Why, then, did the United States enter into a bloody war that cost over half of the nation’s wealth, at least 800,000 lives and many hundreds of thousands more in casualties?
The answer: the War Between the States was not about slavery.
It was a war of invasion to further empower the central government and to reject state sovereignty, nullification of unconstitutional laws, and the states’ rights to secession.
It was a war that would cripple the South and witness the federal debt skyrocket from $65 million in 1860 to $2.7 billion in 1865, whose annual interest alone would prove twice as expensive as the entire federal budget from 1860. Likewise, it was a war that would witness a five-fold increase in the number of civilians employed by the federal government, as federal government spending increased from two percent of GDP in 1861 to twenty percent in 1865.
It was a war that would blur the lines and jurisdictions between sovereign states, that would indiscriminately sacrifice the founding principles etched into their compact, that would yield a form of unspeakable subjugation with enormous implications still grossly understated, conveniently overlooked and broadly misunderstood today.
In 1947, Confederate veteran Julius F. Howell corroborated this explanation in his recorded account of his wartime experiences, which he delivered to the Library of Congress at the age of 102:
"Now comes up the question of what we Southern soldiers fought for. My friends, as a boy of sixteen and a half years old, I didn't think about any of abolition of slavery. My mind wasn't developed enough to take in what the politicians had in mind, and hence there was no trouble as to the freedom of the slaves... The South did not fight for the preservation, or extension, of slavery... I look back now and see my part in [the war] and saw what we struggled for, and that was for states' rights."
Each year, schools around the United States send millions of graduates into adulthood or higher education under the misconception that the Confederacy fought for slavery.
The campaign against the South has proved remarkably successful, as unthinking acolytes continue to protest against flags, monuments, assemblies, parks and streets that intend to pay homage to the million Confederates who sacrificed their lives in the defense of sovereignty and liberty.
Above all, despite the echoes of post-war propaganda, the War Between the States represented an effort to preserve the sanctity of statehood and America's founding principle of self-government.
From its founding, the United States of America constituted a confederation, or an assembly, of sovereign states freely associated for the benefits enjoyed through their political synergies, as well as those enjoyed through the mutual advantages of defense and free trade.
Indeed, before the War for Southern Independence, people treated the phrase "United States" as a plural entity: one would normally follow "United States" with the conjunction are instead of is.
It was only after the war that the several states were relegated to the rank of provinces under the almighty and unquestioned federal government, away from a form of government "deriving [its] just powers from the consent of the governed."
All of this amounts to far more than a trivial shift with implications limited to politics or linguistics; it demonstrates a major leap from sovereign discretion, local governance and independence to unassailable authoritarian control where privileges and freedoms are either expressly enumerated or reserved to the appointed or democratically-elected elite.
The War Between the States was another veritable war for independence.
The United States' Declaration of Independence states, "That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."
This was the fundamental mission of the Southern states, who sensed and heeded the obligation to defend their principles and to abolish the form of government that had threatened their compact, their property and their rightful way of life.
The Confederate States desired peaceful secession and avoidance of hostilities to ensure the preservation of that solemn compact and the sovereignty of the several states.
This disposition was indeed echoed by President Jefferson Davis in his inaugural address on February 18, 1861:
"Looking forward to the speedy establishment of a permanent government to take the place of this, and which by its greater moral and physical power will be better able to combat with the many difficulties which arise from the conflicting interests of separate nations, I enter upon the duties of the office to which I have been chosen with the hope that the beginning of our career as a Confederacy may not be obstructed by hostile opposition to our enjoyment of the separate existence and independence which we have asserted, and, with the blessing of Providence, intend to maintain. Our present condition, achieved in a manner unprecedented in the history of nations, illustrates the American idea that governments rest upon the consent of the governed, and that it is the right of the people to alter or abolish governments whenever they become destructive of the ends for which they were established."
The Southern states, who ultimately comprised the Confederate States of America (CSA), plainly rejected the unconstitutional disposition of the Republican administration, their 50-percent tariffs on imported goods, and the Yankees’ perversion of republican governance.
Among the many threats posed by the emergent Republican administration, the economic implications were most palpable and foreseeable.
This concern is clearly evidenced by the Confederate States Constitution, which was nearly a word-for-word copy of the United States Constitution, with only occasional revisions for the purposes of clarifying the limited powers of the central government and the unequivocal character of the sovereign and independent states.
The Confederate States’ economic concerns manifest in this revision to the United States Constitution, whereby the Confederate States aimed to prevent their central government from becoming mercantilistic or favorable to special interests, an emerging threat posed by the Union that eventually impelled the secession:
“The Congress shall have power – To lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises for revenue, necessary to pay the debts, provide for the common defense, and carry on the Government of the Confederate States; but no bounties shall be granted from the Treasury; nor shall any duties or taxes on importations from foreign nations be laid to promote or foster any branch of industry; and all duties, imposts, and excises shall be uniform throughout the Confederate States.”
This concern was born partially out of the ongoing debates around the subject of tariffs, which would inflict a disproportionate burden upon the citizens of the Southern states, who relied more heavily upon foreign trade, who incidentally accounted for more than three-fourths of all federal tax revenues.
This disproportionate shouldering of the tax burden blatantly violated Article I, Section 8, Clause 1, of the United States Constitution, which granted Congress the "Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises" so long as they are distributed "uniform[ly] throughout the United States."
Of course, this wasn’t purely incidental at all, and the economics would play a crucial role in secession and what Lincoln and the Yankees would term “preservation of the Union.”
When the House of Representatives ultimately voted on the new tariff bill, known as the Morrill Tariff after its principal sponsor, Republican Representative Justin Smith Morrill of Vermont, the bill passed the House with a vote of 105 to 64.
The bill was exclusively embraced by Northerners, where it received ninety-six votes in support, only fifteen in opposition.
Among the Border states, the aforementioned tariff bill received seven votes in support and nine in opposition, while the Southern states nearly unanimously opposed the bill with only one vote of support and thirty-nine in opposition.
The Democrat-controlled Senate would ultimately postpone Senate action until after the 1860 election, which ensured that the tariff bill would remain a prominent issue during the upcoming election.
Ultimately, the Republicans would gain control in the United States Senate, and Republican Abraham Lincoln would win the presidential election, making passage of the tariff bill an inevitability and prompting South Carolina to secede on December 20, 1860.
Over the ensuing four months, six additional states would secede from the Union before the Battle of Fort Sumter: Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas.
Upon seceding from the Union, the State of South Carolina demanded that the United States Army abandon its facilities in Charleston Harbor, whereupon the Confederacy even offered to compensate the Union for the fort.
President James Buchanan then attempted to resupply Major Robert Anderson in January of 1861, which prompted South Carolina authorities to seize all federal property and mobilize to defend the harbor.
Union soldiers remained at Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, roughly 130 miles from the North Carolina border, until April 13, 1861, when they were finally expelled by Beauregard and his troops.
There were no casualties from the battle, and the sovereign state of South Carolina had every Constitutional right to defend its borders and expel Union aggressors.
Subsequently, four more states would secede from the Union in the wake of Fort Sumter: Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina.
Just as with the Battle of Fort Sumter, the Southern citizens were on the defensive during the entire war, meaning it was, by definition, not a “civil war” and the Union occupation circumvented the Constitution, which protects American citizens against invasion per Article IV; since there was no invasion from the Confederacy, the Union had no constitutional basis for war, much less for their own invasion of the South.
President Davis even bemoaned the Union's classification of the Confederacy's actions as a revolution, as he stated in his inaugural address:
"The right solemnly proclaimed at the birth of the States, and which has been affirmed and reaffirmed in the bills of rights of States subsequently admitted into the Union of 1789, undeniably recognize in the people the power to resume the authority delegated for the purposes of government. Thus the sovereign States here represented proceeded to form this Confederacy, and it is by abuse of language that their act has been denominated a revolution. They formed a new alliance, but within each State its government has remained, the rights of person and property have not been disturbed. The agent through whom they communicated with foreign nations is changed, but this does not necessarily interrupt their international relations."
What's more, the United States government never actually declared war on the Confederacy.
Instead, Lincoln deployed troops to implement blockades, strengthen and recapture forts, and suppress what he called an "insurrection and rebellion," effectively circumventing Article I, Section 8, Clause 11, of the United States Constitution, which expressly grants Congress the power to declare war.
Ironically, it was the Union's own invasion upon the seceded state of South Carolina, at Fort Sumter, which catapulted the two countries into full-fledged war.
While Lincoln and the Republicans favored the untenable position that secession was treasonous, the Constitution proves that it certainly was not.
Article III, Section 3, of the United States Constitution serves exclusively to limit its definition of treason: "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort."
The Southern states, then, could not have been treasonous on the basis of their secession; on the contrary, it was the Union which was treasonous, by the Constitution’s definition, for invading the Southern and border states. After all, that is the very significance of the term “them” in Article III, Section 3: the states, respectively. Treason was not classified on the basis of any threat posed to the central government, but to the states themselves.
The Confederacy was born out of the discretion of sovereign states that reserved every right to defend their respective territories from unwelcome threats, whether posed by military force or presented by unlawful usurpations of authority.
To that end, the Southern position was ultimately predicated upon defense of the Constitution and rejection of a tax burden disproportionately shouldered by the Southern states.
The Confederate States of America, while operating under a different title with their own flags and only a slightly-modified Constitution, still represented the idea of the United States for all intents and purposes.
Their secession, while maligned by Northerners who had desecrated the Constitution upon their political takeover, represented an intolerance for the kinds of unconstitutional influences that would irrevocably alter the consensual compact that had formally allied the states in the first place.
Their secession represented the final stand to preserve the United States against the rogue influences which threatened to materially mutilate that compact, the nature of their union and the sovereignty of the several states which comprised it.
And while the subject of slavery certainly played a factor in secession, the ensuing war certainly wasn't waged for the intentional benefit of abolition.
It was a war to "preserve the Union" in the North, a war for sovereignty, states' rights and the Constitution in the South.
As it turns out, the sheer legality of slavery was never even remotely in question in the United States before or during the war.
Indeed, even before secession and the war, the United States Supreme Court had already affirmed the legality of slavery, and endorsed the notion that blacks are not citizens, in the infamous Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) decision.
Chief Justice Roger B. Taney delivered the opinion of the court:
"We think they are not, and that they are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word 'citizens' in the Constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States."
It was, therefore, the legal opinion of the federal government, in 1857, that the institution of slavery was constitutional and that the federal government was prohibited from freeing slaves brought into federal territories.
What’s more, there isn’t a single mention of slavery in CSA President Jefferson Davis’s inaugural address, which centered on the aforementioned subjects of state sovereignty, violations of the Constitution, and restrictions on trade:
"An agricultural people, whose chief interest is the export of a commodity required in every manufacturing country, our true policy is peace, and the freest trade which our necessities will permit."
Nor did Abraham Lincoln endorse the abolition of slavery as justification for the Union’s invasion of the Southern states or even in his own campaign for the presidency; it was simply not a priority.
On the contrary, Lincoln even supported an amendment to the Constitution to make slavery permanent in the United States.
This was the initial iteration of what would have become the Thirteenth Amendment, otherwise known as the Corwin Amendment, proposed in 1860 by Senator William H. Seward and Representative Thomas Corwin, both Northern Republicans:
"No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State."
In his first inaugural address on March 4, 1861, Lincoln spoke of the proposed Corwin Amendment:
"I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution—which amendment, however, I have not seen—has passed Congress, to the effect that the Federal Government shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of the States, including that of persons held to service... holding such a provision to now be implied constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable."
Through the plain utterances of so few syllables, Lincoln made unequivocally clear both his understanding of the constitutional laws pertaining to the domestic institutions of the states and his unwavering endorsement for the enduring institution of slavery.
Of course, Lincoln also made the following statement in his famous presidential debate with Democratic Party nominee Stephen Douglas on August 21, 1858:
"I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so."
Rather than being the great liberator or the great emancipator, it appears that Lincoln had absolutely no intentions to abolish slavery, and he even made specifically clear on several occasions what little consideration he gave to the subject of slavery in his prioritization of preserving the union.
In the same series of debates, Lincoln unequivocally remarked, "I, as much as any other man, am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race."
Years later, in August of 1862, Lincoln wrote his famous letter to Horace Greeley, founder and editor of the New York Tribune: "If I could save the union without freeing any slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that."
In keeping with this statement, the North even attempted to negotiate with the Southern states in 1860, wielding the Corwin Amendment in an effort to prevent secession by eternally preserving the institution of slavery while still retaining the 50-percent tariff, yet the Southern states declined the deal.
They declined the deal because the war was not about slavery; it was about freedom, states' rights and constitutionality, words that contained real meaning for Southerners but have subsequently served as fodder and buzzwords for politicians and poets.
Far from the rebel caricature, President Davis unequivocally voiced his allegiance to the United States Constitution, which he (and the Confederate States) unapologetically endorsed as written, and as such promoted the practice of construing its provisions just as strictly as they were conferred:
"The Constitution formed by our fathers is that of these Confederate States, in their exposition of it, and in the judicial construction it has received, we have a light which reveals its true meaning."
Despite the post-war romanticization of Abraham Lincoln, let us remember that there was not some decisive philosophical shift around the time of the 1860 presidential election.
In fact, Lincoln garnered only thirty-nine percent of the popular vote in the 1860 election — even absent the popular vote of soon-to-secede South Carolina, whose Electors were selected by state legislatures — and the Union would later rig the 1864 election to ensure his victory and the sound military and political defeat of the Confederacy.
Lincoln's rigged election in 1864 ensured his victory over Democratic nominee George B. McClellan who, after serving in the rank of major general for the Union Army, promised negotiated peace with the Southern states.
McClellan, known affectionately by his men as Little Mac and the Young Napoleon, was well-liked among his troops, yet he secured only 22.9 percent of the army's 40,247 votes, whereas Lincoln carried the army vote with fully 70.3 percent of their nods.
Lincoln and the Republican Party ensured their triumph in the 1864 election through incentives and intimidation tactics targeting the compliance of the troops in support of the status quo.
Through color-coated ballots, a discriminatory furlough policy, destruction of Democratic ballots sent to army camps, and physical abuse of soldiers bold enough to voice their support for the Democratic Party, the Republicans secured Lincoln's reelection.
Intolerance for deceit and suspicion of the Republican Party's ulterior motives are present in the documents drafted to declare the causes impelling the states to the separation.
In prose resembling the Declaration of Independence, the six original states to secede submit their grievances against the Union.
From the Declaration of Causes of Seceding States, Georgia condemns the federal government for encroachment upon state sovereignty and abandonment of the compact they had each agreed to uphold: “By anti-slavery it is made a power in the state. The question of slavery was the great difficulty in the way of the formation of the Constitution.”
Later in the very same document, the representatives from Georgia cite manufacturing interests, which “clamored steadily for Government bounties and special favors,” which later found their trusty alliance with protectionism: “All these classes saw this and felt it and cast about for new allies. The anti-slavery sentiment of the North offered the best chance for success.”
The representatives from South Carolina identified identical threats stemming from the diminution of the rights protected by the Constitution: “[The Republican Party] has announced that the South shall be excluded from the common territory, that the judicial tribunals shall be made sectional, and that a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States.”
In this sense, the war “waged against slavery” served as a proxy to the greater war against economic freedom, state sovereignty and constitutional law.
The representatives from South Carolina continue: “The guaranties of the Constitution will then no longer exist; the equal rights of the States will be lost. The slaveholding States will no longer have the power of self-government, or self-protection, and the Federal Government will have become their enemy.”
Once again, we encounter the core concern regarding — and the principal threat against — the original compact that had consensually tied together the several states with naturally varying interests, each of which originally cooperated on the presumption of their preserved statehood.
The representatives from Mississippi echo the threat posed to the Constitution by the new administration: “It has nullified the Fugitive Slave Law in almost every free State in the Union, and has utterly broken the compact which our fathers pledged their faith to maintain.”
Representatives from Mississippi reiterate economic concerns centered around the “indubitable evidence of [the federal government’s] design to ruin our agriculture, to prostrate our industrial pursuits and to destroy our social system.”
Their enumeration of grievances culminates with a rejection of the anticipated ”loss of property worth four billions of money,” a veritable concern never remotely negotiated by the Union.
Ultimately, the sequence of secession was indisputably initiated by the Republicans’ successes at the polls in 1860, where they had captured the majority in the Senate while maintaining a majority in the House, and Lincoln had won the presidency to boot.
This implied that the Morrill Tariff would ultimately pass the Senate to become law, that the Union would absorb the new territory acquired from Mexico as an economic and political benefactor to Northern interests at the expense of Southern interests.
This would ultimately amount to an abrogation of the most critical terms negotiated at the outset of the original compact, which tied together the several states and enabled the consensual confederation between states, societies and geographical regions with meaningful differences.
The economic and political implications of the 1860 elections meant that their compact would further unravel to once again challenge the customs, social structures and economic viability of the South, while inexorably skewing the balance of political power to the disadvantage of the Southern states.
Indeed, Jefferson Davis wrote of this very dilemma in his memoirs entitled The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: "By exclusion of the South, in 1820, from all that part of the Louisiana purchase lying north and south of the parallel of thirty-six degrees thirty minutes, and not included in the state of Missouri; by the extension of that line of exclusion to embrace the territory acquired from Texas; and by the appropriation of all the territory obtained from Mexico under the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, both north and south of that line, it may be stated with approximate accuracy that the North had monopolized to herself more than three-fourths of all that had been added to the domain of the United States since the Declaration of Independence."
Davis continues: "This inequality, which began, as has been shown, in the more generous than wise confidence of the South, was employed to obtain for the North the lion's share of what was afterward added at the cost of the public treasure and the blood of patriots."
Although Davis charitably declined to "estimate the relative proportion contributed by each of the two sections," we know the lion's share of that contribution to be attributable to the South; indeed, in some political practices, that contribution would constitute an overwhelming supermajority, and in this particular case a relative advantage for one section approximating the relative contribution of the other.
This inequality and indelible "blight [to] the fair prospects under which the original compact was formed" combined with "the effects of discriminating duties upon imports" to prompt the secession of South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas.
The Battle of Fort Sumter would, only months later, serve as the tipping point for the final four states — Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina — which seceded after repeated efforts by abolitionists and their Northern allies to "subvert our institutions and to excite insurrection and servile war among us," and "one instance that led to the actual invasion of one of the slave-holding States... [by] murderers and incendiaries who escaped public justice by flight [and] have found fraternal protection among our Northern confederates."
So while the Declaration of Causes of Seceding States appears to contextualize the political battle between slave states and non-slave-holding states, those six original declarations also flesh out the relatively nuanced factors which comprise that superficial distinction; thus, while many of the causes of secession may have centered around the subject of slavery, their reasons were far more nuanced and multitudinous, and the war certainly had its roots elsewhere, where the subject of slavery served as a mere fertilizer for the promotion of the greater and virtueless political agenda.
What's more, slavery wasn't nearly as ubiquitous in the Southern states as Americans commonly believe today, as the ranks of slavery were already rapidly diminishing in the United States at the time, due to economic developments, manumission and the aptly-named Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves, which took effect in the United States in 1808.
Indeed, it was specifically because of those economic developments in the North that the majority of its slaves had been sold into the South at a profit; that the ordinary Northerner, inspired not by self-righteousness but self-interest, readily expressed his support for the prohibition of the extension of slavery into the western territories.
Far from the idyllic caricature of the sinless abolitionist, the ordinary Northerner, motivated by personal, political and economic prospects, sought only to eliminate the competition of southern planters and their slaves in order to improve his own prospects in the west. Just as with the subsequent political initiatives following from fair labor standards, the minimum wage and equal pay for equal work, whose progenitors, namely labor unions, aimed merely to promote their own labor prospects by rendering the wages of low-skilled immigrants more expensive and therefore less competitive, the same rings true for those who, on the surface, supported the prohibition of slavery in the territories of the west. Of course, the truth seldom prevents the politician from ennobling the cause; after all, as the old adage goes, history is always written by the victors.
Unfortunately, the contradictions and misconceptions about the history of this war seem to only progress from here, where the aforesaid caricatures continually clash in the court of public opinion. Nowhere do we find a more blatant disregard for history and truth than in the characterization of the South and in the mythology of Abraham Lincoln.
Belying the misapprehension of nineteenth-century America, more than seventy-five percent of people in the South didn't even own slaves, while several thousands of blacks, reportedly twenty-eight percent of free blacks, owned slaves in the United States, upwards of six thousand blacks fought for the Confederacy and approximately one hundred thousand worked as laborers for the Confederate cause.
In fact, famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass characterized blacks — who were far more integrated in the South than in the North — as the "stomach of the rebellion" as black laborers grew the crops that fed the Confederacy.
Ironically enough, Lincoln actually intended to deport all blacks during his administration, as he routinely spoke of their inability to be equal to whites in America and his disinterest in abolishing slavery.
Lincoln even acknowledged that he had no legal right to do so, that he couldn’t legally abolish slavery on his own.
During his administration, Lincoln supported the American Colonization Society, which settled and colonized Liberia throughout the nineteenth century for the purposes of returning free black slaves to the continent of Africa; this prompted Frederick Douglass to condemn Lincoln as an "itinerant colonization preacher" whom he described as "ridiculous" for proposing that blacks abandon the place of their birth.
Even in his eventual Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln addressed the subject of emancipation purely as a war measure that lacked legal grounds — as the President cannot unilaterally amend the Constitution — and it exempted Northern slave states and those territories under the control of the Union.
What’s more, the ennobled Emancipation Proclamation “freed” select slaves who were then left vulnerable to Union soldiers who were permitted to conscript them and put them to work for the Union Army.
Ultimately, the Emancipation Proclamation applied exclusively — but neither legally nor practicably — to the Southern states.
Lincoln actually went out of his way to ensure that he did not extend freedom to the slaves in the North, nor to those in territories under the control of the Union.
I’ll quote Lincoln: “... all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.”
While Lincoln routinely promoted the notion of deporting blacks from the United States, claiming that they could not assimilate, he later recognized that the black demographic could instead fortify his own Union ranks during the war and his party’s voting bloc in forthcoming election cycles: the Republicans would ultimately secure the presidency for fifty-six of the seventy-two years between 1861 and 1933. Over that same period, they would enjoy a house majority for fifty of those years, a senate majority for sixty-two of them.
That’s really why they passed the Thirteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to abolish slavery and empower the black vote; as Republican Congressman Stevens put it, the votes of the freed slaves were necessary in order "to secure perpetual ascendancy to the party of the Union." It was all about plundering the South into submission to subsidize the lifestyles of the North, to strengthen the central government and fortify the Republican Party, and to essentially destroy the Constitution. As General William Tecumseh Sherman wrote, "I believe the whole idea of giving votes to the negroes is to create just that many votes to be used by others for political uses." Sherman lamented a plan "whereby politicians may manufacture just so much more pliable electioneering material."
Economically, it’s important to note that the South accounted for no less than three-fourths of all federal tax revenues in the United States, that much of the economic activity in the South at the time could be aptly characterized as agrarian.
For this reason, the Southern states relied more heavily on trade than the more industrialized North.
This meant that the 50-percent tariff on imported goods specifically suited the interests of the North, whose commercial interests would be protected by insulating the Northern economy from competition, while their war interests would be promoted by incidentally weakening the economic standing of the South by diminishing exports and increasing their costs of living.
What’s more, on the subject of legality, the Constitution protected slavery (until the Thirteenth Amendment); Lincoln suspended habeas corpus and detained Maryland legislators to prevent Maryland from seceding; five states in the North remained slave states during the war; Lincoln authorized the invasion and blockade of the South as he introduced the first fiat currency and direct taxes on income, both of which were later ruled unconstitutional.
Oddly enough, fiat currencies and income taxes also have their roots in concealed theft and slavery.
Where one finds fiat currency, the expansion of the supply of irredeemable banknotes is possible only at the unseen expense of somebody else's savings and labor productivity elsewhere; the notes' purchasing power is made possible by compromising unwitting producers who, lacking insights into the future supply of notes, exchange their real goods for debased paper notes which amount to promises of future repayment that will likely, by design, fall short of expectations.
These shortfalls, while not readily apparent as losses, surely amount to ones deliberately exacted upon the government's unsuspecting servants.
Meanwhile, any direct tax on income absolutely amounts to involuntary servitude and an obvious deprivation of property absent the due process or conviction required by law, a blatant violation of the Bill of Rights and, ironically, the Thirteenth Amendment.
Lincoln also introduced conscription — an unconstitutional action otherwise known as compulsory enlistment — for the first time since the United States ratified the Constitution in 1788.
This resulted in the historic New York City draft riots, as anti-draft demonstrations led to race riots and emotions boiled over across three violent days during the initial drawing of draft numbers.
The New York State Militia had been sent to assist Union troops at Gettysburg, so the New York City Metropolitan Police Department was left alone to respond to the Northern insurrection.
Heavily outnumbered, police could not quell the riots, and their superintendent, John Kennedy, was brutally wounded along with no fewer than two thousand other officers, soldiers and New Yorkers.
On the third day of the riots, Major General John E. Wool, commander of the Department of the East, was quoted as saying, "Martial law ought to be proclaimed, but I have not sufficient force to do it."
Before order could finally be restored by eight hundred soldiers and Marines from New York Harbor, West Point and the Brooklyn Navy Yard, one hundred and twenty people had perished in the riots while several buildings had been set ablaze.
This momentous event, which occurred just ten days after the pivotal Battle of Gettysburg, demonstrates the intensity of the internal conflict within the Northern states, which happened to mirror the critical disputes that brought the states to war in the first place.
Many New Yorkers, and many Northerners for that matter, had no interest in fighting in this aggressive war against the South, and some of them finally reached their boiling point when confronted with conscription.
Ironically, the modern misnomer about the war being waged to abolish slavery makes even less sense when considering the practical means to that theoretical end.
If we were to assume that the war was indeed fought over slavery, this would mean that Lincoln enslaved Americans in the North against their will, suspended their liberties and constitutional rights for the purposes of abolishing slavery?
Put another way, in order to believe that the war was waged against slavery, one would have to assume that Lincoln promoted the enslavement of some to put an end to the enslavement of others.
In principle, the whole notion is devoid of merit.
In fact, the contradictions don't stop there.
The United States passed the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments upon the conclusion of the war, a series of policy changes known as the Reconstruction Amendments — these coincided with the Reconstruction Acts which, beginning in 1867, delineated the process of, and conditions for, readmitting the Southern states into the Union.
Among these conditions, the Southern states would have to accept the Reconstruction Amendments and yield unreservedly to Congress, who would strip the state governments of their power and place the South into five military districts to ensure Federal control. In asserting their control over those districts, Federal troops administered loyalty oaths not merely to Confederates, but to wealthy Southerners who were flatly assumed guilty or complicit for their proximity and sheer wealth.
The Reconstruction Amendments would irrevocably alter the political landscape across the United States, and incidentally the attitudes of exasperated Southerners who would ultimately be deprived of their sovereignty, and concomitantly their dignity, after a long, bloody war in which they had sought to defend that very principle.
The Thirteenth Amendment freed the slaves, the Fourteenth made every American a slave to the central government’s whim, and the Fifteenth forbade the denial or abridgment of suffrage on the basis of "race, color, or previous condition of servitude."
While the Thirteenth Amendment receives unrestrained praise today, for what most interpret as laudable courage in the face of villainous adversaries, this caricatured assessment of history omits several important nuances which afford us insight into reality.
First, most people haven’t the slightest clue how poorly Africans treated slaves before they were sold to the Western world, nor are they aware of the conditions of their lives prior to their arrival in the West.
In fact, their lives were, in many cases, dramatically improved in the Americas, where planters legally purchased slaves, invested in their health and well-being, afforded them stability and certainty, and in many cases embraced them as family; this is why many blacks fought alongside their masters in the war, why many elected to remain with them even after the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment.
So while the sentiment of the Thirteenth Amendment appears agreeable today, one must place the words into their proper historical context before asserting a value judgment.
Several of the Southern states lament this very dilemma in their Declaration of Causes of Seceding States, whereby Southern representatives list as one of their numerous grievances the Union's insensitivity to the legal purchase of property that, once outlawed, would amount to several billions of 1861 dollars in overnight losses and the sudden evisceration of an economy uniquely dependent upon its investment in human labor.
While jarring, fallout from the Thirteenth Amendment would have been kept relatively mild without the excesses of a legislative encore, the ensuing two amendments, whose social and political implications would leave much more to be sorted out across subsequent generations.
In practical terms, and in the eyes of many Southerners, the Fifteenth Amendment essentially granted leverage to the unlanded at the expense of the landed, or, put another way, the legally-acquired property at the expense of the property owners.
The Fourteenth Amendment states, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”
The Fourteenth Amendment essentially reorganized the United States into "conquered provinces" — as Radical Republican Congressman Thaddeus Stevens, of Pennsylvania, would call them after the war — away from states with their own sovereignty, under the national domain of the monolithic Federal government.
The Fourteenth Amendment also served to empower the Federal government so as to insulate itself from the kind of questioning that hints at rebellion or, which apparently smacks of the same, any interpretation of the Constitution that questions the authority of that Federal government or the legitimacy of its new powers.
As such, the Fourteenth Amendment strictly prohibited Confederates or rebels generally from ever seeking public office. The irony here is that the Confederates were loyalists to the Constitution and the principle that governments derive their "just powers from the consent of the governed."
Indeed, after an honest evaluation of this epoch in American history, it becomes abundantly clear that these views weren't specifically limited to the South, but were rather prevalent in the North before the war.
This spirit toward the preservation of liberty and sovereignty is apparent even in the popular publications of the North at the outset of the war.
On January 12, 1861, the New York Journal of Commerce characterized opposition to secession as changing the nature of government "from a voluntary one, in which the people are sovereigns, to a despotism where one part of the people are slaves.”
Through these textual insights one uncovers the contradictions of the Lincoln regime and the circumstances that gave rise to conscription in order to support a war effort that was clearly unpopular and legally indefensible at the time.
The War Between the States was absolutely Lincoln's war, hardly the manifestation of clashing interests between ordinary people.
In order to discourage public dissent, Lincoln imprisoned more than 30,000 Northern citizens for allegedly “voicing opposition to the war”; censored telegraph and print communications; arrested congressmen and federal judges for their opposition to the war, their denunciation of Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus, and their promotion of peaceful resolution to war.
Clement Vallandigham was one of the many Northerners arrested.
Vallandigham was a representative from Ohio who was convicted through an Army court martial of opposing the war.
Vallandigham described the mercantilistic direction of the American system under Lincoln and the new Republican Party as one wholly antithetical to the designs of republican government guaranteed by the Constitution:
Through the course of this war, Vallandigham anticipated "national banks, bankrupt laws, a vast and permanent public debt, high tariffs, heavy direct taxation, enormous expenditure, gigantic and stupendous peculation... No more state lines, no more state governments, but a consolidated monarchy or vast centralized military despotism."
In May of 1863, sixty-seven Union soldiers reportedly broke into his house in Ohio to arrest him and force him out of the North due to his anti-war position and his promotion of peaceful resolution.
He actually remained on the gubernatorial ticket for Ohio in 1863, despite his exile in Canada.
Judge William Matthews Merrick, of the United States Circuit Court of the District of Columbia, is another such example.
Merrick was placed under house arrest by Brigadier General Andrew Porter of the Union Army as he attempted to prevent the court from proceeding with a writ of habeas corpus to release a Union soldier whose father, John Murphy, claimed that his son was underage.
Porter also arrested Murphy's lawyer when he attempted to serve Porter with the writ.
Merrick's fellow judges then undertook the case and subpoenaed Porter in United States ex rel. Murphy v. Porter, but Lincoln ultimately prevented the marshal from issuing the court's order.
The court then claimed that Lincoln's disruption of its legal process was unconstitutional, that the President had not declared martial law.
Notwithstanding their repudiation of the President's interference, the court was ultimately powerless in enforcing their prerogatives.
When Lincoln's personal secretary, John Hay, asked Secretary of State William H. Seward what ought to be done with the court order regarding Porter, Seward replied, "The President... forbids you to serve any process upon any officer here."
Additional research suggests that Lincoln also issued an arrest warrant for Robert B. Taney, Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, after his ruling in Ex parte Merryman, which ruled as unconstitutional Lincoln's suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, declaring that the authority to suspend habeas corpus rests exclusively with the Congress of the United States.
Each of these maneuvers jives with the overall strategy of the Lincoln administration, which aimed to embolden the central government and silence dissension.
Consistent with this pattern, Lincoln even outright shut down newspapers to control information, and he imprisoned legislators from Maryland to ensure that the state wouldn’t secede from the Union.
On May 13, 1861, the Union army entered Baltimore, occupied the city and declared martial law before arresting Mayor George William Brown, the city council and the police commissioner, who were sympathetic to the Confederate cause.
Another notable prisoner from Baltimore was Francis Key Howard, the grandson of Revolutionary War colonel John Eager Howard and Francis Scott Key, author of the Star Spangled Banner.
Howard, an editor for the Daily Exchange in 1861, was imprisoned for publishing critical editorials about Lincoln's unlawful suspension of habeas corpus; he would join the ranks of many thousands of other Americans, who were imprisoned in similar fashion throughout the duration of Lincoln's war.
He would later publish his accounts in a memoir entitled Fourteen Months in American Bastiles, whereupon two of his publishers were promptly arrested. In his memoirs, Howard acknowledged the sobering irony between his grandfather's experience at McHenry and his own, condemning the "odd and not pleasant coincidence" of witnessing "the flag which he had then so proudly hailed," which he "saw waving at the same place over the victims of as vulgar and brutal a despotism as modern times have witnessed."
All of those taken prisoner in Baltimore were kept at Fort McHenry for the duration of the war.
One year later, Lincoln also presided over the single greatest execution in American history, which in 1862 resulted in over three-hundred Dakota natives being arrested before being “tried” over the course of ten minutes each and finally executed.
Lincoln deliberately lied about this figure, misreporting it as thirty-eight to mitigate the damage already done to his budding international reputation as a tyrant, which had fallen under increasing levels of scrutiny after 1861's Trent Affair which inspired many in Great Britain to sympathize with the Confederacy.
On June 16, 1858, after accepting the Illinois Republican Party's nomination in his failed run for the state's senatorial position held by Democrat Stephen Douglas, Lincoln delivered his famous House Divided speech in Springfield, Illinois, at the Republican State Convention, where he poetically proclaimed: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
While undoubtedly poetic, Lincoln brazenly neglected to acknowledge that two separate houses can indeed stand independent of each other.
This is the very principle of state sovereignty which originally impelled the colonies' separation from Great Britain, which was also realized in the Constitution’s Tenth Amendment — which Thomas Jefferson famously regarded as the cornerstone of the Constitution — which would ultimately empower the Southern states to legally declare their own independence from the Union.
In summary, the War Between the States was a veritable war of aggression following from an expression of independence by eleven states that reserved every constitutional and natural right to secede: the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution reads, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." Since the Constitution omits any mention of the power of the federal government to prevent separation or secession, this power is rightly reserved to the "States respectively, or to the people."
Article II of America's original Articles of Confederation expressed this right in even clearer terms:
"Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled."
Upon the release of the official Declaration of Independence on July 2, 1776, after securing support from twelve of the thirteen colonies, two days before it was formally approved by Congress, the Pennsylvania Evening Post reported, “This day the CONTINENTAL CONGRESS declared the UNITED COLONIES FREE and INDEPENDENT STATES.”
The following day, the Pennsylvania Gazette reported, “Yesterday, the CONTINENTAL CONGRESS declared the UNITED COLONIES FREE and INDEPENDENT STATES.”
Likewise, the Declaration of Independence itself stated, “Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States... That a plan of confederation be prepared and transmitted to the respective Colonies for their consideration and approbation.”
By all accounts, both formal and informal, de jure and de facto, enumerated and intended, the Union was unequivocally formed as a confederation of free and independent states.
The several states are not as much bound by the federal government as the federal government is bound by the will and consent of the sovereign states.
Indeed, the merits of these words are found not in the canonization of text, but rather in the sound reason which guided the quill.
It is the natural course of representative government to separate into smaller bodies, where the proportion of inhabitants to representatives remains conducive to representative government.
James Madison wrote in The Federalist Papers, Numbers 55 and 56, that the Federal government would consist of "one [representative] for every thirty thousand inhabitants."
Secession, not only an essential course for representative government and developing populations, produced several of America’s states: Franklin (later Tennessee) from North Carolina in 1784, Kentucky from Virginia in 1791, Maine from Massachusetts in 1820.
The founding of the United States was itself born out of this very principle, once the states declared their independence from Great Britain in 1776; seven years later in the Treaty of Paris in 1783, Great Britain would even formally recognize not one Union but the existence of thirteen sovereign states, three of which — New York, Rhode Island, and Virginia, respectively — would enumerate the right of secession, in their own specific language, in their ratification of the United States Constitution.
In this sense, secession is truly an American tradition and an essential course for representative government.
Indeed, even far in advance of the War Between the States, in the very infancy of the newfound republic, Colonel Timothy Pickering, formerly an officer in the cabinet of General Washington of the Continental Army during the Revolution who had afterward successively served as Postmaster General, Secretary of War, and Secretary of State, was one of the leading secessionists of his day.
Writing from Washington to a friend on December 24, 1803, then-Senator Pickering of Massachusetts proclaimed prophetically:
"I will not despair. I will rather anticipate a new confederacy, exempt from the corrupt and corrupting influence and oppression of the aristocratic democrats of the south. There will be (and our children, at farthest, will see it) a separation. The white and black population will mark the boundary."
Pickering wrote subsequently on January 29, 1804, denouncing the wrongs and abuses perpetrated by the existing administration upon expressing his views of the remedy to be applied:
"The principles of our Revolution point to the remedy — a separation. That this can be accomplished, and without spilling one drop of blood, I have little doubt."
Pickering then affirmed the Jeffersonian view of a continent settled separately by a greater number of republics sharing mutually in their economic and political interests without compromising the designs and the fruits of representative government by the consent of the governed:
"I do not believe in the practicability of a long-continued Union. A Northern Confederacy would unite congenial characters and present a fairer prospect of public happiness; while the Southern States, having a similarity of habits, might be left to 'manage their own affairs in their own way.' If a separation were to take place, our mutual wants would render a friendly and commercial intercourse inevitable. The Southern States would require the naval protection of the Northern Union, and the products of the former would be important to the navigation and commerce of the latter."
Pickering then specified the strategy for such a separation:
"It must begin in Massachusetts. The proposition would be welcomed in Connecticut; and could we doubt of New Hampshire? But New York must be associated; and how is her concurrence to be obtained? She must be made the center of the Confederacy. Vermont and New Jersey would follow of course, and Rhode Island of necessity."
Decades later, it would appear that, as President Jefferson Davis penned in his own memoirs, "we find the suggestions of 1860-'61 only a reproduction of those thus outlined nearly sixty years earlier." Indeed, the reproduction becomes clear upon substituting South Carolina for Massachusetts; Virginia for New York; Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama, for New Hampshire, Vermont, and Rhode Island; Kentucky for New Jersey, etc.
Thus, secession was not merely the spirit of the Revolution; indeed, it was the natural and expected course of the American Republic, a right expressed at various times for different reasons, and by separate states. Needless to say, the right of secession was not just reserved to the states, but universally respected among them; above all, it was an established and indispensable right, and one historically exercised by those in the North just as in the South.
During his tenure in the House of Representatives, Abraham Lincoln even acknowledged the vital right of secession in his polemic against US aggression during the Mexican-American War:
"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."
If only these were more than words to Lincoln, and if only he actually upheld the Constitution which he swore an oath to preserve, protect and defend, the War Between the States could have been swiftly averted.
I have, thus, arrived at the conclusion that our present problems are the manifest expression of several phases of incremental shifts and dramatic leaps, and all of this exposes a great deal about psychology and evolution of thought which appears to have been nudged by the heavy hand of propaganda directed, whether deliberately or incidentally, at a whitewashing of history in support of the more expedient and fashionable styles of patriotism, political correctness and life as a servile pawn in the political chess game.
Just as with the captives in Plato's Allegory of the Cave, the American public has been mesmerized by the non-stop fictional reruns playing on screen, in script or through casual conversation.
The causes behind the War Between the States are accessible to anyone who’s interested in investigating them, but our nation’s history classes have conspired to prioritize the pithy epigrams that have resonated with the unwitting and uncaring public for generations, which enable a most superficial and perilously unsophisticated understanding of the most critical moment in American history.
When we question the efficacy of propaganda or whether the victors really write history, the gross misunderstanding of this brutal war and its perpetrator stands as manifest evidence.
The student of liberty and American history would do well to remember a certain 1866 letter from a certain Lord Acton, the eminent British historian of liberty, penned to one Robert E. Lee:
“I saw in States’ Rights the only availing check upon the absolutism of the sovereign will, and secession filled me with hope, not as the destruction but as the redemption of Democracy. The institutions of your Republic have not exercised on the old world the salutary and liberating influence which ought to have belonged to them, by reason of those defects and abuses of principle which the Confederate Constitution was expressly and widely calculated to remedy. I believed that the example of that great Reform would have blessed all the races of mankind by establishing true freedom purged of the native dangers and disorders of Republics. Therefore I deemed that you were fighting the battles of our liberty, our progress, and our civilization; and I mourn for the stake which was lost at Richmond more deeply than I rejoice over that which was saved at Waterloo.”
The end of the Confederacy yielded to a Republican dynasty headed militarily by the likes of General William Tecumseh Sherman, who would subsequently continue in his odyssey which he personally described as “a racial cleansing of the land.” This was finally the manifest destiny of the nationalists, led and continually inspired by their mastermind Alexander Hamilton generations ago, who famously denounced the Constitution as a “frail and worthless fabric” upon walking out of the Constitutional Convention after only a few days. The source of Hamilton’s frustrations becomes clear upon reading Senator John Taylor’s New Views of the Constitution of the United States, authored from notes taken by one Robert Yates, whereupon the reader doubtless concludes, just as Yates had, that the convention attendees viewed the new Constitution as a compact among free and independent states and not the creation of a nation or eminent national government. Indeed, all references to the adjective “national” were decidedly rejected in favor of the term United States, in the plural.
Renowned Lincoln scholar Dean Sprague wrote that Lincoln’s “policy of repression did have a tremendous impact on the nation. It fundamentally altered the balance of power between the federal and state governments, laying the groundwork for such actions as the national draft and the federal income tax. At the outbreak of the war, the federal government was not a real source of power. But when the arm of the Lincoln administration reached into Cooperstown, New York, and took away George Brian, when it slipped into Freedom, Maine, and spirited away Robert Elliot, when it proved powerful enough to send three citizens of North Branch, Michigan, to Fort Lafayette, and imprison, without any recourse to law, a man in De Moines, Iowa, it was apparent that the federal executive, after all, had real power.”
The student of liberty and American history, then, must recognize that, as Sprague puts it, the balance of power in the central government was inexorably changed under the tutelage of “Father Abraham” who irrevocably altered the fundamental workings of the American political system. Out of this was born at once the image of an all-knowing government through the deification of Lincoln and the aggrandizement of centralized and nationalized power.
As Charles Dickens wrote in 1862, “The Northern onslaught upon slavery was no more than a piece of specious humbug designed to conceal its desire for economic control of the Southern states.”
Just as the subject of slavery served directly the interests of government, its expanded economic and political control over the nation, and in amending the Constitution to formalize and prepare the foundations for further control and abuses, the subjects of “equality” and “privilege” and “reparations” contemporarily represent those same vile ambitions, which will invariably witness the further erosion of freedom in a society that has been thoroughly trained to ignore the costs.
The War Between the States is the single most transformative event in American history since the ratification of the Constitution, and its implications are as relevant today as they were upon the first volley of gunfire, only the average reader today remains peacefully numb to the more inconspicuous costs of his blissful ignorance.
Unfortunately, as has proven to be the case throughout history, socialized civilizations substitute naked honesty with poetic editorials that promote the continued status quo, appeal to the masses, and sublimate or flatly alienate the opposition.
For the incumbents of public office and the appointed arbiters of acceptable thought, the truth is too hard to identify or too costly to disclose; and for the masses, it’s often too hard to accept.
President Jefferson Davis proclaimed in his inaugural address: "The impartial and enlightened verdict of mankind will vindicate the rectitude of our conduct, and He who knows the hearts of men will judge of the sincerity with which we labored to preserve the Government of our fathers in its spirit."
Unfortunately, the ranks of the "impartial and enlightened" have perished from this earth or have otherwise largely capitulated to the conventions of allowable opinion.
So myth perpetuates ceaselessly against the crumbling dam of truth which predictably gives way to the uncontainable pressure of public opinion, leaving the truth largely unrecognizable and discoverable only by the few with the means, the patience and the audacity to recover it.
As sixteenth-century writer John Harrington quipped, "Treason doth never prosper: what's the reason? Why, if it prosper, none dare call it treason."