The Planned Erosion of Civil Liberties–then and now

by Al Benson Jr.

Member, Board of Directors, Confederate Society of America

The firing on Fort Sumter gave Lincoln what he and other Yankee/Marxist radicals in the North wanted–and up-front reason to call for volunteers to mobilize and prepare to invade the South.

Many current “historians” seek to whitewash Lincoln for his usurpation of civil liberties and for the statist bent his administration took on. What they don’t realize is that the Lincoln administration started the push against civil liberties that we see going on even under Trump today. It was never reversed after Lincoln, but rather grew into the federal Leviathan we see in our own day.

Lincoln, at one point, referred to the “mystic chords” of union, as though the Union were some sort of religious entity. Mark Neely Jr., writing in The Fate of Liberty (Oxford University Press, New York)  has sought, at least in my opinion, to exonerate Lincoln for his miserable record in regard to civil liberties. Like most contemporary historians, Neely seems to think centralized state power was the political messiah for the country. He wrote of Lincoln: “Still lacking a systematic ideology of nationalism to buttress government  power, he grasped at any available practical measure that promised to meet the crisis of dissolution.” As has been noted earlier, Lincoln seems to have had no qualms about dissolution, or secession, when the socialists tried it in Europe in 1848, so why in America in 1860? Could it have been because the South was mainly Christian and not socialist? Could it have been because the South footed over 80% of the tab to keep the country going? Was Mr. Lincoln deathly afraid of losing his cash cow? Lincoln didn’t grapple too long with the problem of “national ideology” for Neely wrote shortly that: “Once he suspended the writ of habeas corpus without suffering dire political consequences,  similar actions grew easier and easier.”

Lincoln depended on Secretary of State William H. Seward for his initial assault on America’s God-given liberties. Later, he would depend on Edwin M. Stanton, but Seward filled the bill for awhile.

It would appear, if we do some research instead of consulting contemporary “history” books, that the Lincoln administration used rather stern measures to insure American “loyalty” to Lincoln’s vaunted “Union.”

In his book The Real Lincoln Charles L. C. Minor quoted the historian Bancroft, who wrote in the Life of William H. Seward: “It is extremely doubtful if Maryland could have been saved from secession and Washington from consequent seizure if the mayor and police commissioners of Baltimore, several members of the legislature, and many prominent citizens of both Maryland and Virginia had not been deprived of their power to do harm.” That was Bancroft’s sanitized way of saying they’d been arrested. The grandson of Francis Scott Key, author of the National Anthem, was the editor of the Exchange newspaper in Baltimore. He was one of those prominent citizens arrested, and, as a prisoner, he was taken to Fort McHenry. There’s irony for you! Minor wrote: “…that a very great number of the most honored men in Maryland, including a large part of the officials of the state government and the Baltimore city government, were in prison and that every man of the least importance who had left it in doubt whether he had meant to support Mr. Lincoln had good reason to expect imprisonment.” That’s one great way to “preserve the Union”–just jail all your opposition!

On September 24, 1862, Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus in certain kinds of cases across the whole country. The origins of this particular habeas corpus proclamation lay, according to Neely (The Fate of Liberty)  in the Militia Act of July 17, 1862. This act empowered the Secretary of War to “draft for nine months the militiamen of states that failed to upgrade their militias. This rather technical-sounding law that smacked of routine military housekeeping proved to be a disguised conscription law, authorizing the first national military draft in American history. Congressmen, sensing the potentially explosive unpopularity of conscription in the individualistic United States had obscured its real purpose as much as possible. Doesn’t sound much different than Congress today does it? Anyone, even in our day, that thinks these people really get elected and go to Washington to look out for our interests probably still believes in the Tooth Fairy. Some newly elected Congressmen probably start out thinking they are going to look out for our interests but by the time they been there a short while and the Deep State operatives have had a chance to work on them, all that changes.

William Dunning, President of Columbia University wrote in 1898 that Lincoln’s proclamation of September, 1862 was “a perfect plot for a military despotism…the very demonstrative resistance of the people to the government only made the military arrests more frequent.” Some have estimated the number of political prisoners in the North during the War of Northern Aggression to have been as high as 38,000. Others have estimated it as low as 13,000. Even 13,000 political prisoners was a lot for that time period. Almost sounds like the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror! Well, actually, it   was our “French Revolution” and, like France, we have never recovered from it.

Lincoln claimed that editorials and speeches against the war discouraged army enlistments and encouraged desertions, therefore, he had to clamp down on them. Most historians today don’t bother to inform their readers how unpopular this war really was, or how Lincoln had to use Fort Sumter as the lightning rod to rally at least some Northern support. Suppression of rights was never popular, although, increasingly in our day, we see Americans more and more willing to trade liberty for security, not realizing that, in the end, if they do that, they will have neither. The draft also was unpopular, as the draft riots in New York City in 1863 demonstrated.

So we see the pattern continuing. Lincoln and other Northern radicals had to stifle as much dissent as possible, lest their unpopular war become so untenable that it would be impossible to prosecute. Should that have occurred it would have left the way open to put the Confederate States in a position to complete their legal secessions in peace. And that would have destroyed the centralization and  consolidation of national power that Yankee power-brokers and industrialists sought. That could not be permitted to happen.

After the first phase of “reconstruction” was completed in the South, the old Calvinist (Reformed) theology was mostly gone–to be replaced in the early 1880s with the theological phase of “reconstruction”–the Israel-first theology of Dispensationalism, via Cyrus Scofield and his “Reference Bible.” I realize lots of folks don’t want to hear that, but it is something that needs to be considered. It’s doubtful if such would have occurred had not the war and reconstruction paved the way for it. The South needs to again embrace the biblical Reformation faith she was moving toward during the 1830s and afterward.

2 thoughts on “The Planned Erosion of Civil Liberties–then and now

  1. The communist assault against America still continues.

    11 headlines down is a story about Bernie Saunders going to the Soviet Union on his honeymoon. Apparently, they built three imitation American cities there, one of which was Burlington, New Hampshire.

  2. The communist assault against America has been going on since before 1860. As long as there are communists it will always go on. This is something we need to realize and be prepared to deal with. Most folks aren’t.

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