Stanton, Torture, and Military Prisons — Setting the Precedent

by Al Benson Jr

By now we should all have heard of Abu Ghraib, the Iraqi prison where American soldiers practiced various forms of torture, both emotional and physical, on various Iraqi prisoners–all a part of George Bush’s "experiment" in democracy in Iraq. People were shocked when they read about Abu Ghraib. How, they thought, could Americans do such things? They wondered how decent and upright American soldiers could partake of such behaviour–surely this had to have been the first time for this sort of thing, right? Well, no, actually that’s not quite right. Americans have been partaking of torture of one sort or another since the advent of the Lincoln administration. Lincoln and his associates seem to have had a paranoid fear of disloyalty to the federal government, to the point where thousands upon thousands of Northern civilians were arrested and hauled off to prisons on the basis of nothing more than vague suspicion or some neighbour’s hearsay accusation.

In his book In The Shadow of Lincoln’s Death Otto Eisenschiml has noted: "In his vast arsenal of power Stanton had one weapon which was formidable beyond any other: the military prisons. Within their silent walls he could bury his enemies with no fear of consequences."

After the habeas corpus writ has been suspended, which was a writ guaranteeing a judicial hearing to anyone arrested, according to Eisenschiml: "…those whom the military chose to arrest could be held without recourse to the courts and even without charges being preferred against them."

Military prisoners were almost never allowed to see a lawyer. Their whereabouts was usually not known to their families or friends, and many were informed that, should they attempt to seek legal counsel, such an action would go against them. Such efforts would, according to Eisenschiml, resulted in "quick reprisals." And while many will be tempted to say that Edwin M. Stanton did all this on his own, Eisenschiml has observed that "On September 24, 1862, Lincoln issued a proclamation giving Stanton’s promiscuous incarcerations his full backing."

Stanton, in order to solidify his control, organized a secret police system. Yes, you read that right–secret police during the Lincoln administration. While it started out small, it grew quickly, as do all totalitarian schemes, and eventually it evolved into something called the "National Detectives" which came under the control of one Colonel Lafayette C. Baker, another rather unsavoury character. This force grew to number about 2000, and when Baker was appointed provost marshal of the War Department, this gave him almost uncontrolled power. "Secret police" in America in the 1860s! Sounds like something out of an old Cold War movie about the Soviet Union, but unfortunately it isn’t. It was real and happened right here in this country. And it set a precedent for what the present regime is doing in regard to our civil liberties. Do you ever wonder why your "history" books never bothered to mention this little fact? You should–and if that slight omission leads you to do a little research on your own to discover what other slight omissions have occurred in our "history" books, so much the better.

Forty-eighter socialist Carl Schurz, one of the leading lights dealt with in the book Red Republicans and Lincoln’s Marxists felt called upon to apologise for the Lincoln administration’s usurpations against U.S. citizens’ God-given rights when he wrote: "The government was under the stress of circumstances, doing things highly obnoxious to the fundamental principles of constitutional liberty. It incarcerated without warrant or due process of law, men suspected of aiding the rebellion…On the plea of urgent necessity…it adopted methods…familiar to despotic rule…" Leave it to a socialist to apologise for Lincoln’s high-handed treatment of American citizens!

Probably one of the most infamous prisons in the federal system at that time was Old Capitol prison in Washington. In 1869 a Washington resident wrote that: "Stanton was an able and true man, and a good Secretary, but he was a despot also, and too hasty to arrest men upon every slight proof;…Ex-Chief Detective Baker sent, perhaps, the majority of prisoners to this institution. He had reduced blackmailing and intimidation to a science, and those who would not comply with his unlawful demands were moderately sure of a residence in this place. These arbitrary acts are a blight upon the country…" I guess you could say that. As we go along it appears to become more and more clear that the true Yankee (Marxist) mindset is one with a totalitarian, collectivist worldview where the central government is supreme in all things and all citizens are merely "cogs in the wheel" of the Yankee Empire, to be used until they wear out and then tossed away and replaced with more government-educated cogs. Needless to say, when Northerners, mostly Democrats, protested Stanton’s dictatorial actions, Mr. Lincoln, also with a dictatorial mindset, took pains to defend those actions.

To be continued.

Copyright © 2006-2008 Al Benson, Jr.

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