Browsing "The United States Constitution"

Mission of Peace and Goodwill Comes to Naught

The prime object in establishing the Constitution in 1787 was to insure domestic tranquility, and even the New York Tribune itself editorialized in November and December 1860 that: “We hold with Jefferson to the inalienable right of communities to alter or abolish forms of government that have become oppressive or injurious . . . we insist on letting them go in peace.” New York, in its ratification of the Constitution in 1787, expressly reserved the right to secede should it determine the need. The author below rightly sums up the Southern peace initiatives: “Well might the Southern leaders have adopted for their own the language of the Psalmist, “I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war.” It is then clear the immediate cause of the war was the Republican Party, and its refusal to pursue peaceful solutions.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Mission of Peace and Goodwill Comes to Naught

“Nor did [President Jefferson Davis] content himself with mere words of peace. He acted promptly on the resolution from Congress and appointed three commissioners from our government to the government of the United States. “These commissioners,” says Mr. Stephens, “were clothed with plenary powers to open negotiations for the settlement of all matters of joint property, forts, arsenals, arms, or property of any kind within the limits of the Confederate States, and all joint liabilities with their former associates, upon principles of right, justice, equity and good faith.”

Let me ask, could anything have been fairer?

These commissioners promptly proceeded on their way. A few days after the inauguration of Mr. Lincoln at Washington they formally notified his Secretary of State, Mr. Seward, that “the President, Congress and people of the Confederate States earnestly desire a peaceful solution” of pending questions between the two governments.

Suffice it to say that it was through no fault of these commissioners, or of the people and government they represented, that their mission of peace and goodwill to their late allies of the North came to naught.

Yet another effort for peace was made from a Southern official quarter in those portentous, ominous months following the sectional victory at the polls in November 1860. The Border Southern States were yet within the old union, hoping against hope for continued union, peace and justice. Among these Border States was Virginia, the oldest, most powerful of them all. By unanimous vote of her Legislature all the States of the union were invited to send delegates to a conference, to devise a plan for preserving harmony and constitutional union.

This conference met in Washington, February 4, 1861, the very day on which the Congress of the seceded Cotton States assembled in Montgomery. The demands or suggestions of the South in this Peace Congress were only that constitutional obligations should be observed by all parties; nay, that certain concessions to the North would be agreed to, by means of constitutional amendment, if only the constitution, as thus amended, might be obeyed.

This did not suit commissioners from the Northern States, as was bluntly stated by one of them, then and there. Salmon P. Chase, of Ohio, who was slated for a portfolio in Lincoln’s cabinet, and therefore spoke at least quasi ex cathedra. So the Peace Congress proved of no avail.

We find a similar situation in the Congress of the United States at its regular session that winter. Of the condition there Mr. Pollard says, in his book “The Lost Cause”: “It is remarkable that of all the compromises proposed in this Congress for preserving the peace of the country, none came from the Northern men; they came from the South and were defeated by the North.”

(Living Confederate Principles, Lloyd T. Everett, Southern Historical Society Papers, No. II, Volume XL, September 1915; Broadfoot Publishing Co., 1991, excerpts pp. 26-28)

 

 

Peaceable Americans Form a More Perfect Union

In President Jefferson Davis’ inaugural address he pointed out that “sovereign States here represented have proceeded to form this Confederacy; and it is an abuse of language that their act has been denominated a revolution. They formed a new alliance, but within each State its government remained.” He added simply, “The agent through which they communicated changed.” Thus there was no “destruction of the Union” as was charged by the North, but merely a reduction in the number of constituent States forming the union of 1787.

Bernhard Thuersam www.Circa1865.org

 

Peaceable Americans Form a More Perfect Union

“On February 15, 1861, before the arrival of Mr. Davis at Montgomery to take the oath of office, the Congress passed a resolution providing “that a commission of three persons be appointed by the President-elect as early as may be convenient after his inauguration and sent to the government of the United States, for the purpose of negotiating friendly relations between that government and the Confederate States of America, and for the settlement of all questions of disagreement between the two governments, upon principles of right, justice, equity and good faith.”

Truly, as Mr. [Alexander] Stephens, of Georgia, one of the delegates to this Montgomery Congress, says . . . “[the Confederate Congress] were no such men as revolutions or civil commotions usually bring to the surface . . . Their object was not to tear down, so much as it was to build up with the greater security and permanency.” And we may add that they meant to build up, if so permitted, peaceably.

In this spirit of amity and justice, the first act of the Louisiana State convention, after passing the ordinance of secession [from union with the United States], was to adopt, unanimously, a resolution recognizing the right to free navigation of the Mississippi River (which flows down from Northern States of the great inland basin and empties into the sea within the confines of Louisiana), and further recognizing the right of egress at that river’s mouth and looking to the guaranteeing of these rights.

President Davis’ inaugural address, delivered February 18, 1861, breathe the same spirit of friendship toward our brothers of the North. He said in part:

“Our present political situation . . . illustrates the American idea that governments rest on the consent of the governed, and that it is the right of the people to abolish them at will whenever they become destructive of the ends for which they were established.”

(Living Confederate Principles, Lloyd T. Everett, Southern Historical Society Papers, No. II, Volume XL, September 1915; Broadfoot Publishing Co., 1991, excerpts pp. 24-25)

 

Sumter: The Republican Party’s Salvation

Clearly, the immediate cause of war in 1861 was the Republican Party. Rather than pursue compromise in the Peace Conference led by former President John Tyler, or follow former President James Buchanan’s [and Kentucky’s] suggestion of solving the issues in a National Convention of the States, the turbulent party of Lincoln chose “party over country” and plunged the country into a destructive war which claimed the lives of a million people, and sacrificed the Constitution to a military dictatorship.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Sumter: the Republican Party’s Salvation

“After the failure of the Crittenden Compromise, Kentuckians refused to call it an ultimatum. They seemed to have felt that if an earthquake should swallow up the State it would not be more disastrous to them than disunion and civil war. They, therefore, responded with alacrity to the Virginia summons for a Peace Conference.

Unfortunately, the delegations from the northern States were made up of carefully picked “not-an-inch” Republicans, and the Peace Conference made no headway toward conciliation.

In the meantime, the Kentucky Legislature suggested the calling of a great national convention freshly elected by the American people, to deal with the subjects in controversy as became a free, intelligent and enlightened people. Kentucky did not want the Union to be broken in the “mortar of secession to be strung together on a rope of sand”, but neither did she want a higher law than the Constitution of the United States interpreted by the Supreme Court to be set up by a Republican minority.

However, the reinforcement of Fort Sumter directly brought on a so-called disturbance of the public peace and a call for 75,000 troops was thus substituted for the call of a National Convention. Of course, it was obvious after the spring elections that the non-compromising Republicans could secure only a minority of the delegates to such a Convention freshly elected by the people.

Moreover, the calling of such a convention would have been a substantial admission on the part of the Republican leaders that they, themselves, were not representative of the nation and that their argument in favor of a sectional control of the national government was invalid.

In other words, the calling of a National Convention would have amounted to an admission that the Republican party leaders were wrong in the premises – not on the slavery question, but on their advocacy of a sectional control of the national presidency. Lincoln’s statement that if [Major Robert] Anderson came out of Sumter, he, himself, would have to come out of the White House, was doubtless a correct estimate of the effect a withdrawal of troops from Sumter and the calling of a National Convention would have had on the political fortunes of the sectional Republican party.

It can be readily understood just why Republican party politicians would prefer the reinforcing of Sumter to the calling of a National Convention. An appeal to the brain of the nation meant the party’s annihilation, while an appeal to the brawn of the north meant the party’s salvation.”

(The Peaceable Americans of 1860-1861: A Study in Public Opinion, Mary Scrugham, Columbia University Press, 1921, excerpts pp. 111-113)

 

The Revolution and the Rights of Man

Author John Keats argues that “the American Revolution was neither wholly American nor revolutionary,” and “represented the transatlantic evolution of European ideas whose origins were as old as Europe itself” – and territorial expansion. Add to this a poisonous mix of sharp-trading Puritans, pacifist Quakers and self-reliant Southern planters – “too many lumps of self-interest that simply would not melt” — and Jefferson’s borrowing and modifying phrases from Locke and Rousseau.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The Revolution and the Rights of Man

“The American Revolution was particularly dangerous to America and the world because the ostensible reason for fighting was to proclaim and protect the rights of man. Since these were seen to be natural and universal, the American Revolution was implicitly designed for export.

The Revolutionary veterans began to export it without waiting for their government’s approval. Within nine years after the war ended, there were no less than two hundred thousand Americans – one tenth of the national population – settled in the eastern Mississippi valley lands claimed by Spain.

To the Spanish, the newcomers were violent, armed revolutionary republicans. Worse, they were heretics who belonged to a race long inimical and dangerous to the Spanish one.

But the pursuit of [westward expansion] policies could not be undertaken by anything so weak and vague as the [Articles of Confederation]. Worse, the confederation was unable to exert any effective control over the scores of thousands of Americans who were taking land for themselves in the west.

Some of these self-reliant and self-confident, people, very much afire with Revolutionary ardor, were entertaining ideas of capturing New Orleans, invading Mexico, liberating people there from Spanish rule, and so extending the blessings of republican liberties to a people tyrannously denied their natural human rights.

The soberest of the leaders of the confederation were well-aware that the military power of the United States was non-existent, and that its political power were nearly so. [It was time] to weld thirteen separate republican States into a single military power that could control and protect its property.

The delegates succeeded in producing a powerful legal instrument to this end, but two years after the Constitution was adopted, a popular concern to protect the gains of the Revolution demanded that the other shoe be dropped: A Bill of Rights was tacked on. Once this was done, the Revolution was now legally ready for export, because the ostensible reason for going to Valley Forge was built into the law of the land. In defending [the Bill of Rights], the Americans would always be on the side of humanity.

The Revolutionary Americans, caught in the mystique of their own ardent rhetoric, believed this at the time, and many Americans have believed it ever since: what is good for Americans is good for anyone in the world; the world must be made safe for republican democracy whether the world liked it or not.

So the Constitution, as amended, was a document that first created a military power, and then in the names of God, natural law and human rights gave the people of the United States a sacred and legal command to use. It is not, therefore, a historical accident that in its 193-year history, the United States of American has engaged in more wars with more different people in more parts of the world than any other nation in the long history of man on earth.”

(Eminent Domain: the Louisiana Purchase and the Making of America, John Keats, Charterhouse, 1973, excerpts pp. 215; 217-218)

 

A “Forbidden Journey”

New Hampshire native President Franklin Pierce was well-aware of the increasing sectionalism pushing the South toward secession, and Northern States erecting laws in conflict with federal law. He would not countenance State obstruction of constitutional obligations while they remained within the Union. He also understood, as Lincoln seemed not to, that the comity of the States was the glue binding the Union together. Without this, the Union was at an end and brute force could not save it.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

A “Forbidden Journey”

“President Pierce’s affinity for the rule OF law in contrast to the rule BY law explains why such scorn has been heaped upon his presidency.

President Lincoln, had he complied with the rule of law and deferred to the U.S. Constitution on the issues of secession, the writ of habeas corpus, the blockade of Southern ports, etc., may have presided over the realignment of the Union, but he also would have placed the rule of law on a constitutional pedestal that would have constrained subsequent presidents from disregarding constitutional constraints in the quest for power.

But Lincoln’s claim to fame is not that he adhered to the rule of law, but that he had the audacity to disregard it.

Lincoln’s unfortunate legacy is that he destroyed American federalism by creating a coercive indissoluble Union. Consequently, the policy prerogatives of imposition, nullification, and secession are now placed beyond the grasp of the States. Nevertheless, the ever-expanding national government’s powers continued to occupy the efforts of the courts in post-bellum America.

A case in point is Justice [George A.] Sutherland’s opinion in Carter v. Carter Coal Company (1936) a case which stemmed from FDR’s expansion of national powers vis-à-vis the States Tenth Amendment police powers. Justice Sutherland articulates the anti-Lincoln premise that “The States were before the Constitution; and consequently, their legislative powers antedated the Constitution.”

To concede otherwise is to begin a “forbidden journey” through which the national government takes over the “powers of the States” and the States “are so despoiled of their powers” that they are reduced to “little more than geographical subdivisions of the national domain. It is safe to say that when the Constitution was under consideration, it had been thought that any such danger lurked behind its plain words, it never would have been ratified.”

Justice Sutherland’s logic is just as applicable today, with the qualification that the “forbidden journey” has progressed to where the national government may be so “despoiled of its powers” that it will be reduced to “little more than geographical subdivisions” of the international domain.

In conclusion, America is in trouble. With unmanageable public debt . . . and fiscal obligations in excess of one hundred trillion dollars, not to mention the cultural and political state of the Union, Americans continue to pay homage to the villains that laid the tracks to our present sorry state of affairs.”

(President Franklin Pierce and the War for Southern Independence, Marshall DeRosa; Northern Opposition to Mr. Lincoln’s War, D. Jonathan White, editor, Abbeville Institute Press, 2014, excerpts pp. 38-40)

 

Jul 30, 2018 - Jeffersonian America, Prescient Warnings, Recurring Southern Conservatism, Southern Conservatives, Southern Statesmen, Tenth Amendment, The United States Constitution    Comments Off on State Governments Must Control the Federal Government

State Governments Must Control the Federal Government

Jefferson foresaw problems between the States and the general government, and noted in an 1824 letter to John Cartwright that if a collision can “neither be avoided nor compromised, a convention of the States must be called, to ascribe the doubtful power to that department which they may think best.” He saw further that the “encroachments of State governments will tend to an excess of liberty which will correct itself, while those of the general government will tend to monarchy, which will fortify itself from day to day, instead of working its own cure. The very basis of the Tenth Amendment was to forbid the general government from assuming powers not delegated.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

State Governments Must Control the Federal Government

“Jefferson’s real concern was for American law, not international morality. He said he feared he had “gone beyond the Constitution” in agreeing to purchase Louisiana. Much as he believed the United States “must have the Mississippi”; much as he wanted there to be one nation on the continent, and an overland route to the Pacific coast, he was at least as much concerned for human liberty.

With respect to foreign affairs, he believed that only a strong Federal government could conduct them. But with respect to internal affairs, he believed the Federal powers were very narrowly defined, and that all other powers, including the right to secede, belonged to the States.

He utterly rejected the Federalists’ theory that the Constitution “implied” that the government could assume any powers not specifically spelled out in that document. If that we so, he felt, a future Federal government could justify almost anything on grounds that the laws it passed helping to promote the general welfare, even if their effect was to convert the republic into a monarchy.

The only protection the people had, he felt, lay in their control of their State governments. If the several States did not retain all powers not granted to the Federal government, they might as well give up any pretense of having rights of their own.

The issue of States’ rights versus Federal rights was a basic problem to the framers of the Constitution, as the vague language of the Constitution suggests; it was a basic problem to Jefferson; it became a bloody one during the Civil War, and it still to great extent plagues the United States today.”

(Eminent Domain: the Louisiana Purchase and the Making of America, John Keats, excerpts pp. 341-342)

 

Hamilton Envisions an American Pericles

Hamilton and Washington both foresaw ways in which future demagogues would undermine the Constitution by usurping powers reserved to other branches, and leading the country into war to hold onto power and increase their wealth. The usurper would be Lincoln, who wielded the power of an absolute dictator between April and July 1861, and by the time Congress had assembled in the latter month, could arrest and imprison anyone as he launched a ruinous and bloody war upon his own people.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Hamilton Envisions an American Pericles

“The Founders all knew war first hand; war on American soil, with a full third of their own countrymen against them, often in arms alongside the enemy. They built into their [Constitution] machinery to handle treason and rebellion. But they knew that crisis and war were favorite tools of demagogues. Hamilton reminded his readers of “the celebrated Pericles,” leader of Athens, motivated by fear and pique, who led his nation into a bloody and ruinous war to save his own political skin and to escape economic damage he had helped visit upon the state.

Hamilton saw that a leader who took America into war could use the circumstance to rob her of cherished liberties: “The violent destruction of life and property incident to war, the continual effort and alarm attendant on a state of continual danger, will compel nations the most attached to liberty to resort to repose and security to institutions which have a tendency to destroy their civil and political rights. To be more safe, they at length become willing to run the risk of being less free.”

“If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, Washington wrote, “let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit, which the use can any time yield.”

In Washington’s “Farewell Address,” the connection between perpetual voluntary union, and obedience to the Constitution, is explicit. His prayer for the country, he said, was “that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free Constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained.”

The cult of the union, as it evolved in the Civil War era, identified “liberty” and “union” as essentially identical. But to the Founders, “liberty” was tied to the balance of powers they had carefully woven into the Constitution: “Liberty itself will find in such a government, with powers properly distributed and adjusted, its surest guardian.” Washington wrote.

A little-known fact of the Constitution is that two of the largest States — Virginia and New York – made the right to withdraw from the union explicit in their acceptance of the Constitution. And in such an agreement between parties as is represented by the Constitution, a right claimed by one is allowed to all.”

(The Legality of Secession, excerpts, www.etymonline.com)

 

The Seeds of Sectionalism and War

Both Jefferson and Hamilton recognized that sectionalism had been a part of American politics since colonial days, and the emerging West was adding a third section to the political landscape. The political problem facing Federalists and Republicans was “how to win the allegiance of the absconding swindlers, murderers, fugitive slaves, bankrupts, brigands and failures” who settled the wild areas of the West. And certainly those Westerners would give their political allegiance to whomsoever got them what they wanted. Therein lay the seeds of future war.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The Seeds of Sectionalism and War

“[Jefferson] saw that factions were forming in the United States, and the political parties were emerging. This was something the Founding Fathers had not envisioned when they wrote and agreed upon the Constitution. But it was clear enough to Jefferson that, on one side, there was a Federalist Party, led by Hamilton.

This party, he felt, had made a virtual prisoner of Washington . . . and was hiding behind his prestige to effect its nefarious scheme of converting the United States into a monarchy for the specific benefit of Northern financiers. Hamilton, Jefferson somewhat wildly wrote, “was not only a monarchist, but for a monarchy bottomed on corruption.”

Jefferson saw the Federalists as aristocrats who were the enemies of natural law and the rights of man. They interpreted the Constitution to mean the Federal government could seize any rights not specifically denied it, in order to destroy liberty. They were hand in hand with the financiers of Great Britain, and their opposition to slavery was not humanitarian, but just a hypocritical way of seeking to undermine the economy, and hence the power, of the agricultural Southern States.

On the other side, in Jefferson’s view, there ought to be the “anti-Federalist” party, which would stand for strict construction and the rights of States in order to safeguard the rights of man. As he saw them, the anti-Federalists were those who feared the creation of a national bank as another Federalist plot to destroy these rights; they were the true revolutionaries, whereas the Federalists represented the forces of reaction.

As revolutionaries, the republicans were therefore the enemies of monarchical Great Britain and the friends of revolutionary France. If they believed in slavery, it was because – well, of course nobody could really believe in slavery; the South was at heart republican and of course someday slavery would be abolished, but not right now. It was not the time to raise that question: the times now demanded opposition to the anti-revolutionary Federalists.

The anti-Federalists should form a party.”

There was meanwhile a nation to govern – one whose destiny lay clearly in the West. Here, between the Appalachians and the Mississippi, were two-hundred thousand American settlers whose political opinions could be decisive. Both saw opportunities to speculate in western lands [but] both feared that the balance of political power might shift from the East Coast to these broad western lands with the swift growth of population there. It was a possibility that occurred to western politicians as well.”

(Eminent Domain: the Louisiana Purchase and the Making of America, John Keats, Charterhouse, 1973, excerpts pp. 242-244; 247-248)

 

New England Sets the Example for the South

Lord Acton writes that “secession is not a theory of the Constitution, but a remedy against a vicious theory of the Constitution” — the right of a minority to withdraw from a political agreement which they no longer wish to be part of, and to escape the tyranny of the majority. Even a nationalist like Hamilton saw the balance necessary between national and State governments, and that both will be prevented from trespassing on each one’s constitutional limitations. The States would be further protected by the strictly delegated, and few, powers of the general government.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

New England Sets the Example for the South

As a consequence of troubles between Napoleon’s Berlin decree and the British response, President Jefferson determined to lay an embargo on all American vessels – with a subsequent Bill passed December 22, 1807.

“The embargo was a heavy blow to the ship-owning States of New England . . . the others were less affected by it. “The natural situation of this country,” says Hamilton, is to divide it interests into . . . navigating and non-navigating States. This difference in situation naturally produces a dissimilarity of interests and views respecting foreign commerce.”

Accordingly the law was received in those States with a storm of indignation. Quincy, of Massachusetts, declared in the House: “It would be as unreasonable to undertake to stop the rivers from running into the sea, as to keep the people of New England from the ocean . . .”

The doctrine of State-rights, or nullification, which afterwards became so prominent in the hands of the Southern party, was distinctly enunciated on behalf of the North on this occasion.

Governor Trumbull, of Connecticut, summoned the legislature to meet, and in his opening address to them he took the ground that, in great emergencies, when the national legislature had been led to overstep its constitutional power, it became the right and the duty of the State legislatures “to interpose their protecting shield between the rights and the liberties of the people, and the assumed power of the general government.”

They went farther and prepared to secede from the Union, and thus gave the example which has been followed, on exactly analogous grounds, by the opposite party.

John Quincy Adams declared in Congress that there was a determination to secede. “He urged that a continuance of the embargo much longer would certainly be met by forcible resistance, supported by the legislature, and probably by the judiciary of the State . . . Their object was, and had been for years, a dissolution of the Union, and the establishment of a separate confederation.”

Twenty years later, when Adams was President, the truth of this statement was impugned. At that time the tables had been turned, and the South was denying the right of Congress to legislate for the exclusive benefit of the North Eastern States, whilst these were vigorously and profitably supporting the Federal authorities.

It was important that they should not be convicted out of their own mouths, and that the doctrine they were opposing should not be shown to have been inaugurated by themselves.

(The Civil War in America: Its Place in History; Selected Writings of Lord Acton, Volume I, Essays in the History of Liberty, J. Rufus Fears, editor, Liberty Fund, 1985, excerpts pp. 231-234)

 

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)

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