Browsing "Republican Party"

Fighting and Dying in an Unjust War

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

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Fighting and Dying in an Unjust War

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lincoln’s War Department

Lincoln’s initial choice to lead his War Department was Senator Simon Cameron, described as “the Pennsylvania opportunist, and successively Democrat and Know Nothing before affiliating with the Republicans.” Lincoln was under intense pressure from Pennsylvania Republicans to appoint Cameron to the cabinet, though the latter’s troubled past warned against it. In 1838, Cameron was appointed to settle claims of the Winnebago tribe in Wisconsin and “besides other irregularities Cameron had given to the red men depreciated notes on his own bank – all of which brought against him the first of many charges of dishonorable dealing and earned for him the derisive sobriquet of the “Great Winnebago Chief.” Indeed, “Cameron” and “corruption” became synonymous terms.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Lincoln’s War Department

“The most flagrant malfeasance was in the War rather than Navy Department, for the War office had at its disposal many fat army contracts. Conditions in this department were made even worse by the fact that the code of political ethics of Secretary of War Simon Cameron made it impossible for him to play the role of crusader in eliminating sharp practices.

Indeed, his handling of the financial affairs of the department were scandalous in the extreme. The most glaring favoritism was shown. Some manufacturers could get contracts while others could not. Middlemen abounded and easily obtained lavish contracts, which they sold to manufacturers at high profit.

One gun manufacturer endeavored in vain to secure business from the War Department, but got orders for 200,000 guns from middlemen who, though unable to manufacture the guns, knew how to get contracts. Many contracts went to subcontractors.

Either through criminal negligence or criminal collusion on its part, the War Department under Cameron permitted and even encouraged fraud of the grossest character. Moreover, contractors frequently besieged Republican leaders with appeals to intercede for them with Cameron in the award of contracts.

Cameron conducted the War Department as if it were a political club house; he used contracts freely to pay off old political debts and to shower additional favors upon his henchmen.

Representative Henry L. Dawes, of Massachusetts . . . declared that Cameron used fat contracts to win political support at meetings “where the hatchet of political animosity was buried in the grave of public confidence and the national credit was crucified between malefactors.”

(Lincoln and the Patronage, Harry J. Carman and Reinhard H. Luthin, Peter Smith, 1964, excerpts pp. 147-148; 150)

The Republican’s Avenue to Power

The following passage refers to Lincoln’s “lost speech” at the 1856 Bloomington, Illinois Republican party convention, where he reportedly fixated on keeping slaves in States where they lived while keeping the Kansas-Nebraska violence inflamed – the issues which his new party fed upon. The politically-ambitious Lincoln narrowly lost the vice-presidential nomination to William Dayton of New Jersey shortly after the Illinois convention, but then became what the author below refers to as a “Messiah-in-waiting” and coveting the presidency.  His plurality election in 1860 was the death knell of the United States Constitution.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The Republican’s Avenue to Power

“The 1856 presidential election was pivotal in Lincoln’s formation as a foe of the South. It now appeared that the Republicans, not the “Know-Nothings,” would inherit the Northern Whig voters. Illinois Republicans [organized in Bloomington with] . . . all sorts of political leaders gathered there. Their common attribute was non-membership in the Democratic Party. They were Whigs, abolitionists, Free-Soilers, anti-Douglas Democrats, bolting Democrats, Know-Nothings – a collection of politicians of any stripe outside the Democratic Party. It was a political gathering . . . a group of people clubbed together to seek power.

They had only one common issue – the need, as they saw it, to attack slavery. The people they represented did not want slaves (or free Negroes) admitted to their State or territory of interest. The Northern and foreign immigrants did not want Negroes where they lived. They wanted to keep them out, to make them stay in the South. The politicians were going to use that popular attitude as an avenue to power.

In 1856, [Lincoln] accepted election as a delegate to the convention in Bloomington . . . meant to organize a State Republican party. He stood up with a show of reluctance . . . [and] spoke from scribbled notes. When he finished, and hour and a half after beginning, “a mob of frenzied men churned around him, congratulating him, praising him, pumping his hand.”

(Lincoln As He Really Was, Charles T. Pace, Shotwell Publishing, 2018, excerpts pp. 139-140)

Intolerant Mountaineers

While the North Carolina mountains are normally described as antislavery and Unionist during the war, it was also strongly resistant to foreigners and a hotbed of Know-Nothingism imported from the North in the mid-1850s. Originally a secret, anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic and anti-party fraternal order, the “Know-Nothings” was a response to “the vast influx of immigrants” who would drive native-born Americans from northeastern cities toward the West. This immigrant invasion affected the North and was changing the electorate there from those who understood the Framers’ vision of America, to those born in European kingdoms ruled by royalty. The American South remained mostly free of such threats to the republic, and enjoyed many immigrant groups who assimilated; the new, sectional Republican party absorbed the intolerant Know-Nothings.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Intolerant Mountaineers

“At first glance, the North Carolina mountain region might have seemed infertile soil for a party dedicated to curbing the political influence of Catholics and foreigners, both of who were practically nonexistent in [the mountain] district. Nevertheless, many westerners proved susceptible to dire warnings that their democratic system of government was being threatened by hordes of immigrant criminals and paupers who owed primary allegiance to the Pope.

With their rallying cry of “Americans should rule America,” the Know-Nothings made impressive gains not only among the Whigs and boasted that their party had “arisen upon the ruins, and in spite of the opposition, of the Whigs and Democratic parties.”

But as the congressional elections of 1857 approached, the Know-Nothings – seemingly so formidable just two years earlier – now found themselves “weak, broken down, and scattered.” The party had been thoroughly demoralized by its abysmal showing in 1856 . . .”

(Thomas Lanier Clingman: Fire Eater From the Carolina Mountains, Thomas E. Jeffrey, excerpt pp. 105-107; 115)

Belligerent Public Enemies in a Territorial War

Lincoln’s unfortunate choice of a mentor on reconstruction, William Whiting of Massachusetts, below refers to the American people in the South peacefully seeking self-government as belligerent public enemies, who, when finally conquered with fire and sword, deserved no more than eternal contempt and suspicion. He further proclaims the North’s “right to hang them as murderers and pirates,” and “whatever rights are left to them besides the rights of war will be such as we choose to allow them.  He believed the Southern States had forfeited their legal status in the Union they departed, only to be dragged back in as conquered territories and a people entitled to no rights.

As far as loyal Union men of the South are concerned, and they were numerous, Lincoln refused their wise counsel to abandon Fort Sumter in early 1861 to allow time and diplomacy for the settlement of sectional differences. They, as well as former President James Buchanan, suggested calling a Constitutional Convention of the States as the proper solution for disputes. These measures would have saved a million lives, and quite possibly the Union.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Belligerent Public Enemies in a Territorial War

“Lincoln’s plan of reconstruction was built on a concept of a wartime President’s powers so extended as to transcend the points of reference of earlier chief executives. It was military reconstruction, and it was the most direct imaginable intervention of the will of the national government into the internal structure of the State’s. In terms of power, Lincoln’s reconstruction plan was radical indeed.

The fact is that Lincoln enjoyed the services as mentor – with respect to the war-swollen power potentials of his office – of a prominent champion of Radical Republicanism, an old-line Boston abolitionist, William Whiting.

Brought into the War Department as its solicitor – primarily in order to prepare briefs that the government employed to fend off suits – in Northern States and in border areas, alleging the unconstitutionality of conscription and internal security measures – Whiting was the most learned lawyer in the United States in matters of the international laws of war.

He became the natural source of legalisms in support of the reconstruction program that the President was gradually evolving out of information he gained primarily from Army and War Department sources.

Here is Whiting’s prophetic essay of July 28, 1863, issued as a letter to the Philadelphia Union League, under the title, “The Return of the Rebellious States to the Union.” Note its harmony with the Lincoln plan as issued the following December, so far as the assumption of national powers is concerned, as well as its expression of concern with respect to the untrustworthiness of a conquered South.

“As the success of the Union cause shall become more certain and apparent to the enemy, in various localities, they will lay down their arms, and cease fighting. Their bitter and deep-rooted hatred of the Government, and of all the Northern men who are not traitors, and of all Southern men who are loyal, will still remain interwoven in every fiber of their hearts, and will be made, if possible, more intense by the humiliation of conquest and subjugation.

The foot of the conqueror planted upon their proud necks will not sweeten their tempers; and their defiant and treacherous nature will seek to revenge itself in murders, assassinations and all other underhand methods of venting a spite which they dare not manifest by open war, and in driving out of their borders all loyal men.

To suppose that a Union sentiment will remain in any considerable number of men, among a people who have strained every nerve and made every sacrifice to destroy the Union, indicates dishonesty, insanity or feebleness of intellect.

Beware of committing yourselves to the fatal doctrine of recognizing the existence, in the Union, of States which have been declared by the President’s proclamation to be in rebellion. For, by this new device of the enemy – this new version of the poisonous State rights doctrine – the Secessionists will be able to get back by fraud what they failed to get by fighting. Do not permit them, without proper safeguards, to resume in your counsels, in the Senate and in the House, the power which their treason has stripped from them.

Do not allow old States, with their Constitutions still unaltered, to resume State powers.

The rebellious districts contain ten times as many traitors as loyal men. The traitors will have a vast majority of the votes. Clothed with State rights under our Constitution, they will crush out every Union man by the irresistible power of their legislation. If you would be true to the Union men of the South, you must not bind them hand and foot, and deliver them to their bitterest enemies.

Having set up a government for themselves . . . they were no longer mere insurgents and rebels, but became a belligerent public enemy. The war was no longer against “certain persons” in the rebellious States. It became a territorial war; that is to say, a war by all persons situated in the belligerent territory against the United States.”

(The Radical Republicans and Reconstruction: 1861-1870, Harold M. Hyman, Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1967, excerpts pp. 91-95)

 

Lincoln Facilitates Western Virginia Secession

In James Randall’s “Civil War and Reconstruction” of 1937 (DC Heath & Company), he writes that “In tracing the formation of West Virginia, the historian finds it necessary to go behind the printed histories, most of which follow a definite pattern and justify every step of the new-state movement as a triumph of Unionism and a vindication of popular rule . . . [but] the masses of archival and manuscript material that have come down to us reveal irregularities and extra-legal processes of such a nature that traditional conclusions will have to be abandoned.”

Randall writes further that “It is probable that, had war not supplied the impulse, no dismemberment of the State would have occurred,” and that a so-called ordinance from Wheeling on August 20, 1861, “was in reality the work of an active but limited group of seperationists in the counties near Pennsylvania and Maryland.” As the secessionists drew a map of their new “State,” the people within “had no opportunity, county by county, to determine whether they would adhere to Virginia, or join the new commonwealth” (pp. 329-330)

It is worth noting that the United States Constitution which Virginia ratified, stipulates in Article IV, Section 3: “. . . no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State . . . without the Consent of the Legislature of the State concerned . . .”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Lincoln Facilitates Western Virginia Secession

“Lincoln was not opposed to secession if it served his political purposes. This fact is proven when he orchestrated the secession of western Virginia from the rest of the State and set up a puppet government of the new State of West Virginia, in Alexandria, Virginia, right across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

His own attorney General, Edward Bates, believed that this act was unconstitutional, arguing the obvious – that States must first exist before being accepted into the Union. Neither the president or Congress had the constitutional authority to create States, for a truly free State can only be created by its people.

This was another patently undemocratic or dictatorial act that, once again, Lincoln rationalized in the name of “saving democracy.” Lincoln ignored the arguments of his attorney general as well as the words of the Constitution, but benefited in 1864 by additional electoral votes and congressional representation that was completely controlled by the Republican party in Washington, not the people of western Virginia.

Interestingly, the legislation establishing West Virginia allowed for the people of the new State to vote on a gradual emancipation program. This was Stephen Douglas’s position in the Lincoln-Douglas debates – that the new territories should be permitted to vote on whether or not they wanted slavery.”

(The Real Lincoln, A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda and an Unnecessary War, Thomas J. DiLorenzo, Forum, 2002, excerpts pp. 148-149)

Factions Combine to Battle a Common Foe

Lincoln was the consummate politician at the head of a minority party made up of warring factions, whose only commonality was deep hatred of Democrats and the interests of the American South. He realized after his plurality victory that public jobs, i.e., the patronage, had to be wisely distributed to these factions to cement the fragile party together. In the Fort Sumter crisis, though common sense and peace demanded wise leadership and diplomacy, Lincoln instead put party above country – fearing that any action appearing conciliatory toward the South would cause his Republican party of many faces to disintegrate.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Factions Combine to Battle the Common Foe

“The groups who contributed to Lincoln’s triumph in 1860 almost defy analysis, so numerous and varied they were. Among the more important were:

  1. the antislavery Whigs, who seized upon the sectional issue for political reasons or because they sincerely believed that the Southern planter interests would either politically ruin the nation or cause disunion.
  2. Free-Soil Democrats, particularly in the Northwest, who feared extension of Negro slavery into their territory or who had severed their allegiance with the Democratic party when [both Presidents Pierce and] Buchanan disregarded their section’s interest in favor of the South.
  3. Disgruntled Democrats, with no pronounced opinions on the sectional controversy . . . disappointed in their many quests for public office or else detested Buchanan and other Democratic chieftains . . .
  4. Certain Know-Nothing who disliked the Democrats for party reasons or because of the latter’s coddling of the Irish vote.
  5. German-born naturalized citizens who hated the Southern slave-plantation system, feared competition with Negro labor, and wanted free land.
  6. Homestead and internal improvement people in general.
  7. Protective tariff advocates, particularly in Pennsylvania, who opposed Democrats because of their free-trade [and low-tariff] tendencies.
  8. Groups in favor of the Pacific railroad [to increase Northeastern trade with the Orient].
  9. Those who wanted daily overland mail and who believed that the Buchanan administration was favoring [a Southern railroad route].
  10. Certain Union-minded conservative men in the border States, who believed that the regular Democratic party under Pierce and Buchanan was becoming an instrument of pro-slavery interests and a force for secession and who hoped to conservatize the Republican party from within.

Only a few years before these numerous factions had hewn at each other’s heads; they had come together in the recent campaign like Highland clans to battle the common foe. The leaders of these various factions were still jealous of one another and often openly hostile.”

(Lincoln and the Patronage, Harry J. Carman & Reinhard H. Luthin, Peter Smith, 1864, excerpts pp. 9-10)

 

Creating Engines for Political Security

The “glittering prize” of political party victory was control of the distribution of political offices, and Lincoln astutely arranged the patronage to control his party as well as keep jealous competitors at bay. The Collectors of Customs posts were most important, and were decisive in Lincoln’s decision for war rather than lose his tariff money and appointing powers.  Count Gurowski, the Polish immigrant and political gadfly mentioned below, believed in the European tradition that “treason” was simple opposition to royalty. In the United States, however, Article III, Section 3, defines treason only as waging war against “them,” the States, or adhering to their enemies.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Creating Engines for Political Security

“The arduous task of cabinet-making was far from completed before Lincoln was beset with a swarm of office-seekers. Indeed, Washington was a veritable mecca for patronage mongers bent upon securing consulships, Indian agencies, postmaster-ships, or anything else in the gift of the appointing power [of the President].

Those who witnessed the rush of job hunters could not easily forget the spectacle. Wrote home a Michigan Congressman: “The City is overwhelmed with a crowd of rabid, persistent office-seekers – the like never was experienced before in the history of the Government.”

An Indiana member reminisced later: “I met at every turn a swarm of miscellaneous people, many of them looking as hungry and fierce as wolves, and ready to pounce upon members [of Congress] as they passed, begging for personal intercessions, letters of recommendations, etc. . . . the scuffle for place was unabated.”

And the eccentric Count Adam Gurowski, viewing the scene, confided to his diary in this same month of March 1861 his impressions:

“What a run, a race for offices. This spectacle likewise new to me. The Cabinet Ministers, or, as they call them here, the Secretaries, have old party debts to pay, old sores to avenge or to heal, and all this by distributing offices, or by what they call it here, the patronage. They, the leaders, hope to create engines for their own political security, but no one seems to look over Mason and Dixon’s line to the terrible and with lightning-like velocity spreading fire of hellish treason.”

Politically and financially, the collectors of customs posts were among the most important at the disposal of the Administration. That at the metropolis of the Empire State was the most lucrative. “There is no situation in the U. States which enables the incumbent to exert such influence . . . as the Collectorship of New York,” one political observer had written in the 1840’s; to another this position was second only in influence to that of Postmaster-General.”

Under the caption “Fat Offices of New York,” Horace Greeley’s Tribune informed its readers in 1860 that ranking first in importance and revenue was the collectorship, with its fixed salary of $6,340, and some $20,000 more in the form of “pickings and fees.” Before Lincoln’s first administration had run its four years, the Surveyor of the Port estimated the number of employees in the New York Custom House at 1,200 and the assessment on their salaries for political party purposes at 2 percent.”

(Lincoln and the Patronage, Harry J. Carman & Reinhard H. Luthin, Peter Smith, 1864, excerpts pp. 53-54; 59-60)

 

Postwar Corruption and Thievery in Washington

The war waged against the American South was more about destroying it’s political and economic power in the Union, so that Northern political and economic interests could prevail nationally. The resulting carnival of political vice and scandal is best summarized with: “The festering corruptions of the post-war period sprang up in every part of America and in almost every department of national life. Other loose and scandalous times . . . had been repellent enough; but the Grant era stands unique in the comprehensiveness of its rascality.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Postwar Corruption and Thievery in Washington

“The Civil War had severed the Southern checks on the exploitation of natural resources, had supplanted an old, experienced ruling class for a new, inexperienced one, had released the dynamic energies of the nation, and had ushered in the Era of Manipulation.

Under President Grant, pliant and politically naïve, the government had fallen into the hands of dishonest and incapable men . . . politics under the cloak of Radicalism more and more had become identified with manipulation for economic favor. Hordes of lobbyists had swarmed over the land, seeking railroad subsidies, mining concessions, and thousands of other government handouts.

The West was being plundered by railroad and mining corporations, the South by Carpetbaggers and Scalawags. The cities and the State legislatures, in North and South alike, were infested with rings, lobbyists, bribe-givers, and bribe-takers. Even the national Congress had become a tool of predatory business interests. Machine politics, firmly founded on patronage, economic privilege, the bloody shirt, and the soldier vote, prevailed everywhere.

The new ruling classes, flushed with prosperity, had lost their sense of responsibility, and corruption had kept pace with the upward swing of the business cycle. Political morality had sunk to its lowest level in American history.

In the closing days of the last Congress, [Grant’s self-styled House floor leader] Ben Butler and a few others had slipped through a measure increasing the salaries of the President, members of Congress, and other high officials. Tacked onto the unpopular measure was a retroactive feature which in effect gave each member a $500 bonus for his service the last two years.”

(John A. Kasson, Politics and Diplomacy from Lincoln to McKinley; Edward Younger, State Historical Society of Iowa, 1855, excerpts pp. 250-252)

Letting the South Go In Peace

John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts, President from 1824 to 1829 and later speaking of the proposed annexation of Texas in the late 1840s, stated: “We hesitate not to say that annexation of Texas, effected by any act or proceeding of the Federal Government, or any of its departments, would be identical with dissolution. It would be a violation of our national compact . . . not only to result in a dissolution of the Union, but fully to justify it . . .” Secession from the Union was an original New England idea, and flouted whenever it determined its influence in the Union was being diminished. It was an idea later adopted by the South, but by then New England had control of the federal apparatus and would not allow its national power to be diminished. Coercion followed.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Letting the South Go in Peace

“In regard to this question of the right of the States to withdraw, and the power of coercion, is it not appropriate to call attention to the following views expressed by Mr. Horace Greeley, one of the ablest writers and firmest supporters of the Republican, or, abolition party. In an article published in the New York Tribune a few day[s] after the election of Lincoln in 1860, and reproduced in his work styled “The American Conflict,” he says:

“That was a base and [hypocritical] row that was once raised at Southern dictation about the ears of John Quincy Adams, because he presented for the dissolution of the Union. The petitioner had a right to make the request; it was the member’s duty to present it.

And now when the Cotton States consider the value of the Union debatable, we maintain their perfect right to discuss it. Nay! We hold we hold with Mr. Jefferson, to the inalienable right of communities to alter or abolish forms of government that have become injurious or oppressive, and if the Cotton States shall decide that they can do better out of the Union than in it, we insist upon letting them go in peace.

The right to secede is a revolutionary one, but it exists nevertheless, and we do not see how one party can have a right to do what another party has a right to prevent. We must ever resist the asserted right of any State to coercion in the Union, and to nullify and defy the laws thereof; to withdraw from the Union is quite another matter.

And whenever a considerable section of our Union shall deliberately resolve to go out, we shall resist all coercive measures to keep it in. We hope never to live in a republic whereof one section is pinned to another by bayonets.

But while we uphold the practical liberty, if not the abstract right of secession, we must insist that the step be taken, if ever it shall be, with the deliberation and gravity becoming so momentous an issue. Let ample time be given for reflection, let the subject be fully canvassed before the people, and let a popular vote be taken in every case before secession is decreed.

A judgment thus rendered, a demand for separation so backed, would either be acquiesced in without effusion of blood, or those who rushed upon carnage to defy or defeat it, would place themselves clearly in the wrong.”

It would be hard to conceive language more forcible for defining the right of the States to withdraw and the wrong and criminality of the attempt to coerce them when they had exercised that right, than this of Mr. Greeley’s.”

(The Heritage of the South: A History of the Introduction of Slavery; Its Establishment from Colonial Times and Final Effect Upon the Politics of the United States, Jubal Anderson Early, Brown Morrison Co., 1915, excerpts pp. 96-97)

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