Anonymous is one of my best readers to this blog and my articles. I appreciate his/her questions; they make me think, even if it is to frame my answer.
Here is Anonymous’ question in response to this blog post on Lincoln:
But who cares? America is a far superior nation for Lincoln having done it. It’s like FDR imprisoning Japanese Americans. We know it was morally wrong and even perhaps evil and that Lincoln, like FDR, was an extremely ethically flawed man – but if we had to decide whether or not to do it again or whether it was necessary, the answer would be an unequivocal “Yes” in a heartbeat.
Here’s why I care and that it is important. Lincoln is held up for Americans as an ethical giant and that he acted to stop slavery. Of course he did not start the war for slavery (yes he started the war – goading the Southerners to shoot first is starting a war, especially as he rejected any sort of peace treaty.)
I still contend that secession was foolish and that building a nation on human bondage is terrible at best. BUT, if secession was legal, what business did Lincoln have to stop it by force? The Southern states used constitutional means to express the will of its people that the situation in our land was so dire they had to separate from the Union and form their own nation. It wasn’t a forcible overthrow of a government. It was the establishment of a new one. When Lincoln and others call it “rebellion”, they make a value judgment that the views of the people in the seceding states don’t count. That is immoral in a constitutional republic.
Also what happened after the war was started? Anyone who stood up and opposed the war was criticized and many imprisoned. Called traitors and copperheads. Ohio Congressman Vallandigham was actually exiled to the Confederacy for his views! Here is an Ohio history site’s view on it:
In April 1863, General Ambrose Burnside, commander of the Department of the Ohio, issued General Order No. 38. Burnside placed his headquarters in Cincinnati. Located on the Ohio River, just north of the slave state of Kentucky, Cincinnati had a number of residents sympathetic to the Confederacy. Burnside hoped to intimidate Confederate sympathizers with General Order No. 38.
General Order No. 38 stated:
The habit of declaring sympathy for the enemy will not be allowed in this department. Persons committing such offenses will be at once arrested with a view of being tried. . .or sent beyond our lines into the lines of their friends. It must be understood that treason, expressed or implied, will not be tolerated in this department.Burnside also declared that, in certain cases, violations of General Order No. 38 could result in death.
Most Peace Democrats in Ohio objected to General Order No. 38. They believed that the order was a clear violation of civil liberties, most notably the right to freedom of speech. Vallandigham helped organize a rally for the Democratic Party at Mount Vernon, Ohio, held on May 1, 1863. Peace Democrats Vallandigham, Samuel Cox, and George Pendleton all delivered speeches denouncing General Order No. 38. Vallandigham was so opposed to the order that he allegedly said that he “despised it, spit upon it, trampled it under his feet.” He also supposedly encouraged his fellow Peace Democrats to openly resist Burnside. Vallandigham went on to chastise President Lincoln for not seeking a peaceable and immediate end to the Civil War and for allowing General Burnside to thwart citizen rights under a free government.
In attendance at the Mount Vernon rally were two army officers under Burnside’s command. They reported to Burnside that Vallandigham had violated General Order No. 38. The general ordered his immediate arrest. On May 5, 1863, a company of soldiers arrested Vallandigham at his home in Dayton and brought him to Cincinnati to stand trial.
Burnside charged Vallandigham with the following crimes:
Publicly expressing, in violation of General Orders No. 38, from Head-quarters Department of Ohio, sympathy for those in arms against the Government of the United States, and declaring disloyal sentiments and opinions, with the object and purpose of weakening the power of the Government in its efforts to suppress an unlawful rebellion.A military tribunal heard the case, and Vallandigham offered no serious defense against the charges. He contended that military courts had no jurisdiction over his case. The tribunal found Vallandigham guilty and sentenced him to remain in a United States prison for the remainder of the war.
Vallandigham’s attorney, George Pugh, appealed the tribunal’s decision to Humphrey Leavitt, a judge on the federal circuit court. Pugh, like his client, claimed that the military court did not have proper jurisdiction in this case and had violated Vallandigham’s constitutional rights. Judge Leavitt rejected Vallandigham’s argument. He agreed with General Burnside that military authority was necessary during a time of war to ensure that opponents to the United States Constitution would not succeed in overthrowing the Constitution and the rights that it guaranteed United States citizens.
As a result of Leavitt’s decision, authorities were to send Vallandigham to federal prison. President Lincoln feared that Peace Democrats across the North might rise up to prevent Vallandigham’s detention. The president commuted Vallandigham’s sentence to exile in the Confederacy. On May 25, Burnside sent Vallandigham into Confederate lines.
Several asides as you read this. Why are generals issuing martial law declarations? Try out the Vallandigham trial on Senator Graham next time you see him – we have already had indefinite detention and military tribunals imprisoning citizens in our history. Senator Graham might have best of intentions but he is playing with fire here. But enough…
This monstrosity of a trial occurred on the watch of our Sixteenth President. Hundreds of thousands died and the central government gained power by force. That is a revolution defined. So who is held up as the moral force? The secession and the Peace Democrats or Lincoln? As long as Lincoln is held up as a example of respect and admiration I will continue this lonely fight.
I am not sure how I feel about the internment of Japanese-Americans. I think it was a product of racism and prejudice and this Japanese-American unit proves that the Japanese-Americans were generally loyal to our nation. But I cannot say I condemn completely when it was possible they may have been attacked by other civilians. And this war was a legitimate one.
Thank you, Anonymous for coming and reading this blog. Your comments are much appreciated!