Browsing "Withdrawing from the Union"

General Scott’s Fearful Foreboding

General Winfield Scott’s (1786-1866) view of peacefully allowing the American South pursue independence aligns with that of Thomas Jefferson’s regarding State sovereignty and newer States formed out of Louisiana.

In a letter to John C. Breckinridge in August 1803, Jefferson wrote: “[We] see their happiness in the union, and we wish it. Events may prove otherwise . . . God bless [both old and new States], and keep them in union, if it be for their good, but separate them, if it be better.”

Scott’s war cost estimates below were very low. The direct financial cost of the war’s operation was about $8 billion, which, eventually increased to $30 billion factoring in the destruction of property, derangement of the labor power, the Northern pension system and other economic losses. In human cost: one soldier, North and South, died for every six slaves freed and for every ten white Southerners saved for Lincoln’s union.

In addition, “The money spent to field the two armies would have purchased the liberty of the four million slaves five times over. (Tombee, Portrait of a Cotton Planter, Theodore Rosengarten, Morrow & Company, 1986, page 212.)

General Scott’s Fearful Forebodings

“[Scott’s] opinion on the 3rd of March [1861 was sent by letter] to Secretary [William] Seward. In this he exclaims: “Conquer the seceded [cotton] States by invading armies. No doubt this might be done in two or three years by a young and able general – a Wolfe, a Dessaix, a Hoche, with three hundred thousand disciplined men, estimating a third for garrisons, the loss of yet a greater number by skirmishes, sieges, battles and Southern fevers.

The destruction of life and property on the other side would be frightful, however perfect the moral disciple of the invaders. The conquest completed, at that enormous waste of human life to the North and the Northwest, with at least $250,000,000 added thereto, and cui bono [who benefits]?

Fifteen devastated provinces! [Not] to be brought into harmony with their conquerors, but to be held for generations by heavy garrisons, at an expense quadruple the net duties or taxes it would be possible to extort from them, followed by a protector or emperor.” In view of these fearful forebodings, we are not surprised that he should have despaired of the Union, and been willing to say to the cotton States, “Wayward sisters, depart in peace.”

Nor that he should have fallen back on his opinion in the “Views” (29 October 1860), that “a smaller evil [than such a civil war] would be to allow the fragments of the great Republic to form themselves into new Confederacies.” [Scott] advises Mr. Lincoln’s administration “to throw off the old [sectional Republican party] and assume a new designation – the Union party; adopt the conciliatory measures proposed by Mr. Crittenden, or the Peace Convention, and my life upon it, we shall have no new cases of secession, but, on the contrary, an early return of many if not all of the States which have already broken off from the Union.”

(Mr. Buchanan’s Administration on the Eve of Rebellion, James Buchanan, D. Appleton and Company, 1866, excerpts pp. 172-173)

Lincoln’s Momentous Decision

The Republican party platform of 1860 was skillfully drawn to win support from East and West conservatives and radicals. It advanced a protective tariff for Northern industries, internal improvement subsidies, and the right of each State to control its own domestic institutions.

The Republicans were not anti-slavery, but opposed to its extension into the territories which they wanted preserved for their immigrant supporters.

What are referred to as “free States” of that period were actually “formerly free States,” as all the original States all inherited the British colonial slave-labor system. It follows that the Southern States of 1860 were all free States with a different labor system than the North.

It is important to point out that Lincoln carried no Southern States, and won election by plurality with only 39% of the vote. His party’s purely sectional character was what George Washington warned of in his farewell address.

Lincoln’s Momentous Decision

“Following the news of Lincoln’s election, South Carolina seceded from the Union in December of 1860. Senator Andrew Johnson of Tennessee, the poor white who would succeed Lincoln as President, denounced this act. “Whoever fires on our flag and attacks our forts I pronounce a traitor and he should meet a traitor’s doom.”

Davis retaliated by calling Johnson a “degenerate son of the South unworthy to sit in the Senate.” The die was cast: Davis argued before the Senate the Constitution right of secession.

Lincoln took the news of South Carolina’s secession calmly, but sent word to [Secretary of State William] Seward not to agree to the Crittenden Compromise, which would have preserved the Union without resort to war.

Commenting on Lincoln’s attitude, William E. Dodd wrote in his “Jefferson Davis”: “The popularity of the greatest war President has made students of the subject overlook his responsibility for this momentous decision.”

(The Iron Will of Jefferson Davis, Cass Canfield, Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1978, excerpts pp. 42-43)

The Same Principles as the Revolution

Author John Vinson (below) asserts that “The motive for secession was not defending slavery, but defense against an aggressor trampling on States’ rights and local rule – the same principles for which the American Revolution was fought. The South fought not to keep slavery, but for the right to deal with the institution in its own way and time.”

Thomas Jefferson wrote in July 1775 that “In defense of our persons and properties under actual violation, we took up arms. When that violence shall be removed, when hostilities shall cease on the part of the aggressors, hostilities shall cease on our part also.”

Some eighty-seven years later, Jefferson Davis no doubt pondered Jefferson’s letter to John Randolph in August 1775: “I hope the returning wisdom of Great Britain will, ere long, put an end to this unnatural contest.”

Same Principles as the Revolution

“One more point to be made on freedom is to refute, briefly, the charge of professional South-haters that the Old South did not stand for freedom, but slavery. They allege that it was the cause for which the Confederacy went to war.

A few reflections on the past show this to be nonsense. Slavery came about during British rule. Southern colonists admittedly purchased slaves, but shipping and selling them were British and Yankee shippers.

New England grew rich from slave commerce. Africans who enslaved and sold their fellow Africans supplied cargoes for slave shippers. Following the American Revolution, sentiment against slavery grew in the South. Jefferson spoke out against it. By 1830, a majority of anti-slavery societies were in the South. Shortly thereafter, Virginia came within a few votes of abolishing slavery.

In 1833, the British Empire peacefully ended slavery. Certainly this could have happened in America. But it was not to be. Self-righteous fanatics in the North, the abolitionists, called the South wicked and demanded immediate emancipation, regardless of the consequences. As time went on some even encouraged slave revolt and a massacre of Southern whites.

Stunned and put on the defensive, the South dug in its heels, and the movement toward peaceful abolition stopped. No less a Unionist than Daniel Webster conceded that the South might have ended slavery had it not been for the abolitionists fanatic crusade.

In 1859, abolitionist John Brown was tried, convicted, and hanged after trying unsuccessfully to incite a slave revolt in Virginia. He had the backing of powerful Northern interests and a significant body of Northern opinion hailed him as a hero. The next year Abraham Lincoln, a president identified with the abolitionists, came to power in Washington.

At this point, many Southerners questioned allegiance to a Union that seemed indifferent to their rights and even safety. Initially the Upper South States of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas refused to leave the Union.

The Lincoln government could have conciliated these States and perhaps defused the Southern independence movement. Instead, it provoked the Confederacy to fire on Fort Sumter, and then called for 75,000 volunteers to invade the South. Rather than participate in the invasion of their sister States, the Upper South withdrew.”

(Southerner, Take Your Stand, John Vinson, Shotwell Publishing, 2016, excerpts pp. 10-11)

An Essential Amendment

“General Leonidas Polk and his staff met with Union officers under a flag of truce in November 1861.

After disposing of matters of business, the men adjourned for a simple luncheon. A Union colonel raised his glass and proposed a toast, “To George Washington, the Father of His Country.”

To that toast General Polk quickly added: “And the First Rebel.” All officers drank to the amended toast.”

(An Essential Amendment, Southern Partisan, Volume XXIV, Number 2, pg. 11)

A Party Quite Revolutionary

The Republican Party, even after subjugating Americans in the South in 1865 and holding the North under virtual martial law during the war, “maintained its power by force and fraud, known as Reconstruction.”

The author below asserts that it “would have been far better to allow the American Union to dissolve at the will of the people” . . . as there was “nothing whatever in the legacy of the founders or in the theory of self-government to prevent this, or that argues against it.”

A Party Quite Revolutionary

“Though it is not widely known, the Confederacy had commissioners in Washington ready to make honorable arrangements – to pay for the federal property in the South, assume their share of the national debt, and negotiate all other questions. Lincoln would not deal with these delegates directly. Instead, he deceived them into thinking that Fort Sumter would not be reinforced – thus precipitating reaction when reinforcement was attempted. Even so, the bombardment of Fort Sumter was largely symbolic. There were no casualties, and, remember, almost all other forts in the South had already peacefully been handed over.

Sumter itself did not necessarily justify all-out civil war; it was simply the occasion Lincoln was waiting for. Even after the War progressed it would have been possible, with a Northern government on traditional principles, to have made peace short of the destruction that ensued.

Or it would have been possible, as millions of Northerners wanted, to have sustained a war for the Union, a gentlemen’s disagreement over the matter of secession that was far less destructive and revolutionary than the War turned out to be. Many Northerners favored this and supported the War reluctantly and only on such grounds – a suppressed part of American history. A great deal of death and destruction, as well as the maiming of the Constitution, might have been avoided by this approach.

This did not happen. Why?

Because, in fact, for Lincoln and his followers it was the revolution that was the point. Throughout the War and Reconstruction, the Republican Party behaved as a revolutionary party – though sometimes using conservative rhetoric – a Jacobin party, bent on ruling no matter what, on maintaining its power at any cost. At times they even hampered the Northern war effort for party advantage. It is very hard to doubt this for anyone who has closely studied the behavior of the Republicans during this period rather than simply picking out a few of Lincoln’s prettier speeches to quote.

Lord Acton, the great English historian of liberty, wrote: “The calamity . . . was brought on . . . by the rise of the republican party – a party in its aims and principles quite revolutionary.” And when it was all over, Acton remarked that Appomattox had been a greater setback for the cause of constitutional liberty than Waterloo had been a victory. James McPherson, the leading contemporary historian of the Civil War, though he approves rather than deplores the revolution that was carried out, agrees that it was a revolution.”

(Defending Dixie: Essays in Southern History and Culture, Clyde N. Wilson, Foundation for American Education, 2006, excerpts pp. 138-139)

To Lift the Minds of Those Who Come After Us

The many monuments to Americans across the South represent a lasting tribute to the patriots who fought in 1861 for the very same reasons patriots of 1776 fought: independence, political liberty, and in self-defense. They were symbols of bereavement for those lost in battle, as well as symbols to guide future generations toward emulating their patriotic example.

To Lift the Minds of Those Who Come After Us

“In April 1878, former President Jefferson Davis prepared a letter to be read at the laying of the cornerstone of the Confederate monument at Macon, Georgia: “Should it be asked why, then, build this monument? The answer is, they [the veterans] do not need it, but posterity may. It is not their reward, but our debt . . . Let the monument, rising from earth toward heaven, lift the minds of those who come after us to a higher standard than the common test of success.

Let it teach than man is born for duty, not for expediency; that when an attack in made on the community to which he belongs, by which he is protected, and to which his allegiance is due, his first obligation is to defend that community; and that under such conditions it is better to have “fought and lost than never to have fought at all”. . . Let this monument teach that heroism derives its lustre from the justice of the cause in which it was displayed, and let it mark the difference between a war waged for the robber-like purpose of conquest and one to repel invasions – to defend a people’s hearth’s and altars, and to maintain their laws and liberties . . .”

The next year, an editorial in the Southern Historical Society Papers perpetuated the concept of memorializing the Southern soldier by stating: “But let us see to it that we build them a monument more enduring than marble, “more lasting than bronze,” as we put on record the true story of their heroic deeds, and enshrine them forever in the hearts of generations yet unborn.”

(A Guide to Confederate Monuments in South Carolina: “Passing the Silent Cup,” Robert S. Seigler, South Carolina Department of Archives and History, 1997, excerpts pg. 14)

The American Revolution Reversed

The American Revolution Reversed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The South Loyal to that Which No Longer Exists

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

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The South Loyal to that Which No Longer Exists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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)

Desperate War Measures of Dunmore, Cochrane and Lincoln

Lincoln’s desperation card of emancipation was played after it was clear the Southern States had no interest in rejoining the 1787 Union, and as Northern public opinion was building against the increasing carnage of his war. Lincoln abandoned the goal of preserving the Union and decided to follow the same strategy as Royal Governor Lord Dunmore in November 1775 – issue an emancipation proclamation to free slaves who would be loyal to the Crown and thus incite a cruel race war to win the war against American colonists. Another emancipation proclamation was issued in 1814 by Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane to strengthen British forces with freed black men during the War of 1812.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Desperate War Measures of Dunmore, Cochrane and Lincoln

“Well-intentioned, right-thinking people equate anyone who thinks that the South did the right thing by seceding from the Union as secretly approving of slavery. Indeed, such thinking has now reached the point where people from both sides of the political spectrum . . . want to have the Confederate Battle Flag eradicated from public spaces. These people argue that the Confederate flag is offensive to African-Americans because it commemorates slavery and thus should be prohibited from public display.

In the standard account, the Civil War was an outcome of our Founding Fathers’ failure to address the institution of slavery in a republic that proclaimed in its Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal.”

But was it really necessary to wage a four-year war to abolish slavery in the United States, one that ravaged half the country and destroyed a generation of American men? Only the United States and Haiti freed its slaves by war. Every other country in the New World . . . freed them peacefully.

The war did enable Lincoln to “save” the Union, but only in a geographical sense. The country ceased being a Union, as it was originally conceived, of separate and sovereign States. Instead, America became a “nation” with a powerful federal government.

Although it freed 4 million slaves into poverty, it did not bring about a new birth of freedom, as Lincoln and historians such as James McPherson and Henry Jaffa say. For the nation as a whole it did just the opposite: It initiated a process of centralization of government that has substantially restricted liberty and freedom in America, as historians Charles Adams and Jeffrey Rogers Hummel have argued.

The term “Civil War” is a misnomer. The South did not initiate a rebellion. Thirteen Southern States in 1860-1861 simply chose to secede from the Union and go their own way, like the thirteen colonies did when they seceded from Britain. A more accurate name for the war that took place between the Northern and Southern American States would be the “War for Southern Independence.”

Mainstream historiography presents the victors’ view, an account which focuses on the issue of slavery and downplays other considerations.

The rallying cry in the North at the beginning of the war was “preserve the Union,” not “free the slaves.” In his first inaugural address, given five weeks before the war began, Lincoln reassured slaveholders that he would continue to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act.

After 17 months of war things were not going well for the North, especially in its closely-watch Eastern Theater. Did saving the Union justify the slaughter of such a large number of young men? The Confederates posed no military threat to the North. Perhaps it would be better to let the Southern States go, along with their 4 million slaves. If it was going to win, the North needed a more compelling reason to continue the war than to preserve the Union.

Five days after the battle of [Sharpsburg], on Sept. 22, 1862, Abraham Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation . . . a war measure, as Lincoln put it.”

(The Economic Roots of the Civil War, Donald W. Miller, Jr., Liberty, October 2001, Volume 15, No. 10, excerpts pp. 42-43)

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