Scoundrels Taking Refuge in Patriotism
Well-entrenched in power and in full control of the three branches of government and the military, Republicans labeled any and all criticism of their war policy as rank treason. Clinging to the notion that Washington and Jefferson would approve of subjugating fellow Americans who sought liberty and free government, they wrapped themselves in the flag of the Founders while committing treason, as defined in the Constitution, themselves.
Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman
North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission
"The Official Website of the North Carolina WBTS Sesquicentennial"
Scoundrels Taking Refuge in Patriotism:
Behind them, marchers held aloft images of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, and carried home-made “transparencies” – canvases illuminated by oil lamps or candles – displaying patriotic slogans such as “the three Ps we propose: Patriotism Perseverance, and Pluck.” The highlight of the parade, though, was undoubtedly a column of Union soldiers, guns at their shoulders, marching behind their regimental flags and drums. These men had been furloughed home from the battle front by sympathetic officers who wanted to help the President’s re-election campaign.
The bright lights were intended to symbolize national purification, an image emphasized by clergymen who spoke to the meeting earlier in the day. The crowd, many of whom had spent the afternoon listening to speeches and enjoying the free beer and hog roast provided by the [Republican] organizing committee, remained into the early hours “lustily” singing patriotic and sentimental songs such as “The Union Forever” and “Just Before the Battle Mother.”
This parade, with its potent mix of patriotic imagery, denunciation of [party] partisanship, and manifest partisan purpose, was typical of many hundreds of similar events that occurred in the North during the war.
But if there were to be elections, and if people were to become deeply divided over basic questions about what kind of nation they were fighting for, then the partisan form was unavoidable. Partisanship provided the organizing basis for Congress and State legislatures, guided policy making, and provided the indignation and moral outrage that was the stock in trade of many antebellum newspapers. Party appointees staffed the federal and State governments, and ran the post office and customs houses. Parties controlled the electoral process itself; they printed and distributed the ballot papers and even counted the votes.
As one Republican explained the situation in 1862, “the Administration party…really becomes the nation.” He could equally well have reversed the proposition. In refuting their own partisanship – insisting that they did “not deserve to be called a party” – Republicans wanted not just to win elections but to delegitimize and destroy their partisan opponents. Convinced that partisan opposition could never be respectable or constructive, that even organizing a Democratic public meeting carried the serious implication of treason, administration supporters fought the war against their internal enemies in the North as fiercely as they did against their Southern foes.”
(No Party Now, Politics in the Civil War North, Adam I.P. Smith, Oxford University Press, 2006, pp. 3-5)