FACTS THAT SUPPORT THE SOUTHERN VIEW OF THE CIVIL WAR
By: Michael T. Griffith
Most books on the Civil War are biased in favor of the Northern view of the conflict. However, in many of these books the careful reader can find a number of facts that support the Southern view of the war. In this article I will document the following facts from mainstream history books:
* Abraham Lincoln knew that an attempt to resupply Fort Sumter could provoke a hostile response from the Confederacy.
* The Confederate states seceded in a democratic, peaceful manner, and most Southerners supported secession. (This refutes the notion expressed by some writers that Southern elitists pulled the South out of the Union against the will of most Southerners.)
* Confederate forces treated Northern citizens and property considerably better than Union forces treated Southern citizens and property.
* Slavery was not the only factor that led the states of the Deep South to secede.
* Lincoln, in his first address to the country as president, threatened to invade the Confederate states if they didn’t pay federal tariffs or if they didn’t allow the federal government to occupy and maintain federal forts in Confederate territory.
* President James Buchanan, Lincoln’s predecessor in the White House, blamed the secession crisis on the North.
* Lincoln held racist views. (It’s only fair to point out that nearly all Americans in that era held racist views.)
* The North had very little moral authority to criticize the South over slavery and race relations.
* Lincoln did not start the war in order to free the slaves.
* The same Congress that imposed the harsh rule of Reconstruction on the South after the war also supported racist policies toward the American Indians.
* Lincoln and other Republicans blocked a widely popular compromise plan that may very well have prevented war, and they refused to allow the people to vote on it in a national referendum.
* Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States of America, suspended civil liberties less often than did Lincoln.
* The South did not want war and tried to establish peaceful relations with the North.
* Most Southerners did not believe secession would lead to war.
* The South did not always control the federal government in the three decades leading up to the Civil War. (This is an important point because some critics of the South contend that the South seceded partly over losing the control that it had supposedly held over the federal government for decades.)
* Only a fraction of Southerners owned slaves.
* The Confederate constitution was very similar to the U.S. Constitution and in fact contained several improvements, and it also banned the overseas slave trade and permitted the entrance of free states into the Confederacy.
* Some Confederate leaders criticized slavery and believed blacks should be treated with respect.
* Some Confederate leaders, including Jefferson Davis, were ready and willing to abolish slavery in order to preserve Southern independence.
I would like to note in advance that some of the quotes presented below contain offensive racial terms. These insulting terms appear in some statements from the Civil War era and are quoted in the history books themselves. Nevertheless, I apologize to anyone who is offended by them.
Abraham Lincoln knew that any attempt to resupply Fort Sumter would probably provoke an armed response from the Confederacy
“Of course, Lincoln was aware that sending provisions to Sumter might provoke hostilities. . . .” (J. G. Randall and David Donald, The Civil War and Reconstruction, Second Edition, Lexington, Massachusetts: D. C. Heath and Company, 1969, p. 175)
“Increasingly it became clear that any attempt to relieve these garrisons [Fort Sumter and Fort Pickens] would precipitate war. . . .” (John Hicks, The Federal Union, Third Edition, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1957, p. 558)
“By the time Lincoln took office Confederate authorities, fearing hasty action from South Carolina, had assumed control of the delicate Fort Sumter negotiations. . . . Would Lincoln pursue the dilatory course of Buchanan or would he be aggressive and forthright as the leader of the party which had condemned Buchanan’s policy? He did neither. Instead, he carried out a plan of his own which was so devious, so subtle, and perhaps so confused that it is almost as difficult for the historian to understand as it was for the men of the times. Some scholars believe that he blundered into war, overestimating the strength of the Union party in the South. It is more likely that, with a subtlety approaching the diabolical, he provoked the Confederates into firing upon Fort Sumter in order to solidify North public opinion. . . .
“Although Lincoln did not confess his part in provoking the Civil War with the cynical honesty of a Bismarck, he did speak certain revealing words. He consoled the commander of the Fort Sumter relief expedition for that officer’s failure: ‘You and I both anticipated that the cause of the country would be advanced by making the attempt to provision Fort Sumter, even if it should fail, and it is no small consolation now to feel that our anticipation is justified by the result.’ Shortly after the fall of the fort he was quoted by a close personal friend: ‘The plan succeeded. They attacked Sumter–it fell, and thus, did more service than it otherwise could.’ A few of his party friends congratulated him upon his masterful stroke. The New York Times believed that ‘the attempt at reinforcement was a feint–that its object was to put upon the rebels the full and clear responsibility of commencing the war. . . .’ Jefferson Davis, others exulted, ‘ran blindly into the trap.'” (Francis Simkins, A History of the South, Third Edition, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1963, pp. 213, 215-216, emphasis added)
“After a sleepless night, Lincoln called his Cabinet together and announced that–against the recommendations of his military advisors–he was going to reinforce Fort Pickens and order a supply expedition to sail from New York to Fort Sumter. . . . If South Carolina’s artillery opened fire on Sumter or the ships, he could blame the Confederacy for starting a war.” (William Klingaman, Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation, New York: Viking Press, 2001, p. 45)
“Lincoln immediately learned that his calculations were wrong. Major Anderson’s stock of foodstuffs was just about exhausted, and the day after delivering his inaugural address Lincoln was notified that the fort [Fort Sumter] could hold out for only a few more weeks. Unless it could be supplied at once, Anderson would have to surrender. The overt act, as a result, would have to be taken by the federal government, for its efforts to supply Fort Sumter would almost certainly be taken by Jefferson Davis as a warlike step against the new Confederacy. . . .
“The Confederates could not permit reinforcement [of the fort] without jeopardizing their claim to national independence.” (Bruce Catton, editor, The National Experience: A History of the United States, Second Edition, New York: Harcourt, Brace, & World, 1968, pp. 337-338)
“. . . some historians have accused Lincoln of pushing the Confederacy to fire the shots that started a civil war. . . . Fort Sumter and Lincoln’s proclamation calling for volunteers prompted secession proceedings in four more states. Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee soon joined the Confederacy. . . . (Kenneth C. Davis, Don’t Know Much About the Civil War, New York: Avon Books, 1997, pp. 162, 167)
The South seceded in a democratic manner and most of the Southern people supported secession
“As the telegraph flashed news of Lincoln’s election, the South Carolina legislature called a convention to take the state out of the Union. Within six weeks the six other states of the lower South had also called conventions. Their voters elected delegates after short but intensive campaigns. Each convention voted by a substantial (in most cases an overwhelming) margin to secede.” (James McPherson, Ordeal By Fire: The Civil War and Reconstruction, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1982, p. 127)
“. . . the South Carolina legislature called a convention to consider secession. . . . the convention by a vote of 169-0 enacted on December 20  an ‘ordinance’ dissolving ‘the union now subsisting between South Carolina and other States’. . . .
“. . . this bold step triggered a chain reaction by conventions in other lower-South states. After the Christmas holidays . . . Mississippi adopted a similar ordinance on January 9, 1861, followed by Florida on January 10, Alabama on January 11, Georgia on January 19, Louisiana on January 26, and Texas on February 1. Although none of these conventions exhibited the unity of South Carolina’s, their average vote in favor of secession was 80 percent. This figure was probably a fair reflection of white opinion in those six states. Except in Texas, the conventions did not submit their ordinances to the voters for ratification. This led to charges that a disunion conspiracy acted against the will of the people. But in fact the main reason for non-submission was a desire to avoid delay. The voters had just elected delegates who had made their positions clear in public statements; another election seemed superfluous. The Constitution of 1787 had been ratified by state conventions, not by popular vote; withdrawal of that ratification by similar conventions satisfied a wish for legality and symmetry. In Texas the voters endorsed secession by a margin of three to one; there is little reason to believe that the result wold have been different in any of the other six states. (James McPherson, The Battle Cry of Freedom, New York: Ballantine Books, 1988, p. 235)
“The outbreak of war at Fort Sumter confronted the upper South with a crisis of decision. . . .
“In the eyes of southern unionists, this tragic war was mainly Lincoln’s fault. What the president described in his proclamation of April 15 calling out the militia as a necessary measure to ‘maintain the honor, the integrity, and the existence of our National Union’ was transmuted south of the Potomac [i.e., in the South] into an unconstitutional coercion of sovereign states. ‘In North Carolina the Union sentiment was largely in the ascendant and gaining strength until Lincoln prostrated us,’ wrote a bitter unionist. ‘He could have adopted no policy so effectual to destroy the Union. . . . I am left no other alternative but to fight for or against my section. . . . Lincoln has made us a unit to resist until we repel our invaders or die.’ John Bell, the 1860 presidential candidate of the Constitutional Union party from whom many moderates in the upper South took their cue, announced in Nashville on April 23 his support for a ‘united South’ in ‘the unnecessary, aggressive, cruel, unjust wanton war which is being forced upon us’ by Lincoln’s mobilization of militia. . . .
“The Virginia convention moved quickly to adopt an ordinance of secession. . . . the convention passed an ordinance of secession by a vote of 88 to 55. (Several delegates who voted No or were absent subsequently voted Aye [Yes], making the final tally 103 to 46.). . . .
“When Virginians went to the polls on May 23 they ratified a fait accompli by a vote of 128,884 to 32,134. . . .
“Arkansas was the next state to go. Its convention had adjourned in March without taking action, subject to recall in case of emergency. Lincoln’s call for troops [to force the Deep South states back into the Union] supplied the emergency; the convention reassembled on May 6. . . . the convention passed the ordinance of secession by a vote of 65 to 5. . . .
“North Carolina and Tennessee also went out during May. . . . The [North Carolina] legislature met on May 1 and authorized an election on May 13 for a convention to meet on May 20. . . . the delegates on May 20 unanimously enacted an ordinance of secession. Meanwhile the Tennessee legislature short-circuited the convention process by adopting a “Declaration of Independence” and submitting it to a referendum scheduled for June 8. . . . That election recorded 104,913 votes for secession and 47,238 against.” (McPherson, The Battle Cry of Freedom, pp. 276-280, 282-283)
Confederate soldiers behaved better in Northern territory than Union soldiers did in Southern territory
“. . . [Robert E.] Lee started his army splashing across the Potomac fords thirty-five miles above Washington. . . . Most of the soldiers . . . were in high spirits as they entered Frederick [Maryland] on September 6 singing ‘Maryland, My Maryland’. . . . the men behaved with more restraint toward civilian property than Union soldiers were wont to do. . . .” (McPherson, The Battle Cry of Freedom, pp. 535-536)
“While the northern press had portrayed Lee’s troops as if they were Genghis Khan’s hordes, the Army of Northern Virginia was under Lee’s strictest orders to behave like southern gentlemen. As one commander, John B. Gordon, later told it, ‘The orders from General Lee for the protection of private property and persons were of the most stringent character. . . . I resolved to leave no ruins along the line of my march through Pennsylvania; no marks of a more enduring character than the tracks of my soldiers along its superb pikes.’
“Lee had ordered that all supplies be paid for.” (Davis, Don’t Know Much About the Civil War, p. 295)
“Shortly before moving on to South Carolina, [Union general William Tecumseh] Sherman said, ‘The truth is the whole army is burning with an insatiable desire to wreak vengeance upon South Carolina’. . . .
“Leaving Savannah on February 5, 1865, Sherman’s 60,000 men took a direct line toward Columbia, South Carolina. They faced only token resistance from any organized Confederate troops.
“Confederate cavalry officer J. P. Austin, among those trying to block Sherman:
‘He [Sherman] swept on with his army of sixty thousand men, like a full developed cyclone, leaving behind him a track of desolation and ashes fifty miles wide. In front of them was terror and dismay. . . .
‘Poor, bleeding South Carolina! . . . The protestations of her old men and the pleadings of her noble women had no effect in staying the ravages of sword, flame, and pillage.
‘Columbia’s fate could readily be foretold from the destruction along Sherman’s line of march after he left Savannah. Beautiful homes, with their tropical gardens, which had been the pride of their owners for generations, were left in ruins. . . . Everything that could not be carried off was destroyed. . . . Livestock of every description that they could not take was shot down. All farm implements, with wagons and vehicles of every description, were given to the flames.'” (Davis, Don’t Know Much About the Civil War, pp. 393-394)
“With no major Confederate army opposing him Sherman’s famous march began November 10. His forces, ‘detached from all friends,’ numbered about 60,000. . . .
“The army as it proceeded, having little or no fighting to do, devoted itself to organized plunder. A Georgia news-writer pictured the scene as follows:
‘Dead horses, cows, sheep, hogs, chickens, corn, wheat, cotton, books, paper, broken vehicles, coffee mills, and fragments of nearly every species of property that adorned the beautiful farms of this country, strew the wayside. . . .
‘The Yankees entered the house of my next door neighbor, an old man of over three score years, and tore up his wife’s clothes and bedding, trampling her bonnet on the floor, and robbing the house and pantry of nearly everything of value.’
“Along with the systematic business of foraging there was a shocking amount of downright plunder and vandalism. Dwellings were needlessly burned; family plate was seized; wine cellars were raided; property that could not be carried away was wantonly ruined.” (Randall and Donald, The Civil War and Reconstruction, pp. 427-429)
“[Union general Henry] Halleck had written to Sherman: ‘Should you capture Charleston, I hope that by some accident the place may be destroyed; and if a little salt should be sown upon its site, it may prevent the growth of future crops of nullification and secession.’ In answer Sherman wrote: ‘I will bear in mind your hint as to Charleston, and don’t think salt will be necessary. . . . The truth is the whole army is burning with an insatiable desire to wreak vengeance upon South Carolina’. . . .
“After a month in Savannah, Sherman struck north for his campaign through the Carolinas. . . .
“As in Georgia, destruction marked his path in South Carolina, the following towns being burned in whole or in part: Robertsville, Grahamville, McPhersonville, Barnwell, Blackville, Orangeburg, Lexington, Winnsboro, Camden, Lancaster, Chesterfield, Cheraw, and Darlington. The worst destruction was by the disastrous fire which swept the large city of Columbia, capital of the state. Sherman explained in his memoirs that the fire was accidental and that it began with the cotton which the Confederates under General Wade Hampton had set fire to on leaving the city. He then made the damaging admission that in his official report he deliberately charged the fire to Hampton ‘to shake the faith of his people in him.’
“Hampton emphatically denied that any cotton was fired in Columbia by his order; and Sherman’s account is at various points disputed by a voluminous mass of Southern testimony. . . .” (Randall and Donald, The Civil War and Reconstruction, pp. 433-434, original emphasis)
“Away from home, in the enemy’s country, without any inbred sense of discipline or firm officers, many of the soldiers were, indeed, ‘awfully depraved.’ Depravity ran the gamut from drunkenness and profanity to theft, pillaging, and murder.
“Charles Wills, whose moral sense was deeply affronted by what he saw, was an Illinois boy of twenty-one when he enlisted as a private in the 8th Illinois Infantry. Before the end of the war he had been promoted to lieutenant colonel. He fought in Missouri, Tennessee, and Alabama, and was with Sherman in the March to the Sea. His letters are filled with accounts of immorality and pillaging in the army. [The editor then quotes from one of Wills’ letters:]
‘Rebels, though they are, ’tis shocking and enough to make one’s blood boil to see the manner in which some of our folks have treated them. Trunks have been knocked to pieces with muskets when the women stood by, offering the keys; bureau drawers drawn out, the contents turned on the floor, and the drawer thrown threw the window; bed clothing and ladies’ clothing carried off and all manner of deviltry imaginable perpetrated. Of course the scoundrels who do this kind of work would be severely punished if caught, but the latter is almost impossible. Most of the mischief is done by the advance of the army, though, God knows, the infantry is bad enough. The d–d [sic] thieves even steal from the Negroes (which is lower business than I ever thought it possible for a white man to be guilty of) and many of the them [the Negroes] are learning to hate the Yankees as much as our Southern Brethren do.'” (Henry Steele Commager, editor, The Civil War Archive: The History of the Civil War in Documents, New York: Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers, 2000, pp. 333-334)
“Robert Gould Shaw, member of a prominent Massachusetts merchant family, was a lieutenant in the 2nd Massachusetts Volunteers. . . . His regiment saw duty on the coast of Florida and Georgia. . . . [The editor then quotes from one of Shaw’s letters:]
‘We arrived on the southern point of this island [St. Simon’s Island, Georgia] at six in the morning. I went ashore to report to Colonel Montgomery. . . .
‘At 8 A.M. we were at the mouth of the Altamaha river, and immediately made for Darien. . . .
‘On the way up, Colonel Montgomery threw several shells among the plantations, in what seemed to me a very brutal way, for he didn’t know how many women and children there might be.
‘About noon, we came in sight of Darien, a beautiful little town. . . . The town was deserted, with exception [sic] of two white women and two Negroes.
‘Montgomery ordered all the furniture and movable property to be taken on board the boats. This occupied some time; and, after the town was pretty thoroughly disembowelled [cleaned out], he [Montgomery] said to me, “I shall burn this town”. . . . I told him “I did not want the responsibility of it”; and he was only too happy to take it all on his shoulders. So the pretty place was burned to the ground, and not a shed remained standing–Montgomery firing the last buildings with his own hand. . . . You must bear in mind, that not a shot had been fired at us from this place. . . . All the inhabitants (principally women and children) had fled on our approach, and were, no doubt, watching the scene from a distance. . . .
‘The reasons he [Montgomery] gave me for destroying Darien were, that the Southerners must be made to feel that this was a real war, and that they were to be swept away by the hand of God, like the Jews of old. . . . Then he says “We are outlawed, and, therefore, not bound by the rules of regular warfare.” But that makes it none the less revolting to wreak our vengeance on the innocent and defenseless. . . .
‘Remember not to breathe a word of what I have written about this raid, for I have not yet made up my mind what I ought to do. Besides my distaste for this barbarous sort of warfare, I am not sure that it will not harm very much the reputation [of Shaw’s unit] and of those connected with them.
‘All I complain of is wanton destruction. After going through the hard campaigning and hard fighting in Virginia, this makes me very much ashamed of myself.'” (Commager, editor, The Civil War Archive, pp. 335-336)
“Here is how the March to the Sea [by General Sherman] affected its victims. Dolly Lunt was a Maine girl . . . who before the war went to Covington, Georgia, to teach school, and there married a planter. . . . At the time Sherman’s army swept through Georgia she was a widow, still managing the plantation. Her short but moving diary has been rescued from oblivion by Julian Street. [The editor then qoutes from Lunt’s diary:]
‘. . . . I hastened back to my frightened servants and told them that they had better hide, and then went back to the gate to claim protection and a guard. But like demons they [Union soldiers] rush in! My yards are full. To my smoke-house, my dairy, pantry, kitchen, and cellar, like famished wolves they come, breaking locks and whatever is in their way. The thousand pounds of meat in my smoke-house is gone in a twinkling, my flour, my meat, mylard, butter, eggs, pickles of various kinds . . . wine, jars, and jugs are all gone. My eighteen fat turkeys, my hens, chickens, and fowls, my young pigs, are shot down in my yard and hunted as if they were rebels themselves. Utterly powerless I ran out and appealed to the guard. “I cannot help you, Madam, it is orders.”
‘As I stood there, from my lot I saw driven, first, old Dutch, my dear old buggy horse . . . then came old Mary, my brood mare, who for years had been too stiff for work, with her three year-old colt, my two-year-old mule, and her last baby colt. There they go! . . .
‘Alas! little did I think while trying to save my house from plunder and fire that they [the Union troops] were forcing my boys [slaves] from home at the point of the bayonet. One [slave], Newton, jumped into bed in his cabin, and declared himself sick. Another crawled under the floor–a lame boy he was–but they pulled him out, placed him on a horse, and drove him off. . . . Jack [another one of Mrs. Lunt’s slaves] came crying to me, the big tears coursing down his cheeks, saying they were making him go. I said: “Stay in my room.” But a man [a Union soldier] followed in cursing him and threatening to shoot him if he did not go; so poor Jack had to yield. . . .
‘My poor boys! My poor boys! What unknown trials are before you! How you have clung to your mistress and assisted her in every way you knew. . . .
‘Their [the slaves’] cabins are rifled of every valuable, the soldiers swearing that their Sunday clothes were the white people’s and that they never had money to get such things as they had. Poor Frank’s chest was broken open, his money and tobacco taken. He had always been a money-making and saving boy; not infrequently has his crop brought him five hundred dollars and more. All of his clothes and Rachel’s clothes . . . were stolen from her. Ovens, skillets, coffee mills, of which we had three, coffee pots–not one have I left. . . .
‘Seeing that the soldiers could not be restrained, the guard ordered me to have their [the slaves’] remaining possessions brought into my house, which I did. . . .'” (Commager, editor, The Civil War Archive, pp. 675-677)
Slavery was not the only factor that led the Deep South states to secede
“Next to the demands for safety and equality, the secessionist leaders emphasized familiar economic complaints. South Carolinians in particular were convinced of the general truth of Rhett’s and Hammond’s much publicized figures upon Southern tribute to Northern interests.” (Allan Nevins, The Emergence of Lincoln, Ordeal of the Union, Volume 2, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1950, p. 332)
“Why were southerners willing to wreck the Union their grandfathers had put together with so much love and labor? No simple explanation is possible. . . . Lincoln had assured them that he would respect slavery where it existed. . . . The Democrats [who at the time were mostly from the South] had retained control of Congress in the election; the Supreme Court was firmly in their hands as well. If the North did try to destroy slavery, then secession was perhaps a logical tactic. . . . To leave the Union meant abandoning the very objectives for which the South had been contending for over a decade: a share of the federal territories and an enforceable fugitive slave act.
“One reason the South rejected this line of thinking was the tremendous economic energy generated in the North, which seemed to threaten the South’s independence. As one Southerner complained at a commercial convention in 1855:
‘From the rattle with which the nurse tickles the ear of the child born in the South to the shroud which covers the cold form of the dead, everything comes from the North. We rise from between sheets made in Northern looms, and pillows of Northern feathers, to wash in basins made in the North. . . . We can eat from Northern plates and dishes; our rooms are swept with Northern brooms, our gardens dug with Northern spades . . . and the very wood which feeds our fires is cut with Northern axes, helved with hickory brought from Connecticut and New York.’
“Secession, southerners argued, would ‘liberate’ the South and produce the kind of balanced economy that was proving so successful in the North and so unachievable in the South.” (John A. Garraty and Robert McCaughey, The American Nation: A History of the United States to 1877, Volume One, Sixth Edition, New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1987, pp. 418-419, emphasis in original)
“But secession, Lincoln argued, would actually make it harder for the South to preserve slavery. If the Southern states tried to leave the Union, they would lose all their constitutional guarantees, and northerners would no longer be obliged to return fugitive slaves to disloyal owners. In other words, the South was safer inside the Union than without, and to prove his point Lincoln confirmed his willingness to support a recently proposed thirteenth amendment to the Constitution, which would specifically prohibit the federal government from interfering with slavery in states where it already existed.” (Klingaman, Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation, pp. 32-33)
“Why did this war come? There was a widely shared feeling among many in the Confederacy that their liberty and way of life were being overpowered by northern political, industrial, and banking powers.” (Davis, Don’t Know Much About the Civil War, p. 152)
In his first inaugural address, Lincoln threatened to invade the Confederate states if they didn’t pay federal tariffs or if they refused to allow the federal government to occupy and maintain federal forts in Confederate territory
“. . . the President’s inaugural address. . . . he left the South no alternative but to return to the Union, or else fight to stay out. He declared it his intention to execute the federal laws in all states, to ‘hold, occupy, and possess the property and places’ belonging to the United States, and to collect as usual the duties and imposts.” (Hicks, The Federal Union, p. 557)
“Next, Lincoln raised his voice and, emphasizing every word distinctly, vowed that he would ‘hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the government’–meaning Fort Sumter and Fort Pickens, the two military strongholds in the South still under federal control–and collect import duties and taxes in the southern states. ‘But beyond what may be necessary for these objects,’ Lincoln promised, ‘there will be no invasion. . . .” (Klingaman, Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation, pp. 31-32) [In other words, there would be an invasion if it were necessary for “these objects,” i.e., for the holding and occupying of Fort Sumter and Fort Pickens and for the collection of import duties and taxes in the southern states.]
President James Buchanan blamed the secession crisis on the North
“. . . Buchanan intended no ‘coercion’ [i.e., he would not force the seceded states back into the Union]. . . .
“Buchanan’s message to Congress . . . blamed the North in general and Republicans in particular for ‘the incessant and violent agitation of the slavery question’ which had now ‘produced its natural effects’ by provoking disunion. Because of Republicans, said the president, ‘many a matron throughout the South retires at night in dread of what may befall herself and her children before morning.'” (McPherson, The Battle Cry of Freedom, pp. 250-251)
[From President Buchanan’s message to Congress toward the end of 1860:] “I have long foreseen, and often forewarned my countrymen of the now impending danger. This does not proceed solely from the claim on the part of Congress or the territorial legislatures to exclude slavery from the Territories, nor from the efforts of different States to defeat the execution of the fugitive slave law. All or any of these evils might have been endured by the South without danger to the Union, (as others have been,) in the hope that time and reflection might apply the remedy. The immediate peril arises, not so much from these causes as from the fact that the incessant and violent agitation of the slavery question throughout the North for the last quarter of a century has at length produced its malign influence on the slaves, and inspired them with vague notions of freedom. Hence a sense of security no longer exists around the family altar. This feeling of peace at home has given place to apprehensions of servile insurrections. Many a matron throughout the South retires at night in dread of what may befall herself and children before the morning. Should this apprehension of domestic danger, whether real or imaginary, extend and intensify itself until it shall pervade the masses of the southern people, then disunion will become inevitable. Self-preservation is the first law of nature, and has been implanted in the heart of man by his Creator for the wisest purpose; and no political union, however fraught with blessings and benefits in all other respects, can long continue if the necessary consequence be to render the homes and the firesides of nearly half the parties to it habitually and hopelessly insecure. Sooner or later the bonds of such a Union must be severed. It is my conviction that this fatal period has not yet arrived; and my prayer to God is, that he would preserve the Constitution and the Union throughout all generations.
“But let us take warning in time, and remove the cause of danger. It cannot be denied that for five and twenty years the agitation at the North against slavery has been incessant. In 1835 pictorial handbills and inflammatory appeals were circulated extensively throughout the South, of a character to excite the passions of the slaves, and, in the language of General Jackson, ‘to stimulate them to insurrection and produce all the horrors of a servile war.’ This agitation has ever since been continued by the public press, by the proceedings of State and county conventions, and by abolition sermons and lectures. The time of Congress has been occupied in violent speeches on this never-ending subject; and appeals, in pamphlet and other forms, indorsed by distinguished names, have been sent forth from this central point and spread broadcast over the Union.
“How easy would it be for the American people to settle the slavery question forever, and to restore peace and harmony to this distracted country! They, and they alone, can do it. All that is necessary to accomplish the object, and all for which the slave States have ever contended, is to be let alone and permitted to manage their domestic institutions in their own way. As sovereign States, they, and they alone, are responsible before God and the world for the slavery existing among them. For this the people of the North are not more responsible, and have no more right to interfere, than with similar institutions in Russia or in Brazil.” (President James Buchanan, Presidential Message, read in the U.S. House of Representatives, December 4, 1860, Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, 1860-1861, pp. 10-11)
Lincoln held racist views toward blacks
“The historian David M. Potter drew a nice distinction in Lincoln’s position between ‘what he would do for the slave’ and ‘what he would do for the Negro.’ ‘All men are created equal,’ he would say, on the authority of the Declaration of Independence, only to add: ‘I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races.’ He opposed allowing blacks to vote, to sit on juries, to marry whites, even to be citizens.” (Garraty and McCaughey, The American Nation, p. 413)
“Lincoln spelled out his position with clarity: ‘I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, (applause)–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 races which I believe will for ever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality.'” (McPherson, The Battle Cry of Freedom, p. 186)
The North had very little moral authority, if any, to criticize the South over slavery
“In the first half of the nineteenth century, state legislatures in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut took away Negroes’ right to vote; and voters in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Maine, Iowa, and Wisconsin approved new constitutions that limited suffrage [the right to vote] to whites. In Ohio, Negro males were permitted to vote only if they had “a greater visible admixture of white than colored blood.” (Klingaman, Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation, p. 54)
“The Indiana constitutional convention of 1851 adopted a provision forbidding black migration into the state. This supplemented the state’s laws barring blacks already there from voting, serving on juries or in the militia, testifying against whites in court, marrying whites, or going to school with whites. Iowa and Illinois had similar laws on the books and banned black immigration by statute in 1851 and 1853 respectively. These measures reflected the racist sentiments of most whites in those states.” (McPherson, Ordeal By Fire, p. 80)
“There can be no doubt that many blacks were sorely mistreated in the North and West. Observers like Fanny Kemble and Frederick L. Olmsted mentioned incidents in their writings. Kemble said of Northern blacks, ‘They are not slaves indeed, but they are pariahs, debarred from every fellowship save with their own despised race. . . . All hands are extended to thrust them out, all fingers point at their dusky skin, all tongues . . . have learned to turn the very name of their race into an insult and a reproach.’ Olmsted seems to have believed the Louisiana black who told him that they could associate with whites more freely in the South than in the North and that he preferred to live in the South because he was less likely to be insulted there.” (John Franklin and Alfred Moss, From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000, p. 185. Incidentally, Franklin and Moss are African-American scholars.)
“. . . Lincoln also knew how deep and widespread racial prejudice was in the North. ‘The colored man throughout this country was a despised man, a hated man,’ he admitted. Even many fervent opponents of slavery detested Negroes. ‘You loathe them as you would a snake or a toad, yet you are indignant at their wrongs,’ a southerner accused his New England cousin in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. ‘You would not have them abused; but you don’t want to have anything to do with them yourselves.’ A reporter in Washington once heard Senator Benjamin Wade of Ohio, a leading antislavery radical, railing about too many ‘nigger’ cooks in the capital; Wade complained that he had eaten meals ‘cooked by Niggers until I can smell and taste the Nigger all over.'” (Klingaman, Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation, p. 53)
“For all the good intentions of many early white abolitionists, blacks were not especially welcome in the free states of America. Several territories and states, such as Ohio, not only refused to allow slavery but also had passed laws specifically limiting or excluding any blacks from entering its territory or owning property.” (Davis, Don’t Know Much About the Civil War, p. 54)
“So pervasive was racism in many parts of the North that no party could win if it endorsed full racial equality.” (McPherson, Ordeal By Fire, p. 81)
“. . . in 1862 white laborers erupted into mob violence against blacks in a half-dozen cities across the North. . . . The mobs sometimes surged into black neighborhoods and assaulted people on the streets and in their homes. . . .
“. . . Republicans ruefully admitted that large parts of the North were infected with racism. ‘Our people hate the Negro with a perfect if not a supreme hatred,’ said Congressman George Julian of Indiana. Senator Lyman Trumbull of Illinois conceded that ‘there is a very great aversion in the West–I know it to be so in my State–against having free negroes come among us. Our people want nothing to do with the negro.’ The same could be said of many soldiers. . . .” (McPherson, Ordeal By Fire, p. 275)
“. . . discouragement was deepened by the outcome of three Northern state referendums in the fall of 1865. The legislatures of Connecticut, Wisconsin, and Minnesota placed on the ballot constitutional amendments to enfranchise [allow to vote] the few black men in those states. Everyone recognized that, in some measure, the popular vote on these amendments would serve as a barometer of Northern opinion on black suffrage. . . . Republican leaders worked for passage of the amendments but fell short of success in all three states. . . . the defeat of the amendments could be seen as a mandate against black suffrage by a majority of Northern voters.” (McPherson, Ordeal By Fire, p. 501)
“Numerous [Union] army officials who advocated the use of black troops viewed Negroes as little more than cannon fodder. ‘For my part,’ announced an officer stationed in South Carolina, ‘I make bold to say that I am not so fastidious as to object to a negro being food for powder and I would arm every man of them.’ Governor Israel Washburn of Maine agreed. ‘Why have our rulers so little regard for the true and brave white men of the north?’ asked Washburn. ‘Will they continue to sacrifice them? Why will they refuse to save them by employing black men? . . . Why are our leaders unwilling that Sambo should save white boys?'” (Klingaman, Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation, p. 93)
“A more urgent situation existed in South Carolina’s Sea Islands. There, nearly 10,000 former slaves abandoned by their masters received little comfort from Union Army commanders, who generally ignored them; by January, many of the Negroes were starving or seriously ill.” (Klingaman, Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation, p. 103)
“The contrabands [escaped slaves] crowded into improvised camps, where exposure and disease took a fearful toll. Yankee soldiers sometimes ‘confiscated’ the meager worldly goods the blacks had managed to bring with them.” (McPherson, Ordeal By Fire, p. 394)
“Union conquests along the south Atlantic coast and in the lower Mississippi Valley had brought large numbers of slaves into proximity to the Yankees. Many of them escaped their owners and sought refuge–and freedom–in Union camps.
“Sometimes their welcome was less than friendly. While northern soldiers had no love for slavery, most of them had no love for slaves either. . . . While some Yanks treated contrabands with a degree of equity and benevolence, the more typical response was indifference, contempt, and cruelty. Soon after Union forces captured Port Royal, South Carolina, in November 1861, a private described an incident there that made him ‘ashamed of America’: ‘About 8-10 soldiers from the New York 47th chased some Negro women but they escaped, so they took a Negro girl about 7-9 years old, and raped her.’ From Virginia a Connecticut soldier wrote that some men of his regiment had taken ‘two nigger wenches [women] . . . turned them upon their heads, and put tobacco, chips, sticks, lighted cigars and sand into their behinds.’ Even when Billy Yank welcomed the contrabands, he often did so from utilitarian rather than humanitarian motives. ‘Officers and men are having an easy time,’ wrote a Maine soldier from occupied Louisiana in 1862. ‘We have Negroes to do all fatigue work, cooking and washing clothes.'” (McPherson, The Battle Cry of Freedom, p. 497)
Lincoln did not start the war in order to end slavery
“When the Civil War began in April 1861, President Abraham Lincoln had no intention of issuing an emancipation proclamation. Lincoln believed he lacked the constitutional authority to interfere with slavery in any state, even when the government of that state insisted it was no longer a part of the Union.” (Klingaman, Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation, p. 1)
“On August 30, General John C. Fremont, commander of Union forces in Missouri, issued a proclamation . . . freeing the slaves of all citizens who actively supported the rebellion. . . .
“Unionists in Kentucky reacted vehemently to Fremont’s proclamation. . . . Upon learning that Fremont had freed slaves in Missouri, an entire company of Union volunteers in Kentucky reportedly threw down their guns and deserted.
“Lincoln acted quickly to defuse the crisis. On September 2, he sent a message asking Fremont to modify his proclamation. . . .
“Fremont . . . sent his wife . . . to argue with the president.
“Lincoln received Mrs. Fremont shortly before midnight on the evening of September 10. It was not a pleasant meeting. . . . Lincoln abruptly cut her off. The general would have to back down. The war was being fought, Lincoln said, ‘for a great national idea, the Union, and General Fremont should not have dragged the Negro into it.'” (Klingaman, Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation, pp. 72-74)
“Lincoln remained unmoved. . . . ‘I think Sumner [abolitionist Charles Sumner] and the rest of you would upset our applecart altogether if you had your way,’ he told the Radicals [the common term for hardline abolitionists]. . . . ‘We didn’t go into this war to put down slavery . . . and to act differently at this moment would, I have no doubt, not only weaken our cause, but smack of bad faith.’ Vindication of the president’s view came a few weeks later, when the Massachusetts state Republican convention–perhaps the most Radical party organization in the North–defeated a resolution endorsing Fremont’s proclamation.” (Klingaman, Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation, pp. 75-76, emphasis added)
“The problem with this lofty rhetoric of dying to make men free was that in 1861 the North was fighting for the restoration of a slaveholding Union. In his July 4 message to Congress, Lincoln reiterated the inaugural pledge that he had ‘no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with slavery in the States where it exists.'” (McPherson, Ordeal By Fire, p. 265)
The same Congress that imposed Reconstruction on the South after the war also imposed racist policies on the American Indians
“The same Congress that devised Radical Reconstruction . . . approved strict segregation and inequality for the Indian of the West.” (Catton, editor, The National Experience, p. 416)
Lincoln and other Republican leaders killed the Crittenden Compromise and wouldn’t allow the people to vote on it in a national referendum; and the compromise measure most likely would have won had it been put to a national vote
“In the Senate, a Committee of Thirteen searched vainly for a compromise. One was submitted to the Senate by John J. Crittenden of Kentucky. . . . the impasse moved Crittenden to suggest a national referendum on his program, but the Republicans prevented that.” (Catton, editor, The National Experience, p. 336)
“The action of the Senate, delayed by much ugly wrangling, did not begin until December 18, when it voted to form a Committee of Thirteen on the crisis. Two days later, Vice-President Breckinridge named a strong group who met for the first time that day. Two men of transcendent ability represented the Lower South, Jefferson Davis and Robert Toombs. . . .
“Crittenden had consulted with colleagues North and South before offering his broad scheme, and had received hopeful assurance of support. . . .
“That Crittenden’s scheme had wide and enthusiastic public support there could be no question. John A. Dix, Edward Everett, and Robert Winthrop no sooner saw it than they wrote approbatory [approving] letters. Martin Van Buren declared that the amendments [proposed in Crittenden’s plan] would certainly be ratified by three-fourths of the States. The Senator received hundreds of assurances from all over the North and the border States that his policy had reached the popular heart. It took time to hold meetings and get memorials signed, but before long resolutions and petitions were pouring in upon Congress. In New York City, sixty-three thousand people signed an endorsement of the plan; another document bore the names of fourteen thousand women, scattered from North Carolina to Vermont. From St. Louis came nearly a hundred foolscap pages of names, wrapped in the American flag. Greeley [an influential New York newspaper editor and owner], who had as good opportunities for knowing public sentiment as any man in the country, later wrote that supporters of the Crittenden Compromise could claim with good reason that a large majority of people favored it. . . .
“The first committee vote on the Crittenden Compromise was taken in Seward’s absence, and the proposal was defeated by the Republican majority. In a discussion of nearly seven hours, Douglas, Bigler, and Crittenden supported the plan. Hunter, Toombs, and Davis, speaking for Southern Democrats, declared they would accept it if the Republicans gave sincere assent, but not otherwise. On the vital point, the reestablishment of the Missouri Compromise line, [Republicans] Collamer, Doolittle, Grimes, and Wade all voted no. Thereupon Toombs and Davis cast negative votes, and the resolution failed six to six. Returning to the sessions on December 24, Seward [who was also a Republican] recorded a negative vote. Four days later, the committee reported to the Senate that it could reach no conclusion. . . .
“In rejecting the Crittenden Compromise, the Republicans had taken what history later proved to have been a fearful responsibility. . . . Some Republicans, after war came, made an effort to divest themselves of the burden by contending that the true blame for the rejection fell upon Davis and Toombs, whose votes in the affirmative would have carried the compromise eight to four–or with Seward voting, eight to five. (Even then the measure would have died under the rule requiring a majority of both parties.) Edward Everett argued that the supposed willingness of Davis and Toombs to support the compromise was purely illusory, and that if the Republicans had come out for it, the two would have gone over to the opposition. But we have unimpeachable evidence that the pair were sincere, and much additional evidence that, as Breckinridge told the Senate, ‘the leading statesmen of the lower Southern States were willing to accept the terms of settlement’ proposed. . . .
“Early in January, Crittenden rose in the Senate to make the remarkable proposal that his compromise should be submitted to the people of the entire nation for their solemn judgment, as expressed by a popular vote. . . . The proposal inspired widespread enthusiasm. . . . Because of Republican obstruction, interposing delay after delay, it never came to a vote in the Senate. . . .
“Provoking though the conduct of the six secessionists was, the fact remains that the chief responsibility for the defeat of the compromise falls upon the twenty-five Republicans [in the Senate] who voted to slay it. A combination of Republicans and Northern Democrats could easily have carried the resolutions [of the Crittenden plan].” (Nevins, The Emergence of Lincoln, pp. 390-393, 397-398, 401-403)
“A Senate committee of thirteen, headed by Crittenden, was at once constituted to consider . . . plans of compromise. . . . The chief bone of contention was the 36-30 dividing line between free and slave territory, a proposition that Toombs and Davis were known to be ready to accept, provided only that a majority of the Republicans would also agree to it. . . . Lincoln’s opinion [against this provision of the compromise plan] seems to have been conclusive, for the Republicans voted unanimously against the proposed dividing line, and the committee reported back to the Senate that it could not agree.
“Later Crittenden and his supporters argued that the compromise in which they were interested should be submitted to the people of the country for approval or rejection at the polls. But the machinery for obtaining such a referendum did not exist, and all efforts looking toward its creation failed, largely because of Republican opposition.” (Hicks, The Federal Union, p. 555)
Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, suspended civil liberties less often than did Lincoln
“Davis . . . possessed the authority to suspend the writ of habeas corpus for a total of only sixteen months. During most of that time he exercised this power more sparingly than did his counterpart in Washington. The rhetoric of southern libertarians about executive tyranny thus seems overblown.” (McPherson, The Battle Cry of Freedom, p. 435)
“With the suspension of habeas corpus [the right not to be arrested without reasonable charges being presented], Lincoln authorized General Scott to make arrests without specific charges to protect secessionist Marylanders from interfering with communications between Washington and the rest of the Union. In the next few months, Baltimore’s Mayor William Brown, the police chief, and nine members of the Maryland legislature were arrested to prevent them from voting to secede from the Union. . . .
“Twice more during the war Lincoln suspended habeas corpus, including the suspension ‘throughout the United States’ on September 24, 1862. Although the records are somewhat unclear, more than thirteen thousand Americans, most of them opposition Democrats, were arrested during the war years, giving rise to the charge that Lincoln was a tyrant and a dictator.” (Davis, Don’t Know Much About the Civil War, pp. 182-183)
The South did not want war, but wanted to establish peaceful relations with the North
“Now that ‘the evil days, so dreaded by our forefathers and the early defenders of the Constitution, are upon us,’ as the Dallas Morning Herald put it, leaders of the seven Confederate states wished to depart in peace.” (Klingaman, Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation, p. 7)
“Louisiana Senator Judah Benjamin’s farewell to the Senate (New Year’s Eve, 1860):
‘We desire, we beseech you, let this parting be in peace. . . . Indulge in no vain delusion that duty or conscience, interest or honor, imposes upon you the necessity of invading our States or shedding the blood of our people. You have not the possible justification for it’. . . .
“Appointed attorney general in the Confederate Cabinet, Benjamin was considered the most brilliant of the men surrounding Jefferson Davis.” (Davis, Don’t Know Much About the Civil War, pp. 144-145)
“In the flurry of organizing a government and an army, one of Davis’s first acts was to dispatch three commissioners to Washington in an attempt to negotiate a settlement with the Union. Leading them was the Confederate vice-president, Alexander Hamilton Stephens of Georgia. . . .
“Stephens arrived in Washington, hoping to negotiate an end to the crisis. . . . But Lincoln refused to meet with Stephens. . . .” (Davis, Don’t Know Much About the Civil War, pp. 156-157)
“Cognizant of the dangerous war in which he found himself, Davis considered his country. . . . Davis would have to defend his extensive borders. . . .
“From the beginning, he emphasized that the Confederacy wanted to be left alone, but Abraham Lincoln would not grant his wish.” (William Cooper, Jefferson Davis, American, New York: Vintage Books, 2000, pp. 378-379)
[In 1862, Jefferson Davis issued the following proclamation to the people of Maryland:] “First, that the Confederate Government is waging this war solely for self-defense; that it has no design of conquest, or any other purpose than to secure peace and the abandonment by the United States of their pretensions to govern a people who have never been their subjects, and who prefer self-government to a union with them.
“Second, that this Government, at the very moment of its inauguration, sent commissioners to Washington to treat for a peaceful adjustment of all differences, but that these commissioners were not received, nor even allowed to communicate the object of their mission; and that, on a subsequent occasion, a communication from the President of the Confederacy to President Lincoln remained without answer, although a reply was promised by General Scott, into whose hands the communication was delivered. . . .
“Fourth, that now, at a juncture when our arms have been successful, we restrict ourselves to the same just and moderate demand that we made at the darkest period of our reverses, the simple demand that the people of the United States should cease to war upon us, and permit us to pursue our own path to happiness, while they in peace pursue theirs.” (Proclamation of Jefferson Davis to the People of Maryland, September 7, 1862)
Most Southerners believed the South would be able to secede peacefully
“Few men in the Deep South, even among the Unionists, believed that the North would or could resist secession; fewer still thought the North would fight for union; almost none foresaw a terrible war and eventual defeat.” (Catton, editor, The National Experience, p. 335)
“Many secessionists expected their revolution to be a peaceful one. Robert Barnwel Rhett, editor of the Charleston Mercury, was quoted as saying that he would eat the bodies of all men slain as a consequence of disunion [secession], while Senator James Chesnut of South Carolina was said to have offered to drink all the blood shed in the cause. A Georgia newspaper announced: ‘So far as civil war is concerned, we have no fears of that in Atlanta.'” (McPherson, Ordeal By Fire, p. 129)
The South did not always control the federal government in the three decades leading up to the Civil War
“The House of Representatives, whose membership was based on the census returns for each state, reflected this growing disparity. Even counting three-fifths of the slave population (as the federal Constitution provided), free states increased their majority from twenty-three seats in 1830 to twenty-nine seats by 1840. The disparity expressed in total seats was 149 representatives from the free states to 88 from the slave states.” (John Niven, The Coming of the Civil War: 1837-1861, Arlington Heights, Illinois: Harlan Davidson, Inc., 1990, p. 21)
“. . . in August 1846, David Wilmot, a Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania, moved an amendment to an appropriation bill that would exclude slavery from any territory that might be gained in a peace treaty with Mexico. His measure, modeled on the antislavery provision of Thomas Jefferson’s Northwest Ordinance, passed the House of Representatives, where the free states had a clear majority.” (Niven, The Coming of the Civil War, p. 53)
“Southern Whigs . . . for the most part now went over to the Democrats, who in any case already dominated the politics of the region [the South]. . . .
“. . . the Democrats in 1854 suffered grave reversals. Perhaps most stunning was the plurality the Republicans achieved in the new House of Representatives, where they were to hold 108 seats to 83 for the Democrats and 43 for the Know-Nothings. Indeed that new House, after two months of debate, would elect a Republican Speaker. . . .” (Catton, The National Experience, pp. 322-323)
“The election of 1858. . . . Southern Democrats . . . were no longer able to shape public policy. . . .” (Catton, editor, The National Experience, pp. 328-329)
Only a small percentage of Southerners owned slaves
“In a region where ownership of slaves conferred status and wealth, less than 10 percent of the white population held slaves. And of this 10 percent only a tiny fraction could be considered large planters, i.e., those who held from fifty to five hundred slaves.” (Niven, The Coming of the Civil War, p. 34)
“. . . only one-fourth of whites in the South owned slaves. . . .” (Klingaman, Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation, p. 20)
The Confederate Constitution was very similar to the U.S. Constitution and contained several improvements; it also banned the overseas slave trade and allowed free states to join the Confederacy
“. . . delegates from the Deep South met in Montgomery, Alabama, on February 4  to establish the Confederate States of America. The convention acted as a provisional government while at the same time drafting a permanent constitution. . . . Voted down were proposals to reopen the Atlantic slave trade . . . and to prohibit the admission of free states to the new Confederacy. . . .
“The resulting constitution was surprisingly similar to that of the United States. Most of the differences merely spelled out traditional southern interpretations of the federal charter. . . .
“. . . it was clear from the actions of the Montgomery convention that the goal of the new converts to secessionism was not to establish a slaveholders’ reactionary utopia. What they really wanted was to recreate the Union as it had been before the rise of the new Republican Party, and they opted for secession only when it seemed clear that separation was the only way to achieve their aim. The decision to allow free states to join the Confederacy reflected a hope that much of the old Union could be reconstituted under southern direction.” (Robert A. Divine, T. H. Bren, George Fredrickson, and R. Hal Williams, America Past and Present, Fifth Edition, New York: Longman, 1998, pp. 444-445, emphasis added)
“The . . . [Confederate] Constitution had been drawn up by a committee of two from each State. . . .
“The most remarkable features of the new instrument sprang from the purifying and reforming zeal of the delegates, who hoped to create a more guarded and virtuous government than that of Washington. The President was to hold office six years, and be ineligible for reelection. Expenditures were to be limited by a variety of careful provisions, and the President was given budgetary control over appropriations which Congress could break only by a two-thirds vote. Subordinate employees were protected against the forays of the spoils system. No bounties were ever to be paid out of the Treasury, no protective tariff was to be passed, and no post office deficit was to be permitted. The electoral college system was retained, but as a far-reaching innovation, Cabinet members were given seats in Congress for the discussion of departmental affairs. Some of these changes were unmistakable improvements, and the spirit behind all of them was an earnest desire to make government more honest and efficient.” (Nevins, The Emergence of Lincoln, p. 435)
“In its general pattern the [Confederate] constitution closely resembled that of the United States; indeed at most points its wording was precisely the same. . . .
“The framers of the Confederate constitution improved upon the Constitution of the United States in a number of minor ways, designed to produce ‘the elimination of political waste, the promotion of economical government, and the keeping of each echelon of complex government within its appointed orbit.’ So effective were these changes that William M. Robinson, Jr., has termed the document ‘the peak contribution of America to political science.’ The process of amendment was altered. With certain exceptions Congress was not to appropriate money except by two-thirds vote of both houses. The amount and purpose of each appropriation were to be precisely specified; and after the fulfillment of a public contract Congress was not to grant any extra compensation to the contractor. ‘Riders’ on money bills were discouraged by the provision that the President might veto a given item of an appropriation bill without vetoing the entire bill. Each law was to deal with ‘but one subject,’ to be expressed in the title.” (Randall and Donald, The Civil War and Reconstruction, pp. 157, 159)
Some Confederate leaders criticized slavery and believed blacks should be treated with respect
“Soon after his election, [Jefferson] Davis told a northern visitor that slavery . . . ‘has its evils and abuses’. . . .” (Davis, Don’t Know Much About the Civil War, p. 156)
“[Robert E.] Lee said he personally opposed slavery as ‘a moral and political evil’. . . .” (Davis, Don’t Know Much About the Civil War, p. 176)
“Lee . . . made clear his dislike of slavery, which he described in 1856 as ‘a moral and political evil.'” (McPherson, The Battle Cry of Freedom, p. 281)
“There are few, I believe, in this enlightened age, who will not acknowledge that slavery as an institution is a moral and political evil.” (Letter from Robert E. Lee, December 27, 1856, regarding President Pierce’s comments on slavery and abolition)
“[Confederate general] Stonewall Jackson sent off an envelope to his pastor. Expecting a battle report, the preacher discovered a contribution for his church’s ‘colored Sunday school,’ which Jackson had forgotten to send the day of the battle.” (Davis, Don’t Know Much About the Civil War, p. 192)
“General Lee directs me to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 25th and to say that he much regrets the unwillingness of owners to permit their slaves to enter the service [of the Confederate army]. . . . He hopes you will endeavor to get the assistance of citizens who favor the measure, and bring every influence you can to bear. When a negro is willing, and his master objects, there would be less objection to compulsion, if the state has the authority. It is however of primary importance that the negroes should know that the service is voluntary on their part. As to the name of the troops, the general thinks you cannot do better than consult the men themselves. His only objection to calling them colored troops was that the enemy had selected that designation for theirs. But this has no weight against the choice of the troops and he recommends that they be called colored or if they prefer, they can be called simply Confederate troops or volunteers. Everything should be done to impress them with the responsibility and character of their position, and while of course due respect and subordination should be exacted, they should be so treated as to feel that their obligations are those of any other soldier and their rights and privileges dependent in law and order as obligations upon others as upon themselves. Harshness and contemptuous or offensive language or conduct to them must be forbidden and they should be made to forget as soon as possible that they were regarded as menials.” (Letter from Robert E. Lee’s assistant adjutant general, Charles Marshall, March 30, 1865, to Lieutenant General Richard S. Ewell)
Many Confederate leaders, including Jefferson Davis, were willing to abolish slavery in order to preserve the South’s independence
“. . . several Confederate diplomats in London were hinting that their government would inaugurate a program of gradual emancipation after it gained its independence. British newspaper editors who sympathized with the Confederacy gave the rumor wide circulation.” (Klingaman, Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation, p. 113)
“A last-minute diplomatic initiative to secure British and French recognition in return for emancipation. . . . The impetus for this effort came from Duncan F. Kenner of Louisiana, a prominent member of the Confederate Congress and one of the South’s largest slaveholders. Convinced since 1862 that slavery was a foreign-policy millstone around the Confederacy’s neck, Kenner had long urged an emancipation diplomacy.” (McPherson, The Battle Cry of Freedom, p. 837)
“‘Let not slavery prove a barrier to our independence,’ intoned the Jackson Mississippian. ‘Although slavery is one of the principles that we started to fight for . . . if it proves an insurmountable obstacle to the achievement of our liberty and separate nationality, away with it!'” (McPherson, The Battle Cry of Freedom, p. 833; and note that slavery was identified only as “one of the principles,” and not the only principle, for which the South fought)
“Told Mr. Davis often and early in the war that the slaves should be emancipated, that it was the only way to remove a weakness at home and to get sympathy abroad, and divide our enemies . . .” (Memorandum of a conversation with Robert E. Lee held on February 15, 1868, in Gary Gallagher, editor, Lee the Soldier, Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1996, p. 12)
“. . . in my opinion the best means of securing the efficiency and fidelity of this auxiliary force [of slaves who would join the Confederate army] would be to accompany the measure with a well-digested plan of gradual and general emancipation.” (Letter from Robert E. Lee, January 11, 1865, to Confederate senator Andrew Hunter)
“Despite his making political capital out of Lincoln’s demands on slavery, Davis stood prepared to give up the venerable institution, if the sacrifice could secure Confederate independence.
“The sharply different approach to slavery introduced by the president in his Congressional message of November 1864 provided the background for an unprecedented initiative designed to obtain recognition from Great Britain and France. In late December 1864 Davis, with Secretary of State Judah Benjamin’s strong support, had made the momentous decision to sacrifice slavery on the altar of hope for European intervention.” (Cooper, Jefferson Davis, American, pp. 552-553)
“In order to save the Confederacy, Davis even led his fellow Confederates toward an abandonment of slavery.” (Cooper, Jefferson Davis, American, pp. 705-706)
Michael T. Griffith holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Excelsior College in Albany, New York, and two Associate in Applied Science degrees from the Community College of the Air Force. He is a two-time graduate of the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, in Arabic and Hebrew, and of the U.S. Air Force Technical Training School in San Angelo, Texas. He is the author of four books on Mormonism and ancient texts, and of one book on the John F. Kennedy assassination. He has completed advanced Hebrew programs at Haifa University in Israel and at the Spiro Institute in London, England. He is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Religious Studies from The Catholic Distance University and an Advanced Certificate of Civil War Studies from Carroll College in Wisconsin.
© 2003, Michael T. Griffith
Originally Published at: http://ourworld.cs.com/mikegriffith1/frombooks.htm