SAN JOSE, CA, Feb. 12, 2017 – Today is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday (Feb. 12, 1809). Previously his birthday was celebrated or at least acknowledged throughout much of the United States; but to a bored American public, Lincoln’s assassination is considered much more dramatic than his birth. Unfortunately in this day, Lincoln has become the target of an attempt to assassinate him all over again. The attempt to assassinate his character and his legacy originates from the Left as well as from Libertarians – both rooted in materialistic ideology. Understandably, the “Democratic” Party would rather claim Lincoln as its founder rather than Andrew Jackson. And ironically, the GOP has gradually lost its way as the “Party of Lincoln,” and not too interested in defending the great emancipator.
In relation to this contemporary posturing with respect to Abraham Lincoln and his place in history, is the aftermath of last year’s presidential election that has left the population of the United States as divided, or perhaps more divided, than the nation existed prior to the American Civil War. The 2016 presidential election campaign leading up to Election Day in November was one of the most bizarre political fights that Americans have ever witnessed in the last century. However, in the wake of the election, one can discover a point of reference in understanding what newly elected President Lincoln faced as he became the POTUS in 1861.
After the Democrats lost the presidential election in 1860, they rejected the election results, and made good on their threats of secession from the United States, to create a separate nation, which should have been seen as an outright act of treason against the Constitution. No more dramatic precedent for understanding this act of treason occurred when Vice President Aaron Burr attempted to create a separate nation after the deadly duel with Alexander Hamilton. Burr’s political future was in disrepute, so he went to New Orleans to create his own new nation out of the Louisiana Territory that President Thomas Jefferson had recently bought from France. Burr was discovered, arrested, and brought to trial for treason.
This history has essentially been buried – even at the time because even then judges behaved politically, and none other than Chief Justice John Marshall, the designated trial judge, would not permit the conviction of Burr. President Jefferson suspected that is was done to spite him. Burr was acquitted because he committed no “overt act of treason.” However, President Lincoln faced an overt act of treason when Democrats succeeded where Burr failed, and created a nation of their own via the Confederate States of America. And, less than one month after Lincoln swore his oath to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic, Confederate troops seized the federal Fort Sumter in South Carolina.
Almost immediately after taking office, Lincoln not only faced a constitutional crisis of epic proportions, but he was also forced to deal with the reality of a most formidable domestic enemy to the American people and to U.S. Constitution. Even more importantly, Mr. Lincoln eventually came to realize that Southern Democrats not only rejected the legitimate results of the 1860 election, Confederate leaders rejected the principles ingrained in the Declaration of Independence. Almost to a man, they ignored, or refused to honestly believe in the ideals that “all men were created equal.” Essentially, this was the fundamental value that Lincoln had to hold onto in the midst of the most destructive and devastating war in U.S. history.
The self evident truths that had been held with genuine and sincere respect, were essentially the truths which Abraham Lincoln held firmly to, and would not forsake despite all the trials he faced during this formidable turning point in America’s history. The supreme irony is that the southern Democrats of the Deep South claimed that states’ rights were being trampled upon by the Lincoln administration, and to this day the contemporary Progressive revisionist historians, although intelligent, persist in perpetuating the notion that the American Civil War was a war of “northern aggression.” This is not much more than a repackaging of the original Democrat propaganda (and they were good at it), but it supports the point that the war was a war of ideas or ideals as much as it was of bayonets, bullets, and bombs.
The primary “rights” the southern Democrats were afraid of losing, “rights” not claimed by their northern counterparts, were the “rights” to own other human beings. Such “rights” were not envisioned by most founders as a right bestowed upon the people by the Creator as they had expressed it in the Declaration of Independence. The primary “rights” that southern Democrats demanded from the federal government that were not enumerated in the Bill of Rights, that were not specifically granted to other Americans, was the “right” to own other human beings. The outcry for protection of “states’ rights” was a demand from southern Democrats, to be protected from federal government intervention into their “right” to own other human beings.
Most Americans are familiar with the 13th Amendment to the Constitution that abolished slavery from the foundation created by the Emancipation Proclamation, but many may not be aware of another 13th Amendment that had been introduced by Republicans to appease and extend a conciliatory measure to southern Democrats who were threatening to secede. This originated as a “request” from Democrat President James Buchanan, who had also made a “request” to fellow Pennsylvanian and Democrat, Supreme Court Justice Robert Crier, to vote against Dred Scott when that fateful decision was made. In the president’s mind, it would be then publicly appearing as more than just a North-South issue.
President Buchanan’s suggestion about an amendment materialized as the Corwin Amendment after Thomas Corwin, who was willing to go along with the Democrat administration’s efforts to allow the southern Democrats to have their way without having to go to all the trouble of secession and initiating an unthinkable war. The Corwin amendment would have essentially prohibited the Congress from ever interfering with the “rights” of the slave states, and would have made attempts to abolish slavery irrevocably illegal under the Constitution. It was introduced in special select committees in both houses of Congress, and eventually passed to be forwarded to the states for ratification, without any objections from president-elect Lincoln. It was never successfully ratified.
Newly elected President Lincoln would have likely preferred the passage of the emergency amendment if it could have averted the loss of the lives of approximately 620,000 men and boys. He referenced his willingness to support the amendment in his inaugural address, which he delivered on March 4, 1861. Yet, the die had been cast as South Carolina chose to secede from the Union, and immediately after Lincoln won the election, that November, Democrat Governor Gist of South Carolina demanded President Buchanan surrender the U.S. forts in Charleston Harbor. Additionally, in a letter dated January 12, 1861, Governor-elect Francis W. Pickens also demanded that Buchanan surrender Fort Sumter because,” I regard that possession is not consistent with the dignity or safety of the State of South Carolina.”
It is reported that when rumors reached president-elect Lincoln in Springfield, Illinois, that Buchanan had willingly surrendered southern forts, Lincoln is said to responded that if it were true, Buchanan should have been hanged. The rumors were unsubstantiated. Yet, the southern Democrats in President Buchanan’s cabinet moved to undermine the new Republican president. Buchanan’s pro-Southern cabinet included four men who were substantial slave owners, and the southern Democrats were outraged that the president would not surrender federal forts to South Carolina. The Northern Democrats were seriously opposed, and with such a divided cabinet and a lack of true leadership from Buchanan, it was possible for the southerners to entertain treason.
Secretary of War, John Floyd of Virginia, threatened to resign if Buchanan refused to hand over federal forts, and even if the president ordered supplies or soldiers to reinforce the fort. The Virginian stated that “It would be an act of aggression against South Carolina which I cannot be a party to; I will resign my office before I will sign such an order.” However, even more treacherously, Floyd diverted significant shipments of arms and military hardware to southern forts, and those forts were seized directly after Fort Sumter fell. Additionally, he was suspected of diverting $850,000 out of the U.S. Treasury for handling vague Indian affairs. Floyd seemingly did as much damage as he could before he actually did resign in a display of self-righteous indignation over Buchanan’s handling of events at Fort Sumter.
Howell Cobb of Georgia, Buchanan’s Secretary of the Treasury, resigned in December 1860, but may have assisted Floyd with the disappearance of the money. He became president of the convention of the seceded states that assembled on February 4, 1861, exactly one month before Lincoln’s inauguration. Under Howell Cobb’s guidance, southern Democrats drafted a constitution for the new Confederacy, and elected Jefferson Davis as provisional president. Davis was formally elected to a full six-year term on November 6, 1861 and was inaugurated on February 22, 1862.
Southern Democrats had assembled much of the machinery in a hasty rush toward war all before Abraham Lincoln took his oath of office as the bona fide POTUS. Almost immediately after taking office, Lincoln had inherited the greatest challenge of any previous president. A domestic enemy had seized all federal assets it could, including the gold bullion at the U.S. mints in the Deep South. Davis, as provisional president of the C.S.A., also called up 100,000 men from the militias in the rebel states, and readied for war. Lincoln only took such action after Davis ordered the attack upon Fort Sumter.
With little time, Lincoln’s Administration was forced to respond to defend the U.S. The Capitol was already behind enemy lines sandwiched between the two slave states of Maryland and Virginia. The Civil War had been engaged “…testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived (in Liberty) and so dedicated (to the proposition that all men are created equal), can long endure.” Lincoln got it. It is too bad wise guys today still fumble for understanding of the realities with which Abraham Lincoln had to contend. External factors aside, Lincoln was desperately trying to help Americans hold onto the self evident truths citizens had inherited from those who gave their lives so that the Land of the Free could come into being.