150 years ago today…
In a letter to Horace Greeley of the New York Tribure, Lincoln wrote of his goal in forcing war upon the South…….
Washington, August 22, 1862.
Hon. Horace Greeley:
I have just read yours of the 19th addressed to myself through the New-York Tribune. If there be in it any statements, or assumptions of fact, which I may know to be erroneous, I do not, now and here, controvert them. If there be in it any inferences which I may believe to be falsely drawn, I do not now and here, argue against them. If there be perceptable in it an impatient and dictatorial tone, I waive it in deference to an old friend, whose heart I have always supposed to be right.
As to the policy I "seem to be pursuing" as you say, I have not meant to leave any one in doubt.
I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be "the Union as it was." If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.
I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men every where could be free.
This letter written exactly 150 years ago this date, during the summer offensive of Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia, clearly illustrates what was on Lincoln’s mind at this time during the war.
Stonewall Jackson had defeated Pope and Banks at Cedar Mountain earlier in the month and Lee had offensive intentions wishing to take advantage of the situation and attack before the Union Army could coalesce and strike his outnumbered Army. Within weeks the shattered remains of the Union Army would be seeking the protective defenses of Washington as Lee and his Army marched into Maryland under their banners and bands playing "Maryland, my Maryland."
The war was not playing well in the North and many of its opponents were silenced and imprisoned as Lincoln had suspended the right of Habeas corpus in Maryland in 1861 and would do so for the entire country in September of 1862 to quell the growing sentiment that the war was unjust and too costly. Lee’s Army marched into Maryland to allow its citizens the opportunity for their restored rights and he issued a proclamation to its people stating:
Army of Northern Virginia.,
Near Frederick Town, 8th September, 1862.
TO THE PEOPLE OF MARYLAND:
It is right that you should know the purpose that has brought the army under my command within the limits of your State, so far as that purpose concerns yourselves.
The people of the Confederate States have long watched with the deepest sympathy the wrongs and outrages that have been inflicted upon the citizens of a Commonwealth allied to the States of the South by the strongest social, political, and commercial ties.
They have seen with profound indignation their sister-State deprived of every right and reduced to the condition of a conquered province.
Under the pretense of supporting the Constitution, but in violation of its most valuable provisions, your citizens have been arrested and imprisoned upon no charge and contrary to all forms of law; the faithful and manly protest against this outrage made by the venerable and illustrious Marylander to whom in better days no citizen appealed for right in vain was treated with scorn and contempt; the government of your chief city has been usurped by armed strangers; your legislature has been dissolved by the unlawful arrest of its members; freedom of the press and of speech has been suppressed; words have been declared offences by an arbitrary decree of the Federal executive, and citizens ordered to be tried by a military commission for what they may dare to speak.
Believing that the people of Maryland possessed a spirit too lofty to submit to such a government, the people of the South have long wished to aid you in throwing off this foreign yoke, to enable you again to enjoy the inalienable rights of freemen and restore independence and sovereignty to your State.
In obedience to this wish our army has come among you, and is prepared to assist you with the power of its arms in regaining the rights of which you have been despoiled.
This, citizens of Maryland, is our mission, so far as you are concerned. No constraint upon your free will is intended; no intimidation will be allowed. Within the limits of this army at least, Marylanders shall once more enjoy their ancient freedom of thought and speech. We know no enemies among you, and will protect all, of every opinion. It is for you to decide your destiny freely and without constraint.
This army will respect your choice, whatever it may be; and, while the Southern people will rejoice to welcome you to your natural position among them, they will only welcome you when you come of your own free will.
R. E. LEE,
It is obvious upon reading the correspondence of these leaders, and considering their actions at the time in the way they went about prosecuting the war, which one was noble and which won was a calculating politician. One was determined to restore and uphold the rights of the constitution, while the other was content to suspend it in order to force Union upon sovereign States which had no desire to remain part of that Union. Like a broken marriage, one side realized the liberty and independence of making their choice to leave the Union whereby the other side blindly fought to force their will and form of government upon the weaker party. Lincoln usurped the constitution he swore to uphold and was content in total war to restore that Union so that the vanquished States would rejoin and reconfirm their oath to the very Constitution that he had suspended. Such hypocritical actions are easy to relate to in modern day America as most politicians continue to act in other various hypocritical ways.
Naturally, the history books have glossed over these details and facts in their quest and desire to Saint Mr. Lincoln but the truth has a remarkable way of finding its way to the surface albeit 150 years after the fact.