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Libertarians Hate Thomas Jefferson



Okay, okay, what I meant to say was that Libertarians should hate Thomas Jefferson; after all, don’t they hate people with whom they disagree? While I admit that it would be wrong to classify all Libertarians this way, the vast majority of Libertarians that I and friends of mine have debated (and there have been many) have acted with vitriol and disgust toward anyone who disagrees with their ideas. If a congressman votes a way they don’t like, they label him a “neocon fascist big government liberty hating traitor”; and if you dare defend said congressman, you are not only characterized similarly, but also by the highly uncreative insults of “sheep” or even worse, “sheeple.”

Along with this form of insult, Libertarians seem to love to invoke Thomas Jefferson as a member of their ranks, the first American Libertarian as it were. Now while I’ll readily admit that Thomas Jefferson was indeed the most Libertarian leaning of our Founders, he was in no way an actual Libertarian, and history itself proves this. But with all this in mind it occurred to me; if Libertarians are going to attack so harshly those whom they disagree with, should not Jefferson himself be held to that same standard?

To prove this, I decided to conduct a small experiment, the results of which I will share shortly; I approached a rational, Jefferson loving, Libertarian friend of mine on a couple of occasions, and asked him whether or not a certain action was in fact “big government”, leaving out (for the purpose of the experiment) that it was Jefferson himself that did these things. Not surprisingly his answers were (as I expected) a condemnation of the actions taken by his favorite Founding Father, our 3rd President; the following is the top four reasons why Libertarians should hate Thomas Jefferson.


  1. “Economic Interference”

The first time I approached my friend, I talked with him about embargoes and economic interference, asking:

“If an embargo or act was brought up to vote/passed; and it A. prohibited all American vessels from sailing for foreign ports, B. prohibited all foreign vessels from taking out cargoes, and C. made all coasting vessels give bonds to land their cargoes in the U.S., even if all these restrictions were meant to affect commerce of another nation so that they play fairly…would you consider that anti-free trade/ big government?”

His response in part?

I would consider it an act of big government distorting the natural flow of commerce. Any form of policy intervention into a sect of the market economy, be it on a global or domestic scale, is an effect on that natural commerce. In this case, this could be considered bad to the flow of progress of the global economy…”

My friend then went on to explain to me why embargoes were bad, and did a really good job in doing so; but unfortunately for him he also condemned Thomas Jefferson as an actor of big government in his answer, because Jefferson did this very thing as President of the United States. In his wonderful book, Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, eminent historian Benson J. Lossing explains to us the actions of President Jefferson;

Mr. Jefferson’s administration continued eight years, he having been elected for a second term. The most prominent measures of his administration, were…the embargo on the commerce and ocean-navigation of the United States…The Embargo Act prohibited all American vessels from sailing for foreign ports; all foreign vessels from taking out cargoes; and all coasting vessels were required to give bonds to land their cargoes in the United States. These restrictive measures were intended so to affect the commerce of Great Britain, as to bring that government to a fair treaty of amity and commerce.” (1)

It is important to note that the act that Jefferson signed did exactly what I told my friend it did, and yet he still classified it as big government in action. Now we must ask the question; do we really believe Thomas Jefferson of all people was an agent of big government? Of course not; and yet he signed a law that, among other things, prohibited American citizens from sailing their ships to foreign ports! Where are the Libertarians accusing Jefferson of being a big government, liberty hating, fraud for interfering with the market, not to mention freedom of movement and association?

Now obviously I don’t think Jefferson should be attacked for signing this act; the British, as a result of their continual warring with the French, were abusing American citizens and their ships/commerce; so in order to make the British pay for what they were doing (without getting involved in the war itself) our government imposed the embargo as retribution for their transgressions. So how can I blame Jefferson? He was after all looking to protect Americans from British mistreatment; but while I think Jefferson should be left alone in this case, I do wonder why Libertarians give him a pass on this, when if it were Presidents Bush or Obama who signed the act they would ravish them as the worst kind of traitor.


  1. “Religious Favoritism”

For part two of the experiment, I approached my friend with a different question; one specifically dealing with federal funds being given to a private, religious cause, asking:

“Out of curiosity, do you think its “Big Government” for the Government to give Federal Funds to missionaries or to build a church for a community?”

So how did my Libertarian friend respond? Exactly how I thought he would:

“Government taking tax money to go towards any personal cause, regardless of how noble it may be, is still big government at work. Especially when tax payers have no say so in where there money is going…”

Once again my friend, without knowing it, actually condemns his favorite Founder as a contributor to big government action; for as we shall soon see, Thomas Jefferson as President of the United States did the exact things that I posed in my question. As I have previously written in “Thomas Jefferson and “Separation of Church and State”:

“In fact he [Jefferson] was so invested in a complete separation that while President he gave federal funds to the construction of a church and the funding of its priest. That’s right, as President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson via treaty gave federal funds to build a church and provide a priest to the Kaskaskia Indians (2)…Along with signing the treaty giving a church and priest to the Kaskaskia tribe, Jefferson also signed federal acts in 1802, 1803, and 1804 which set aside government owned lands to help missionaries propagate the gospel among the Indians. (3) He also directed the secretary of war to give federal funds to build a religious school for the Cherokee Indians (4) and in 1804 he gave assurance to a Christian School in the “Louisiana Territory” that they would be given “the patronage of the government.” These are only some of his actions.” (5)

So even though it was President Jefferson who gave federal funds for missionaries and priests to the Indians, as well as religious schools and a Church; actions my friend label “big government”, the Libertarians again seem to give him a pass in this area; he is apparently still a Libertarian. I mean, perhaps our Libertarian friends simply didn’t know that Jefferson did these things, but since they do now, should they not attack Jefferson for being for big government religious favoritism, as they would Rick Santorum or Michelle Bachmann?

Again, as with the embargo, I think Jefferson does not deserve to be attacked for what he did; if one is to read the words of a majority of the Founders, Jefferson’s actions are in complete agreement and consistency with the country that they set up and the purpose they set forth for it. By giving federal funds towards the propagation of the gospel to the Indians, Jefferson only strengthened the country, and the ties between the government and the Indian tribes. To claim Thomas Jefferson is big government for doing this is completely ridiculous, but if Libertarians want to be consistent, they should in fact focus their vitriol towards our 3rd President.


  1. Foreign Policy

A while back I wrote an article about America’s first interaction with Islamic terror, and that same topic applies directly to our discussion on Jefferson and Libertarians. I find it really humorous that Libertarians (and to be fair, Liberals as well) always complain about America’s war on terror, claiming it has gone on too long and it hasn’t been a success because “you can’t fight an idea.” Now obviously this is not true, of course you can fight an idea, but I digress; what really makes me laugh at their claims is the fact that they ignore that we have fought a war on Islamic terror before, and that this first war on terror was fought by our Founding Fathers. What I find interesting is that Libertarians complain that the current war on terror has gone on too long, fought by two Presidents over 13+ years (since 9/11); and yet, our Founders fought our first war on terror over a period of four Presidents and 32 years! I can only imagine the complaining Ron Paul would have done if he were alive during that period!

To borrow a passage from my old article:

“In 1784 American ships started to be attacked by the “Barbary Pirates”, now these were no ordinary pirates, these were Muslim pirates; on top of that, these were not the pirates of Peter Pan and Pirates of the Caribbean, those rapscallions who are free from allegiance. On the contrary these pirates were under allegiance to the Barbary States, whose rulers demanded that the United States pay tribute to them immediately, and annually.”

This is where Jefferson comes into the story, for it was future Presidents Adams and Jefferson who approached the Barbary States on a diplomatic mission to find out the cause of the attacks; it was here they learned that the reason was this:

“It was written in the Koran, that all Nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon whoever they could find and to make Slaves of all they could take as prisoners, and that every Mussulman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.” (6)

By the time Jefferson had become President, the United States had already been paying an extreme tribute to the Barbary States for years, a practice that did not stop the Pirates, but rather, encouraged them; thus Jefferson decided that enough was enough and that the U.S. would no longer pay off the Islamic nations. When this happened, Tripoli (whose ambassador relayed the above quote) and Algiers declared war on the United States, which led Jefferson to believe that the only way to stop the Pirates was through military action.

What did this military action entail? It certainly wasn’t limited to naval battles against some pirates; it also included invading the Ottoman Empire, capturing the city of Derna, and a planned regime change (this latter part courtesy of the mind of William Eaton, the man who captured Derna). After the cities capture however, the Pasha of Tripoli struck a deal with the United States to end hostilities, and keep his power (an agreement that later proved to be a mistake).

Ironically, this sounds very similar to the course our current war on terror has taken, as both include invasion, capture, and regime change (or at least, planned regime change). The fact that Jefferson even agreed to a regime change at the hands of U.S. Marines is something I can hardly imagine Libertarians condoning, especially considering how they decried it in Afghanistan and Iraq; and I’d be interested to hear the excuses they will come up with to condone Jefferson’s actions.

But why was striking a deal with the Pasha of Tripoli a bad idea? It ended hostilities did it not? Well yes, but not for long; recall how I said America’s first war on terror lasted for 32 years? You see, once Jefferson’s Presidency ended and Madison’s began, the Barbary States decided to war with America again, knowing full well her troops and Navy were tied up fighting the British in the War of 1812. Madison corrected this when the war with the British ended, sending the Navy and the Marines back over to fight the Islamic terrorists. Within two years another peace treaty was signed, thus ending America’s first war on terror; it isn’t hard to imagine however that the second round of attacks against Madison’s America could have been prevented, if Jefferson had only gone through with the original plan of removing the Pasha of Tripoli.

There is an interesting historical side note that should be mentioned about Jefferson and the Barbary Wars; it must be noted that in 1806, under a Jefferson Presidency, the first American version of the Quran was published. Why was it published at that period of time? One of the main reasons was because the U.S. had just been fighting Islamic terrorists for about five years; and one of the best ways for the people to understand who they were fighting was to read the beliefs that motivated their enemies (recall that the ambassador from Tripoli told Jefferson and Adams that the Pirates were motivated by the Quran). How do we know that this original printing of the Quran was meant as a negative towards Islam? According to the introduction found in the Islamic holy book:

“This book is a long conference of God, the angels, and Mahomet, which that false prophet very grossly invented… thou shalt find in this book a multitude of incongruous pieces, and divers repetitions of the same things. It hath been expounded by many Mahometan doctors, their exposition being as ridiculous as the text… Thou wilt wonder that such absurdities have infected the best part of the world, and wilt avouch, that the knowledge of what is contained in this book, will render that law contemptible…” (7)

It is no surprise that this introduction was included in a book printed during the Jefferson administration. Considering what Jefferson knew about Islam based on what the ambassador had told him, his previous study, and the long war on Islamic terror that America had been fighting, it is entirely consistent to believe that Jefferson personally (if not politically) would have believed very similar things; hardly the glowing account of Jefferson and Islam that President Obama gave.


  1. The Louisiana Purchase

As previously mentioned, Libertarians more often than not seem to react with vitriolic hatred toward anyone who they think has violated the Constitution; and while we should all be against Constitutional violations, you would think that Libertarians would react the same way towards Jefferson’s (supposed) unconstitutional purchase of the Louisiana territory…and yet they don’t. You see, in 1803 the Jefferson administration purchased the Louisiana territory from the French, for what then amounted to $15 million. (8) So where is the problem?  In reality there was none, although some people did believe the action was unconstitutional; their intellectual decedents are today’s Libertarians. After all, since the President is not explicitly given the power in the Constitution to purchase land from another country, by their logic it must have been an illegal action. To be fair, Jefferson was concerned about this as well, but fortunately his advisers showed him the folly in his concern:

“The purchase treaty had to be ratified by the end of October, which gave Jefferson and his Cabinet time to deliberate the issues of boundaries and constitutionality. Exact boundaries would have to be negotiated with Spain and England and so would not be set for several years, and Jefferson’s Cabinet members argued that the constitutional amendment he proposed was not necessary. As time for ratification of the purchase treaty grew short, Jefferson accepted his Cabinet’s counsel and rationalized: “It is the case of a guardian, investing the money of his ward in purchasing an important adjacent territory; and saying to him when of age, I did this for your good.” (9)

Furthermore given that this was a treaty and that the Constitution states: “He (the president) shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur”(10); Jefferson completing this treaty is shown to be no Constitutional crisis at all. I must say that once again I never thought Jefferson committed any wrong doing in regards to the Louisiana Purchase, but I have heard a good number of Libertarians claiming “surprise” that he would do something “so unconstitutional”; and yet, as always, nary an angry word is levied at Jefferson for his perceived sin.



All too often in the course of political debate, the Libertarian masses draw upon the argument of “you can’t force your morality on other people” as a way to reject the important social issue reforms that we Conservatives want to implement. Now this objection is patently false on logical grounds, given that all law is someone’s legislated morality; and so the question becomes, who’s morality do we want to implement; the moral principles our country was founded on, or some other?

But beyond this, even our most Libertarian leaning Founder, Thomas Jefferson, destroyed the idea of no absolute moral standard that people are naturally bound by. Ask Jefferson, and he would hardly claim that everyone has the right to determine their own version of morality, especially as it pertains to politics. We see this in some of his letters; for example, in a letter to James Monroe, Jefferson proclaimed:

“Political interest [can] never be separated in the long run from moral right” (11)

To George Hammond, Jefferson penned:

“A nation, as a society, forms a moral person, and every member of it is personally responsible for his society.” (12)

Writing to George Logan, Jefferson affirmed a universal morality:

“It is strangely absurd to suppose that a million of human beings, collected together, are not under the same moral laws which bind each of them separately.” (13)

And in separate correspondence with Augustus B. Woodward and John Wayles Eppes, Jefferson answered those Libertarian dissenters of moral policy in government, who do so because of the policy’s “religious basis”, saying:

“[I consider] ethics, as well as religion, as supplements to law in the government of man.” (14)

“Is it the less dishonest to do what is wrong, because not expressly prohibited by written law? Let us hope our moral principles are not yet in that stage of degeneracy.” (15)


So there you have it; the top four (plus bonus) reasons why Libertarians should hate Thomas Jefferson. He most certainly was not a Libertarian and was by their standards, an agent of big government and an enemy of liberty; but then again, since when did Libertarians gain a monopoly on liberty? I don’t know about you, but I’ll take the words of our Founders over Libertarian reasoning any day of the week.



  1. Biographical Sketches of the Signers of the Declaration of American Independence, Benson J. Lossing, p. 180-181


  1. “The Kaskaskia and Other Tribes,” in American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive of the Congress of the United States, vol.4, 687.


  1. Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States, 7th Cong., 1st Sess., 1332, “An Act in Addition to an Act, Entitled, ‘An Act in Addition to an Act Regulating the Grants of Land Appropriated for Military Services, and for the Society of the United Brethren for Propagating the Gospel Among the Heathen,’” April 26, 1802; Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States, 7th Cong., 2nd Sess., 1602, “An Act to Revive and Continue in Force An Act in Addition to an Act, Entitled, ‘An Act in Addition to an Act Regulating the Grants of Land Appropriated for Military Services, and for the Society of the United Brethren for Propagating the Gospel Among the Heathen,’ and for Other Purposes,” March 3, 1803; Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States, 8th Cong., 2nd Sess., 1279, “An Act Granting Further Time for Locating Military Land Warrants, and for Other Purposes,” March 19, 1804.


  1. Gideon Blackburn’s Mission to the Cherokees,” Journal of Presbyterian History, 52.


  1. Thomas Jefferson and the Nuns of the Order of St. Ursula on May 15, 1804,” original on file with the New Orleans Parish.


  1. City Journal:


  1. “The Koran, commonly called the Alcoran of Mahomet,” 1806,


  1. Our Documents:


  1. Lipscomb and Bergh, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, 10:411,


  1. S. Constitution, Article 2, Section 2, Clauses 2 and 3:


  1. Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe, 1806. FE 8:477:


  1. Thomas Jefferson to George Hammond, 1792. ME 16:263:


  1. Thomas Jefferson to George Logan, 1816. FE 10:68:


  1. Thomas Jefferson to Augustus B. Woodward, 1824. ME 16:19:


  1. Thomas Jefferson to John Wayles Eppes, 1813. ME 13:360:







Founding Father Quote of the Week

A wise and free people must focus their attention on many objectives. First is safety. The concept of safety relates to a wide variety of circumstances and ideas, giving latitude to people who wish to define it precisely and totally. ~ John Jay

The Civil War, Part 3; Abraham Lincoln


The following is the last of a three part series on the Civil War; and while the Civil War is a complicated and controversial topic, I feel the misinformation that is currently out there must be addressed. In the first installment we covered the reason the South seceded from the Union; in the second chapter we dealt with which side started the war; and in this final installment we address  President Lincoln.

 *Note to the Reader*: There will be quotes in here from Lincoln that may make you want to stop reading, as you may feel you can form your opinion on them; but I encourage you to not stop reading halfway, but to instead read all the way through if you want to get a more complete understanding of our 16th president.



     When it comes to Abraham Lincoln, it seems everyone has an opinion; people in the North generally view “Honest Abe” as an American hero, a man who did indispensible good for the nation in helping to end slavery. People in the South on the other hand generally speak of Lincoln with disdain on their lips, believing him to be a deplorable tyrant and a despicable man. But no matter what our preconceived biases are, we must make sure to avoid two very common traps when judging history. 

     The first trap we must avoid in our study is painting Lincoln, or any historical figure for that matter, with a broad brush. The second being that we must avoid viewing historical figures through the rose colored glasses of our society and beliefs; if we truly want to understand figures from history, understand what they believed and why, we must put ourselves in their shoes. It is the least we can do, and we must hope that people 150 years from now afford us the same courtesy. So who was Lincoln? Let’s find out:

Lincoln and Slavery

     One of the interesting, and frankly frustrating criticisms of President Lincoln is that he really did not care about slavery, and had no real interest in seeing the institution ended; these claims are usually based on quotes that are misunderstood and taken out of the context that Lincoln was speaking in. If detractors were to read Lincoln’s full comments on slavery however, they would come to a much different conclusion; a conclusion that states that Abraham Lincoln was indeed anti-slavery.

     Going back to before he was President, Abraham Lincoln expressed a real hatred for the institution and the very idea of slavery; take for example Lincoln’s speech at Peoria, Illinois in 1854, where he said:

Slavery is founded in the selfishness of man’s nature – opposition to it, is his love of justice. These principles are an eternal antagonism; and when brought into collision so fiercely, as slavery extension brings them, shocks, and throes, and convulsions must ceaselessly follow.” (1)

     In that same speech, Lincoln would say:

I hate it because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself. I hate it because it deprives our republican example of its just influence in the world.” (2)

     Lincoln shows that he hates slavery not only because it is based in selfishness, antagonism, and injustice, but also because it goes against the very principles of our Republic; but Lincoln wasn’t finished with the issue of slavery in that speech, as he also proclaimed:

“What I do say is, that no man is good enough to govern another man, without that other’s consent. I say this is the leading principle – the sheet anchor of American republicanism.” (3)

     Lincoln says that governance over another without consent (which is what slavery is) is completely contrary to the very anchor of the American republic, because no man is good enough to do so; a few days earlier in Springfield, Lincoln had this to say about slavery:

“We were proclaiming ourselves political hypocrites before the world, by thus fostering Human Slavery and proclaiming ourselves, at the same time, the sole friends of Human Freedom.” (4)

     With similar reasoning, Lincoln spoke of the selfishness and hypocrisy of slavery on yet another occasion:

So plain that no one, high or low, ever does mistake it, except in a plainly selfish way; for although volume upon volume is written to prove slavery a very good thing, we never hear of the man who wishes to take the good of it, by being a slave himself.” (5)

     In the same speech, Lincoln warned those who were pro slavery about using skin color and intelligence as justifications for slavery; telling the pro-slavery crowd that the same rational logically could be used against them:

If A. can prove, however conclusively, that he may, of right, enslave B.—why may not B. snatch the same argument, and prove equally, that he may enslave A?—You say A. is white, and B. is black. It is color, then; the lighter, having the right to enslave the darker? Take care. By this rule, you are to be slave to the first man you meet, with a fairer skin than your own. You do not mean color exactly? You mean the whites are intellectually the superiors of the blacks, and, therefore have the right to enslave them? Take care again. By this rule, you are to be slave to the first man you meet, with an intellect superior to your own. But, say you, it is a question of interest; and, if you can make it your interest; you have the right to enslave another. Very well. And if he can make it his interest, he has the right to enslave you.” (5)

     Just under a year later, Lincoln further proclaimed his feelings about slavery, and how the very sight/idea of it causes him torment:

“In 1841 you and I had together a tedious low-water trip, on a Steam Boat from Louisville to St. Louis. You may remember, as I well do, that from Louisville to the mouth of the Ohio there were, on board, ten or a dozen slaves, shackled together with irons. That sight was a continual torment to me; and I see something like it every time I touch the Ohio, or any other slave-border.” (6)

     Lincoln would have much more to say about the issue of slavery in the years 1858-59, further proving the disdain he had for the institution. In a letter to Henry L. Pierce and Others in April of 1858, Lincoln wrote:

Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it.” (7)

     Furthermore, speaking in Chicago on July 10th of that year, Lincoln again made his position abundantly clear:

“I have always hated slavery, I think as much as any abolitionist.” (8)

     One week later, Lincoln reiterated his wish not only to see the spread of slavery stopped, but also the practice itself exterminated:

“I did say, at Chicago, in my speech there, that I do wish to see the spread of slavery arrested and to see it placed where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in course of ultimate extinction.” (9)   

     In July and August of 1858, Lincoln spoke again of slavery:

“If we cannot give freedom to every creature, let us do nothing that will impose slavery upon any other creature.” (10)

“As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy.” (11)

     But while Lincoln was himself very anti-slavery, he did foresee constitutional (legal) problems with the federal government trying to eliminate slavery; for example, in the Lincoln-Douglas debate at Galesburg, Lincoln stated:

“Now, I confess myself as belonging to that class in the country who contemplate slavery as a moral, social and political evil, having due regard for its actual existence amongst us and the difficulties of getting rid of it in any satisfactory way, and to all the constitutional obligations which have been thrown about it; but, nevertheless, desire a policy that looks to the prevention of it as a wrong, and looks hopefully to the time when as a wrong it may come to an end.” (12)

     A few days following this pronouncement, Lincoln again spoke of the legal problems that were in the way of slavery’s abolition:

I believe the declaration that ‘all men are created equal’ is the great fundamental principle upon which our free institutions rest; that negro slavery is violative of that principle; but that, by our frame of government, that principle has not been made one of legal obligation; that by our frame of government, the States which have slavery are to retain it, or surrender it at their own pleasure; and that all others—individuals, free-states and national government—are constitutionally bound to leave them alone about it. I believe our government was thus framed because of the necessity springing from the actual presence of slavery, when it was framed. That such necessity does not exist in the teritories[sic], where slavery is not present.” (13)

     But despite his belief that ending slavery was blocked by the issue of legality, Lincoln still believed that slavery must eventually be ended, and that “a house divided” could not stand:

“In the first place, I insist that our fathers did not make this nation half slave and half free, or part slave and part free. I insist that they found the institution of slavery existing here. They did not make it so, but they left it so because they knew of no way to get rid of it at that time.” (14)

“A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half-slave and half-free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved – I do not expect the house to fall – but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.” (15)

     As mentioned before, soon to be President Lincoln continued espousing these positions when addressing friends and voters alike; speaking in Cincinnati, Lincoln again spoke of slavery as being “morally wrong”:

“I think slavery is wrong, morally, and politically. I desire that it should be no further spread in these United States, and I should not object if it should gradually terminate in the whole Union.” (16)

      Lincoln continued to make denouncements of slavery as 1859 continued, and they did not stop once he became President of the United States (17, 18, 19, 20). In 1860, Lincoln for a third time referred to slavery as being wrong on a moral level, while also stating that he still did not believe that he as President had a right to exterminate it in the slave-holding states:

We think slavery a great moral wrong, and while we do not claim the right to touch it where it exists, we wish to treat it as a wrong in the territories, where our votes will reach it.” (21)

     Two years later, Lincoln would describe what it means to give freedom to those bound in unjust slavery:

“In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free – honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just – a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless.” (22)

     Come 1864, Lincoln again offered his personal views on slavery as well as a defense of the then announced Emancipation Proclamation:

“I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I can not remember when I did not so think, and feel.” (23)

“I repeat the declaration made a year ago, that ‘while I remain in my present position I shall not attempt to retract or modify the emancipation proclamation, nor shall I return to slavery any person who is free by the terms of that proclamation, or by any of the Acts of Congress.’ If the people should, by whatever mode or means, make it an Executive duty to re-enslave such persons, another, and not I, must be their instrument to perform it.” (24)

     When Lincoln’s life was coming to an end in 1865 (although he did not know it), the President gave one of his final denouncements against slavery, proclaiming what he thought should be done to any man who enslaves another:

“I have always thought that all men should be free; but if any should be slaves it should be first those who desire it for themselves, and secondly those who desire it for others… Whenever I hear any one arguing for slavery I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.” (25)

     It is abundantly clear that Lincoln was, himself, very anti-slavery; so what of the quotes where he admits he would end the civil war by freeing none of the slaves if he could? The answer to this question, as mentioned in part one of this Civil War trilogy, is simply that Lincoln saw that his main duty and responsibility was to keep the Union together at all costs; detractors of Lincoln often fail to mention that in the same quote they like to tout, Lincoln also says he would free all the slaves if he thought it would keep the union together. As Lincoln himself said:

“What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause.”  (26)

Lincoln and Race

     Along with those who wrongly attack Lincoln on slavery, there are some who take highly questionable quotes from our 16th President and use them to paint him as a horrible monster who hated the African race at its core. Here are a few examples of the quotes they use:

“If all earthly power were given me…I should not know what to do, as to the existing institution [of slavery]. My first impulse would be to free all the slaves, and send them to Liberia, to their own native landpolitically and socially our equals?…My own feelings will not admit of this…and [even] if mine would, we well know that those of the great mass of white people will notWe can not, then, make them equals.”  (27)

“There is a natural disgust in the minds of nearly all white people to the idea of indiscriminate amalgamation of the white and black racesA separation of the races is the only perfect preventive of amalgamation, but as an immediate separation is impossible, the next best thing is to keep them apart where they are not already together. If white and black people never get together in Kansas, they will never mix blood in Kansas.” (28)

I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the white and black races. There is physical difference between the two which, in my judgment, will probably forever forbid their living together upon the footing of perfect equality, and inasmuch as it becomes a necessity that there must be a difference, I, as well as Judge Douglas, am in favor of the race to which I belong having the superior position.” (29)

I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.” (30)

“You and we are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races. Whether it is right or wrong I need not discuss, but this physical difference is a great disadvantage to us both, as I think your race suffers very greatly, many of them, by living among us, while ours suffers from your presence. In a word, we suffer on each side. If this is admitted, it affords a reason at least why we should be separated.” (31)

“But what shall we do with the negroes after they are free?…I can hardly believe that the South and North can live in peace, unless we can get rid of the negroes…I believe that it would be better to export them all to some fertile country with a good climate, which they could have to themselves…If these black soldiers of ours go back to the South, I am afraid that they will be but little better off with their masters than they were before, and yet they will be free men. I fear a race war, and it will be at least a guerilla war because we have taught these men how to fight…There are plenty of men in the North who will furnish the negroes with arms if there is any oppression of them by their late masters.” (32)

     So the crux of the argument against Lincoln is that he is despicable because he was a White supremacist who did not believe in racial equality and thought that the Negro race should be exported back to Africa; but it is here we must make sure not to fall into the two traps mentioned at the beginning of this piece. We must remember not to paint Lincoln with a broad brush, and to put ourselves in his shoes if we want to understand him; especially considering that Lincoln was a very complicated man.

     It is obviously true that Lincoln did say these things, but we must remember that Abe was a man of his time; he had grown up in, was taught by, and made observations in a society where most people believed such things; and like it or not, if we were put in his same situation, the vast majority of us would most likely believe the same things he did. Does that make what he believed right? Absolutely not; but just because he was wrong in what he believed, does not mean he was a vile racist who hated the African race.

     Putting aside the whole “man of his time” argument however, why exactly was Lincoln opposed to equality between the races? Simply put, it is because he did not think racial equality was feasible. As Lincoln himself said, there was a “natural disgust in the minds of nearly all white people” and that “the great mass of white people will not” approve of the equality (and amalgamation) of the races; to attempt such a thing would be rejected by the masses. Along with this, Lincoln, like most people, believed that there were “physical difference between the two which, in my judgment, will probably forever forbid their living together upon the footing of perfect equality” that is to say “social and political equality”; and that the differences caused disadvantages and suffering among both races.

     The ironic thing about Lincoln’s point of view is that while it was wrong, it actually wasn’t fully wrong, at least not in the Southern parts of the United States; because for nearly 100 years after Lincoln died (1865-1964), Blacks and Whites in the South did not get along, were not equal, and found it hard to live together peacefully. Considering that during that span of time White Democrats in the South used the KKK to torment and kill Blacks, founded Planned Parenthood who, in the words of their founder Margret Sanger, “do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population” (33), and passed the Jim Crow segregation laws that plagued the South for years; it seems that Lincoln’s predictions were actually semi-fulfilled.    

     Most importantly however, is not only that Lincoln believed that equality was impossible due to the opinions of the White race and the perceived physical differences between them and the Negros, he also feared that if such equality were to happen, it would bring about a “race war”; a guerilla style conflict resulting from the Whites in the North arming the Black soldiers whom they had trained, so that they may deal with the oppression dealt them by “their late masters.”

     While we are thankful that Lincoln was wrong in this fear, it is certainly easy to understand why he would believe it could happen. The president had just witnessed a war that, while mainly resulted from the secession of certain states, had racial elements involved at its very core. To put it bluntly; the South seceded because they wanted to keep enslaving the Black race, and it was the Civil War that sought to put an end to this slavery/race-based secession. As President Lincoln once told a group of (free) Black ministers:

“See our present condition — the country engaged in war! — our white men cutting one another’s throats, none knowing how far it will extend; and then consider what we know to be the truth. But for your race among us there could not be war, although many men engaged on either side do not care for you one way or the other. Nevertheless, I repeat, without the institution of slavery, and the colored race as a basis, the war would not have an existence.” (31)

     With the recognition of what Lincoln saw happening all around him, it is perfectly understandable why he believed that a race war could break out between Blacks and their former White masters if social and political equality was reached. Again, does this make him right? Absolutely not; but understanding what he had witnessed and where he was coming from shows that his beliefs were not based in a vile hatred of the Black race, but rather, on the experiences he had, the things he had witnessed, and the faulty predictions that came from those experiences.

     It is also true that Lincoln, feeling equality was impossible and that the two races could not live together in peace, favored exporting the Negro race to places such as Liberia; and while it is easy to freak out about Lincoln wanting to send all the Black people back to Africa, this subject again must be viewed with clarity. It is very easy to assume what Lincoln’s plan was, especially considering the deportation of illegal aliens that we have witnessed in our time; but Lincoln’s plan was not one that endorsed “rounding them all up and shipping them off.”

     The plan that Lincoln endorsed (which was very similar to one advocated by Jefferson) was A. to send African Americans to the Republic of Liberia, and other countries who’s governments were very similar in structure to the U.S.; and B. was not to be enacted without the consent of the Negroes in question, which is why Lincoln tried hard to drum up Black support for the plan (which ultimately failed). (34)(35)

     Lincoln truly believed that the futures of both the White and Black races would be better if separated, which is why he advocated the plan he did; it was not, as some would claim, because he had evil intentions. But even those well-intentioned plans can be ultimately the wrong idea, and the wrong choice; we should be thankful that Lincoln’s plan failed, because it was a bad one, but we shouldn’t go as far as to paint Lincoln an evil man because of this issue.

     The final criticism of Lincoln (and by far the weakest one), is based on his belief that the White race should be superior; and while it is true that our former President said: “while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race” and “I…am in favor of the race to which I belong having the superior position”; opponents point to Lincoln saying this as if this is such damning evidence that Lincoln was a horrible man; but I postulate that Lincoln was simply answering how any logical human being would.

     To understand why he would say such things, we must remember what Lincoln believed; Abraham Lincoln believed that equality between the races was impossible, and given this belief, it logically follows that if equality is impossible, one race must be superior to the other. It is with that belief firmly in mind that Lincoln advocated for the White race, his race, to hold the position of superiority; and why wouldn’t he? It is the only logical thing for him to say!  If one believes that one race must be superior to the other, then it is obvious that that person would want their race to be in the superior position; after all, no one wants their race to be inferior, subjugated, and in the subordinate position. I guarantee you that if you were to ask any White person or any Black person which race should be superior (in the context of Lincoln’s belief), both races would answer that their race should hold the superior position.     

     So does this make Lincoln evil? Of course not, it makes him logically consistent; of course as previously mentioned, the belief that equality was impossible has since been proven wrong, and thankfully so, but just because Lincoln was being logically consistent in his wrong belief, does not mean he was a bad man for it.   

     I think Lincoln’s friend, ex-slave Frederick Douglass described Lincoln very well on multiple occasions; for example, in his Oration in Memory of Abraham Lincoln (1876), Douglass stated:

“It must be admitted, truth compels me to admit, even here in the presence of the monument we have erected to his memory, Abraham Lincoln was not, in the fullest sense of the word, either our man or our model. In his interests, in his associations, in his habits of thought, and in his prejudices, he was a white man.

He was preeminently the white man’s President, entirely devoted to the welfare of white men. He was ready and willing at any time during the first years of his administration to deny, postpone, and sacrifice the rights of humanity in the colored people to promote the welfare of the white people of this country. In all his education and feeling he was an American of the Americans. He came into the Presidential chair upon one principle alone, namely, opposition to the extension of slaveryThe name of Abraham Lincoln was near and dear to our hearts in the darkest and most perilous hours of the Republic. We were no more ashamed of him when shrouded in clouds of darkness, of doubt, and defeat than when we saw him crowned with victory, honor, and glory. Our faith in him was often taxed and strained to the uttermost, but it never failed. When he tarried long in the mountain; when he strangely told us that we were the cause of the war; when he still more strangely told us that we were to leave the land in which we were born…

Despite the mist and haze that surrounded him; despite the tumult, the hurry, and confusion of the hour, we were able to take a comprehensive view of Abraham Lincoln, and to make reasonable allowance for the circumstances of his position. We saw him, measured him, and estimated him; not by stray utterances to injudicious and tedious delegations, who often tried his patience; not by isolated facts torn from their connection; not by any partial and imperfect glimpses, caught at inopportune moments; but by a broad survey, in the light of the stern logic of great events It mattered little to us what language he might employ on special occasions; it mattered little to us, when we fully knew him, whether he was swift or slow in his movements; it was enough for us that Abraham Lincoln was at the head of a great movement, and was in living and earnest sympathy with that movement, which, in the nature of things, must go on until slavery should be utterly and forever abolished in the United States.

When, therefore, it shall be asked what we have to do with the memory of Abraham Lincoln, or what Abraham Lincoln had to do with us, the answer is ready, full, and completeunder his wise and beneficent rule we saw ourselves gradually lifted from the depths of slavery to the heights of liberty and manhood; under his wise and beneficent rule, and by measures approved and vigorously pressed by him, we saw that the handwriting of ages, in the form of prejudice and proscription, was rapidly fading away from the face of our whole country under his rule we saw the internal slave-trade, which so long disgraced the nation, abolished, and slavery abolished in the District of Columbia; under his rule we saw for the first time the law enforced against the foreign slave trade, and the first slave-trader hanged like any other pirate or murderer; under his rule, assisted by the greatest captain of our age, and his inspiration, we saw the Confederate States, based upon the idea that our race must be slaves, and slaves forever, battered to pieces and scattered to the four winds; under his rule, and in the fullness of time, we saw Abraham Lincoln, after giving the slave-holders three months’ grace in which to save their hateful slave system, penning the immortal paper, which, though special in its language, was general in its principles and effect, making slavery forever impossible in the United States. Though we waited long, we saw all this and more…

I have said that President Lincoln was a white man, and shared the prejudices common to his countrymen towards the colored race. Looking back to his times and to the condition of his country, we are compelled to admit that this unfriendly feeling on his part may be safely set down as one element of his wonderful success in organizing the loyal American people for the tremendous conflict before them, and bringing them safely through that conflict. His great mission was to accomplish two things: first, to save his country from dismemberment and ruin; and, second, to free his country from the great crime of slavery…Though Mr. Lincoln shared the prejudices of his white fellow-countrymen against the Negro, it is hardly necessary to say that in his heart of hearts he loathed and hated slavery Few great public men have ever been the victims of fiercer denunciation than Abraham Lincoln was during his administration. He was often wounded in the house of his friends. Reproaches came thick and fast upon him from within and from without, and from opposite quarters. He was assailed by Abolitionists; he was assailed by slave-holders; he was assailed by the men who were for peace at any price; he was assailed by those who were for a more vigorous prosecution of the war; he was assailed for not making the war an abolition war; and he was bitterly assailed for making the war an abolition war… for no man who knew Abraham Lincoln could hate him — but because of his fidelity to union and liberty, he is doubly dear to us, and his memory will be precious forever.

Fellow-citizens, I end, as I began, with congratulations. We have done a good work for our race today. In doing honor to the memory of our friend and liberator, we have been doing highest honors to ourselves and those who come after us…When now it shall be said that the colored man is soulless, that he has no appreciation of benefits or benefactors; when the foul reproach of ingratitude is hurled at us, and it is attempted to scourge us beyond the range of human brotherhood, we may calmly point to the monument we have this day erected to the memory of Abraham Lincoln.” (36)

     And in an 1865 thank you letter to Lincoln’s wife (who had sent him the President’s favorite walking stick), Douglass told Mrs. Lincoln:

“Mrs. Abraham Lincoln:

Dear Madam: Allow me to thank you as I certainly do thank you most sincerely for your thoughtful kindness in making me the owner of a cane which was formerly the property and the favorite walking staff of your late lamented husband – the honored and venerated President of the United States. I assure you, that this inestimable memento of his presidency will be retained in my possession while I live – an object of sacred interest – a token not merely of the kind consideration in which I have reason to know that the President was pleased to hold me personally, but as an indication of his humane interest [in the] welfare of my whole race. With every proper sentiment of Respect and Esteem,

            I am, Dear Madam, your obedient,

Frederick Douglass”

     Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States; was he a perfect man? No; but despite his flaws, despite his faults, he was a good man and a good President. People who try to paint Lincoln as a vile racist, who did not care about slavery or the Black race are simply put, ignoring history, and are downright wrong. Lincoln has long been considered by most to be one of our greatest Presidents, and rightly so, which is why all attempts to discredit him must be addressed, and corrected. Of course there is another criticism of Lincoln in regards to his handling of the Constitution during the Civil War, but that my friends, is a topic for another day.

Thank you so much for reading the Bottom Line’s Civil War trilogy; I really hope you enjoyed this series of articles, and were able to learn something from them. If you enjoyed these pieces on the Civil War, please share them with your friends and family, and keep coming back for more historical pieces from the Bottom Line.      


1.      The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume II, “Speech at Peoria, Illinois” (October 16, 1854), p. 271.


2.      The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume II, “Speech at Peoria, Illinois” (October 16, 1854), p. 255.


3.      The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume II, “Speech at Peoria, Illinois” (October 16, 1854), p. 266.


4.      The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume II, “Speech at Springfield, Illinois” (October 4, 1854), p. 242.


5.      The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume II, “Fragment on Slavery” (April 1, 1854?), p. 222.



6.      The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume II, “Letter to Joshua F. Speed” (August 24, 1855), p. 320.


7.      The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume III, “Letter To Henry L. Pierce and Others” (April 6, 1858), p. 376.


8.      The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume II, “Speech at Chicago, Illinois” (July 10, 1858), p. 492.


9.      The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume II, “Speech at Springfield, Illinois” (July 17, 1858), p. 514.


10.  The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume II, “Speech at Chicago, Illinois” (July 10, 1858), p. 501.


11.  The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume II, (August 1, 1858?), p. 532.


12.  The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume III, “Lincoln-Douglas Debate at Galesburg” (October 7, 1858), p. 226.


13.  The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume III, “Letter to James N. Brown” (October 18, 1858), p. 327.


14.  The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume III, “Lincoln-Douglas Debate at Quincy” (October 13, 1858), p. 276.


15.  Lincoln’s ‘House-Divided’ Speech in Springfield, Illinois, June 16, 1858


16.  The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume III, “Speech at Cincinnati, Ohio” (September 17, 1859), p. 440.


17.  The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume III, “Speech at Chicago, Illinois” (March 1, 1859), p. 370.


18.  The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume III, “Speech at Cincinnati, Ohio” (September 17, 1859), p. 15.


19.  The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume III, “Letter To Henry L. Pierce and Others” (April 6, 1859), p. 376.


20.  The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume III, “Fragment on Free Labor” (September 17, 1859?), p. 462.


21.  The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume IV, “Speech at New Haven, Connecticut” (March 6, 1860), p. 16.


22.  Lincoln’s Second Annual Message to Congress, December 1, 1862.


23.  The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume VII, “Letter to Albert G. Hodges” (April 4, 1864), p. 281.


24.  Lincoln’s Fourth Annual Message to Congress, December 6, 1864.


25.  The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume VIII, “Speech to One Hundred Fortieth Indiana Regiment” (March 17, 1865), p. 361.


26.  The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume V, “Letter to Horace Greeley” (August 22, 1862), p. 388.


27.  Roy P. Basler, editor, et al, The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (New Brunswick, N. J.: Rutgers Univ. Press, 1953-1955 [eight volumes and index]), Vol. II, pp. 255-256. (Cited hereinafter as R. Basler, Collected Works.).; David A. Hollinger and Charles Capper, eds., The American Intellectual Tradition (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1989), vol. I, pp. 378-379.


28.  John Hope Franklin, From Slavery to Freedom: A History of Negro Americans (New York: A. Knopf, 1964 [2nd ed.]), pp. 234-235. [In the fifth edition of 1980, see pages 108-109, 177.].; Leslie H. Fischel, Jr., and Benjamin Quarles, The Negro American: A Documentary History (New York: W. Morrow, 1967), pp. 75-78.; Arvarh E. Strickland, “Negro Colonization Movements to 1840,” Lincoln Herald (Harrogate, Tenn.: Lincoln Memorial Univ. Press), Vol. 61, No. 2 (Summer 1959), pp. 43-56.; Earnest S. Cox, Lincoln’s Negro Policy (Torrance, Calif.: Noontide Press, 1968), pp. 19-25.


29.  R. Basler, The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (1953), Vol. III, p. 16.; Paul M. Angle, ed., Created Equal?: The Complete Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858 (Univ. of Chicago Press, 1958), p. 117.


30.  Lincoln/Douglas 4th Debate, Charleston, Illinois, Sept. 18th 1858:


31.  R. Basler, et al, Collected Works (1953), vol. V, pp. 370-375.; A record of this meeting is also given in: Nathaniel Weyl and William Marina, American Statesmen on Slavery and the Negro (1971), pp. 217-221.; See also: Paul J. Scheips, “Lincoln … ,” The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 37, No. 4, pp. 428-430.


32.  (Benjamin Butler, Autobiography and Personal Reminiscences of Major-General Benjamin F. Butler (Boston: 1892), pp. 903-908.; Quoted in: Charles H. Wesley, “Lincoln’s Plan for Colonizing the Emancipated Negroes,” The Journal of Negro History, Vol. IV, No. 1 (January 1919), p. 20.; Earnest S. Cox, Lincoln’s Negro Policy (Torrance, Calif.: 1968), pp. 62-64.; Paul J. Scheips, “Lincoln and the Chiriqui Colonization Project,” The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 37, No. 4 (October 1952), pp. 448-449. In the view of historian H. Belz, the essence of what Butler reports that Lincoln said to him here is “in accord with views … [he] expressed elsewhere concerning reconstruction.” See: Herman Belz, Reconstructing the Union: Theory and Policy During the Civil War (Ithaca: 1969), pp. 282-283. Cited in: N. Weyl and W. Marina, American Statesmen on Slavery and the Negro (1971), p. 233 (n. 44). The authenticity of Butler’s report has been called into question, notably in: Mark Neely, “Abraham Lincoln and Black Colonization: Benjamin Butler’s Spurious Testimony,” Civil War History, 25 (1979), pp. 77-83. See also: G. S. Borritt, “The Voyage to the Colony of Linconia,” Historian, No. 37 , 1975, pp. 629- 630.; Eugene H. Berwanger, “Lincoln’s Constitutional Dilemma: Emancipation and Black Suffrage,” Papers of the Abraham Lincoln Association (Springfield, Ill.), Vol. V, 1983, pp. 25-38.; Arthur Zilversmit, “Lincoln and the Problem of Race,” Papers of the Abraham Lincoln Association, Vol. II, 1980, pp. 22-45.)


33.  Woman’s Body, Woman’s Right: A Social History of Birth Control in America, by Linda Gordon.


34.  Bedford Pim, The Gate of the Pacific (London: 1863), pp. 144-146.; Cited in: Paul J. Scheips, “Lincoln … ,” The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 37, No. 4 (1952), pp. 436-437.; James M. McPherson, The Negro’s Civil War (New York: 1965), p. 95.; “Colonization Scheme,” Detroit Free Press, August 15 (or 27), 1862.


35.  Paul J. Scheips, “Lincoln … ,” The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 37, No. 4 (1952), pp. 437-438


36.  Frederick Douglass: Selected Speeches and Writings, ed. Philip S. Foner (Chicago: Lawrence Hill, 1999), 616-624.

























Founding Father Quote of the Week

On every question of construction carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed. ~ Thomas Jefferson

Jesse Jackson thinks Obama is facing most Hostility in Presidential History

Really? I can guarantee you that George W. Bush received just as much, if not more hostility during his 8 years than Obama has/will in his 8; I mean, George W. Bush was brutalized by his opponents, so to say Obama has encountered the most hostility in history, when his predecessor received just as much, is intellectually dishonest. But neither Bush nor Obama have received the most hostility in Presidential history.

Abraham Lincoln (in my opinion) received more hostility than Obama has; after all, the guy did have the whole South (as well as Democrats in the North who refused to secede) hate his guts; and there is that small matter of him being assassinated as well! Going back even farther, during the Presidency’s of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, these two Founding Father Presidents were ripped to shreds not only by the media, but by clergy of the opposite party. Not only were they being destroyed, but they were being destroyed by very influential people, which the clergy were at the time; there is not much that can reach greater levels of hostility than that!

So does Obama have to deal with hostility? Of course; but to claim that no one has been brutalized by hostility to the extent that he has, is totally ignoring history and missing the point entirely.

Founding Father Quote of the Week

Every prudent and cautious judge . . . will remember, that his duty and his business is, not to make the law, but to interpret and apply it. ~ James Wilson

The Civil War, Part 2; Which Side Started the Civil War?

Image courtesy of National Geographic

The following is the second of a three part series on the Civil War; and while the Civil War is a complicated and controversial topic, I feel the misinformation that is currently out there must be addressed. In the last installment we covered the reason the South seceded from the Union; in this chapter we will deal with which side started the war; and the final installment shall deal with President Lincoln. 




Whenever I hear someone refer to the Civil War as “the war of Northern aggression” I have two basic reactions; the first is to drop my head and give an exasperated sigh, and the second is to simply laugh at the statement. The Civil War was certainly not a war of “Northern aggression”, but sadly many people hold this flawed view of history when it comes to this topic. Whenever I hear the “Northern aggression” argument, I always wonder if proponents of such logic actually understand what the word “aggression” means; for those who don’t, Merriam-Webster defines it as:

angry or violent behavior or feelings…a forceful action or procedure (as an unprovoked attack) hostile, injurious, or destructive behavior or outlook especially when caused by frustration.” (1)

And if we were to go back even farther, Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines “aggression” this way:

The first attack, or act of hostility; the first act of injury, or first act leading to war or controversy.” (2)

     With the simple understanding that for something to be an act of aggression it has to be a feeling of anger or violence, the first act of hostility/the first act that leads to war, and/or something that is often unprovoked; it is very easy to understand how the Civil War was never a war of Northern aggression, but if anything, a war of Southern aggression. A simple examination of the facts will lead us to this conclusion.

As we learned last time, the South seceded because they wanted to keep the institution of slavery intact and feared Lincoln would take action to abolish it (despite his repeated promises that he would not). Reading the words of the Southern leaders along with their secession documents shows us the anger and vitriol they levied at Lincoln and the Northern Republicans for being anti-slavery; words that described feelings of anger and distrust. Couple this with the fact that they inharmoniously broke the Union that was the United States via the act of secession, the first act of hostile behavior was undoubtedly enacted by the South.  

But not only was the act of secession an innately hostile one, it was also an action that the Founding Fathers did not view as valid; and it is here we must take a slight detour in order to gain a more complete understanding. On secession, Thomas Jefferson once said:

I fear, from an expression in your letter, that the people of Kentucky think of separating not only from Virginia (in which they are right), but also from the [United States]. I own I should think this a most calamitous event and such a one as every good citizen should set himself against.” (3)    

     Jefferson feared that the citizens of Kentucky were contemplating a separation (secession) from the United States; something he saw as a calamity that all good citizens should be against. Jefferson knew that even one state leaving the Union would destroy the cords that hold us together and thus refused to see secession as a viable option. Jefferson conveyed these same feelings during the John Adams’ Presidency, when the Alien and Sedition Acts were put into place; Jefferson, in a letter to John Taylor, again warned that secession was not a viable option:

“Perhaps this party division is necessary to induce each to watch & delate to the people the proceedings of the other. But if on a temporary superiority of the one party, the other is to resort to a scission of the Union, no federal government can ever exist. If to rid ourselves of the present rule of Massachusets & Connecticut we break the Union, will the evil stop there? Suppose the N. England States alone cut off, will our natures be changed? are we not men still to the south of that, & with all the passions of men? Immediately we shall see a Pennsylvania & a Virginia party arise in the residuary confederacy, and the public mind will be distracted with the same party spirit. What a game, too, will the one party have in their hands by eternally threatening the other that unless they do so & so, they will join their Northern neighbors…But who can say what would be the evils of a scission, and when & where they would end? Better keep together as we are…” (4)    

Furthermore, writing to Wilson C. Nicholas, Jefferson stated:

“Expressing in affectionate and conciliatory language our warm attachment to union with our sister States, and to the instrument and principles by which we are united; that we are willing to sacrifice to this every thing but the rights of self-government in those important points which we have never yielded, and in which alone we see liberty, safety, and happiness; that not at all disposed to make every measure of error or of wrong, a cause of scission, we are willing to look on with indulgence, and to wait with patience, till those passions and delusions shall have passed over…” (4)  

     Jefferson was not alone in his disdain for dissolving the Union through secession; George Washington also saw scission as being wrong, writing in 1783:

“Such is our situation, and such are our prospects… this is the moment to establish or ruin their national Character forever, this is the favorable moment to give such a tone to our Federal Government, as will enable it to answer the ends of its institution, or this may be the ill-fated moment for relaxing the powers of the Union, annihilating the cement of the Confederation…There are four things, which I humbly conceive, are essential to the well being, I may even venture to say, to the existence of the United States as an Independent Power: 1st. An indissoluble Union of the States under one Federal Head…These are the Pillars on which the glorious Fabrick of our Independency and National Character must be supported; Liberty is the Basis, and whoever would dare to sap the foundation, or overturn the Structure…will merit the bitterest execration, and the severest punishment which can be inflicted by his injured Country…That unless the States will suffer Congress to exercise those prerogatives, they are undoubtedly invested with by the Constitution, every thing must very rapidly tend to Anarchy and confusionThat whatever measures have a tendency to dissolve the Union, or contribute to violate or lessen the Sovereign Authority, ought to be considered as hostile to the Liberty and Independency of America…It is only in our united Character as an Empire, that our Independence is acknowledged, that our power can be regarded, or our Credit supported among Foreign Nations. The Treaties of the European Powers with the United States of America, will have no validity on a dissolution of the Union.” (5)

Madison and Hamilton joined Washington and Jefferson in the fear and rejection of secession and dismemberment of our Union; Madison writing to Hamilton stated:

“I am sorry that your situation obliges you to listen to propositions of the nature you describe. My opinion is, that a reservation of a right to withdraw, if amendments be not decided upon, under the forms of the Constitution, within a certain time, is a conditional ratification; that it does not make New York a member of the new Union; and, consequently, that she could not be received on that plan. Compacts must be reciprocal: this principle would not, in such a case, be preserved…The idea of reserving a right to withdraw was started at Richmond, and considered as a conditional ratification, which was itself abandoned as worse than a rejection.” (6)

Hamilton, writing to Theodore Sedgwick expressed his feelings on secession in 1804:

“I will here express but one sentiment, which is, that Dismembrement of our Empire will be a clear sacrifice of great positive advantages, without any counterballancing good; administering no relief to our real Disease; which is Democracy, the poison of which by a subdivision will only be the more concentered in each part, and consequently the more virulent.” (7)

     The actions of the South were contrary and hostile to the nation the Founding Fathers set up, but it is only the first reason the “War between the States” should be seen as a product of Southern aggression. The second reason has to do with the actions of the South after they had seceded, for in the months following secession, the South made it a habit of confiscating Union owned forts and supplies; as Mark Jenkins of National Geographic recounts:

“During the four months leading up to Lincoln’s Inauguration, the seceding states, one after another, seized federal forts, arsenals, and customs houses within their borders.” (8)

       The seizing of Union (Federal) forts and weapon arsenals cannot be seen as anything but a hostile and aggressive act on behalf of the South; there is something inherently aggressive about seizing the property of another government. In terms of today, imagine if an American military base or consulate was seized by the owners of the country where it resides; the American government would be furious, and some would even designate it as an act of war. But yet, the North did not launch itself into war with the South over these forts; that of course would change with Ft. Sumter.

Fort Sumter was in the territory of the Confederate State of South Carolina; it was manned by less than 100 Union men, whom the Confederates demanded evacuate immediately. The North rightfully refused, as it was their property. Some Confederate sympathizers argue that since the Fort was in Southern territory, the South had a right to lay claim to it; but let’s think about that logic for a second.

Suppose that tomorrow, Washington D.C. were to secede from the United States, declaring herself a free an independent nation. The new rulers of D.C then demand that President Obama and Congress vacate the White House and the Capitol; should the President and Congress bow to their wishes and hand over the buildings? The answer, quite obviously, is of course not! The White House and the Capital building are United States Federal government owned buildings, and nothing about D.C. seceding changes that fact. Just because you decide to break the Union, does not mean you have the right to kick other people out of their own property. The same principle goes for Fort Sumter; the Confederates had no right to demand the Union hand over their own Federal property, simply because South Carolina decided they didn’t want to be part of the Union anymore.

All things considered, this was nothing more than a move of aggression by the South against the United States Federal government. To be fair, the Confederates did offer safe transport away from the Fort, but in light of the situation, that makes the demand no less aggressive. As the Smithsonian explains:

“The Confederates demanded immediate evacuation of the fort. However, they promised safe transport out of Charleston for Anderson and his men, who would be permitted to carry their weapons and personal property and to salute the Stars and Stripes, which, the Confederates acknowledged, “You have upheld so long…under the most trying circumstances.” Anderson thanked them for such “fair, manly, and courteous terms.” Yet he stated, “It is a demand with which I regret that my sense of honor, and of my obligation to my Government, prevent my compliance.” Anderson added grimly that he would be starved out in a few days—if the Confederate cannon that ringed the harbor didn’t batter him to pieces first.” (9)

     Lincoln knew that Anderson’s force of 87 men could not last much longer against the roughly 3000 Confederates rallied against them. Lincoln wished to reinforce Fort Sumter with around 200 troops, but the Confederates warned that this would be an act of war; and so Lincoln decided that he had to at least launch a humanitarian mission to send Anderson and his men some food.

“Lincoln…informing the rebellious Southerners that the fleet would carry only supplies into Sumter…Should the Confederates choose to fire on this “mission of humanity,” as Lincoln called the supply run, they would then become the aggressor. (8)

“Knowing that Anderson and his men were running out of supplies, Lincoln announced his intention to send three unarmed ships to relieve Fort Sumter.” (10)

     The South believed any attempt to help Ft. Sumter, even if it was just to provide food to starving men, was an act of aggression; which it obviously was not, but this belief shows the hostile mindset of the Confederate States of America. On April 12th 1861, before the humanitarian commission could arrive, the South again rowed out to the Fort and demanded that Anderson and his men leave immediately, offering the Union peaceful departure if they would do so; Anderson, realizing he could not last much longer, responded by saying that he and his men would in fact leave, just not yet:

“Anderson sent back a message to the Confederate authorities, informing them that he would evacuate the fort, but not until noon on the 15th, adding, “I will not in the meantime open my fire upon your forces unless compelled to do so by some hostile act against this fort or the flag of my Government.” (9)

     The South finally had what they wanted; they had finally convinced Anderson to evacuate the Fort, and if they would simply allow Anderson three days, Fort Sumter would finally be theirs. But what was the South’s response to Anderson’s offer of departure? It was to tell him that he did not have three days, but rather, one hour:  

But the Confederacy would tolerate no further delay. The envoys immediately handed Anderson a statement: “Sir: By authority of Brigadier-General Beauregard, commanding the provisional forces of the Confederate States, we have the honor to notify you that he will open the fire of his batteries on Fort Sumter in one hour from this time.” (9)

     And once that hour had passed, shortly after 4:30 in the morning, the Confederate States of America opened fire on Ft. Sumter, shelling it with the power of 43 guns and mortars, thus officially starting the Civil War. (8) Once again the evidence is crystal clear; it was the aggressive acts of the South that brought upon the war, not vice versa. The South had seceded, seized, threatened, and finally fired upon a U.S. fort, and it was only then that Lincoln and the North responded with real military force. It is not as if Lincoln wasn’t justified in military response, his soldiers had just been attacked after all, and yet, even with all these facts come to light, some still insist it was the North who were the aggressors. The simple fact of the matter is that through their actions of secession, seizing, and bombardment, the CSA started the Civil War and brought down the wrath of the North upon them, leading to the abolition of the institution (slavery) that they first separated in order to protect.

But there is one more misconception that must be corrected. Some argue that the Civil War was an unnecessary measure to end slavery; they argue that we could have freed the slaves some other way. One man who utilizes this argument is Ron Paul, and I use him in this case not to attack him, but rather, to correct the assertions that he, like many others, like to make:

“Paul repeated his claim that Abraham Lincoln should not have started the Civil War to get rid of slavery.”Six-hundred-thousand Americans died in the senseless Civil War,” he said. “No, he should not have gone to war…”Slavery was phased out in every other country in the world,” Paul continued, responding to the question if America would still have slavery had there not been the Civil War. “The way I’m proposing that it should have been done is do it like the British Empire did — you buy the slaves and release them. How much would that cost compared to killing 600,000 Americans?…I mean, that doesn’t sound too radical to me. That sounds like a pretty reasonable approach.” (11)

     Again, while I’m not trying to attack him, Paul shows his ignorance and illogical reasoning when it comes to this issue; he says that Lincoln did not need to go to war in order to free the slaves, but what Paul fails to realize is that Lincoln did not go to war to end slavery! Remember what Lincoln himself said; that everything he did was predicated upon keeping the nation together; his actions where neither to promote nor end slavery, but rather to preserve the Union. Now it just so happened that one of the happy consequences of the war was the abolition of slavery, through the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th amendment to the Constitution, but for Paul and others to claim that we did not need to go to war to end slavery, misses the entire point.  

Paul also says that we could have phased out slavery, like every other country in the world did, and that’s easy for us to say considering we are not at the cruel end of whips and chains, but what is even more befuddling is Paul’s (and others) claim that we could have ended slavery by buying and releasing the slaves! Paul conveniently forgets that the situation in England was not the same as in 1860’s America. Unlike England, America as of just before the Civil War was not one unified country, but rather (in the eyes of the South) TWO countries; The United States of America, and the Confederate States of America. Not only did the CSA condone slavery, but they had separated from the North for fear that their slaves would be taken away; the entire point of the CSA was to protect the institution of slavery!

This all being the case, what makes Paul and Confederate sympathizers think that the South would suddenly be open to selling their slaves to the nation they just separated from? Frankly, it would be a miracle for the U.S to convince the C.S. to sell them the very “commodity” that they just seceded in order to protect. But even if the South were to go against all reason and decide to sell their slaves back to the North, can you imagine how much money that would cost the North? Undoubtedly the South would have had cause and opportunity to extort vast amounts of money from the North, playing upon their desire to abolish the institution; such an endeavor would leave the North in financial peril, if not debilitating debt (in 1879, an official monetary estimate on the amount of money the Union spent on the war concluded that it was over $6 billion; and considering Mississippi alone considered their slave population to be worth $4 billion, one can imagine the price to buy back all the slaves over time). (12)(13)

And finally, even if the CSA did implausibly decide to sell to the Union, their slaves (whom they believed were vital to their prosperity), there remains one problem. The South believed that they had a right to African slaves, which included the right to pursue the acquisition of said slaves (remember that the Republican Party platform specifically condemned “the recent re-opening of the African Slave Trade, under the cover of our national flag.” (14)); so the question remains; being a perceived nation unto themselves, what was to stop the CSA from simply acquiring more slaves from Africa, or anywhere else for that matter, after they had sold their old ones to the Union? I posit that the answer can be summed up in one simple word; nothing.   

This has been; “Which Side Started the Civil War?” Thank you so much for reading, and please tune in next week as we complete this Civil War trilogy with a discussion on the man, the myth, and the legend, President Abraham Lincoln.


1.      Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

2.      Webster’s 1828 Dictionary:

3.       Thomas Jefferson, The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Paul Leicester Ford, editor (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904), Vol. V, pp. 74-75, letter to Archibald Stuart, January 25, 1786.

4.       Thomas Jefferson, The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Paul Leicester Ford, editor (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 19054), Vol. VIII, letter to John Taylor, June 1, 1798; and Vol. VII, p. 390, letter to Wilson C. Nicholas, September 5, 1799. A: B:


5.       George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, John C. Fitzpatrick, editor (Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office, 1938), Vol. 26, pp. 483-496, Circular to the States, June 8, 1783.

6.       William C. Rives, History of the Life and Times of James Madison (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1866), pp. 626-628, correspondence between Alexander Hamilton and James Madison concerning possible secession or receding from the constitutional compact, Saturday and Sunday, July 1788.

7.      Alexander Hamilton, The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, Harold C. Syrett, editor (New York: Columbia University Press, 1979), Vol. XXVI, p. 309, letter to Theodore Sedgwick, July 10, 1804.

8.      National Geographic:

9.      The Smithsonian:

10.  History Channel:

11.  NBC:


12.  Civil War Home; “Historical Times Encyclopedia of the Civil War” Edited by Patricial L. Faust”,

13.    “A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union, January 9, 1861,” The Civil War Home Page

14.    1860 Republican Party Platform:















Founding Father Quote of the Week

We may look up to Armies for Defence, but Virtue is our best Security. It is not possible that any state should long remain free, where Virtue is not supremely honord. ~ Samuel Adams

The Gettysburg Address

Today marks the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address; and whether you love Lincoln, or you hate him, no on can deny how iconic, and important this speech was, is, and always will be to American history:

The Civil War, Part 1; Why The South Seceded

The following is the first of a three part series on the Civil War; and while the Civil War is a complicated and controversial topic, I feel the misinformation that is currently out there must be addressed. This chapter will be discussing the main reasons the Southern States seceded from the Union. The next will deal with which side started the war; and the final installment shall deal with President Lincoln.  



     Why did the South secede? The simple answer is that the South seceded because of slavery; and while this is true, in order to really understand the South’s motives for seceding from the United States, we must first go back to the context of Abraham Lincoln’s election. The Republican Party was created as the anti-slavery party; the party to finally accomplish the abolition that the founding fathers had hoped would come to pass. In 1860, the year that Lincoln was elected to the Presidency, the Republicans ran on a platform that had four declarations specifically dealing negatively with the institution of slavery; they were as follows:

“7. That the new dogma that the Constitution of its own force carries slavery into any or all of the territories of the United States, is a dangerous political heresy, at variance with the explicit provisions of that instrument itself, with cotemporaneous exposition, and with legislative and judicial precedent, is revolutionary in its tendency and subversive of the peace and harmony of the country.

8. That the normal condition of all the territory of the United States is that of freedom; that as our republican fathers, when they had abolished slavery in all our national territory, ordained that no “person should be deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process of law,” it becomes our duty, by legislation, whenever such legislation is necessary, to maintain this provision of the constitution against all attempts to violate it; and we deny the authority of congress, of a territorial legislature, or of any individuals, to give legal existence to slavery in any territory of the United States.

9. That we brand the recent re-opening of the African Slave Trade, under the cover of our national flag, aided by perversions of judicial power, as a crime against humanity, and a burning shame to our country and age, and we call upon congress to take prompt and efficient measures for the total and final suppression of that execrable traffic.

10. That in the recent vetoes by the federal governors of the acts of the Legislatures of Kansas and Nebraska, prohibiting slavery in those territories, we find a practical illustration of the boasted democratic principle of non- intervention and popular sovereignty, embodied in the Kansas-Nebraska bill, and a demonstration of the deception and fraud involved therein.” (1)

     The Democrats also dedicated multiple resolutions to slavery in their political platform, however, both of these resolutions pledged to keep with the status quo; and when the nation chose Lincoln to be our next President, the South believed that his anti-slavery position would become policy, ending that institution in the nation. (2) While Lincoln will be covered more in depth in the final part of this trilogy, his response to the South’s plan of secession must be addressed here.

     Abraham Lincoln was anti-slavery, he felt the institution was immoral, inhumane, and at odds with the Constitution of the United States; however, he also realized that as President his first and most pressing duty was to keep the Union together, even if it meant not abolishing slavery in the nation. Lincoln assured the South in his first Inaugural Address that even though he disagreed with what they were doing, his intention was not to take away their slaves:

“I do but quote from one of those speeches when I declare that “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.” (3)

     But this was not the first time Lincoln conveyed these intentions to the South; indeed, just a few short months before giving this speech, Lincoln wrote in a letter to Alexander Stephens:

“Do the people of the South really entertain fears that a Republican administration would, directly, or indirectly, interfere with their slaves, or with them, about their slaves? If they do, I wish to assure you, as once a friend, and still, I hope, not an enemy, that there is no cause for such fears.” (4)

     One year before his inauguration, in a speech in New Haven Connecticut, Lincoln again expressed the same sentiment, so that his Southern brothers and sisters would not fear his election:

“We think slavery a great moral wrong, and while we do not claim the right to touch it where it exists, we wish to treat it as a wrong in the territories, where our votes will reach it.” (5)

      Again, it is not that Lincoln did not want to end slavery, it was just that he saw that his first and most important duty was to keep the Nation together; for if the Union were to be divided, not only would he have failed his constitutional duties, but slavery itself would be a whole lot harder to abolish. Lincoln explained his actions to Horace Greeley in August of 1862, in a letter that his oft misquoted by his critics:

My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause.” (6)     

     But despite Lincoln’s promises to the Southern States, despite his assurances that he would not touch slavery in the Southern territories, the South disregarded his word and became the Confederate States of America; officially seceding from the United States. Slavery was so important to the South, that they were willing to throw away the word of Lincoln, and dissolve the Union that their forefathers had fought so hard to establish. But beyond the assurances of Lincoln, how do we know that slavery was the main reason for secession? Well, when one reads the secession documents, Confederate Constitution, and the words of Southern leaders, the issue becomes crystal clear.

     Take for example South Carolina, the first state to secede; their declaration of secession makes it clear on multiple accounts that they were separating in order to preserve the use of their slaves:

“[A]n increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding states to the institution of slavery has led to a disregard of their obligations…[T]hey have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery…They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes…A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the states north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common government because he has declared that “Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,” and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction…The slaveholding states will no longer have the power of self-government or self-protection.” (7)

     South Carolina then called for other slaveholding states to join them in a confederacy, stating:

“We…[are] dissolving a union with non-slaveholding confederates and seeking a confederation with slaveholding states. Experience has proved that slaveholding states cannot be safe in subjection to non-slaveholding states…The people of the North have not left us in doubt as to their designs and policy. United as a section in the late presidential election, they have elected as the exponent of their policy one who has openly declared that all the states of the United States must be made Free States or Slave States…In spite of all disclaimers and professions, there can be but one end by the submission by the South to the rule of a sectional anti-slavery government at Washington; and that end, directly or indirectly, must be the emancipation of the slaves of the SouthThe people of the non-slaveholding North are not, and cannot be safe associates of the slaveholding South under a common government…Citizens of the slaveholding states of the United States!…South Carolina desires no destiny separate from yours…We ask you to join us in forming a Confederacy of Slaveholding States.” (8)

     Again, South Carolina makes it painfully clear, that their goal was to preserve slavery in the slaveholding states; they did not trust Lincoln’s promises to leave them be, and feared the “emancipation of the slaves of the South.” It cannot be doubted that South Carolina’s reason for secession was slavery based, as was their call to the other states to join them in a confederacy.

     Mississippi soon joined South Carolina in a slaveholding confederacy, declaring along with them that slavery was their primary cause unto separation:

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery – the greatest material interest of the world…[A] blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin. That we do not overstate the dangers to our institution, a reference to a few facts will sufficiently prove. The hostility to this institution commenced before the adoption of the Constitution and was manifested in the well-known Ordinance of 1787…It has grown until it denies the right of property in slaves and refuses protection to that right on the high seas, in the territories, and wherever the government of the United States had jurisdiction…It advocates Negro equality, socially and politically…We must either submit to degradation and to the loss of property worth four billions of money, or we must secede from the Union framed by our fathers to secure this as well as every other species of property.” (9)

     Mississippi also makes it clear that their position was to identify with slavery, and that they were separating for fear of its abolition by Lincoln and the Republicans. They felt they could not stay connected to a government of a nation who was hostile to the institution of slavery, denied the right of property in slaves, and who advocated Negro equality. Soon after their secession, Mississippi sent a representative to Virginia to inform them that his state had seceded; “setting forth the grievances of the Southern people on the slavery question.” (10)

     When Florida and Alabama seceded, they too explained their main reasons as being involved with slavery:

“All hope of preserving the Union upon terms consistent with the safety and honor of the Slaveholding States has been finally dissipated by the recent indications of the strength of the anti-slavery sentiment in the Free States. (Florida) (11)

“…the election of Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin to the offices of President and Vice-President of the United States of America by a sectional party, avowedly hostile to the domestic institutions and to the peace and security of the people of the State of Alabama…” (Alabama) (12)

     As you can see, both Florida and Alabama referenced the North’s hostility to slavery, with Alabama also using Lincoln’s election, as their reason for secession from the Union; and soon, Georgia decided to join the Confederacy. Georgia’s declaration followed the pattern of the other Southern States, listing slavery among their main reasons for departing the Union:

“A brief history of the rise, progress, and policy of anti-slavery and the political organization into whose hands the administration of the federal government has been committed will fully justify the pronounced verdict of the people of Georgia. The party of Lincoln, called the Republican Party under its present name and organization, is of recent origin. It is admitted to be an anti-slavery partyThe prohibition of slavery in the territories, hostility to it everywhere, the equality of the black and white races, disregard of all constitutional guarantees in its favor, were boldly proclaimed by its leaders and applauded by its followers…[T]he abolitionists and their allies in the northern states have been engaged in constant efforts to subvert our institutions.” (13)  

     And like Mississippi before her, Georgia also sent a representative named Henry Benning to Virginia, informing that state that Georgia had separated from the Union, explaining:

What was the reason that induced George to take the step of secession? That reason may be summed up in one single proposition: it was a conviction – a deep conviction on the part of Georgia – that a separation from the North was the only thing that could prevent the abolition of her slavery. This conviction was the main cause.” (14)

     Louisiana soon followed suit, and while their secession document did not reference slavery as their reason for separation, they did in fact send a representative to Texas urging them to secede. What was Louisiana’s message to the State of Texas? Commissioner George Williamson explained to the Texans:

Louisiana looks to the formation of a Southern Confederacy to preserve the blessings of African slavery...Louisiana and Texas have the same language, laws, and institutionsand they are both so deeply interested in African slavery that it may be said to be absolutely necessary to their existence and is the keystone to the arch of their prosperity…The people of Louisiana would consider it a most fatal blow to African slavery if Texas either did not secede or, having seceded, should not join her destinies to theirs in a Southern Confederacy… As a separate republic, Louisiana remembers too well the whisperings of European diplomacy for the abolition of slavery in the times of annexation…not to be apprehensive of bolder demonstrations from the same quarter and the North in this country. The people of the slaveholding states are bound together by the same necessity and determination to preserve African slavery. The isolation of any one of them from the others would make her a theatre for abolition emissaries from the North and from Europe. Her existence would be one of constant peril to herself and of imminent danger to other neighboring slave-holding communities…and taking it as the basis of our new government, we hope to form a slave-holding confederacy.” (15)

     Even though they did not admit it in their document, Louisiana admitted to their Texan allies that slavery was their main reason; ironically, Texas had already announced secession before Williamson was even able to arrive! Texas proclaimed their reasons, stating:

“[Texas] was received as a commonwealth, holding, maintaining, and protecting the institution known as Negro slavery – the servitude of the African to the white race within [Texas] – a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race and which her people intended should exist in all future time. Her institutions and geographical position established the strongest ties between her and other slaveholding states of the Confederacy…In all the non-slave-holding states…the people have formed themselves into a great sectional party…based upon an unnatural feeling of hostility to these southern states and their beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery, proclaiming the debasing doctrine of equality of all men irrespective of race or color – a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of divine law. They demand the abolition of Negro slavery throughout the Confederacy, the recognition of political equality between the white and Negro races, and avow their determination to press on their crusade against us so long as a Negro slave remains in these states…By the secession of six of the slave-holding states, and the certainty that others will speedily do likewise, Texas has no alternative but to remain in an isolated connection with the North or unite her destinies with the South.” (16)

     Again, Texas made it quite clear that their secession was to preserve the institution of slavery; and when Virginia next seceded, they identified with the slave-states as well:

“An Ordinance To repeal the ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America, by the State of Virginia, and to resume all the rights and powers granted under said Constitution…The people of Virginia, in their ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America, adopted by them in Convention, on the twenty-fifth day of June, in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-eight, having declared that the powers granted under the said Constitution, were derived from the people of the United States, and might be resumed whensoever the same should be perverted to their injury and oppression, and the Federal Government having perverted said powers, not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern slaveholding States. Now, therefore, we, the people of Virginia, do declare and ordain…That said Constitution of the United State of America, is no longer binding on any of the Citizens of this State.” (17)

     Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee also defected from the Union, and while these three states did not explicitly reference slavery as their reasons for departure, it must be pointed out that they did join what South Carolina had previously entitled a “Confederacy of Slaveholding States.” What must also be addressed in regards to Arkansas’ secession from the Union are the comments of one Albert Pike; a highly regarded newspaper owner, legal author and future Confederate General. His explanation of Arkansas’ secession is also quite clear:

“No concessions would now satisfy (and none ought now to satisfy) the South but such as would amount to a surrender of the distinctive principles by which the Republican Party coheres, because none other or less would give the South peace and security. That Party would have to agree that in the view of the Constitution, slaves are property – that slavery might exist and should be legalized and protected in territory hereafter to be acquired to the southwest, and that Negroes and mulattoes cannot be citizens of the United States nor vote at general elections in the states…For that Party to make these concessions would simply be to commit suicide and therefore it is idle to expect from the North – so long as it rules there – a single concession of any value.” (18)

     In other words, the only way to avoid secession in Pike’s view, was to have the Republican government give up their very principles of anti-slavery; something he knew they would not and could not do. To further prove the importance of slavery to the Southern cause, consider the fact that only a week after Lincoln was inaugurated, the Confederacy put together a pro-slavery Constitution. Consider some of the clauses of said Constitution:

“ARTICLE I, Section 9, (4) No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in Negro slaves shall be passed.

ARTICLE IV, Section 2, (1) The citizens of each state…shall have the right of transit and sojourn in any state of this Confederacy with their slaves and other property; and the right of property in said slaves shall not be thereby impaired.

ARTICLE IV, Section 2, (3) [A] slave or other person held to service or labor in any state or territory of the Confederate States under the laws thereof, escaping or lawfully carried into another, shall…be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such slave belongs.

ARTICLE IV, Section 3, (3) The Confederate States may acquire new territory…In all such territory, the institution of Negro slavery as it now exists in the Confederate States shall be recognized and protected by Congress and by the Territorial government; and the inhabitants of the several Confederate States and Territories shall have the right to take to such Territory any slaves lawfully held by them in any of the States or Territories of the Confederate States.” (19)

     These articles and clauses of the Confederate Constitution not only explicitly protect the institution of slavery within the Confederacy, but also specifically ban any law that abolishes slavery in a slaveholding state. And while I’m not the first person to point this out, isn’t it odd that a group of people that were so invested in “States rights” made it a point to prohibit any Confederate state from abolishing slavery, in Article 1, Section 9? When you think about it, it is actually quite contradictory and paradoxical of them to do so.

     It is here we must pause and address the Southern apologist claim that the South really seceded due to economic reasons; obviously our exposition of the Southern secession documents shows very clearly that slavery was their main cause for separation, but still this objection must be answered. We must remember that there were eleven states that declared secession, but out of these eleven, only five of them include economics as part of their reasons for leaving; unfortunately for the apologist however, in each case, the economics being discussed by the South are directly related to slavery. Take Mississippi for example;

“Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery – the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions; and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization.” (20)   

Or South Carolina:

“We prefer, however, our system of industry…by which starvation is unknown and abundance crowns the land – by which order is preserved by an unpaid police and many fertile regions of the world where the white man cannot labor are brought into usefulness by the labor of the African, and the whole world is blessed by our productions.” (21)

Or Texas:

“They have impoverished the slave-holding states by unequal and partial legislation, thereby enriching themselves by draining our substance.” (Please note that the “partial legislation” thus referenced involves the attempt to abolish slavery; which we know by their distinguishing themselves as “slave-holding states”) (22)

Or Georgia:

“We had shed our blood and paid our money for its acquisition…But by their declared principles and policy they have outlawed $3,000,000,000 of our property in the common territories of the Union…To avoid these evils, we …will seek new safeguards for our liberty, equality, security, and tranquility.” (Again, the money being spent to acquire, as well as the property being referenced by Georgia is in fact their slave population) (23)

And lest we forget Louisiana:

“Texas [and] Louisiana…have large areas of fertile, uncultivated lands peculiarly adapted to slave labor; and they are both so deeply interested in African slavery that it may be said to be absolutely necessary to their existence and is the keystone to the arch of their prosperity.” (24)

      But it is not enough to just study Confederate documents; we must also look to the words of Confederate leaders and authority figures, as their view of secession it vitally important to our understanding. Why? Because if you want to understand what a movement is about, looking to the leaders of the movement is a good way to find out; especially considering they were the ones who brought about and controlled the movement.

     Vice President of the Confederacy Alexander Stephens gave a speech in March of 1861 (shortly after the formation of the Confederate constitution) entitled “African Slavery: The Corner-Stone of the Southern Confederacy” where he stated:

“The prevailing ideas entertained by him [Thomas Jefferson] and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old Constitution were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature – that it was wrong in principle – socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that somehow or other, in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away…Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error…and the idea of a government built upon it…Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid – its cornerstone rests – upon the great truth that the Negro is not equal to the white man. That slavery – subordination to the superior race – is his natural and moral condition. This – our new government – is the first in the history of the world based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.” (25)(26)

     But Stephens was not alone this view; Georgian Democrat Senator Alfred Iverson told his associates “I may safely say, however, that nothing will satisfy them [the seceded states] or bring them back short of a full and explicit recognition and guarantee of the safety of their institution of domestic slavery.” (27); While Future General and Secretary of State for the South Robert Toombs (also of Georgia), made the motives of the Confederacy painfully obvious:

“What do these Rebels demand? First, that the people of the United States shall have an equal right to emigrate and settle in the present or an future acquired territories with whatever property they may possess (including slaves)…The second proposition is that property in slaves shall be entitled to the same protection from the government of the United States, in all of its departments, everywhere, which the Constitution confers the power upon it to extend to any other property…We demand in the next place…that a fugitive slave shall be surrendered under the provisions of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 without being entitled either to a writ of habeas corpus or trial by jury or other similar obstructions of legislation…Slaves – black “people,” you say – are entitled to trial by jury…You seek to outlaw $4,000,000,000 of property of our people in the territories of the United States. Is not that a cause of war?

(He continued)…My distinguished friend from Mississippi [Mr. Jefferson Davis], another moderate gentleman like myself, proposed simply to get a recognition that we had the right to our own – that man could have property in man – and it met with the unanimous refusal even of the most moderate, Union-saving, compromising portion of the Republican party…Mr. Lincoln thus accepts every cardinal principle of the Abolitionists; yet he ignorantly puts his authority for abolition upon the Declaration of Independence, which was never made any part of the public law of the United States…Very well; you not only want to break down our constitutional rights – you not only want to upturn our social system – your people not only steal our slaves and make them freemen to vote against us – but you seek to bring an inferior race into a condition of equality, socially and politically, with our own people.” (28)   

     Judah P. Benjamin, a U.S. Senator who would become an Attorney General, Secretary of War, and Secretary of State for the Confederacy, offered this viewpoint in 1861: “I never have admitted any power in Congress to prohibit slavery in the territories anywhere, upon any occasion, or at any time…” (29); and two Confederate Diplomats, Clement Clay and John Slidell said respectively:

“Not a decade, nor scarce a lustrum, has elapsed since [America’s] birth that has not been strongly marked by proofs of the growth and power of that anti-slavery spirit of the northern people which seeks the overthrow of that domestic institution of the South, which is not only the chief source of her prosperity but the very basis of her social order and state polity…No sentiment is more insulting or more hostile to our domestic tranquility, to our social order, and our social existence, than is contained in the declaration that our Negroes are entitled to liberty and equality with the white man…To crown the climax of insult to our feelings and menace of our rights, this party nominated to the presidency a man who not only endorses the platform but promises in his zealous support of its principles to disregard the judgment of your courts, the obligations of your Constitution, and the requirements of his official oath, by approving any bill prohibiting slavery in the territories of the United States.” (Note that Clay also refers to slavery as bringing economic prosperity to the South) (30)

“We all consider the election of Mr. Lincoln, with his well-known antecedents and avowed principles and purposes…as conclusive evidence of the determined hostility of the Northern masses to our institutions. We believe that he conscientiously entertains the opinions which he has so often and so explicitly declared, and that having been elected on the [anti-slavery] issues thus presented, he will honestly endeavor to carry them into execution. While now we have no fears of servile insurrection, even of a partial character, we know that his inauguration as President of the United States, with our assent, would have been considered by many of our slaves as the day of their emancipation.” (31)

     It is clear to see from Southern Secession documents, Representatives to other Confederate States, the Confederate Constitution, as well as the words of Confederate leaders, that the main and pressing issue which caused the Southern States to secede was in fact slavery. The South feared that the government under Lincoln, despite his assurances, would abolish the institution of slavery in the South, which is something that on a political, societal, and “moral” level the slaveholding states could not accept. We have also seen the answer to Confederate sympathizers who claim secession was based on economics, by pointing out that the five secession documents that mention economics, as well as Confederate authorities, directly connected slavery to the economic problems they were worried about.

     This has been an explanation on why the South seceded, as told in their own words; thank you for reading, and please join us next weekend for part two of the trilogy: “Which side started the Civil War?”  


1.      1860 Republican Party Platform:


2.      1860 Democrat Party Platform:


3.      Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861.


4.      The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume IV, “Letter to Alexander H. Stephens” (December 22, 1860), p. 160.


5.      The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume IV, “Speech at New Haven, Connecticut” (March 6, 1860), p. 16.


6.      The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume V, “Letter to Horace Greeley” (August 22, 1862), p. 388.


7.      Edward McPherson, The Political History of the United States of America During the Great Rebellion (Washington: Philip & Solomons, 1865), pp.15-16, “Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union,” December 24, 1860.


8.      Convention of South Carolina, “Address of South Carolina to Slaveholding States,” Teaching American History, December 25, 1860


9.      “A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union, January 9, 1861,” The Civil War Home Page


10.  Addresses Delivered Before the Virginia State Convention, February 1861 (Richmond: Wyatt M. Elliott, 1861), “Address of Hon. Fulton Anderson, of Mississippi,” p. 7


11.  Orville Victor, The History, Civil, Political and Military, of the Southern Rebellion (New York: James D. Torrey, 1861), Vol. 1, p. 194, Florida, “Preliminary Resolution Prior to Secession,” January 7, 1861.


12.  Orville Victor, The History, Civil, Political, and Military, of the Southern Rebellion (New York: James D. Torrey, 1861) Vol. 1, p. 195, “An Ordinance to dissolve the union between the State of Alabama and the other States united under the compact styled ‘The Constitution of the United States of America,’” January 11, 1861.


13.  “A Declaration of the Causes which Impel the State of Georgia to Secede from the Federal Union, January 29, 1861,” The Civil War Home Page


14.  Addresses Delivered Before the Virginia State Convention, February 1861 (Richmond: Wyatt M. Elliott, 1861), “Address of Hon. Henry L. Benning, of Georgia,” p. 21.


15.  Journal of the Secession Convention of Texas, E. W. Winkler, editor (Austin Printing Company, 1912), pp. 122-123, address of George Williamson, Commissioner from Louisiana, February 11, 1861. See also “Address of George Williamson to the Texas Secession Convention,” American Civil


16.  “A Declaration of the Causes which Impel the State of Texas to Secede from the Federal Union, February 2, 1861,” The Civil War Home Page


17.  Virginia Convention (1861: Richmond), Records, 1861–1961 (bulk 1861), Accession 40586, State Government Records Collection, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.


18.  Southern Pamphlets on Secession, November 1860 – April 1861, Jon Wakelyn, editor (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996), pp. 334, 338, “State or Province? Bond or Free?” by Albert Pike, March 4, 1861.


19.  “Constitution of the Confederate States; March 11, 1861,” Avalon Project. See also Edward McPherson, The Political History of the United States of America During the Great Rebellion (Washington: Philip & Solomons, 1865), pp. 98-99.


20.  “A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union,” The Civil War Home Page, January 9, 1861


21.  Edward McPherson, The Political History of the United States of America During the Great Rebellion (Washington: Philip & Solomons, 1865), p. 15, “Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union,” December 24, 1860.


22.  “A Declaration of the Causes which Impel the State of Texas to Secede from the Federal Union, February 2, 1861,” The Civil War Home Page


23.  “Georgia Declaration of Secession,” The Civil War Home Page, January 29, 1861


24.  Journal of the Secession Convention of Texas, E. W. Winkler, editor (Austin Printing Company, 1912), pp. 122-123, address of George Williamson, Commissioner from Louisiana, February 11, 1861. See also “Address of George Williamson to the Texas Secessiono Convention,” American Civil


25.  Echoes From The South (New York: E. B. Treat & Co., 1866), p. 85. See also The Pulpit and Rostrum: Sermons, Orations, Popular Lectures, &c. (New York: E. D. Barker, 1862), pp. 69-70, “African Slavery, the Cornerstone of the Southern Confederacy,” by Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the Confederacy.


26.  Echoes From The South, pp. 85-86. See also The Pulpit and Rostrum, pp. 69-70, “African Slavery, the Cornerstone of the Southern Confederacy,” by Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the Confederacy.


27.  Congressional Globe, 36th Congress, 2nd Session (Washington: Congressional Globe Office, 1861), p. 589, January 28, 1861. See also Thomas Ricaud Martin, The Great Parliamentary Battle and the Farewell Addresses of Southern Senators on the Eve of the Civil War (New York and Washington: Neale Publishing Co., 1905), p. 214, farewell speech of Alfred Iverson, January 28, 1861.


28.  Congressional Globe, 36th Congress, 2nd Session (Washington: Congressional Globe Office, 1861), pp. 268-270, January 7, 1861. See also Thomas Ricaud Martin, The Great Parliamentary Battle and the Farewell Addresses of Southern Senators on the Eve of the Civil War (New York and Washington: Neale Publishing Co., 1905), pp. 148-152, 167, 169, 170-171, 172, farewell speech of Robert Toombs, January 7, 1861.


29.  Congressional Globe, 36th Congress, 2nd Session (Washington: Congressional Globe Office, 1861), p. 238, January 3, 1861. See also Thomas Ricaud Martin, The Great Parliamentary Battle and the Farewell Addresses of Southern Senators on the Eve of the Civil War (New York and Washington: Neale Publishing Co., 1905), pp. 222-223, speech of Judah P. Benjamin, January 3, 1861.


30.  Congressional Globe, 36th Congress, 2nd Session (Washington: Congressional Globe Office, 1861), p. 486, January 21, 1861. See also Thomas Ricaud Martin, The Great Parliamentary Battle and the Farewell Addresses of Southern Senators on the Eve of the Civil War (New York and Washington: Neale Publishing Co., 1905), pp. 202, 204, farewell speech of Clement Clay, January 21, 1861.


31.  Congressional Globe, 36th Congress, 2nd Session (Washington: Congressional Globe Office, 1861), p. 721, February 4, 1861. See also Thomas Ricaud Martin, The Great Parliamentary Battle and the Farewell Addresses of Southern Senators on the Eve of the Civil War (New York and Washington: Neale Publishing Co., 1905), pp. 222-223, farewell speech of John Slidell, February 4, 1861.