s. By 1750, Providence, Rhode Island had surpassed Liverpool as the center of slave-ship construction, with the latter departing for Africa’s west coast laden with rum and Yankee notions, trading these for already-enslaved men, women and children, transporting them to the West Indies to be traded for molasses, and then returning to New England to distill more rum from the molasses. Add to this New England’s textile mills of the early 1800s whose fortunes depended upon slave-produced cotton.

African Slavery in America

“There are three important points to keep in mind in the study of the African-American population of the 1850s. First, we should avoid presentism. Attitudes toward working people of all races were different at that time than those we find acceptable today.

The Dutch did keelhauling of sailors as late as 1853 and the British did no ban the flogging of soldiers until 1860. The working classes in industrialized areas such as Manchester, England, worked under conditions that left many crippled and maimed from injuries of breathing dust from textile mills and mines. This left most unfit for work at 40 years of age and almost none at 50. Children as young as 7 or 8 worked up to 12 hours [a day], some “seized naked in bed by the overlookers, and driven with blows and kicks to the factory.”

Second, regardless of good treatment, being a slave has many costs which few of us would be willing to pay. Third, trying to have a realistic understanding of slavery is not an apology. It is a mistake to oversimplify slavery to chains, whips, and division of families; it is likewise a mistake to say that they were better off as slaves. The objective should be to understand as best we can.

A difficulty is finding objective writings at a time when Northern writers emphasized the horrors of slavery in a continuing regional attack, Southern writers emphasized slavery’s benefit to the African, and the bonded people themselves left few written records. The slave narratives collected by the Federal Writers’ Project in the 1930s offer the best testimony we have by the slaves themselves, although, of course, memories of 70 years ago have problems of certainty.

Many Americans, including Abolitionists, advocated that Africans be sent to Africa or some place in the New World where they would be removed from American society. Toward this goal, the American Colonization Society, to which many prominent Northern and Southern Americans belonged to, established the western African nation of Liberia.

The attitude of most Americans of the time was summed up by Abraham Lincoln during the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858, “I will say, then, that I am not, nor ever have been, in making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people . . . I, as much as any other man, am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.”

It would not be until January of 1863 that the North would allow black men to serve in the Union army, and then in segregated units at lower pay and with white officers. U.S. “Colored Troops” were often used as labor or in “forlorn hopes,” such as fighting at the Crater and Battery Wagner.”

(Characteristics of the African-American People During the 1850s: American History for Home Schools, 1607-1885, with a Focus on the Civil War, Leslie R. Tucker, Society of Independent Southern Historians, 2018, excerpts Chapter 10)

The American Revolution Reversed

The American Revolution Reversed

“In 1863 Abraham Lincoln declared in pseudo-biblical language that our forefathers had brought forth “a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” and that “we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.” Lincoln at Gettysburg committed a quadruple lie that has since become standard American doctrine about the Revolution.

First, what was created in 1776 was not a nation but an alliance. At that time there was not even the Articles of Confederation. Second, he elevated the bit of obiter dicta about equality above the Declaration’s fundamental assertion of the right of societies of men to govern themselves by their own lights, attaching a phony moralistic motive to the invasion and conquest of the South – what [historian Mel] Bradford called “the rhetoric of continuing revolution.”

Third, Lincoln was not engaged in preserving the Union. The Union was destroyed the moment he had undertaken to overthrow the legitimate governments of 15 States by force. He was establishing the supremacy of the government machinery in Washington, which he controlled, over the many self-governing communities of Americans.

Fourth, he cast the Revolution in a mystical way, as if the forefathers had met on Mount Olympus and decreed liberty. But governments, even of the wisest men, cannot decree liberty. The Americans were fighting to preserve the liberty they already had through their history, which many saw as a benevolent gift of Providence. The American Revolution was reversed, its meaning disallowed, and its lesson repudiated.

Did not Jefferson Davis have a better grasp of the Revolution when he said that Southerners were simply imitating their forebears, and that the Confederacy “illustrates the American idea that government rests upon the consent of the governed?

Lincoln could launch a war against a very substantial part of the people. To this end he was willing to kill 300,000 Southerner soldiers and civilians and even more of his own native and immigrant proletariat. The crackpot realist General Sherman said it well: “We are now in the enemy’s country, and I act accordingly . . . The war will soon assume a turn to extermination, not of soldiers alone, that is the least part of the trouble, but the people.”

Clearly, the government, the machinery controlled by the politicians in Washington, who had been chosen by two-fifths of the people, now had supremacy over the life and institutions of Americans.”

(Society Precedes Government: Two Counterrevolutions, Clyde N. Wilson, Chronicles, April 2015, excerpts pp. 17-18) www.chroniclesmagazine.org

Lincoln Cultivates the German Vote

Lincoln set out to cultivate the German vote while campaigning for the first Republican candidate John C. Fremont in 1856, using the popular expression “God Bless the Dutch” (Deutsche) at rallies. In this, Lincoln had to distance himself from the Republican party’s absorption of nativist “Know-Nothing” party members who distrusted foreigners. To further his own presidential ambitions in 1860, he purchased a German language newspaper in Springfield, Illinois – the result was that German Protestants and refugee 1848 revolutionists helped assure him of the presidential nomination.

Lincoln repaid his important German supporters with patronage positions: Carl Schurz became the United States Minister to Spain; Herman Kreismann to the Berlin legation; Georg Wiss, Consul to Rotterdam; George Schneider, Consul to Denmark; Theodore Canisius, Consul at Vienna; Johann Hatterscheidt, Consul to Moscow; Charles Bernays, Consul at Zurich; Heinrich Boernstein, Consul at Bremen. Other German-born naturalized American citizens receiving European consulates included August Wolff, August Alers, and Francis Klauser. To former Prussian military officers went regiments, brigades and preferential promotions.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Lincoln Cultivates the German Vote

“The proportion of foreigners grew from 13 percent to 19 percent. For all these newcomers to Illinois, the Homestead [Act] was the promise of an easy settlement in the West. Among them, foreigners, especially the Germans, constituted a particularly active and militant group in favor of the Homestead. It was, in fact, in response to the Germans of Cincinnati in 1861 that Lincoln would make his first declaration on the subject.

Lincoln entrusted to Gustave Koerner, the direction of efforts extended toward the Germans. Koerner, a lawyer from Belleville, put him in touch with [Theodore] Canisius, editor in chief of the Frei Presse of Alton, and, on May 30, 1860, Lincoln confided to the latter the management of the Illinois Staats Anzeiger, which he had recently acquired. An important role went to Friedrich Hecker, hero of [the] 1848 [German socialist revolution], who . . . established himself as the principal organizer among Germans . . .

In the person of Koerner, Lincoln brought into his campaign a moderate anti-slavery man who had broken with [Stephen] Douglas in 1854, two years after being elected lieutenant governor of Illinois.

By 1860 Lincoln enjoyed several advantages with German voters. He was known as the main adversary to nativism within the Illinois Republican party. The Caucus of German delegates at the [Republican’s 1860] Chicago Convention brought together . . . Caspar Butz, former Forty-eighter and representative in the Illinois house . . . Keorner; Hecker; George Schnieder, the founder of the Illinois Staats Zeitung and a collaborator of Lincoln since 1856 . . . and Joseph Weydemeyer, a former Prussian artillery officer, friend of [Karl] Marx, editor of the Voice of the People [Stimme des Volkes] in Chicago in 1860, genera of a Missouri regiment, and principal correspondent of Marx and Engels on military questions in the Civil War.”

(Lincoln, Land and Labor, 1809-1860, Olivier Fraysse, University of Illinois Press, 1988, excerpts pp. 138-141)

Other Voices of the North

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

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Other Voices of the North

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Aftermath of New England’s Thanksgiving

The Pequot tribe inhabited the coastline of southeastern Connecticut before the arrival of the Dutch in 1614, and shortly afterward, the English. The Pequots did not welcome strangers who settled on their land, took their wild game, and infected the tribe with smallpox — warring between the tribe and the strangers soon commenced. Early on the morning of June 5, 1637, the English “murmured their prayers,” descended upon a sleeping village, set fire to the wigwams and killed some 400 Pequots. “The brutality of burning people alive did not faze the English” and one commander wrote “Sometimes the scripture declareth women and children must perish with their parents. We had sufficient light from the word of God for our proceedings.” After finally extinguishing the Pequots in 1638, the English turned upon their Indian allies to continue their efforts to make New England safe for European settlement, selling many into slavery in the West Indies.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The Aftermath of New England’s Thanksgiving

“The English were now determined to eradicate the remnants of the Pequots . . . The first band . . . were captured without resistance, and 40 of them were murdered by the English in cold blood. Some 80 of the women were handed over to the Narragansetts to become part of their tribe. The remainder were bound up and sent to Massachusetts Bay Colony to be sold as slaves, destined for the cane fields of the Caribbean.

Ultimately, according to [Commander John] Mason, some 700 additional Pequots were killed or captured in various groups. Those that had escaped became marked men. Hardly a week passed . . . that [English ally] Narragansetts or Mohegans didn’t appear with yet another grisly trophy. It brought joy to colonial leaders, who proclaimed gratefulness “that on this day we have sent 600 heathen to heaven.”

On October 1, 1638, in a document styled the “Treaty of Hartford,” the colonial government of Connecticut, along with its Indian allies, passed final judgement on the Pequots. Under the terms of the treaty, the remaining living Pequots were divided among the Narragansetts and Mohegans . . . [and] the Pequots could never again live in their homeland and could never again use the name Pequot.

The French traveler and historian Alexis de Toqueville recorded their extermination for the world after travelling New England in 1833. “All the Indian tribes who once inhabited the territory of New England – the Narragansetts, the Mohicans, the Pequots – now live only in men’s memories,” he wrote in Democracy in America after returning home.

Much of the 500 square miles of land that had once been under the domain of the Pequots was awarded to the winning commanders in the Pequot War. John Mason and Lion Gardiner were given huge plantations in what is now southeastern Connecticut. Thousands of settlers from the Massachusetts and Plymouth Colonies streamed into what today is the metropolitan area of Hartford.

Before the war, the body of water that flowed to Norwich was known as the Pequot River. The nostalgic English, after the war, renamed the waterway the Thames River.”

(The Revenge of the Pequots: How a Small Native American Tribe Created the World’s Most Profitable Casino, Kim Isaac Eisler, Simon & Schuster, 2001, excerpts 33-39)

 

Fake News from Crusading Correspondents

Criticizing Northern writers who claimed to report objectively on conditions in the South, novelist William Faulkner wrote in March 1956 that “The rest of the United States knows next to nothing about the South. The present idea and picture which they hold of a people decadent and even obsolete through inbreeding and illiteracy . . . The rest of the United States assumes that this condition . . . is so simple and so uncomplex that it can be changed tomorrow by the simple will of the national majority backed by legal edict.”

The book excerpted below was dedicated by the author to David Lawrence, well-respected and truthful editor of the US News and World Report in the 1950s.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Fake News from Crusading Corrrespondents

“[Most] of the writers who have poured into the South in race-baiting assignments had neither admitted nor allowed for their prejudices. They have listened, with varying degrees of politeness, to the explanations and protestations of their white Southern informants, and have discounted what they heard. A considerable number . . . “have left a bad taste, sometimes repaying with ill-humored misrepresentations the courtesy of their Southern hosts.

The Northern correspondents who “invaded” the South to make first-hand reports on the segregation situation made the local newspaper their first call, there to “pick the brains” of fellow-journalists who had been living there for years. Almost invariably – until Southern patience began to wear thin under the constant friction of misrepresentation, omission and distortion of the reports which appeared as a result of such interviews – the Northerners were accorded every courtesy . . .

If the crusading correspondent ran out of reportorial adjectives with which to color his dispatches, he could always turn to the stock cast of characters which fill the “literary” works of those apostate Southerners who have found profit in despoiling their own heritage.

But one Southerner who made his mark without wallowing too much in such garbage is Robert C. Ruark, a North Carolinian who paid his respects in January 1957 to the “realistic” writers who achieved notoriety through serving up an adulterated potion of “po white trash.” Ruark wrote:

“One of these days . . . I am going to write a book about the South which is not littered with clay-eaters, lint-headed mill hands, idiots, itinerant preachers, juvenile delinquents, morons, slatterns, cripples, freaks and other characters who don’t wash, live off sardines and soft drinks, hang around bus stations, and breed merrily within the family . . .

. . . It is possible to grow up in the South without a full chorus of nymphomaniacs, drunkards, Negro-lynchers, randy preachers, camp meetings, hookworm, albinos, dirty hermits, old mad women, and idiot relatives to form your early impressions. But the literary output of the last 25 years wouldn’t have it so . . .”

(The Case for the South, William D. Workman, Jr., Devin-Adair Company, 1969, excerpts pp. 69-70; 72-73)

Nov 18, 2018 - America Transformed, Costs of War, Economics, Lincoln's Grand Army, Lincoln's Revolutionary Legacy, Northern Culture Laid Bare, Northern Pensions    Comments Off on Congressional Demagogues and Conscienceless Profiteers

Congressional Demagogues and Conscienceless Profiteers

By 1890 the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), as a fraternal order of Northern veterans, had become not only indispensable to politicians for election victory, a guiding light for “correct” histories of the war in textbooks and a Northern view of American nationalism, but most importantly, a very powerful lobby for pensions.

In late January 1879, Congress passed the Arrears of Pension Act for Northern veterans who could collect past monies due for any claimed disability, which “placed a tremendous premium on deception and fraud.” Men who had an attack of fever while in the army persuaded themselves that every ill since being discharged was caused by that fever. By the time Grover Cleveland became president in 1885, the pension list had grown to 385,125 who drew more than $65 million annually from the public treasury, North and South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Congressional Demagogues and Conscienceless Profiteers

“It has ever been easy to arouse popular excitement upon the treatment of wounded or disabled soldiers, and this noble sentiment has been often played upon by designing men. Moreover, the Democratic party has always been compelled to deal with more than the usual caution with the question when it affected soldiers who served in the Federal ranks . . . as any unwillingness to pass pension bills for such soldiers was certain to be interpreted as reflecting sympathy for the lost cause.

For this reason Grover Cleveland, as he looked over the pension system of the nation of which he was chosen president, must have summoned all of his courage. To allow the [pension] scandals which had developed to pass unrebuked was impossible for a man with his views of the duty as a President; to attempt to end them was to bring down more abuse from his enemies in both political parties.

Under a just system of army pensions the maximum of expenditure on account of any war is reached within eight or ten years of its close. Thereafter death steadily diminishes the number of legitimate pensioners . . . In 1866 there had been 126,722 pensioners drawing from the public treasury, all told, about thirteen and a half million dollars annually. As the years passed these numbers increased until, in 1873, there were more than 238,000 names on the roll, which called for some $29,000,000 a year.

From that time mortality should have materially reduced the number of pensions; and if the congressional demagogues had kept their hands off, this would certainly have happened.

In his first annual message to Congress [Cleveland] used the words: “It is fully as important that the rolls should be cleansed of all those who by fraud have secured a place within, as that meritorious claims should be speedily examined and adjusted.”

Conscienceless profiteers, intent upon coining into gold a noble public sentiment, had adopted the practice of disregarding the decisions of the Pension Bureau, and taking spurious claims directly to Congress in the form of private pension bills, which dishonest manipulators or too sentimental patriots steered through, as secretly as the rules would allow. It was a practice safe as well as profitable, for few politicians dared to resist, lest they be regarded as unpatriotic.”

(Grover Cleveland: The Man and the Statesman, Volume I, Robert McElroy, Harper and Brothers, 1923, excerpts pp. 189-191)

The South Loyal to that Which No Longer Exists

President James Buchanan should receive higher marks for his presidency as he rightfully admitted having no authority to wage war against a State, despite holding personal views against secession. Being a diplomat, he saw a peaceful Constitutional Convention of the States as preferable to military force to settle the crisis. Buchanan also well understood Article III, Section 3 of the United States Constitution which reads: “Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” His successor violated this section inserted by the Founders.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The South Loyal to that Which No Longer Exists

“[The] onrushing revolution distressed President Buchanan and most of his Northern supporters, who had long proclaimed the North altogether wrong in the sectional controversy that now they were caught in their own emotional fixations. The Northerners who wrote Buchanan were chiefly men who had acquired their mental patterns decades earlier, and could regard the present scene in the light of the past.

For example, Judge Woodward, of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, who regarded himself “a Northern man of common sense,” believed slavery was “a special blessing to the people of the United States,” and wrote Attorney General [Jeremiah] Black that he “could not, in justice, condemn the South for withdrawing from the Union.” The truth was that the South had been “loyal to the Union formed by the Constitution – Secession was not disloyal to that, for that no longer exists – the North has extinguished it.”

The Administration should urge the Southern States “to bear and forbear a little longer,” but if they would not do so, “let them go in peace – I wish Pennsylvania could go with them.” The Attorney-General read this letter to the Cabinet, where it “excited universal admiration and approbation for its eloquence and its truth,” and the President was anxious to publish it to the world.

The fact that Buchanan applauded such views, added to his irresolution, led Radical Republicans to say that he was almost as much involved in Secession as were Cobb, Thompson, Slidell and Yancey.

These critics seldom gave sufficient weight to the inherent difficulties of Buchanan’s situation. As Black saw it in November [1860], if the President made any show of force, the Cotton States would “all be in a blaze instantly.” If no show of force were used, and the early seceders could show the other Slave States “the road to independence and freedom from Abolition rule without fighting their way,” each Slave State would before long secede.

The North had already turned against Buchanan, and the South would do so as quickly as he refused to “abandon his sworn duty of seeing the laws fully executed.”

But probably ineptitude more than turpitude bottomed Buchanan’s course from Lincoln’s election to inauguration. While his hatred of Douglas had made him the chief architect of the Democratic ruin, Buchanan never admitted his own part in it, for the dead hand of the past directed the mind of the President.

On November 9, at a Cabinet meeting . . . [he] suggested a plan for calling a general Constitutional Convention to propose some compromise. Should the North decline, the “South would stand justified before the whole world for refusing longer to remain within a Confederacy where her rights were so shamefully violated.”

(The Eve of Conflict: Stephen A. Douglas and the Needless War, George Fort Milton, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1934, excerpts pp. 505-507)

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