North Carolina Republican calls Lincoln ‘tyrant’

This video from the USA says about itself:

Was the Civil War About Slavery?

10 August 2015

What caused the Civil War? Did the North care about abolishing slavery? Did the South secede because of slavery? Or was it about something else entirely…perhaps states’ rights? Colonel Ty Seidule, Professor of History at the United States Military Academy at West Point, settles the debate.

Without Abrabam Lincoln‘s and his supporters’ opposition to the slaveowners of American southern states like North Carolina in the 1850s and 1860s, there would not be the Republican party in the USA today.

And without the 1960s ‘southern strategy’ of Republican presidential candidates Goldwater and Nixon, the present day apologists of these slaveowners would not be Republican politicians in states like North Carolina now.

By Ed Mazza in the USA:

04/12/2017 11:55 pm ET

GOP Lawmaker Compares ‘Tyrant’ Abraham Lincoln To Adolf Hitler

The North Carolina state representative also called the Civil War “unnecessary and unconstitutional.”

A Republican member of North Carolina’s House of Representatives on Wednesday compared President Abraham Lincoln to Adolf Hitler and called the 16th president of the U.S. a “tyrant.”

Larry Pittman also blamed Lincoln for the U.S. Civil War, which he called “unnecessary and unconstitutional.”

The remarks appeared in the comments section of a Facebook post Pittman wrote last month. Pittman began arguing with commenters on a number of issues, including his support for a law to make the Supreme Court ruling that legalized marriage equalitynull and void” in North Carolina. …

The comments drew swift rebuke, first within Pittman’s Facebook page and then well beyond.

“When American ultra-conservatives have come to believe beloved Abraham Lincoln is equivalent to Hitler, their politics have jumped the shark and gone from eye-rolling to dangerous for our democratic republic,” North Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Goodwin wrote on his on Facebook page.

Pittman has made national news before, for cracking birther jokes about President Barack Obama and calling Planned Parenthoodmurder for hire.”

His Lincoln comments came just one day after White House press secretary Sean Spicer claimed Hitler never used chemical weapons, a comment he later apologized for making.

Pittman has not yet addressed his own Hitler comments.

Republican NC state legislator: Abraham Lincoln was a ‘tyrant’ like Hitler for ending slavery: here.

PROTESTERS HANG EFFIGY OF KENTUCKY GOVERNOR A group of protesters gathered for a “Patriot Day 2nd Amendment Rally” near the Kentucky State Capitol concluded the event by hanging an effigy of Gov. Andy Beshear in a tree outside the governor’s mansion. Video and photos show two men hoisting the effigy with a sign reading “Sic Semper Tyrannis,” which loosely translates from Latin to “thus always to tyrants.” John Wilkes Booth is said to have shouted the phrase after assassinating President Abraham Lincoln. [HuffPost]

The United States Civil War and British workers

United States Confederate flag, cartoon

By Joe Mount:

How the British workers’ movement helped end slavery in America: Part one

5 January 2015

This is the first part of a two-part article on the role of the British working class in the victory of the Northern Union forces in the American Civil War and the abolition of slavery in the United States.

One hundred and fifty years ago, Abraham Lincoln led the Union of northern states to victory against the slave-holding southern Confederacy in the American Civil War of 1861–1865. This “Second American Revolution” resulted in the abolition of slavery in America, the largest expropriation of private property in world history prior to the Russian Revolution.

The Confederacy wagered that British workers would rise up against the “cotton famine” caused by the Union blockade of Southern ports, and that this, combined with British ruling class sympathy for the South, would compel a British and French intervention against the Union. Instead, the overwhelming opposition of British workers to slavery proved a critical factor in preventing British recognition of the Confederacy.

There was a close economic relationship between British industrialisation and the American South’s slave economy. Raw cotton, harvested by slaves, was transported to Britain, where it was spun and woven into cloth, Britain’s dominant export during the 19th century. Baled cotton arrived from America’s southern states at the port of Liverpool and supplied an expanding network of mill towns across the Lancashire region, with Manchester the industrial hub. By 1860, there were 2,650 cotton mills employing 440,000 workers in the region.

Manchester’s explosive economic growth was driven by unfettered capitalist exploitation. It became the world’s first major industrial city and was dubbed “The workshop of the world” and “Cottonopolis.”

As capitalism developed and Manchester grew, so did the working class. Friedrich Engels, Karl Marx’s co-thinker, wrote The Conditions of the Working Class in England, published in 1845, while working at his father’s Manchester factory. He examined the inhuman conditions endured by the toiling masses in various branches of industry and explained their root cause in the capitalist social order. Engels called Manchester the “classic type of a modern manufacturing town.”

For the working class, bourgeois social relations ensured that every step forward met with brutal opposition from the ruling class. In one infamous incident, a mass movement demanding democratic reforms was repressed in the 1819 “Peterloo” Massacre at St. Peter’s Field, Manchester. Cavalry charged a crowd of 80,000 workers, killing 15 and injuring hundreds.

The pinnacle of working class political consciousness in this period was Chartism, the first revolutionary movement of the working class, named after the “People’s Charter” and its six demands for parliamentary reform.

Chartism’s revolutionary wing was rooted in the masses and managed to wrest limited concessions from the ruling class in the mid-1840s, such as the ten-hour working day and the repeal of the Corn Laws. However, the Chartist movement, which preceded Marx’s development of scientific socialism, was ultimately undone by its socially and politically inchoate character. As Trotsky noted, “Chartism did not win a victory not because its methods were incorrect, but because it appeared too soon.”

With the demise of Chartism, the masses entered a protracted period of political passivity under the sway of moderate trade unions. However, its revolutionary traditions were rekindled with the outbreak of the American Civil War.

The Union blockade and the cotton famine

The Confederacy believed their dominant position in world cotton markets guaranteed the support of their trading partners, France and Britain. Their reactionary hubris was typified by South Carolina Senator James Hammond, who warned, “What would happen if no cotton were furnished for three years? I will not stop to depict what everyone can imagine, but this is certain: old England would topple headlong and carry the whole civilized world with her. No, you dare not make war on cotton. No power on earth dares to make war upon it. Cotton is king!”

The Union blockade attempted to strangle “King Cotton”

Fears that it might draw Britain into war on the side of the South notwithstanding, Lincoln began the Union blockade of southern ports in April 1861—the so-called “Anaconda Plan” to encircle and suffocate the Confederate economy. Although many British ships penetrated the blockade, it choked off 95 percent of cotton exports.

Britain’s 1.1 billion-pound annual supply of Confederate cotton dried up. Prices exploded and only small amounts of inferior cotton could be imported from elsewhere. Lancashire was gripped by the cotton famine. The region’s mills were shuttered and thousands lost their jobs across the country.

Workers faced poverty, starvation, lack of heating and eviction. Riots erupted across the country. In the depths of the cotton famine, 60 percent of Lancashire workers were unemployed. Thousands were forced to rely on the hated, demeaning Poor Law system. While speculators profited by hoarding cotton, the ruling class cracked down on unrest and used charity and religion to calm popular anger.

The biggest riots erupted in Stalybridge, one of the worst affected mill towns. Most factories had closed, over 7,000 mill operatives were unemployed, and three-quarters of workers were dependent on international aid. Protests erupted against the government’s miserly relief schemes.

The riots were brutally suppressed. Cavalry were brought in and local police equipped themselves with cutlasses and bayonets. Over 80 men were arrested in the repression.

The Confederacy calculated that the cotton famine would force workers to back them. A Southern politician told The Times: “We have only to stop shipment of cotton for three months and a revolution will occur in England. Hundreds of thousands of your workers will starve without our cotton, and they will demand you break the blockade.”

However, they were undone by Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, first announced in September 1862. This proclaimed that all slaves in the Confederate states, 3.1 million of the 4 million slaves in the US, were freed without compensation to the former owners. It also ordered the Union Army to “recognize and maintain the freedom” of the ex-slaves. This made abolition an explicit war aim.

In Britain, workers had a deep-rooted hatred of slavery and knew that the last hands to touch the cotton were those of slaves in the Confederate states. Despite bearing the enormous hardship of the cotton famine, a popular nationwide anti-slavery campaign erupted in support of Lincoln, the Union and the blockade.

Workers maintained support for the Union throughout the war. Mass meetings were held in towns and cities across the country.

Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation won firm support from the St. James’ Hall meeting called by the London Trades’ Council and held in London on March 26, 1863. Over 3,000 workers packed into the hall to express solidarity with Lincoln and “sympathy with the Northern States of America, and in favour of Negro emancipation.” One man declared, to cheers from the audience, that not “a hundred workmen could be found to meet together to justify a recognition of the Southern Confederacy, even on the ground of employment for the distressed operatives of Lancashire.”

Workers condemned British “capitalists and journalists” for their support for the Southern states. The meeting, Marx believed, “prevented [Prime Minister Lord] Palmerston from declaring war on the United States, as he was on the point of doing.”

The British bourgeoisie distrusted “Yankee democracy” and sought to preserve their profitable trading relationship with the South. Britain remained officially neutral throughout the Civil War. However, as relations with the North grew strained, British mill owners urged the use of the Navy to break the blockade. Britain built and sold warships to the South and even prepared to invade by deploying troops to Canada, a move blocked by popular opposition.

The British ruling class knew that the abolition of slavery would encourage the working class to rebel against their own wage slavery. Ship and mill owners organised public meetings to mobilise support for the Confederacy. They were addressed by hacks who blamed the Union for the suffering of the textile workers.

These efforts proved futile.

To be continued

West Virginia’s 150th birthday

1863 map of West Virgina and Virginia from the Library of Congress

By Clement Daly in the USA:

One hundred fifty years since West Virginia statehood

19 June 2013

June 20 marks the sesquicentennial of West Virginia statehood. The origins of the 35th American state grew out of the revolutionary events of the Civil War and the struggle to eradicate slavery within the United States.

The division of Virginia was prepared by sectional antagonisms that arose within the state, influenced by geography, but ultimately rooted in differing socioeconomic and political interests between the east and west. The eastern part of the state was organized industrially, socially, and politically on the slave labor plantation system. Possessing a generally level terrain with an even climate and soil well suited for the growth of cash crops, the “Tidewater” had been the cradle of slavery in colonial America. Even as its soil became depleted, the elite families of eastern Virginia maintained lucrative relations with the cotton states of the Deep South through the sale of slaves.

The Blue Ridge and Allegheny mountain chains interrupted the spread of the plantation system to the west early on. The more mountainous and hilly terrain with uneven climate west of the Blue Ridge is more adapted to small farming and grazing and here industrial and social life developed around the yeoman farm. The inhabitants west of the mountains were often immigrants from Pennsylvania with a deep commitment to democratic government and opposition to the institution of slavery. Economically, the west was more intimately bound up with the North and found a market for its crops and livestock in Baltimore and Philadelphia.

The plantations of the east dominated the state’s politics. The west’s calls for greater representation, along with internal improvements and a free public education system, were continuously ignored by the east. These tensions were greatly exacerbated by the national sectionalism then deepening between the North and South in the decade preceding the Civil War.

The secession of Southern states in the aftermath of Abraham Lincoln’s election in 1860 was met with mass meetings throughout the northwestern counties condemning the actions as illegal and calling for the creation of an independent state loyal to the Union. Meanwhile, the Virginia Legislature reconvened in early January 1861 to reorganize the state militia, declare that in the case of war Virginia would join with the Southern states, and approve the convening of a Secession Convention to decide Virginia’s fate. On February 4, 1861, Virginia voters selected delegates on a population basis for a Secession Convention, but opposition was expressed in the overwhelming demand that any decisions made by the convention be submitted to a popular referendum.

When the Secession Convention convened in Richmond on February 13, 1861, the outright secessionist element from the east was a minority. Of the 152 delegates, about 120 wished to adopt some form of compromise to preserve the Union, with about 50 of these, mainly from the west, calling for permanent loyalty to the Union even in the case of war. When the convention’s first vote regarding secession was called on April 4, it was defeated 88-45.

On April 17, 1861, the convention ultimately voted 88-55 in favor of recommending secession to the population in a referendum to be held on May 23. However, the new drive toward secession had as much to do with reaction to the April 12 attack on Fort Sumter and Lincoln’s April 15 proclamation summoning 75,000 troops to put down the rebellion in the South as it did with the dramatic announcement to the convention by Virginia’s ardent secessionist ex-governor, Henry A. Wise. With pistol drawn, Wise informed the delegates that he had secretly ordered extralegal militia units to seize the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry and the Naval Yards at Norfolk the day before. Presented with this fait accompli, the demoralized moderates of Virginia’s Valley region acquiesced to secession.

The dissenting western delegates reconvened at Clarksburg on April 23, 1861, and issued a call for a convention to be held in Wheeling. The First Wheeling Convention, representing 25 counties in western Virginia, met May 13-15 and resolved that work should be done to defeat the Secession Ordinance on May 23, but if it was ratified a second convention should be held for the purpose of reorganizing the government of Virginia.

Meanwhile the east refused to wait for the May 23 referendum and moved to make secession an accomplished fact. Within days, Robert E. Lee was placed in command of Virginia’s military forces and “an alliance, offensive and defensive” was signed with the Southern Confederacy. In early May, Virginia delegates took their seats in the Confederate Congress. Under these conditions, the Secession Ordinance was overwhelmingly approved by the Virginia population.

As western delegates reconvened in Wheeling on June 11, 1861, Union forces had already crossed over from Ohio and were engaging Confederate forces in a series of skirmishes. The Second Wheeling Convention adopted a Declaration of Rights and declared the Virginia Secession Convention to have been illegal and its decisions without authority. The convention also passed an ordinance establishing the Restored Government of Virginia and selected Francis H. Pierpont as interim governor. This government was soon recognized by Washington and its representatives given Virginia’s vacated seats in Congress.

With the friendly advice from US Attorney General Edward Bates that a new independent state would be “an original, independent act of Revolution,” the Convention approved the creation of what was initially called the “State of Kanawha” embracing 39 western counties on August 20, 1861. The act was overwhelmingly endorsed in a popular vote on October 24.

A Constitutional Convention met in Wheeling on November 26, 1861, to establish the new state’s government. Among the 61 delegates were farmers, ministers, physicians, merchants, mechanics, and teachers. Leadership was thus provided by the few experienced politicians and lawyers among them. By the close of the summer of 1861, Confederate forces had been driven from western Virginia, prompting the convention to augment the new state, then renamed West Virginia, with several additional counties.

The content of the resulting Constitution reflected the many grievances between eastern and western Virginia over the previous half century. Free white male suffrage—won only the previous decade in Virginia—was reaffirmed and representation in both houses of legislature was to be apportioned on a white population basis. In local organization, the Constitution adopted Thomas Jefferson’s township system allowing the establishment of “a thorough and efficient system of free schools.”

The Constitution also ordered the “equal and uniform” taxation according to value of “all property, both real and personal,” undoing the hated provisions of the Virginia Constitution of 1851, which capped the value of slaves and exempted slaves under 12 years of age from taxation. However, the significant abolitionist sentiments of the convention were tempered out of the expedient need to secure the relatively heavily slave populated counties added from the eastern panhandle, and thus the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, as well as the added southern and eastern counties where most of the new state’s slaves were held.

The West Virginia Constitution was overwhelmingly accepted by voters on April 3, 1862, although the realities of war made the voting irregular and nonexistent in some counties. In order to satisfy the federal constitutional requirement that “no new State shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other State … without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress”, Governor Pierpont convened the general assembly of the Restored Government of Virginia in Wheeling and, on May 14, 1862, Virginia officially gave consent to the formation of West Virginia.

The West Virginia Statehood Bill first met opposition in the US Senate from abolitionists who opposed admitting a new slave state. The addition of an amendment introduced by Senator Waitman T. Willey from the Restored Government of Virginia, which provided for gradual emancipation of the state’s slaves, allowed its passage on July 14, 1862. The bill then met with opposition in the House of Representatives where many questioned the legality of the measure and feared the dismemberment of Virginia would prevent her restoration to the Union.

Those who ultimately secured the bill’s passage in the House on December 10, 1862, downplayed the constitutionality of the creation of West Virginia while placing it within the context of a military necessity. “We may admit West Virginia as a new state, not by virtue of any provision of the constitution,” claimed Pennsylvania Representative Thaddeus Stevens, “but under an absolute power which the laws of war give us.”

Lincoln contemplated West Virginia statehood over the final three weeks of 1862, with his cabinet evenly split on whether the action was constitutional and expedient. When he eventually signed the bill on December 31, 1862, conditional upon the approval of the Willey Amendment by West Virginia voters, Lincoln defended the action on the grounds that the consent of the Restored Government of Virginia was sufficient to satisfy constitutional requirements.

Lincoln further defended the action’s expedience in that it tended to restore national authority throughout the Union. While admitting that the division of Virginia would hurt efforts toward reintegrating that state into the Union, he explained just as much would be lost by rejecting West Virginia. “We can scarcely dispense with the aid of West Virginia in this struggle; much less can we afford to have her against us, in congress and in the field,” Lincoln said.

“The division of a State is dreaded as a precedent,” Lincoln opined. “But a measure made expedient by a war, is no precedent for times of peace. It is said that the admission of West Virginia is secession, and tolerated only because it is our secession. Well, if we call it by that name, there is still difference enough between secession against the constitution, and secession in favor of the constitution.”

It is significant that Lincoln approved West Virginia statehood the day before issuing his Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. Both measures reflected Lincoln’s changing attitude toward the war, especially after the Battle of Antietam the summer before, that the conflict could only be won by transforming it into a revolutionary struggle to eradicate the institution of slavery. “[T]he admission of [West Virginia],” Lincoln explained, “turns that much slave soil free; and thus, is a certain and irrevocable encroachment upon the cause of rebellion.”

On March 26, 1863, West Virginians overwhelmingly approved the Willey Amendment at the polls, prompting Lincoln to issue a proclamation on April 20, 1863, admitting West Virginia as the nation’s 35th state effective on June 20, 1863.

Abraham Lincoln, interview with US historian

Historian Allen Guelzo

By Tom Mackaman in the USA:

Understanding Lincoln: An interview with historian Allen Guelzo

3 April 2013

Allen Guelzo is the Henry R. Luce III Professor of the Civil War Era at Gettysburg College, where he serves as director of the Civil War Era Studies Program. He is the author of numerous books, including Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President and Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America and Fateful Lightning: A New History of the Civil War and Reconstruction.

Guelzo spoke with Tom Mackaman of the World Socialist Web Site in his office at Gettysburg College on a Saturday morning in March. A large academic conference was being held that weekend at the college entitled “The Future of Civil War History.” Gettysburg, in southeastern Pennsylvania, was the location of the bloodiest battle in the Civil War, and the city’s college is now one of the leading centers in the study of the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln.

During the period addressed in this interview, the late antebellum and the Civil War, American capitalism and its political representatives, led by Lincoln, played a revolutionary role, confronting the reactionary leadership of the American South and its system of slave labor. Within a decade of the end of the Civil War the class struggle between the triumphant capitalist order and the working class had supplanted the earlier struggle between “free labor” and slavery as the decisive issue in American history.

Tom Mackaman: How did you come about your interest in Lincoln and the Civil War?

Allen Guelzo: I suppose the interest in Lincoln and the Civil War really is a long-term one that grows out of a certain boyhood interest and fascination with the man. But I didn’t really get deeply involved in Lincoln Studies until the mid-1990s. Because my PhD had been in the history of American philosophy, I was writing a book on the idea of freedom of the will and determinism in American thought. I knew that Lincoln had had some things to say on the subject, so I looked them up, ended up writing a paper about them, got invited to read it at the Abraham Lincoln Association meeting, and once my hand was in the Lincoln cookie jar I couldn’t get it out. A publisher approached me about writing a book on Lincoln. One thing led to another and, well, here I am.

TM: Which was the first book?

AG: Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President, with a title borrowed shamelessly from Walt Whitman.

TM: You have been at work on Lincoln, the Civil War, and the emancipation of the slaves for a number of years now. How have your thoughts on these subjects evolved?

AG: Well, I don’t know actually that they have changed all that much. In general the outline that I have had in my mind of Lincoln as a character and a thinker has been pretty stable. And it really grows out of a moment in Charles Sellers’ book The Market Revolution in 1991, when, in describing the role of lawyers as the “shock troops of capitalism”, it struck me how very much Lincoln looked exactly like what Sellers was describing. That was reinforced when I read John Ashworth’s first volume on the capitalist transformation of America, and once again this description of the role of lawyers just seemed so remarkably close to Lincoln that it made me pursue this notion of Lincoln as your archetypal Whig, bourgeois, middle class cultural figure. And that in large measure is what I’ve been working from ever since.

TM: Could you explain what you mean by that a little bit more?

AG: Lincoln is, both culturally and in terms of his economic thinking, firmly and immovably located in the center of what we can call liberal democratic thought in the 19th century. He is very much market oriented, with tremendous confidence in the power of a capitalist society to transform for the better, and he believes in opening the possibilities of that society to as many as possible. To him, that’s what’s coterminous with liberty. If you have to put him in company, he would belong with John Stuart Mill, whom he seriously admired. Shortly before he was assassinated, Lincoln was asked by a journalist what books had been most influential for him. One of the two books he indicated is Stuart Mill’s On Liberty. Put him in that context of the upwardly aspiring bourgeoisie—that’s Lincoln.

Lincoln is someone who has fled from romantic agrarianism, the kind of agricultural subsistence economy that his father was a participant in and a good example of. Lincoln regarded that world with distaste and left it as soon as he turned 21. He never looks back, and moves at once into the world of the cash economy, cash wages, investment, and business, and that’s where he lives for the rest of his life. He fails twice actually at being in business, but undeterred by that he shifts over to becoming a lawyer, and that’s when he becomes part of the “shock troops of capitalism” that Sellers talks about.

TM: In his law practice he did extensive business with railroad concerns, did he not?

AG: That was his single most lucrative client. Lincoln’s law practice is a very extensive one, and it runs all the way from big railroad cases down to $2.50 trespass cases. But what is remarkable about his law practice is that it’s overwhelmingly a civil practice—only about 15 percent of his overall cases were criminal cases. And the preponderance of that civil practice was debt collection. He was, so to speak, a repo man. He was either collecting or enforcing collection. And he was a big friend of the railroads. He even served briefly as a lobbyist. If you’d asked anybody in central Illinois in the late 1850s who Abraham Lincoln was, they probably would have said, “Oh, that railroad lawyer.”

One aspect of that railroad practice stands out: in 1856, Lincoln wrote a very extensive memorandum about evicting squatters from railroad land. That was a hot-button issue, because the lands that the Illinois Central was constructed upon were originally federally owned public lands, and many of them had been squatted upon over the years by people who were firmly convinced that they possessed preemption rights. In other words, they believed they had the right of first refusal if the land was ever to be disposed of by the government. Lincoln’s memorandum pulls out all the legal floorboards from under them and authorizes the Illinois Central Railroad to proceed to eviction without any restraint.

TM: Lincoln was an attorney for the railroads. But in other contexts, in certain quotes, did he not privilege labor?

AG: He does indeed talk about labor having priority over capital, which many people mistake as a statement of the labor theory of value. But he’s actually not talking about any labor theory there. What he’s doing is objecting to a labor relationship that said that capital has to give orders to labor, that laborers are so ignorant and so stupid—and of course what he’s primarily talking about here are slave laborers—that the only way any kind of productive work will happen is if capital—meaning slave owners—gives them direction. That he objected to, because that impugned the agency of the self-motivated laborer in a capitalist economy. But it’s the agency of the laborer, not any imputation to the value of the laborers’ product, that Lincoln is describing.

He’s actually responding to James Henry Hammond’s famous “Mudsill” speech of 1858 which Lincoln thought was profoundly offensive for re-introducing the notion of status: status meaning that certain people were born a certain way, and they were always going to be that way, so the only way you’ll make them work is if you flog them. That was what Lincoln was objecting to.

TM: What do you make of the concept of the “free labor ideology,” a concept that is associated with the work of the historian Eric Foner?

AG: Foner wrote the book— Free Labor, Free Soil, Free Men —in 1970, based on his doctoral dissertation under Richard Hofstadter. And it’s a very, very, good book. In fact it’s hard to put a finger on a book that better explicates the free labor ideology of the Republicans—and of Lincoln in the bargain. Some close seconds to that are Heather Richardson’s The Greatest Nation of the Earth, which is not specifically about Lincoln but is about the broader free labor/free wage commitments of the Republicans, and a very good chapter on Lincoln in Daniel Walker Howe’s Political Culture of the American Whigs.

TM: Could you explain the way Lincoln’s career as an attorney in this period influenced his thinking on slavery?

AG: To Lincoln, slavery undercut the free labor outlook on the world because it denied advancement and self-improvement. For Lincoln, the great attraction of any economic regime was the degree to which it permitted accumulation and self-promotion. He once described the ideal system as being one where the penniless beginner starts out working for somebody else, accumulates capital on his own by dint of savings, goes into business for himself, and then eventually becomes so successful that he hires others, who in turn continue the cycle. And he spoke of that as being the order of things in a society of equals. For him, the very notion of equality is a matter of equality of openness, aspiration, and opportunity.

This is what he says in 1859 at the Wisconsin State Agricultural Fair (and bear in mind that he is saying this only a year after one of the most severe financial depressions in the 19th century):

Some of you will be successful, and such will need but little philosophy to take them home in cheerful spirits; others will be disappointed, and will be in a less happy mood. To such, let it be said, “Lay it not too much to heart.” Let them adopt the maxim, “Better luck next time”; and then, by renewed exertion, make that better luck for themselves.

The only reason people do not succeed in a capitalist environment is because they are improvident, they are lazy, they are good for nothing, or they experience some incredible turn of bad luck—that’s why “better luck next time.”

That may seem like vanishingly small consolation to people who’ve just come through a depression, but for Lincoln, that kind of hardship paled beside slavery. Slavery says that there is a category of people that can never be allowed to rise, that cannot improve themselves no matter how hard they try because they will always be slaves. It’s very much the classic disjuncture between the Enlightenment and feudalism. Feudalism talks about people being born with status, and everyone comes into this world equipped with a status. This status is either free or slave, serf or nobility, elect or damned, whatever. For the Enlightenment people come into this world armed with rights, and the ideal political system is the system that allows them to realize those rights, to use those rights in the freest and most natural fashion possible.

TM: Is this what you have in mind when you refer to Lincoln as the last Enlightenment figure in American history?

AG: Exactly. This is why I call him our last Enlightenment politician. Or at least the last one who is securely and virtually exclusively located within that mentality.

TM: Lincoln once said that he did not have a political thought that did not flow—

AG: From the Declaration of Independence …

TM: … Could you talk about the relationship between Lincoln and the American Revolution, and Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence in particular?

AG: He loves—and he’s not exaggerating—the Declaration of Independence. When he talks at Gettysburg about the country being founded on a proposition, that’s what he means, and specifically that all men are created equal. What does he mean by equal though? He means equality of aspiration. He spoke those words about never having had a political thought which did not flow from the Declaration in February of 1861, outside Independence Hall. He believed that what the Founders meant, what the Declaration of Independence meant, was that everybody in the race of life ought to get a fair start and a fair chance. That was the star by which he navigated, and the best example he could offer to anybody was his own life.

TM: The rail splitter.

AG: Sure. Here’s someone who had come up from grinding backwoods poverty and by dint of his own effort, intelligence, and gifts, had risen to more than a modicum of success. Not only success in financial terms but success socially. In every respect he was his own confirmation of his theories. Anyone who impugned free labor and the free labor ideology was really attacking him personally.

TM: Considering further Lincoln’s own intellectual formation, much has been made of his facility with Shakespeare and the Old Testament. What other influences were there? Did he read Melville, did he read Hawthorne?

AG: Not likely. He had no taste for fiction. He said once that he tried to start Ivanhoe but only got halfway through it—which may replicate the experience of many undergraduates and high school students today. But that in itself is something of a statement. He read precious little fiction. He loved poetry, though. But it was, significantly, not romantic poetry that he cottoned up to. He did like Byron, but the poets he admired the most were very much poets of the Enlightenment. He loved Pope and quoted him often from memory. He loved Burns, who is a transitional figure between the Enlightenment and romanticism.

In terms of other things that he reads, he reads political economy. He read most of the major treatises that flowed downstream from Adam Smith. He’s read McCulloch, Henry Carey, and Francis Wayland. One observer said that on political economy he was great, that there was no one better than Lincoln.

He also had some scientific interest in geology. John Hay, his secretary, was surprised to discover he had some interest in philology and the origins of language. He never explains why he is interested in those, but he would always surprise people by what he knew. One Canadian journalist who visited in him 1864 was taken aback when Lincoln launched into a long “dissertation” on comparative points of British and American law.

That’s particularly surprising because in another context Lincoln professed to know nothing about international law. But Lincoln habitually would tell people he was totally ignorant of a subject which in fact he was quite well versed in, because then they would underestimate him, and when they underestimated him they would fall into his trap. Leonard Swett once said that anybody who mistook Lincoln for a simple man would soon end up with his back in a ditch.

TM: The film Lincoln depicts this moment in which Lincoln makes a major decision by discussing Euclid’s principles of mathematics. Is there some basis to this in fact?

AG: Yes, he did read Euclid. It appealed to what one of his law partners referred to as Lincoln’s passion for “mathematical exactness.” Lincoln was not eloquent in the usual 19th century way, certainly not in the romantic way. He was not a man of frothing at the mouth or shaking his fist in a dramatic way. Lincoln was logic, and when he got the hook in your mouth he would pull you in no matter how much line was involved. One observer of the Lincoln-Douglas debates said that if you listened to Lincoln and Douglas for five minutes, you would go with Douglas. If you listened to them for an hour you always went with Lincoln.

I thought the film was 90 percent on the mark, which given the way Hollywood usually does history is saying something. I thought that it got with reasonable accuracy a lot of Lincoln’s character, the characters of the main protagonists, and the overall debate over the 13th Amendment. The acting and screenwriting were especially well done. I remember thinking afterwards that all the time I’d been watching the movie I had never thought that Daniel Day-Lewis was acting, because what he portrayed seemed so close to my own mental image of what Lincoln must have been like.

TM: Lincoln remains such a popular figure. What explains his hold on our fascination and our affection? If we were to consider him only as an attorney for the railroads, as a bourgeois politician, perhaps this would be difficult to explain?

AG: For several reasons. First, as a leader, he is a combination of the virtues of democratic leadership—as opposed to, say, aristocratic leadership, which honors valor, physical prowess, and dominance. Democratic leadership is more about perseverance, self-limitation, and humility. What we see in Lincoln is a collection of the virtues we think are most important in a democratic leadership.

Secondly, he really did preside successfully over this incredibly critical moment we call the Civil War. He did keep the union together, he did defeat the Confederacy. Anyone who sits down for a moment to think about what the alternative would have looked like—a successful breakaway Confederacy—and how that would have flowed downstream has to be with impressed with what Lincoln was able to save us from. There is in the end no intrinsic reason why the Southern Confederacy should not have achieved its independence. And if they had, that would have had serious implications for the later role the North American continent plays in world affairs. Imagine a North American continent as divided politically and economically as South America. This would take the United States off the table as a major world player, and then what would you do with the history of the 20th century?

But I think Lincoln is also important in a third way—and this may be of interest to your readers. I come back to the old Werner Sombart question—“Why there is no socialism in America?” There have been any number of answers. I wonder out loud whether one reason there is no socialism in America is because of Lincoln.

In the American context Lincoln imparted to liberal democracy a sense of nobility and purpose that it has not always had in other contexts. He makes democracy something transcendent, and especially at Gettysburg where he talks about the nation having this new birth of freedom. He ratchets the horizons of liberal democracy right up past the spires of Cologne Cathedral and he makes it this glowing attractive ideal that people are willing to make these tremendous sacrifices to protect. Because at the end of the day this is what the Civil War is about—it’s about the preservation of liberal democracy. In the 1860s the United States was the last Enlightenment experiment that was still standing. What you had in the climate of mid-19th century Europe was the renaissance of romantic aristocracy …

TM: He refers to this in the Gettysburg Address…

AG: Yes, that’s really what he’s talking about. This war is a test whether this nation or any other nation so conceived can long endure. Is democracy self-destructive? Are the aristocrats right? That the only way you’ll ever have order in society is to let them run things? That you cannot put rule into the hands of ordinary people because they’ll botch it from selfishness, egotism, and stupidity? The Civil War becomes this demonstrator model for aristocrats to say, “See what happens when you let ordinary people govern.” The romantic contempt of the American experiment, whether that contempt comes from a Heinrich Heine, from an Otto Von Bismarck…

TM: Or from the Southern elite…

AG: Exactly. This is what Lincoln saw in the Southern elite—a defection from Enlightenment bourgeois politics toward aristocratic rule. And I think there’s really some substance there. Because if you look at someone like Bismarck, for instance, the Prussian Junkers are not great aristocrats. They are the squirearchy. They are very similar in complexion and structure to the plantation aristocracy of the Old South. No surprise then that Bismarck sees in the Confederacy something that he admires, that he applauds. Lincoln saw himself arrayed against that.

Lincoln sees American democracy as a last stand, what he calls the last, best hope. And if this goes down, we may so discredit the whole notion of democracy that no one will ever want to go this way again, and so this is the test. It’s a test of whether or not we’ll have this new birth of freedom, if we’ll finally shuck off these last husks of aristocracy and move forward in the direction of democracy. That for him is the vital issue.

People today often want to separate slavery, and say that Lincoln was interested in preserving the union and not in destroying slavery. No, that gets it exactly wrong. The two are as knotted together as a rope, because the only union worth preserving is a union that has abjured slavery. So for Lincoln to get rid of slavery is to purge America of the aristocratic poison. He once said that slavery was the one retrograde institution that was poisoning the American republic, keeping the American republic from realizing its full potential.

TM: What do you make of the criticism of Lincoln the historical figure from the standpoint of identity politics, or, more recently, similar criticism over Lincoln the film?

AG: There has been a current that wants to reject the image of Lincoln as the Emancipator by questioning whether or not he emancipated the slaves. It has had some long innings. Some of it goes back to Marx’s comment on the Gotha Program, that the proletariat has to emancipate itself, that it cannot look to some other agency to do so. That image of self-emancipation certainly has a role to play in W.E.B. Du BoisBlack Reconstruction in 1930, because Du Bois will say we can’t really talk about emancipation unless it’s self-emancipation. Du Bois is picturing race as the replacement for class. And this gets popularized in the writing of people like Vincent Harding, Lerone Bennett, Barbara Field, and any number of people writing today—some of whom have probably never read Du Bois, much less Marx.

Lincoln does drop comments that can be taken out of their historical context. For instance the most widely cited statement about race is the one he makes at the fourth debate at Charleston, Illinois. He says:

I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races,—that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will for ever forbid the two races living together.

People like Bennett focus on this and say, Lincoln was really just another garden variety racist. What they do not see is what Lincoln follows that comment with. He says:

there is no reason in the world why the negro is not entitled to all the rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence—the right of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I hold that he is as much entitled to these as the white man.… he is not my equal in many respects, certainly not in color—perhaps not in intellectual and moral endowments; but in the right to eat the bread without leave of anybody else which his own hand earns, he is my equal and the equal of Judge Douglas, and the equal of every other man….

That must have made every white supremacist in the crowd gasp.

I think, on the whole, given that the environment of the US in the middle of the 19th century is so white supremacist in its assumptions, Lincoln is actually quite remarkable for standing apart from that. But the decontextualized quote provides fodder for people to say that Lincoln was really not on our side.

This is aided and abetted by Richard Hofstadter’s famous essay in The American Political Tradition in which he refers to the Emancipation Proclamation as having “all the moral grandeur of a bill of lading.” What Hofstadter meant is that here is the man capable of writing the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural, but when it comes to the Emancipation Proclamation it’s as flat as a pancake. Why? Hofstadter’s conclusion is that Lincoln was just insincere about it. And even Marx noted that the language in the Emancipation Proclamation was dull. He compared it to a summons sent by one county lawyer to another. Again, they quote Marx out of context, because then he goes on to say something very laudatory.

Put these together and you have people saying Lincoln wasn’t the Great Emancipator and he wasn’t sincere, and so on and so forth. I think that this is thoroughly, absurdly, off-base. It’s off-base because of the historical process. They really don’t understand the rules of the ground game in 1861 and 1862. One black power activist in the 1960s wrote, “Why didn’t Lincoln free the slaves altogether? Why didn’t he just wake up one morning and say, I’m going to free all the slaves?” Well, he’s not the Czar of all the Russians. He’s the president of the United States, and legally he’s allowed to do certain things, and that’s not one of them. He has to work within the process.

TM: Concretely, for example, there’s the argument that Lincoln didn’t free the slaves, that the slaves freed themselves in the Civil War.

AG: That’s to misuse the word freedom. Slaves free themselves by running away, but they free themselves de facto, but not de jure. A slave that runs away is still a runaway, just like a convict who escapes from prison is not free; he’s an escapee, and can be picked up and arrested and incarcerated. In the Civil War you have many runaways, but there has to be something more than that. You have to have the application of law. That is what Lincoln provides in the Emancipation Proclamation. It is the legal statement of the freedom of about 3 million slaves.

TM: It’s also the case that the large number of runaways in the Civil War was made possible by the presence of the Union Army in the South …

AG: Which is also acting as an instrument of Lincoln’s policy. So ask the slaves themselves how they were freed, and they will say, “Lincoln’s proclamation.” The testimony of freed people before the joint committee on reconstruction—about how they became free is uniform. They were well aware that the Fugitive Slave Laws and Constitutional provisions for the rendition of slaves were still in force. The position of runaways remained perilous. The Emancipation Proclamation resolved that.

One other way to look at this is to say, “What if George McClellan had won the presidency in 1864, defeating Lincoln?” He would have immediately begun negotiations with the Confederacy. And it is difficult for me to imagine that those negotiations would have not involved some sort of provision for rendition. After all, the treaty ending the Revolutionary War with Great Britain and the treaty ending the War of 1812 with Great Britain both involved the rendition of runaway slaves. Absent the Emancipation Proclamation, that could have happened again.

TM: There’s a conjoined argument, and that is that the Civil War really didn’t accomplish anything at all in light of the implementation of Jim Crow

AG: That’s rubbish.

TM: To bring us up to the present, I was somewhat surprised that there was not more commemoration, more celebration, of the anniversary of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation…

AG: I was surprised too.

TM: What do you make of that?

AG: Part of this goes back to the reputation the Emancipation Proclamation has had attached to it by people like Hofstadter. That line—that it had no more “moral grandeur than a bill of lading”—I encounter at so many levels and in so many places. And, yes, the Proclamation does lack the rhetorical force of the Gettysburg Address. But it is a legal document; it’s got work to do.

And yet I will say this. Just yesterday, I heard a gentleman from the Henry Ford Museum who said that 200,000 people came to see a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation borrowed from the National Archives. I think we underestimate the power that the Proclamation in fact still has.

On the other hand, we made an overture to the White House, trying to solicit their interest for something on January 1, the 150th anniversary. They blew us off. They just weren’t interested. They were in reelection mode and that trumped any interest in Lincoln and the Proclamation. I thought that was really, really, weird. You would think that the first African American president would leap at the opportunity. But no. Absolutely nothing.

TM: I wonder if it doesn’t have to do with the symbolic appeal to equality that the Emancipation Proclamation makes in the context of mounting social distress and deepening economic crisis. How do you explain it?

AG: I really don’t know. Maybe part of it is identity politics. Maybe they’re just thinking about practical, nuts and bolts things and uninterested in history. I mean, the guy is from Chicago. Somehow the idea of a celebration for the Emancipation Proclamation just got nixed.

Falsifying the American Civil War: Doris Kearns Goodwin at Gettysburg: here.

On November 15, 1864, General William Tecumseh Sherman led a 60,000 soldier Union army from the recently captured city of Atlanta deep through the heart of the state of Georgia, resulting in the seizure of the port city of Savannah on December 21. In the March to the Sea, as the campaign became known, the Union army fed itself off the land, destroyed infrastructure and liberated tens of thousands of slaves, in the process delivering a deathblow to the slaveholders’ rebellion. The American Civil War would be over within four months: here.

With the approach of the 150th anniversary of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, followed less than a week later by the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, attention is once again focused on the US Civil War, and on the president who led the military and political struggle that ended with the abolition of slavery: here.

For most history buffs, the Civil War’s sesquicentennial ends on Thursday. That day in 1865, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at the Battle of Appomattox. Most historians, though, acknowledge that the war’s most ambitious aim—full equality for black citizens—took many more years to accomplish, and even continues. But in his new book, After Appomattox, historian Gregory P. Downs makes a far bolder claim. Appomattox hardly ended the war: A full-scale military occupation continued for at least another five years, and without it, slavery may have persisted far longer than it did. Almost 100,000 Army soldiers remained in the South through the end of 1865, Downs meticulously documents, with up to 20,000 troops stationed there until 1871: here.

Abraham Lincoln and the British labour movement

Reward for capturing runaway slaves from St. Louis, USA, in 1847

By Tom Mackaman in the USA:

The British working class and the American Civil War: 150 years since London’s St. James’ Hall meeting

26 March 2013

On the evening of March 26, 1863—150 years ago today—as many as 3,000 workers packed into St. James’ Hall in London for a meeting backing the Union in the American Civil War and praising the Lincoln administration for the Emancipation Proclamation. The gathering was one of the most outstanding episodes of British working-class opposition to the Confederacy and slavery during the US Civil War (1861-1865)—opposition that emerged in spite of persistent efforts by British ruling circles and Southern operatives to blame the Union and Abraham Lincoln for the serious economic suffering caused by war.

The St. James’ Hall meeting had been called in the name of the London Trades’ Council, for “the purposes of expressing sympathy with the Northern States of America, and in favour of NEGRO EMANCIPATION,” as the bill for the event advertised. While a Quaker mill-owning Member of Parliament, George Bright, chaired,

Very probably, Tom Mackaman made a mistake here. Probably, the chair at the meeting was John Bright, Quaker mill-owner and Liberal MP; not “George Bright.” Also on John Bright and Lincoln: here.

the hall was filled “with the exception of a few guests [by] the members of the working classes,” according to an American diplomat sent to observe, Henry Adams—the remarkable journalist, son of US ambassador to the United Kingdom Charles Francis Adams, great-grandson of John Adams and grandson of John Quincy Adams.

Karl Marx, who followed the American war as a journalist, was present but did not speak. He may have played a significant role in organizing the meeting.

The meeting passed two resolutions and approved a letter to Lincoln. One resolution hailed Lincoln and the Union, declaring that “the cause of labour and liberty is one all over the word,” and further pledged that British workers would fight against the diplomatic recognition of any government “founded on human slavery.” The second condemned the support for the South among British “capitalists and journalists.”

The Letter to Lincoln read, in part:

“Honored Sir: —[O]ur earnest and heartfelt sympathies are with you in the arduous struggle you are maintaining in the cause of human freedom. We indignantly protest against the assertion that the people of England wish for the success of the Southern States… Be assured that, in following out this noble course, our earnest, our active sympathies will be with you, and that, like our brothers in Lancashire, whose distress called forth your generous help in this your own time of difficulty, we would rather perish than band ourselves in unholy alliance with the South and slavery.

“May you and your compatriots be crowned with victory; and may the future see the people of England and their brothers of America marching shoulder to shoulder determinedly forward, the pioneers of human progress, the champions of universal liberty.”

In a letter to Friedrich Engels, Marx noted that workers who rose at the meeting “spoke excellently, with a complete lack of bourgeois rhetoric and without in the least concealing their opposition to the capitalists.” Minutes of the meeting support this. An individual named Odger, a shoemaker, said that workers could not support a government that sought “to keep four millions of their fellow creatures in endless bondage.” Mantz, a compositor, declared that in England not “a hundred workmen could be found to meet together to justify a recognition of the Southern Confederacy, even on the ground of employment for the distressed operatives of Lancashire (Hear, hear.)” Cremer, a joiner, said that the Confederacy had “thrown down the gauntlet to the free labourers of the world.” Heap, an engineer, said that the meetings’ resolutions “would find an echo in the breasts of the working classes throughout the country.”

Charles Francis Adams sent copies of the resolutions and an official report to the State Department, which then forwarded these to northern newspapers. Articles appeared in Northern publications in April 1963, under the headline “VOICE OF WORKING-MEN OF LONDON.” Lincoln, who had written directly in response to a similar meeting held earlier in Manchester, this time responded through Adams that the “Trade Unionists have spoken the voice of the people of Great Britain.” Biographer Carl Sandburg would later note the novelty of Lincoln’s replies to the mass meetings of British labor: “It was not a custom for the ruling heads of nations to address letters to ‘workingmen’ in other countries.”

The role of the British working class in the American Civil War was indeed novel, and powerful, on many levels.

When Confederate leaders determined to pull their states from the Union in the immediate aftermath of Lincoln’s inauguration in 1861, and then to precipitate the Civil War by attacking federal installations in the South, they calculated that Britain and France would gravitate toward diplomatic recognition, which very likely would have led to war. The Lincoln administration was fearful of this possibility, and for good reason.

The South’s cotton, produced by slave labor, had fueled Britain’s industrialization—or, conversely, Britain’s industrialization had generated the “Cotton Kingdom” of the South, and with it a dramatic growth and expansion of slavery. In 1860 over 80 percent of Britain’s cotton came from the South of the US; and Britain was the recipient of the lion’s share of all Southern cotton production. Though “white gold” was not the only important American link to the British economy—Britain was also dependent upon grain exports from the antislavery American Northwest—cotton created a powerful economic relationship.

Just as important, the European ruling classes remained deeply hostile to the republican experiment across the Atlantic. With Europe in the grip of reaction following the defeated revolutions of 1848, the US was, in Lincoln’s words, “the last, best hope” for democracy. The British and French ruling circles identified with the Southern elite; their newspapers propagandized against the Union and Lincoln. Britain manufactured warships for the South, granted it belligerent status, and came to the brink of a diplomatic rupture with the North over its naval blockade. For his part, Louis Napoleon used the American Civil War to install a puppet regime in Mexico.

The Southern elite calculated that the Cotton Famine would propel the British toward diplomatic recognition and then war, and presumed that British workers would play a role in this by protesting mass unemployment. Indeed, the South itself imposed an embargo on cotton exports to accelerate this process. Early in the war a Southern leader told the London Times, “We have only to stop shipment of cotton for three months and a revolution will occur in England. Hundreds of thousands of your workers will starve without our cotton, and they will demand you break the blockade.”

The response of the British working class astonished observers. Even in Lancashire, where unemployment approached 50 percent, the working class repeatedly expressed its hatred of slavery and its solidarity with the North, especially after Lincoln’s release of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862. As Henry Hotze, a Southern spy working in Britain noted, “The Lancashire operatives [are the only] class which as a class continues actively inimical to us… With them the unreasoning…aversion to our institutions is as firmly rooted as in any part of New England.”

On December 31, 1862, the day before the Proclamation’s implementation, large meetings in support were held in Manchester and London. In 1863 British workers held 56 pro-Union meetings, according to historian Royden Harrison; meanwhile attempts by pro-Southern agents to organize competing meetings “invariably failed,” in the words of historian Philip Foner.

The British ruling class, in its support of the South and in its bitter opposition to the Emancipation Proclamation—which it viewed correctly as an invitation to “servile insurrection”—was at least in part restrained from its proclivities by the working class. Marx put great emphasis on this fact, writing Joseph Weydemeyer in 1864 that the “monster meeting in St. James’ Hall” had “prevented [Prime Minister Lord] Palmerston from declaring war on the United States, as he was on the point of doing.”

The powerful demonstration of working-class solidarity with the Union and the slaves also nourished a spirit of internationalism developing among the most advanced English workers and helping to set the stage for the founding of the First International (or the International Workingmen’s Association—IWA) the following year in London.

Marx, who was elected to the IWA General Council, wrote the organization’s Inaugural Address, which included the statement that it was “the English working class that saved the West of Europe from plunging headlong into an infamous crusade for the perpetuation and propagation of slavery on the other side of the Atlantic.”

In late 1864 Marx was tasked by the IWA with drafting a letter congratulating Lincoln on his reelection. Marx wrote:

“The workingmen of Europe feel sure that, as the American War of Independence initiated a new era of ascendancy for the middle class, so the American Antislavery War will do for the working classes. They consider it an earnest of the epoch to come that it fell to the lot of Abraham Lincoln, the single-minded son of the working class, to lead his country through the matchless struggle for the rescue of an enchained race and the reconstruction of a social world.”

This was also received by Charles Francis Adams and conveyed to Lincoln. In return, Adams delivered Lincoln’s personal thanks and added that the Union derived “new encouragements to persevere from the testimony of the workingmen of Europe that the national attitude is favored with their enlightened approval and earnest sympathies.”


Foner, Philip Sheldon. British Labor and the American Civil War. Holmes & Meier Pub, 1982.

McPherson, James M., “John Bull’s Virginia Reel,” in Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. Oxford University Press, 1988.

Anderson, Kevin B. “Race, Class, and Slavery: The Civil War as a Second American Revolution,” in Marx at the Margins: On Nationalism, Ethnicity, and Non-Western Societies. University of Chicago Press, 2010.

The International Workingmen’s Association 1864 “Address of the International Working Men’s Association to Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America.”

The First International: here. And here.

Lincoln, new film

This video from the USA is called Lincoln Q&A – Full Interview (2012) – Steven Spielberg, Daniel Day-Lewis.

By Tom Mackaman in the USA:

Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln and the historical drama of the Civil War

12 November 2012

Directed by Steven Spielberg, written by Tony Kushner

Lincoln, which will be released in theaters nationally November 16, is a powerful cinematic treatment of the Lincoln administration’s struggle to pass a constitutional amendment abolishing slavery in 1865, the final year of the American Civil War.

The film centers on the period of the “lame duck” Congress in early 1865, the fourth year of the Civil War, after the electorate had handed Lincoln and the Republicans a crushing victory in the 1864 elections over the Democrats, who opposed emancipation. It follows the political struggle to pass the Thirteenth Amendment through the House of Representatives—it had been passed by the Senate the previous year—amidst deep war-weariness in the North and against the backdrop of a mounting sentiment in favor of a negotiated peace with the South within the Republican Party itself.

The screen is populated by real historic figures, first and foremost Lincoln, played by Daniel Day-Lewis. Also present are First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln (Sally Field), Congressman and radical Republican Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones), Secretary of State William Seward (David Strathairn), conservative Republican Francis Preston Blair (Hal Holbrook), New York City “Copperhead” Democratic politician Fernando Wood (Lee Pace), Union general Ulysses S. Grant (Jared Harris), Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens (Jackie Earle Haley), and many, many others.

The considerable strength of the film, directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Tony Kushner, rests in its detailed presentation of the extraordinary history surrounding the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment. This took Kushner beyond the work of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Lincoln biography Team of Rivals, upon which the film is partly based.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Kushner acknowledged several important sources, including James McPherson’s magisterial Battle Cry of Freedom, writings on Lincoln by Alan Guelzo, and Lincoln’s own letters. The filmmakers have paid careful attention to historical accuracy, from lighting (the film attempts to recreate the sort of oil-based illumination of the day) to language (much of the dialogue is selected from the historical record, including speeches from the floor of the US House of Representatives.)

The film brings Abraham Lincoln to life in a way that comes close to Karl Marx’s unsurpassed description of the man. Lincoln was a figure, Marx wrote, “neither to be browbeaten by adversity, nor intoxicated by success, inflexibly pressing on to his great goal, never compromising it by blind haste, slowly maturing his steps, never retracing them, carried away by no surge of popular favor, disheartened by no slackening of the popular pulse, tempering stern acts by the gleams of a kind heart, illuminating scenes dark with passion by the smile of humor, doing his titanic work as humbly and homely as Heaven-born rulers do little things with the grandiloquence of pomp and state; in one word, one of the rare men who succeed in becoming great, without ceasing to be good. Such, indeed, was the modesty of this great and good man, that the world only discovered him a hero after he had fallen a martyr.”

Much of the credit for recreating this Lincoln must go to the extraordinary efforts of Irish-born actor Daniel Day-Lewis. In his performance, Lincoln appears to deliberate carefully about every word, always ahead of his interlocutors, thoughtfully assessing the political meaning hidden behind their positions. Lincoln comes across as both a shrewd politician and a leader whose policies were ultimately rooted in principle—above all else, the principle of equality.

“We began with equality, that’s the origin isn’t it? That’s justice,” the film has Lincoln say in an obvious reference to the Declaration of Independence. Day-Lewis manages to fuse the politician—Kearns Goodwin’s rather narrow focus—to the principled man “never compromising … by blind haste, slowly maturing his steps, never retracing them.”

Day-Lewis is facilitated by Kushner, who must be credited for allowing Lincoln’s own words to form much of the script. The film opens with Lincoln near a battlefield meeting Union soldiers, white and black, who together recite to him his already famous Gettysburg address, and its assertion that the war was for “a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

The film closes, in the wake of Lincoln’s assassination, with a flashback to his Second Inaugural address, movingly rendered by Lewis. “Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away,” Lincoln says. “Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’”

In between these bookends the dialogue is interspersed with Lincoln’s yarns, jokes and metaphors. These were not merely illustrations of “downhome” folksy American English. Lincoln’s rhetoric, infused not only with the color and common sense of the American frontier, but with Biblical metaphor and Shakespearean tragedy (which he could recite from memory), provided a language for understanding and acting through politics in the Civil War. In James McPherson’s phrase, Lincoln “won the war with metaphors.”

To cite one example from the film, Lincoln, a self-educated student of mathematics, calls upon Euclid to help determine whether or not to allow a Southern peace delegation to visit the White House. “Euclid’s first common notion is this,” Lincoln tells a young telegraph operator, “things which are equal to the same thing are equal to each other. That’s a rule of mathematical reasoning. It’s true because it works. Has done and always will do. In his book, Euclid says this is ‘self-evident.’ You see there it is even in that 2,000-year-old book of mechanical law. It is a self-evident truth that things that are equal to the same thing are equal to each other.” Lincoln determines not to invite the delegation to Washington, strengthening his hand in the House in the bid to push through the Thirteenth Amendment.

The general level of the film’s acting is extraordinary. Beyond Day-Lewis of special note are Jones as radical Republican leader Congressman Thaddeus Stevens of Ohio and Field’s sympathetic portrayal of the mercurial Mary Todd Lincoln. A subplot follows the tragedy and drama within the Lincoln family—a son, Willie, had died in the White House of typhus and Mary desperately feared losing a second, Robert (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who demanded his father allow him to enlist in the Union army.

Jones’ Stevens provides another thread to the story. Vilified for a century in American history textbooks as a monster, Stevens emerges in the film as the most uncompromising advocate of equality—though he himself compromises in order to see the Thirteenth Amendment pass.

The primary plotline, as noted, involves Lincoln’s determination to see through the abolition amendment in the midst of a leftover Congress—a task that would depend upon winning the votes of a number of Democratic Party Congressmen who have opposed emancipation. To its credit, Spielberg’s Lincoln does not shy away from the complexity of the situation.

In an early scene, Lincoln explains to his skeptical cabinet the necessity for the amendment in spite of the Emancipation Proclamation, which had gone into effect January 1, 1863. That measure had been based on the assertion of his wartime powers as commander-in-chief. Lincoln feared it might be reversed in peacetime by the courts, and he also feared that if the new measure were not implemented peace might be made with the South allowing slavery to continue.

Lincoln is weaker in its presentation of the process by which this amendment was passed. It focuses on the activities of three “hustler” lobbyists played by James Spader, John Hawkes and Tim Blake Nelson—a trio clearly set down in the movie for comic relief—as they attempt to cajole and bribe wavering Democrats into supporting the amendment. This process was real—Lincoln preferred to think of it as politicking rather than bribery—but the film tends to minimize the more powerful political trends at play.

The Democrats had been defeated in the 1864 elections by a wave of popular support in the North for Lincoln, the Republicans and, indeed, emancipation. The Democratic Party had made Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation the issue in the 1864 elections, launching vicious race-baiting attacks on the “Black Republican” Party in the North.

Had it not been for a turn of fortunes in the late summer of 1864, and chiefly General William Tecumseh Sherman’s capture of Atlanta, Lincoln and the Republicans might very well have lost the election of 1864 to the Democrats and George McClellan, the former commander of the Union Army of the Potomac. The Democrats, had they won, were prepared to negotiate a peace with the Confederacy that would have recognized its independence and reversed emancipation.

As it turned out, the electorate delivered a crushing blow to the Democrats. The population was moving to the left, attested to by the fact that the Army voted more than 80 percent for Lincoln over McClellan. All of this finds only a faint echo in Lincoln—we see soldiers eagerly awaiting word of the vote on the Thirteenth Amendment as it flashes across the telegraph, we hear repeated references to defeated Democrats, we sense the gravity and momentousness of the final vote on the amendment, and the film has Lincoln, in the beginning, asserting his belief that his Emancipation Proclamation and his use of war powers had been rooted in the popular will, which he found to have been vindicated by the elections of 1864.

Yet the role of the masses in history is minimized; the conception of politics as horse-trading is privileged. This likely reflects the influence of establishment writer Kearns Goodwin, whose emphasis in Team of Rivals is on Lincoln’s cunning as a politician. Whatever the merits of the book, hers is an approach that reflects the complacency and narrowness of politics in contemporary America, characteristics that cloud the understanding of what was a very different time.

It does not detract from the film in the least to point out that Kushner and Spielberg might have focused on several other moments in the long and bloody war. There were several turning points full with drama, including the aforementioned election of 1864, the defeat of the invading Southern armies at the Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania in 1863, and perhaps most importantly of all, the summer and fall of 1862 after Lincoln had drafted the Emancipation Proclamation and awaited some sort of battlefield success so that it could be issued, which ultimately came with the Battle of Antietam on September 17, Constitution Day, that year.

That there will be considerable interest in Lincoln appears likely. It is significant that the film appears when it does, at a time of social crisis and impending upheaval; how it does, from a leading Hollywood filmmaker, Steven Spielberg; and as it does—not as an attack on Lincoln, the abolitionists or the Civil War itself.

All the evidence suggests considerable popular interest in Lincoln, with one publication describing its limited opening weekend as “triumphant.” It is to be hoped that the film will lead to a further engagement with Lincoln the historical figure, with the abolitionists and the Civil War, as well as a deeper appreciation of the motor force of American history: the struggle for equality.

See also here.

Historian Brian Kelly examines how Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln compares to the events that abolished slavery in the United States: here.

In 1860, an 11-year-old girl wrote to Abe Lincoln suggesting he grow a beard. He not only responded, he obliged: here.

The end of slavery in the USA

This video says about itself:

The History of Slavery In America (part 1 of 3)

Slavery in the United States began soon after English colonists first settled Virginia in 1607 and lasted as a legal institution until the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1865. It continues illegally to this day.

Before the widespread establishment of chattel slavery, much labor was organized under a system of bonded labor known as indentured servitude. This typically lasted for several years for white and black alike, and it was a means of using labor to pay the costs of transporting people to the colonies. By the 18th century, court rulings established the racial basis of the American incarnation of slavery to apply chiefly to Black Africans and people of African descent, and occasionally to Native Americans. A 1705 Virginia law stated slavery would apply to those peoples from nations that were not Christian. In part because of the success of tobacco as a cash crop in the Southern colonies, its labor-intensive character caused planters to import more slaves for labor by the end of the 17th century than did the northern colonies. The South had a significantly higher number and proportion of slaves in the population. Religious differences contributed to this geographic disparity as well.

From 1654 until 1865, slavery for life was legal within the boundaries of much of the present United States. Most slaves were black and were held by whites, although some Native Americans and free blacks also held slaves; there were a small number of white slaves as well. The majority of slave holding was in the southern United States where most slaves were engaged in an efficient machine-like gang system of agriculture. According to the 1860 U.S. census, nearly four million slaves were held in a total population of just over 12 million in the 15 states in which slavery was legal. Of all 8,289,782 free persons in the 15 slave states, 393,967 people (4.8%) held slaves, with the average number of slaves held by any single owner being 10. The majority of slaves were held by planters, defined by historians as those who held 20 or more slaves. Ninety-five percent of black people lived in the South, comprising one-third of the population there, as opposed to 2% of the population of the North. The wealth of the United States in the first half of the 19th century was greatly enhanced by the labor of African Americans.

Here are Parts 2 and 3 of that video series.

By Shannon Jones in the USA:

Huge turnout for viewing of Emancipation Proclamation in Michigan

23 June 2011

Over 21,000 people poured through the Henry Ford Museum in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, Michigan earlier this week to view the original Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862, some waiting in line for up to seven hours. The great interest evoked by the exhibit testifies to the continued deep-going attachment of wide layers of the population to the democratic principles embodied in the proclamation.

The document was only on view for 36 hours as part of an ongoing exhibit at the museum commemorating 150 years since the start of the American Civil War. Because of its age and delicate condition the proclamation is only available for public viewing for a very limited time each year. The document is normally stored at the National Archive in Washington DC. The last time it travelled to Michigan was 1948.

The proclamation, issued in the midst of the Civil War, freed slaves in the rebelling states of the southern Confederacy, setting a course toward the general abolition of slavery in the United States.

Contrary to the claims of some critics that the document was little more than a paper bullet since it formally only freed slaves in areas still under Confederate rule, it had a decisive impact on the course of the war. It turned it from a war to preserve the union into a war of liberation, leading to one of the largest property transfers in world history. As a consequence, some 4 million slaves valued at $3 billion gained their freedom. In equivalent US dollars that would amount to several trillions.

The proclamation not only freed slaves, but also called for their recruitment into the union army to participate in their own liberation. Further, the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation raised the stature of the United States internationally. By transforming the Civil War into a war against slavery Lincoln attracted to the side of the North workers and progressive-minded intellectuals in Europe. It complicated the position of governments such as that of Great Britain who contemplated intervention on the side of the Confederacy.

The issuing of the proclamation quickly led to the collapse of slavery even in the Border States, where slaves, ignoring the “fine print” of the document, fled the plantations.

Brazil’s Labour Ministry reported today that a supplier for Spanish clothing transnational Zara had subjected workers to slave-like working conditions: here.

Agribusinesses are preventing rural workers in South Africa from forming unions and obliging them to work with pesticides without proper safety equipment, a US-based human rights watchdog charged today: here.

U.S. Civil War Took Bigger Toll Than Previously Estimated, New Analysis Suggests: here.

On June 22, 1865, the final shot in the Civil War was fired, effectively putting an end to chattel slavery in the continental United States and dumping the carcass of that accursed system in the deepest tomb of history. Or, so we thought. Down in Dixie, as well as up North, the horrors of slavery have once again scratched and clawed their way out of the hole we thought we’d left them in. The victories of the workers, soldiers and slaves of the past are being encroached upon: here.

Karl Marx and the US Civil War: here.

One of the most prominently featured and commented upon films at the 2013 Toronto film festival was 12 Years a Slave from British director Steve McQueen. The movie is based on the 1853 book of the same title by Solomon Northup (born in 1808), a free black man who lived in Saratoga Springs, New York, before he was kidnapped in Washington, DC in 1841 and sold into slavery. He was eventually rescued in 1853: here.

On December 6, 1865, Georgia became the 27th state to pass the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution, securing ratification of the measure that abolished once and for all the institution of chattel slavery in the US: here.

Descendant of last survivor of last slave ship to travel from Africa to US tells of pride as forefather’s story is published – 87 years after it was written. Cudjo Lewis told his story to the writer Zora Neale Hurston, but when she submitted her manuscript in 1931 no publisher wanted it: here.

Brazilian MPs approved a constitutional amendment on Tuesday that strengthens punishments for landowners and capitalists who force people into slave-like working conditions.