Did Lincoln provoke the US civil war? [duplicate]

Did Lincoln provoke the US civil war? [duplicate]


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Did Lincoln provoke the US civil war?

Did there exist a position that Lincoln took that ignited the war, or was it just the consequence of long unsolved US problems.

If the reason is the second, which problems provoked the war?


There were long unresolved problems that lay behind the US Civil War. At most, the election of Lincoln as President was just a catalyst. What follows is copied from my answer here.


The tensions between North and South had been growing since long before Lincoln was elected. While it is true than many in the South believed that Lincoln supported the forced suppression of slavery, his election as a Republican president was simply the trigger for secession.

The story of John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry in Virginia in October 1859 explains a great deal. Brown had planned to instigate a major slave rebellion in the South, but the raid was poorly planned and ill equipped (less than 20 men without adequate rations). Although the raid was doomed from the outset (he and his men were captured within 2 days), the response from many in the North was widespread admiration.

Brown was hanged for his actions in the raid, but came to be seen as a martyr by many in the North, including the popular poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson. This just fuelled the flames of outrage in the South.

Although the Republican party condemned Brown and the raid on Harper's Ferry, many individuals within that party did not. Again, this caused further outrage in the South. Several Southern politicians blamed the Republican Party for the attack and (falsely) claimed that that Abraham Lincoln supported Brown's intentions. Fake news is not a new phenomenon! As a result, the idea of Abraham Lincoln as President became intolerable to many in the south.

Both sides were becoming more and more polarised. Moderate voices on both sides were silenced (or perhaps simply not reported - moderate opinion rarely sells newspapers!)

Some of the key milestones on the road that led to the secession of the Southern states are discussed on this site, and are well worth reading.

For Abraham Lincoln's opinions on the subject of secession, this site, maintained by the National Park Service is also worth a read.

I'd also recommend watching the first episode of Ken Burns' 1990 documentary series The Civil War. Actually, I'd recommend watching the whole series. In my opinion, one of the best television documentaries ever made.


Also, as @T.E.D. suggested in his comment above, I think you'll find the answers to Why did the Southern states secede from the US? informative.

Hope that helps clarify.


“Provoke” connotes intent. Lincoln had no such intent. On one hand, legal slavery was falling from favor in most countries and essentially disappeared within decades of the Civil War. But Lincoln's best thought on ending slavery was a buyout of the southern “chattel” investment. Industrial mechanization was the better hope but a few years in the future.
The basic sticking point wasn't the status quo in that it could be ridden out. The intractable issue was the new states that presented the issue of free or slave. In many ways the war started not with Fort Sumner but with the Kansas/Missouri bloodshed.

For many the principle wasn't slavery (few in the south owned slaves) but whether they lived in the united states or the United States. There was a deep belief that the association was voluntary and terminable. Slavery was the issue that brought the principle into play. Lincoln's election just made it clear that the more industrial north was tending towards John Brown rather than patience.


Did Lincoln provoke the US civil war? [duplicate] - History

I think that you need to think of this from the South's perspective. Not even 100 years ago, they fought in a war to free themselves from the British because the British were making policy for the colonists without the colonists having any genuine say in those policies.

Now they are looking at an American government where the North will be making policy for Southerners without the Southerners having any genuine say in those policies.

You are arguing the justice of the Southern cause, I was not. I was pointing out to you that regardless of the justice involved, the Southern m.o was to drop their trousers and take a dump on the electoral process. Abraham Lincoln, in a completely legal manner, was elected the president of all of the states in 1860. Secession was a direct and immediate response to that election. It was a southern nullification of the results, accomplished via secession, not justified by secession. What the South did was very much akin to someone losing a chess game and solving it by kicking over the board.

The justice of the cause, as I previously noted, is a separate, moral argument.

From 1825-1860 there were 18 Congresses. Southern Democrats were a majority in the Senate in 15 of them and the last 8 from 1845-1861. They controlled the House in 13 of those Congresses and in 5 of the last 8 from 1845-1861. During that same time period there were eight presidential elections. The Southern Democrats won 6 of them. In the 16 years before the Civil War, the Southern Democrats controlled the White house in 12 of them, including the 8 immediately preceding the war.

I ask, in what possible view are the poor southern states the abused minority? From 1825-1860 they controlled the Senate 83% of the time. They controlled the House 72% of the time. They controlled the presidency 75% of the time. Yes, they lost control of all BUT the Senate in the 1860 election, but prior to that, they had controlled the country.

So the South had been the Big Dogs for some time.

Was there any reason to believe that this was not a temporary situation? That given another couple rounds of elections, they'd be back on top?

I've loved reading this thread. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out how people could look at Confederate forces attacking Ft. Sumter as Lincoln provoking a war.

But now I see. For some time prior to 1861, the South had held 75% or so of the power in Washington. Then the tide changed and they came to believe that they were now going to have to knuckle under to laws made by the North.

Instead of realizing that in a democracy you win some, you lose some and eventually you get another turn at bat, they decided to secede. They could have gone about their business and waited for the North to get organized enough to do something about it, which might have taken years. Instead, they decide to show they meant business and were a force to be reckoned with.

Confederates had been raising a militia for awhile. Lincoln was no dummy. He knew that if you raise an army, you're going to use it before long. It was just a matter of when and where. So he resupplied Ft. Sumter, apparently in hopes this would bring the matter to head, at least according to his friend's account.

Confederates oblige by attacking Ft. Sumter, later claiming Lincoln provoked the attack by resupplying federal troops. What was he supposed to do, let the men starve?

IMO, the argument that Lincoln provoked the war is a weak one. The Civil War was coming. Perhaps he had a hand in where the first battle was fought, but that train had left the station.

It's too darn bad too. Our nation was finally getting on its feet and beginning to prosper. The Civil War was a horrible experience for the nation. But the South took a dreadful beating. If only they hadn't lost faith in the democratic process.

After reading through these many posts, the conclusion I've come to is the Civil War was provoked by men who'd been the Big Dogs for awhile and wanted to keep things that way.

As to Sumter, however, if Lincoln wanted the Confederate government to believe he intended to force his way into the harbor, the easiest means of getting the enemy the message was to let Welles send orders to the ship captains through the usual channels then, secretly change just one of the orders. That is exactly what Lincoln did. He had Welles send Mercer his original orders to be ready to sail the Powhatan to Charleston.

Therefore, the conclusion must reasonably follow that Lincoln intended that the Confederates know the Powhatan was going to sea, apparently under the command of Captain Mercer and on a mission to storm Charleston Harbor and reinforce Fort Sumter.

I sorry but for someone to have the temerity to criticize a historian with the stature of Doris Kearns Goodwin one had better produce both a foundation and actual evidence to support their argument. If I were to grade this freshmen level paper there would be big red circles around:

"easiest means of getting the enemy the message."

How so, what were those usual means and what is the substantiation for making the claim. Perhaps a sentence or two describing southern spy networks or how southern sympathizers were able to intercept messages. Something instead we get a statement as if it were fact.

"the conclusion must reasonably follow"

Ah no the conclusion mustn't reasonably follow because the record from the participants clear indicate that there was confusion regarding the orders. Now whether one buys those accounts is one thing but there is simply no prove by which to discount them.

The author asserts the superiority of trial evidence over history but obviously even the most inept trial lawyer knows that supposition is inadmissible in a court just as it has little place in history.

The same can be said for this gem of unsupported argument:

How, in riling the country to war, was Lincoln to turn on its head the perception that he was the aggressor? How to make it seem that South Carolina was the aggressor and that Lincoln’s government was merely defending itself from such aggression. How, in other words, to provoke South Carolina into bombarding the fort without, apparently, any provocation?


Lincoln Chooses War, 1861

On November 6, 1860, Abraham Lincoln of Illinois was elected president of the United States. Running against a split Democratic Party (two Democratic candidates), with a Unionist Party candidate further fragmenting the vote, Lincoln won with a plurality (39 percent) of the popular vote. He carried solely Northern and Western states and won none in the South. By February 1, 1861, just over a month before Lincoln’s March 4 presidential inauguration, seven Southern states – South Carolina, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas – had seceded from the Union. They declared themselves the Confederate States of America and elected Jefferson Davis of Mississippi as their president. Then on April 12, 1861, Confederate artillery fired upon Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, S.C., in what became the opening shots in a bloody, four-year-long Civil War. Recent scholarship estimates that during the war at least 750,000 Americans died (over 2 percent of the country’s 1860 population), while an equally appalling number were wounded, with many left crippled for life.

During the five crucial months between the election and the day the first shots were fired upon Fort Sumter, Lincoln faced critical decisions. The choices he made – particularly those regarding a possible peaceful compromise and the April 1861 attempt to relieve the fort – made the bloodiest war in American history inevitable.

Even after Lincoln’s election sent Southern states into secession frenzy, most Americans in the North and the South assumed that some compromise acceptable to both sides would be reached and that war would be avoided. In fact, compromises dating back to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 had peacefully settled continuing sectional disputes between the North and the South, including the 1820 Missouri Compromise, the Compromise of 1850 and the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act. Some of these disputes involved economic issues such as tariffs, but overwhelmingly the subject of continuing sectional contention was slavery – its future in the states where it existed and, most troublesome, its possible extension into America’s Western territories.

Although after Lincoln’s election several factions, notably those in the Border States (slave states but staunchly pro-Union in sentiment), pursued efforts to reach a peaceful compromise and avert war, two other factions opposed any compromise at all. The abolitionist radical element of Northern Republicans adamantly refused any war-averting agreement that would allow slavery in the territories, while the Southerners known as “Fire-eaters” single-mindedly demanded their states’ independence from the United States. The ineffective lame-duck president James Buchanan blamed the secession crisis entirely on “abolitionist Republicans” and provided no leadership to solve the issue peacefully. Thus Lincoln’s active involvement in forging a compromise seemed America’s only hope for avoiding war.

LINCOLN’S DECISION: Despite desperate pleas by moderate Republicans (then clearly representing the party’s majority), president-elect Lincoln chose not to make any attempts at striking a deal that would avoid war. Publicly, he frustrated the efforts of those who were desperately trying to reach a peaceful compromise by refusing to speak out – maintaining a “paralyzed silence,” as the New York Herald complained. Privately, Lincoln sided solidly with those in the Radical Republican minority faction, telling them he would “hold firm” and refuse any agreement that included permitting slavery in any form in the territories. “Thus,” as Lincoln biographer Harold Holzer concluded, “compromise was doomed.”

FORT SUMTER

As the newly formed Confederate government moved to confiscate federal property within the seceded states, the major focal point of both sides by early April 1861 became Union-held Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. Major Robert Anderson commanded the fort’s garrison, and although he steadfastly refused Confederate demands to evacuate the fort, no military hostilities had yet commenced. Anderson’s supplies, however, were critically low. If the garrison was not resupplied soon (by sea, the only possible means), the fort would have to be evacuated.

No one in the North or the South doubted that any Union attempt to resupply Fort Sumter would provoke Confederate military action. Yet even if resupplied, the garrison could not hold out indefinitely against the numerous Confederate artillery batteries ringing the coastline surrounding the island fort. Whether Fort Sumter received supplies or not, its evacuation at some point was inevitable. The choice Lincoln faced was whether the evacuation would be conducted in a manner that would maintain an uneasy peace, or done in a way that would provoke a Confederate military response.

LINCOLN’S DECISION: Lincoln, knowing full well his decision would cause the Confederates to respond militarily, chose to send naval vessels under Captain Gustavus Fox to resupply Fort Sumter. On April 6, 1861, the president notified South Carolina governor Francis Pickens of his intent to resupply the garrison. This notification prompted the Confederate government to order General P.G.T. Beauregard in Charleston to issue Anderson a surrender ultimatum. When Anderson refused to surrender, Confederate artillery began bombarding Fort Sumter at 4 a.m. on April 12. Anderson surrendered April 14.

By choosing to resupply the fort, Lincoln had maneuvered the Confederacy into firing the first shot. Confederate Secretary of State Robert Toombs clearly understood the dire implications of the Fort Sumter action: “It puts us in the wrong. It is fatal.”

CALL TO ARMS: REAPING THE WHIRLWIND

Although the first shots had been fired at Fort Sumter, the scope of the worsening conflict briefly remained limited. Indeed, during the “Secession Winter” of 1860-61, four Southern states (Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina) and the Border States (Missouri, Kentucky and Maryland) had rejected the idea of leaving the Union. However, when on April 15, 1861, Lincoln chose to issue a “call to arms” to raise 75,000 troops to “put down the rebellion” and then on April 20 ordered a naval blockade of Southern ports, he effectively undermined any further efforts by Southern pro-Unionists to keep their states from seceding. Over the next two months, the Fire-eater faction gained ascendancy in the remaining four Southern states – Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina – and led them out of the Union.

Moreover, Lincoln’s actions evoked rising pro-Confederate sentiment in the vital Border States, forcing the president to hold them in the Union through military force and extralegal means (such as imposing martial law, suspending habeas corpus and imprisoning legislators). Nevertheless, a substantial number of the Border States’ citizens joined the ranks of the Confederate Army during the war, while a brutal no-quarter guerrilla war broke out in Missouri and many of the border regions.

The biblical passage “they that sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind” seems an apt description of the tragic events in America during the five crucial months of November 1860 to April 1861. Many leaders in the North and the South bore responsibility for “sowing the wind” during this troubled time. Yet Abraham Lincoln was perhaps the only one whose choices might have allowed the country to avoid “reaping the whirlwind” of bloody civil war.

Jerry D. Morelock, PhD, “Armchair General” Editor in Chief


The Election Of The 16th President Of The United States

The election of Abraham Lincoln is considered to be one of the most crucial elections in the entire history of the United States.

The election of Abraham Lincoln is considered to be one of the most crucial elections in the entire history of the United States. Abraham Lincoln was pitted against Stephen Douglas who was the representative for the Democratic Party, as well as John Bell, and John C. Breckinridge. The central dispute throughout the election was slavery.

The most unusual aspect of this presidential election was that southern Democrats did not want their side to win. Their goal was to leave the Union, and they wanted to do so in a peaceful manner. Immediately after the results of the election and Lincoln's victory, legislature of South Carolina arranged political meetings and started the talk about succession.

The election of Abraham Lincoln is considered to be one of the major events that led to the start of the civil war in 1861. It was the final nail in the coffin for the Southerners that triggered secession. Southerners were feeling the threat of Lincoln and believed that he would put an end on slavery and its expansion. The North was gaining more power, and the slave states (the states in which slave trading was still legal) have deteriorated in their influence and presence in the House of Representatives. Eventually, many of the slave states decided to form the Confederacy and opted for secession, which in turn paved the way for the start of The American Civil War.


Did Lincoln provoke the US civil war? [duplicate] - History

Second, while you are right that no law was ever passed that said "oh, btw, secession is illegal" I have heard it argued that the 14th Amendment does more clearly nullify the concept of a right to secession.

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

This is basically saying that citizenship in the United States as a national body is supreme to the citizenship/affiliation to the State in which they reside. It also goes on to clarify that no State can make or enforce any law that would deny the rights of citizenship to citizens of the United States.

Hence, we are all citizens of the United States first and of our State second. Our State has no ability to take any action that would deny us our rights as citizens of the United States, including taking away our status as citizens of the United States.

No, it's still not a "secession isn't possible" law, but it is FAR clearer than the Constitution was previously on the concept of a national body supreme to the individual components.

All true but your final sentence reveals that secession is still something which would be argued on the basis of what other language implies, not on the basis of its conformity to a specific, unambiguous law. That was the situation which prevailed before the war, both sides looking at the Constitution and finding language which implied that secession was illegal/legal. The language of the 14th amendment gives more implication ammunition to the argument that secession was illegal, but does not settle the matter in such a way that someone contemplating secession would be restrained because the law was clearly against he or she.

What restraint there is these days is a product of the outcome of the war, not any subsequent legislation.

NJGOAT

This is a distinct moderation of your stance. Not even a couple of posts back you said this.

Lincoln didn't accidentally wait until Congress was in recess. The fort had been sitting for months, while Congress was in session, awaiting instructions to evacuate or awaiting new supplies. Lincoln never pushed the matter. He waited. Because he was strategizing, figuring out how to get the South to do what he needed, so that he could act.

This is not the first time you made such statements and basically amounts to you arguing that Lincoln hatched some sort of plot that required him to wait until Congress wasn't in session. My primary issue with much of your argument so far has been the implication that Lincoln acted maliciously. I feel you have done a very poor job substantiating that and in the latest post moderated your position. You can't claim Lincoln was biding his time and scheming when he made his choice three weeks into his presidency and you can't imply he went behind the back of Congress when they were never even in secession since he took the office. Both of those points were central to the part of your argument that I took exception to because it implied malice.

All you have to do is acknowledge the possibility that Lincoln did strategize and plan the supply ship to Ft Sumter, and then to start looking at all the evidence, and how it makes sense as a provocation of the South. I'm not ignoring the South's culpability in all this. I blame the hotheads in South Carolina for simply not blockading the fort off from the warship, and letting the fort run out of supplies. Stupid! Lincoln knew they were hotheads going in. And Lincoln had to delegitimize the Confederacy. Lincoln's acts were provocative at Ft Sumter. I don't think Lincoln ever acted without intention. Therefore, I believe Lincoln was intentionally provocative at Ft Sumter. And that's all that the thread asks.

It looks more and more to me that it would have all hinged on Samuel Nelson's opinion.

I was wrong about Nelson in the Prizes Case - I had said that he wrote the majority opinion, but have since found that Nelson wrote a dissenting opinion that case. Even then, Nelson found in his dissenting opinion that Lincoln was justified in his naval blockade as he was putting down a rebellion. This is a telling point - if Nelson truly believed in the legal right of secession, then why wouldn't he have claimed that it was a war and not a rebellion?

All true but your final sentence reveals that secession is still something which would be argued on the basis of what other language implies, not on the basis of its conformity to a specific, unambiguous law. That was the situation which prevailed before the war, both sides looking at the Constitution and finding language which implied that secession was illegal/legal. The language of the 14th amendment gives more implication ammunition to the argument that secession was illegal, but does not settle the matter in such a way that someone contemplating secession would be restrained because the law was clearly against he or she.

What restraint there is these days is a product of the outcome of the war, not any subsequent legislation.

Honey, I answered your question regarding the legal process to bring the case to the US Supreme Court. I pointed out, the FEDERAL government would have had to sue. The FEDERAL government sues states all the time.

First. "honey?" Were you going for "honestly" or are you boldly and publicly revealing some crush on me?

Second. You are mistaken. The Confederate position was that they were no longer in the Union at all. Thus their position was that they were no longer under the jurisdiction of the courts of the United States. They would have no reason at all to react in any manner to such a lawsuit. All subpoenas would be ignored, no one would show up to represent the Confederate side because to do so would be to invalidate what they were claiming. that they are no longer subject to US jurisdiction.

DC. I suspect that the problem is that you seem to be viewing all this as though nothing else had changed, that with or without secession the courts, and the recognition of the authority of the courts, would be unchanged and matters could be settled by some agreed upon legal process. I have been trying to get you to understand that all of that goes out the window the moment secession is declared. When that happens we have complete legal chaos. We have competing claims of jurisdiction.

Only if the courts had been approached before secession took place would the jurisdictional stability exist for that court to have authority both north and south of the Mason Dixon line. Once you have declared yourself out the union, you forfeit the protection of the courts in that union, you have renounced their jurisdiction over you.

You can't be in the union and subject to its courts, and out of the union using those courts to justify your legality, simultaneously. You can be one or the other, but clearly not both.

As for the Supreme Court justices, are you conceding that since the justices are appointed for LIFE, and that there is no provision that says they have to resign if their nationality should change (and a change of nationality should be considered voluntary, by the way, those justices, in the wake of secession, could easily have stated they were now residents of Washington DC, and not of Alabama, Georgia, Maryland, etc.)that they would have been allowed to rule or recuse themselves as they saw fit. Your assumption that they would have been disqualified wasn't based on the Constitution or the law.

None of the above matters, as I keep pointing out, once secession has been declared, all of the normal operations of the court are altered. You suddenly have a situation where you have sitting members on the US Supreme Court who have just announced a decision which turns them retroactively into foreign nationals. That means that at the time of any decision about the legality of secession, they were already disqualified from sitting on the court. And they cannot turn themselves into US citizens simply by declaring that they are now Washing DC residents, that isn't how one becomes a US citizen.

But. most importantly, regardless of the specifics of this argument, merely that there is an argument, and there would have been an argument in 1860, is sufficient to tell you that the losing side of the case would never have accepted the verdict. The South would have claimed non jurisdiction, the north would have claimed illegally sitting justices. Neither side would have been satisfied that they lost fairly and the matter is now settled.


Battle of the Wilderness: Grant’s Refusal to Retreat

By the morning of May 7, the two armies were essentially where they had been at the start of the battle, 48 hours earlier. The Battle of the Wilderness ended inconclusively, though the Union Army suffered more than 17,500 casualties over the two days of fighting, some 7,000 more than the toll suffered by the Confederates. Despite the costly nature of the battle, Grant refused to order a retreat, having promised Lincoln that regardless of the outcome, he would not halt his army’s advance.

That night, exhausted Federal troops left their trenches and began marching south, toward the lower edge of the Wilderness. As Grant came riding to the head of the troops, the blue-coated soldiers slowly realized they were not in retreat (as had been assumed), and broke into wild cheering. The Federals marched towards the crossroads town of Spotsylvania Courthouse, but Lee’s Confederates managed to get there first, stalling the advance again in a series of confrontations beginning on May 8 and lasting nearly two weeks.


Did Lincoln provoke the US civil war? [duplicate] - History

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, insurgent 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.

Here is one historian's narrative of what happened. And you have to admit, considering what we know of Lincoln, the idea that he "bungled" the events at Ft Sumter does seem far-fetched.

There is also Orville Browning's diary entry from July 1861, recounting a conversation Browning had with Lincoln, where Lincoln told Browning that "the plan worked", and that Ft Sumter's fall was more valuable to the Union than it could have been otherwise. Strategically speaking, Ft Sumter wasn't of much value to the Union, and it could have easily been abandoned. In fact, Buchanan had pretty much set the stage for abandoning Ft Sumter, and Lincoln would have been able to assign responsibility for the loss of the fort to Buchanan's inaction.

Lincoln could not rely on Congress to compel the Southern States to remain in the Union, nor could Lincoln rely on the Supreme Court to decide with him that the states were not permitted to secede. Neither Congress nor the Supreme Court could/would keep the Union whole. It was up to Lincoln to act. Lincoln waited until Congress was in recess to take action to reprovision Ft Sumter. Why.

Who "provoked" the war is always going to be subordinate to one's view of the legality of secession.

Obviously without secession there would have been no war. If you see secession as a justified reaction to a threat to the South's well being, and you see it as a legal action, then any action Lincoln took which appeared to be violating the rights of a sovereign nation, was provocative.

If you see secession as an illegal reaction on the part of people who agreed to abide by a legal democratic process for settling their conflicts, then the president had every right to take whatever actions he deemed needed to preserve the authority of the Federal government in the southern states.

And in that the Constitution neither prohibited secession nor sanctioned it, there will always be room to argue about whether it was legal or illegal, moral or immoral.

Who "provoked" the war is always going to be subordinate to one's view of the legality of secession.

Obviously without secession there would have been no war. If you see secession as a justified reaction to a threat to the South's well being, and you see it as a legal action, then any action Lincoln took which appeared to be violating the rights of a sovereign nation, was provocative.

If you see secession as an illegal reaction on the part of people who agreed to abide by a legal democratic process for settling their conflicts, then the president had every right to take whatever actions he deemed needed to preserve the authority of the Federal government in the southern states.

And in that the Constitution neither prohibited secession nor sanctioned it, there will always be room to argue about whether it was legal or illegal, moral or immoral.

The problem, of course, is that the Supreme Court had already indicated its inclination to find the secession legal. And that was Lincoln's reality. A Congress that didn't want the South to secede, but that was unprepared to go to war over the issue, and a Supreme Court headed by Taney that was prepared to uphold the legality of secession.

Lincoln was boxed in. And Lincoln might well have thought that given the North's advantages, financially and militaristically, that the war would be concluded quickly. Neither the North nor the South expected the war to go on as long as it did, or to cost the nation so many lives.

A letter from Lincoln to Horace Greeley.


Hon. Horace Greeley:
Dear Sir.
I have just read yours of the 19th. addressed to myself through the New-York Tribune. If there be in it any statements, or assumptions of fact, which I may know to be erroneous, I do not, now and here, controvert them. If there be in it any inferences which I may believe to be falsely drawn, I do not now and here, argue against them. If there be perceptable in it an impatient and dictatorial tone, I waive it in deference to an old friend, whose heart I have always supposed to be right.
As to the policy I "seem to be pursuing" as you say, I have not meant to leave any one in doubt.
I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored the nearer the Union will be "the Union as it was." If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.
I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men every where could be free. Yours,
A. Lincoln.

I would find that relevant if the South had made any attempt to use the Supreme Court, or any other existing Federal process, in their secession. They did not. They invented their own means, simply declaring that their state legislatures were empowered to act in this manner. There is no language in the Constitution which supports such a measure.

Maybe the Supreme Court would have backed secession up but then another problem arises. by then the Southern States would no longer be part of the US (by their reckoning) and no longer subject to US Supreme Court rulings. How could the US Supreme Court make rulings for the South when they claimed to no longer be subject to US jurisdiction? Further, do you think that if the Supreme Court had made a ruling which declared the southern process of secession illegal, the southern states would have then sheepishly returned and said "Well never mind, no secession."? I give that outcome zero chance of happening.

I would find that relevant if the South had made any attempt to use the Supreme Court, or any other existing Federal process, in their secession. They did not. They invented their own means, simply declaring that their state legislatures were empowered to act in this manner. There is no language in the Constitution which supports such a measure.

Maybe the Supreme Court would have backed secession up but then another problem arises. by then the Southern States would no longer be part of the US (by their reckoning) and no longer subject to US Supreme Court rulings. How could the US Supreme Court make rulings for the South when they claimed to no longer be subject to US jurisdiction? Further, do you think that if the Supreme Court had made a ruling which declared the southern process of secession illegal, the southern states would have then sheepishly returned and said "Well never mind, no secession."? I give that outcome zero chance of happening.

Why would the states seceding from the Union try to use the Union's court system? It would be the Union that would try to use the courts to prevent the states from seceding. And since Taney, the CHIEF JUSTICE of the Supreme Court, had already indicated that secession was legal, the Union isn't going to appeal to him to say it's illegal.

And the seceding states did approach both the President and Congress to negotiate their exit from the Union.

Your contention that "no language in the Constitution" to support secession is just your opinion. When the New England states threatened to secede several decades earlier, they evidently thought that the Constitution formed a voluntary union. When South Carolina had threatened secession a decade before, the idea that the union was voluntary was still prevalent. The political reality in 1860 was that Taney, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and therefore the foremost authority on the Constitution of his time, thought secession was legal.

NJGOAT

I would find that relevant if the South had made any attempt to use the Supreme Court, or any other existing Federal process, in their secession. They did not. They invented their own means, simply declaring that their state legislatures were empowered to act in this manner. There is no language in the Constitution which supports such a measure.

Maybe the Supreme Court would have backed secession up but then another problem arises. by then the Southern States would no longer be part of the US (by their reckoning) and no longer subject to US Supreme Court rulings. How could the US Supreme Court make rulings for the South when they claimed to no longer be subject to US jurisdiction? Further, do you think that if the Supreme Court had made a ruling which declared the southern process of secession illegal, the southern states would have then sheepishly returned and said "Well never mind, no secession."? I give that outcome zero chance of happening.

Excellent and reasoned point. Had the South attempted to secede using some legal manner which would have eventually found its way to the Supreme Court, then the opinion of the court would have mattered. Even then, at that point, would it have mattered one way or the other to the South if the court had decided against them?

Either way, your first point is the salient one. If one believes that secession was legal then the North/Lincoln are the ones who were the aggressors. If one believes that secession was not legal than the North/Lincoln acted well within their rights to put down a rebellion. I've posted enough on that topic that my position that secession is not legal is well known. Therefore, I do not believe that Lincoln was the aggressor.

Did he perhaps "provoke" a response by sending the relief ship though? Again, matter of perspective. Lincoln was reprovisioning a federal garrison in a federal fort. Perhaps he forced a decision to be made, but it was ultimately the South that fired first.


If the British had entered the American Civil War, would it have altered the outcome?

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English participation in the Civil War would have been decisive in my opinion.

There would not have been great invasions to or from Canada. Instead, the union would be blockaded and the CSA’s blockade would be lifted.

This would have had so many dramatic results, they’re hard to list.

1. Oregon would likely be invaded.

2. A Royal Navy squadron would eventually clean the Pacific coast of US ships which would include closing San Francisco Bay and stopping or taking over the gold trade. If an enemy army occupied California, it might be a Spanish one from the Philippines. This would hurt the US economy significantly.

3. The Royal Navy could freely bombard US coastal cities and launch raids to burn factories, etc.

4. The US would have to move tens of thousands of troops to coastal defense, not to mention the northern border.

5. The economy of New England would collapse as the whaling fleet would be sunk and the fishing fleets would be kept in port.

6. Necessary imports would be stopped including 500,000 Enfeldt Rifles, optics, textiles, sugar, immigrants, etc.

7. The Mississippi River would have remained in Confederate hands.

8. Imports would have flooded into the CSA. Instead of fighting with inferior weapons, they would have had access to the most advanced weapons in Europe.

9. The CSA would have had tens of thousands of additional soldiers freed from coastal defense or watching federal garrisons on its coasts. New Orleans would have been a thriving trading city rather than an occupied city.

10. Desertion would have been a less serious problem in the CSA as families back home wouldn’t be starving.

In short, I think Lincoln would have quickly sued for peace. Time would not be on his side so peace would come quickly.

Image of British Veterans who fought on the Union side via Wikimedia Commons

Those may interest you:

The Most Remarkable Survivor of the Civil War.
What if the British had entered the Civil War?
The Real Un-Civil War. Throwing Charm, Hog Killing & The Fall From Grace.
Mourning Etiquette of the American Civil War: Paint It Black
The American Civil War: Is it still relevant to study today?
The treatment of POWs during the Civil War
Abolitionists and the American Civil War
Opiates During the American Civil War: Not Just for Soldiers
Different ethnicities that fought in the American Civil War
Dispelling American Civil War Myths
Cavalry in the American Civil War
Why I study the American Civil War
Money: A Root Cause Of The American Civil War?
American Civil War Heroes: N.B. Forrest
Phenomenal Women: Unsung Heroes of the American Civil War

16 Comments:

The CSA had no interest in occupying or conquering the north. Were they to do that they would have been right back in the same situation of being outvoted by the more numerous northerners. Wouldn’t that have been something.


The Case Against the War Being Inevitable:

The case for the war being an avoidable conflict stressed the fact that Americans had lived with the issues that eventually led to the outbreak of war for generations. Thus historians who adhere to that theory claim that there was a strong possibility for a compromise to be found, using as a basis for their argument the evidence of the numerous pre-war compromises which alleviated sectional tensions. Revisionist historians account for the breakout of the Civil War by asserting that the vital instrument of compromise was neglected by a “blundering generation” in the events leading up to the Civil War. The theory of a “blundering generation” holds validity to an extent. However this very theory in itself destroys the idea that the war was an avoidable conflict, for it only highlights the extent of the serious divisions in the country which could not be resolved irrespective of how many compromises either side conceded. The core issues such as that of free labour contradicting slave labour still remained. One side would have to destroy the ideals of the other in order to finally put to rest the dividing issues. Only then could the States be truly united. It could also be argued that revisionist historians writing in the 1930s and 1940s lacked accurate historical context because they “examined the causes of the Civil War at a time when war as a means of solving problems was not considered to be a sound solution.” They saw war as a great evil whereas in the nineteenth-century, war was seen as a justifiable means of solving problems. Thus in the eyes of nineteenth-century politicians, armed conflict would have been seen as an inevitable step in order to advance their political ideology once an opportunity arose.

In the case of the American civil war, Southern secession was the opportunity seized upon by the North. The lack of a strong anti-violence movement in the events leading up to the civil war strongly suggests the acceptable nature of war in order to resolve issues and illustrates the extent to which sectionalism had grown and divided the country into two separate nations. Hence one could argue that the very nature of nineteenth-century global politics made the civil war an inevitable event. Avery Craven and James G. Randall were two of the most prominent revisionist historians who challenged the inevitability of the Civil War. However their anti-war thesis was dismissed by Arthur M. Schlesinger who proposed one key question which they had not taken into account “: if the war could have been avoided, what course should American leaders have followed?” Schlesinger provided three possible alternatives: “that the South might have abolished slavery by itself if left alone that slavery would have died because it was economically unsound or that the North might have offered some form of emancipated compensation.” Schlesinger found all three alternatives to be completely unviable.

In conclusion, the civil war was an inevitable occurrence too many factors leading up to the civil war had the effect of exacerbating the fundamental differences between the North and the South. Lincoln as well as many other statesmen believed that the country could not continue to exist as two nations under one government. In some form the two incompatible ideologies had to settle their differences. However, because the differences were so fundamentally important to each section, political compromise would have ultimately led only to one side’s economic and social ideology being wiped out both sides were unwilling to let their institutions be damaged by the other. Eli Whitney’s invention changed the stakes as it revived a dying institution and set it in place as king of the southern economy without which the South felt it could not survive. The North and the South did not develop along similar economically or ideologically. That created an inherent instability in America. At some stage the two opposing sections would inevitably come into military conflict once all compromises were exhausted.


How We Know The So-Called “Civil War” Was Not Over Slavery

When I read Professor Thomas DiLorenzo’s article ( http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2017/08/21/lincoln-myth-ideological-cornerstone-america-empire/ ) the question that lept to mind was, “How come the South is said to have fought for slavery when the North wasn’t fighting against slavery?”

Two days before Lincoln’s inauguration as the 16th President, Congress, consisting only of the Northern states, passed overwhelmingly on March 2, 1861, the Corwin Amendment that gave constitutional protection to slavery. Lincoln endorsed the amendment in his inaugural address, saying “I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable.”

Quite clearly, the North was not prepared to go to war in order to end slavery when on the very eve of war the US Congress and incoming president were in the process of making it unconstitutional to abolish slavery.

Here we have absolute total proof that the North wanted the South kept in the Union far more than the North wanted to abolish slavery.

If the South’s real concern was maintaining slavery, the South would not have turned down the constitutional protection of slavery offered them on a silver platter by Congress and the President. Clearly, for the South also the issue was not slavery.

The real issue between North and South could not be reconciled on the basis of accommodating slavery. The real issue was economic as DiLorenzo, Charles Beard and other historians have documented. The North offered to preserve slavery irrevocably, but the North did not offer to give up the high tariffs and economic policies that the South saw as inimical to its interests.

Blaming the war on slavery was the way the northern court historians used morality to cover up Lincoln’s naked aggression and the war crimes of his generals. Demonizing the enemy with moral language works for the victor. And it is still ongoing. We see in the destruction of statues the determination to shove remaining symbols of the Confederacy down the Memory Hole.

Today the ignorant morons, thoroughly brainwashed by Identity Politics, are demanding removal of memorials to Robert E. Lee, an alleged racist toward whom they express violent hatred. This presents a massive paradox. Robert E. Lee was the first person offered command of the Union armies. How can it be that a “Southern racist” was offered command of the Union Army if the Union was going to war to free black slaves?

Virginia did not secede until April 17, 1861, two days after Lincoln called up troops for the invasion of the South.

Surely there must be some hook somewhere that the dishonest court historians can use on which to hang an explanation that the war was about slavery. It is not an easy task. Only a small minority of southerners owned slaves. Slaves were brought to the New World by Europeans as a labor force long prior to the existence of the US and the Southern states in order that the abundant land could be exploited. For the South slavery was an inherited institution that pre-dated the South. Diaries and letters of soldiers fighting for the Confederacy and those fighting for the Union provide no evidence that the soldiers were fighting for or against slavery. Princeton historian, Pulitzer Prize winner, Lincoln Prize winner, president of the American Historical Association, and member of the editorial board of Encyclopedia Britannica, James M. McPherson, in his book based on the correspondence of one thousand soldiers from both sides, What They Fought For, 1861-1865, reports that they fought for two different understandings of the Constitution.

As for the Emancipation Proclamation, on the Union side, military officers were concerned that the Union troops would desert if the Emancipation Proclamation gave them the impression that they were being killed and maimed for the sake of blacks. That is why Lincoln stressed that the proclamation was a “war measure” to provoke an internal slave rebellion that would draw Southern troops off the front lines.

If we look carefully we can find a phony hook in the South Carolina Declaration of Causes of Secession (December 20, 1860) as long as we ignore the reasoning of the document. Lincoln’s election caused South Carolina to secede. During his campaign for president Lincoln used rhetoric aimed at the abolitionist vote. (Abolitionists did want slavery abolished for moral reasons, though it is sometimes hard to see their morality through their hate, but they never controlled the government.)

South Carolina saw in Lincoln’s election rhetoric intent to violate the US Constitution, which was a voluntary agreement, and which recognized each state as a free and independent state. After providing a history that supported South Carolina’s position, the document says that to remove all doubt about the sovereignty of states “an amendment was added, which declared that the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States, respectively, or to the people.”

South Carolina saw slavery as the issue being used by the North to violate the sovereignty of states and to further centralize power in Washington. The secession document makes the case that the North, which controlled the US government, had broken the compact on which the Union rested and, therefore, had made the Union null and void. For example, South Carolina pointed to Article 4 of the US Constitution, which reads: “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.” Northern states had passed laws that nullified federal laws that upheld this article of the compact. Thus, the northern states had deliberately broken the compact on which the union was formed.

The obvious implication was that every aspect of states’ rights protected by the 10th Amendment could now be violated. And as time passed they were, so South Carolina’s reading of the situation was correct.

The secession document reads as a defense of the powers of states and not as a defense of slavery. Here is the document: http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/south-carolina-declaration-of-causes-of-secession/

Read it and see what you decide.

A court historian, who is determined to focus attention away from the North’s destruction of the US Constitution and the war crimes that accompanied the Constitution’s destruction, will seize on South Carolina’s use of slavery as the example of the issue the North used to subvert the Constitution. The court historian’s reasoning is that as South Carolina makes a to-do about slavery, slavery must have been the cause of the war.

As South Carolina was the first to secede, its secession document probably was the model for other states. If so, this is the avenue by which court historians, that is, those who replace real history with fake history, turn the war into a war over slavery.

Once people become brainwashed, especially if it is by propaganda that serves power, they are more or less lost forever. It is extremely difficult to bring them to truth. Just look at the pain and suffering inflicted on historian David Irving for documenting the truth about the war crimes committed by the allies against the Germans. There is no doubt that he is correct, but the truth is unacceptable.

The same is the case with the War of Northern Aggression. Lies masquerading as history have been institutionalized for 150 years. An institutionalized lie is highly resistant to truth.

Education has so deteriorated in the US that many people can no longer tell the difference between an explanation and an excuse or justification. In the US denunciation of an orchestrated hate object is a safer path for a writer than explanation. Truth is the casualty.

That truth is so rare everywhere in the Western World is why the West is doomed. The United States, for example, has an entire population that is completely ignorant of its own history.

As George Orwell said, the best way to destroy a people is to destroy their history.

Apparently Even Asians Can Be White Supremacists If They Are Named Robert Lee

ESPN has pulled an Asian-American named Robert Lee (Lee is a common name among Asians, for example, Bruce Lee) from announcing the University of Virginia/Wiliam & Mary footbal game in Charlottesville this Saturday because of his name.


Author notes

I would like to thank David Dangerfield, Allen Driggers, Tiffany Florvil, Margaret Gillikin, Ramon Jackson, Evan Kutzler, Tyler Parry, David Prior, Tara Strauch, Beth Toyofuku, and Ann Tucker for their comments on an early version of this essay, and to extend special thanks to Mark M. Smith for perceptive criticism of multiple drafts. I would also like to thank Edward Linenthal for his expert criticism and guidance through the publication process and to express my gratitude to the four JAH readers, Ann Fabian, James M. McPherson, Randall Miller, and one anonymous reviewer, for their exceptionally thoughtful and helpful comments on the piece.


Watch the video: Thaddeus Stevens: Civil War Revolutionary, Fighter for Racial Justice