Monday, May 31, 2010

The Lost Cause Theory.

This series began with trying to answer the accusations made by so many today against Abraham Lincoln and the Union by many from the South, and so many Libertarians today. Let's wrap up with a look at where these accusations have arisen, from whom, and why.

Had Lincoln lived, perhaps the wounds from the war also healed with a much less revenge led Reconstruction. With Lincoln's death, the opportunity for tolerance and mercy vanished, and the divisions that brought on the war mutated into new strains of sectional, political , and racial tensions that created the perverted legend of "the Lost Cause."

In the decades that followed the Civil War, an amazing thing happened. The rebellious South, which had been utterly destroyed and humiliated, concocted a dubious explanation of its past. This reconstruction of history reshaped every aspect of the Civil War debate, from causes trying to paint that it was not about slavery, to battlefield defeats claiming it was due to the ineptness of some of its generals, mostly James Longstreet at Gettysburg, to the legality and Constitutionality of secession, to the absurd notion that the South if left alone would have eventually given up slavery. The Lost Cause myth gained strength in the twentieth century when pop historians and even a few trained scholars bought into the false premise.

The Lost Cause theorists emphasized the irrelevancy of slavery as a cause of war, and sought to make the war about economic issues such as the tariff and cultural differences between the "honorable South" and the immoral North. They try to emphasize Constitutional values and states' rights, not the issue of human chattel. However, the record is quite different. Jefferson Davis "had frequently spoken to the United States Senate about the significance of slavery to the South and had threatened secession if what he perceived as Northern threats to the institution continued." (Alan Nolan from "The anatomy of a Myth") In 1861 Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens called the "great truth" of slavery the "foundation" and "cornerstone" of the Confederacy. The Confederate constitution specifically provided for protection of the "right of property in slaves." Far from moving toward emancipation anywhere, the South, was making slavery harsher and more permanent. New laws reinforced slavery, outlawed abolitionist materials, and spread a net of compliance to more and more nonslavingholding whites.

Contrary to those who promote the Lost Cause story, once the Southerner saw the war on their doorsteps, their defense of states' rights and principles all but disappeared as the Confederacy increasingly considered the idea of emancipating its own slaves if they would fight for the CSA. The first such recommendations came in February 1861, but most officials dismissed them. However, by 1863 after Vicksburg fell, the Confederacy strongly considered emancipation. "Cannot we who have been raised with our Negroes and know how to command them, make them more efficient than the Yankees can?"

The Lost Cause myth took root during the Reconstruction, with pro-Southern writers emphasizing the corruption of federal occupation and the helplessness of white citizens against the power of the federal government and the proportionately large numbers of blacks who went to the polls. Neo-Confederate writers attempted to portray the antebellum South as a utopia where outrageously distorted and ultimately destructive. They planted in a large number of Southerners, though not the majority, the notion that the Confederacy had fought for important moral principles, and they worked to move the argument away from slavery.

Today's voices of the Lost Cause came from modern Libertarians who, for the most part, viewed the Union government as more oppressive than the Confederacy. Emphasizing the infractions against civil and economic liberties by the Union government during and after the war, this view has continued with a small, but dedicated, group of adherents. To these Lost Cause disciples, Lincoln remains the ultimate monster, a tyrant whose thirst for power enabled him to provoke the South into firing on Fort Sumter. Had he only let the Confederacy secede, their argument goes, the remaining United States would have gone into a golden age of liberty, and the South, eventually would because of the market forces, or it's own noble character, would have emancipated the slaves. Of course there is no evidence of either other than in those proponents minds. Equally destructive is the notion that the states could choose their own terms when it suited them to be in the Union.

Equally perverse is the neo-Marxist/New Left interpretation of the Civil War as merely a war "to retain the enormous national territory and market resources of the United States." Reviving the old Charles Beard interpretations of the triumph of capitalism over an agrarian society, leftist critics find themselves in agreement with the more radical Libertarian writers.

The Civil War was ultimately and overwhelmingly about the idea of freedom. About whether one group of people could restrict the God-given liberty of others. That the Republicans, in their zeal to free slaves, enacted numerous ill-advised taxes, railroads, and banking laws, is regrettable but, nevertheless, of minor consequence in the big picture. In that regard the South perverted classic libertarianism, libertarianism didn't pervert the South.

The Civil War was a struggle over the definition of union. No concept of union can survive any secession, any more than a body can survive the "secession" of its heart or lungs. The forging of a nation undertaken in blood and faith in 1776 and culminating in the Constitution in 1787, brought the American people together as a single nation, not a country club of members who could choose to leave at the slightest sign of discomfort. The Civil War finalized that contract and gave to "all men" the promises of the Declaration of Independence, and purposes of the Constitution.

Although thousands paid the ultimate price for completing that process, what emerged was truly "one nation, under God."

Sunday, May 30, 2010

With Malice Toward None, With Charity For All.

When General Sherman captured Atlanta it reassured the reelection of Lincoln,the most hated man by the Confederacy. When John Wilkes Booth assassinated Lincoln in Ford Theater, it assured that the South would suffer severely, and for a long and hard duration. Booth, killed the best friend the South had at that time.

Abraham Lincoln, gave us hints to his plans for the South in his second inauguration.

"On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, urgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came."

"One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it."

"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

The death of Abraham Lincoln was tragic in ways beyond the obvious. Before his death, Lincoln had proposed a series of very lenient measures to restore peace and the status of the seceded states during the post war era. His "10 percent" plan would allow a state to be recognized with the full rights of any state if 10% of the voting population agreed to abide by federal regulations and to support the Constitution. With Lincoln's death, a less popular and weaker President Andrew Johnson was unable to control the Radical Republicans who would hold out for a far more punitive Reconstruction plan. The Reconstruction Acts of 1867 were passed on March 7th over Johnson's veto. The congressional plan, which held that the southern states had committed "suicide," set a harsh agenda for their return to the Union.

Under the first of the Reconstruction Acts, the South was divided into five military districts with a U.S. Army general in charge of each. The South was essentially under martial law. Generals John Schofield, Daniel Sickles, John Pope, Eward Ord, and Philip Sheridan held nearly dictatorial powers over their military districts. To preserve order and carry out the dictates of Congress there were nearly 200,000 U.S. Soldiers stationed throughout the South.

In the aftermath of war, many of the "best and brightest" on both sides, the young men who would have been expected to lead their country into the future, had been killed or disabled. Beyond the horrific number of deaths and crippling wounds, much of the South was left in smoldering ruins. The southern economy was nearly completely destroyed, the dollar value of the destruction was staggering. Even though cotton once again took it's significant position almost immediately, it was another twenty-five years before the number of livestock in the South returned to the pre-war levels. The regional rancor that had recently boiled over into war was replaced by the bitter hatred by the defeated for the victor. For millions of now free blacks, as well as their previous masters their worlds were turned upside down.

With the destruction of the assets of the South, it was going to be a tough road back no matter what. However, when Lincoln died, the one man who could have protected them and helped bring them whole more quickly was gone. When it was a Southern assassin who killed Lincoln, it gave easy ammunition for those who were then in power to take revenge on the South, and punish them men, women, and children.

It turned out that the South's greatest friend, was who they saw as their greatest enemy.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

It Began and Ended At Wilmer McLean's

There is no reason to try to tell the story of the actual battles of the Civil War here in this medium. There are hundreds of excellent books on that subject, I can recommend several if you want to learn more. The most recent that I read on Lincoln, his presidency, his cabinet, and the war was "Team of Rivals" I strongly recommend it, truly and outstanding read on many levels.

The realities of the war was it was one of the most bloody and violent in the history of man with more than 600,000 who died, Americans all. To get a perspective on the loss of life, and the personal loss to American families, it would be the same as six million dying from today's population in war.

Part of the cause was a new bullet developed in France, known as the Mini-ball. This new bullet was used by both the Union and Confederacy. It was the first "bullet shaped" ammunition instead of the ball shaped of old, with the new concept of grooves cut in a spirally motion through the inside of the barrel of the weapon called "rifling" it made this a much more accurate ordinance than any used before. It was deadly accurate to six hundred yards. These new rifles and mini-balls were eight times faster to load than any used in previous wars as well.

When you add the modern weaponry to the archaic military strategies, where the two armies still would face each other on opposite sides of a battle field and fire upon each other, it led to massive numbers of dead and wounded. It did, by necessity create new battle field medical procedures. There were thousands of amputation, at first more men died of infection than the operation. Through the efforts of so many women who volunteered to help nurse in these military medical units, and the never ending supply of newly injured arriving, the new ideas of triage taking those who were more critical but possible to save first came into being. The demands of Clara Barton, later the founder of the American Red Cross, that the hospitals kept fresh bandages available and that they kept the wounds clean and old soiled bandages replaced, cut the death rate to a small fraction of what it had been.

All wars are violent, the purpose of armies once turned loose on each other is to kill people and break things. This was no different, it was just fought in our own country against ourselves assuring that even winning would involve massive loss. Mistakes were made on both sides, but the bravery and heroism displayed by so many have been there to inspire us as well.

At the end of the war, Wilmer McLean stood on the front porch of his two-story brick house awaiting the arrival of General Robert E Lee. In the early afternoon on that day, General Lee, accompanied by Colonel Charles Marshall, arrived on horseback. Wil extended his greetings to the two Confederate officers and invited them into his parlor. And there, on April 9, 1865, they awaited the arrival of the other guests. At about 1:30pm, General Grant and several of the Union officers entered the parlor where General Lee was waiting. For the next hour and a half, General Lee and General Grant discussed and came to agreement on the terms of surrender of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, which, for all practical purposes, ended the long, bloody war.

Wil, a retired Major in the Virginia militia, was too old to be conscripted when that Civil War began. For the majority of the war, he was a merchant primarily dealing in the buying and selling of sugar, but, at the outset of the war in 1861, he was a farmer living in northern Virginia with his family. The war struck close to home early on and McLean moved his family from northern to central Virginia out of concern for their safety, settling eventually in the home at Appomattox Court House.

The First Battle of Manassas (Bull Run) took place on Wilmer McLean’s farm on July 21, 1861 and inspired the move. So, in a most unusual twist of fate, the Civil War started in McLean’s backyard in 1861 and ended in his parlor in 1865. So Wilmer McLean and his family had a front row seat to both the beginning and end of the war.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Critics Complain About Lincoln's Growth of Government

The critics of Lincoln, are not wrong about all of their accusations. Lincoln did preside over the fastest expansion of federal power in American history until recently. Most of the expansion could be justified by wartime demands, however too much was simply political pork barreling and payoffs to campaign promises.

Right after the troops had been called, the government had no proven method available to them to raise large sums of money quickly. Lincoln's Secretary of the Treasury, Salmon Chase, one of Lincoln's campaign opponents for the 1860 Republican nomination, proved to be the right man in the right office at the right time.

When Chase took over it was quite a challenge. In 1850 the federal government's budget averaged 2% of gross national product, but by the end of the Civil War, it had soared to more than 15%. Simply running the Treasury was overwhelming, the number of clerks increased from 383 in 1861 to more than 2,000 in 1864. Chase's biggest mistake was filling many with party hacks who could be counted on for not much beyond party loyalty.

Raising the needed money to run the war department quickly demanded that Chase develop systems for generating lots of revenue. He wanted to do this while still respecting protecting long term stability while building short term gain. Taxes had to be passed by Congress, then collected, meaning it would be 1862 or later before tax revenues could have much impact. So while Chase asked Congress for a new direct tax on incomes over $300, he also requested new tariffs and expanded land sales that would generate quicker revenues. However even when these taxes came in at the end of 1863, the 2 million they produced was inadequate to the Union's needs, that by the end of 1861 ran $2 million a day. In addition to other short-term bond issues, Congress authorized Chase to raise $250 million through sales of twenty-year bonds paying 7% interest.

Banks were reluctant to buy bonds if they had to pay for them with gold, and in December 1861 the Northern banks suspended specie payments on all notes. Concerned that soldiers would go unpaid, Chase advanced a paper money concept to Congress that allowed the Treasury to issue $100 million in notes that would circulate as "lawful money, and legal tender of all debts, public and private." Enacted as the Legal Tender Act of February 1862, the proposal authorized the issue of more than Chase requested, $450 million in green-colored bills, called greenbacks.

This temporary money gave the nation a wartime circulating currency that also enabled the government to pay its bills. Congress also authorized Chase to borrow another $500 million. Even so, the "five-twenty" bonds, that were redeemable after five years, and fully matured at twenty five, and paying 6% interest, didn't sell as fast as Chase had hoped. He enlisted a personal friend, Philadelphia banker Jay Cooke, to sell them. Cooke received a nice commission, but more important, he held a virtual monopoly on the bond sales. Cooke was a motivated and aggressive promoter, who ran ads in newspapers and aggressively targeted the middle class as well as traditional investors. Packaging the first "war-bond," Cooke appealed to Northerner's patriotism, and sold out every issue. He sold more than $400 million by the end of 1863 alone, netting himself more than $1 million in commissions.

Chase also created another way to accelerate the income stream. He adopted a model that the free-banking laws popular in the North prior to the war, where banks would purchase bonds that they would keep on deposit with the secretary of state as security against over issue of notes. In December 1861 Chase argued to Congress for a national banking system in which banks would receive their charters after purchasing government bonds. Congress passed the National Banking Act of February 1863, which provided for $300 million in national banknotes to be issued by the new network of national banks. However, the law offered no incentive for people to hold national banknotes over private banknotes. In December 1863, fewer than 150 national banks were in operation. In 1864 Congress did what government does when they go into competition with private businesses, by placing a 10% tax on money issued by state banks.

Other than emancipation, no other Civil War legislation had a more far-reaching effect, mostly bad. Congress increased the number of national banks to 1,650 by December 1865, this destroyed the competitive money private system that led to a string of financial upheavals that happened every twenty year until 1913. Competition in money had not only given the United States the most rapidly growing economy in the world, but it had produced many innovations at the state levels, the most important of which was branch banking, this was prohibited for national banks.

The National Bank and Currency Acts established a government monopoly over money, but they also excluded the most efficient and stable form of banking yet to emerge until is partially corrected in the 1920s. However, critics of Lincoln's big-government policies would be on solid ground when it comes to the banking policy of the Civil War.

Yet, while criticizing Lincoln while holding the Confederacy up as a bastion of state rights and individual liberties is mendacious at best. Under the Confederate Treasury Secretary, Christopher Memminger from South Carolina, he took them off the gold standard within days of the South's firing on Fort Sumter. He embraced taxation, borrowing, and fiat money. Even though the Confederate Constitution strictly forbid export tariffs, the CSA also imposed export taxes. The Confederacy had adopted a broad array of taxes by 1863, including direct income taxes and taxes on gold. When the Confederate Congress authorized a second $100 million loan in August 1861, planters were allowed to pay for it in cotton, not gold. However, due to an amazingly short-sighted embargo on shipping cotton to try to force England into the war on their side, they were already overflowing with cotton, making it nearly worthless.

To combat this Memminger copied Chase, and then far surpassed him, in introducing fiat money when the Confederate Congress began issuing Confederate notes in 1861. Starting slowly with only $1 million, wartime soon required the CSA to issue more than $1 billion in Confederate paper money, more than twice as much issued to a much larger Union population in the North. Before long, Confederate money was as worthless as were the Revolutionary-era's continentals and not seen again until Germany's Wiemar Republic's hyper-inflation in the 1920s. A Confederate dollar worth 82 cents in 1862 in gold or silver dropped to only 17 cents in 1865.

In just a few years the Confederacy's needs for goods and services would become so desperate that the government would resort to outright confiscation, and theft of private property. While the North skimmed off the top of private enterprise, the South, lacking a business base to match was forced to put ownership and control of war production in the hands of government.

The Confederacy reached levels of government involvement unmatched until the totalitarian states of the twentieth century. With 7/8ths of all freight moved on the Virginia Central Railroad was for the government's account, 92% of all work done by Augusta Textile factory was government. By the end of the war, all pretense of a free-market had disappeared as President Jefferson Davis confiscated all railroads, steam vessels, telegraph lines, and other operations, impressing their employees into government or military work. As one North Carolinian recalled, government officials were "thick as locusts in Egypt," and he "could not walk without being elbowed off the street by them." Government bureaucrats not only confiscated white and black workers into construction projects for the Confederacy, the Confederacy passed away as a HUGE government.

In 1863 the Confederacy was employing 70 thousand civilian bureaucrats as the government itself ran ordinance bureaus, mills, clothing manufacturing, cotton gins, meat packing plants, salt storage sheds, distilleries, vegetable packing facilities, sucking up all the sustenance out of the private sector.

Across the board, in everything from the treatment of human rights, white and black, to freedom of speech and the press, to market freedoms, scholar Richard Bensel said that the North had a less centralized government and was a much more open society than the South. Six specific comparisons of private property rights between the North and South, including control of railroads, destruction of property, and confiscation, showed the Confederacy to be far more government centered and less market driven. Analyzing dozens of specific laws and points of comparisons, with possibly the suspension of habeas corpus the main exception, Bensel concluded that the North's commitment to liberty in all areas insured its victory.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Licoln Suspends Habeas Corpus

Lincoln was well aware of the dangers that festered in Maryland from his recent exposure to the assassination plans for his trip to D.C. just months before. Baltimore, Maryland's chief city was part of the Union in name only. The city was overflowing with secessionist sentiment, if Maryland stayed in the Union was still an issue very much up in the air. After Virginia seceded, and the Confederacy moving its capital to Richmond, the Confederacy was now literally in Lincoln's view. Confederate flags flew from the rooftops in Alexandria, directly across the Potomac from the Capital. Washington, D.C., was very near in open panic as rumors of a Confederate attack raced through the city, which was defended only by a disorganized, ragtag Union army lacking any effective leadership.

Racing to the capital was the 6th Massachusetts militia under the command of Benjamin Butler, an ambitious Massachusetts Democrat who had supported Jefferson Davis for the presidency in 1860. However, after the secession, Butler became an enthusiastic War Democrat, later a Republican. Commanding the first northern troops to reach Washington, as Butler's men passed through Baltimore on April 19th, they were taunted by pro-secession civilians known as "pug-uglies." According to William Safire in his Civil War novel Freedom, "their name came from the plug hats as well as from the spikes studded in the front of their boots, worn by the hoodlums to do greater injury with a kick." When the mob began to throw bricks, paving stones, and rocks, the troops fired. No one ever took responsibility for ordering or firing the first shot, but federal guns were turned on civilians armed with only clubs and stones. The following melee left at least twelve civilians dead and dozens more injured. Four soldiers were also killed. It was weeks before a real clash between armies resulted in as many casualties.

The governor of Maryland and the mayor of Baltimore demanded Lincoln to forbid any more federal troops to pass through the city, but Lincoln refused. That night Marylanders burned railroad bridges to prevent any more troops from moving through the state. Groups of "plug uglies" roamed over Maryland, assaulting travelers. The area was close to open anarchy. In Washington rumors of a secessionist mob intent on attacking and burning the city filled the air. For the moment, Maryland appeared to be on the verge of joining the Confederacy, which would completely surround the capital with rebellious states. When Lincoln met some of the wounded Massachusetts men, he as beyond worry, saying, "I don't believe there is any North. The (New York) Seventh Regiment is a myth. Rhode Island is not known in our geography any longer. You are the only Northern realities."

Lincoln could look out from the White House and see Confederate flags flying in Alexandria, and Confederate campfires burning at night. Baltimore was about to explode, and vastly fewer Union militiamen had arrived in the nation's capital than Lincoln and his staff had expected. With this atmosphere of fear and uncertainty, the president called a Cabinet meeting. One of the first decisions was a limited suspension of the writ of habeas corpus along the rail lines between Philadelphia and Washington, essentially targeting Maryland.

Habeas Corpus literally means "you have the body"; a writ of habeas corpus is issued by a court and orders the authority to release a person being held in custody. Derived from English law, it is an essential part of the Constitution, intended to protect individuals from arbitrary imprisonment. It protects everyone from being arrested and held without reasonable charges. It was and it on of the individual protections that separates America from monarchies and other governments in which soldiers or police can literally knock on your door and haul you away without explanation.

With the suspension of habeas corpus, Lincoln authorized General Scott to make arrests without specific charges to prevent secessionist Marylanders from interfering with communication between Washington and the rest of the Union. In the next few months, Baltimore's Mayor William Brown, the police chief, and nine members of the Maryland legislature were arrested to prevent them from voting to secede from the Union.

When an otherwise obscure secessionist named John Merryman was arrested, Chief Justice Roger Taney went into action. Taney, a Marylander himself and the author of the Dred Scott decision that could be said was the spark that started the war by making it "Un-Constitutional" according to Taney to limit the growth of slavery in any state, negating the Missouri Compromise. Taney issued a writ of habeas corpus for Merryman, demanding that authorities give a reason for his detention. The military refused, and Taney, who thought that Lincoln might have him arrested as well, issued an argument stating that only Congress could suspend the privilege of the writ and that Lincoln had broken the laws. Protection from arbitrary arrest became the first serious constitutional crisis of the war.

In an address to Congress in July, Lincoln responded to Taney by asking "whether all the laws, but one, were to go unexecuted, and the government itself to go to pieces, lest that one be violated?" In other words, if Taney was so worried about the Constitution, whey hadn't he done anything to prevent secession? Lincoln further argued that the Constitution states that "the Privileges of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when, in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it." The Constitution never specified which of the three branches of government could suspend the writ, so Lincoln argued that any one of the three equal branches could do so.

Twice more during the war Lincoln, suspended habeas corpus, including the suspension "throughout the United States" on September 24th, 1862. Although the records are somewhat unclear, it seems more than thirteen thousand Americans, most of them opposition Democrats were arrested during the war years, giving rise to the charge that Lincoln was a tyrant and dictator. However, one must take into consideration that he was following his Constitutional mandate to protect the Union and the Constitution of the United States. He was dealing with the biggest threat to both in history with those who wanted to tear it asunder even in Washington as well as surrounding the capital. Desperate means for desperate times are prudent. How would you suggest that it be done differently?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Anaconda Plan

Two of the decisions that Lincoln made during the beginning of the Civil War are what many of his detractors past and present site as their case against him. One was the naval blockade against the Southern ports, the other was his suspension of Habeas Corpus. Tonight we will cover the blockade.

The idea of the naval blockade was created by seventy-five year old head of the army, General Winfield Scott. Scott, nick-named "Old Fuss and Feathers" because of his reputation as a stickler for strict conformity to regulations. Scott had been in every American military action since the War of 1812, in which he had been captured once, but earned a hero's reputation second only to Andrew Jackson's. He was a hero in the Indian Wars, and the Mexican War, he became the first lieutenant general in the American army since George Washington. A Virginian, but a devout Unionist, Scott came up with a strategic plan in response to the "insurrection."

In May he wrote to General George McClellan;

"We rely greatly on the sure operation of a complete blockade of the Atlantic and Gulf ports soon to commence. In connection with such a blockade, we propose a powerful movement down the Mississippi to the ocean, with a cordon of posts at proper points, the object being to clear out and keep open this great line of communication in connection with the strict blockade of the seabound, so as to envelop the insurgent States and bring them to terms with less bloodshed than by any other means."

Scott, pointed out that his strategy had two main elements, a blockade of the South Atlantic and Gulf ports, as well as an expedition of eighty-thousand men supported by navy gunboats down the Mississippi to New Orleans. The Confederacy would be split in two, and the embargo would cripple the South's economy.

Scott's plan was leaked to the press, and he and it were mocked as being overly cautious. It was soon carrying the label the Anaconda Plan, after that massive constricting snake. This was a time when war was being romanticized with the recent images of the Crimean War, and the famed Charge of the Light Brigade, made popular with Tennyson's 1854 poem. Lincoln was concerned that it might be too mild as well, however, he clearly saw the wisdom of this strategy and ordered the blockade. Despite the criticism against the Anaconda Plan, the blockade of Southern ports and control of the Mississippi provided the ultimate basis for the economic and military defeat of the Confederacy.

Lincoln announced the blockade on April 19th, 1861, however it was more words than action. There was really very little the Union could do either to go to war, or to prevent southern trade. The Confederacy was larger than all of western Europe, with thirty-five hundred miles of coastline and one hundred and eighty possible ports of entry to patrol, he blockade would be he largest such effort ever attempted.

The Union was woefully unprepared, even though it comprised twenty-three states and possessed most of the nation's industry and agriculture along with most of the banks and financial wealth, canals, roads, and rapidly growing railroad and telegraph network, the Union didn't have much of an army. Before the war, the U.S.Army was small, only about 16,000 officers and men. At the outbreak of the war, there were 1,108 officers, nearly 400 of them, including many with significant wartime experience in Mexico remained loyal to their home states and joined the Confederacy. The same was true about the navy, out of 1,554 officers, 373 were either dismissed or left to join the Confederacy.

While the challenge on land was daunting for both armies, Lincoln's call for a naval blockade seemed ridiculous. The U.S. Navy only had forty-two warships in operation, most of them patrolling distant oceans. Almost all of them were sailing vessels, which a new generation of steam powered ships had made obsolete. The Union actually only had three warships suitable for blockade duty.

As bad as the military situation was that Lincoln and his administration, it was far worse for Jefferson Davis. Although the Confederate Congress authorized an army of a hundred thousand men, they could offer little to pay, clothe, feed, or arm them.
The Confederate states had a small fraction of the Union's manufacturing capabilities as well as available cash. Dependent on its cotton trade for hard currency, the Confederacy was extremely vulnerable to a blockade. Davis responded to Lincoln's call to blockade by asking southern shipowners to help "resist aggression" by operating as privateers against the North's seagoing commerce. It was officially sanctioned piracy. Jefferson Davis made a economically fatal mistake early in the war. He decided that England so needed the Confederacy's cotton he decided to hold back selling it to them until the agreed to support them in the war. What he accomplished was shutting off the Confederacy's one hard money source while Lincoln's blockade was still to ineffective to slow down traffic.

Lincoln had a secret weapon in Navy Secretary Gideon Welles, who soon earned the nickname "Old Father Neptune." By calling back the Navy ships, buying vessels from the large merchant fleet, and beginning a massive shipbuilding program. Welles put together a fleet of 136 new ships and had 52 more under construction by the end of the year.

Privateers and blockade running, think Rhet Butler in Gone With The Wind, enabled the Confederacy to survive as long as it did. It brought in sixty percent of the weapons used by its armies, along with shoes, food, blankets, and medicine. As the war lengthened the Union navy's increasing ability to reduce shipments into southern ports took a terrible toll on the Confederate economy. Inflation skyrocketed and crippled the Confederacy. Salt, before refrigeration was the only way to preserve meat, went from 2.00 a bag before the war to as high as 60.00 a bag in 1862. Despite the Confederacy's bragging about their brilliant generals, and glorious causes, you can't feed and army, or the civilians left behind on idealism, or military strategies. The blockade created harsh realities that hurt the Confederacy as much as any Union General could have.

Those who condemn Lincoln for this blockade could only do so from an emotional perspective, or from stories handed down from family members who suffered the shortages it brought on the Confederacy. However, take the emotion out. America was at war, it and the Constitution were under attack by those who sought to tear it apart by stripping states from the Union and forming a rival nation on American land. At war, it is the Commander-in-Chief's responsibility to protect the Union. Starving out the opposition economically is one of the most effective ways to win that war. It is somewhat disingenuous to blame him for doing his job against enemy combatants.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Firing On Fort Sumter, The Civil War Begins.

The inauguration speech of Abraham Lincoln, most especially this final paragraph outlined his hope, prayer, and desire for the Union, and all Americans.

"I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."

He didn't have to wait long to find out that "the better angels" would not rule the day. "The mystic chords" would soon be overwhelmed by the sound of cannon fire on a federal fort. Americans were soon able to see that this going to a horrifying war, pitting friends, neighbors, and families against each other.

Just as people have accused President Franklin Roosevelt of provoking the attack on Pearl Harbor to draw America into W.W.II, some historians have accused Lincoln of pushing the Confederacy into attacking Ft. Sumter to start the Civil War.

The inaugural address promised that the federal government would not start a war and that no attempt would be made to retake federal forts already held by Confederate forces. Lincoln also declared that he would "hold and possess" those installations still under federal control that were in states that had formed the Confederacy. This was well within the president's authority, beyond that Lincoln made no threats.

The day after the inauguration, everything changed, an alarming message from Major Robert Anderson, who commanded the U.S. troops holding Ft. Sumter in Charleston Harbor, arrived to the White House. He reported that there was less than a six-week supply of food in the fort.

Ft. Sumter, named for Revolutionary War hero Thomas Sumter, from South Carolina, sat near the center of the entrance of the entrance to Charleston Harbor. It was an unfinished, five sided brick structure that seemed to rise directly from the water. It was designed to serve 650 men, it was now occupied by 125 men, some 40 of whom were workmen completing the building. It was surrounded by smaller forts that the South Carolina militia, commanded by Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, already held.

Beauregard was one of President Jefferson Davis's first military appointments. He had been made a brigadier general in the Provisional Army of the Confederate States on March 1st. He was second in his West Point class, where he studied artillery under the same Robert Anderson who now commanded Fort Sumter.

When South Carolina seceded on December 20th, 1860, Fort Sumter and the other two United States military installations in Charleston Harbor, Ft. Moultrie and Castle Pinckney, became symbols of "foreign" authority. Major Anderson abandoned Moultrie and Castle Pinckney. President Buchanan believed that both the secession and "coercion" of states were unconstitutional and wanted only to finish his term in peace. When South Carolina seized Ft. Moultrie and Castle Pinckney, along with the customhouse, post office, treasury, and an arsenal, Buchanan did nothing. When South Carolina fired on "The Star of the West," an unarmed steamer coming into the harbor with supplies for the fort, he did nothing. He had also agreed to not reinforce Ft. Pickens, on the coast of Pensacola, Florida, in exchange for an agreement for the Confederates to not attack it. However, Buchanan refused to pull the troops from Ft. Sumter. "If I withdraw Anderson from Sumter, I can travel home to Wheatland by the light of my own burning effigies," said Buchanan, speaking of his home in Pennsylvania.

Anderson's letter about his evaporating supply of food gave Lincoln his first crisis of his new presidency. Few presidents have ever faced a problem of similar importance on the first day after taking office. General-in-Chief Winfield Scott advised Lincoln that relief of the fort was impossible; Secretary of State William Seward thought evacuating the fort was a good way to cool things off. Seward, the ambitious ex-governor of New York, and recent primary candidate against Lincoln, resented Lincoln's election and saw himself as Lincoln's intellectual and experienced superior. He considered himself to be a "prime minister," a puppet master who would eventually pull the strings on this rube from Illinois. Seward believed that the Unionists in the Confederacy would come to their senses and revoke the secession. That is what led him to meet with the Confederate emissaries against Lincoln's specific instructions and secretly promised that Lincoln would abandon the fort.

Lincoln who was searching for a middle ground that would uphold federal authority but not provoke a war, quickly demonstrated his independence of the overreaching Seward. On March 29th he decided to resupply but not to reinforce the fort, and he let South Carolina Governor Francis Pickens know the supplies were coming.

After Lincoln refused to meet with the delegates of the Confederate states, the die was cast. Jefferson Davis ordered Beauregard to demand Sumter's surrender, "and if this is refused, proceed to reduce it." As the federal forces hurried to complete the fort's defenses, Beauregard delivered the Confederate ultimatum to Major Anderson. Anderson's reply: "Gentlemen, I will await the first shot and if you do not batter the fort to pieces about us, we shall be starved out in a few days." When he was told to specify the time of his evacuation, Anderson replied that he would leave by noon on April 15th barring other instructions or additional supplies from his government. When he learned that his answer was unacceptable, Anderson shook the hand of Beauregard's emissary, Colonel James Chesnut, and said, "If we never meet in this world again, I hope that we may meet in the next."

Anderson, who was a proslavery Kentuckian, but a Union loyalist. He and Beauregard were both wounded in the Mexican War. Now Beauregard had his former teacher surrounded by cannons, perhaps eager to show that he had been taught well.

It was 4:30 in the morning on April 12th, 1861, when a single mortar was fired by Captain George James. It was the signal for forty-three Confederate Cannons around Ft. Sumter to start firing. They showered over four-thousand shells down on the fort and it's occupants. The bloodiest war in American history had begun. All of Charleston crowded around the harbor to watch, "We watched up there, and everybody wondered that Fort Sumter did not fire a shot." Mary Boykin Chesnut wife of Beauregard's aide wrote in her diary.

Inside the fort, Captain Abner Doubleday, Anderson's second in command, fired the first federal shot in reply. It bounced harmlessly of the iron wall of a nearby Confederate fortress. Although the federal relief vessels were beginning to arrive, they were not prepared for the crisis, and ships rode their anchors out of range. On the second day of the bombardment, the fort began to burn. Lacking supplies and enough troops for a chance of mounting a defense, Anderson ordered the fort's flag lowered and a bed sheet raised in its place. Ft.Sumter was surrendered without any loss of men on April 13th.

On April 15th, after the attack on Fort Sumter, Lincoln proclaimed a state of insurrection rather than a state of war. He issued a call for seventy-five thousand volunteers for three months to crush the rebellion.

For many years some historians, mostly those who had sympathies for the Confederate cause, argued that Lincoln had provoked the Confederates into firing the first shots in order to get world opinion on the side of the Union. However, this theory ignores a great many facts. First, South Carolina had already fired the first shots against a federal ship and, and by taking the other federal forts and arsenals, had already begun the war. Jefferson Davis was ready to fire on Sumter before hearing of the relief expedition, as soon as Lincoln refused to meet with Vice-President Stephens and the the other Confederate delegates. Davis had also written to General Braxton Bragg at Pensacola, ordering him to take Fort Pickens. Bragg was not ready, otherwise the war might have begun off the coast of Florida.

Lincoln, hoping to keep the slave states still in the Union from joining the Confederacy, was reluctant to take offensive action. He expected these southern states, Virginia, in particular, would remain loyal if the Union was attacked. However, rather than bringing back the undecided states, Fort Sumter and Lincoln's proclamation calling for volunteers started secession proceedings in four more states, Virgina, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee soon joined the Confederacy along with those already there, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana, and Texas, now eleven strong.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Lincoln Arrives For Inauguration.

The Lincoln family made a stop on their train journey from Illinois to Washington in Philadelphia, where Lincoln met with private detective Allen Pinkerton, whose agency specialized in railroad security. After the election of 1860, one of Pinkerton's clients, the Philadelphia, Wilmington, & Baltimore Railroad, feared that secessionists in Maryland would cut the tracks in order to isolate the capital. Pinkerton and his men were sent to Baltimore to protect the railroad.

Pinkerton's men infiltrated secessionist groups,finding that the city was seething with Confederates, and sympathizers. That night in Philadelphia, Pinkerton told Lincoln that his agents has learned of an assassination plot: Lincoln was to be killed when he changed trains in Baltimore. Pinkerton advised him to depart for Washington a day early, though Lincoln refused. He had already promised to attend a celebration for Washington's birthday in Harrisburg to next day. However, later that night he had confirmation of the plot from General Winfield Scott.

After the following days events, Lincoln secretly returned to Philadelphia. Then wearing an overcoat and disguised by a brown hat, he slipped into the last sleeping car of a train for Baltimore. He posed as the invalid brother of one of Pinkerton's female detectives. Traveling with Lincoln were Pinkerton and a trusted friend from Springfield, Ward Lamon, who was acting as a body guard for the president elect. Lamon was armed and dangerous sporting brass knuckles, a pair of revolvers, derringers, and two large knives. At three-fifteen in the morning the train reached Baltimore without incident, Lincoln's coach was hooked up to a train going to Washington. Though no one knows for sure if the assassination plot was true, but it had strong evidence, including corroboration by General Scott. Four years later Lincoln's assassination would be actually plotted by Maryland natives in Baltimore.

Lincoln reached the capital at dawn on February 23rd. His wife, Mary, who had stayed on their original train with their sons, arrived later that day, shaken by the journey and by the frenzied Baltimore crowds who shouted Lincoln's name in anger. When the opposition newspapers heard of Lincoln's covert arrival, the president-elect was widely mocked as a country bumpkin and drew cartoons of him slinking into town. London correspondent William Russell wrote, "The cold shoulder is given to Mr. Lincoln. People take particular pleasure in telling how he came toward the seat of his government disguised."

The last two paragraphs are particularly powerful.

President Lincoln's Inaugural Address: Edited for length.
March 4th 1861.

Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States that by the accession of a Republican Administration their property and their peace and personal security are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the while existed and been open to their inspection. It is found in nearly all the published speeches of him who now addresses you. I do but quote from one of those speeches when I declare that—

I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.

Those who nominated and elected me did so with full knowledge that I had made this and many similar declarations and had never recanted them; and more than this, they placed in the platform for my acceptance, and as a law to themselves and to me, the clear and emphatic resolution which I now read:

Resolved, That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the States, and especially the right of each State to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that balance of power on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depend; and we denounce the lawless invasion by armed force of the soil of any State or Territory, no matter what pretext, as among the gravest of crimes.

I now reiterate these sentiments, and in doing so I only press upon the public attention the most conclusive evidence of which the case is susceptible that the property, peace, and security of no section are to be in any wise endangered by the now incoming Administration. I add, too, that all the protection which, consistently with the Constitution and the laws, can be given will be cheerfully given to all the States when lawfully demanded, for whatever cause—as cheerfully to one section as to another.

There is much controversy about the delivering up of fugitives from service or labor. The clause I now read is as plainly written in the Constitution as any other of its provisions:

No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall in consequence of any law or regulation therein be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.

It is scarcely questioned that this provision was intended by those who made it for the reclaiming of what we call fugitive slaves; and the intention of the lawgiver is the law. All members of Congress swear their support to the whole Constitution—to this provision as much as to any other. To the proposition, then, that slaves whose cases come within the terms of this clause "shall be delivered up" their oaths are unanimous. Now, if they would make the effort in good temper, could they not with nearly equal unanimity frame and pass a law by means of which to keep good that unanimous oath?

There is some difference of opinion whether this clause should be enforced by national or by State authority, but surely that difference is not a very material one. If the slave is to be surrendered, it can be of but little consequence to him or to others by which authority it is done. And should anyone in any case be content that his oath shall go unkept on a merely unsubstantial controversy as to how it shall be kept?

Again: In any law upon this subject ought not all the safeguards of liberty known in civilized and humane jurisprudence to be introduced, so that a free man be not in any case surrendered as a slave? And might it not be well at the same time to provide by law for the enforcement of that clause in the Constitution which guarantees that "the citizens of each State shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States"?

I take the official oath to-day with no mental reservations and with no purpose to construe the Constitution or laws by any hypercritical rules; and while I do not choose now to specify particular acts of Congress as proper to be enforced, I do suggest that it will be much safer for all, both in official and private stations, to conform to and abide by all those acts which stand unrepealed than to violate any of them trusting to find impunity in having them held to be unconstitutional.

It is seventy-two years since the first inauguration of a President under our National Constitution. During that period fifteen different and greatly distinguished citizens have in succession administered the executive branch of the Government. They have conducted it through many perils, and generally with great success. Yet, with all this scope of precedent, I now enter upon the same task for the brief constitutional term of four years under great and peculiar difficulty. A disruption of the Federal Union, heretofore only menaced, is now formidably attempted.

I hold that in contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution the Union of these States is perpetual. Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed, in the fundamental law of all national governments. It is safe to assert that no government proper ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination. Continue to execute all the express provisions of our National Constitution, and the Union will endure forever, it being impossible to destroy it except by some action not provided for in the instrument itself.

Again: If the United States be not a government proper, but an association of States in the nature of contract merely, can it, as a contract, be peaceably unmade by less than all the parties who made it? One party to a contract may violate it—break it, so to speak—but does it not require all to lawfully rescind it?

Descending from these general principles, we find the proposition that in legal contemplation the Union is perpetual confirmed by the history of the Union itself. The Union is much older than the Constitution. It was formed, in fact, by the Articles of Association in 1774. It was matured and continued by the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It was further matured, and the faith of all the then thirteen States expressly plighted and engaged that it should be perpetual, by the Articles of Confederation in 1778. And finally, in 1787, one of the declared objects for ordaining and establishing the Constitution was "to form a more perfect Union."

But if destruction of the Union by one or by a part only of the States be lawfully possible, the Union is less perfect than before the Constitution, having lost the vital element of perpetuity.

It follows from these views that no State upon its own mere motion can lawfully get out of the Union; that resolves and ordinances to that effect are legally void, and that acts of violence within any State or States against the authority of the United States are insurrectionary or revolutionary, according to circumstances.

I therefore consider that in view of the Constitution and the laws the Union is unbroken, and to the extent of my ability, I shall take care, as the Constitution itself expressly enjoins upon me, that the laws of the Union be faithfully executed in all the States. Doing this I deem to be only a simple duty on my part, and I shall perform it so far as practicable unless my rightful masters, the American people, shall withhold the requisite means or in some authoritative manner direct the contrary. I trust this will not be regarded as a menace, but only as the declared purpose of the Union that it will constitutionally defend and maintain itself.

In doing this there needs to be no bloodshed or violence, and there shall be none unless it be forced upon the national authority. The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the Government and to collect the duties and imposts; but beyond what may be necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere. Where hostility to the United States in any interior locality shall be so great and universal as to prevent competent resident citizens from holding the Federal offices, there will be no attempt to force obnoxious strangers among the people for that object. While the strict legal right may exist in the Government to enforce the exercise of these offices, the attempt to do so would be so irritating and so nearly impracticable withal that I deem it better to forego for the time the uses of such offices.

The mails, unless repelled, will continue to be furnished in all parts of the Union. So far as possible the people everywhere shall have that sense of perfect security which is most favorable to calm thought and reflection. The course here indicated will be followed unless current events and experience shall show a modification or change to be proper, and in every case and exigency my best discretion will be exercised, according to circumstances actually existing and with a view and a hope of a peaceful solution of the national troubles and the restoration of fraternal sympathies and affections.

That there are persons in one section or another who seek to destroy the Union at all events and are glad of any pretext to do it I will neither affirm nor deny; but if there be such, I need address no word to them. To those, however, who really love the Union may I not speak?

Before entering upon so grave a matter as the destruction of our national fabric, with all its benefits, its memories, and its hopes, would it not be wise to ascertain precisely why we do it? Will you hazard so desperate a step while there is any possibility that any portion of the ills you fly from have no real existence? Will you, while the certain ills you fly to are greater than all the real ones you fly from, will you risk the commission of so fearful a mistake?

All profess to be content in the Union if all constitutional rights can be maintained. Is it true, then, that any right plainly written in the Constitution has been denied? I think not. Happily, the human mind is so constituted that no party can reach to the audacity of doing this. Think, if you can, of a single instance in which a plainly written provision of the Constitution has ever been denied. If by the mere force of numbers a majority should deprive a minority of any clearly written constitutional right, it might in a moral point of view justify revolution; certainly would if such right were a vital one. But such is not our case. All the vital rights of minorities and of individuals are so plainly assured to them by affirmations and negations, guaranties and prohibitions, in the Constitution that controversies never arise concerning them. But no organic law can ever be framed with a provision specifically applicable to every question which may occur in practical administration. No foresight can anticipate nor any document of reasonable length contain express provisions for all possible questions. Shall fugitives from labor be surrendered by national or by State authority? The Constitution does not expressly say. May Congress prohibit slavery in the Territories? The Constitution does not expressly say. Must Congress protect slavery in the Territories? The Constitution does not expressly say.

From questions of this class spring all our constitutional controversies, and we divide upon them into majorities and minorities. If the minority will not acquiesce, the majority must, or the Government must cease. There is no other alternative, for continuing the Government is acquiescence on one side or the other. If a minority in such case will secede rather than acquiesce, they make a precedent which in turn will divide and ruin them, for a minority of their own will secede from them whenever a majority refuses to be controlled by such minority. For instance, why may not any portion of a new confederacy a year or two hence arbitrarily secede again, precisely as portions of the present Union now claim to secede from it? All who cherish disunion sentiments are now being educated to the exact temper of doing this.

Is there such perfect identity of interests among the States to compose a new union as to produce harmony only and prevent renewed secession?

Plainly the central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy. A majority held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations, and always changing easily with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people. Whoever rejects it does of necessity fly to anarchy or to despotism. Unanimity is impossible. The rule of a minority, as a permanent arrangement, is wholly inadmissible; so that, rejecting the majority principle, anarchy or despotism in some form is all that is left.

I do not forget the position assumed by some that constitutional questions are to be decided by the Supreme Court, nor do I deny that such decisions must be binding in any case upon the parties to a suit as to the object of that suit, while they are also entitled to very high respect and consideration in all parallel cases by all other departments of the Government. And while it is obviously possible that such decision may be erroneous in any given case, still the evil effect following it, being limited to that particular case, with the chance that it may be overruled and never become a precedent for other cases, can better be borne than could the evils of a different practice. At the same time, the candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the Government upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made in ordinary litigation between parties in personal actions the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their Government into the hands of that eminent tribunal. Nor is there in this view any assault upon the court or the judges. It is a duty from which they may not shrink to decide cases properly brought before them, and it is no fault of theirs if others seek to turn their decisions to political purposes.

One section of our country believes slavery is right and ought to be extended, while the other believes it is wrong and ought not to be extended. This is the only substantial dispute. The fugitive-slave clause of the Constitution and the law for the suppression of the foreign slave trade are each as well enforced, perhaps, as any law can ever be in a community where the moral sense of the people imperfectly supports the law itself. The great body of the people abide by the dry legal obligation in both cases, and a few break over in each. This, I think, can not be perfectly cured, and it would be worse in both cases after the separation of the sections than before. The foreign slave trade, now imperfectly suppressed, would be ultimately revived without restriction in one section, while fugitive slaves, now only partially surrendered, would not be surrendered at all by the other.

Physically speaking, we can not separate. We can not remove our respective sections from each other nor build an impassable wall between them. A husband and wife may be divorced and go out of the presence and beyond the reach of each other, but the different parts of our country can not do this. They can not but remain face to face, and intercourse, either amicable or hostile, must continue between them. Is it possible, then, to make that intercourse more advantageous or more satisfactory after separation than before? Can aliens make treaties easier than friends can make laws? Can treaties be more faithfully enforced between aliens than laws can among friends? Suppose you go to war, you can not fight always; and when, after much loss on both sides and no gain on either, you cease fighting, the identical old questions, as to terms of intercourse, are again upon you.

This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing Government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it. I can not be ignorant of the fact that many worthy and patriotic citizens are desirous of having the National Constitution amended. While I make no recommendation of amendments, I fully recognize the rightful authority of the people over the whole subject, to be exercised in either of the modes prescribed in the instrument itself; and I should, under existing circumstances, favor rather than oppose a fair opportunity being afforded the people to act upon it. I will venture to add that to me the convention mode seems preferable, in that it allows amendments to originate with the people themselves, instead of only permitting them to take or reject propositions originated by others, not especially chosen for the purpose, and which might not be precisely such as they would wish to either accept or refuse. I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution—which amendment, however, I have not seen—has passed Congress, to the effect that the Federal Government shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of the States, including that of persons held to service. To avoid misconstruction of what I have said, I depart from my purpose not to speak of particular amendments so far as to say that, holding such a provision to now be implied constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable.

The Chief Magistrate derives all his authority from the people, and they have referred none upon him to fix terms for the separation of the States. The people themselves can do this if also they choose, but the Executive as such has nothing to do with it. His duty is to administer the present Government as it came to his hands and to transmit it unimpaired by him to his successor.

Why should there not be a patient confidence in the ultimate justice of the people? Is there any better or equal hope in the world? In our present differences, is either party without faith of being in the right? If the Almighty Ruler of Nations, with His eternal truth and justice, be on your side of the North, or on yours of the South, that truth and that justice will surely prevail by the judgment of this great tribunal of the American people.

By the frame of the Government under which we live this same people have wisely given their public servants but little power for mischief, and have with equal wisdom provided for the return of that little to their own hands at very short intervals. While the people retain their virtue and vigilance no Administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can very seriously injure the Government in the short space of four years.

My countrymen, one and all, think calmly and well upon this whole subject. Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time. If there be an object to hurry any of you in hot haste to a step which you would never take deliberately, that object will be frustrated by taking time; but no good object can be frustrated by it. Such of you as are now dissatisfied still have the old Constitution unimpaired, and, on the sensitive point, the laws of your own framing under it; while the new Administration will have no immediate power, if it would, to change either. If it were admitted that you who are dissatisfied hold the right side in the dispute, there still is no single good reason for precipitate action. Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him who has never yet forsaken this favored land are still competent to adjust in the best way all our present difficulty.

In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government, while I shall have the most solemn one to "preserve, protect, and defend it."

I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Lincoln vs Davis

There are many who blame Lincoln for the Civil War, that he somehow drove the Southern states into seceding and forming the Confederacy to protect themselves from his oppressive tariffs and unfair taxes. Somehow it simply doesn't make much sense, when compared to the facts. If you question this, simply look at the time lines.

As Abraham Lincoln was traveling by train from Illinois to Washington for his inauguration, the Confederate States chose Jefferson Davis as their provisional president of the Confederate States of America to great celebration in their new capital, Montgomery, Alabama. One of the most outspoken cheerleaders for secession, William Yancey from Alabama introduced Davis to the crowd; "The man and hour have met. Prosperity, honor, and victory await this administration." Davis's inauguration was filled with jubilation, booming cannons, and "Dixie" seemingly played on a loop, by the Montgomery Theater band, while actress named Maggie Smith danced on the flag of the United States.

Davis seemingly was much better prepared to be a war-time president. He was a former War Secretary, it was said that Davis was one of the most effective to hold that office. He was largely responsible for professionalizing and modernizing the U.S. Army. Davis was an experience soldier, a West Pointer, a decorated veteran and hero of the Mexican War.

Lincoln had none of these credentials. His only military experience was limited to leading a few volunteers in the Black Hawk War, Lincoln said he'd fought mosquitoes and led a charge on an onion patch.

Lincoln and Davis never met, but shared some interesting things in common. Neither Davis or Lincoln were popular leaders in their time, although time and mythology on both sides have elevated both today. Both men's handling of military affairs were extremely controversial. Both men had terrible times with their generals. Politically, Davis faced tremendous hostility from a large, well-organized faction, just as Lincoln had to contend with angry fellow Republicans and furious opposition Democrats.

When Davis tried to manage the war by placing power in the hands of a central government, he was called a tyrant and dictator, just as Lincoln was. Both men suffered much personally during the duration of the war, marked by tragedy and personal loss. Each man lost a son as well as many close personal friends during the war years. Each would grimly read the casualty reports that were heavy burdens for them both.

There are many, especially Libertarians, who make a big deal of Lincoln winning with less than 40% of the vote in 1860, even though the Republican Party was the largest of the four parties running, once the Democrats split into two, one North, one South. However, Davis's election was on much shakier ground. For a "country" that came into existence based on the protection of individual rights against a powerful central government, the Confederacy had allowed few people any say in electing a president. None of the six initial Confederate states had even chosen secession in popular voting. According to William C. Davis, in "Jefferson Davis: The Man and His Hour," their withdrawal from the Union had been decided in state conventions by 854 men, all of them selected by their legislatures. Of those, 157 had voted against secession. That means that the decision to secede was by only 697 men, mostly wealthy and upper-middle-class men who decided he destiny of 9 million people without an election. In Tennessee secession was ordered by its governor after the popular vote defeated a secession proposal.

After Davis was elected he told a northern visitor that slavery was not the cause of secession, explaining: "My own convictions, as to negro slavery, are strong. It has its evils and abuses, We recognize the negro as God and God's Book and God's Laws, in nature, tell us to recognize him, our inferior, fitted expressly for servitude. You cannot transform the negro into anything one-tenth as useful or as good as what slavery enables them to be."

During the rush to organize a government, and an army, one of Davis's first acts was to dispatch three commissioners to Washington in an attempt to negotiate a settlement with the Union. Leading them was the Confederate vice-president, Alexander Hamilton Stephens of Georgia. Lincoln had admired a speech that Stephens had given during their years as fellow Whigs in the Thirtieth Congress. They became close friends, although the later parted ways over slavery. Around Christmas, before going to Washington, Lincoln had sent Stephens a letter marked "For Your Eyes Only," promising that his administration would not interfere with slavery. When Stephens arrived in Washington, he hoped to negotiate an end to the crisis. With the situation moving toward a showdown, Stephens and the other delegates met in secret with Lincoln's secretary of state, William Seward, whom Lincoln had just defeated in the primary election for president, spoke without presidential authority. Seward promised that Fort Sumter would be evacuated, but Lincoln refused to meet with Stephens, unwilling to legitimize a Confederate government, he now viewed as a collection of rebels.

Lincoln was very consistent, he held open the olive branch to the Confederate states to avoid war, he would leave their slaves alone, but he held one thing firm, without compromise, all the states must come back into the Union.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Setting The Stage For Civil War

What were the circumstances that faced the North and the South as they sat at the precipice of war? We can learn a lot from the census of 1860, looking on paper, the Confederacy had no chance. Twenty-three states remained in the Union, and more would be added during the war. The population of the remaining Union states was about twenty-two million, four million of them men of combat age. There were one-hundred-thousand factories employing one million-one hundred thousand workers. The Union possessed more that twenty-thousand miles of railroad tracks, more than the rest of the world's combined, and ninety-six percent of the country's railroad equipment. Union banks held eighty-one percent of the nation's bank deposits and fifty-six million in gold.

The eleven Confederate states held a population of approximately nine-million, which included nearly four-million slaves. There were only about twenty-thousand factories employing about one-hundred thousand workers in the Confederate states. Only nine-thousand miles of railroad tracks across the Confederacy totally insignificant compared to the Union. More critical was that as the war progressed, the Confederacy lacked the factories to produce new rails and equipment to replace those captured or destroyed in what would become the first war to move by train. The South further couldn't come close to the Union's production of weapons. Just like we saw about eighty years later when the U.S. production capability buried the warring powers in W.W.II, the Union buried the Confederacy with their factories. Not only did the Union vastly out produce the South in weaponry, but in every category of agriculture production, with the exception of cotton. However, the most important agricultural product of the South would basically go unsold through the war years, first due to a misguided attempt to withhold cotton to England to force England to align with the South, then when realizing it was hurting the Confederacy more than England, the Union Navy was able to effectively blockade cotton shipment from Confederate ports.

There was no question, the Union and Confederate states were not "One Nation Under God." They were two nations, divided by politics,economy, and culture, all of those differences generated by the institution of slavery. The America of the Union states were fast advancing toward the twentieth century, with banks, booming factories, railroads, canals, and steamship lines. Its population was exploding with the influx of immigrants escaping the famine and political unrest in Ireland and Germany.

The southern states were in many ways standing still in time. They remained stuck in the agricultural, slave based economy of Jefferson's time, when the gentlemen planters of Virginia helped create the nation. Most of the South's cash wealth was tied up in slaves, and its chief product was the cotton produced by those slaves. When you learn that George Washington was looking for new cash crops because he was already convinced of the economic disaster that tobacco and slavery were producing. He was aware that slave labor was actually very costly and was causing a steadying decline in real income. Yet, the South was still an economic hostage to slavery and the cotton system.

Despite the common language, religion, race, and heritage, the North and South were already two cultures, two ideologies, two countries if you will. The South saw themselves being rolled over by a Northern economic machine that threatened every aspect of their way of life. This produced the seemingly irrational contradiction in people proclaiming a fight for "liberty" by defending the enslavement of someone else. There was a widely shared belief among many in the Confederacy that their liberty and way of life was being overpowered by northern political, industrial, and banking powers. That fear was whipped into a frenzy with race-baiting hysteria that politicians of the future Confederacy, the slave owning class, who had the most to lose from emancipation. They stoked the fear that freed blacks would ravage the white women. That potent mixture of economic fear and racially tinged emotions pushed past the issue of slavery. Even though the vast majority of Southern whites did not own slaves they thought the powers of the North had no right telling them how to live their lives. With their decided political powers advantage that they held since the founding and the 3/5ths rule gave the South a long held imbalance of power, diminishing in Congress as the free states were growing in number and population. With that the men of the Confederacy turned to the one weapon that they thought they had the right to use, secession.

Even thought the vast majority of the white population in the Confederacy were poor and held no slaves, they lacked political and economic clout. They feared being overwhelmed, this fear was fanned by politicians and editorial pages, who warned of "Black Republicans" of Lincoln and the "abolitionists Yankees" who owned the banks and set the prices for their crops would make them economic slaves. Once the war began, they were strengthened with the more human instinct to defend their own home and property.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Prelude To War.

As the tensions continued to increase between the slave holding South and the antislavery North, the prelude to war played out.

After the Kansas and Missouri battles in 1855, the battle moved to Congress since Kansas elected both a set of proslavery and antislavery representatives and two governors as well. President Franklin Pierce condemns this act since the federal government had already recognized the proslavery legislature. The Congressional Republicans supported antislavery legislation in Kansas, but Stephen Douglas introduces a bill allowing Kansas statehood only after another constitutional convention there. A few days later, after a speech in which he attacks supporters of slavery, Senator Charles Sumner is beaten with a cane on the Senate floor by Preston Brooks, a Congressman from South Carolina and a nephew of Senator Andrew Butler.

In the spirit of the occasion, South Carolinians sent Brooks dozens of brand new canes, with one bearing the phrase, "Hit him again." The Richmond Enquirer crowed: "We consider the act good in conception, better in execution, and best of all in consequences. These vulgar abolitionists in the Senate must be lashed into submission." The University of Virginia's Jefferson Literary and Debating Society sent a gold-headed cane to replace Brooks's broken one.

In 1858 between August and October the famed Lincoln-Douglas debates took place. In a series of seven debates. The debates were nothing like we know today, where candidates are tossed softballs by a panel of reporters, and the politicians exchange polite barbs back and forth. This was two men going at it like cage fighters, slugging away, questioning each other, throwing insults. It was not high minded and polite, it was crude, and nasty. It was the hot ticket in town, spectators flocked to watch them go at it.

Douglas went right on the offensive, trying to paint Lincoln as a fanatical abolitionist, a "Black Republican" who wanted to put freed slaves on an equal footing with whites. He promoted what was already a common fear for whites, the idea of black men marrying or sexually white women. It was a typical slaveholder's tactic, and it played to a basic fear among white Americans. Douglas conjured up images of tens of thousands of free slaves sweeping into Illinois territory, taking jobs, and women from white men. When Abolitionist Frederick Douglas visited Illinois during the debates, he was driven through the town of Freeport by a local abolitionist family. Senator Douglas used that to label Lincoln and his party; "If you, Black Republicans, think the negro ought to be on a social equality with your wives and daughters, and ride in a carriage with your wife whilst you drive the team, you have a perfect right to do so."

Lincoln defended himself from this "counterfeit logic" "Because I do not want a black woman for a slave, I must necessarily want her for a wife. I need not have her for either. I can just leave her alone." He also noted that if the mixing of races were the true concern, slavery had done much more to foster that situation. Of more than 405,000 mulattoes in the United States, nearly 350,000 of them lived in the South. Lincoln even jabbed Douglas further saying that Republicans by excluding slavery in the territories would curtail this "amalgamation" of the races.

In May, 1859, the Southern Commercial Convention states that all laws prohibiting the African slave trade should be repealed, an attempt to overturn the laws put in place in the original Constitutional Convention that ended the slave trade after twenty years from the ratification of the Constitution. In February of 1860, Senator Jefferson Davis introduced a bill saying that the federal government cannot prohibit slavery, but must safeguard the rights of slaveholders.

In May of 1860 the Republicans nominate Abraham Lincoln to run for president. The Democrats convention fell apart on regional lines, with all the Southern delegation walking out. After they left the Democrats nominated Stephen Douglas for president, and the Southern Democrats held their own convention and nominated John Breckinridge of Kentucky on the platform calling for the protection of slavery. During the campaign that followed, the Southerners make it very clear that they will secede if Lincoln is elected. After Lincoln was elected, the final address by President Buchanan said that the states have no right to secede, but that the federal government can do nothing to stop them.

Just six weeks after the election, and before Lincoln takes office, on December 20th South Carolina, the most aggressively militant state, called a state convention and votes to secede from the Union. Six days later Major Robert Anderson, who commanded the two federal forts in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina, moved his troops to the stronger one of the two, Fort Sumter. The next day, South Carolina troops seize Fort Moultrie and take over the federal arsenal at Charleston.
On December 31st, President Buchanan announces that Fort Sumter will be defended against attack and orders that Stars of the West to sail there with supplies.

From November 1860 to Lincoln's inauguration in March 1861 were very tense times, the nation held their collective breaths. Before Lincoln entered office, the first states of the Confederacy had left the Union. Eleven federal arsenals and forts in the South had been seized by state militias. Lame duck president James Buchanan wanted to leave office with the country at peace. However, South Carolina, the first and most aggressive of the seceded states, was moving toward a war footing.

In back rooms of Congress and at a Peace Conference presided over by former President John Tyler, who would become the only former president to join the Confederacy, well meaning politicians on both sides tried to find a way to keep the peace. One Mississippi Senator tried to advise the South Carolina governor to proceed cautiously, especially regarding Fort Sumter, and unfinished and obscure federal fort in Charleston Harbor. "The little garrison in its present position presses on nothing but a point of pride," said the senator, "We are probably soon to be involved in hat fiercest of human strife, a civil war." That was Senator Jefferson Davis.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Before Lincoln Was President, What Was On His Mind?

Who was Abraham Lincoln, what did he believe? Maybe we can learn from his own words.

In 1846, while serving one term in the House of Representatives most notable for his opposition of the Mexican War, and for his proposal for the gradual abolition of slavery in Washington, D.C. he spoke to the thinking of the Know Nothing Party.

"I am not a Know-Nothing. How could I be? How can anyone who abhors the oppression of Negroes, be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that "all men are created equal." We now practically read it "all men are created equal, except Negroes." When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read, "all men are created equal, except Negroes, and foreigners, and catholics." When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty- to Russia,for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy."

On accepting the nomination for the U.S. Senate at the convention for the Illinois Republican Party in Springfield in June 1858.

"We are now in the fifth year, since a policy was initiated, with the avowed object, and confident promise, of putting an end to slavery agitation.
Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only, not ceased, but has constantly augmented.
In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached and passed.
A house divided against itself cannot stand.
I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.
I do not expect the Union to be dissolved, I not expect the house to fall, but I do expect it will cease to be divided.
It will become all one thing or all the other.
Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the states, old as well as new - North as well as South."

While Lincoln was firmly convinced of slavery's immorality. Lincoln was not, however, an abolitionist. In the political world of the mid 1800s where slavery was the one issue that either built or destroyed a politician's career. Lincoln walked a careful line, believing slavery was wrong, but also believed it was legal under the Constitution. He opposed keeping slavery from growing into any new state or territory but didn't believe that the government had the Constitutional authority to have any say in those states where slavery was already planted. Lincoln hoped, as did Jefferson and Washington before him, that if it was cut off from expanding, it would eventually die out under it's own weight.

By modern standards, much of Lincoln's thoughts and statements about blacks would be called racist. He did not think blacks were equal to whites in intellect or ability. He opposed the idea of blacks voting, serving on juries, or intermarrying with whites. Earlier in his career Lincoln believed that all blacks should be removed from the United States and resettled in some other country. "My first impulse would be to free all the slaves, and send them to Liberia, to their own native land. But a moment's reflection would convince me, that whatever high hopes there may be in this, in the long run, its sudden execution would be impossible."

Still Lincoln fervently believed that when the Declaration of Independence said "all men are created equal," it included Negroes, and Lincoln took that to mean that blacks should be given the opportunity to labor for wages as white men did.

In September 1858 in a speech in Edwardsville, Illinois, Lincoln warned.

" When you have succeeded in dehumanizing the Negro; when you have put him down and made hit forever impossible for him to be but as the beasts of the field; when you have extinguished his soul and placed him where the ray of hope is blown out in darkness like that which broods ovr the spirits of he damned, are you quite sure that the demon you have roused will not turn and rend you?"

Be very careful when looking into history and trying to place our values, mores, and thinking upon those figures of the past. Our experiences and theirs are quite different. What appears to us as profound racism if seen in someone today, was actually very much the opposite during that time in history, it was those, like Lincoln and their open minded, and support of blacks that caused so much fear and angst in the hearts and minds of so many of their countrymen.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Did Lincoln Start The Civil War?

There are many today who believe that President Lincoln agitated and intentionally started the Civil War. How do the facts stand up to those feelings?

When did the Civil War actually begin? When did Americans start killing other Americans? Was it when the South Carolina militia attacked Fort Sumter in 1861? Could an argument be made that it actually began when the first Africans were unloaded from slave trading ships in Virginia? Maybe we could say it started with the Founding Fathers who made so many awkward compromises on the slavery issue to bring the southern states into the process of ratifying the Constitution? Or was it when Nat Turner and his fellow slaves took up arms and killed their masters in a failed quest for freedom? Maybe it was in Alton, Illinois, where a mob murdered Elijah Lovejoy in 1837 due to his abolitionist activities. However, if Civil War is constituted by groups of people taking up arms against one another, we could say that the Civil War really started in the territory of Kansas in 1854, years before the attack on Fort Sumter.

Just three short years after Henry Clay's Compromise of 1850, the two parties, the Whigs and Democrats, after accepting the Compromise were able to lower the tensions. However, there was still a ticking time bomb about to go off in Kansas.

Senator Stephen Douglas, who was playing politics in an attempt to win favor in both the North and South to help him win the White House, and to win a big financial bonanza for his state of Illinois, made a play more weighed by ambition than philosophy or idealism. To get a railroad route approved to go through Illinois instead of a Southern route, he came up with the proposal for the Kansas-Nebraska Act to get Southern support. This act would allow each state in the western territory to choose if they would be a free or slave state. This shattered the 1820 Missouri Compromise, and caused the tensions over the future of slavery to boil to the top.

The law split the Democrat Party along North-South lines, it destroyed the Whig Party, and created the new Republican Party. One of the Whigs who became a Republican was an Illinois lawyer Abraham Lincoln, who acknowledged the legal right to keep slaves in existing slave states, while supporting the idea of gradual emancipation. Lincoln was not at all ambivalent when it came to the Kansas-Nebraska Act, he condemned and calling Douglas a dangerous enemy of democracy.

The Act caused an immediate reaction, where those on both sides started sending men, money, and guns into the territory to influence the vote on slavery. The Emigrant Aid Society in Massachusetts, an abolitionist group founded by industrialists, sent antislavery settlers to relocate in Kansas. They sent boxes of Sharp's breech loading rifles, known as Beecher's Bibles since they were sent by Henry Ward Beecher's Plymouth Church in Brooklyn to arm the settlers. By the way, you can see Reverend Beecher's pulpit from when he was pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis where he was before moving to New York.

The proslavery groups were just as active, several thousand slave owners,known as Border Ruffians, came in from Missouri, to influence the voting. They were stoked by those like Senator David Achison from Missouri, and passionate promoter of slavery, who took leave from the Senate to lead the Border Ruffians. Achison threatened "There are eleven hundred men coming over from Platte County to vote, if that ain't enough we can send five thousand - enough to kill every God-damned abolitionist in the Territory."

Achison's Missouri men succeeded in electing a proslavery legislature in March 1855. The antislavery supporters claimed the election was fraudulent, and called for a constitutional convention banning slavery, and banning blacks from the Kansas Territory. By October there were separate elections naming a proslavery and an antislavery representative in Congress for Kansas.

During the winter the controversy went back and forth between Free-Soilers and slaveholders. Finally the time bomb blew into a bloody civil war. Violent battles became commonplace, lynchings, murder, and burning properties replaced democratic debate. The federal authorities, and President Franklin Pierce, were helpless to stop the bloodshed.

Lawrence, Kansas was heavily populated by Free-soilers, who gave sanctuary to abolitionists, fugitive slaves, and newspaper editors who had been indicted for treason by the proslavery territorial government. On May 21st, 1856, armed with five cannons, and eight hundred man army of Border Ruffians attacked Lawrence, killing one man, destroying the newspaper's offices, and burning the hotel and the Free-Soil governor's home.

That was the beginning of all out guerrilla warfare. Four days later, the fanatical abolitionist John Brown and four of his sons drug five proslavery settlers, who had nothing to do with the Lawrence attack, from their homes and shot and hacked them to death with broad swords, right in front of their families. Brown and his sons evaded capture, they were never indicted or punished for the massacre. Four years later, Brown would attack Harper's Ferry, that gave him a name that lived in infamy. His actions in Kansas provoked more fighting, eventually more than two hundred people died in these border wars.

As we progress through the lead up to and the actual Civil War, it should become very obvious to anyone who would set aside emotional baggage and look at history objectively will see the truth.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

1850 Compromise

There are far more people than most could imagine who fervently believe that President Lincoln was a tyrant and a dictator. They believe that he started the "War of Northern Aggression" that most of us call the Civil War. The argument is that the innocent South just wanted to follow the Constitution of the United States and be allowed to secede from the Union by applying their own States rights. This is widely believed by many who have been generationally indoctrinated with an emotional attachment to a false doctrine.

However, let's take a look at a two speeches that saved America from Civil War in 1850, eleven years earlier. We also see the speech of one of the strongest proponents of secession. Hear the words, hear the topic, hear the reality of why the conflict existed.

As Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky said in the Senate in 1850.

"In my opinion there is no right on the part of any or more states to secede from the Union. War and the dissolution of the Union are identical and inevitable, in my opinion. There can be a dissolution of the Union only be consent or by war. Consent no once can anticipate, from any ... See More existing state of things, is likely to be given; and war is the only alternative by which a dissolution could be accomplished....And such a war as it would be, following the dissolution of the Union! Sir, we may search the pages of history, and none so ferocious, so bloody, so implacable, so exterminating... would rage with such violence....
I implore gentlemen, I adjure them, whether from South or North... to pause at the edge of the precipice, before the fearful and dangerous leap be taken into the yawning abyss below, from which none who ever take it shall return to safety."

From the John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, 1850.

"I have, Senators, believed from the first that the agitation of the subject of slavery would, if not prevented by some timely and effective measure, end in disunion. Entertaining this opinion, I have, on all proper occasions, endeavored to call the attention of both the two great parties which ... See More divide the country to adopt some measure to prevent so great a disaster, but without success. The agitation has been permitted to proceed, with almost no attempt to resist it, until it has reached a point when it can no longer be disguised or denied that the Union is in danger. You have thus had forced upon you the greatest and gravest question that can ever come under your consideration - How can the Union be preserved.?
What has endangered the Union?
To this question there can be but one answer, - the immediate cause is the almost universal discontent which pervades all the States composing the Southern section of the Union. This discontent commenced with the agitation of the slavery question and has been increasing ever since...What has caused this widely diffused and almost universal discontent?
One of the causes is undoubtedly, to be traced to long-continued agitation of the slave question on the part of the North, and the many aggressions which they have made on the rights of the South during the time...
As then, the North has the absolute control over the Government, it is manifest, that on all questions between it and the South, where there is a diversity of interests, the interests of the latter will be sacrificed to the former, however oppressive the effects may be; as the South possesses no means by which it can resist... See More, through the action of the Government. But if there was no question of vital importance to the South, in reference to which there was a diversity of views between the two sections, this state of things might be endured, without the hazard of destruction to the South. But this is not the fact. There is a question of vital importance to the Southern section, in reference to which the views and feelings of the two sections are as opposite and hostile as they can possibly be.
I refer to the relation between the two races in the Southern section, which constitutes a vital portion of her social organization. Every portion of the North entertains views and feelings more or less hostile to it... On the contrary, the Southern sections regards the relation as one which cannot be destroyed without subjecting the two races to the greatest calamity, and the section to poverty, desolation, and wretchedness; and accordingly they feel bound, by every consideration of interest and safety, to defend it."

The great Daniel Webster offered one of the most famous speeches in Senate history to a crowd that overflowed the chamber and galleries. Webster was long Clay's political foe, now joined Clay in an effort to save the Union. "I wish to speak today, not as a Massachusetts man, nor as a northern man, but as an American.... I speak today for the preservation of the Union. Hear me for my cause." Webster threw his full political weight alongside Clay, going on to say, "Peaceable secession is an utter impossibility."

It is more than obvious by the words of these two men that the cause of the Civil War was not about State rights, it was not about anything but the topic of slavery, and slavery only.

These speeches were given more than a decade before the war, 11 years before Lincoln took office. Through Stephen Douglas and Henry Clay America averted a Civil War... See More in 1850 with the Compromise of 1850 over the ongoing question if slavery would be allowed in the new states being formed out of the land acquired from Mexico.

The defeated South created a fairy tale of half truths, and out right lies to assuage their obvious guilt. It was not about anything but slavery, it wasn't started by Lincoln.