I have a young friend who was recently challenged about his decided animosity towards Abraham Lincoln, especially in regards to Lincoln’s first Inaugural address. I told him I would analyze Lincoln’s 1st Inaugural in order to see through Lincoln’s sleight of hand and dis-ingenuousness. I will not be examining the complete address but just what I think are the points where Mr. Lincoln was playing the three card Monte with his dissembling lawyer language.
I am greatly helped here by Edgar Lee Master’s, “Lincoln The Man.” A biography I highly recommend to get a balanced view of Lincoln.
Lincoln’s First Inaugural (here after, L-1st-I)
“Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States that by the accession of a Republican Administration their property and their peace and personal security are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the while existed and been open to their inspection. It is found in nearly all the published speeches of him who now addresses you. 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.”
1.) There was more than reasonable cause for the South to have cause for apprehension.
a.) First, there was Republican Seward’s own “Irrepressible Conflict” speech. Seward, a favored Republican Presidential hope in his own right was tabbed as Lincoln’s Sec. State. In the aforementioned 1858 speech Seward had offered,
“It is an irrepressible conflict between opposing and enduring forces, and it means that the United States must and will, sooner or later, become either entirely a slave-holding nation or entirely a free-labor nation.”
This kind of language would have given Southerners more than reasonable cause to fear a Republican administration.
b.) However, it was not merely Lincoln’s subalterns from whom the South had reasonable cause to fear a Republican administration. Lincoln’s own “House Divided” speech would have given ample evidence that a Republican administration would be a threat to the Southern way of life. In that 1858 speech Lincoln offered,
2.) Notice an important nuance in the Lincoln speech above. Lincoln says, “I have no intention to interfere with the Institution of Slavery in the states where it exists.” Any bright Southerner hearing this would have easily heard, “I do have intention to interfere with the Institution of Slavery in the new would be states (Kansas) where it does not exist.” Southerners, who revered the Constitution would have known that Lincoln had no Constitutional authority to do that and so had just cause for apprehension in Lincoln’s occupation of the oval office.
Given all the *un-constitutional measures that Lincoln would soon undertake it is easy to see that the Southerners, not believing Lincoln’s specious assurances from his 1st Inaugural, were indeed justified in their mistrust.
*Addendum1.) On April 15, Lincoln called up the militia from all of the states to put into the field an army of more than 75,000 men. The Constitution puts this power with the Congress: Article I, Section 8, sets forth the powers of Congress: “To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections….”
2.) Also on April 15, Lincoln called Congress into session, as required by the Constitution for “extraordinary Occasions,” but delayed the meeting of Congress almost three months and during those three months Lincoln acted unconstitutionally and dictatorially in preparation for war.
3.) On April 21, he ordered the purchase of war materials, five naval vessels, which under the Constitution required congressional appropriations.
4.) Also on April 21 he ordered the navy to blockade all Southern ports. A blockade is an act of war, requiring the resolution of Congress.
5.) On April 27, he suspended the right of habeas corpus. Under the Bill of Rights, a person cannot be charged with a crime except by an indictment from a grand jury, nor can a person be convicted except by a jury of fellow civilians. No military trial of civilians was permitted, or so said the Constitution.
Because of this over 10,000 citizens were arrested and kept in Lincoln prisons without charge and / or trial.
6.) And of course there was the countless violations of the 1st amendment “Freedom of the Press” that the Lincoln Administration would soon transgress. Instance after instance of burning down Newspapers that wrote contrary to his “truth,” or alternately the wrecking of printing presses that refused to print Lincoln propaganda.