[Rushtalk] Happy Death-by-Government Day!

Paf Dvorak notmyname at thatswaytoomuch.info
Mon Jun 17 11:04:57 MDT 2013

At 08:15 PM 6/16/2013 -0700, Tom Matiska wrote:

>--- On Sun, 6/16/13, Paf Dvorak <notmyname at thatswaytoomuch.info> wrote:
>That's all very interesting and informative, but the fact remains, 
>there were more slaves in the north than in the south.
>Have any reality based arguments?

One of us has denied reality, Tom. No mention I see on your "token 
black" population quip from two emails back.
The fact is, the north made more use of slave labor than did the 
south. Why didn't the "more civilized" north just end slavery and not 
have to go to war against the slave owners?

>   ......but it doesn't change the reasons Lincoln declared war.
>You mean Davis???  Lincoln didn't fire on Sumter.

I suppose you would also argue that the Branch Davidians started the 
crap at Waco, or if a group of thugs surrounded you home, with the 
intent to rape your womenfolk and livestock, and you fired upon them, 
it was you who started the fight.

Southern leaders of the Civil War period placed the blame for the 
outbreak of fighting squarely on Lincoln. They accused the President 
of acting aggressively towards the South and of deliberately 
provoking war in order to overthrow the Confederacy. For its part, 
the Confederacy sought a peaceable accommodation of its legitimate 
claims to independence, and resorted to measures of self-defence only 
when threatened by Lincoln's coercive policy. Thus, Confederate vice 
president, Alexander H. Stephens, claimed that the war was 
"inaugurated by Mr. Lincoln." Stephens readily acknowledged that 
General Beauregard's troops fired the "first gun." But, he argued, 
the larger truth is that "in personal or national conflicts, it is 
not he who strikes the first blow, or fires the first gun that 
inaugurates or begins the conflict." Rather, the true aggressor is 
"the first who renders force necessary."

Stephens identified the beginning of the war as Lincoln's order 
sending a "hostile fleet, styled the 'Relief Squadron'," to reinforce 
Fort Sumter. "The war was then and there inaugurated and begun by the 
authorities at Washington. General Beauregard did not open fire upon 
Fort Sumter until this fleet was, to his knowledge, very near the 
harbor of Charleston, and until he had inquired of Major Anderson . . 
. whether he would engage to take no part in the expected blow, then 
coming down upon him from the approaching fleet . . . When Major 
Anderson . . .would make no such promise, it became necessary for 
General Beauregard to strike the first blow, as he did; otherwise the 
forces under his command might have been exposed to two fires at the 
same time-- one in front, and the other in the rear." The use of 
force by the Confederacy , therefore, was in "self-defence," rendered 
necessary by the actions of the other side.

Jefferson Davis, who, like Stephens, wrote his account after the 
Civil War, took a similar position. Fort Sumter was rightfully South 
Carolina's property after secession, and the Confederate government 
had shown great "forbearance" in trying to reach an equitable 
settlement with the federal government. But the Lincoln 
administration destroyed these efforts by sending "a hostile fleet" 
to Sumter. "The attempt to represent us as the aggressors," Davis 
argued, "is as unfounded as the complaint made by the wolf against 
the lamb in the familiar fable. He who makes the assault is not 
necessarily he that strikes the first blow or fires the first gun."

 From Davis's point of view, to permit the strengthening of Sumter, 
even if done in a peaceable manner, was unacceptable. It meant the 
continued presence of a hostile threat to Charleston. Further, 
although the ostensible purpose of the expedition was to resupply, 
not reinforce the fort, the Confederacy had no guarantee that Lincoln 
would abide by his word. And even if he restricted his actions to 
resupply in this case, what was to prevent him from attempting to 
reinforce the fort in the future? Thus, the attack on Sumter was a 
measure of "defense." To have acquiesced in the fort's relief, even 
at the risk of firing the first shot, "would have been as unwise as 
it would be to hesitate to strike down the arm of the assailant, who 
levels a deadly weapon at one's breast, until he has actually fired."

In the twentieth century, this critical view of Lincoln's actions 
gained a wide audience through the writings of Charles W. Ramsdell 
and others. According to Ramsdell, the situation at Sumter presented 
Lincoln with a series of dilemmas. If he took action to maintain the 
fort, he would lose the border South and a large segment of northern 
opinion which wanted to conciliate the South. If he abandoned the 
fort, he jeopardized the Union by legitimizing the Confederacy. 
Lincoln also hazarded losing the support of a substantial portion of 
his own Republican Party, and risked appearing a weak and ineffective leader.

Lincoln could escape these predicaments, however, if he could induce 
southerners to attack Sumter, "to assume the aggressive and thus put 
themselves in the wrong in the eyes of the North and of the world." 
By sending a relief expedition, ostensibly to provide bread to a 
hungry garrison, Lincoln turned the tables on the Confederates, 
forcing them to choose whether to permit the fort to be strengthened, 
or to act as the aggressor. By this "astute strategy," Lincoln 
maneuvered the South into firing the first shot.

Bibliography: Stephens, Constitutional View, 2: 35-41; Davis, Rise 
and Fall, 1: 289-95; Ramsdell, "Lincoln and Fort Sumter,"pp. 259-88.

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Paf Dvorak

<http://thatswaytoomuch.info/>notmyname at thatswaytoomuch.info  
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