by: Steve Scroggins
March 4th, 2011 marked the 150th Anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration as President of the United States. Lincoln idolators and court ‘historians’ are certain to gush forth with fluff and flowery prose about how Lincoln “saved the Union” and “freed the slaves” when history shows that he did neither — in fact, he did just the opposite, as we’ll show below.
- 1. Lincoln the Great Emancipator: He reluctantly inaugurated war to abolish slavery
- 2. Lincoln “Saved the Union” from those who would “destroy the Union”
- 3. Lincoln had to respond to Fort Sumter to put down treasonous secession
- 4. Lincoln the Humanitarian
- 5. Lincoln the champion of personal liberty and defender of the Constitution
1. Lincoln the Great Emancipator: He reluctantly inaugurated war to abolish slavery
First of all, war was NOT required to end slavery. No other country in the world required war to end it; neither did America. Chattel slavery was doomed by the 1850s and on its way to extinction everywhere in the western Christian world. Brazil, a former Portuguese colony, was the last to abolish slavery in the western hemisphere in 1888. It is a lingering fallacy that it took war to end slavery in America.
Lincoln stated in his first inaugural address that he had no intention, no inclination and no legal authority to abolish slavery where it existed. He stated this in writing on numerous occasions. In the same address, Lincoln stated his support for the Corwin Amendment – otherwise known as the “Slavery Forever Amendment” — which would constitutionally enshrine slavery permanently beyond the jurisdiction of the Congress.
The Republican party platform opposed the expansion of slavery to the western territories for economic and social reasons. The Republicans didn’t want any blacks or Indians living anywhere near them. Illinois, it should be noted, had passed law to prohibit the settling or residence of blacks in Illinois. The Lincoln Dream was for a lilly-white America with no blacks or Indians. His soldiers, trained in the art of making war on southern civilians, did a fair job of genocide against the plains Indians after the war.
“[T]he Union … 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.” –Abraham Lincoln, from inaugural address, March 4, 1861.
In his inaugural address, Lincoln promised not to invade or start a war EXCEPT to enforce the tariff law and hold federal forts for the purpose of tariff collection. His object was to quell the secession movement and force the recently departed states to return to the union, or at least to pay the tariffs as if they were still part of the Union. Lincoln claimed in the address that states did not have the authority to secede or leave the union. This is, of course, a 180 degree about-face from his stated opinion just 14 years earlier.
“Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable, –a most sacred right–a right, which we hope and believe, is to liberate the world.” –Abraham Lincoln, from the Congressional Record, Jan. 12, 1847.
Lincoln’s 1861 argument was logically ridiculous. Lincoln claimed that somehow the union came before the states which formed the union by ratifying the Constitution. That’s like saying that a marriage came before the two people who were joined in the marriage.
Lincoln argued in his 1861 Inaugural address that “Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed, in the fundamental law of all national governments.” Note that the Framers specifically avoided the use of the words “national” and “perpetual” and struck them from proposed documents. James Madison made it clear that the people, their liberties and their “safety and happiness” were more important than any form of government when he said, “The safety and happiness of society are the objects at which all political institutions must be sacrificed.”
Lincoln was inaugurated March 4th. After Lincoln’s secretary of state promised to evacuate and surrender Fort Sumter for weeks, Lincoln dispatched an armada to reinforce and resupply Fort Sumter in early April, an act of war. Lincoln let the Confederates know it was coming. To miminize the loss of life, the Confederates decided to bombard the Fort into submission before warships arrived. Fort Sumter was surrendered April 12th. It should be noted that there was no loss of life in the attack and the federal garrison was permitted to leave peacefully after the surrender. Lincoln had provoked the South into firing the first shots. Again, there was no person killed or injured at Fort Sumter, but it fired a war fever in the north.
On April 15th Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers with which to invade the South and enforce the tariff laws. He ordered a naval blockade of southern ports, raised an army, gathered war materiel and committed other acts of war without the Constitutionally required Declaration of War from Congress.
When the Congress finally convened in July 1861, they rubber stamped his aggressive military actions since April 15th. They also confirmed his motive and objectives. The Crittenden-Johnson Resolution dated July 25, 1861 stated explicitly that the purpose of the war was to “preserve the union” and “not to interfere in the established institutions of the states” nor to limit their rights and freedoms in any other way.
Once Lincoln started the war by attempting to reinforce Fort Sumter by force, he repeatedly stated that his intent was to “save the Union” and his war effort had nothing to do with slavery. A year and a half after hostilities commenced, in his August 1862 correspondence with Horace Greeley (New York Tribune), he emphatically stated that slavery was irrelevant to the war — it was only about restoring (preserving) the Union. This was just a month before the Emancipation Proclamation was issued.
“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.” –Abraham Lincoln, from letter to Horace Greeley, Aug. 22, 1862
Regardless of any sophistry or distortions to the contrary, the historical record shows incontrovertably that Lincoln and the U.S. Congress started and prosecuted the war for the purpose of preventing southern secession and independence and to enforce the tariff collections, to “preserve the union” as they called it. Though slavery (especially expansion) was a source of regional conflict, it was NOT the purpose of the war.
And what did the participants in the war think? General John B. Gordon gives us an assessment:
“But slavery was far from being the sole cause of the prolonged conflict. Neither its destruction on the one hand, nor its defence on the other, was the energizing force that held the contending armies to four years of bloody work. I apprehend that if all living Union soldiers were summoned to the witness-stand, every one of them would testify that it was the preservation of the American Union and not the destruction of Southern slavery that induced him to volunteer at the call of his country. As for the South, it is enough to say that perhaps eighty percent of her armies were neither slave-holders, nor had the remotest interest in the institution. No other proof, however, is needed than the undeniable fact that at any period of the war from its beginning to near its close the South could have saved slavery by simply laying down its arms and returning to the Union.” –General John B. Gordon, from Reminiscences of the Civil War, page 19
But what about the Emancipation Proclamation, you ask? It was strictly a war measure aimed at weakening the South by creating chaos or inciting slave insurrection. Another obvious purpose was to keep Britain and the European powers out of the war — many of those nations wanted to trade with the South for cotton. Here’s a sample of how the British press saw the Proclamation:
“The Union government liberates the enemy’s slaves as it would the enemy’s cattle, simply to weaken them in the conflict. The principle is not that a human being cannot justly own another, but that he cannot own him unless he is loyal to the United States.” –London Spectator, 1862
“The Northern onslaught upon slavery was no more than a piece of specious humbug designed to conceal its desire for economic control of the Southern states.” –Charles Dickens, 1862
As the secession “crisis” started in December 1860 and continued into January 1861, the initial reaction of most people in the North was “let them go in peace.” They acknowledged that the principles of the Declaration of Independence, including the ‘consent of the governed’, prohibited coercion of the southern states to remain in the union by force. But by February and March, the northern industrialists and shipping interests had leaned on the northern editors and made them aware of the financial losses southern independence would bring the northern states. Northern editorials changed from “let them go” to “heck, no, we’ll go broke.” See a selection of Northern editorials for the flavor of the thought and note the change.
As the saying goes, “follow the money.” The real power and wealth wanted war to protect their financial interests and to keep the southern states on the taxpaying plantation to pay for their subsidized infrastructure and favored special interests. It should be noted that the Republican party platform included raising protectionist tariffs (paid mostly by the southern states)… and the Congress passed the Morrill Tariff which doubled the tax rates, and President Buchanan signed it into law just two days before Lincoln was inaugurated.
From this it appears that Charles Dickens summed up the yankee motivation best, a “desire for economic control of the Southern states.”
2. Lincoln “Saved the Union” from those who would “destroy the Union”
Lincoln didn’t save anything, just the opposite. We started the war with a Constitutional Republic and ended with a consolidated empire, ruled from a central capitol with the States neutered. The Southern states didn’t seek to “destroy” anything. All they wanted was peaceful separation. There would have been no war if Lincoln hadn’t raised the troops and launched an invasion and blockade. Remember, not one person had been killed or injured in the taking of Fort Sumter. The Southern states tried repeatedly to open negotiations to pay for the federal properties in their territory, their share of the national debt (infinitely smaller than today), and so on. Lincoln would not even discuss it. A man with his considerable political skills could have resolved the issues without war. No, the party that elected Lincoln was determined to keep the southern states as economic colonies — even if they had to exterminate all southerners to do it.
“The Gettysburg speech was at once the shortest and the most famous oration in American history… The doctrine is simply this: that the Union soldiers who died at Gettysburg sacrificed their lives to the cause of self-determination – that government of the people, by the people, for the people, should not perish from the earth. It is difficult to imagine anything more untrue. The Union soldiers in the battle actually fought against self-determination; it was the Confederates who fought for the right of their people to govern themselves.” –H.L. Mencken [emphasis added]
“[T]he consolidation of the states into one vast republic, sure to be aggressive abroad and despotic at home, will be the certain precursor of that ruin which has overwhelmed all those [republics] that have preceded it.” –Robert E. Lee, letter to Lord Acton, 1866
The purpose of the war was to finally realize the Hamiltonian dream of a consolidated, monopolistic government that would pursue what Hamilton himself called ‘national greatness’ and ‘imperial glory.’ The purpose of the war, in other words, was a New Birth of Empire, one that would hopefully rival the Europeans in the exploitation of their own citizens in the name of the glory of the state.” –Thomas DiLorenzo, from Malice Toward All, Charity Toward None: The Foundations of the American State
3. Lincoln had to respond to Fort Sumter to put down treasonous secession
As noted above, no person was killed in the taking of Fort Sumter.
Secession cannot be reasonably considered treason. Most Americans celebrate that secession document called the Declaration of Independence every July 4th. We don’t call it “Treason Day.”
The states of New York, Rhode Island and Virginia in their ratification documents explicitly reserved the right to leave the union whenever in their opinion it was best for the security, happiness and liberty of their people. The other states reserved these rights implicitly. It was the understanding of all the Framers and those who ratified the Constitution in their respective states that the states “retain every power not expressly relinquished” in the Constitution. Since secession was not mentioned, that right is retained. This understanding is underscored by the 9th and 10th Amendments to the Constitution. If any thought for a moment they were bound in perpetuity, almost no states, and certainly not the requisite nine states would have ratified. They knew they didn’t have the right to bind their posterity, but that they could choose for themselves their form of government.
The cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point studied the Constitution using an 1829 text written by William Rawle, a Philadelphia attorney, who was the U.S. District Attorney for Pennsylvania under the Washington Administration, one who prosecuted the rebels of the Whisky Rebellion. Chapter 32, entitled On the Permanance of the Union, contains the following text:
The Union is an association of the people of republics; its preservation is calculated to depend on the preservation of those republics. The people of each pledge themselves to preserve that form of government in all. Thus each becomes responsible to the rest, that no other form of government shall prevail in it, and all are bound to preserve it in every one. …If a faction should attempt to subvert the government of a state for the purpose of destroying its republican form, the paternal power of the Union could thus be called forth to subdue it.
Yet it is not to be understood, that its interposition would be justifiable, if the people of a state should determine to retire from the Union…
It depends on the state itself to retain or abolish the principle of representation, because it depends on itself whether it will continue a member of the Union. To deny this right would be inconsistent with the principle on which all our political systems are founded, which is, that the people have in all cases, a right to determine how they will be governed. [emphasis added]
–William Rawle, Chapter 32, A VIEW of the CONSTITUTION of the United States of America
Charles Adams, in his book entitled When in the Course of Human Events: Arguing the Case for Southern Secession, obliterates the weak and faulty arguments that secession is not a right of the states.
Jefferson Davis was held without trial in military prison at Fortress Monroe for two years after the war. The yankee prosecutors realized they could not win a conviction of Davis in open court for treason. Davis wanted nothing more than his day in court, but it was denied when the indictment for treason was dismissed. On that same date, treason indictments on 19 other Confederate officers were dismissed.
The Constitution defines treason against the United States to consist only in “levying War against them or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid or comfort.” Under that definition, it’s Lincoln who could be convicted of treason since he organized and ordered that war be levied against the Southern states. When the Constitution uses the word “them” it refers to the States. Davis, on the other hand, hoped that the southern states could leave peacefully. Defending against an armed invasion is not treason. There was never any intent to interfere with the government of the United States nor to occupy any territory of the remaining states in the U.S. Thus, the term ‘civil war’ is a ridiculous misnomer.
4. Lincoln the Humanitarian
It should be remembered that Lincoln launched an unnecessary war for economic reasons that cost the lives of over 620,000 American soldiers, an estimated 50,000 civilians and left probably over a million horribly maimed and wounded. Standardized for today’s population, that would be the equivalant of six million Americans dying in four years. Such unnecessary bloodshed earns Lincoln a place in the pantheon of 20th century killers such as Stalin, Pol Pot, and Adolph Hitler.
Sheridan and Sherman both noticed that Lincoln always asked to be regaled with stories of civilian suffering as the yankee armies practiced their raping, looting and vandalism. What kind of human being wants to hear such horror stories? See Walter Brian Cisco’s War Crimes Against Southern Civilians Some of it is detailed in Thomas DiLorenzo’s essay entitled, Malice Toward All, Charity Toward None: The Foundations of the American State
Lincoln actively advocated for “colonization” (deportation) of all blacks from North America. As noted earlier, Lincoln’s Dream was an all-white America. He actively planned and lobbied for support to round up all blacks who were emancipated by any means and send to them outside the United States (to South America, the Caribbean or back to Africa). This part of the historical record is irrefutable, yet the Court Historians seems to omit such details while painting Lincoln as an angel.
5. Lincoln the champion of personal liberty and defender of the Constitution
This one is real howler. Lincoln crushed the Constitution while his rhetoric professed to revere it.
Lincoln illegally suspended Habeas Corpus. He imprisoned tens of thousands of Northern citizens without trial for expressing views contrary to his, or for criticizing the war effort. Lincoln shut down over 300 opposition newspapers in the North. One such editor/citizen imprisoned was mayor of Baltimore, the grandson of Frances Scott Key (author of the Star Spangled Banner). He arrested much of the Maryland legislature to prevent them from discussing secession. When Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney ruled that Lincoln’s suspension of Habeas Corpus was unconstitutional, Lincoln issued as arrest warrant for Taney. Though the arrest was never made, the intimidating threat was made.
Jeffrey Rogers Hummel in his book entitled Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men makes the case eloquently that while the 13th Amendment ended chattel slavery in America, the result of the war was to enslave all Americans at tax slaves. The growth of the Empire was enabled once the States had been neutered and the Constitution crushed in practice.
This has ran much longer than originally intended. And we covered only the top five Lincoln Myths. Lincoln didn’t “save the Union,” he destroyed the decentralized and voluntary Republic as defined in the Constitution. He didn’t “free the slaves,” he enslaved all Americans to their government. The name Lincoln shouldn’t pass any American’s lips unless followed by a contemptuous expectoration.
“It is a testament to the effectiveness of 140 years of government propaganda that a 308 page book filled with true facts about Lincoln could be entitled “The Lincoln No One Knows.” It is not a matter of a poorly-performing government education system but quite the opposite: The government schools have performed superbly in indoctrinating generations of American school children with a pack of lies, myths, omissions, and falsehoods about Lincoln and his war of conquest. As Richard Bensel wrote in Yankee Leviathan, any study of the American state should begin in 1865. The power of any state ultimately rests upon a series of government-sponsored myths, and there is none more prominent than the Lincoln Myth.” –Thomas DiLorenzo, from The Unknown Lincoln
Gordon on the War
“Prior to actual secession there was even at the South more or less division of sentiment–not as to principle, but as to policy. Scarcely a man could be found in all the Southern States who doubted the constitutional right of a State to withdraw from the Union; but many of its foremost men thought that such movement was ill-advised or should be delayed. Among these were Robert E. Lee, who became the commander-in-chief of all the Confederate armies; Alexander Hamilton Stephens, who became the Confederate Vice-President; Benjamin H. Hill, who was a Confederate senator and one of the Confederate administration’s most ardent and perhaps its most eloquent supporter; and even Jefferson Davis himself is said to have shed tears when, at his seat in the United States Senate, he received the telegram announcing that Mississippi had actually passed the ordinance of secession.”
“He agreed, however, with an overwhelming majority of the Southern people, in the opinion that both honor and security, as well as permanent peace, demanded separation. Referring to the denial of the right of Southerners to carry their property in slaves into the common Territories, he said: ‘Your votes refuse to recognize our domestic institutions, which preëxisted the formation of the Union–our property, which was guarded by the Constitution. You refuse us that equality without which we should be degraded if we remained in the Union. . . . Is there a senator on the other side who, to-day, will agree that we shall have equal enjoyment of the Territories of the United States? Is there one who will deny that we have equally paid in their purchases and equally bled in their acquisition in war? . . . Whose is the fault, then, if the Union be dissolved? . . . If you desire, at this last moment, to avert civil war, so be it; it is better so. If you will but allow us to separate from you peaceably, since we cannot live peaceably together, to leave with the rights we had before we were united, since we cannot enjoy them in the Union, then there are many relations, drawn from the associations of our (common) struggles from the Revolutionary period to the present day, which may be beneficial to you as well as to us.'” –General John B. Gordon, from Reminiscences of the Civil War, page 14-15
Steve Scroggins is a volunteer contributor to the Georgia Heritage Council who lives in Macon.