A True Estimate of Abraham Lincoln
and Vindication of the South
by Mildred Lewis Rutherford
The South has always resented the falsehoods that have entered the biographies of Lincoln since his assassination. Those who knew him in life knew him best:
People found in Lincoln before his death nothing remarkably good or great, but on the contrary found in him the reverse of goodness or greatness.
Lincoln as one of Fame’s immortals does not appear in the Lincoln of 1861. (1)
Had Lincoln lived could he have justified the loss of more than a million lives and the destruction of more than eight billions of dollars of property on a Constitutional basis? Of course he could not, and would not have been considered worthy of the honors heaped on him because of his martyrdom.
I hear of Lincoln and read of him in eulogies and biographies and fail to recognize the man I knew in private life before he became President of the United States. (2)
When dealing with the Border States, Lincoln said, "Slavery is not to be interfered with." When dealing with the Republican Party, he said, "This country cannot remain half slave and half free." When dealing with the Abolitionists, he said, "This war is against slavery." However, he sent word to Benjamin Butler in New Orleans, "This war is not to free the slaves."
Simeon Cameron, Lincoln’s Secretary of War, wrote to General Butler, "President Lincoln desires the right to hold slaves to be fully recognized. The war is prosecuted for the Union; hence no question concerning slavery will arise."
When dealing with foreign nations, Lincoln said, "The slaves must be emancipated." When speaking as he thought to please the South, he said, "I have no desire to free the slave." "I have no Constitutional right to free the slaves." "If I free the slaves they must be segregated."
Charles Francis Adams, of Massachusetts, said:
How can we justify the acts of Mr. Lincoln’s administration?
An unconstitutional policy called for an unconstitutional coercion.
An unconstitutional coercion called for an unconstitutional war.
An unconstitutional war called for an unconstitutional despotism.
Authority uncontrolled and unlimited by men, by Constitution, by Supreme Court, or by law was Lincoln’s war policy.(3)
Abraham Lincoln did not hesitate to violate the Constitution at any time. Nor did he hesitate to say that he would not abide by the decisions of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has always been acknowledged to be the highest tribunal of the land by all loyal to the Constitution. Did not John Fremont say that Abraham Lincoln, with selfish disregard for the Constitution, violated the freedom of the press? Did not Chief Justice Taney say that the President had unconstitutionally suspended the Writ of Habeas Corpus?
When President Davis sent James M. Mason, of Virginia, and John Slidell, of Louisiana, to England to place the Confederacy in its true light before the European nations, were not the Commissioners seized and taken from the English ship Trent and imprisoned at Fort Warren — thus violating the International Law of Neutrality? Did Abraham Lincoln think it wrong to violate the Laws of Neutrality? Not at all, but he sent Captain Wilkes, the officer who seized the Commissioners, a gold medal as a reward. Had Seward not later realized what had been done, and the danger of offending England, and sent England a hasty apology, there is no telling what the consequences would have been.
Lothrop tells in his book that Seward could not conceal his gratification and approval of the act. McClellan was sent for and asked his opinion, and McClellan said, "Either you must surrender those prisoners or you will have war with England, and war with England means we cannot hope to keep the South in the Union."(4) This put a new light on the subject and Seward became less joyous.
Captain Wilkes had undoubtedly violated International Law and had offered a gross insult to England. President Lincoln, the Cabinet, and Congress, instead of rebuking him, had rewarded him for it. The press and the pulpit had applauded him for it. The authorities at Washington said, "We will arbitrate the matter." England was in no humor to arbitrate. Her method was an ultimatum: "You surrender those prisoners and make an apology." Only seven days were given them to decide the matter. And if in seven days that matter was not decided, Lord Lyons was ordered to close the legation, remove the archives, notify the British Atlantic fleet, and return home.
Exuberance left the Cabinet — shame and humiliation followed. Seward shut himself in his room, barred the door against interruption, and began his apology.(5) The United States had been foremost in resisting right of search. She had made it a cause of war in 1812. She demanded at the cannon’s mouth "the right of friendly ships to pass unquestioned on the highway of nations — the right of a neutral flag to protect everything not contraband of war." England remembered this and the British Lion was roused and America had to act quickly. Southern men were back of the demand in 1812 and no roar of the British Lion had any effect then because they stood for what was right.
What was Seward’s answer when he came out of retirement? "The four persons now held in military custody at Fort Warren will be cheerfully liberated. Your lordship will indicate a time for receiving them." What a humiliation that must have been to the Cabinet!
Now after Lincoln, without the consent of Cabinet or Congress — just on his own responsibility — had violated the Constitution by so many illegal acts, he felt it wise to call Congress to meet in order to have these illegal acts legalized. He admitted every one of these acts and admitted that they were illegal. However, the Congress refused to legalize crime.
The proposed Joint Resolution read thus:
Be it resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States in Congress assembled:
THAT all the extraordinary acts, proclamations, and orders herein before mentioned be and the same are approved, and declared to be in all respects legal and valid to the same, and with the same effect as if they had been issued and done under the previous and express authority and direction of the Congress of the United States.
The four secret expeditions to break the armistices must have been included in the expression "extraordinary acts," as they are not otherwise hinted at.
President Lincoln and his Cabinet tried and tried again to get the Joint Resolution passed, but Congress refused, and it has not been passed to this day.
The South is still bearing the onus of the Andersonville horrors — but as the Hon. George Christian has said: "Mr. Lincoln was directly responsible for all the sufferings and deaths of prisoners on both sides during the war." The orders given by the Confederate government was that the prisoners were to have the same rations in the same quantity and of the same quality as the men of the Confederacy. The hospitals were to be placed in every respect upon the same footing as those of the Confederacy.
When the stockade at Andersonville, built for 10,000 men, was overcrowded with 30,000 because of the refusal on the part of Northern authority to exchange the prisoners, disease broke out, and the South having no medicine, for the Federal government had made medicine contraband of war for the first time in civilized warfare, what could be expected but horrible suffering and death?
Special messengers were sent to Mr. Lincoln to intercede in behalf of these poor dying men. He refused to see the messengers or to hear their messages. Some of the prisoners themselves were sent to intercede but their request was not heard. Finally the Northern authorities urged that they send through the lines these men ten to fifteen thousand at a time, without exchange, and this was refused. As a last resort some of the prisoners were marched to the Florida line and left there. The surrender came fortunately just at this time.
Charles A. Dana, Secretary of War — no friend of the South, for he was responsible for allowing the shackles to be put on President Davis — said, "The evidence must be taken as conclusive. It proves that it was not the Confederate authorities who insisted on keeping our prisoners in distress, want and disease, but the Commander-in-Chief of our own Army."
Who was this Commander-in-Chief? Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States.
1. James Schouler, History of the United States, Volume VI, pg. 21.
2. Piatt, Reminiscences of Lincoln, page 21.
3. Address delivered at Chicago, Illinois, June 1902.
4. page 325.
5. Ibid., page 330.