Today marks the 150th anniversary of The War to Prevent Southern Independence(i.e. Civil War). This is a very important bit of history to know. Honestly, it’s this episode that had a large impact on me becoming anti-war over the last few years. If I could be lied to and told a bunch of propaganda for years in order to get me to believe that the South was the aggressor and that Lincoln fought the war to free slaves then I could also easily be lied to about modern wars. I could be easily duped into thinking that we are the “good guys” and brown people from the middle-east are the “bad guys.”
If you read Lincoln’s first inaugural-address with any care at all, you’ll see that it was simply a declaration of war against the South. It was also filled with lies and specious reasoning. In 1861, the official government-charter for the U.S. was the U.S. Constitution. In writing it, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 (some of the most-canny politicians in the country) had pointedly omitted from it the “perpetual union” clause which had been a main feature of the unworkable Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union–the U.S.-government charter which had preceded the Constitution.
Under the Articles, no state could secede lawfully unless all states seceded simultaneously. But the Constitution–which Lincoln had just taken an oath to uphold–did not contain that clause (or any other like it); so any state could secede lawfully at any time. And the Southern states did secede lawfully. Honest Abe flat-out lied when he said that was not so in his inaugural address; and he subsequently used his blatant lie to slaughter 623,000 Americans and Confederates–primarily in order to perpetuate himself in political office.
Lincoln had said he would go to war to “preserve the Union.” But in order to start the war, he would somehow have to maneuver the South into firing the first shots, because Congress did not want war and would not declare war of its own volition.
The most-likely hot-spot in which Lincoln could start his war was Charleston Harbor, where shots had already been fired in anger under the Buchanan administration. But the newly-elected governor of South Carolina, Francis Pickens, saw the danger–that Lincoln might, as an excuse, send a force of U.S. Navy warships to Charleston Harbor supposedly to bring food to Maj Anderson’s Union force holed up in Fort Sumter. So Gov Pickens opened negotiations with Maj Anderson, and concluded a deal permitting Anderson to send boats safely to the market in Charleston once a week, where Anderson’s men would be allowed to buy whatever victuals they wished. (This arrangement remained in effect until a day or so before the U.S. Navy warships arrived at Charleston). Maj Anderson wrote privately to friends, saying that he hoped Lincoln would not use Fort Sumter as the excuse to start a war, by sending the U.S. Navy to resupply it.
Before his inauguration, Lincoln sent a secret message to Gen Winfield Scott, the U.S. general-in-chief, asking him to make preparations to relieve the Union forts in the South soon after Lincoln took office. Lincoln knew all along what he was going to do.
President Jefferson Davis sent peace commissioners to Washington to negotiate a treaty with the Lincoln administration. Lincoln refused to meet with them; and he refused to permit Secretary of State Seward to meet with them.
After Lincoln assumed the presidency, his principal generals recommended the immediate evacuation of Maj Anderson’s men from Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor–which was now located on foreign soil. To resupply it by force at this point would be a deliberate act-of-war against the C.S.A.
It turned out that Lincoln’s postmaster general, Montgomery Blair, had a brother-in law, Gustavus V. Fox, who was a retired Navy-captain and wanted to get back into action. Fox had come up with a plan for resupplying Fort Sumter which would force the Confederates to fire the first shots–under circumstances which would make them take the blame for the war. Lincoln sent Fox down to Fort Sumter to talk with Maj Anderson about the plan; but Anderson wanted no part of it.
Lincoln had Fox pitch the plan to his Cabinet twice. The first time, the majority said that Fox’s plan would start a war and were unenthusiastic about it. But the second time, the Cabinet members got Lincoln’s pointed message, and capitulated.
Meanwhile, Congress got wind of the plan. Horrified, they called Gen Scott and others to testify about it; Scott and the other witnesses said they wanted no part of the move against the Confederacy in Charleston; and nor did Congress. Congress demanded from Lincoln–as was Congress’s right–Fox’s report on Maj Anderson’s reaction to the plan. Lincoln flatly and unconstitutionally refused to hand it over to them.
Lincoln sent to Secretary Cameron (for transmittal to Secretary Welles) orders in his own handwriting (!) to make the warships Pocahantas and Pawnee and the armed-cutter Harriet Lane ready for sailing, along with the passenger ship Baltic–which would be used as a troop ship, and two ocean-going tugboats to aid the ships in traversing the tricky shallow harbor-entrance at Charleston. This naval force was to transport 500 extra Union-soldiers to reinforce Maj Anderson’s approximately-86-man force at Fort Sumter–along with huge quantities of munitions, food, and other supplies.
The Confederacy would, of course, resist this invasion–in the process firing upon the U.S. flag. The unarmed tugs would, of necessity, enter the harbor first, whereupon they would likely be fired upon by the C.S.A., giving Lincoln the best-possible propaganda to feed to the Northern newspapers, which would then rally the North to his “cause.”
Lincoln sent orders for the Union naval-force to time its sailing so as to enter Charleston Harbor on 11 or 12 April. Next, Lincoln sent a courier to deliver an ultimatum to Gov Pickens on 8 April, saying that Lincoln intended to resupply Fort Sumter peaceably or by force. There was no mistaking the intent of that message.
Lincoln had set the perfect trap. He had given President Davis just enough time to amass his forces and fire upon the U.S. Navy. But if Davis acquiesced instead, Lincoln need merely begin sending expeditionary forces to recapture all of the former Union-forts in the South now occupied by Confederate forces; sooner or later Davis would have to fight; and the more forts he allowed Lincoln to recapture in the interim, the weaker would be the military position of the C.S.A. As a practical matter, Davis was left with no choice.
–Frank Conner, How and Why Abraham Lincoln Started the War…
Notice how Lincoln maneuvered the South into attacking first. He basically put the CSA into a position where they would either have to accept permanent US military bases(Jefferson Davis tried to meet with Lincoln to discuss repayment for the land the forts were on) throughout their country or have to fight back. Sound familiar? This would become a scheme used time and time again by American presidents to this day. Demonize the enemy and then slowly turn the screws diplomatically to where war is the only available option left to them. I’ve said it before: the South has been occupied and demonized by an invading army before. We should know better than to believe the lie.