The Civil War, Lincoln, and Fort Sumter Truth
The history of the civil war taught in public (i.e. government) schools usually goes something like this:
“Anti-slavery candidate Abraham Lincoln was elected president in 1860, prompting southern states to secede. The battle of Fort Sumter began the civil war, which was fought to abolish slavery.”
This isn’t entirely true. Lincoln didn’t invade the south to abolish slavery. He and many in the north were not abolitionists or antislavery in principle; and many were only anti-slavery in that they didn’t want to compete with slave labor (or freed blacks for that matter) for jobs. In his 1
st inaugural address Lincoln actually endorsed a constitutional amendment to make slavery permanent where it existed.
Then why did the south secede? The southern states seceded in large part because they felt they were being economically exploited by the north. Back then, the federal government got about 90% of its revenue from tariffs (taxes on imported goods), and soon after the 1860 election, the tariff rate was doubled. This hurt the southern economy, because they had to import most everything. And the revenue was mostly spent on the north.
In Lincoln’s 1
st inaugural he refused to acknowledge the states right to secede, and threatened invasion if the south would not pay the tariff. Lincoln wanted war to “save the union” (i.e. coerce the south to continue being in the union and paying their taxes):
"My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it” ~ Abraham Lincoln, August 22, 1862
Lincoln got his war by maneuvering the south into firing the first shot on Fort Sumter, which had the effect of increasing northern support for the war. After SC seceded, the union continued to occupy the Fort. The US pledged not to resupply the fort, but then Lincoln broke the promise and sent ships to resupply it, upon which time the south fired on the Fort, giving Lincoln his pretext for invasion and war.
Senator Orville H. Browning, Lincoln's close friend for twenty years, wrote this in his diary on July 3, 1861:
"He told me that the very first thing placed in his hands after his inauguration was a letter from Major Anderson announcing the impossibility of defending or relieving Sumter.... He himself conceived the idea, and proposed sending supplies, without an attempt to reinforce giving notice of the fact to Governor Pickens of S.C. The plan succeeded. They attacked Sumter – it fell, and thus, did more service than it otherwise could."
If the plan Lincoln referred to was to resupply Ft. Sumter, then that plan failed, since the ships never approached the fort. But if the plan was to get the South to fire first, then that plan succeeded.
During the war, Lincoln illegally suspended Habeas Corpus, imprisoned tens of thousands of political dissenters in the North; shut down over 300 opposition newspapers; deported the leader of the congressional opposition, Democratic Congressman Clement Vallandigham of Ohio; and waged total war on civilians.
The war was not launched to abolish slavery, but to “save the union”, i.e. abolish secession, states’ rights, and constitutionally limited government. Slavery could have been abolished peacefully like in every other country, without killing 600,000+ Americans – instead we have all been made slaves to the federal government.
Crocker III, H.W. (2008). The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War. Washington D.C.: Regnery Publishing.
Denson, John. (2006). A Century of War. Auburn: Mises Insitute.
DiLorenzo, Thomas. (2002). The Real Lincoln. New York: Three Rivers Press.