Abraham Lincoln's victory in the presidential campaign ignited the fuse that would explode into the Civil War. Between his election in November and his inauguration in March 1861, seven states in the Lower South seceded from the Union. Delegates from these states met in Montgomery, Alabama, and formed the Confederate States of America. They wrote and passed a constitution similar to the United States Constitution except in four areas. The Confederate Constitution supported state sovereignty, guaranteed perpetuity of slavery in the states and territories, prohibited Congress from imposing protective tariffs and providing state aid for internal improvements, and limited presidential terms to six years.
The convention bypassed the more radical secessionists in the South and named Jefferson Davis president of the new nation. Davis was a slave owner from Mississippi and a United States Senator who had been Secretary of War in the Pierce Administration. Alexander Stephens, a moderate Georgia Whig turned Democrat, was appointed vice president. Davis's inaugural address emphasized secession as a peaceful movement based on the consent of the governed to alter or abolish forms of government destructive to their liberties and interests.
The southern position assumed that the United States was a pact of southern states. In this perspective, each state had individually agreed to allow the national government to act as its representative without ever relinquishing basic sovereignty. Any state could withdraw from the pact with the other states at any time. Most Northerners viewed the Union as permanent, an everlasting union, a "more perfect union" than that which operates under the Articles of Confederation.
Lincoln denied that the states ever had independent sovereignty as colonies and territories. He claimed that by ratifying the constitution, the states had unconditionally accepted the sovereignty of the national government. To Southerners who claimed the right to revolution to justify secession, just as the Founding Fathers rebelled against England, Lincoln responded with a legalistic distinction rooted in common sense. The right to revolution, he argued, is not a legal right but a moral right that depends on the suppression of liberties and liberties to be justified. What rights, liberties or liberties were trampled on by your choice? The South still enjoyed all the constitutional liberties it had always enjoyed. Carrying out a revolution without any moral justification is "just a bad exercise of physical power." Most Northerners agreed with Lincoln that secession amounted to an unconstitutional act of treason.
response to secession
Lincoln spent the time between the Montgomery Congress and his inauguration in public silence while sending private messages to Congress and key military officials. He tried to reiterate his campaign promise that, as president, he would take no action to interfere with or limit slavery in states where it existed. To demonstrate his intent, the president even passed a Thirteenth Amendment later passed by Congress that would guarantee slavery in existing slave states.
However, Lincoln drew the line in support of a compromise package sponsored by Kentucky Senator John J. Crittenden known as the Crittenden Compromise. This proposal included a series of constitutional changes to guarantee slavery in the states. In addition, the Compromise attempted to prevent Congress from abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia and to deny Congress the power to intervene in the interstate slave trade. Crittenden's legislation also authorized Congress to compensate slaveholders who lost runaway slaves in the North and protected slavery south of the 36th 30th parallel in all territories "now owned or subsequently acquired." Lincoln understood that passing the amendments would mean overthrowing the Republican platform, and he ordered party leaders not to make any concessions on the issue of slavery expansion. The compromise was rejected in the Republican-controlled Congress. Lincoln also rejected offers of a "peace convention" to be held in Washington under the auspices of former President John Tyler, and did not encourage delegates from him.
Hoping to show his peaceful intentions, Lincoln staged his inaugural address to discourage the Upper South from siding with the secessionists. His speech, delivered on March 4, 1861, was firm but indulgent. He reiterated his promise not to "interfere with slavery" where it existed, and assured the Confederate states that he would not "attack" (violently attack) them for his actions at Montgomery. On the other hand, Lincoln made it clear that he would "hold, occupy, and own the property and places belonging to the government...". He implored the southerners: "We must not be enemies." He reminded them that no state could leave the Union "of its own free will" and promised to enforce the laws: "In your hands, my disaffected countrymen, and not mine, lies the momentous question of civil war." The next day, the new president received a cable from Major Robert Anderson, commander of the federal installation at Fort Sumter on an island in Charleston Harbor. Anderson informed the President that the fort needed to be resupplied or evacuated. In a feat that allowed him to resupply the fort without attacking Confederate forces, Lincoln sent unarmed supply ships to Fort Sumter, announcing his peaceful intentions in advance. This changed the decision of who would fire the first shot from Lincoln to Jefferson Davis. The Confederate President did not blink. He ordered General Pierre GT Beauregard to force the surrender of Sumter before the supply ships could arrive. At 4:30 a.m. m. On April 12, 1861, Confederate cannons fired on Fort Sumter. After a thirty-three hour attack and an exchange of fire, Major Anderson abandoned the fort and the Civil War began.
Von Bull Run an Appomattox
Few people expected the war between the Confederacy and the Union to last this long, four and a half years; suffer so much bloodshed, more than six hundred thousand dead; involve so many soldiers, almost 3 million men; more or less total effort to be on both sides. It was the bloodiest war in American history. Lincoln thought at first that calm would soon prevail among the southern slaveholders; Southerners thought that at the first sight of blood, the North would move to a negotiated peace. The North did not take seriously the South's willingness to fight almost to the death for its ideals; Little did the South know that Lincoln would show the iron will to bear almost any cost to preserve the Union.
The American Civil War that followed the surrender of Fort Sumter involved basic strategies on both sides that changed little over time. For the Union, Lincoln adopted what he called the "Anaconda Strategy", first proposed by old "Fuss and Feathers", Commanding General Winfield Scott. Borrowing the tactics used by the anaconda, a South American snake that suffocates and kills its prey by constriction, the strategy called for encircling the Confederacy by securing border states. In addition, Scott proposed establishing a massive naval blockade, bisecting the South by running the Mississippi River from Memphis to New Orleans, and pressing relentlessly on the Virginia front line while defending Washington, D.C. from an attack by sheltered Confederates. Within a year, Lincoln changed the plan to include the invasion of the South. The Confederacy, on the other hand, believed that their best hope lay in waging a defensive war, using offensive tactics to make the northern armies suffer heavily for every inch of ground gained in battle. Over time, the Northern will to fight would weaken, and foreign powers such as England would come to the aid of the Confederacy with arms, credit, and military support.
For Lincoln, Union victory required that he successfully address a number of specific and interrelated issues:
- Finding the right generals who could take advantage of the North in terms of men and resources by attacking the enemy and winning battles;
- build a citizen army of volunteers willing to train and die for the Union;
- Mobilize the American economy to meet the vast needs of the war;
- dealing with dissent on the home front without destroying the democratic freedoms on which the nation was founded;
- prevent foreign recognition of the Confederacy;
- Make war so that a just peace can be achieved; Y
- Dealing with the problem of slavery in a war that slavery had provoked in a nation where the majority of whites were against blacks.
Given the complexity of these issues, it is clear that addressing the Civil War was the greatest challenge any American president has ever faced.
The search for the right generals
Lincoln appointed and replaced his generals at a rate that most observers considered reckless. In his opinion, however, he wanted commanders who could win battles, pursue defeated armies, and engage the enemy, no matter the cost in lives or materiel. He was impatient with all the training and preparations for the battle, believing that the South was not prepared to suffer significant losses and that the Union's superior numbers gave it a clear advantage. Lincoln cared little whether the officers were Democrats or Republicans, as long as they could lead men and were politically acceptable. He knew he had to make political appointments to win support for the war in Congress, and he did it quickly and unfazed by criticism from so-called career soldiers. Lincoln responded to such complaints by saying that everyone just needs to learn on the job.
His firing of George B. McClellan after that general defeated Confederate icon General Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Antietam in Maryland took almost everyone by surprise. Lincoln had wanted McClellan to pursue and destroy Lee's retreating army at Antietam; he wanted the same from General George C. Meade at Gettysburg. In Lincoln's opinion, both Union victories failed because they allowed the Confederates to escape unscathed to fight another day. Lincoln finally found his ideal general in Ulysses S. Grant, the western commander who captured Vicksburg in July 1863. Transferred to the eastern front, Grant fought Lee in a series of battles that pressed his advantage in numbers and tenacity. of the. In these engagements Grant never backed down and never resisted the opportunity to kill enemy soldiers. His protégé, General William Sherman, who had served with him in the Western theater, earned Lincoln's admiration by taking the war to the people of the South as he marched south, conquering Atlanta and laying waste to the southern countryside. For Lincoln, the war could have ended months earlier if Grant or Sherman had been in command at Gettysburg or Antietam. In Lincoln's mind, every soldier killed in action and every looted Southern home or burnt field of grain shortened the war and saved lives.
building a citizen army
The civil war was fought on both sides by citizen-soldiers who volunteered for assignments ranging from ninety days to the duration of the war. Many of them returned after their time had expired and received bonuses and privileges. In March 1863, the Union passed a draft law to require military service, but even then nearly two-thirds of new soldiers were volunteers. Lincoln delegated responsibility for feeding, equipping, and transporting Union troops to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, a former Democrat from Ohio. Stanton worked closely with the individual states, which initially equipped and supplied his greatly enlarged militia units. In 1863, the War Office acted as a massive and effective government agency, combining with remarkable efficiency the farms that provided the food and the industries that provided the weapons for the battlefield.
President Lincoln took a personally active role in the war, visiting soldier camps in the DC area. He also intervened frequently to obtain presidential pardons for deserters and young soldiers who were about to be executed for various crimes in the military. In Lincoln's public messages, he also showed gratitude for the great service rendered to the Union by his Soldiers in Blue. Most of the volunteers were very respectful of "Mr. Lincoln," as they called him.
However, not all citizens of the North volunteered for the war. And as the carnage increased, the numbers dropped. Lincoln accepted conscription as a necessary measure, which he hoped would encourage more volunteers who could avoid the draft by serving shorter terms. Almost immediately, the so-called Peace Democrats attacked the law as "gentry legislation" because it allowed a recruit to hire a $300 substitute. About 25 percent of the men recruited between 1863 and 1865 had hired surrogates, another 45 percent were released for health reasons, and another 25 percent simply evaded the draft. As a result, only about 7 percent of all conscripted men actually served. The protests spread to several American cities, where new immigrants accused recruiters of recruiting more poor workers and new immigrants than anyone else. On July 13, 1863, a bloody riot broke out in New York City in which 105 people, many of them innocent African-Americans, lost their lives. Lincoln sent five US Army units from the Gettysburg battlefield to quell the fighting.
Order the US economy
Lincoln named several effective cabinet members responsible for guiding and preparing the American economy for war. His first secretary of war, Pennsylvania party leader Simon Cameron, had endorsed Lincoln at the Republican convention in exchange for a cabinet appointment. But he was a corrupt and ineffective ally who once described an honest politician as "a man who, when he buys himself, stays bought." In 1862, Lincoln replaced him with Edwin M. Stanton, who restored honesty and efficiency to the department.
At the US Treasury Department, Lincoln appointed Salmon P. Chase of Ohio, a prominent abolitionist who consistently criticized Lincoln for his lame stance on emancipation. Despite their differences, Chase proved to be a remarkably capable manager of the nation's finances. Among his most innovative and enduring schemes was the use of the Legal Tender Act of 1862 to issue fiat currencies, called "greenbacks", not backed by specie (gold or silver) to finance warfare. These paper dollars did not promise to be paid for in gold in the future. Instead, they were qualified as "legal tender" notes, meaning everyone was required to accept them at face value when settling debts. But most of the Union's war spending was financed through taxes, loans, or the sale of government bonds.
Chase oversaw the nation's first income tax (3 percent on income over $800) and the national banking system established by Congress and signed into law by Lincoln in 1863. This law resurrected the central banking system that had been destroyed by Andrew Jackson in the 1830s. Authorized the creation of national banks that could issue notes as loans to customers for up to 90 percent of the value of US bonds held by each bank. This provision created an immediate demand for government bonds, as many private and state banks were forced to convert to national banks and bought bonds to issue notes to their borrowers. Over time, these notes became a major currency in the nation, circulating with greenbacks, paper checks issued on deposit, and gold-backed certificates as the primary means of exchange.
Chase also worked closely with the country's bankers, merchants and industrialists to find ways to sell bonds to the general public. Backed by Philadelphia financier Jay Cook, Secretary Chase used patriotic appeals to sell war bonds in small denominations of $50. Cook sold more than $400 million in bonds, earning a fortune in commissions. By the end of the war, the US had borrowed $2.6 billion, the first case in US history of massive defense and war financing.
Dissidence on the home front
The Peace Democrats' opposition to Lincoln's program and policies developed into a full-blown counterwar action in 1862. Most of these opponents were old-school Democrats who resented the centralizing laws and policies supported by the majority. Republican in Congress. They were particularly opposed to the national banking system, newly enacted protective tariffs, conscription, martial law, and any talk of emancipating slaves. The Peace Democrats won several seats in Congress in 1862 and became more vocal, and their critics began referring to them as "copperheads". The term is apparently derived from the practice of some hard-money Midwestern Democrats wearing copper pennies around their necks in protest of the fact that greenbacks are legal tender. Others claim that the term is a derogatory comparison of the Peace Democrats with the Copperhead.
When the war began, Lincoln issued an executive order imposing martial law on anyone who discouraged conscription or engaged in unfair practices. This action by the president suspended the arrest warrant (which prevents the government from detaining citizens without trial). Between 15,000 and 20,000 citizens, mainly from the border states, were arrested on suspicion of acts of disloyalty.
The most notorious Copperhead, Clement Vallandigham, a former Congressman from Ohio, was arrested by Ohio's military commander in May 1863 for advocating, in his gubernatorial campaign, a negotiated peace and antiwar demonstrations. A military court convicted him of high treason and sentenced him to martial law. Lincoln banished him behind Confederate lines to prevent him from becoming a martyr. (In 1864, Vallandigham was back in the North drafting the peace platform for the Democratic Party.) The incident raised serious questions about violations of Vallandigham's First Amendment rights (free speech) and the legitimacy of military courts in areas like Ohio where civilian courts functioned. (After the war, the Supreme Court ruled in Ex Parte Milligan on unconstitutional wartime military trials of civilians in areas where civilian courts are open and functioning.)
make the war
In 1861, Lincoln's main concern was how to prevent the Upper South from joining the Confederacy. However, after the fall of Fort Sumter and the secession of four more states (Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas), Lincoln turned his attention primarily to military victory. On the field of war, he wanted victories in battle, but otherwise he did not want to do anything that would diminish Union sympathies in the South. This created serious conflicts of interest for the President. For example, Lincoln never recognized the legitimacy of the Confederacy and refused to deal officially with any of its representatives, but agreed to treat all captured prisoners as members of a sovereign nation and not as traitors to be executed or imprisoned. By 1863, when African-American soldiers began enlisting in the Union ranks, Lincoln and Davis supported a prisoner exchange policy that kept few prisoners in long-term prison camps.
With the drafting of blacks into the US Army, the Confederates announced that they would execute captured black soldiers or return them to slavery. Lincoln stopped the execution threat, in turn, by threatening to execute one Confederate prisoner for every black soldier killed. The Confederacy unofficially dropped the execution policy, but refused to return black soldiers to slavery. As a result, very few prisoners were exchanged after the summer of 1863.
With the fall of Vicksburg and New Orleans, Lincoln was faced with the question of how to "rebuild" the vanquished states. Should Confederate leaders and soldiers be punished for treason, stripped of their property, imprisoned, or exiled abroad? What about the average Confederate soldier? Should you vote for them? Under what conditions should the Confederate states be admitted back into the Union? What powers would the Union have over the defeated states? And the former slaves? Initially, Lincoln hoped to offer the vanquished states an olive branch by proposing a policy of no revenge against the Confederacy. When his indulgent tone angered the radical Republicans, Lincoln backed down. On the issue of slavery, he first spoke of colonization as the best solution and financed projects in Central America and Haiti, which never came to fruition. Concerned about the 1864 election, Lincoln hoped that his Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction, which he issued in December 1863, would appeal to Democrats from the border states (and high-ranking military officers) who pledged allegiance to the United States and abolition of accepted slavery. Also, if the number of white men who pledged allegiance to the Union equaled 10 percent of the electorate in 1860, that group could form a new state government.
Radical Republicans in Congress responded with their own Reconstruction proposal in the Wade-Davis Act of July 1864, which required a majority of white voters in a state to take a loyalty oath and guarantee equal rights for blacks. . Then, as the first step in the retrial process, loyal state voters could choose delegates to a constitutional convention. Lincoln Pocket vetoed the bill and then invited Southerners to join the Union under either plan, knowing that they would certainly vote for his proposal.
When Louisiana whites benefited from Lincoln's proclamation in 1864, they passed a state constitution that abolished slavery and provided an educational system for whites and blacks alike. But the document did not provide voting rights for educated blacks or Union veterans, despite a personal request from Lincoln, although it did authorize lawmakers to disenfranchise blacks. The reconstructed Louisiana state legislature then passed labor laws intended to return formerly enslaved workers to plantations as low-paid wage laborers with restricted travel and no political or civil rights. Angry Republican congressmen, who saw these new laws as a reincarnation of the old slave laws, refused to admit to Congress representatives and senators from Louisiana, or those from Arkansas and Tennessee, who had also organized under the "Plan of 10 percent" of Lincoln. These Republicans also did not allow the electoral votes of these three states to be counted in the 1864 election.
After the Union's military successes and his re-election in the fall of 1864, Lincoln evidently had misgivings about his rebuilding plans. Two days after General Lee's surrender at the town of Appomattox Courthouse, Lincoln promised a new policy would come. The president intended to provide voting rights for some blacks, likely those who owned property and were literate, and stricter measures, including an occupying army, to protect their civil liberties. Unfortunately, three days after this testimony, John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln at Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C.
The problem of slavery during the war
There can be no doubt that Lincoln hated slavery, that he believed that it mocked and contradicted the Declaration of Independence, and that it was the only issue that threatened the survival of the Union. However, it is also clear that, as a politician, Lincoln had always been engaged on the issue of slavery. As a congressman, for example, he identified more with the anti-slavery, non-expansionist forces of Free-Soil than with the abolitionists, who rejected slavery as a moral evil to which no compromise could be tolerated. In the Lincoln-Douglas debates, Lincoln denounced racial equality in politics and society. As a presidential candidate, Lincoln pledged to keep the institution constitutionally protected in the southern states and supported the voluntary colonization of blacks in Africa.
When he became president, Lincoln tried to act in a manner consistent with his campaign positions, with the Constitution, and with the wishes of his Republican constituency. His goal, he kept saying, was to save the Union, not free the slaves. First, Lincoln announced his commitment not to invade slavery. He did this to keep four slave states (Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri) in the Union and obey the Constitution, which did not authorize the federal government to abolish slavery. And he hoped to win the support of Northern Democrats by not using the war to abolish slavery as an institution. However, events began to push Lincoln toward emancipation within months of the fall of Fort Sumter. Almost immediately, Lincoln was besieged by prominent Republican senators, notably Charles Sumner of Massachusetts and Ben Wade of Ohio, who insisted that he use the president's military power as Supreme Commander to immediately free the slaves.
Lincoln attempted to satisfy these demands without losing the slave-holding border states by proposing a gradual emancipation program in which the federal government would pay loyal slaveholders in the border states to voluntarily emancipate their slaves. However, the border states refused to accept the plan, and Lincoln left the discussions in the belief that few slaveholders would voluntarily give up slavery.
declaration of emancipation
Also, when the war started, thousands of slaves began running towards the Union lines. Thousands of other slaves began to display unruly and even rebellious behavior on their home plantations, especially as increasing numbers of white men from the South went to war. Free blacks in the north urged Lincoln to act decisively to encourage slave rebellions. They urged the president to issue an Emancipation Proclamation. Furthermore, it seemed almost certain that an act of emancipation would make it difficult for England or France to officially recognize the Confederacy, given the anti-slavery sentiment among their home populations, particularly in England.
Consequently, on July 22, 1862, Lincoln announced to his cabinet that, in his capacity as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, he would issue a wartime emancipation proclamation. The proclamation would free all slaves in the territories still in rebellion, and henceforth the Union's goal would be to destroy slavery in the Confederate South. His cabinet convinced Lincoln to wait for a Union victory lest the world see it as an act of desperation. When General McClellan halted Robert E. Lee's advance into Maryland at Antietam Creek in September 1862, Lincoln issued his preliminary proclamation. The president warned that if the rebellion did not end by January 1, 1863, he would issue his Presidential Emancipation Order and work to end slavery in the rebellious states once and for all.
Shortly before his July announcement to his cabinet, Lincoln had signed the Second Forfeiture Act passed by Congress, which provided for the forfeiture and release of all slaves held by supporters of the rebellion. However, this law freed loyalist slaveholders in the Confederacy. However, the Emancipation Proclamation made no such exceptions. In the final proclamation, Lincoln omitted occupied Tennessee and certain occupied parts of Louisiana and Virginia, as well as the loyalist slave states. The document declared that, with the exception of these areas, all slaves in the rebellious states were henceforth "free forever." It was also claimed that black men were now being drafted into the Union Army as regular soldiers (the US Navy had accepted black sailors since the beginning of the war).
With a single stroke of his pen, Lincoln issued the most revolutionary measure ever taken by an American president up to that time. And never was he more eloquent than in his message to Congress in December 1862, after the rise of the Democratic force in congressional elections, linking emancipation with union salvation: "By giving liberty to the slave, we affirm liberty to the free - honorable in what we give and in what we keep. We will nobly save the last best hope on earth, or we will lose petty." By the end of the war, more than 180,000 black soldiers were serving in the Union Army, earning distinction on the battlefield. Most of these soldiers were ex-slaves (150,000) who flocked to the Union lines, often bringing their families with them. This rush of formerly enslaved people was one of the largest grassroots movements in American history and also led to a massive refugee crisis. Lincoln addressed the problem by establishing a refugee system that forced most able-bodied refugee women and children to work for wages on government-supervised abandoned and conquered farms and plantations. Often these refugee farms and plantations were protected by a house guard of black soldiers: the husbands, brothers, sons, and fathers of formerly enslaved workers. This was particularly the case in the Mississippi River Valley from New Orleans to Memphis.
The president was concerned that his proclamation of war could be struck down (overturned) by the courts after the war, on the grounds that any seizure of "property" required due process of law and that such a policy could only be adopted by Congress. . Lincoln used his re-election victory in 1864 to push through a constitutional amendment that would end slavery throughout the country. The Republican platform of 1864 had passed the Thirteenth Amendment, which the US Senate had passed in April, and Lincoln used all the powers of his office, including patronage, to get it passed in the House of Representatives, which approved the amendment on January 31, 1865. . However, Lincoln would not live to see it become part of the Constitution after its ratification in December 1865.
Homestead Act of 1862
Campaign promises on the 1860 Republican platform included legislation granting public land to smallholders, and Lincoln supported early passage of the Homestead Act, which he signed into law on May 20, 1862 (intended to become in citizens) who ran a family, could be granted a grant of 160 acres of public land by paying a small registration fee and living in the country for five years. The settler could own the land in six months for $1.25 per acre. By the end of the Civil War, 15,000 home claims had been made, with many more following in the postwar period. Originally intended as a means to allow the poor to own their own farms, the law benefited few people. This was because families had to find the first resources to use the nearly vacant land to travel west, clear the land, and support themselves, all before they could harvest crops for markets. Most of the land originally went to poor farmers in the Midwest and East, who after five years sold their land to speculators allied with railroad interests. However, the law established the basic framework for the development of the Western Territories.
Morrill's Land Grant Act of 1862
Lincoln also signed legislation backing legislation sponsored by Vermont Senator Justin Smith Morrill, which transferred huge federal land allotments to states to sell in support of agricultural and mechanical arts colleges. The amount of land granted to each state was proportional to its representation in Congress: 30,000 acres for each senator and representative. In all, about 17 million acres were awarded to states under the original law. The bill demonstrated Lincoln's determination to make the federal government a major force in higher education that would ensure its democratization. Military science should also be included in the curricula of these so-called land-grant universities. These schools would later become the major state university systems in the Midwest and South.