A Book With No Credibility — Chapter Two

In Chapter Two, Adams continues his misrepresentations and disinformation.

In talking about Lincoln’s consultation with his cabinet over Fort Sumter, Adams claims, “But the Treasury secretary, Salmon Chase, was cautiously for not abandoning the fort, as tax revenues were at stake, and it was his responsibility to protect the revenue.” [p 20]

Here is what Chase actually answered:

From Salmon P. Chase to Abraham Lincoln, March 16, 1861

Treasury Department

March 16, 1861.


The following question was submitted to my consideration by your note of yesterday:

“Assuming it to be possible to now provision Fort Sumter, under all the circumstances is it wise to attempt it?”

I have given to this question all the reflection which the engrossing duties of this Department has allowed.

A correct solution must depend, in my judgment, on the degree of possibility; on the combination of reinforcement with provisions; and on the probable effects of the measure upon the relations of the disaffected States to the National Government.

I shall assume, what the statements of the distinguished officers consulted seem to warrant, that the possibility of success amounts to a reasonable degree of probability; and, also, that the attempt to provision is to include an attempt to reinforce, for it seems to be generally agreed that provisioning without reinforcement, notwithstanding hostile resistance, will accomplish no substantially beneficial purpose.

The probable political effects of the measure allow room for much fair difference of opinion; and I have not reached my own conclusion without serious difficulty.

If the attempt will so inflame civil war as to involve  the an immediate necessity  of enlisting for the enlistment of armies and the expenditure of millions I cannot advise it, in the existing circumstances of the country and in the present condition of the National Finances.

But it seems to me highly improbable that the attempt, especially if accompanied or immediately followed by a Proclamation setting forth a liberal & generous yet firm policy towards the disaffected States, in harmony with the principles of the Inaugural Address, will produce such consequences; while it cannot be doubted that in maintaining a fort belonging to the United States and in supporting the officers and men engaged, in the regular course of service, in its defence, the Federal Government  exercises a clear right and, under all ordinary circumstances, performs a plain duty.

I return, therefore, an affirmative answer to the question submitted to me.

And have the honor to be,

With the highest respect

Your obt. servant

S: P: Chase

As you can see, there is nothing there about tax revenues.  That is something Adams fabricated.  He has no citation for this claim, of course, since how can he cite something he fabricated out of thin air?

Adams claims, “Taxes were foremost in Lincoln’s mind, as he said in his inaugural address.  He would collect the taxes.  Sumter may have had no military value, but for protecting and collecting revenue it had value beyond measure–if it could be maintained.” [p. 20]  Again, there is no citation for this falsehood.

Here is Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address.  Regarding revenue, he says:

“I therefore consider that in view of the Constitution and the laws the Union is unbroken, and to the extent of my ability, I shall take care, as the Constitution itself expressly enjoins upon me, that the laws of the Union be faithfully executed in all the States. Doing this I deem to be only a simple duty on my part, and I shall perform it so far as practicable unless my rightful masters, the American people, shall withhold the requisite means or in some authoritative manner direct the contrary. I trust this will not be regarded as a menace, but only as the declared purpose of the Union that it will constitutionally defend and maintain itself.

“In doing this there needs to be no bloodshed or violence, and there shall be none unless it be forced upon the national authority. The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the Government and to collect the duties and imposts; but beyond what may be necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere. Where hostility to the United States in any interior locality shall be so great and universal as to prevent competent resident citizens from holding the Federal offices, there will be no attempt to force obnoxious strangers among the people for that object. While the strict legal right may exist in the Government to enforce the exercise of these offices, the attempt to do so would be so irritating and so nearly impracticable withal that I deem it better to forego for the time the uses of such offices.

“The mails, unless repelled, will continue to be furnished in all parts of the Union. So far as possible the people everywhere shall have that sense of perfect security which is most favorable to calm thought and reflection. The course here indicated will be followed unless current events and experience shall show a modification or change to be proper, and in every case and exigency my best discretion will be exercised, according to circumstances actually existing and with a view and a hope of a peaceful solution of the national troubles and the restoration of fraternal sympathies and affections.”

What is foremost in Lincoln’s mind?  Taking care that the laws of the United States remain in force.  This includes the revenue laws, but it also includes maintaining the property of the United States.  In 1861 there were very few ways the national government affected individuals and states.  Collecting revenue in the ports was the most significant of these.  Another was the presence of government officials, including military officers, on government property.  It included delivering the mail.  But beyond those activities, there was little the national government did that attracted the notice in the lives of most people in the nation.

Citing Richard N. Current’s Lincoln and the First Shot, p. 69, Adams says, “Lincoln asked his attorney general if it would be legal to collect duties ‘on ship-board, off shore.’  It would be lawful, was the attorney general’s opinion.  Lincoln then asked the secretary of the navy to place its ships at the ‘disposal of the revenue Service,’ and the meeting adjourned.”  [p. 20]  As far as it goes, he’s right; however, typically he only tells a carefully excised part of the story.

Since he cited Current, let’s see what Current actually says:

“Viewed simply as a question of expediency–and quite apart from principle, that is, the presidential oath and the constitutional duty to enforce the laws–there seemed to be fewer arguments for trying to hold Sumter than for letting it go.  In favor of making the attempt there were only two:  First, it was a political necessity, for otherwise the die-hard Republicans would desert the administration, and the party would fall to pieces.  Second, it was a psychological necessity, for otherwise the Confederates would claim a victory, and this would invigorate their cause.

“On the other side could be listed several points:  To hold Sumter very long was hardly possible, in any event.  There was always the risk of a ‘bloody conflict.’  The Confederates would gain a ‘moral advantage’ from a successful attack.  Even without an attack, there was the humiliating possibility that the garrison, if not withdrawn, might have to surrender to keep from starving.  Forbearance would win over the border and the Upper South and, possibly, win back the seceded states.  Partisan advantage would be gained by confounding and embarrassing those Northern opponents who ‘have relied on the cry of ‘Coercion’ as a means of keeping up the excitement against the Republican Party.’  Anyhow, ‘the Fort in the present condition of affairs is of inconsiderable military value,’ and every strategic purpose which it could serve ‘would be better subserved by Ships of War, outside the Harbor.’

“This last suggestion, in one form or another, had come to Lincoln from various sources, including men who could claim to speak for the Upper South.  For instance, Seward’s friend John A. Gilmer, a Unionist congressman from North Carolina, had counseled that Lincoln ought to abandon Sumter (and the other disputed places) and content himself with collecting the customs due at Charleston (and elsewhere) on shipboard.  But this advice, like all advice that Lincoln got, was controverted.  A Virginia Unionist warned that South Carolina would ‘seize the slightest pretext for a collision’ and urged that Lincoln ‘refrain from any effort to reinforce the forts or to collect the revenue in the seceded States.’

“Still, a floating customs house off Charleston ought to be less provocative than an expedition with supplies for Sumter.  The one might be considered if the other had to be ruled out.  So Lincoln took up his pen and composed three notes.  The note to the Attorney General asked his opinion of the constitutionality and legality of collecting duties ‘on ship-board, off-shore’ and of preventing ‘the landing of dutiable goods, unless the duties were paid.’  The note to the Secretary of the Navy asked the amount of naval force that, immediately or later on, could be ‘placed at the disposal of the Revenue Service.’  And the note to the Secretary of the Treasury asked about the general advisability of the project.

“Again, Lincoln was to be frustrated.  The answers he was to receive were, on the whole, discouraging.”  [Richard N. Current, Lincoln and the First Shot, pp. 68-70]

As you can see, it was not what Adams would like us to think.  First of all, Lincoln didn’t ask the Secretary of the Navy to place ships at the disposal of the Revenue Service as Adams said.  He asked how many ships could be placed at the Revenue Service’s disposal.  This is an example of the shoddy work Adams does.  Secondly, this is obviously Lincoln searching for a way to deny the legality of secession, assert national supremacy, and avoid starting a war.  That Lincoln wasn’t worried about the tariff revenue for the sake of revenue is shown by the fact that the entire south collected only $4 million in revenue in 1860, compared to $231.3 million in revenue collected at the Port of New York alone.

Adams claims, “Fort Sumter wasn’t a starving garrison that needed foodstuffs.  The men at Fort Sumter may have needed provisions but not victuals.  This yarn made for good propaganda, which continued after the war in the accounts by Lincoln’s secretary, John Nicolay, as a noble reason for sending in ‘provisions only.’ ”  [p. 21]  I’ve previously covered the food situation at Fort Sumter.

Adams said, “There must have been something more than hurt pride and indignation to have the Northern money interests expend so much on the war, and to have Northern men sacrifice their lives.”  [p. 20]  Yes.  National survival as they saw it.  One can see that in the state resolutions I linked to in my previous post on this book.  One can see this in the May 6, 1861 editorial in the Cincinnati Daily Commercial Adams quoted on page 21.  The editorial can be seen here.  This part is clear:  “A surrender to Secession is the suicide of government. There is no one capable of putting two ideas together, but must admit the truth of this proposition. If we succumb to secession now—if we suffer these insurgents and usurpers to dictate to us the terms of a national dismemberment, our national government is gone—hopelessly, irretrievably gone. We shall never more have peace or public order at home—we shall never more lift our head among the nations of the earth. The great battle which is now joined, is to prove whether a Republic, founded on the will of the people, is capable of exerting power enough to enforce its laws and maintain its existence, or whether it contains within itself the seeds of its own destruction.”

Adams claims, “The forts were intimately tied up with the collection of taxes.  Control and fortify the forts in the great harbors in the South and you could cripple trade unless the South paid its duties.  Sumter was such a fort.”  [p. 22]  As support for this he quotes the Philadelphia Press in an editorial published January 15, 1861, in which it said, “In the enforcement of the revenue laws, the forts are of primary importance.”  What Adams doesn’t tell you here is why the Press thought the revenue laws needed to be enforced:  “It is the enforcement of the revenue laws, NOT the coercion of the State, that is the question of the hour.  If those laws cannot be enforced, the Union is clearly gone; if they can, it is safe.”  Fort Sumter, of course, was not built to collect revenue, as Adams falsely claims.  It was built to provide coastal defense of the United States.  In talking about the editorial, Adams writes, “Lincoln undoubtedly took note.”  [p. 22]  Really?  Why would Lincoln, in Springfield, take note of a Douglas newspaper in Philadelphia?

Adams writes, “the Chicago Daily Times, on 10 December 1860, saw the pending disaster Southern free ports would bring to Northern Commerce:

‘In one single blow our foreign commerce must be reduced to less than one-half what it now is. Our coastwise trade would pass into other hands.  One-half of our shipping would lie idle at our wharves. We should lose our trade with the South, with all of its immense profits.  Our manufactories would be in utter ruins. Let the South adopt the free-trade system, or that of a tariff for revenue, and these results would likely follow.’ ” [p. 23]

What Adams doesn’t tell you is that the Chicago Daily Times, a Democrat paper, in this editorial titled, “The Value of the Union,” was trying to convince people to apply pressure to end “agitation” over “the Negro question:”

“Let the people of the North reflect with terrible earnestness upon the countless wealth they are to throw away by doggedly persisting in meddling with the slavery of the South. Let them remember that it is this very slavery that has made the South tributary to the North, and built up the colossal greatness of our commerce and manufactures. Let them reflect upon the countless blessings they have received from the Union, and upon the incalculable losses they must sustain from its overthrow; and surely they must consider that the surrender of the negro question, which is to them a     mere sentiment at best, will be but a small tribute to pay for such inestimable blessings as we now enjoy. If we are lost to a sense of justice to our neighbors, and to all pride in our great country, let us at least be true to ourselves in dollars and cents. Let us count with earnestness the value of this Union, to us, to our posterity, and to the world, and then ask ourselves for WHAT we are forcing its dissolution!”

Adams again quotes the Douglas newspaper, the Philadelphia Press:  “The government cannot well avoid collecting the federal revenues at all Southern ports, even after the passage of secession ordinances; and if this duty is discharged, any State which assumes a rebellious attitude will still be obliged to contribute revenue to support the Federal Government or have her foreign commerce entirely destroyed.”  Adams adds, “the editors proposed an idea that was later adopted by Lincoln.”  [p. 24]

Here is the actual passage from the editorial:  “If, by secession, they do not mean anything more than the adoption of empty resolves and pronunciamientos—the passage of ordinances repealing their ratification of the Federal Constitution, the resignation of leading Federal office-holders, and the virtual abolition of the Federal courts, they will certainly do much to alarm and agitate the American people, and to bring discredit upon the nation; but they will still virtually be in the Union. The convenience of the present Post Office system is acknowledged even now in South Carolina. They are not prepared to furnish a sufficient substitute for it. The best plan they have yet devised is to form some sort of an amicable arrangement with the powers that be at Washington, by which the postmasters of the Palmetto State will perform their duties as usual, while they refuse to recognize in any way the authority of the Federal Government, and consider their own local rulers the only ones they are obliged to respect and obey! If Mr. BUCHANAN adheres to the programme laid down in his message and to the doctrines enunciated in the elaborate opinion prepared for him by the late Attorney General BLACK, he cannot well avoid collecting the Federal revenues at all Southern ports, even after the passage of secession ordinances; and if this duty is discharged, any State which assumes a rebellious attitude will still be obliged to contribute revenue to the support of the Federal Government or have her foreign entirely destroyed. There will be no necessity for a collision unless some of the American forts are attacked, or the collection of duties meets with resolute and determined opposition. In either of these events, the National Government of this country will still have full power to vindicate its authority and to enforce compliance and respect, if those who rule its councils shall deem it expedient to avail themselves of the ample resources at its command.”

As we can see, they are not talking about what Adams claims they are talking about.  They are talking about what if the secession ordinances are nothing but empty threats.  As it turns out, they were not empty threats.

Adams quotes an editorial from the March 12, 1861 New York Evening Post which says, “What, then, is left for our government? Shall we let the seceding states repeal the revenue laws for the whole Union in this manner? Or will the government choose to consider all foreign commerce destined for those ports where we have no custom-houses and no collectors, as contraband, and stop it, when offering to enter the collection districts from which our authorities have been expelled?”  He then claims, “The editor concludes that the president should call a special session of Congress to ‘abolish all ports of entry in the seceding states.’ (Within less than a week after Sumter, Lincoln ordered a blockade on his own, without any Congressional authorization.  The dictatorship of the presidency had begun and the checks and balances in the Constitutional scheme of government would be ignored.)”  [p. 25]  This, of course, is a lie.  First of all, the editor wrote, “Or will the President call a special session of Congress to do what the last unwisely failed to do—to abolish all ports of entry in the seceding states?”  I suppose Mr. Adams can claim that this question really is a statement of what the president ought to do framed as a question, but his claim that this is what led to the blockade over a month later is laughable.  So Lincoln is going to follow what the editor of the New York Evening Post wrote over a month earlier.  Riiiiiight.  More like it was the right military move at the time he did it, and he probably had no idea what that editor had written.  As to his ludicrous claim about a dictatorship and the checks and balances being ignored, the Supreme Court of the United States, in the Prize Cases, said Lincoln was well within his authority to order the blockade.  Checks and balances maintained and Adams is shown to be a liar.

Adams claims, “It was reported in the Cleveland Daily National Democrat on 20 November 1860, that the English cabinet had entered into a secret trade agreement with the South for free trade in which cotton would be exchanged for British goods, duty free for both parties.”  [p. 25]  Adams is shoddy once again.  Here’s what the editorial actually said:  “Anticipating a secession, it is said, the English Cabinet have already empowered their Consuls at Charleston and other Southern ports to enter into a Treaty which will allow the South to send their cotton free of duty to England, while English woolen and English cotton manufactured goods would be received free of duty into the cotton States of the South.”  Adams is jumping the gun a bit.  The paper is reporting a rumor that consuls have been authorized to enter into a treaty.  Adams claims they are reporting the treaty is already done.  Very careless, Mr. Adams.  He compounds his shoddiness:  “In short, a free and independent South would be an economic dagger ready to plunge into the heart of the nation.”  [p. 25]  Here’s what the editorial says:  “England would thus achieve the great object of her ambition, to have a monopoly of the raw cotton, and thus to strike a deadly blow at her great rival, the United States, and the result would be, that the cotton factories of the North—their best market cut off—the price of the raw cotton advanced, would be crippled if not entirely used up, and England have the monopoly of that great trade.”  So it’s not the independence of the south but rather England’s monopoly of trade that would hurt the cotton factories of the North.

Adams says, “Warmongers in the North raised their voices dramatically after the two opposing tariffs were adopted in early March.  What a difference a few weeks can make when taxes are in the forefront!  The newspapers and their hostile attitude no doubt caught the attention of the cabinet.  In less than two weeks after Lincoln first asked the cabinet if it was ‘wise’ to send in reinforcements, he once again met with the cabinet and confronted them with the desirability of reinforcing Sumter.  This time the majority favored this aggressive action, although it was likely to start a war.  Lincoln’s cabinet read the newspapers and got the message.  In the second cabinet meeting on Sumter the cabinet changed its tune and voted for war.”  [p. 25]  Adams is a liar again.  First of all he claims that the President’s cabinet takes orders from newspaper editors.  What kind of fools does he take us for?  If he truly believes this hogwash that he’s peddling, then he’s an idiot of massive proportions.  More likely, he’s a liar with nothing but contempt for the intellect of his readers.  Let’s remember some actual history.  The Morrill Tariff was signed into law by James Buchanan, so Lincoln’s cabinet wasn’t even in place at the time.  So if they were going to be influenced by the editorials as Adams contends, they would have voted to resupply Fort Sumter the first time.  Adams is such an incompetent he doesn’t realize the internal contradictions of his own lies.  As to how we got from the first vote to the last, I’ve gone over it here and here.  Far from being an aggressive action, it was a middle course.

Adams repeats the lie that, “Lincoln had given the South the option of taxes or war in his inaugural address.”  [p. 26]  He claimed, “the mere suggestion that the South could secede unmolested as long as it paid taxes to the U.S. government was a demand for tribute, which was an outrage.  Such a tax policy would never be tolerated.  War was a certainty.”  [p. 26]  As we know, Lincoln made no suggestion and Adams is once again a liar.

Adams says, “the high tariff in the North compelled the Southern states to pay tribute to the North, either in taxes to fatten Republican coffers or in the inflated prices that had to be paid for Northern goods.  Besides being unfair, this violated the uniformity command of the Constitution by having the South pay an undue proportion of the national revenue, which was expended more in the North than in the South.”  [pp. 26-27]  Do we think Adams cites trade statistics compiled from actual tariff records?  No.  He cites Jabez L. M. Curry, a fire-eating secessionist propagandist.

Adams isn’t going to tell you the full story of what Curry said in his speech, “The Perils and Duty of the South,” which Adams used as his source.  Contrary to what Adams has told us previously, Curry very clearly identifies protection of slavery as the reason for secession:  “The party which has the supremacy is not only sectional and geographical, but it is based upon opinions which will subvert, if unresisted, the foundations of the social structure of the fifteen southern States. Its fundamental idea is hostility to the South and her peculiar property, and it arrays the eighteen northern against the fifteen southern States of the confederacy. The recent election has consolidated and made permanent a political revolution, which has for several years been in process of establishment. Sectional and hostile candidates, by the popular voice of a sectional majority, have been elected President and Vice-President. Abolitionism has triumphed.” and “The vox populi which created and must uphold Lincoln’s administration will still have the mastery, and require obedience, and compel the support of northern interests, the development of northern ideas, the security of northern power, and the destruction of African slavery. The institution of slavery is put under the ban, proscribed, and outlawed. Southern States and citizens of those States, because of the possession of slave property, are stigmatized and pilloried and reduced to inferiority.”  Curry gave the information Adams quotes not as a reason for secessionist displeasure but rather as a reason for the secessionists to look forward with glee to being independent, because according to Curry, “The South has more elements of strength and wealth, more ability to sustain herself as a separate government than any country of equal size in the world.”  Contra Adams, let’s look at some credible information about the tariff here.  Instead of the south paying an undue proportion of the national revenue, they paid in reality a small part of it.

Adams once again shows his complete lack of integrity as well as a complete lack of credibility.


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