by Al Benson Jr.
Member, Board of Directors, Confederate Society of America
As noted in the previous article, Edwin Stanton had been exposed to Radical Abolitionist rhetoric by one person or another since his early, formative years.
Otto Scott, in his book The Secret Six: The Fool As Martyr which was about terrorist John Brown, Scott took note of the effect that Unitarian Abolitionist Theodore Weld had, not only on Stanton, but also on other lawyers, notably Joshua R. Giddings and Ben Wade, who ended up being a radical among radicals.
During the War of Northern Aggression, Stanton and other administration radicals were perfectly willing to prolong the killing and misery on both sides. They were even willing to manipulate the people of the North into such a mindset that they saw no possible solution to the war except the Radical Abolitionist solution. Stanton and his radical cohorts worked to convince the people in the North that the war could not be won or concluded until the goals of abolitionism had been attained.
In 1861, Mr. Simon Cameron was removed from the War Department, supposedly for corruption. As I don’t know a lot about Cameron, this could well be the case. It is interesting that a committee of “New York bankers” had urged Secretary Chase to remove Cameron. Did these men, for reasons known only to themselves, want Edwin Stanton in his place? Whatever went on behind closed doors in smoke-filled rooms, Cameron soon resigned and Stanton was appointed Secretary of War in his place.
According to General George McClellan, his relations with Stanton before he became Secretary of War were cordial. After his appointment, Stanton’s attitude toward McClellan began to undergo a change. McClellan felt that Stanton put obstacles in his way and did all he could to create distrust between McClellan and Lincoln. As McClellan went along, it seems clear to him that Stanton was allied with the radical elements in Lincoln’s administration and that they were not willing to see McClellan succeed in his campaign, lest his success shorten the war and the radical’s goals for the destruction of the South not be brought to fruition.
In his autobiography, McClellan’s Own Story published in 1887, McClellan gives us a picture of Stanton, as Lincoln’s Secretary of War, that is consistent with Stanton’s early views on abolitionism.
On pages 150-151, McClellan made a statement that may shock thinking Americans, particularly Southerners. He stated: “In regard to their statement of the purpose of their visit, Mr. Stanton stated that the great end and aim of the war was to abolish slavery. To end the war before the nation was ready for that would be a failure. The war must be prolonged and conducted so as to achieve that. That the people of the North were not ready to accept that view, and that it would not answer to permit me to succeed until the people had been worked up to the proper pitch on that question. That the war would not be finished until that result was reached, and that, therefore, it was not their policy to strengthen Gen. McClellan so as to insure his success. I have heard, from the best authority, many instances in which the same views were expressed by other prominent radical leaders.” This was hardly Lincoln’s view. He has been quoted as saying that his man concern was the restoration of the Union and he didn’t care all that much about the slavery issue. It would seem that Mr. Lincoln, and Mr. Stanton who supposedly worked for him, had opposing viewpoints on the slavery question.
It was McClellan’s view that, had his Peninsula Campaign in 1862 been successful, the war might have been terminated without the immediate abolition of slavery. So, to gain their ends with Lincoln, the radical element played upon his concerns for the safety of Washington, which involved leaving lots of troops in the area of the capitol for defensive purposes.
McClellan said: “I believe the leaders of the radical branch of the Republican Party preferred political control in one section of a divided country to being in the minority in a restored Union.”
And McClellan continued: “Not only did these people desire the aboliton of slavery, but its abolition in such a manner and under such circumstances that the slaves would at once be endowed with the electoral franchise, while the intelligent White man of the South should be deprived of it, and permanent control thus be assured through the votes of the ignorant slaves, composing so large a portion of the population of the seceded states.”
This was consistent with the Radical view of “reconstruction.” So it would seem, from McClellan’s informed opinion, that the Radical Republicans only wanted the slaves freed so they could manipulate them politically and thus remain in control. So much for Republican altruism regarding the slaves! The slaves were nothing more than a means to an end for them and all their howling about their concern for the emancipation of the slaves was so much bunk!
There was a time when I would have considered these men plain old hypocrites. I’ve gotten past that. I realize now that these men were the cultural Marxists of their day. Otto Eisenschiml, in his book Why Was Lincoln Murdered? of which I will say more later, described these Radicals as the Left wing of the Republican Party.
Stay tuned, there is more to come.