Acts of Oppression in the Name of Liberty
From the Russian Embassy at Washington, diplomat Baron Edouard de Stoeckl monitored the Lincoln administration and reported in detail to St. Petersburg. He would conclude as other observers did that Lincoln’s goal was to maintain the territorial union by force, with slavery intact and confined to existing geographic limits; the Republican party Jacobins wanted the South’s political and economic power destroyed and a reign of terror to accomplish the goal.
Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865
Acts of Oppression in the Name of Liberty:
“If the reign of the demagogues continues for a long time, General
Continuing his analysis of the “deplorable situation,” Stoeckl discussed in some detail the efforts of the radicals to gain control of affairs.
“General Fremont acted without authorization of [President Lincoln] and even contrary to his instructions, which forbid him to act in regard to the slave States of the west where Unionists are still fairly numerous. So the President was greatly astonished to learn about the [emancipation] proclamation of General Fremont. He regarded is as an act of insubordination.
For awhile there was consideration of dismissal [of Fremont], but after all [Lincoln] did nothing and did not even dare to reprimand him. The radicals, emboldened by this triumph, demand today that the edicts laid down by General Fremont in Missouri shall be applied everywhere. In other words, they demand that the government should convert the present struggle into a war of extermination.
What the radical party fears most is a reaction which would bring its ruin. So it takes advantage of the hold it has on the administration in order to drive it to extreme measures. The government has forbidden postmasters to carry newspapers in the mails which advocate conciliation and compromise. The result has been that the majority of newspapers which were opposed to war have had to suspend publication.
In several towns the extremists have gone even further. They have stirred up the populace, which has smashed the plants of the moderate newspapers. Conditions are such that mere denunciation by a general is sufficient for a person to be arrested and imprisoned. The act of habeas corpus and all the guarantees which the Americans have appeared to prize so much, have vanished and given way to martial law, which . . . is being enforced throughout the North.
We are not far from a reign of terror such as existed during the great French Revolution, and what makes the resemblance more striking is that all these acts of oppression are made in the name of liberty.”
Stoeckl wrote that the people of the North were being misled into believing that these drastic measures would hasten the peaceful restoration of the Union. But he did not believe the deception could persist:
“People will not be duped long by their political leaders. The reaction will necessarily take place. But unfortunately it will come too late to repair the harm that the demagogues have done to the country. It will be necessary finally to revolutionize the political and administrative institutions…which have been weakened upon the first rock against which the nation has been hurled. In the North and in the South they will have to reconstruct the edifice which the founders of the Republic have had so much trouble in building . . . The present war is only the prelude of the political convulsions which this country will have to pass through.”
(Lincoln and the Radicals, Albert A. Woldman, World Publishing Company, 1952, pp. 80-83)