Was Fort Sumter the 1860s Gulf of Tonkin Incident?
April 1, 2012
by Al Benson Jr.
Most who have learned accurate history by learning to read between the lines realize that the federal government has gotten this country into a batch of situations we’d be better off not being in or having been in.
Anyone “remember the Maine?” This was the ship the Spanish supposedly blew up that got us into the Spanish American War. Then there was the Lusitania during World War One that was blown up with over a hundred American passengers on it.That pretty much ensured that we would get into World War One with the Germans supposedly torpedoing passenger ships. Turns out the Lusitania was carrying ammunition to Europe as well as passengers. I could name a few others but you get the idea. All this government needs is what passes for a lame excuse and they will have us in another war day after tomorrow if possible. You have to wonder what will be the manufactured crises for getting us into a war with Iran. Rest assured that because some folks in Washington want us at war with Iran it will probably happen. Remember the “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq? Seems they never found any, but the story got us into that country to promote “democracy” via invasion.
Again, if you read history, you will note that there was opposition in the Northern states to fighting a war against the South. In fact opposition was rampant in the North. Not everyone north of Mason/Dixon was willing to back “Honest” Abe’s Unitarian-inspired plan to place the federal bayonet at the throat of an orthodox Christian South.
Lincoln, shrewd pragmatist that he was, realized he had opposition to a war both in the North and the West (Mid-West) and so he used the firing on Fort Sumter to rouse the war spirit in his own back yard where it had been notably lacking up to that point. Supposedly the nation now had to go to war because the United States flag had been fired upon. But, from Charles E. Minor’s book The Real Lincoln (not to be confused with Thomas DiLorenzo’s book of the same name) we learn that the United States flag had been fired upon in the same place two months earlier, a fact which has been strangely ignored. The steamer Star of the West had been sent two months earlier, on January 9, 1861, with food and two hundred recruits to relieve the garrison at Fort Sumter. At that time the flag was fired upon, struck twice, and the steamer retired. The main problem there was probably the two hundred recruits.
William Howard Russell, a war correspondent for the London Times wrote to that paper from America stating: “It is absurd to assert…that the sudden outburst when Fort Sumter was fired upon was caused by the insult to the flag. Why, the flag had been fired on long before Sumter was attacked;…it had been torn down from United States arsenals and forts all over the South and fired upon when the federal flag was flying from the Star of the West.” One might be led (only if he had a suspicious mind, of course) to ask if Fort Sumter was the War of Northern Aggression’s Gulf of Tonkin incident!
Lincoln’s concept of state secession being forbidden was not exactly unanimous in the North. On November 9, 1860, the Democratic newspaper New York Herald editorialized on Lincoln’s election and said: “For less than this our fathers seceded from Great Britain.” It’s worthy of note that the editorialist realized that our separation from Great Britain was, indeed, secession. The Declaration of Independence was, in reality, a secession document, but the history books don’t dwell on that too much. The paper also stated that federal coercion of seceding states should be out of the question. The paper reiterated the “right to break the tie of the confederacy as a nation might break a treaty, and to repel coercion as a nation might repel invasion.”
Hugh McCullough, who was later to be Lincoln’s third treasury secretary, while traveling through the Midwest, said: “In traveling through Southern Indiana in the autumn of 1860 and the following winter, I was amazed and disheartened by the general prevalence of the non-coercive sentiment…As far as I could learn, the same opposition to coercion prevailed to a considerable extent in the other free states bordering upon the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, and I could not help feeling that the Union…had no deep hold on the affection of the people…The sentiment of Southern Illinois was in sympathy with that of the people of Southern Indiana.” Stop and analyze what McCullough was saying. There was very little sentiment, at least in the lower parts of the Midwest, in favor of the federal government coercing the Southern states to remain in the Union. It seemed to pain McCullough no end that many, if not most, in the Midwest were unwilling to see the Union preserved by the federal government standing with a jack-booted heel upon the neck of a prostrate South. And the lack of affection toward the Union was no doubt due to the fact that most people in the Midwestern states felt more of an allegiance to their individual states than to a centralized “Union” in Washington. It would seem that McCullough was, from his comments, of the exact same statist mindset that Lincoln embraced (Yankee Marxism).
Back to Fort Sumter. In 1927, Paul S. Whitcomb, whose family ties hark back to Vermont, wrote an article for Tyler’s Quarterly Magazine. In part, Mr. Whitcomb stated: “If South Carolina had the right to secede she had the right to take Fort Sumter. Lincoln’s policy of sitting tight and forcing the South to make the first move was identical to that of Bismarck. ‘Success’ Bismarck said ‘essentially depends upon the impression which the origination of the war makes upon us and others; it is important that we should be the party attacked.” Read that one again, folks.That is exactly what “Honest Abe” did–maneuvered the situation to make sure the South fired the first shot! Wasn’t that “honest” of him? Lincoln needed just such a situation to force the country to accept a war that few really wanted, North or South.
Today’s “history” books (and I use the term “history” in the loosest possible sense) seldom inform you that the South sent a delegation to Washington to negotiate a peaceful settlement dealing with the question of secession, as well as how the South would pay for federal property that had been taken. Not only was the commission snubbed, but Lincoln sent an armed squadron to resupply the fort with food, and to reinforce it. Lincoln was persuaded by nine state governors to bring on the war “and to have it started by getting South Carolina to fire on Fort Sumter.” These nine “war governors” are mentioned in both The Real Lincoln (page 257) and in Robert L. Dabney’s Discussions–Volume 4 (pages 98-99).
According to Dabney, quoting material received from Colonel John Baldwin, the radical Yankee governors spoke in this vein: “War is precisely the thing we should desire. Our party interests have everything to lose by a peaceable settlement of this trouble, and everything to gain by collision. For a generation we have been ‘the outs’; now at last we are ‘the ins.’ While in opposition it was very well to prate of Constitution and of rights; but now we are the government and mean to continue so; and our interest is to have a strong and centralized government.” We were about to have a revolution of the same sort that prevailed in France. You have to wonder, how much different were these Republican governors than the party hacks that run things today? Their statement could well be played in 2012 just as it was in 1860. The same identical Yankee/Marxist mindset is present now that was present then.
So, heeding this advice, Lincoln prepared for war, but it had to be done in such a way as to make the South look like the bad guys, the aggressors. Lincoln looked beyond the attack on Sumter, which his activities encouraged, and saw in it the way he needed to unite the North behind his war schemes.
Although many in the North became convinced by the Machiavellian plans of Lincoln, everyone did not. There was still Northern opposition to a war, and out of that grew what has been called the Copperhead Movement. Lincoln still had to find a way to deal with that and he did so in a dictatorial method that has set an ugly precedent for our own day.