By Bob Hurst
Well, here we are into February so I'm sure we will hear a lot from the media about Abraham Lincoln. There is a highly-promoted motion picture playing in theaters all around the country that I have absolutely no desire to see. This movie has been nominated for a number of awards but I still have no desire to spend my time and money on this show. Even though this spectacle is being brought to the world by Steven Spielberg, several of whose movies I have seen and enjoyed, this particular picture has no interest for me as it is about Abraham Lincoln - a man that I consider the greatest war criminal this country has yet produced.
I have written about Lincoln several times over the past several years so I will not replow any ground concerning this awful creature who, in my opinion, is the one person most responsible for the hundreds of thousands of deaths that occurred as a result of the war that took place from 1861 to 1865 which can accurately be called "Mr. Lincoln's War". I have noticed that just about everything that is produced these days about Lincoln ( be it movies, books or whatever ) is nothing more than myth and is intended to proselytize to the masses that the War was fought over slavery and that Lincoln was willing to commit the Northern states to a bloody war for the noble purpose of breaking the chains that held many black Americans in bondage. This is nothing but folderol.
If true, what a humanitarian he must have been, right? Well, let's consider what he said in his first inaugural address. In this speech, given in March of 1861, Lincoln said,"... I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the states where it now exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so." This was a theme that he had repeated on numerous occasions during his campaign for the presidency.
Later, in that same inaugural address, Lincoln said: "I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution... 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. To avoid misconstruction of what I said, I depart from my purpose not to speak of particular amendments so far as to say that, holding such a provision to now be implied constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable."
It is obvious from this statement that abolishing slavery was certainly not on Lincoln's list of things to do during his presidency. Equally obvious is the fact that Northern legislators also had no stomach for ending the institution of slavery since this amendment referenced by Lincoln, which was known as the Corwin Amendment, had passed overwhelmingly in both houses of Congress - 133 to 65 in the House of Representatives and 24 to 12 in the Senate.
What makes this vote so significant is that this action was taken after seven Deep South states had already seceded from the Union and their members of Congress had already left Washington, so this was a northern-dominated vote. Obviously then, abolishing slavery was not a high priority of the overwhelming majority of Northern politicians. The truth is that most Northerners cared as little about the slavery issue as they did about the eradication of Native American tribes or the terrible treatment accorded poor illiterate workers in those hellholes called "factories". In fact, those held in servitude in the South received far better treatment than either of these two classes or their black counterparts in the North.
It never ceases to amuse me how Lincoln apologists, and Liberals in general, always want to push the point that the South did indeed fight exclusively to preserve slavery. They then cite the "Cornerstone Speech" of Confederate Vice-President Alexander Stephens as prima facie evidence of this. They will even go to such lengths as quoting John Stuart Mill, a favorite of liberals, who pontificated on this issue in British magazines of that time.
I prefer to quote the brilliant American economist and writer, Charles Adams, a member of that accomplished New England family: "Wars are not really fought to free some unfortunate minority not directly involved in the conflict. People who want freedom have to fight for it themselves. Outsiders who come to their aid normally have ulterior
motives, especially if the outsider happens to be a nation. The concern of the North for the enslaved black man was more facade than substance. There were economic concerns that were far more compelling."
What Charles Adams is saying is "always follow the money". This same understanding of reality and human nature was expressed
in an editorial in the Boston TRANSCRIPT newspaper in a March of 1861 editorial:
"It does not require extraordinary sagacity to perceive that trade is perhaps the controlling motive operating to prevent the return of the seceding states to the Union which they abandoned. Alleged grievances in regard to slavery were originally the causes for the separation of the cotton states; but the mask has been thrown off,
and it is apparent that the people of the principal seceding states are now for commercial independence. They dream that the centres of traffic can be changed from Northern to Southern ports. The merchants of New Orleans, Charleston and Savannah are possessed with the idea that New York, Boston and Philadelphia may be shorn, in the future, of their mercantile greatness, by a revenue system verging on free trade. If the Southern Confederation is allowed to carry out a policy by which only a nominal duty is laid upon imports, no doubt the business of the chief Northern cities will be seriously injured thereby.
The difference is so great between the tariff of the Union and that of the Confederate States that the entire Northwest must find it to their advantage to purchase their imported goods at New Orleans rather than New York. In addition to this, the manufacturing interests of the country will suffer from the increased importation resulting from low duties... The (government ) would be false to its obligations if this state of things were not provided against."
There you have it. The astute editorial writer well understood the true reason for the friction between the states of the North and those of the South - and it wasn't slavery. He also obviously understood that Southern leaders were being a bit esoteric with their attempts to turn the focus toward slavery as they understood that wars are not fought to free some unfortunate minority.
Again, to understand war ( and most other human endeavors ) one must "always follow the money".
Actually, the economic differences between the North and the South went back a number of years. The first major confrontation occurred in 1832 over a high import tariff (tax) which was called the "Tariff of Abomination" by the Southern States. This tariff caused the agrarian Southern States to pay a high tariff on imported goods from Europe or pay excessive prices on goods bought from the manufacturing Northern states. Either way, the net effect was to shift wealth from the South to the North. The potential for war between the North and the South was averted by a compromise that was reached in 1833 which would lower the import tariff to a level acceptable to the South.
By 1850, those import tariffs were again taking a great toll on the South and talk of secession was beginning in the South. A dying John C. Calhoun, the magnificent voice for the South, although too ill to deliver it himself, had prepared a speech to be delivered on the floor of the U.S. Senate by a colleague. Calhoun's presentation listed three grievances that could possibly lead to secession from the Union by the South. The first two were general in nature and spoke of the developing imbalance of power between the regions and the fear in the South of a growing powerful national government that would be detrimental and abusive to state sovereignty and states' rights.
The third grievance was specific and focused on taxation and a system that once again was detrimental to Southern planters but very beneficial to Northern manufacturing interests. In Calhoun's words: "The North has adopted a system of revenue and disbursements in which an undue proportion of the burden of taxation has been imposed on the South and an undue proportion of the proceeds appropriated to the North... The South as the great exporting portion of the Union has in reality paid vastly more than her due proportion of the revenue."
In other words, Washington was picking the winners and the losers. Reminds me a bit of our current situation in this country.
Calhoun also expressed how the excessive import taxes were crushing European market competition and giving the North a monopoly over Southern markets with the resulting exorbitant prices to Southerners caused by the situation. Calhoun saw the import tax as class legislation specifically directed against the South. Calhoun was a remarkably prescient individual - would that we have more like him today. Unlike 1833, this conflict was never resolved. In fact, it got much worse.
When Lincoln was elected in 1860, his chief supporters had been the rich industrialists of the North. They were his chosen "winners", and at the heart of his platform was a return to high import taxes which resulted in the Morrill Tariff - the highest tariff in U.S. history.Lincoln had done the bidding of his wealthy Northern cronies but he had split the nation. His inaugural address even included a vow to collect taxes from the Southern States despite their secession.
By contrast, the Confederate Congress was creating a veritable free trade zone by banning high import taxes in the Confederate Constitution. The long-held dream of the South to make Charleston, Savannah, Mobile and New Orleans the major trade centers of North America would be within reach.
This would be a catastrophe for Northern business interests and neither Lincoln nor the wealthy Northern industrialists were about to let this happen. You know the rest of the story.
By the way, Lincoln did not issue the Emancipation Proclamation until two years into the War. Those two years had not gone well for the Union Army. You might find the following quote from the beast about the proclamation a bit interesting:
"Things had gone from bad to worse, until I felt we had reached the end of our rope on the plan we were pursuing; that we had about played our last card, and must change our tactics or lose the game. I now determined upon the adoption of the emancipation policy."
Interesting, huh? I certainly hope that no one reading this thinks that the War (War Between the States, War for Southern Independence, Civil War, etc.) was fought primarily over the issue of slavery. If any of you think that the North was fighting to free slaves and not for political hegemony over the South, I hope you will ponder the question of why it took another hundred years to pass the Civil Rights Act.
I will leave you with one message: whenever you're considering why there is war and why people do things that are seemingly inexplicable, just remember "always follow the money".
Previous articles of CONFEDERATE JOURNAL are available in book form. Articles from 2005-2007 are in Book 1 which can be ordered online at http://createspace.com/3540609 while articles from 2008-2009 are in Book 2 and can be ordered at http://createspace.com3543269/.
Bob Hurst is a Son of the South with special interests in the antebellum architecture of the South and the Confederacy. He is Commander of Col. David Lang Camp, Sons of Confederate Veterans, in Tallahassee and also 2nd Lt. Commander of the Florida Division, SCV. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 850-878-7010 after 9 PM Eastern time.