Browsing "Republican Party Jacobins"

Black Democrats Jeered and Hissed in 1876

During the 1876 gubernatorial campaign to rescue his State from the Radical rule of the corrupt Massachusetts-born governor, Daniel Chamberlain, Democratic candidate Wade Hampton challenged the many blacks in his audiences to advance to a new level of freedom. “You have, ever since emancipation been slaves to your political masters [of the Republican Party]. As members of the Loyal [Union] League you have been fettered slaves to a party.” Since the war’s end, Radical Republicans used the Union League to elect its candidates, suppress political opposition, and terrorize black men who sided with Democrats.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Black Democrats Jeered and Hissed in 1876

“City of Dreadful Night.” Always the words recall two nights in Charleston almost exactly ten years apart – September 1, 1886, the night after the earthquake, September 6, 1876, [the] night of the King Street riot. The riot was the worse, by far, to live through.

The riot night there was tumult and confusion of hate and fear and pistol shots, howls of wild rage, savage threats and curses, appeals of pursued and bloody men for rescue, mercy and life. The riot could have been prevented. All know that now.

It was one of the tragic incidents of the 1876 campaign and . . . it gave Charleston perhaps the most fearful night of her eventful history. The white people were overconfident. They knew unrest and anger were seething and increasing among the Negroes and were prepared to resist and suppress an outbreak; but the outbreak came before it was expected . . .

Looking back it is easy to see that the storm signals were plain. The Radical Republican leaders had noted with growing dismay and fury the slow but steady additions to the number of Negroes enrolling in Democratic [party] clubs, for one reason or another. A riotous attack had been made on the Negro club in Mount Pleasant.

The meeting of the Democratic club of Ward 8, August 31, in the old carriage factory, Spring Street near Rutledge Avenue, was invaded by a number of boisterous [Republican] Negroes who interrupted . . . [as they sought an] opportunity to injure Isaac Rivers, a huge black man and an effective speaker, working for the Democrats, and J.W. Sawyer, another colored speaker. Rivers and Sawyer were hustled, threatened and cursed, but escaped uninjured.

On the night of September 5 . . . On motion of Colonel J.D. Aiken a committee of seven was appointed charged especially with protection of colored Democrats.

[A] mob of Negroes packed the street around the entrance to the meeting place of Ward 5. The white men formed a square, with Rivers and other Negro Democrats in the middle, and marched into King Street through a roar of jeers and hisses. They were aided by police and the disturbance ended.

A meeting of the colored Democratic club of Ward 4 was held the night of the sixth at Archer’s Hall, King Street, J.B. Jenkins, vice-president, presiding. The Hunkidories and Live Oaks, Negro Radical Republican secret organizations had gathered their forces and were massed, waiting, in King Street, armed with pistols, clubs and sling shots, the last made with a pound of lead attached to a twelve-inch leather strap and providing a deadly weapon at close range.

Mr. Barnwell led the white men gallantly. They checked to mob by firing pistols just over the heads of those in the front rank . . . the police arrived at the nick of time, charged, used their clubs and were resisted fiercely. At Citadel Green the fighting became desperate . . . and several police were insensible or disabled.

A new mob of Negroes poured out of John Street, shrieking “Blood!” A black policeman named Green and J.M. Buckner, white, were shot, fell, and were drawn out of the fighting crowd with difficulty. The fifteen white men who remained on their feet struggled into the Citadel grounds and delivered the Negro Democrats, none of whom was injured.

Then the whites fled as they could and the Negro mob took the street [and] divided into gangs of fifty to one-hundred and paraded, firing pistols, defying the police, chasing and mercilessly beating every white man they could see and catch, smashing store windows, shouting threats to exterminate the white population.

The main guard house was filled with wounded white men, some of them picked up insensible and probably left for dead. Mr. Buckner was seen to be dying. Several policemen were fearfully wounded. Two reporters for the News and Courier sent to the scene of the riot were beaten, struck with stones and rescued by police only with much effort.

Panic spread fast and everywhere as people understood that war had begun on race lines and that Negroes appeared to have possession of the city. White men were compelled to stay in their homes with shivering and terror-stricken families because any white man venturing on the street alone invited death uselessly.”

(Hampton and His Red Shirts: South Carolina’s Deliverance in 1876, Alfred B. Williams, Crown Rights Books, 2001 (original 1935), excerpts pp. 119-121)

The Republican Party Endangers the Union

The Republican Party which formed out of the ashes of the Whig Party and combined with the Know-Nothing and Free Soil political organizations, was seen as a harmless lunatic fringe in 1856. But by the national election of 1860 it appeared to many that their broad support in the North might enable them to win. And if they were victorious, their platform pledged them to arrest, jail and possibly execute anyone who disagreed with their views on the Kansas Territory. This purely sectional party never promoted a peaceful or practical solution to the African slavery they found in their midst, and claimed was the reason they hated the South with such intensity.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The Republican Party Endangers the Union

“Buchanan stated the keynote of his campaign in these words: “The Union is in danger and the people everywhere begin to know it. The Black Republicans must be, as they can be with justice, boldly assailed as disunionists, and this charge must be reiterated again and again.”

Forget the past, bury the bank, the tariff, and the rest of the historic fossils. The Democrats must publicize the statements of “the abolitionists, free soilers and infidels against the Union,” to show that the Union was in danger. “This race ought to be run on the question of Union or disunion.”

The Democratic press generally adopted this campaign them, and devoted columns to the antiunion pronouncements of prominent Republicans. Ohio’s Representative Joshua R. Giddings had announced “I look forward to the day when there shall be a servile insurrection in the South; when the black man . . . shall assert his freedom, and wage a war of extermination against his master; when the torch of the incendiary shall light up the towns of the South, and blot out the last vestige of slavery; and though I may not mock at their calamity, nor laugh when their fear cometh, yet I will hail it as the dawn of the millennium.”

New York’s Governor William H. Seward asserted that “there is a higher law than the Constitution,” and hoped soon to “bring the parties of the country into an aggressive war upon slavery.” Speaker of the House Nathaniel P. Banks said frankly that he was “willing . . . to let the Union slide.” Judge Rufus S. Spalding declared that if he had the alternatives of continuance of slavery or a dissolution of the Union, “I am for dissolution, and I care not how quick it comes.”

Editor James Watson Webb predicted that if the Republicans lost the [1860] election, they would be “forced to drive back the slavocracy with fire and sword.” A Poughkeepsie clergyman prayed “that this accursed Union may be dissolved, even if blood have to be spilt.”

O.L. Raymond told an audience in [Boston’s] Fanueil Hall, “Remembering that he was a slaveholder, I spit upon George Washington.”

(President James Buchanan: a Biography, Philip S. Klein, American Political Biography Press, 1962, excerpts pp. 257-258)

Lincoln Acts Alone and By Decree

As Lincoln never accepted the independence of those States which had withdrawn to form a more perfect union, his actions can be judged in a light illuminated by the United States Constitution and the strictly enumerated powers delegated to his branch. The crime of treason is clearly defined in Article III, Section 3 of that document: “Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying War against Them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” Note the emphasis on “Them,” individually. By commencing hostilities against South Carolina and other States, he violated Section III, Article 3.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Lincoln Acts Alone and By Decree

“By his selective use of the American past, his devotion of the nation to an abstract proposition, and his expansive vision of America’s role in the world, Lincoln undermined the old federated republic. He rewrote the history of the founding, and then waged total war to see his version of the past vindicated by success.

But in the course of subjugating the “insurrectionary” and “revolutionary” combination in the South, and in creating a unitary nation, he also compromised the integrity of the Presidency as a Constitutional office, first by invading the powers of the other two branches and then by assuming further powers nowhere mentioned in the Constitution.

He may have claimed that in the midst of an unprecedented national crisis necessity knew no law, but the Constitution in fact recognized the possibility of emergencies and delegated necessary and appropriate powers to the President and Congress. As historian Clinton Rossiter wrote: “The Constitution looks to the maintenance of the pattern of regular government in even the most stringent of crises.” But Lincoln acted alone.

From the fall of Fort Sumter in April, 1861, to the convening of a special session of Congress in July of 1861, President Lincoln ruled by decree, and on his own initiative and authority he commenced hostilities against the Confederacy. For 11 weeks that spring and early summer, Lincoln exercised dictatorial powers, combining them within his person the executive, legislative and judicial powers of the national government in Washington.

In his inaugural speech in March he had announced that the union had the right and the will to preserve itself. He promised to secure federal property in the seceded States, to collect all duties and to deliver the mails – all steps short of invasion but intended nonetheless to subjugate the South.

He assumed so-called “war-powers” – a familiar feature of the modern Presidency, but them a novelty – and proceeded to wage war without a declaration from Congress. The oft-raised concern that Lincoln could not have proceeded otherwise and still have preserved the Union should not obscure the problem of the means he resorted to.

The Constitutionality of his acts cannot be, as one historian claimed, “a rather minor issue,” for at stake was the integrity of free institutions.”

(The Costs of War, America’s Pyrrhic Victories, John V. Denson, Transaction Publishers, 1999, excerpts pp. 138-139)

Ben McCulloch’s Visit to New England

Ben McCulloch (1811-1862) of Tennessee was a soldier in the Texas Revolution, a Texas Ranger, major-general in the Texas Militia, a major in the US Army during the Mexican War, a US marshal, and lastly a brigadier-general in the Confederate States Army. He was killed in action by an Illinois sniper at the battle of Pea Ridge in March of 1862. McCulloch’s prewar visit to New England in mid-1856 allowed him to view that region’s notable historic and transatlantic slave trade sites. His younger brother Henry served in both Houses of the Texas Legislature and was also a Confederate brigadier; their father Alexander was a Yale graduate, ancestor of George Washington, and veteran of the Creek War of 1813.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Ben McCulloch’s Visit to New England

“Increasingly contemptuous of the North and its institutions, and set in his belief that an abolitionist conspiracy was in place not only to end slavery but to destroy the South’s political liberties, Ben recommended to Henry, then a member of the Texas legislature, that he introduce a joint resolution appointing commissioners to negotiate with the owners of Mount Vernon for its purchase by the State of Texas. “It would be a proud day for our State when it was proclaimed that she owned the Tomb of Washington. Besides,” he wrote, we may want a campaign ground near the city in the event of the election of a Black Republican candidate.”

During the final weeks of June 1856, with [Franklin] Pierce’s term of office drawing to a close and the great regional controversy over the expansion and perpetuation of slavery reaching a crisis, McCulloch took his first trip into New England. After spending no longer in Boston than required to visit “the monument on Breed’s Hill, Faneuil Hall, the Commons, etc.,” Ben reported to Henry that “the whole population looked as though they were just returning from a funeral. Too puritanical in appearance to be good neighbors or patriotic citizens.”

[In Albany, New York, Whig presidential candidate Millard Fillmore] told the North that the South “would not permit a sectional president of the north to govern them.” McCulloch shared this opinion most earnestly, and he vowed to be “the first to volunteer my services as a soldier to prevent it, and would rather see the streets of this city knee deep in blood than to see a black republican take possession of that chair.”

(Ben McCulloch and the Frontier Military Tradition, Thomas W. Cutrer, UNC Press, 1993, 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)

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)

Destruction and Desolation Rather than Peace

By the spring of 1864, war weariness and long casualty lists at the North were bringing hope to the possibility of peace negotiations through an emerging Northern peace party. Though several previous peace initiatives had failed due to Lincoln’s intransigence, President Jefferson Davis again sought opportunities to end the bloodshed.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Destruction and Desolation Rather than Peace

“The cause of the South could no longer be submitted, to the arbitrament of battle unaided [by foreign intervention]. The opening campaign of the spring of 1864 was deemed a favorable conjuncture for the employment of the resources of diplomacy.

To approach the Federal government directly would be in vain. Repeated efforts had already demonstrated its inflexible purpose not to negotiate with the Confederate authorities.

A commission of three gentlemen was appointed by the President to visit Canada with the aim of negotiating with such persons at the North as might be relied upon to facilitate the attainment of peace.

The Confederate commissioners, Messieurs Clay of Alabama, Holcombe of Virginia, and Thompson, of Mississippi, sailed from Wilmington, North Carolina [in April, 1864], and arrived within a few weeks on the Canadian frontier in the execution of their mission. A correspondence with Mister Horace Greeley commenced on the twelfth day of July, 1864.

Through Mister Greeley the commissioners sought a safe conduct to the Federal capital. For a few days Lincoln appeared to favor an interview with the commissioners, but finally rejected their application, on the ground that they were not authorized to treat for peace. The attempted negotiation was a failure, and peace was impossible.

In the meantime President Lincoln had called, for three years’ service, another 500,000 men to start on March 10, an additional 200,000 for March 14, and 500,000 volunteers for July 18, 1864. Mr. Lincoln’s subsequent re-election dashed all hopes in the South for a peaceful settlement.

Meanwhile the war raged without a sign of abatement. Generals Grant and Meade attacked General Lee at Wilderness, Virginia, on May 5-6, and at Spotsylvania Court House, Virginia, from the 10th to the 12th of May. General Sherman attacked General J.E. Johnston’s army at Resaca on May 14; Butler attacked Beauregard at Drewry’s Bluff, Virginia, on the 16th of May; Grant and Lee fought at Cold Harbor on June 3 . . . and General Sherman occupied Atlanta, Georgia, on September 2, 1864.

The South began to read its fate when it saw that the North converted warfare into universal destruction and desolation. Long before the close of winter, popular feeling assumed a phase of sullen indifference which, while yet adverse to unconditional submission to the North, manifestly despaired of ultimate success. The people viewed additional sacrifices as hopeless, and anticipated the worst.”

(Jefferson Davis, Patriot, a Biography, 1808-1865, Eric Langhein, Vantage Press, 1962, excerpts pp. 75-77)

Lincoln Saves Ohio for the Union

When Ohio Democratic politician Clement Vallandigham was banished to the Confederacy by Lincoln in late May 1863, General Braxton Bragg congratulated the exile on his arrival in the land of liberty, and told that he would find freedom of speech and conscience in the Dixie. Vallandigham ran for Ohio governor in 1863 from exile in Canada, but was defeated by a well-oiled Republican machine and its soldier vote controlled by politically-appointed officers.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Lincoln Saves Ohio for the Union

“[Vallandigham’s banishment] seemed to substantiate Confederate contentions that Lincoln was a despot, that civil rights had evaporated in the North, and that secession had saved the Southern States from Lincolnian tyranny.

“The incarceration of Vallandigham,” wrote John Moncure Daniel of the Richmond Examiner, “marks the last step of despotism – there is now nothing now to distinguish the politics of the North from that of Austria under Francis, and that of Naples . . . under King Bomba [Ferdinand I].”

The editor of the Richmond Sentinel wrote in a like manner: “The trembling Chinaman prostrates himself no more submissively before the “celestial” sovereign . . . than they [Northerners] will henceforth before the majestic ABRAHAM, the joker.”

Vallandigham’s arrival in Canada coincided with the New York City anti-draft riots of July 13-16, 1863. Some Republican editors even made the wild charge that Vallandigham had connived with Confederate agents to bring about the riots . . . one Republican editor devised a forged letter . . . that the exile had helped plan the riots.

In the months that followed, Republicans in Ohio marshaled all their forces to defeat Vallandigham in the October 13 election. Since campaign money was plentiful, Republicans flooded the State with dozens of tracts and propaganda pamphlets . . . and anti-Vallandigham statements extracted from generals’ speeches and soldiers letters. Some of the quotations were genuine, others fabricated.

The Republicans disseminated their campaign propaganda through postmasters and the Union Leagues. Since every postmaster was a Republican – often the Republican editor in the village or the city, too – he had a vested interest in Vallandigham’s defeat.

[Ohio Democrats retorted that they] resented New England’s efforts to impose her moral, cultural and political views upon their section. They decried New England’s ascendancy in business and politics, her wish to hold the West in bondage. They ranted against the tariffs, against high railroad rates, and against the excise on whiskey . . . [and that Republican candidates] were railroad presidents and “tools” of the monopolists, speculators, and army contractors.”

But October 13 proved to be an unlucky day for Vallandigham, who went down to defeat by 100,000 votes. [His opponent] received 61,752 more “home” votes . . . and the “soldier vote” (collected in the field) added nearly 40,000 more to that majority.

Lincoln, jubilant, supposedly wired . . . “Glory to God in the highest; Ohio has been saved for the Union.”

(The Limits of Dissent, Clement L. Vallandigham & the Civil War, Frank L. Klement, Fordham University Press, 1998, excerpts pp. 202-203; 232-233-235; 252)

Preferring Compromise to War

Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois addressed the United States Senate on January 3, 1861 (below), after the Committee of Thirteen was unable to agree on a plan to remedy the escalating sectional crisis between North and South. He promoted several constitutional amendments to peacefully reestablish the Union on the basis of sectional integrity and national prosperity. The new Republican Party refused several attempts at compromise, and invaded the American South after provoking a conflict at Charleston harbor.  It should be remembered that Article 3, Section 3 or the Constitution defines treason as waging war against “them,” the united States.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Preferring Compromise to War

“In my opinion, the Constitution was intended as a bond of perpetual Union. It was intended to last [forever], and was so understood when ratified by the people of the several States. New York and Virginia have been referred to as having ratified with the reserved right to withdraw or secede at pleasure. This was a mistake. [Their intention was] that they had not surrendered the right to resume the delegated powers, [and] must be understood as referring to the right of revolution, which nobody acknowledges more freely than I do, and not the right of secession.

Nor do I sympathize at all in all the apprehensions and misgivings I hear expressed about coercion. We are told that inasmuch as our Government is founded upon the will of the people, or the consent of the governed, therefore coercion is incompatible with republicanism. Sir, the word government means coercion. There can be no Government without coercion.

But coercion must always be used in the mode prescribed in the Constitution and laws. But the proposition to subvert the de facto government of South Carolina, and reduce the people of that State into subjection to our Federal authority, no longer involves the question of enforcing the laws in a country within our possession; but does involve a question whether we will make war on a State which has withdrawn her allegiance and expelled our authorities, with the view of subjecting her to our possession for the purpose of enforcing our laws within her limits.

I desire to know from my Union-loving friends on the other side of the Chamber how they intend to enforce the laws in the seceding States, except by making war, conquering them first, and administering the laws in them afterwards.

In my opinion, we have reached a point where dissolution is inevitable, unless some compromise, founded upon mutual concession, can be made. I prefer compromise to war. The preservation of this Union, the integrity of this Republic, is of more importance than party platforms or individual records.

Why not allow the people to pass [judgment] on these questions? All we have to do is to submit [the constitutional compromises] to the States. If the people reject them, theirs will be the responsibility . . . if they accept them, the country will be safe, and at peace.

The political party which shall refuse to allow [the] people do determine for themselves at the ballot-box the issue between revolution and war on the one side, and obstinate adherence to a party platform on the other, will assume a fearful responsibility.

A war upon a political issue, waged by a people of eighteen States against a people of fifteen States, is a fearful and revolting thought. The South will be a unit, and desperate, under the belief that your object in waging war is their destruction, and not the preservation of the Union; that you meditate servile insurrection . . . by fire and sword, in the name and under the pretext of enforcing the laws and vindicating the authority of the Government.

You know that such is the prevailing opinion at the South; and that ten million people are preparing for the conflict under that conviction.”

(The Politics of Dissolution: the Quest for a National Identity & the American Civil War, Marshall L. DeRosa, editor, Transaction Publishers, 1998, excerpts, pp. 194-196; 201-202)

 

“On Whom Rests the Blame for the Civil War”

The Republican defeat of the Crittenden Compromise and subsequent thirteenth amendment to the Constitution, which Lincoln endorsed, opened the path to war prosecuted by the North. Lincoln let it be known to Republicans that no compromise or peaceful settlement of issues dividing the country would be tolerated before his inauguration, as he put his party above the safety and continuance of the Founders’ Union.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

“On Whom Rests the Blame for the Civil War”

“From Buffalo, on January 18, 1861, [Horatio Seymour] wrote Senator [John J.] Crittenden of Kentucky in support of his scheme of compromise. It was in his opinion that this “great measure of reconciliation” struck “the popular heart.” James Ford Rhodes fortified one’s belief in the good judgment of Seymour when he studied the defeat of Senator Crittenden’s proposals. In view of the appalling consequences the responsibility of both Lincoln and [William] Seward for that defeat is heavy, if not dark – in spite of all that historians of the inevitable have written of “this best of all possible worlds.”

The committee to which Crittenden’s bill for compromise was referred consisted of thirteen men. Crittenden himself was the most prominent of the three representatives from the Border States. Of three Northern Democrats, [Stephen] Douglas of Illinois, was the leader; of five Republicans, Seward was the moving spirit. Only two men sat from the Cotton States, [Jefferson] Davis and [Robert] Toombs. Commenting on the fateful vote of the committee, Rhodes observed:

“No fact is more clear than that the Republicans in December [1860] defeated the Crittenden compromise; a few historic probabilities have better evidence to support them than the one which asserts that the adoption of this measure would have prevented the secession of the cotton States, other than South Carolina, and the beginning of the civil war in 1861 . . . It is unquestionable, as I have previously shown, that in December the Republicans defeated the Crittenden proposition; and it seems to me likewise clear that, of all the influences tending to this result, the influence of Lincoln was the most potent.”

Two-thirds of each House . . . recommended to the States a compromise thirteenth amendment to the Constitution, as follows: “No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State.” Conservative Republicans voted with the Democrats to carry this measure of which Lincoln approved in his inaugural address.

“As bearing on the question on whom rests the blame for the Civil War,” observes Rhodes, this proposed thirteenth amendment and its fate is of the “highest importance.”

(Horatio Seymour of New York, Stewart Mitchell, Harvard University Press, 1938, pp. 223-224)

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