As Confederate monuments continue to be torn down, there is a push by some to repaint the events surrounding the Civil War to justify their eradication. There are many falsehoods being spread about that need to be refuted. These actions and this rhetoric is just another in a long line of attacks on Americans institutions, traditions, and history. The truth is important to preserve. We, as a people, need to do what is right, not what is comfortable or politically correct.
Eleven states decided in the early 1860s that they did not want to be in the Union anymore. They formally removed themselves from the United States of America and started their own country, referred to today as the Confederate States of America, or the “Confederacy.” They were then attacked by the United States of America, and a war ensued. More Americans were lost in this war than any other conflict, before or since, by almost a factor of 10. It was an illegal war that need not have happened.
Many today say it was over slavery. That assertion is a bold faced lie which most people used to recognize as such. Many laud Lincoln as a great leader, but his motivation for entering the war was economic, not moral. He also set the standard for later presidents to ignore the Constitution during times of war.
First of all, secession is not violence; it is how this country was founded. The violence occurred when the bullies that were left behind decided to attack. We celebrate that fact every July 4th. When the southern states seceded, they did so because they did not want to be part of the United States anymore. Secession is an idea that is supported by our own Declaration of Independence.
Slavery was an issue but economic issues were much more prevalent. The South accounted for over 80% of the tax revenue generated at the federal level. Lincoln was a fan of the American system which was very much like the merchantile system that Britain had imposed on the colonies which led to our revolution.
This American System was characterized by high tariffs which impacted the South much more than the North to be used for internal improvements which was spent in the North much more than in the South. Tariffs enacted against the South were a common occurrence by the time secession was finally initiated. For example, the Tariff of Abominations of 1828 had South Carolina talking about secession if it was not repealed. This trend continued on, and in 1860, the southern states had enough and began to secede. There was no violence, just goodbye. They were not going to be exploited anymore. On Dec. 25, 1860, South Carolina declared unfair taxes to be a major cause for their secession: “ The people of the Southern States are not only taxed for the benefit of the Northern States, but after the taxes are collected, three-fourths of them are expended at the North”
Another fallacy spread by some to justify the entry of the North into the war was that the South fired the first shot in the conflict, and the North properly retaliated. This is a blatant mistruth. South Carolina seceded December 20, 1860. Fort Sumpter, a fort located on Charleston harbor, was still occupied by American troops until April of 1861. Lincoln had promised to evacuate the fort (after all it was in a foreign country at that point) but did not pursue doing so. Just the opposite.
On April 12th, ships arrived to resupply the fort, not evacuate it. The ships were driven off and the Fort was bombarded. Earlier in January, the same scenario had occurred, and those ships were driven off as well. Most do not know that the ONLY casualty from that bombardment in April was a mule. No men were killed. The next day the soldiers holding the fort surrendered, and South Carolina forces took control of it. The majority of forts in the South had already been voluntarily evacuated. This was the proper course of action to take, but in Sumpter’s case, Lincoln was looking for justification to support a war he wanted to wage.
The biggest lie spread about the Civil War was that it was initiated over slavery. The American people used to know this was a lie. Was slavery pertinent? Of course. It was one of the reasons that the South seceded. Was slavery the reason that Lincoln attacked the South? Of course not. But many people parrot that lie everyday not realizing that Lincoln’s own words refute the idea. The actions and rhetoric from the North said NOTHING about going to war to free the slaves.
There were four candidates in the 1860 elections. None of them were in favor of the abolition of slavery. The abolitionist movement was very small and had little political power. The idea of abolishing slavery was not included on any of the candidates’ platforms.
In his first inaugural address, Lincoln made it clear he was not going to end slavery. He stated early on in the speech: “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.”
Just a couple of paragraphs later, Lincoln reiterated the right of the states to determine their own destiny and restated a campaign pledge that was part of his platform:
“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.”
Lincoln then went on to voice his support for the Fugitive Slave Acts. His own words certainly destroy the idea that slavery was an issue from the North’s or his own perspective.
In a letter to Horace Greeley, In August of 1862, Lincoln continued to voice his opinion that the institution of slavery was not in jeopardy from him:
“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.”
The war had been going on for over a year at this point.
When the Emancipation Proclamation in September of 1862, Lincoln characterized it as a “military action.” To this point, the war had been going badly for the North. Most battles across the map saw Southern forces winning. Lincoln was desperate. He issued the Emancipation Proclamation which freed NO slaves in the North, and excluded freeing slaves in Union occupied areas in the South to keep those Southerners mollified. Nor did it free slaves in the border states. It only applied to the places that the Union held no sway. Lincoln was criticized by many who implied he did this to stage a slave uprising, an idea that was very unpopular in the North, the South and even Europe.
Another effect the Emancipation Proclamation had was to cause riots in some northern states, dersertions of Union soldiers, and Northerners moving to Canada to evade the draft. New York City experienced significant riots over the fact that conscription had started and those men were going to war to free the slaves. Until the Proclamation, the idea of slavery being the purpose for the war had not been espoused. Over 100 people were killed in the quelling of these riots in New York City alone.
It should be noted that General Robert E. Lee, a target of those looking to pull down statues, had already freed his slaves, slave he had inherited, not bought, before the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation. General Ullyses S. Grant, retained his slaves until 1865 when Missouri outlawed the practice. Grant had emancipated one slave in 1859, but his wife continued to own slaves at White Haven, the family home, and as personal servants.
Lincoln’s view of blacks contradict the narrative espoused by those attacking our history and advocating for the removal of Confederate statues. In his 4th debate against Douglas, Lincoln stated:
“I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races – that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. I say upon this occasion I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position the negro should be denied everything.”
Lincoln’s actions during the war showed his disdain for the rule of law and the Constitution. He suspended habeus corpus and imprisoned tens of thousands without due process, just like FDR did when he imprisoned Japanese during WW II. He ignored the Constitution which states that this is a power of Congress and a Supreme Court opinion reiterating the same. He shut down newspapers in the North that disagreed with him and had editors arrested for unpopular opinions. He had a sitting US Congressman, Clement L. Vallandigham, dragged from his home and put in a military prison for his speeches on the floor of Congress because they “discouraged enlistments” in the Union Army. Lincoln authorized military tribunals to try anyone arrested which was also against the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. This was especially important in border states where convictions by juries would be problematic.
History teaches us that::
- A group of states decide that the voluntary union they had entered was no longer good for them so they left. An idea supported by our Declaration of Independence.
- A megalomaniacal President who, supported by big business and bankers, launched an unprovoked and unlawful attack against those states to keep them in the union for the tax revenues, not to abolish slavery.
- The same President who later recanted everything he had previously stated to make the war about slavery. The great flip flop of American history.
- The same President who greatly expanded his own powers which infringed on the rights of Americans and ignored the Constitution all in pursuit of “saving” our country.
The narrative being pushed is that only white supremacists or racists oppose the removal of Confederate statues and is being supported by lies. The North initiated aggression for the express purpose of keeping the tax revenues from the Southern states to support Northern modernization. Lincoln was a tyrant. He is painted as a hero to protect big government and crony capitalistic interests that would be harmed by the truth.
I will finish with a quote from Thomas Jefferson: ” Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom”
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