Aside from the Mayflower landing at Plymouth, Massachusetts, how much American history do you know from the period prior to the War for Independence? The settlers at Plymouth disembarked the Mayflower on November 13, 1620 and the Declaration of Independence was written and agreed to in 1776; meaning there is 156 years of history between those two events. So why is it that we know so little about what happened during that period of American history?
If you go to any good bookstore and take a walk through the history section, you’ll find that there are untold numbers of books written about periods of tumult and change; meaning wars and revolutions, but very few written about times of peace. Could that be because wars and tumult give people a reason to dissect and analyze these periods, while attempting to bias the opinions of those reading their books and that periods of peace offer no such opportunities?
Times of tumult and war are historically important for they often signify a major shift in the direction a country takes. The Revolution was one such period as it saw us go from British rule to independence. The Civil War, of course, is another.
I have written extensively about the Civil War, so I can’t claim to be any different as far as that goes; I just hope that I am LESS biased than the storytellers who write the history books we learn from in school. Aside from a willful effort to ignore the truth because it conflicts with your existing beliefs, there is nothing more egregious to me than a one sided version of history.
In times of conflict, or tumult, there are always more than just one side to the story; and most historians tend to write from the perspective of one side or the other. I honestly can’t claim to be any better; as I take the side of the South when writing about the Civil War. Nevertheless, I sometimes feel pity, or sympathetic towards Lincoln, (even though he was a war criminal); he was caught between a rock and a hard place.
Lincoln was elected on a strong Hamiltonian platform, or a strong Nationalist platform; which meant the coercive power of taxation and spending was to be used to benefit those who put him into office, which were primarily the big business interests of the North. As I wrote extensively about in my last article, slavery may have played a role in the secession of the Southern States, but to Lincoln it was a side issue; a distraction from the real issue.
Lincoln was faced with a choice, let the South go in peace, or attempt to draw them, or force them back into the Union. He chose the second option, and that is why we had the Civil War. Had Lincoln not called for 75,000 volunteers to march into the Southern States and demand they return to the Union, THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN NO WAR; merely a peaceful separation of the two parts of the Union.
As to why Lincoln chose war over peace, I have my own thoughts on it. I think those who seek office tend to be somewhat egotistical and narcissistic. I think it is the very nature of power that it draws such persons to positions of authority. I could never run for an office that gave me power over others. Hell, I hated becoming an NCO in the military for that very reason; I hated being in charge of others, I preferred to just be allowed to go out and work and not worry about what others under me were doing. But some people like that kind of power, and once they get a taste for it they crave more. I believe Lincoln was such a person; and what is the highest position one can attain in America if it is not the Presidency?
I don’t think there is a president that has been elected, even the bad ones, who went into office hoping that they’d be remembered for their blunders or mismanagement of the country. I think LEGACY a potent force that drives their every decision; how will they be remembered by future historians.
Lincoln must have felt the weight of that heavily, as he faced a twofold problem. First he was faced with the decision of being remembered as the President who allowed the Union to dissolve into two separate entities. More importantly was the fact that the way the government had been taxing the South heavily to fund the things it did if he allowed the South to leave, the revenue flowing into the treasury would dry up to a trickle overnight; leaving the government he was in charge of devoid of funds to do the things he was elected to do.
Many an editorial was published in the Northern newspapers echoing that sentiment. For instance, in an 1861 issue of the New York Evening Post we read, “… either the (federal) revenue from duties (protective tariff) must be collected in the ports of the rebel states or the ports be closed to importations from abroad… If neither of these things be done, our revenue laws are substantially repealed; the sources which supply our treasury will be dried up; we shall have no money to carry on the government; the nation will become bankrupt before the next crop of corn is ripe…”
That is why we had the Civil War, not slavery, but to maintain the flow of money into the government. I truly believe that had the South been nothing but a bunch of dirt poor farmers Lincoln may have considered letting them go in peace. However, they were his cash cow, his goose that laid the golden egg, his tax base from which the government had been raping and pillaging for years…if not decades. Lincoln simply couldn’t let it go without condemning his government to death.
You see history is a funny thing, there is what you are taught in some high school textbook, which is just a superficial examination, (often biased), of names and events. Then if you dig a little bit you might discover the motivating factors which led sides in a conflict to oppose each other. Perfect examples of this are the Civil War and the debate over whether or not to ratify the Constitution.
However, if you continue to dig you might find the individual players within a conflict and what motivated them to take the sides they did. The study of history is like peeling the layers of an onion away until you get to the core, or the truth. The problem with peeling an onion is that it makes one cry as the fumes given off are often quite uncomfortable.
I hate to use the term good guys and bad guys, so I won’t; but there are always men who are a bit more virtuous and upright who are ready to defend certain principles and values. Those who signed the Declaration of Independence were such men. There were those who sought to uphold those values when the debates over whether or not to ratify the Constitution were held – they were known as the Anti-Federalists. And there were those who fought to uphold those same values during the Civil War – they were known as the Confederacy.
The Civil War was much more than a war between neighboring regions of a country, it was a war fought against the very fabric which this country was founded upon. Think about it, didn’t Jefferson say that government derives its just authority from the consent of the people? No man, or group of men, have the right or authority to bind their posterity to any system of government. By not opposing that system of government their consent is taken as being tacit, or the Latin legal proverb, “Qui tacet consentit.” Yet that power, although not exercise, remains intact for each generation; and should they choose to exercise it the government their ancestors established had no legal right to bind them to its authority.
Lincoln may have raised an army to invade the South, but he engaged in an undeclared war against the principles enshrined in the Declaration of Independence. Abraham Lincoln gave Alexander Hamilton, (although Hamilton had long since died), exactly what he hoped for, an all powerful central government with very weak and subservient states.
Have you ever heard of the Congressional Globe? The Congressional Globe is a record of all the debates that take place on the floor of Congress; except for those which have been redacted or classified Top Secret I suppose. From the May 2, 1864 debates I quote one Thaddeus Stevens, Republican Representative for the State of Pennsylvania, “The talk of restoring the Union like it was, and the Constitution as it is, is one of the absurdities which I have heard repeated until I have become sick of it. There are many things which make such an event impossible. This Union never shall, with my consent, be restored under the constitution as it is … The Union as it was and the Constitution as it is–God forbid it. We must conquer the Southern states and hold them as conquered provinces.”
We are taught in our textbooks that Reconstruction was the peaceful transition from war to peace time, and the efforts to rebuild the South. That is such a monumental crock of shit that it makes me want to vomit! Reconstruction was the fulfillment of Stevens goal, the subjugation of the South; the holding them as conquered provinces.
On December 18, 1865 Thaddeus Stevens gave another long winded speech before Congress; venting his anger and aggression toward the former Confederacy who had dared question the authority of his almighty government. I know this is a bit long for a quote, but Stevens began his speech by saying,
“The President assumes, what no one doubts, that the late rebel States have lost their constitutional relations to the Union, and are incapable of representation in Congress, except by permission of the Government. It matters but little, with this admission, whether you call them States out of the Union, and now conquered territories, or assert that because the Constitution forbids them to do what they did do, that they are therefore only dead as to all national and political action, and will remain so until the Government shall breathe into them the breath of life anew and permit them to occupy their former position. In other words, that they are not out of the Union, but are only dead carcasses lying within the Union. In either case, it is very plain that it requires the action of Congress to enable them to form a State government and send representatives to Congress. Nobody, I believe, pretends that with their old constitutions and frames of government they can be permitted to claim their old rights under the Constitution. They have torn their constitutional States into atoms, and built on their foundations fabrics of a totally different character. Dead men cannot raise themselves. Dead States cannot restore their existence “as it was.” Whose especial duty is it to do it? In whom does the Constitution place the power? Not in the judicial branch of Government, for it only adjudicates and does not prescribe laws. Not in the Executive, for he only executes and cannot make laws. Not in the Commander-in-Chief of the armies, for he can only hold them under military rule until the sovereign legislative power of the conqueror shall give them law. Unless the law of nations is a dead letter, the late war between two acknowledged belligerents severed their original compacts and broke all the ties that bound them together. The future condition of the conquered power depends on the will of the conqueror. They must come in as new states or remain as conquered provinces. Congress . . . is the only power that can act in the matter.”
It was with those sentiments, that hatred, that anger that vitriol, that Reconstruction was carried out; it was like rubbing salt into an open wound for many Southerners who only wanted to go home and return to whatever life they’d had before the war. Yet the North was not done with them, it established puppet governments, ran by military dictators consisting of former Union Army Generals. It denied them the right of self determination by telling them that no one who had fought for or supported the Confederacy could hold office; prohibiting a vast majority of the people in the South from holding any office. These positions were then filled by Northern carpetbaggers who flooded in to further humiliate and plunder whatever was left of the Southern wealth.
Land was taken from them to be given away in parcels and they were told that before they could send any representatives back to Congress they must first agree to ratify the 14th Amendment.
If the Constitution truly was a compact, or a contract between the people, or the States for that matter, then for it to be binding then it must be entered into willingly. There is a legal maxim that states that all contracts entered into under duress are null and void.
Therefore, if the South was forced to either accept the 14th Amendment without question, or remain conquered provinces, doesn’t that sound like duress to you? Although the 14th Amendment is praised for granting rights to the former slaves, it did no such thing – it made slaves of us all.
The Civil War had already fundamentally altered the principles upon which our government derived its authority from one deriving its authority by consent to one which derives its authority by coercion and force. This same government then turned around and subjugated an entire region of the country; denying them both the right of self determination and a republican form of government. It then rammed the 14th Amendment down their throats; saying “Accept this or remained conquered territories forever.” If you don’t believe me on that, read the Reconstruction Acts passed by a Congress hostile towards the Southern people.
Not only had the South lost its war for independence, it was now being forced back into a Union by accepting terms that went against everything they believed regarding the purpose and scope of powers of government. Since they couldn’t hold office, Republicans from the North came in and took over their internal governments, holding the same beliefs regarding government as did the man who led the two regions into war against each other – Abraham Lincoln.
Not only that, Northern Republicans were signing up newly freed slaves as Republican voters with the promise of land; which of course was to be confiscated from the Southerners who had returned home after the war.
The Civil War was not only the defeat of an effort to exercise the rights enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, it was also a warning to all the States not to question the authority of the central government. Then to add insult to injury, the government rammed the 14th Amendment down our throats under the pretended purpose of granting rights to the former slaves.
I wonder how many people have ever read the 14th Amendment. I’ll bet that most don’t know there are 5 Sections to it and that only the 1rst Section deals with granting rights to the former slaves. It is the 4th Section that I would like to now address; “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any state shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.”
Sure the 14th Amendment may have, and I say MAY HAVE reservedly, granted rights to the former slaves, it did something else as well, made us all slaves to whatever debt our government incurred in the pursuance of its legislative acts. Need to pass a new highway bill but don’t have a cool billion to fund it? That’s okay, borrow it, the taxpayers are good for it. And now we’re sitting here with a national debt of almost $22.5 trillion. The American people simply don’t seem to realize that they are collateral on that debt, that their labor and their property is tied to that debt, and if our government defaults all that we have can be taken from us to pay off our nation’s creditors.
Yet most still support this entity because it is being managed and operated by people of their choosing; regardless of whether it sticks to a strict budget or respects their rights and liberty.
Prior to the Civil War the Republicans were the party of banking and business interests and the Democrats were the party of Jefferson, of small limited government. After the Civil War all that changed. For the Democrats to remain viable as a political party in a country where the very foundation of government had shifted from one of consent to one by coercion and force, the Democrats had to change as well; morphing gradually into the Democratic Party of today.
Both parties, regardless of what stances they take on the various issues, want to gain control of the system that taxes and spends the wealth of this country to benefit their corporate sponsors; those who fund the political party machine and the individual campaigns of the candidates. Our well being, our rights and liberty are way down on their list of priorities; if they are even on those lists at all.
That is the true legacy of Abraham Lincoln, the total destruction of a limited government by consent of the governed. Yet we have a monument dedicated to him in our nation’s capital. Lincoln, and his Union Army may have won the war and held the Union together, but it was the people, and the States across this once great nation that lost.
They say that to the victor go the spoils; and in this case the victor was the U.S. government. While that may very well be true, don’t you dare tell me that the current government we have in any way, shape, or form, resembles the same one those who ratified the Constitution were promised it would be. If you do, then as Katniss tells Peeta in the final Hunger Games movie, “You’re just a Capital Mutt!”
July 7, 2019
~ The Author ~
Neal Ross, Student of history, politics, patriot and staunch supporter of the 2nd Amendment. Send all comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you liked Neal’s latest column, maybe you’ll like his latest booklet: The Civil War: (The Truth You Have Not Been Told). Life continues to expand for this prolific writer and guardian of TRUE American history.