Category Archives: Civil War

Lincoln Did Not Start The Civil War In Order To End Slavery

“When the Civil War began in April 1861, President Abraham Lincoln
had no intention of issuing an emancipation proclamation. Lincoln believed he
lacked the constitutional authority to interfere with slavery in any state, even
when the government of that state insisted it was no longer a part of the
Union.” (Klingaman, Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation, p. 1)

“On August 30, General John C. Fremont, commander of Union forces
in Missouri, issued a proclamation . . . freeing the slaves of all citizens who
actively supported the rebellion. . . .

“Unionists in Kentucky reacted vehemently to Fremont’s
proclamation. . . . Upon learning that Fremont had freed slaves in Missouri, an
entire company of Union volunteers in Kentucky reportedly threw down their guns
and deserted.

“Lincoln acted quickly to defuse the crisis. On September 2, he
sent a message asking Fremont to modify his proclamation. . . .

“Fremont . . . sent his wife . . . to argue with the

“Lincoln received Mrs. Fremont shortly before midnight on the
evening of September 10. It was not a pleasant meeting. . . . Lincoln abruptly
cut her off. The general would have to back down. The war was being fought,
Lincoln said, ‘for a great national idea, the Union, and General Fremont should
not have dragged the Negro into it.'” (Klingaman, Abraham Lincoln and the Road
to Emancipation, pp. 72-74)

“Lincoln remained unmoved. . . . ‘I think Sumner [abolitionist
Charles Sumner] and the rest of you would upset our applecart altogether if you
had your way,’ he told the Radicals [the common term for hard line
abolitionists]. . . . ‘We didn’t go into this war to put down slavery . . . and
to act differently at this moment would, I have no doubt, not only weaken our
cause, but smack of bad faith.’ Vindication of the president’s view came a few
weeks later, when the Massachusetts state Republican convention–perhaps the
most Radical party organization in the North–defeated a resolution endorsing
Fremont’s proclamation.” (Klingaman, Abraham Lincoln and the Road to
Emancipation, pp. 75-76, emphasis added)

“The problem with this lofty rhetoric of dying to make men free
was that in 1861 the North was fighting for the restoration of a slave holding
Union. In his July 4 message to Congress, Lincoln reiterated the inaugural
pledge that he had ‘no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with
slavery in the States where it exists.'” (McPherson, Ordeal By Fire, p. 265)

Lincoln began to consider issuing an emancipation proclamation
only after the Union’s war effort continued to falter and after he started to
fear that Radical Republicans in Congress would withhold supplies from the Union

“The Union setbacks in Virginia persuaded Lincoln to take the
first tentative step toward emancipation.” (Klingaman, Abraham Lincoln and the
Road to Emancipation, p. 139)

“Welles [Lincoln’s Secretary of the Navy] was . . . surprised by
the abrupt shift in the president’s thinking. . . . ‘Until this time, in all our
previous interviews,’ Welles later wrote in his diary, ‘whenever the question of
emancipation or the mitigation of slavery had been in any way alluded to,
[Lincoln] had been prompt and emphatic in denouncing any interference by the
General Government with the subject.’ But the failure of [Union general]
McClellan’s peninsula campaign impelled the president ‘to adopt extraordinary
measures to preserve the national existence .'” (Klingaman, Abraham Lincoln and
the Road to Emancipation, p. 134)

“Seven days after issuing his emancipation message, the president
met with the former congressman Edward Stanly. . . .

“Lincoln explained to Stanly that he had issued the proclamation
‘to prevent the Radicals from openly embarrassing the government in the conduct
of the war.’ If he had not embraced emancipation, Lincoln said, congressional
Radicals might have withheld military supplies, ‘leaving the whole land in
anarchy.'” (Klingaman, Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation, p. 201)

“At the beginning of the war, when the North still hoped for a
quick and easy victory, only dedicated abolitionists favored turning the
struggle for the Union into a crusade against slavery. In the summer of 1861,
Congress voted almost unanimously for a resolution affirming that the war was
being fought only to preserve the Union and not the change the domestic
institutions of any state. But as it became clear how hard it was going to be to
subdue the ‘rebels,’ sentiment favored striking a blow at the South’s social and
economic system by freeing its slaves.” (Robert A. Divine, T. H. Bren, George
Fredrickson, and R. Hal Williams, America Past and Present, Fifth Edition, New
York: Longman, 1998, p. 460)

Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation only as a war measure
that was designed to weaken the Confederacy, and the proclamation only applied
to slaves in Confederate territory; it didn’t apply to any slaves in Union

“He [Lincoln] now believed ‘that it was a military necessity
absolutely essential for the salvation of the Union, that we must free the
slaves. . . .'” (Klingaman, Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation, p.

“At the . . . meeting . . . on December 29, Lincoln read aloud his
draft of the final Emancipation Proclamation. . . .

“After he finished, Lincoln asked his Cabinet officers for their
comments. Only Chase replied. He objected to Lincoln’s decision to exempt
portions of Confederate states (primarily Louisiana and Virginia) where Union
troops were already in control. . . .

“Lincoln replied that he could not accept Chase’s suggestion. He
could justify the proclamation only as a military measure. . . .” (Klingaman,
Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation, p. 223)

“. . . the proclamation freed only slaves outside the reach of the
Union armies. . . .” (Klingaman, Abraham Lincoln and the Road to Emancipation,
p. 197)

“The language and tone of the document . . . made it clear that
blacks were being freed for reasons of state and not out of humanitarian
conviction. . . . it did not extend to slave states loyal to the Union or to
occupied areas. . . .” (Divine et al, America Past and Present, p. 461)

“‘Where he has no power Mr. Lincoln will set the negroes free;
where he retains power he will consider them as slaves,’ declared the London
Times.” (McPherson, The Battle Cry of Freedom, p. 558)

The same Congress that imposed Reconstruction on the South after
the war also imposed racist policies on the American Indians

“The same Congress that devised Radical Reconstruction . . .
approved strict segregation and inequality for the Indian of the West.” (Catton,
editor, The National Experience, p. 416)

Lincoln and other Republican leaders killed the Crittenden
Compromise and wouldn’t allow the people to vote on it in a national referendum;
and the compromise measure most likely would have won had it been put to a
national vote

“What do we mean, specifically, by saying that the Republican
party rejected compromise? Certain facts are reasonably familiar in this
connection, and may be briefly recalled. In December, 1860, at the time when a
number of secession conventions had been called in the Southern states but
before any ordinances of secession had been adopted, various political leaders
brought forward proposals to give assurances to the Southerners. The most
prominent of these was the plan by Senator John J. Crittenden of Kentucky to
place an amendment in the Constitution which would restore and extend the former
Missouri Compromise line of 36-30, prohibiting slavery in Federal territory
north of the line and sanctioning it south of the line. In a Senate committee,
this proposal was defeated with five Republicans voting against it and none in
favor of it, while the non-Republicans favored it six to two. On January 16,
after four states had adopted ordinances of secession, an effort was made to get
the Crittenden measure out of committee and on to the floor of the Senate. This
effort was defeated by 25 votes against to 23 in favor. This was done on a
strict party vote, all 25 of the votes to defeat being cast by Republicans. None
of those in favor were Republicans. On March 2, after the secession of the lower
South was complete, the Crittenden proposal was permitted to come to a vote [by
the full Senate]. In the Senate, it was defeated 19 to 20. All 20 of the
negative votes were Republican, not one of the affirmative votes was so. In the
House, it was defeated 80 to 113. Not one of the 80 was a Republican, but 110 of
the 113 were Republicans.” (David Potter, “Why the Republicans Rejected Both
Compromise and Secession,” in Edwin C. Rozwenc, The Causes of the American Civil
War, Second Edition, Lexington, Massachusetts: D.C. Heath and Company, 1972, p.

“In the Senate, a Committee of Thirteen searched vainly for a
compromise. One was submitted to the Senate by John J. Crittenden of Kentucky. .
. . the impasse moved Crittenden to suggest a national referendum on his
program, but the Republicans prevented that.” (Catton, editor, The National
Experience, p. 336)

“The action of the Senate, delayed by much ugly wrangling, did not
begin until December 18, when it voted to form a Committee of Thirteen on the
crisis. Two days later, Vice-President Breckinridge named a strong group who met
for the first time that day. Two men of transcendent ability represented the
Lower South, Jefferson Davis and Robert Toombs. . . .

“Crittenden had consulted with colleagues North and South before
offering his broad scheme, and had received hopeful assurance of support. . .

“That Crittenden’s scheme had wide and enthusiastic public support
there could be no question. John A. Dix, Edward Everett, and Robert Winthrop no
sooner saw it than they wrote approbatory [approving] letters. Martin Van Buren
declared that the amendments [proposed in Crittenden’s plan] would certainly be
ratified by three-fourths of the States. The Senator received hundreds of
assurances from all over the North and the border States that his policy had
reached the popular heart. It took time to hold meetings and get memorials
signed, but before long resolutions and petitions were pouring in upon Congress.
In New York City, sixty-three thousand people signed an endorsement of the plan;
another document bore the names of fourteen thousand women, scattered from North
Carolina to Vermont. From St. Louis came nearly a hundred foolscap pages of
names, wrapped in the American flag. Greeley [an influential New York newspaper
editor and owner], who had as good opportunities for knowing public sentiment as
any man in the country, later wrote that supporters of the Crittenden Compromise
could claim with good reason that a large majority of people favored it. . .

“The first committee vote on the Crittenden Compromise was taken
in Seward’s absence, and the proposal was defeated by the Republican majority.
In a discussion of nearly seven hours, Douglas, Bigler, and Crittenden supported
the plan. Hunter, Toombs, and Davis, speaking for Southern Democrats, declared
they would accept it if the Republicans gave sincere assent, but not otherwise.
On the vital point, the reestablishment of the Missouri Compromise line,
[Republicans] Collamer, Doolittle, Grimes, and Wade all voted no. Thereupon
Toombs and Davis cast negative votes, and the resolution failed six to six.
Returning to the sessions on December 24, Seward [who was also a Republican]
recorded a negative vote. Four days later, the committee reported to the Senate
that it could reach no conclusion. . . .

“In rejecting the Crittenden Compromise, the Republicans had taken
what history later proved to have been a fearful responsibility. . . . Some
Republicans, after war came, made an effort to divest themselves of the burden
by contending that the true blame for the rejection fell upon Davis and Toombs,
whose votes in the affirmative would have carried the compromise eight to
four–or with Seward voting, eight to five. (Even then the measure would have
died under the rule requiring a majority of both parties.) Edward Everett argued
that the supposed willingness of Davis and Toombs to support the compromise was
purely illusory, and that if the Republicans had come out for it, the two would
have gone over to the opposition. But we have unimpeachable evidence that the
pair were sincere, and much additional evidence that, as Breckinridge told the
Senate, ‘the leading statesmen of the lower Southern States were willing to
accept the terms of settlement’ proposed. . . .

“Early in January, Crittenden rose in the Senate to make the
remarkable proposal that his compromise should be submitted to the people of the
entire nation for their solemn judgment, as expressed by a popular vote. . . .
The proposal inspired widespread enthusiasm. . . . Because of Republican
obstruction, interposing delay after delay, it never came to a vote in the
Senate. . . .

“Provoking though the conduct of the six secessionists was, the
fact remains that the chief responsibility for the defeat of the compromise
falls upon the twenty-five Republicans [in the Senate] who voted to slay it. A
combination of Republicans and Northern Democrats could easily have carried the
resolutions [of the Crittenden plan].” (Nevins, The Emergence of Lincoln, pp.
390-393, 397-398, 401-403)

“A Senate committee of thirteen, headed by Crittenden, was at once
constituted to consider . . . plans of compromise. . . . The chief bone of
contention was the 36-30 dividing line between free and slave territory, a
proposition that Toombs and Davis were known to be ready to accept, provided
only that a majority of the Republicans would also agree to it. . . . Lincoln’s
opinion [against this provision of the compromise plan] seems to have been
conclusive, for the Republicans voted unanimously against the proposed dividing
line, and the committee reported back to the Senate that it could not agree.

“Later Crittenden and his supporters argued that the compromise in
which they were interested should be submitted to the people of the country for
approval or rejection at the polls. But the machinery for obtaining such a
referendum did not exist, and all efforts looking toward its creation failed,
largely because of Republican opposition.” (Hicks, The Federal Union, p.

Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, suspended civil
liberties less often than did Lincoln

“Davis . . . possessed the authority to suspend the writ of habeas
corpus for a total of only sixteen months. During most of that time he exercised
this power more sparingly than did his counterpart in Washington. The rhetoric
of southern libertarians about executive tyranny thus seems overblown.”
(McPherson, The Battle Cry of Freedom, p. 435)

“With the suspension of habeas corpus [the right not to be
arrested without reasonable charges being presented], Lincoln authorized General
Scott to make arrests without specific charges to protect secessionist
Marylanders from interfering with communications between Washington and the rest
of the Union. In the next few months, Baltimore’s Mayor William Brown, the
police chief, and nine members of the Maryland legislature were arrested to
prevent them from voting to secede from the Union. . . .

“Twice more during the war Lincoln suspended habeas corpus,
including the suspension ‘throughout the United States’ on September 24, 1862.
Although the records are somewhat unclear, more than thirteen thousand
Americans, most of them opposition Democrats, were arrested during the war
years, giving rise to the charge that Lincoln was a tyrant and a dictator.”
(Davis, Don’t Know Much About the Civil War, pp. 182-183)

Joe Lovrek