The New Orleans Bee,
May 1, 18611
The Union is the pretext---the subjection of the South
once for all to the supremacy of sectional foes is the
real object of the war.
[Publisher's Note, by Gene Kizer, Jr. : In this post are two editorials, one Southern, one Northern, published a week apart in early May, 1861, less than three weeks after Abraham Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to invade the South, thus starting a war that killed 750,000 men and mutilated over a million.
The Southern editorial is "The War," and the Northern is "The Object of the War."
While these are just two editorials out of hundreds, publishing them together allows one to contrast what each side was fighting for.
The New Orleans Bee is exactly correct that Southerners just wanted to govern themselves and live in peace, while Northerners wanted to conquer and rule for their own wealth and power, which were synonymous with the Union.
It is obvious that the North had such overwhelming advantages against the South, they were going to fight. Most Northerners including Lincoln thought it would be a quick Northern victory.
The North had four times the white population of the South, a hundred times the arms manufacturing, an army, navy, merchant marine, functioning government, solid financial system, and, most importantly, a pipeline to the wretched refuse of the earth with which to constantly feed Union armies. They could always replace their losses. Over twenty-five percent of the Union Army was foreign born.
Lincoln was a man fifty feet tall, armed to the teeth with modern weaponry, facing a man five feet tall carrying a musket.
Of course Lincoln wanted to fight, and he knew he better fight right then because every second that went by, the South got stronger and the North got weaker.
The North was facing the loss of its captive manufacturing market in the South.
At the same time, it faced the loss of its shipping industry when greedy Northerners passed the astronomical Morrill Tariff, which made the entry of goods into the North 37 to 50% higher than entry into the South. Northern ship captains were beating a path to the South.
The South's vision was as powerful as the North's was gloomy. The South had 100% control of King Cotton, the most demanded commodity on the planet. They would now have free trade with Europe and soon manufacture for themselves. They no longer had to be in a country with people who had committed terrorism and murder against them for years, who robbed them blind with taxes and tariffs, and who used abject hatred against them to win an election.
Southerners had been paying 85% of the country's taxes, yet 75% of the tax money had been going into Northern pockets.2 That money would now be turned back inward on the South.
Lincoln could fight right then and use his enormous advantages, or allow the free trade, low tariff South, with 100% control of King Cotton and European trade and military alliances, to compete with the North and perhaps grow to dominance on his Southern border.
The stakes were control of this magnificent country for all time, which meant unlimited wealth and power for the North. It meant huge dynamic cities like New York, Boston, Philly, and a connection with the West. It meant establishing the North as the center of American culture, commerce and technology.
That's what fifty-foot tall Lincoln and the North were fighting for.
That is why Lincoln sent five hostile fleets into the South in April, 1861, to start a war so he could use his enormous advantages to win it.3
It was certainly not to free the slaves. The one thing you can prove beyond the shadow of a doubt is that the North did not go to war to end slavery.
The Northern editorial below states that an abolition war would not only be unconstitutional, it would be a "wicked and treasonable war," and "those who seek to turn this war into a crusade against slavery . . . are at heart and in effect as much traitors to their country and its Government as are the rebels . . .".
This is not surprising since the North was no friend of the black man. Jim Crow started in the North and was there for years before moving South. Before that, the Northern leader, Abraham Lincoln, his entire life, favored sending blacks back to Africa or into a place they could survive.]
The New Orleans Bee,
May 1, 1861
The more moderate of the Northern papers still persist in the preposterous assertion that the people of that section have taken up arms simply to preserve the Union. Now, in the first place, this is not true, and in the next, if it were true, it would not in the slightest degree diminish the enormity of Mr. Lincoln's conduct. We say it is not true that this war is waged for the maintenance of the Union. The North knows better than that. She may be cruel, intolerant, aggressive and fanatical, but she is shrewd enough to fathom motives, and sensible enough to understand the impossibility of bringing together the ruptured members of the Confederacy [by Confederacy, they mean the original American republic, the U.S., before any states had seceded], and of keeping them together if they could be momentarily forced into juxtaposition. The Union is the pretext---the subjection of the South once for all to the supremacy of sectional foes is the real object of the war. Equally true is it that if the North really had at heart the perpetuity of the Union, Mr. Lincoln's policy has been none the less barbarous and unjustifiable. Unless he is a born idiot, which we do not believe, he must be aware that to send armies to occupy the South, and fleets to blockade her ports; to seize on all provisions and other articles destined for the South; to maltreat all who sympathize with us, and to display envenomed hostility to us by every possible manifestation, is not exactly calculated to increase the cohesive affinities between the South and North. Lincoln, instead of remitting them, is driving in the wedge of separation with all his force. He has acted as if his real design had been to place an eternal and impassable barrier between the two sections. This has been the effect, let his views have been what they may.
Away then with the false and hypocritical assumption that the North is engaged in a crusade against the South to preserve a Union broken beyond the power of human skill to reconstruct! Better for the Tartuffes [religious hypocrites]4 and Mawworms [parasitic intestinal worms]5 of the North frankly to avow their implacable enmity to us, and their intention to conquer and enthrall us, if possible. There would be some honesty in such a confession. There is none whatever in the wretched pretense with which they seek to mask their odious principles.
The truth is, and it is well for us to comprehend and appreciate it---this is no holiday game between the two sections. Mr. Lincoln's protestations and proclamations disavowing the intention to invade the South are worthless pieces of paper, because they are the productions of a public functionary whose entire course since his inauguration has proved him deplorably deficient in every manly attribute. Mr. Lincoln has signalized his brief career by a monstrous mass of perfidy and falsehood, and is therefore unworthy of the smallest credit. The North is bent on war. Facts demonstrate it. Every usage of war has been put in practice. The blockade of our ports, the stoppage of supplies to the South, the wanton and Vandal-like conflagration of Government stores and fortifications exposed to capture by the South, the efforts to control the navigation of the Mississippi, the deliberate persecution, insult and injury of all Southern sympathizers who unhappily fall into Northern hands, the fell spirit of violence and despotism openly acknowledged by Administration sheets, the threats of invasion and extermination---all indicate beyond the possibility of a doubt the disposition and purposes of the North. We are to have war, and probably on an extended scale. We have no confidence in the well meant but fruitless attempts to arrest the progress of the conflict. Mr. Lincoln is aware that the South is arming only for defense, and asks nothing better than to be suffered unmolested to pursue the even tenor of her way. The responsibility of hostilities lies with him. He can suspend them whenever he pleases. He has no desire to call off his bloodhounds, and the war will therefore go on.
It is well, too, to guard against another common error---that of depreciating the adversary. Rank folly were it to deny the courage of the people of the North. They belong to the revolutionary stock, and have displayed their valor in many a battle field. They are as brave as the men of the South, and were their cause a just one, were they, as we are, defending their houses and firesides, their freedom and independence against ruthless invaders, they would be, as we trust we shall prove, invincible. Yet they are as numerous as the swarms of barbarians which the frozen North sent from her loins to overrun the Roman Empire, and this is their great advantage. But against this we place our devotion, our unanimity, our strong defensive attitude, our easily protected territory. Let them come in in their courage and their numbers, and the South will resist the shock as steadily and successfully as she resisted the veterans of the British army on the plains of Chalmette [where the 1815 American victory in the Battle of New Orleans occurred].
The Object of the War
Concord New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette [Douglas],
May 8, 18616
The course of a portion of republican papers and their pulpit orators has raised a vitally important question as to the object and purpose of the war which the people of the North are now so unitedly and energetically preparing to prosecute against the rebels.---That question is this: Is this a war in support of the Government, the Constitution, the Union, and the dearly-purchased rights of a free people, or a negro crusade for the abolition of slavery? Whatever may have been the views of the people as to the causes of the war, or their opinions as to the proper remedy for the troubles out of which it has grown, there is no question that the great mass of them have responded to the summons to war with the distinct understanding that they were called upon to preserve national institutions and constitutional privileges, and not to destroy them---to sustain and perpetuate the Constitution and the Union, to uphold the Government, and put down armed rebellion seeking their overthrow. If such is the real character and purpose of the war, it must and will be cordially supported and energetically aided by the united people of the North; but if it is an abolition crusade, designed to destroy the rights and institutions of the South recognized by the Constitution, then it is a wicked and treasonable war and will not be participated in by any man who loves the old Union, reveres the Constitution and has a patriot's devotion to the Government and flag of our country.
We do not doubt that the President and his constitutional advisers entered upon this great contest with a single view to maintain[ing] the integrity of the Union, the authority of the Government, the perpetuity of the Constitution, the honor, rights, welfare and glory of the country, its flag and its people; and those who now seek to give it a different direction and purpose, have no countenance from those in authority. This we think is plain from the President's own declarations, in the most important document ever issued by the Chief Magistrate of this Union---his first Proclamation. In that he declared the object of his call for troops to be to suppress rebellion and "to cause the laws to be duly executed," and to "maintain the honor, integrity and the existence of our National Union," and he further declared that "in every event" the utmost care should be observed to avoid any "interference with property." To preserve the Union is to maintain the Constitution upon which it is founded; and this is thus solemnly declared to be the great end and purpose of the war. To make it an abolition crusade, is to overthrow the Constitution, and to disregard and violate its spirit and letter. And it is thus that the people understood the matter; and this accounts for the unanimity and zeal with which they have responded to the call of the Government. And the action of the commanders of troops in refusing to aid or countenance slave insurrections and the escape of slaves, in their march through Maryland, shows very plainly their ideas of their duty in this respect; and there is reason to believe that their course has met the approval of the Government.
It may therefore be safely concluded that the Government gives no countenance to their attempt to pervert this great popular movement from its noble and patriotic purpose. That purpose is to suppress rebellion, and to preserve the Union, maintain the Constitution and uphold the Government; and for that object all patriotic men will most cordially unite in contributing their means and their personal services to the extent of their ability. And those who seek to turn this war into a crusade against slavery, or who thus represent it, are at heart and in effect as much traitors to their country and its Government as are the rebels who are openly engaged in the Devil's work of attempting to overthrow that Government by force of arms.
1 "The War," The New Orleans Bee, May 1, 1861, in Southern Editorials on Secession, Dwight Lowell Dumond, ed., American Historical Association, 1931; reprint, Peter Smith, Gloucester, Mass., 1964 by permission of Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc., 511-13.
2 Samuel W. Mitcham, Jr., It Wasn't About Slavery, Exposing the Great Lie of the Civil War (Washington, DC: Regnery History, 2020), 103.
3 Mitcham, It Wasn't About Slavery, 142.
4 Tartuffe is defined by Oxford's Lexico.com as "A religious hypocrite, or a hypocritical pretender to excellence of any kind." https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/tartuffe, accessed 5-5-21.
5 Maw-worm is defined by Oxford's Lexico as "A parasitic worm which infests the stomach or intestines of humans and other mammals; especially a nematode of either of the genera Ascaris and Oxyuris." https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/maw-worm, accessed 5-5-21.
6 "The Object of the War," Concord New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette, May 8, 1861, in Howard Cecil Perkins, ed., Northern Editorials on Secession, 1942, the American Historical Association; reprint, 1964, Peter Smith, Gloucester, Mass., by permission of Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc., Vol. II, 830-31.
Yet another excellent article. Thank you!
Appreciate that, Garry!
Extraordinary and compelling comparison of the published initial perspectives on why there was war between north and south. Thank you Gene for continuing to shed light on the bloodiest event in American history…thus far.
I agree about the value of comparing the two perspectives. Comparisons always fascinate me and are extremely enlightening.
Thanks for writing!