Abraham Lincoln made the strongest defense of Southern slavery that was ever made in his first inaugural address, even pledging to support its explicit enshrinement in the Constitution, while threatening war over tax collection in the same speech. Since he had no intention of freeing any slaves, and waging war over tax collection would have made him an international war criminal, he needed to invent an excuse for invading his own country (the very definition of treason under Article 3, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution, by the way). So he fabricated the notion of a “perpetual union.” The founding fathers, Lincoln implied, would have agreed with him that if any group of people ever attempted to leave the “voluntary” union that the founders created, the central government would have the “right” to invade those states, murder their citizens by the hundreds of thousands, bomb their cities, burn some of them to the ground, and plunder their wealth. This of course is what Lincoln’s army did, all in the name preserving a seventy-year old political bargain. As for Fort Sumter, it is revealing that Lincoln wrote his naval commander, Gustavus Fox, after the incident (in which no one was injured, let alone killed) thanking him for his assistance in goading the South Carolinians into firing the first shot and instigating a war.
Said Lincoln in 1848: “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.”
At that point in American history some of the most significant rumblings about secession since the Revolution had been in the North—with the loudest voices often coming from abolitionists who wanted to sever their political union with the slave-holding states. …
Liberals do not want to be confronted with these uncomfortable philosophical contradictions concerning centralization vs. decentralization—the debate that raged in 1776, 1861 and still rages today—because any such intellectual exploration toward this end threatens the very heart of the Left’s collectivist historical narrative. For progressives, the ever-increasing power of the federal government represents human liberation and political liberalization—period. This has been the Left’s clarion call from FDR to Barack Obama, and any talk of devolving centralized power—even in the name of what would typically be considered liberal causes—is heresy.
In this light, for liberals, not only was the Civil War just about slavery—it must be just about slavery. And that Lincoln simply freed the slaves is not just the end of the story—it is the only story—lest Americans begin down the dangerous path of looking at their history and government with honest and open eyes.
Yes, the ‘Civil War’ was an atrocity. And perhaps there is a contingent of deluded and misguided folk that somehow cherish a noble notion of a Confederacy, sans any allusion to the evil of slavery.
Are you really casting the Confederacy as a just cause — the reason for secession was entirely predicated on the defense of the diabolical practice of institutionalized slavery. To claim otherwise is to be ignorant of history, or worse, submit to racist historical revisionism.
Speaking of “deluded and misguided”… that’s a pretty spectacular reframing of an argument. Though I must commend you on your ability to skip through a mindfield of truth and come out the other end unscathed, I cannot be surprised with the use of non-sequiturs.
Not once - not a single time - did I mention the word ‘Confederacy’ nor highlight it as a unified ‘cause’ (much less meritoriously or longingly so). The closest mention was of Southerners as separate individuals: “while slavery may have been a sticking point for many Southerners, it wasn’t the only reason for secession - nor was it the reason the North attacked the South.” Which mostly encapsulated what my piece focused on: that participation and association cannot be forced because that supposes the same dominion over another as slavery and that the North’s aggression was undue.
As quoted in the original, “for whatever reasons the Southern States had to secede from the “Union,” they had an inalienable right to secede.” That Confederates primarily or even wholly claimed slavery as their motivation for secession is irrelevant to the argument.
Just as a man may leave his wife for any immoral or ignoble reason, the South’s reasons were not what I was addressing - only (1) their right to freely associate and confederate in any manner they voluntarily wished and (2) the evils perpetrated by Lincoln under the guise of unity and ending slavery. If a man were to leave his wife, and his reasons were determined by his wife and the entirety of society as unjust, must he then be beaten and forced to remain with his wife irrespective of his volition?
And it’s not about “states’ rights,” another phrase you constructed out of words that, in my piece, were never neighbors. States don’t have rights, people do. And people, individuals, have an absolute right to voluntary association. The idea of secession must not be seen as a tool of oppressors, but as an exercise in liberty.
Since your reply is nothing more than continued non-sequiturs, there is no need to respond further aside from referring back to my original statements.
In Georgia 47% of Republicans are content with the Union victory, while 31% wish the South had won. Democrats (58/17) and independents (54/19) are both strongly supportive of the North, making the overall numbers 53/23.
In North Carolina GOP voters are almost evenly divided on the outcome of the war with 35% glad for the North’s victory, 33% ruing the South’s loss, and 32% taking neither side. Democrats (55/15) and independents (57/14) have similar numbers to Georgia but due to the greater ambivalence of Republicans about the northern victory, overall less than half of Tar Heel voters (48%) are glad the Union won to 21% who wish the Confederacy had.
In Mississippi no group of the electorate seems all that enthused about the North having won. Republicans, by a 38/21 margin, outright wish the South had won. Democrats (39/22) and independents (49/15) side with the North but compared to those voter groups in North Carolina and Georgia they’re pretty ambivalent. Overall just 34% of voters in the state are glad the Union prevailed to 27% who wish the rebels had been victorious.
These are simply crazy numbers, and I’d be shocked if the pro-Confederate respondents have thought through the implications of their views. That is, if these questions were rephrased, “Are you happy with the Union victory and the end of slavery?”, I would be floored if significant numbers voiced unhappiness with that outcome. In any case, this is a nice illustration of the Confederate sympathy that seems to be entrenched among a significant portion of Southern Republicans.
Being unhappy about the so-called Civil War or its outcome does not immediately imply a desire to categorize an entire race of humanity as property to be owned and abused by others. Conflating the two is simply a straw man meant to vilify political opponents by branding their arguments invalid for allegedly holding a despicable opinion.
The ‘Civil War’ was an atrocity that killed hundreds of thousands simply to involuntarily force a portion of the states into association with the whole. As I quoted recently:
For whatever reasons the Southern States had to secede from the “Union,” they had an inalienable right to secede. All people have a God-given right to associate or not associate with others, voluntarily. If the people of a particular territory want to separate from a federal union of states, they have every right to separate, just as the Founding Fathers had a right to separate from British rule. No institution or authority has the right to compel any individual or group into association or contract involuntarily. To believe that the federal government had any moral right to force the people of the seceding states to return to federal association involuntarily is to believe that some people with armed power have a right to claim ownership and control of other people, pure and simple.
We are all sovereign individuals. When anyone else, be he a king, a thug or a majority, demands anything of us (other than that we respect the libertarian axioms of property and non aggression), they are imposing upon us; they are invading us, and violating our rights. Secession is a necessary concomitant of liberty.
Further, while slavery may have been a sticking point for many Southerners, it wasn’t the only reason for secession - nor was it the reason the North attacked the South. In fact, Lincoln himself favored slavery and believed in the superiority of the white man.
Everything about this politically-correct fantasy [that the war was fought to simply free the slaves] is patently false, regardless of how many times it is repeated in the New York Times and Washington Post. Some Southern politicians did indeed defend slavery, but not as strongly as Abraham Lincoln did in his first inaugural address, where he supported the enshrinement of Southern slavery explicitly in the U.S. Constitution (the “Corwin Amendment”) for the first time ever. Coming from the president of the United States, this was the strongest defense of slavery ever made by an American politician.
Some Southern politicians did say that their society was based on white supremacy, but so did Abraham Lincoln and most other Northern politicians. “I as much as any man want the superior position to belong to the white race,” Lincoln said in a debate with Stephen Douglas in 1858. When Lincoln opposed the extension of slavery into the new territories (but not Southern slavery), he gave the standard Northern white supremacist reason: We want the territories to be reserved “for free white labor,” he said. The Lincoln cultists can quote Alexander Stephens’ “cornerstone” speech all they want, but the truth is that Abraham Lincoln, and most of the leaders of the Republican Party, were in total agreement with Stephens. White supremacy was as much (if not more of) a “cornerstone” of Northern society as it was of Southern society in the 1860s.
Lincoln did not fight a war to free slaves, in fact he would have been happy to keep slavery if it meant keeping the southern states from declaring independence.
[W]hen it came time to decide whether he’d rather preserve the Union or abolish slavery, the Union stamped on that scale like an elephant next to a feather. In an 1862 letter to the New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley, Lincoln wrote: “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 a war was not needed elsewhere in the world to end slavery where it had been practiced for much, much longer - why is the assumption that without this war slavery would have continued in perpetuity?
Lincoln fought a war to centralize and grant himself the most dictatorial powers any president has ever wielded. This had long been his goal, as he spent “his 25-year off-and-on political career prior to 1857 championing the Whig project of centralized government that would engage in a kind of economic central planning, … [including] federal railroad subsidies, a tripling of the average tariff rate that would remain that high or higher long after the war ended, and centralized banking with the National Currency and Legal Tender Acts.“ He imprisoned and deported a Congressman. He wiped out swaths of Indian populations. As a response to the South killing a horse, he engineered a “culture of death” unlike anything any American president has even overseen:
Lincoln’s war ended up costing 620,000 battlefield deaths along with the death of some 50,000 Southern civilians, including thousands of slaves who perished in the federal army’s bombardment of Southern cities and because of its devastation of the Southern economy. By 1865 the Lincoln government had killed one out of every four Southern white males between the ages of 20 and 40.
To put these numbers in perspective, standardizing for today’s population of 280 million, that would be roughly the equivalent of 5 million deaths — about 100 times the number of Americans who died in the ten-year Vietnam War.
Lincoln famously micromanaged the war effort. Historian James McPherson writes of how he spent more time in the War Department’s telegraph office than anywhere else, and spent 41 days in the field with the Army of the Potomac. He was fully in charge as the commander in chief, and orchestrated the mass killing for four years. His favorite general, Ulysses S. Grant, was made top commander of the army because of his willingness to send tens of thousands of men into a slaughter pen, as he did in the Battle of the Wilderness and elsewhere.
From the very beginning, Lincoln’s war strategy involved waging war on Southern civilians despite the fact that such tactics were denounced by the Geneva Convention of 1863 and even by Lincoln’s own military code (the “Lieber Code,” named after its author, Columbia University law professor Francis Lieber). Federal soldiers plundered and pillaged their way through the South for four years. In 1861 federal commanders began taking civilians hostage and sometimes shooting them in retaliation for Confederate guerrilla attacks. As Colonel John Beatty warned the residents of Paint Rock, Alabama: “Every time the telegraph wire is cut we would burn a house; every time a train was fired upon we would hang a man; and we would continue to do this until every house was burned and every man hanged between Decatur and Bridgeport.” The town of Paint Rock was burned to the ground.
And believing so hardly makes me - a hispanic, son of exiles, resident of the West coast - some backwards hillbilly longing for the days of black slavery. In fact, libertarianism itself - the dual tenets of self-ownership and non-aggression - is emphatically and diametrically opposed to any force or coercion, especially such as atrocious as the forced enslavement of other human beings.
And with good reason.
The great stumbling-block issue for the Guardian [newspaper] and many other liberals was the right to self-determination. The paper believed that the south had the right to secede and to establish an independent state. It suspected that it would succeed. It thought, as Gladstone did, that this might hasten the end of slavery – and it may have been right, since no slave society, including Cuba and Brazil, survived into the 20th century. Above all, though, the paper wanted to be consistent. It had supported independence for the Slavs, the Hungarians, the Italians and the Egyptians – so why not for the Confederates, too?
More than anyone, Lincoln stood for the preservation of the union at all costs. As a result the Guardian was ferociously against him, to a degree that now seems not just perverse but even shaming. Lincoln was undoubtedly sincere, the paper said in October 1862, but “it is impossible not to feel that it was an evil day both for America and the world, when he was chosen president of the United States”.
The Guardian’s anti-Lincoln obsession reached its heights in the April 1865 editorial on, of all things, the president’s assassination. “Of his rule we can never speak except as a series of acts abhorrent to every true notion of constitutional right and human liberty,” the paper wrote…
Happy birthday last week, Abraham Lincoln! It seems like only 150 years ago that your decisions led to the bloodiest war in American history, the complete shredding of our beloved Constitution and the utter destruction of what was meant to be the most beautiful republic to have ever existed.