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American Historians Today

American Historians Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Colossal Waste of Life

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

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

A Colossal Waste of Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fighting and Dying in an Unjust War

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

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Fighting and Dying in an Unjust War

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Retribution in Pennsylvania

Already a sworn enemy of the South, its people and interests before the war, Thaddeus Stevens of received just retribution when Jubal Early’s men arrived at his Pennsylvania ironworks in mid-1863. A high-tariff industrial protectionist, he publicly denounced Southerners and any Northerners who cooperated with them politically; while condemning slavery he and his fellow abolitionists never advanced any peaceful and practical means to rid the country of that labor system. During the war, he and his fellow Republicans used government and military power to ensure election ballots favored his party.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Retribution in Pennsylvania

“The war was brought home to Stevens very directly that summer. In the third week of June [1863], Stevens was at his Caledonia ironworks. Confederate General A.G. Jenkins sent a foraging party to the forge, [and Stevens] was hurried away to Shippensburg by a byroad. Jenkins took away some horses and mules, but on June 26, Jubal Early arrived, and in spite of [the managers] plea that Steven’s had been losing money at the forge and would benefit by its destruction while the employees would suffer, [Early], remarking that Yankees did not do business that way, burned the ironworks to the ground, confiscated all movable property, and left the place a shambles.

Early, who acted upon his own responsibility, justified his action on the grounds that Union forces had wreaked similar havoc in the South, and in particular had burned the ironworks of John Bell, to say nothing of Stevens’s known advocacy of “vindictive” measures toward the South.

On July 11, he received the first direct news from his manager. He learned that the rebels had taken all his horses, mules and harness; his bacon (about 4,000 pounds), molasses, and other contents of his store; and about $1,000 worth of corn in the mills as well as a like quantity of other grain.

As Stevens put it, “[the Confederates] finally expressed great regret that they were not so fortunate as to meet the owner, who seems to be very popular with the [Southern] chivalry.” In the meantime, he was happy about the outcome of the Battle of Gettysburg, although he was afraid that General Robert E. Lee would try to mass his forces to catch Meade’s forces while dispersed.

Steven’s losses were widely reported, and while others sympathized with him, the [National] Intelligencer editorialized that his chickens had come home to roost. Had he not advocated the burning of every rebel mansion? Now he himself was the victim.

[But now] Stevens was worried about [the fall] elections. He complained [that the people of his local] counties had suffered greatly because of [Lee’s] invasion, but that they were now more aroused against the Union army than against the insurgents. The returning Federals had carried off horses and goods and so tarnished [Lincoln’s] administration’s reputation that a great number of votes would be lost.

To make sure of garnering as many [Republican] votes as possible, he asked the secretary of the treasury to furlough clerks from the Keystone State so that they would be able to take part in the election, and suggested to the State central committee see to it that the army’s vote be counted.”

(Thaddeus Stevens, Nineteenth-Century Egalitarian, Hans L. Trefousse, Stackpole Books, 2001, excerpts pp. 134-136)

The South to be Occupied and Exploited

Early in the war, radical Republicans in Congress exerted great pressure upon Lincoln to wage total war against the South – these were the same ones who refused to enter into compromise with Southern congressmen to avoid war. Austin Blair of Michigan declared that “No property of a rebel ought to be free from confiscation . . . the Union forces should be hurled like a thunderbolt at the rebels: pay the soldiers from the rebel’s property, feed them from his granaries, mount them upon his horses.” The South was to be turned into a devastated wasteland, its people impoverished, and the new colony governed by military law.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The South to be Occupied and Exploited

By the beginning of 1862 the abolitionists had grown disgusted with Lincoln’s cautious Border State policy. Not all the developments of 1861 had been to their liking, and they began the new year with a new determination to destroy slavery, to rid the nation of the dangers of Southern domination, and to control the South.

“The thing we seek,” explained a Massachusetts colonel to Governor [John] Andrew, “is permanent dominion: & what instance is there of a permanent dominion without changing, revolutionizing, absorbing, the institutions, life and manners of the conquered peoples?”

And he added with scorn: “They think we mean to take their slaves. Bah! We must take their ports, their mines, their water power, the very soil they plow, and develop them by the hands of our artisan armies . . . We are to be a regenerating, colonizing power, or we are to be whipped. Schoolmasters with howitzers, must instruct our Southern brethren that they are a set of d—d fools in everything that relates to modern civilization.” The migration and settlement of Yankees on Southern soil, explained the colonel, must follow success in battle.

Thus the lure of loot infused a crusade whose banners bore the words of freedom. On the day after New Year’s, Horace Greeley [proclaimed in Washington that] the real object of the war must be slavery’s destruction. The audience, fully packed with an abolitionist claque, applauded loudly . . . and it gave vehement approval to the orator’s assertion that “rebels have no right to own anything.”

“The world moves and the Yankee is Yankeeized,” added the Chicago Tribune as it urged its readers to write their congressmen.

In Congress, where the radical Committee on the Conduct of the War was preparing to launch its career as director of the abolitionist crusade, men heard repeated talk about reducing the Southern States to territories, appointing Northern governors to rule over them, and maintaining an army of occupation to implement the eventual exploitation of the conquered land.”

(Lincoln and the War Governors, William B. Hesseltine, Alfred A. Knopf, 1955, excerpts pp. 199-233-234)

 

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)

 

American Attilla

On the 18th of December1864 Lincoln’s general-in-chief Henry Halleck wrote Sherman: “Should you capture Charleston, I hope that by some accident the place may be destroyed; and if a little salt should be sown upon its site, it may prevent the growth of future crops of nullification and secession.” Ironically, secession was first threatened by New England at the time of the Louisiana Purchase and in its 1814 Hartford convention; nullification of federal law was the very basis of the North’s prewar Personal Liberty Laws. In late 1864 and early 1865, Sherman’s 65,000 man army triumphantly plundered and destroyed Georgia and South Carolina with virtually no opponents except old men, women and children. General Joe Wheeler had 5,000 cavalry to merely harass Sherman with. The following was reprinted from a May 1873 article in Southern Magazine.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

American Attilla

“To [Halleck’s letter] General Sherman replies, December 24: “This war differs from European wars in this particular – we are not only fighting hostile armies, but a hostile people; and must make old and young, rich and poor, feel the hard hand of war, as well as their organized armies.

I will bear in mind your hint as to Charleston, and don’t think “salt” will be necessary. The truth is, the whole army is burning with an insatiable desire to wreak vengeance on South Carolina. I almost tremble for her fate, but feel that she deserves all that seems to be in store for her.”

On the 23rd he writes to General Kilpatrick: “Let the whole people know the war is now against them, because their armies flee before us and do not defend their country or frontier as they should. It is pretty nonsense for Wheeler and Beauregard and such vain heroes to talk of our warring against women and children. If they claim to be men, they should defend their women and children and prevent us reaching their homes.”

If, therefore, an army defending their country can prevent invaders from reaching their homes and families, the latter have a right to that protection; but if the invaders can break through and reach these homes, [they] are justified in destroying women and children. Certainly this is a great advance on the doctrine and practice of the Dark Ages.

Is it any wonder that after reading [this] we fervently echo General Sherman’s devout aspiration: “I do wish the fine race of men that people our Northern States should rule and determine the future destiny of America?”

(Gleanings from General Sherman’s Dispatches, Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume XIII, William Jones, editor, 1885, Broadfoot Publishing Co., 1990, excerpts pp. 446-448)

Profiteering in Arkansas

With Lincoln’s approval, former Illinois Congressman William Kellogg advanced a cotton-trading scheme at Northern occupied Helena, Arkansas, which would reap millions for himself and provide slave-produced cotton for hungry Northern mills. Though Secretary of the Treasury Salmon Chase opposed the idea, Kellogg was later appointed chief justice of the Nebraska Territory in early 1865 for his patriotic efforts.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Profiteering in Arkansas

“Upon occupying Helena, Arkansas, in mid-July 1862, Union General Samuel Curtis complained that his camp was “infested with Jews, secessionists and spies.” By issuing orders that restricted trade to a few people he could control under military law as sutlers, Curtis adopted a policy that made him vulnerable to charges of improper monopolization.

Shortly, a steady stream of rumored abuses percolated up to Chicago and the department headquarters for Curtis’s army at St. Louis. Illinois Senator Orville Browning’s diary records Chicago rumors that Curtis deposited $150,000 with a Chicago financier less than three months after occupying Helena. By October 1862, [an] officer said, Curtis had already seized several million dollars worth of [cotton] and “converted it to his own use.”

Later, Curtis wrote Lincoln directly to explain that the complaints originated out of envy from unsavory characters who were unworthy of trade privileges. Nonetheless, within a few months, the general was transferred to St. Louis to become the new department commander, and rumors of his possible fraud trailed along.

An investigating Treasury agent concluded that Helena’s trade “diverted soldiers to become agents and brokers of cotton buying [and had] thrown thousands of dollars into the hands of our enemies.” Corruption flourished at Helena, where the army had little to do during twelve months of idle occupation before invading central Arkansas in late summer of 1863.

Federal soldiers even purchased cotton from slaves with counterfeit Confederate money.

Lincoln’s military governor of Arkansas complained late in 1862 that the idle troops at Helena were principally engaged in profiting from cotton trade. They raided neighboring plantations to confiscate whatever cotton they could get. As an afterthought, they would often destroy the plantation homestead.

Helena’s steady occupation led to deplorable sanitary conditions, particularly among the freed slaves . . . [and] disease, malnutrition, and lack of clothes and shelter took a toll on the blacks who sought refuge in the town.

Before the end of 1862, the inland navy began to get involved. [Admiral David Dixon Porter’s] crews became covetous of cotton as a prize of war . . . [and] 50 percent of a captured cargo was subject to a reward for the crew of the ship making the capture. By the end of the war, Porter had become so aggressive at stealing cotton . . . [he was dubbed] “Thief of the Mississippi.”

His sailors would seize bales and stencil “C.S.A” on them, thereby falsely representing the cotton as property of the Confederate government and therefore subject to prize law.”

(Trading With the Enemy: The Covert Economy During the American Civil War, Philip Leigh, Westholme Publishing, 2014, excerpts pp. 65-66)

Kentucky’s Vichy Government

Kentucky Governor Beriah Magoffin replied to Lincoln’s illegal request for troops in April 1861 with “I will send not a man nor a dollar for the wicked purpose of subduing my sister Southern States.” His State government tried in vain to maintain neutrality while he personally championed a peaceful settlement between North and South, and acceptance of the Crittenden Compromise proposed by fellow Kentuckian, John J. Crittenden. With the increasing number of Northern troops in his State and the consequent political intimidation, he was forced from office in favor of a Lincoln-appointed military proconsul.  By waging war against a State and adhering to its enemies, Lincoln committed treason as defined in Article III, Section 3 of the United States Constitution.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Kentucky’s Vichy Government

“On August 18, 1861, a meeting was held in Scott County, Ky., of a number of prominent Democrats; and after a full discussion of the situation, it was determined to send commissioners to Washington and Richmond, with a view to ascertaining, if possible, whether the neutrality of Kentucky would be respected by both sides.

Upon the recommendations of this conference, Governor Magoffin appointed Frank K. Hunt and W.A. Dudley, both Union men, as commissioners to Washington, and George W. Johnson commissioner to Richmond.

In the letter to President [Jefferson] Davis sent in response to that written him by Governor Magoffin, an borne by Mr. Johnson, appears the following language, which certainly very logically and properly summed up the situation:

“The government of the Confederate States has not only respected most scrupulously the neutrality of Kentucky, but has continued to maintain the friendly relation of trade and intercourse which it has suspended with the United States generally. But neutrality, to be entitled to respect, must be strictly maintained by both parties . . .”

Mr. Lincoln replied that he did not believe that it was “the popular wish of Kentucky that the Federal force already there should be removed, and with this impression I must decline to remove it.”

This declaration made it plain to men of all shades of political opinion in Kentucky that the occupation of the State by Federal troops would be continued, and that their number would be increased, not only to completely suppress any sentiment in favor of the Confederacy and action taken in that behalf, but in order to make Kentucky a base of military operations against the States further South.

In a very short time after this declaration by Mr. Lincoln, numerous arrests were made of Kentuckians of known Southern sympathies, or of prominent men who ventured even to question the legality of the aggressive acts committed by Union leaders.

George W. Johnson was one of the first and boldest to denounce such tyranny. He escaped arrest by quitting his home and seeking the Tennessee border within a few hours before the soldiers who were ordered to make him a prisoner arrived at his house.”

(Reminiscences of General Basil W. Duke, CSA, Cooper Square Press, 2001 (original 1911), excerpts, pp. 148-149)

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)

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