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Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Bloodiest War In Our History Begins

“And this issue embraces more than the fate of these United States. It presents to the whole family of man, the question, whether a constitutional republic, or a democracy—a government of the people, by the same people—can, or cannot, maintain its territorial integrity, against its own domestic foes. — Abraham Lincoln is an address to a special session of Congress, July 4, 1861

On this day in 1861 the bloodiest four years in American history begin when Confederate shore batteries under General P.G.T. Beauregard opened fire on Union-held Fort Sumter in South Carolina's Charleston Bay. During the next 34 hours, 50 Confederate guns and mortars launched more than 4,000 rounds at the poorly supplied fort. On April 13, U.S. Major Robert Anderson surrendered the fort. Two days later, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for 75,000 volunteer soldiers to quell the Southern "insurrection."

As early as 1858, the ongoing conflict between North and South over the issue of slavery had led Southern leadership to discuss a unified separationSumter from the United States. By 1860, the majority of the slave states were publicly threatening secession if the Republicans, the anti-slavery party, won the presidency. Following Republican Abraham Lincoln's victory over the divided Democratic Party in November 1860, South Carolina immediately initiated secession proceedings. On December 20, the South Carolina legislature passed the "Ordinance of Secession," which declared that "the Union now subsisting between South Carolina and other states, under the name of the United States of America, is hereby dissolved." After the declaration, South Carolina set about seizing forts, arsenals, and other strategic locations within the state. Within six weeks, five more Southern states--Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana--had followed South Carolina's lead.

In February 1861, delegates from those states convened to establish a unified government. Jefferson Davis of Mississippi was subsequently elected the first president of the Confederate States of America. When Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated on March 4, 1861, a total of seven states (Texas had joined the pack) had seceded from the Union, and federal troops held only Fort Sumter in South Carolina, Fort Pickens off the Florida coast, and a handful of minor outposts in the South. Four years after the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter, the Confederacy was defeated at the total cost of 620,000 Union and Confederate soldiers dead.

The fort had been the source of tension between the Union and Confederacy for several months. After South Carolina seceded on December 20, 1860, the state demanded the fort be turned over but Union officials refused. A supply ship, the "Star of the West," tried to reach Fort Sumter on January 9, but the shore batteries opened fire and drove it away. For both sides, Sumter was a symbol of sovereignty. The Union could not allow it to fall to the Confederates, although throughout the Deep South other federal installations had been seized. For South Carolinians, secession meant little if the Yankees still held the stronghold. The issue hung in the air when Abraham Lincoln took the oath of office on March 4, stating in his inauguration address: "You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors."

Lincoln did not try to send reinforcements but he did send in food. This way, Lincoln could characterize the operation as a humanitarian mission, bringing, in his words, "food for hungry men." He sent word to the Confederates in Charleston of his intentions on April 6. The Confederate Congress at Montgomery, Alabama, had decided on February 15 that Sumter and other forts must be acquired "either by negotiation or force." Negotiation, it seemed, had failed. The Confederates demanded surrender of the fort, but Major Robert Anderson, commander of Fort Sumter, refused.

At 4:30 a.m. on April 12, the Confederate guns opened fire. For thirty-three hours, the shore batteries lobbed 4,000 shells in the direction of the fort. Finally, the garrison inside the battered fort raised the white flag. No one on either side had been killed, although two Union soldiers died when the departing soldiers fired a gun salute, and some cartridges exploded prematurely. It was a nearly bloodless beginning to America's bloodiest war.

In his controversial book Recarving Rushmore Dr. Ivan Eland profiles each U.S. president on the merits of his policies and whether those strategies contributed to peace, prosperity, and liberty. This ranking system is based on how effective each president was in fulfilling his oath to uphold the Constitution. Contrary to the preferences of modern conservatives and liberals, this oath was intended to limit the role of the federal government.

In Recarving Rushmore Dr. Ivan Eland evaluates the performance of every president from George Washington to George W. Bush based on factors such as economic stability, peace, attitudes toward minorities (blacks and Native Americans), and how each of the presidents upheld the Constitution. The presidents were given rankings of Bad, Poor, Average, Good and Excellent. Some of the rankings seemed typical and there were others that were quite surprising. The object of the evaluations is to decide which president actually deserves a place on Mount Rushmore.

Recarving Rushmore takes a distinctly new approach to evaluating the800px-Mount_Rushmore_National_Memorial presidents. While academics and pundits have often paid natural respect to “war heroes” and to those who have expanded presidential power, Ivan Eland (Senior Fellow, The Independent Institute) cuts through bias and political rhetoric to deliver the first no-nonsense presidential ranking system based purely on what they did. Profiling every president from George Washington to George W. Bush, Eland analyzes each man’s policy decisions and ranks them based on the core principles of peace, prosperity, liberty, (PP&L) and adherence to the Constitution’s limitations on presidential powers.

Sean Gangol writes in his book review of Recarving Rushmore, attributed to The Libertarian Enterprise:

“There was one ranking that would surprise most people who are not libertarian minded. The presidency of Abraham Lincoln was ranked Bad for the way he provoked a war with the South and suspended the writ of habeas corpus, which was actually a power reserved for congress. However, Eland also puts some of the blame on the South since they chose to fire on Fort Sumter. The South did act foolish when they choose to fire the first shots, but Lincoln provoked the attack by keeping the base in the South. For the most part I agree with Eland's analysis, but I do disagree with his position on secession. Eland seems to believe that since there was nothing in the Constitution that authorized the secession of any state, the South had no legal right to leave the Union.”

Dr. Eland states in his book when talking about Abraham Lincoln:

“Abraham Lincoln, often ranked as one of the three greatest presidents in U.S. history, helped to provoke a bloody civil war and then pursued it ineptly and brutally. The war nominally ended slavery, but for many decades African Americans experienced only marginally more freedom from bitter white southerners than before their emancipation. Peaceful alternatives to Lincoln’s policies might have achieved better results more quickly. Far from the being the number one president, Lincoln earns a low PP&L ranking of 29, placing him in the category of “bad” presidents.”

In Recarving Rushmore Dr. Ivan Eland evaluates the performance of every president from George Washington to George W. Bush based on factors such as economic stability, peace, attitudes toward minorities (blacks and Native Americans), and how each of the presidents upheld the Constitution. The presidents were given rankings of Bad, Poor, Average, Good and Excellent. Some of the rankings seemed typical and there were others that were quite surprising. The object of the evaluations is to decide which president actually deserves a place on Mount Rushmore.

This is purely a revisionist Libertarian view of history when it comes to Lincoln. While I, as a constitutional conservative, can agree with some of Dr. Eland’s rating when it comes to James Buchanan, Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and a few others I certainly cannot sanction his critique of our 16th President.

Lincoln believed the Declaration of Independence was an apple of gold in the silver frame of the Constitution. He did not desire to go to war with the southern states of the issue of slavery, but urged them to use Constitutional means to protect their slave holding states — the amendment process. Here I refer to Article V of the Constitution.

In Abraham Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address, delivered a month after the formation of the Confederacy, served as a final plea for Americans to reunite. Lincoln makes clear that he has no intention to change the status of slavery in the states where it exists, having no constitutional authority to do so. He makes equally clear that secession is not a constitutional option:

“Descending from these general principles, we find the proposition that, in legal contemplation, the Union is perpetual, confirmed by the history of the Union itself. The Union is much older than the Constitution. It was formed in fact, by the Articles of Association in 1774. It was matured and continued by the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It was further matured and the faith of all the then thirteen States expressly plighted and engaged that it should be perpetual, by the Articles of Confederation in 1778. And finally, in 1787, one of the declared objects for ordaining and establishing the Constitution, was “to form a more perfect union.”

But if destruction of the Union, by one, or by a part only, of the States, be lawfully possible, the Union is less perfect than before the Constitution, having lost the vital element of perpetuity.

It follows from these views that no State, upon its own mere motion, can lawfully get out of the Union,—that resolves and ordinances to that effect are legally void; and that acts of violence, within any State or States, against the authority of the United States, are insurrectionary or revolutionary, according to circumstances.

I therefore consider that, in view of the Constitution and the laws, the Union is unbroken; and, to the extent of my ability, I shall take care, as the Constitution itself expressly enjoins upon me, that the laws of the Union be faithfully executed in all the States. Doing this I deem to be only a simple duty on my part; and I shall perform it, so far as practicable, unless my rightful masters, the American people, shall withhold the requisite means, or, in some authoritative manner, direct the contrary. I trust this will not be regarded as a menace, but only as the declared purpose of the Union that it will constitutionally defend, and maintain itself.

In doing this there needs to be no bloodshed or violence; and there shall be none, unless it be forced upon the national authority. The power confided to me, will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property, and places belonging to the government, and to collect the duties and imposts; but beyond what may be necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion—no using of force against, or among the people anywhere. Where hostility to the United States, in any interior locality, shall be so great and so universal, as to prevent competent resident citizens from holding the Federal offices, there will be no attempt to force obnoxious strangers among the people for that object. While the strict legal right may exist in the government to enforce the exercise of these offices, the attempt to do so would be so irritating, and so nearly impracticable with all, that I deem it better to forego, for the time, the uses of such offices.”

Lincoln proposed two possible paths for the southern states. One was to useAbraham_Lincoln_November_1863 Constitutional means to address their grievances and continue to hold slaves as chattel property, the other by revolution, as advocated in the Declaration when the rights of a people are abrogated or denied by a government. In the second sense Lincoln believed the rights of the south were not being denied, it was the rights of millions of slaves that were being denied. Instead of these two paths the secessionist states chose insurrection. Was this Lincoln’s fault? Did Lincoln want to force the southern states to emancipate their slaves? No. He felt he had no constitutional warrant to do so. He left the issue squarely in the hands of the slave holding states.

Abraham Lincoln’s fidelity to the Declaration of Independence is equally a fidelity to the Constitution. The Constitution takes its moral life from the principles of liberty and equality, and was created to serve those principles. We are divided as a nation today, as in Lincoln’s time, because we have severed the connection between these two documents.

Lincoln’s “Fragment on the Constitution and the Union” contains the central theme of Lincoln’s life and work. Drawing upon biblical language, Lincoln describes the Declaration of Independence as an “apple of gold,” and the Constitution as the “frame of silver” around it. We cannot consider the Constitution independently of the purpose which it was designed to serve.

In his 1861 unpublished document entitled “Fragment on the Constitution and Union” in which he wrote for himself Lincoln stated:

“All this is not the result of accident. It has a philosophical cause. Without the Constitution and the Union, we could not have attained the result; but even these, are not the primary cause of our great prosperity. There is something back of these, entwining itself more closely about the human heart. That something, is the principle of "Liberty to all"--the principle that clears the path for all--gives hope to all--and, by consequence, enterprise, and industry to all.”

Lincoln believed you had to interpret the Constitution in the light of the Declaration. Does this sound like a man in opposition to the core principles of peace, prosperity, liberty as Dr. Eland asserts in his book?

The Constitution acts to guard the principles enshrined in the Declaration of Independence. As the embodiment of the Declaration’s principles, the Constitution created a frame of government with a clear objective. The Constitution is not a collection of compromises, or an empty vessel whose meaning can be redefined to meet the needs of the time; it is the embodiment of an eternal, immutable truth.

Abraham Lincoln defended the Union and sought to defeat the Confederate insurrection because he held that the principles of the Declaration and Constitution were inviolable. In his speeches and in his statecraft, Lincoln wished to demonstrate that self-government is not doomed to either be so strong that it overwhelms the rights of the people or so weak that it is incapable of surviving.

On April 12, 1861, a Confederate commander informed the Union forces stationed at Fort Sumter, in the Charleston harbor, of his plans to attack. The Civil War began an hour later. President Abraham Lincoln immediately called for 75,000 volunteers. Four states from the upper South seceded over the following month. With Congress out of session, Lincoln led the military effort without congressional approval for nearly three months. In this speech to Congress, which convened on Independence Day, he depicts the Confederacy as a section of the Union in insurrection rather than a foreign nation requiring a declaration of war. In this July 4 1861 address to a special session of Congress Lincoln stated:

“And this issue embraces more than the fate of these United States. It presents to the whole family of man, the question, whether a constitutional republic, or a democracy—a government of the people, by the same people—can, or cannot, maintain its territorial integrity, against its own domestic foes. It presents the question, whether discontented individuals, too few in numbers to control administration, according to organic law, in any case, can always, upon the pretenses made in this case, or on any other pretenses, or arbitrarily, without any presence, break up their Government, and thus practically put an end to free government upon the earth. It forces us to ask: “Is there, in all republics, this inherent and fatal weakness?” “Must a government, of necessity, be too strong for the liberties of its own people, or too weak to maintain its own existence?”

In Lincoln’s second inaugural address Lincoln stated:

“On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil-war. All dreaded it—all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union, and divide effects, by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.”

The concluding paragraph of this address sums up Lincoln’s position on the healing of the wounds incurred during the Civil War:

“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”

Yes Lincoln did suspend the right of habeas corpus during the conduct of the war. While I have to take issue with this action you must consider the context in which it was done. Lincoln was fighting for the life of the Union and believed there were insurrectionists in his camp.

The writ of habeas corpus was suspended by President Abraham Lincoln on April 27, 1861. Lincoln did so in response to draft riots, local militia actions, and the threat that the border slave state of Maryland would secede from the Union, leaving the nation's capital, Washington, D.C., surrounded by hostile territory. Lincoln chose to suspend the writ over a proposal to bombard Baltimore, favored by his General-in-Chief Winfield Scott. Lincoln was also motivated by requests by generals to set up military courts to rein in "Copperheads," or Peace Democrats, and those in the Union who supported the Confederate cause. Congress was not yet in session to consider a suspension of the writs.

His action was challenged in court and overturned by the U.S. Circuit Court in Maryland led by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Roger B. Taney. Lincoln ignored Taney's order.

When Congress convened in July 1861, a joint resolution was introduced into the Senate approving of the president's suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, but filibustering by Senate Democrats and opposition to its imprecise wording by Sen. Lyman Trumbull prevented a vote on the resolution before the end of the first session, and the resolution was not taken up again. Sen. Trumbull himself introduced a bill to suspend habeas corpus, but could not get a vote before the end of the first session.

On February 14, 1862, Lincoln ordered most prisoners released, putting an end to court challenges for the time being. He again suspended habeas corpus on his own authority in September that same year, however, in response to resistance to his calling up of the militia.

In his 271 word speech made to dedicate the military cemetery at Gettysburg on November 19, 1863 more commonly referred to as the Gettysburg Address Lincoln said:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives, that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

And in the closing paragraph of his Fragment on the Constitution and the Union he wrote:

“The assertion of that principle, at that time, was the word, "fitly spoken" which has proved an "apple of gold" to us. The Union, and the Constitution, are the picture of silver, subsequently framed around it. The picture was made, not to conceal, or destroy the apple; but to adorn, and preserve it. The picture was made for the apple--not the apple for the picture.”

So let us act, that neither picture, or apple shall ever be blurred, or bruised or broken.

Does this sound like a president who should be removed from the face of Mount Rushmore?

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