"Wanted for War Crimes: Abraham Lincoln" Part One -- Original Text

Skip to first unread message


Aug 11, 1996, 3:00:00 AM8/11/96

WANTED for WAR CRIMES: Abraham Lincoln

* Violation of the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
* Unconstitutional suppression of civil liberties in Ohio and other states
* Suspension of the writ of habeas corpus
* Disbanding the legislature of Maryland
* Aggression against the Southern Confederacy

Abraham Lincoln? War crimes? To many Americans, including many
Southerners, the charge might seem silly or unpatriotic, perhaps even
treasonous. Yet a sober assessment of the facts of Lincoln's
administration before and during the War for Southern Independence will
show that such a case could be made.

First and foremost, Lincoln sought to "preserve the Union" through
unconstitutional measures. Under the 10th Amendment, all rights not
delegated to the federal government are reserved to the states and the
people. In 1860 and 1861, the states and the people of the South chose to
dissolve their allegiance to the federal government -- to secede from the
Union -- and Lincoln used every means at his disposal to deny the South
that right. If, as Thomas Jefferson believed, governments
derive "their just powers from the consent of the governed," when 11
states voted to revoke their consent to his government, Lincoln no longer
had any just power over those states. In fact, several of the Southern
states, most notably Virginia, did not secede and join the Confederacy
until Lincoln called for volunteers to wage a war of conquest against the

While school teachers and politicians have long lauded Lincoln for his
mercy and honesty, the fact is that Lincoln was ruthless in suppressing
anti-war sentiment in the North and in the border states, and that he was
often less than honest. Consider the beginning of the war. South Carolina
and her Confederate allies claimed that the Union had no right to possess
Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor, and Lincoln conveniently allowed his
Secretary of State, William Seward, to express apparent agreement on the

Is this a radical Southern view? No! Grolier's Encyclopedia put it this
way: "Seward ... involved himself in prolonged duplicity with Southern
representatives over the Fort Sumter issue. Dangling possibilities of
negotiation before [Confederate] emissaries, Seward virtually compromised
the honor of the [U.S.] government."

Suggesting that the Fort Sumter garrison would be withdrawn, the Lincoln
administration secretly stalled for time while organizing military forces
to conquer the South and while preparing to reinforce Fort Sumter. The
Confederates, to quote Grolier's again, were "almost fooled," but
recognizing the treachery at last, bombarded Fort Sumter into surrender --
and didn't kill a single man in the process.

The naked aggression manifested by Lincoln and his Radical Republican
allies drew outraged protests from throughout the North. When it became
apparent that Maryland was prepared to secede from the Union, Lincoln
broke up that state's legislature, arrested many leading officials, and
suppressed both free speech and freedom of the press. Men were arrested
without warrants, upon mere suspicion of dissent from the Republican war
policy, and were held for months, even years, without bail or trial.
Lincoln's Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, displayed this tyrannical side
of the Union cause when he threatened a visitor by pointing to a bell on
his desk. By ringing it, Stanton said, he could send the visitor where he
would "never hear the dogs bark."

One of Ohio's most popular and revered statesmen, Clement Vallandigham,
was arrested and deported to Canada on Lincoln's orders for daring to
denounce Lincoln's war of subjugation against the South. In denying civil
liberties in the North, Lincoln resorted to revoking that "Great Writ of
personal liberty," habeas corpus, a basic right dating to Magna Carta.

Certainly, Lincoln's wit and way with words have helped make him an object
of reverence to many. But consider the import of the Gettysburg Address:
Lincoln was implying that Confederate victory in the war would have meant
the end of representative government, not only in America, but throughout
the world and for all time. Certainly, this must have been news to such
stout consitutionalists as Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens, and it
is remarkable that many Southerners today teach their children to parrot
that speech, which casts such men as Robert E.
Lee as pawns of totalitarianism.

And what of slavery and Lincoln's reputation as "The Great Emancipator"? A
careful study of this cuts to the heart of historic truth, and will surely
disillusion those who have equated antebellum slavery with latter-day
racism. For, as any student of the matter must quickly learn, neither
Lincoln nor most of the politicians and voters who supported him were
advocates of racial equality. In debating Stephen Douglas, Lincoln
thoroughly disavowed any such sentiments and later frankly advocated
deporting blacks to Africa.

Further, most Americans will remember that the crisis which led to war in
1861 was primarily over the question of whether slavery would be allowed
in the Western territories, not whether slavery would continue to exist in
the 16 states -- including Delaware and New Jersey -- where it was
practiced until the war came. And therein lies a tale, because many of the
Northern states had laws that forbid the immigration of free blacks. Many
Northerners weren't so much opposed to *slavery*, as they were opposed to
*slaves*, in the territories: The "free soil" movement can be seen as a
racist "white soil" movement. How else to explain that the same U.S. Army
which was ostensibly fighting to liberate blacks in the South in the 1860s
was simultaneously fighting a genocidal war of eradication against Native
Americans in the West?

This is mind-boggling to those who have been raised singing "The Battle
Hymn of the Republic," but consider this quote from an 1860 Republican
campaign tract published in Ohio: "Of course there will be no 'nigger
equality' where there are no 'niggers,' and ... the Republican party
proposes to save the Territories for free white men ...." Or, as Seward
put it while campaigning for Lincoln, the West "is the land of the free
men -- for the free men -- that it is the land for the white man ....." If
those phrases have a vaguely Nazi ring to them, it should: What the
Republicans were aiming to
do, as Josef Goebbels would have recognized, was to create Western
"lebensraum" for the "Aryan master race," by annihilating the Indians and
preventing the introduction of Africans into the territories. Even today,
more than 130 years after the end of the war, such Western states as Utah,
Montana and Idaho have virtually no black citizens. The rise of Neo-Nazi
movements in those states should not be surprising: Their brand of racial
separatism is only slightly different from that expressed in 1860 by
Abraham Lincoln's Republican Party.

Why, then, did Lincoln issue the Emancipation Proclamation, and why did he
wait until the war was nearly half over to do it? The object of the
proclamation, Confederate leaders suspected, was to foment a slave
rebellion in the South, and there may be something to those suspicions.
John Brown had attempted to spark such a race war in 1859, backed by the
infamous "Secret Seven," a group of wealthy Northerners. And surely, it
would have been convenient for Lincoln and his allies if the leaders of
the South had all died in a bloody servile insurrection. That no such
rebellion took
place during the war says something about the nature of the South's
"peculiar institution."

Lincoln's proclamation was both a political and military act. Politically,
he hoped to placate the abolitionists who formed one wing of the
Republican Party. Militarily, the proclamation made it possible to arm
former slaves as Union soldiers and helped turn European sentiment against
the Confederacy. But, despite the hosannas it provoked among the
abolitionists, the proclamation was nothing more than what it was. Lincoln
continued to ponder schemes to ship black Americans back to Africa and --
as was embarrassingly revealed during Reconstruction after the war -- most
Northern states still continued to deny civil rights to blacks. In 1863, a
few days after the battle of
Gettysburg, opposition to the Northern draft and to the Emancipation
Proclamation set off rioting in New York City. White mobs hunted down free
blacks and lynched them by the score, as many as a thousand people were
killed or injured, and property damage was estimated as high as $2.5

So, then, if Lincoln was not an advocate of racial equality, and if hatred
of black people was at the core of the "free soil" movement, why do
Americans today continue to associate the Confederacy and the South with

Certainly, chattel slavery was no ideal economic or social system. Even
many slaveholders such as Thomas Jefferson recognized that by stigmatizing
labor, slavery encouraged sloth in both master and slave. Though most
19th-century white Americans, North and South, subscribed to racial
theories that consigned blacks to an inferior status as "hewers of wood
and drawers of water," it is incorrect to say that slavery was a system
based upon racial hatred. Indeed, both white and black
Southerners of the era have left us testimony to the cordial and
affectionate relations which generally existed between the races in the
Old South. "As a rule ... the members of my race entertain[ed] no feelings
of bitterness against the whites before and during the war," wrote the
great black leader Booker T. Washington in his monumental autobiography,
Up From Slavery, adding that, during the war, "In order to defend and
protect the women and children who were left on the plantations when the
white males went to war, the slaves would have laid down their lives." As
any black resentment toward their former masters, Washington adds: "In the
case of the slaves on our place this was not true, and it was not true of
any large portion of the South where the Negro was treated with anything
like decency." This is as much a testimony to the benevolent nature of
blacks as it is to those slaveholders who treated their servants "with
anything like decency."

None of this is to excuse or apologize for slavery, but merely to point
out that it is wrong to confuse antebellum slavery with modern racism.
Today it will be noted that much of the most virulent racism exists in
areas that are nearly all-white, including the Rocky Mountain states and
the Pacific Northwest. This same phenomenon was true and, to an extent,
remains true even in the South, where anti-black sentiment is most visible
(though by no means universal) in the nearly all-white regions of
Appalachia. Curiously, these areas were strongholds of Union sentiment
during the war,
almost mirroring the racist nature of the "free soil" movement.

As such historians as Eugene Genovese have noted, what genuine racial
animosity the South has or once had dates not to the antebellum era, but
to Reconstruction. After Lincoln's assassination, a group of Radical
Republicans imposed bayonet rule upon the former Confederate states,
promoting antagonism between blacks and whites to further the political
ambitions of Northern leaders. Attempting to secure black votes for the
Republican Party, Yankee agents inevitably engendered the hostility of
white Southerners, who had been solidly Democratic since the days of
Jefferson. By "waving the bloody shirt," it was the North which created
separation and hatred where
such ideas had been almost unknown a few years earlier.


Reply all
Reply to author
0 new messages