by Ryan Dawson
Did the South start the war at Fort Sumter? No. Lincoln started the war trying to collect taxes in Charleston Harbor.
When Lincoln could not forcefully collect taxes from South Carolina which had seceded, he created a blockade. What is left out and often not taught, is that Lincolns warships were the aggressors merely by their presence, and they fired first long before the shots at Fort Sumter. Lincoln made a proclamation.
“Whereas an insurrection against the Government of the United States has broken out in the States of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, and the laws of the United States for the collection of the revenue cannot be effectually executed therein conformably to that provision of the Constitution which requires duties to be uniform throughout the United States:… I, Abraham Lincoln…have further deemed it advisable to set on foot a blockade of the ports within the States aforesaid, in pursuance of the laws of the United States, and of the law of Nations, in such case provided. For this purpose a competent force will be posted so as to prevent entrance and exit of vessels from the ports aforesaid.” –April 1861 Lincoln
Lincoln’s first written message to congress was also about taxes.
“My policy sought only to collect the Revenue (a 40 percent federal sales tax on imports to Southern States under the Morrill Tariff Act of 1861).” reads paragraph 5 of Lincoln’s First Message to the U.S. Congress, penned July 4, 1861.
He did not create any rational about slavery at the start of the war. In fact, he flatly rejected this idea. Lincoln wanted to preserve the Union, which meant preserving the regional scapegoating where the South was paying the majority of the taxes which were then spent subsidizing northern industries in the type of cronyism we are all all too familiar with today.
“I have no purpose, directly or in-directly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so,” Lincoln said it his first inaugural on March 4 of the same year. The following year he wrote the New York Tribune “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.”
Dec 25, 1860 South Carolina who was paying the majority of the taxes, seceded from the Union. Two weeks later New York City threatened secession. If the south was not taxed, parts of the North were going to leave and join the free trade zone too. It was odd that Lincoln decried secession as illegal because in regards to the conflict between Texas and Mexico he stated on the House floor, “Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable, a most sacred right—a right which, we hope and believe, is to liberate the world. Nor is this right confined to cases in which the whole people of an existing government may choose to exercise it. Any portion of such people that can may revolutionize, and make their own of so much of the territory as they inhabit.” Yes Abe Lincoln supported secession, just not when it made him and his cronies lose money.
We are often taught that the firing on Fort Sumter was the beginning of the Civil War. It was not.
On April 8th 4 days before the famous shots fired at Fort Sumter, Lincoln sent a fleet of war ships led by USRC/USS Harriet Lane to reinforce Fort Sumter which was in Charleston Harbor to collect the new tax. USS Harriet Lane was a revenue cutter that became a warship. Revenue cutters previously called Revenue-Marines were armed ships for the Treasury Department meant to enforce tax collection. They were used as military units in the War of 1812, the Mexican War, Conflicts with France in the Caribbean, the Civil War and Spanish American war.
Between 1790 and 1798 cutters were the only armed ships in service as the US did not maintain a standing Navy. USS Harriet Lane was 177.5 feet long, 30.5 feet wide one four-inch rifled Parrott gun to the forecastle, one nine-inch Dahlgren gun before the first mast, two eight-inch Dahlgren Columbiads and two twenty-four-pound brass howitzers. Her crew of 95 were also issued small arms.
It arrived on April 11th still a full day before the famous “shots fired” when Capt. George S. James fired a single 10-inch mortar round above Ft. Sumter. The Yankee tax collection ship that had invaded Charleston Harbor fired a 32 pound shot across the bow of a civilian steam ship the Nashville. The union had sent its tax collection ships as well as other war ships to South Carolina to collect the tax and they fired first. (That would be as much a pretext for war as the Gulf of Tonkin pretext, the only difference is it actually happened unlike the lie about Vietnam.) It was the following day the South fired on the import-export tax collection fort. The Yankee ship would continue to fight in many naval battles until it wrecked off of Hatteras NC trying to enter the Pamlico Sound. It was repaired and re-entered the war. However at the battle of Galvaston, after sinking a tug boat, the ship was boarded and taken over. Union Commander Edward Lea was wounded as the re-occupied confederate forts opened fire and ground troops boarded the anchored ships. Lea’s father Confederate Major Albert M. Lea, boarded the Harriet to find his son had was nearly dead. He died in his father’s arms.
A young 10 year old boy, the young son of Captain Wainwright continued to fire to revolvers until both were out of ammo, from the boat cabin, after his father had been killed. Why his father brought a 10 year old boy on a naval ship in the middle of a war is the epitome of arrogance and stupidity. However there were scores of children fighting for the Union or “going on an adventure.” The boy did survive. The Confederates captured the ship that started the war as well as a United States signal service code book that had been left in her cabin. They would use the ship as a blockaded runner and send cotton to Cuba. It was then entered into the British naval registry and named Lavinia, and not recovered by the US until 1867. The ship was refitted and renamed the Elliot Ritchie and was used until the 1880s to transport coal. Shamefully the historic ship was abandoned at sea, May 13, 1884 off the coast of Pernambuco.
The war really was brother against brother and father against son. Slavery was already being phased out and that was going to end anyway. Wage slavery is cheaper, which is why it had already been phased out of many other nations. Free-markets increase autonomy. But Lincoln needed his revenue. He personally invested in the railroad business. He could not allow the division of the Union as they would lose 80% of their revenue. Apparently reversing the protective tariff instead of going to war was never an option. But when they started the war, they thought it was going to be a quick war over and done in months. Congressmen even came out to picnic at the Battle of Bull Run, the first major battle of the war. They were forced to flee with the retreating Northern Army. It wasn’t a quick war, but the deeper they got into it, the more they fell into the sunk-in-fallacy.
There was no point in murdering hundreds of thousands of people. Share Cropping replaced slavery after the 13th amendment and millions of whites and blacks tilled the land in slave conditions while expendable China-men were building the railroad from West to East and American Indians were murdered or driven away from all the land in between. After that, script pay was instituted which eventually morphed into off shore slavery and sweatshops. Wall Street and giant northern industry still enjoy government subsidies and exploitation of labor from illegal immigrants and off shore penny pay factories.
It was never about freedom or human rights and still isn’t. It is about money. It was then and unfortunately it still is now. The way slavery was ended, which became a tactic at the mid point of the war, resulted in hundreds of thousands of blacks starving or wasting away with disease. In the beginning of the war runaway slaves were returned to the owners. The North was enforcing the fugitive slave laws as they saw slaves as property. As they kept losing battles the North changed its mind. To undermine southern labor and thus the war effort, runaway slaves were considered “contraband” and many blacks were trapped in contraband camps where they either starved or were put back to work picking cotton (without pay) just as they had done before. As contraband they were still considered property.
The First Confiscation Act in August of 1861 stated “…any property of whatsoever kind or description, with intent to use or employ the same, or suffer the same to be used or employed, in aiding, abetting, or promoting such insurrection or resistance to the laws… is hereby declared to be lawful subject of prize and capture wherever found; and it shall be the duty of the President of the United States to cause the same to be seized, confiscated, and condemned.” Also remember all the Border States, Washington DC and New Jersey all still had slaves. When DC finally did set slaves free, their masters were paid and the slaves were also offered $100 each if they would leave the US.
As Lincoln had said himself, he didn’t like slavery but he also thought whites were superior and that blacks and whites should not be living together at all. If you think he was just telling different people what they wanted to hear to get elected, note that his name was not even on the ballot in southern states and Lincoln had ALREADY been elected and reelected when he continued until the week he died to discuss relocating black outside of the USA. Both he and Grant had devised plans to send blacks to Panama to dig a canal, and have them relocate there permanently. They went to war to preserve the Union, where one half is taxed to benefit the other half much like giant coastal cities are doing today.
Slavery did not end in the United States until Dec 6, 1865 with a passage of the 13th Amendment, something several northern states refused to ratify on the first attempt. Wow, why would one fight a war to end slavery then vote against or abstain from voting for the amendment to end slavery? The war was not about slavery. The last three states in the US to maintain black slavery were all in the North, KY, NJ, DE.
Asians and Native Americans still had no voting rights, in fact the same Union generals and commanders from the Civil War are who went west to destroy the Comanche and Lakota. Of course George Custer got his comeuppance in that affair. Racial justice did not rule the day in the 1860s and 1870s. This is a preposterous spin placed on the war by modern times. The Revolutionary War was fought between slave holding location and a non slave location, yet at no point does anyone claim that is why they were fighting. That war like the Civil War was fought primarily over taxation. The Civil War was fought by the Union side top preserve the Union. The rebels fought for independence but also because the North attacked the South and their land was being invaded. The USS Harriet Lane slid into Charleston Harbor firing its guns, and it has somehow slid out of the History books as Yankee aggression starting the war doesn’t fit the childish good vs. evil narrative that Hollywood and public education has created.