Tag Archives: Lincoln

Of Course Slavery was the Cause

Neo-secessionists and revisionists struggle uselessly to blame the Civil War… on Federal overreach, inequitable tariffs, and outmoded economic theory- they fail to see the forest for the trees.  The historical record settles matters plainly and without ambiguity.

Future Confederate Vice-President Alexander Stephens delivered the clearest, most definitive explanation… for secession and the existence of a Confederate State.  Less than three weeks following Lincoln’s inauguration, Stephens defiantly declared to the nation:

 

Cadaver with an agenda

“Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science. It has been so even amongst us. Many who hear me, perhaps, can recollect well, that this truth was not generally admitted, even within their day. The errors of the past generation still clung to many as late as twenty years ago.”

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Context Does Matter

Critics of the movie “Lincoln” … continue to hammer home a contentious point about the film’s depiction of slavery.  So-called experts are critical of the notion Lincoln freed the slaves(the film never implies this.)    Frederick Douglass is often cited as proof that slaves never cared for Lincoln or his deeds.  Ignoring context, Douglass is cited as the authoritative critic of Lincoln…. “you (white people) are the children of Abraham Lincoln. We are at best only his step-children.”

Uncanny

Uncanny

This disingenuous, lazy, line of reasoning…  has created a terrible myth about the creation of the civil rights movement.  Failure to place words in a proper context have terrible implications on historical interpretation.  In the same speech, Frederick Douglass explained to his predominately white audience, his true feelings for Abraham Lincoln:

Viewed from the genuine abolition ground, Mr. Lincoln seemed tardy, cold, dull, and indifferent; but measuring him by the sentiment of his country, a sentiment he was bound as a statesman to consult, he was swift, zealous, radical, and determined…. infinite wisdom has seldom sent any man into the world better fitted for his mission than Abraham Lincoln.”  Frederick Douglass  April 14, 1876

The hour and the man of our redemption had met in the person of Abraham Lincoln.”

“The hour and the man of our redemption had met in the person of Abraham Lincoln.”

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Nothing to Hide

The Lincoln administration arrested 14,401 people… during the Civil War.  Most were never indicted and denied a speedy trial.  Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus in September of 1861 allowed the detentions to happen.  Current Lincoln scholarship trends hold that Lincoln abused civil liberties and that his historical legacy must be drawn into question.  A closer examination of the statistics shows that modern researchers are using them merely for shock value and book sales.  Compared to other Presidents using the same powers- Lincoln’s actions are clearly justified.

Tyrant?

Tyrant?

John Merryman was not an innocent victim… of government tyranny as portrayed by Chief Justice Roger Taney.  Merryman led a detachment of Maryland militiamen in armed resistance to troops in Federal service.  Taney was a partisan Democrat staunchly opposed to Lincoln and supportive of secessionist doctrine.  Ex parte Merryman is not legal precedent at all and cannot be cited as such- it is a political document designed to hinder Lincoln’s attempts to protect Washington and preserve the Union.  It was issued by Taney alone- scholars often make the mistake of assuming that the Supreme Court concurred with the ruling.

 

Lincoln faced no mass opposition to these detentions… there were no mass protests, nor mob violence.  A closer look into the statistics shows that well over 80% of those arrested were:

  • from the Confederacy
  • Agitators in border states
  • Foreign agents supporting the enemy
  • Perpetrators of actual crimes against the Government
Remember Scott vs. Sanford? Didn't think so.

Remember Scott vs. Sanford? Didn’t think so.

Far from indiscriminate arrests, the detentions were almost always a direct result of an attributable illegal act.  Rose Greenhow WAS a spy and did pass secrets to the enemy.  Clement Vallandigham routinely denounced Lincoln on the floor of the House of Representatives and was never arrested for it- but when he publicly incited recruits to desert- he committed sedition and was arrested.

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Political Opportunist in Uniform

James A. Garfield wanted to advance his political career… a brief stint commanding Ohio volunteers followed by an undistinguished term as a Congressman stalled the upstart’s career.

The Mentor

The Mentor

Concluding military service essential to future political ascension….  Garfield used favors of his mentor (and distant cousin) Salmon P. Chase to reenter military service, this time as a General.  The Lincoln administration needed an appropriate duty station for the young Ohioan’s “talents.”

Self-serving service

Self-serving service

Eccentric, brilliant, but irascible…  William S. Rosecrans was on Secretary of War Edwin Stanton’s last nerve.  Stubborn to a fault, Rosecrans refused to bow to the Administration’s unreasonable timetables.  The popular Rosecrans needed to go, but Stanton needed just cause.  The cagey Garfield seemed the perfect plant-  Rosecrans needed a new Chief-of-Staff- Stanton needed an ally close to the troublesome Commander.  The drama was set….

Unwitting victim

Unwitting victim

 

 

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Book Review- A new look at Grant

Frank P. Varney, General Grant and the Rewriting of History, California, Savas and Beatty, 2013

A critical examination of Grant’s memoirs and their effects on the historical record. 

 

Professor Frank Varney’s first book is a bold effort to right historical wrongs…. and the wrongs were perpetrated by none other than US Grant.   Varney proposes a three volume examination of the inconsistencies, mistakes, and outright lies found in Grant’s widely utilized memoirs.  Volume one takes Grant (and his historical defenders) to task for ruining the reputation of Major General William S. Rosecrans.  Varney carefully dissects both the historical record and the secondary sources which were deeply influenced by Grant’s account.

“The well of data about Rosecrans has been so tainted that many historians… are simply not motivated to look beyond the traditionally relied-upon sources- the writings of Grant prominent among them.”   Varney sums up how Grant’s memoirs have affected Civil War historiography.  Researchers simply assume Grant was right- they fail to verify with lesser known primary sources; what source could be more valuable than the man credited as the Union victor?  Varney’s research is extensive and provides key insights to the Grant/Rosecrans feud.  At the Battles of Iuka and Corinth, Grant was miles from the fighting- his battle reports change over time- and his memoir bears little resemblance to the Official Records.  Historians like Steven Woodworth and T. Harry Williams  have been complicit in propagating Grant’s distorted account and Varney cites key examples of his peers failing to carry-out the most basic research methodology.

Far from a redemptive piece about Rosecrans… Varney acknowledges the flaws in the man.  But, the evidence of tampering and distortion are too extensive to be ignored by the historical community.  Rosecrans had his flaws, but Grant’s accounts of the war have forever tarnished a General with widely accepted military skill.  Grant didn’t care for his subordinate and Varney skillfully shows how he took credit for victories, exaggerated his own actions, and distorted (even lied) about the performance of others.  Rosecrans was the victim of a concerted effort led by Grant- and historians have failed to give a balanced account of this chapter in Civil War history.  Hopefully, Professor Varney’s future volumes will be as detailed and insightful as this first edition.

The recent Grant renaissance should be reconsidered. 

 

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Facts in Five

Mr. FJ Hooker edition…

"People will think I am a highwayman or a bandit."

“People will think I am a highwayman or a bandit.”

  • “Fighting Joe” was a nickname Hooker despised-  Lee often referred to him as Mr. F J Hooker in correspondence
  • Hooker’s delayed entry into the war was largely caused by his testimony against General-in-Chief, Winfield Scott, at a prewar court marshal proceeding. 
  • Before the War, Hooker unsuccessfully tried his hand at politics- losing a California assembly election 
  • Hooker was a member of the West Point class of 1837- classmates included Jubal Early and Braxton Bragg
  • Despite his reputation, there is little evidence that Hooker abused alcohol during his military service. 

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It was Never the Tariff

Historians, politicians, and neo-secessionists who argue that the Civil War… was caused by the Federal government’s manipulation of tariffs are at best terribly deluded, at worst, they are scurrilous ideologues with a shameful political agenda.

A brief history lesson for Tom DiLorenzo, Governor Greg Abbott, President Donald Trump, the Freedom Caucus, Ron and Rand Paul,  and any other woefully misguided students of history:

  • Article 1, Section 8  of the Federal Constitution- The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States………   Really, this should explain it, but secessionists were never concerned with Constitutional restraint.
  • The first tariff in our history was signed into law by George Washington on July 4, 1789.
  • The Walker Tariff of 1845 slashed duties in place since the Whig’s controlled Congress- A southern coalition pushed for the reduction
  • Tariffs were reduced again in 1852 and 1857.  The 1857 tariff was only 18%- the lowest since the 18th century.
  • The Morrill Tariff of 1861 was not passed until Southerners had already resigned from Congress.  During the secession crisis, Southern Senators had blocked the increase.  When in place, it raised the duty from 18-36%.

The Civil War was caused by slavery-  not tariffs. 

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