Party Loyalty Above Constitution and Country


Instead of calling Congress together to peacefully solve the Constitutional crisis of 1861, Lincoln called upon military advisors.  It is clear that had there been no invasion of the South, the North would have continued with its own particular Union; the South would have prospered in its own Union as did the original 13 States after secession from England; and a million lives would have been saved.  With peaceful and Constitutional alternatives before him, Lincoln needlessly plunged the country into a war that destroyed the Founders’ Union.

Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman
North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission
"The Official Website of the North Carolina WBTS Sesquicentennial"


Party Loyalty Above Constitution and Country:

“Faced with

[Major Robert] Anderson’s report of February 28, Lincoln consulted his military advisors.  General [Winfield] Scott and Chief Engineer [General Joseph] Totten agreed that evacuation [of Fort Sumter] seemed inevitable. Scott went so far as to submit a draft of an evacuation order.

The problem however, was not simply, or even primarily, military. Much more important were the political aspects of reinforcement. The Republican party was already showing signs of disintegration into its heterogeneous elements. An aggressive element in the party insisted on reinforcement which a party of conciliation opposed.  The success of the administration and the future of the party were deeply involved.

More important still was the question of the effect of reinforcement or evacuation on the fate of the Union. Evacuation might consolidate the “rebellion” and bring foreign recognition to the Confederacy.
Reinforcement might alienate the moderate [Southern Unionist] group, lead to secession of the border States, begin a bloody war which the administration could be blamed for initiating, and permanently disrupt the [Republican] party and the Union.

It was on this political problem that Lincoln asked the advice of his cabinet March 15.  The almost unanimous agreement that reinforcement was politically unwise seems to have brought a decision to evacuate, and justified [Secretary of State William] Seward, at this stage, in his assurances to the Confederate commissioners.

Lincoln was, however, loathe to issue the evacuation order.  Evacuation as the lesser of two evils was still an evil.  The President therefore delayed the order.  For a little longer at least he could let matters drift while he sought a way out of his dilemma.

How long Lincoln drifted cannot be determined. He may have been still fumbling for a solution when he sent G.V. Fox and Ward H. Lamon to Charleston at almost the same time on apparently contradictory errands. Fox was seeking information in support of his plan of reinforcement.  Lamon, a few days later, claimed to be an advance agent of evacuation.  Both were allowed to visit the fort with the understanding that their missions were pacific.

It is hard to reconcile the visits of Fox and Lamon. Perhaps Lincoln was still drifting. Perhaps, as Professor [Charles William] Ramsdell suggests, he had already conceived a plan by which the Republican] party and Union might be saved through a war the responsibility for which might be thrown upon the South.”

(South Carolina Goes to War, Charles Edward Cauthen, University of South Carolina Press, 1950, 1860-1865, pp. 125-126)