Of course, the second of Lincoln’s most famous achievements was the preservation of the Union.
Despite common folklore, northern aggression was not predicated upon freeing slaves, but, according to Lincoln, “preserving the Union.” In his First Inaugural Address Lincoln declared,
“I hold that in contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution the Union of these States is perpetual. Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed, in the fundamental law of all national governments.”
“Implied, if not expressed”?
This is the first colossal example of errant constitutional interpretation, the advent of the so-called “Living Constitution.”
Lincoln also threatened the use of force to maintain the Union when he said,
“In [preserving the Union] there needs to be no bloodshed or violence … unless it be forced upon the national authority.”
On the other hand, according to the Confederacy, the War Between the States had as its sole objective the preservation of the constitutional sovereignty of the several states.
The Founding Fathers established the constitutional Union as a voluntary agreement among the several states, subordinate to the Declaration of Independence, which never mentions the nation as a singular entity, but instead repeatedly references the states as sovereign bodies, unanimously asserting their independence. To that end, our Constitution’s author, James Madison, in an 1825 letter to our Declaration of Independence’s author, Thomas Jefferson, asserted,
“On the distinctive principles of the Government … of the U. States, the best guides are to be found in … The Declaration of Independence, as the fundamental Act of Union of these States.”
The states, in ratifying the Constitution, established the federal government as their agent — not the other way around. At Virginia’s ratification convention, for example, the delegates affirmed “that the powers granted under the Constitution being derived from the People of the United States may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to injury or oppression.” Were this not true, the federal government would not have been established as federal, but instead a national, unitary and unlimited authority. In large measure as a consequence of the War Between the States, the “federal” government has grown to become an all-but unitary and unlimited authority.
Our Founders upheld the individual sovereignty of the states, even though the wisdom of secessionist movements was a source of debate from the day the Constitution was ratified. Tellingly, Alexander Hamilton, the utmost proponent of centralization among the Founders, noted in Federalist No. 81 that waging war against the states “would be altogether forced and unwarrantable.” At the Constitutional Convention, Hamilton argued, “Can any reasonable man be well disposed toward a government which makes war and carnage the only means of supporting itself?”
To provide some context, three decades before the occupation of Fort Sumter, former secretary of war and then South Carolina Senator John C. Calhoun argued,
“Stripped of all its covering, the naked question is, whether ours is a federal or consolidated government; a constitutional or absolute one; a government resting solidly on the basis of the sovereignty of the states, or on the unrestrained will of a majority; a form of government, as in all other unlimited ones, in which injustice, violence, and force must ultimately prevail.”
Two decades before the commencement of hostilities between the states, John Quincy Adams wrote,
“If the day should ever come (may Heaven avert it!) when the affections of the people of these States shall be alienated from each other … far better will it be for the people of the disunited States to part in friendship with each other than to be held together by constraint. Then will be the time for reverting to the precedents which occurred at the formation and adoption of the Constitution, to form again a more perfect Union. … I hold that it is no perjury, that it is no high-treason, but the exercise of a sacred right to offer such a petition.”
But the causal case for states’ rights is most aptly demonstrated by the words and actions of Gen. Robert E. Lee, who detested slavery and opposed secession. In 1860, however, Gen. Lee declined Lincoln’s request that he take command of the Army of the Potomac, saying that his first allegiance was to his home state of Virginia.:
“I have, therefore, resigned my commission in the army, and save in defense of my native state … I hope I may never be called on to draw my sword.” He would, soon thereafter, take command of the Army of Northern Virginia, rallying his officers with these words: “Let each man resolve to be victorious, and that the right of self-government, liberty and peace shall find him a defender.”
In his Gettysburg Address, Lincoln employed lofty rhetoric to conceal the truth of our nation’s most costly war — a war that resulted in the deaths of some 600,000 Americans and the severe disabling of more than 400,000 others. He claimed to be fighting so that “this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.” In fact, Lincoln was ensuring just the opposite by waging an appallingly bloody war while ignoring calls for negotiated peace. It was the “rebels” who were intent on self-government, and it was Lincoln who rejected their right to that end, despite our Founders’ clear admonition to the contrary in the Declaration.
Moreover, had Lincoln’s actions been subjected to the terms of the Fourth Geneva Convention (the first being codified in 1864), he and his principal military commanders, with Gen. William T. Sherman heading the list, would have been tried for war crimes. This included waging “total war” against not just combatants, but the entire civilian population. It is estimated that Sherman’s march to the sea was responsible for the rape and murder of tens of thousands of civilians.
Further solidifying their wartime legacy, Sherman, Gen. Philip Sheridan, and young Brigadier General George Armstrong Custer (whose division blocked Gen. Lee’s retreat from Appomattox), spent the next ten years waging unprecedented racial genocide against the Plains Indians.)
Lincoln’s war may have preserved the Union geographically (at great cost to the Constitution), but politically and philosophically, the constitutional foundation for a voluntary union was shredded by sword, rifle and cannon.
“Reconstruction” followed the war, and with it an additional period of Southern probation, plunder and misery, leading Robert E. Lee to conclude,
“If I had foreseen the use those people designed to make of their victory, there would have been no surrender at Appomattox Courthouse; no sir, not by me. Had I foreseen these results of subjugation, I would have preferred to die at Appomattox with my brave men, my sword in my right hand.”
Little reported and lightly regarded in our history books is the way Lincoln abused and discarded the individual rights of Northern citizens. Tens of thousands of citizens were imprisoned (most without trial) for political opposition, or “treason,” and their property confiscated. Habeas corpus and, in effect, the entire Bill of Rights was suspended. Newspapers were shut down and legislators detained so they could not offer any vote unfavorable to Lincoln’s conquest.
In fact, the Declaration of Independence details remarkably similar abuses by King George to those committed by Lincoln: the “Military [became] independent of and superior to the Civil power”; he imposed taxes without consent; citizens were deprived “in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury”; state legislatures were suspended in order to prevent more secessions; he “plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people … scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.”
Found on The Patriot Post