In Chapter Five, Adams makes claims about how the British Press viewed the Civil War. He continues to make his ridiculously wrong claims, such as “Northern apologists to this day have been unable to justify the war on the grounds that the North had the right to force the South to remain in a political union they abhorred.” [p. 72]
He paints a picture to suggest the entirety of British press opinion was against the US position in the war. Such is quite obviously not the case.
Indicative of his lack of integrity and character, Adams completely mischaracterizes the reporting in Macmillan’s Magazine, and he just lies about other things.
He claims, “Another special correspondent from Macmillan’s Magazine, a British monthly, was sent by his editors to America to answer the question that puzzled so many English readers–‘What on earth is the North fighting for?’–indicating a sense of bewilderment, which was common throughout Europe.
“To most Europeans, Lincoln had a serious morality problem when he rejected all offers and attempts at settlement and compromise. Even American newspapers focused on that idea as a solution to the conflict. The gist of the condemnation of Lincoln was that it was immoral and even illegal–against the law of nations–for a Christian nation to go to war except to defend itself. It was obvious that the South was defending itself, not the North, so, what was the North really fighting for? Some of the Northern ambassadors tried to make slavery the issue–the North was fighting to end slavery. But upon careful analysis that just didn’t hold water. Neither did it hold water as an explanation for the secession by the South, despite the flood of verbiage from Southern leaders and writers that this was the cause of secession–that slavery was in danger if they remained in the Union. It wasn’t.
“Thus the slave issue shows up on both sides, and in both instances the arguments don’t stand up after scrutiny. The inquiry by the special correspondent for Macmillan’s Magazine, could be paraphrased as: Why on earth did the south withdraw from the Union? Slavery is a bad answer to both questions, and the more objective investigating reporters in Europe saw through the façade.” [p. 73]
I’ll leave the comments on Macmillan’s Magazine until a bit later, but Lincoln was willing to compromise on anything and everything with two exceptions: Union and expansion of slavery. Those were also two issues the confederates would never compromise on. And the United States most certainly was defending itself. It was defending itself from internal destruction. And Adams cynically accuses the secessionists of lying about why they were seceding, as if he knows better than they did why they were doing something. Of course he has to lie about this, because what they said so dramatically contradicts what he would like us to believe.
Adams shows his absolute incompetence as a scholar when he writes, “Lincoln’s inaugural didn’t even mention prohibiting slavery in the new territories as a purpose of his administration.” [p. 75]
First of all, let’s look at the Republican Platform of 1860:
“7. That the new dogma, that the Constitution, of its own force, carries Slavery into any or all of the Territories of the United States, is a dangerous political heresy, at variance with the explicit provisions of that instrument itself, with contemporaneous exposition, and with legislative and judicial precedent; is revolutionary in its tendency, and subversive of the peace and harmony of the country.
“8. That the normal condition of all the territory of the United States is that of freedom; That as our Republican fathers, when they had abolished Slavery in all our national territory, ordained that “no person should be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law,” it becomes our duty, by legislation, whenever such legislation is necessary, to maintain this provision of the Constitution against all attempts to violate it; and we deny the authority of Congress, of a territorial legislature, or of any individuals, to give legal existence to Slavery in any Territory of the United States.”
Secondly, let’s take a look at Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address:
” But no organic law can ever be framed with a provision specifically applicable to every question which may occur in practical administration. No foresight can anticipate nor any document of reasonable length contain express provisions for all possible questions. Shall fugitives from labor be surrendered by national or by State authority? The Constitution does not expressly say. May Congress prohibit slavery in the Territories? The Constitution does not expressly say. Must Congress protect slavery in the Territories? The Constitution does not expressly say.”
“One section of our country believes slavery is right and ought to be extended, while the other believes it is wrong and ought not to be extended. This is the only substantial dispute.”
Thirdly, Lincoln very openly spoke throughout the 1850s and in 1860 about the need to cut off slavery’s expansion into the territories. HIs speeches were well publicized. In no way did he ever back off that position at any time.
Adams continues, “Our correspondent from Macmillan’s Magazine did a thorough job of investigating the war while in America. He wrote that he talked with hundreds of people in the North, from all walks of life, and he was convinced that slavery had nothing to do with Northern motives or purposes. This was in 1861. He summarized the answers he had been given with these words: ‘We do not claim to be carrying on a war of emancipation. We are not fighting for the blacks, but for the whites. … The object of the war is to preserve the Union. … [It even had nothing to do with the Constitution.] It was for clear matter-of-fact interests.’
“When the correspondent tried to pin down these so-called ‘matter-of-fact interest,’ the answers did not show a moral or legal justification for a war of aggression with the carnage that was taking place; a war waged, in the words of this correspondent, ‘with a ferocity which must have been learned not from Europeans, but from Red Indian precedents.’ High noble principles were not involved, as they rarely are in warfare. What was involved was usually commerce and trade, money, and empire building. He came to the conclusion, as did so many other foreign correspondents, that the preserving of the American empire was what was at stake, with all the economic ramifications that means. The British empire was a pride to all Britons, and no doubt an American empire was equally a matter of pride to all Northerners, wrote this English correspondent.
“The correspondent’s notion of an empire motive was further strengthened when he visited with the aging commanding general of all Northern armies, General Winfield Scott, hero of the Mexican War (1846-1847). The general answered him with a question, ‘The British empire was worth fighting for, wasn’t it?’ The Englishman understood.” [pp. 76-77]
Adams gives you a false impression of what was written in Macmillan’s Magazine.
The article in question begins on page 408. This is more proof that Adams is nothing but a liar without a stitch of integrity or credibility. The “correspondent” is Edward Dicey. Adams’ incompetence kept him from knowing that. The article was published in the September, 1862 edition of Macmillan’s Magazine. This article is the capstone of a series of articles on his trip to the United States. He talks first about what he saw and juxtaposes that with what he is told by people in Britain who didn’t set foot in the US: “I saw a country rich, prosperous, and powerful, and am told that I have just returned from a ruined, bankrupt, and wretched land. I saw a people eager for war, full of hope, and confident of success, and am told, that this same people has no heart in the matter, and longs for foreign interference to secure peace at any price. I saw great principles at stake, great questions at issue, and learn that in this struggle there is no principle involved. These are matters of opinion, in which I may be mistaken; but so much I do know for a fact, that I saw vast armies composed of as fine regiments as the old world could show–not Irish, nor Germans, but native-born Americans; that I came across the track of great battles, and saw, only by too palpable an evidence, how bloody and how hard-fought had been the contest; that I knew too, myself, of hundreds and thousands who had left home and family and business, to risk their lives for the cause that was dear to them. And then, I am still informed that I must be mistaken, because it is notorious that the Americans will not fight at all, that their soldiers are hired mercenaries, and that such qualities as courage and love of country do not exist in America.” [Edward Dicey, “The Outlook of the War,” Macmillan’s Magazine, Volume 6, September, 1862, p. 409]
Dicey tells us, “What on earth is the North fighting for? is a question which I have often had asked me here. If you were to put it to an American, he would doubt your asking it seriously; the answer seems to him so very simple and obvious. The Americans are not a reflective people; they look at facts much more than at theories, and, like ourselves, act rather from general convictions, than on any logical system of reasoning. Their answer, therefore, to such a question is often indistinct and illogical enough. But having talked with scores of Northern men of all States and all classes on the subject, I should say that the general chain of argument, which forms the basis of the different answers you receive, is easy to explain and understand. In considering it, it should be borne in mind, that the merits or demerits of the Northern cause are entirely independent of the issue of the war.” [Ibid., pp. 409-410]
He gets further into motives: “Before the war commenced, the North had no doubt, whether right or wrong, that it possessed the power to suppress the insurrection by armed force. The present question, therefore, is, not whether the North was wise in going to war, but whether her motives were sufficient to justify her in so doing? I am not going to enter upon the questions, whether war is ever justifiable except in self-defence, or whether any nation is ever at liberty morally to coerce another against its will. The arguments against aggression and coercion are very strong ones, but they are not ones which an Englishman can use, and I wish to speak of this question from an English point of view.
“The answer then would be much after this fashion:–‘We will put the slavery question aside. On that point we are divided among ourselves. We do not claim to be carrying on a war of emancipation; we are not fighting for the blacks, but for the whites. Emancipation may come, probably will come, as one result of our war; but the object of the war is to preserve the Union. We allowed perfect freedom to the Southern States, freedom as full and as untrammeled as we enjoyed ourselves. Not only did we not interfere with their peculiar institution, but we granted them every facility they claimed for its maintenance. We permitted the South to have more than its full share of power, to fill up the Government with Southern men. There was one thing only we objected to, and that was to having slavery forced upon the Free States of the North. We objected to this legally and constitutionally, and by legal and constitutional measures we expressed the will of the nation. Our whole Government, like all free governments, rests upon the principle that the will of the majority must decide. The South revolted at once because it was defeated by the vote of the majority. If we had acquiesced in that revolt the vital principle of our Government was overthrown. Any minority whatever, either in the Union or in the separate States, which happened to be dissatisfied with the decision of the majority, might have followed the example of the South, and our Government would have fallen to pieces, like an arch without a keystone. The one principle of power in a democracy is the submission of the minority to the will of the people; and, in fighting against the South, we are fighting for the vital principle of our Government. You call a man a coward who will let himself be robbed of all that makes life valuable without making an effort to resist; and what would you have called a nation that submitted placidly to its own dismemberment?” [Ibid., p. 410]
As we see, Adams completely lied about what Dicey wrote.
Dicey continues, ” ‘We are fighting too’–so the Northerners would urge–‘not only for abstract constitutional principles, but for clear matter-of-fact interest. Our Government was at any rate a very good one in our own eyes. As a people we had prospered under it. We had enjoyed more of freedom, order, and happiness beneath the Union than, we believe, any people had every enjoyed before. From the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Maine to the Gulf of Mexico, we were one people, dwelling under one government, speaking one language, without custom-houses or passports or frontier lines to separate us, without the fear of invasion and war, without the need for standing armies and camps and fortified cities, free to carry on unmolested to our great mission of reclaiming the vast wilderness. We are asked to abandon all this, and you wonder that we refuse to do so without striking a blow in defense of our rights. It is not only our present, but our future that is at stake.’ ” [Ibid.]
Once again, the truth of what Dicey wrote is completely different from what Adams would have us believe.
Continuing on the answers he received, Dicey wrote, “Even if a peaceable and durable separation had been possible, and if the terms of compromise could have been devised, where was the process of disunion to end? If once the South goes the Union is dissolved; the Western States would inevitably part company before long with the Sea-board States; California would assert its independence; the Border States would fall away from the Central States; and the Union, the great work of our forefathers, would give place to a system of rival republics, with mutual enmities, antagonistic policies, foreign alliances, and intestine wars. We have seen the whole of Europe applauding Italy for endeavouring to become one people under one government; and are we to be blamed because we decline being reduced into the same political condition as Italy was in before the revolution?” [Ibid., p. 411]
Adams made something of Dicey’s conversation with Winfield Scott. Here’s what Dicey actually wrote: “It happened that, early in this war, I had the pleasure of being introduced to General Scott. With that frank cordiality of manner which gives a charm to the conversation of well-bred Americans at home, he began talking to me about England, expressing his keen desire to see our country again after an absence of forty years; and he would up by saying, ‘England, sir, is a noble country; a country worth fighting for.’ What the old hero said of England, I think any candid Englishman, who knew the country, would say of America. The North has a cause worth fighting for; and, successful or unsuccessful, it will be better for the North, better also for the world at large, that a great cause has been fought for gallantly.” [Ibid.]
Once again, Adams lied about what Dicey actually wrote.
In discussing the confederates, Dicey wrote, “I suppose, too, the most ardent of revolutionists must admit that every revolution should be justified by some act of oppression; and the most eager of Secessionists would be puzzled to find any one act of oppression, which the South had endured at the hands of the North, before secession, with that one single exception, which Southern partisans always keep in the back-ground, that the North objected to the extension of slavery. … Still, to my mind, the right of every nation, wisely or unwisely, to choose its own government, is so important a principle, that I should admit its application to the case of the South, if it were not for the question of slavery, of which I would speak next.” [Ibid., p. 412]
So even he could see what secession was all about, unlike what Adams would like us to believe.
Dicey says, “What I wish to point out then is, that the issue of slavery is really involved in the present struggle. The other day, on the return of the ‘Comte de Paris,’ he said to an informant of mine, ‘The thing that surprises me most in England is to be told, that slavery has nothing to do with the American war. Why, from the day I set foot in America to the day I left it, I never heard of anything except the question of slavery.’ Every American traveler must confirm this opinion. During my whole stay in the United States, I never took up a newspaper–and heaven only knows how many I did take up daily–without seeing the slave question discussed in some form or other. If the war had done no other good, it would have effected this much, that the case of the slave has been forced upon the conscience of the North, and that the criminal apathy which acquiesced tamely in the existence of an admitted evil, has received its death-blow. More than this, however, the one casus belli has been, throughout, the question of the extension of slavery. Stories about tariff grievances, about aristocratic incompatibility to put up with democratic institutions, about differences of race and political government, are mere inventions to suit an European public, which their authors must have laughed inwardly to see swallowed so willingly. It was my fortune to see a good deal of Southern men and newspapers in the States, and the one cause of complaint against the North was always and alone the slave-question. If slavery were not the cause of Secession, it is impossible to explain the limits of the Secessionist movement. … Every Free State, without one exception, is loyal to the Union. Every Slave State, with the single exception of Delaware, where slavery is minimal, has been disloyal. The inference is obvious, and, to my mind, undeniable. Now the Southern leaders have shown too much acuteness to make it probably that they risked everything to avoid an imaginary danger. They seceded from the Union, solely and avowedly because slavery was in danger from the North, and it is more probably that they knew the real state of affairs, than their enthusiastic partisans on this side of the water, who assert that slavery had nothing to do with Secession.” [Ibid., pp. 412-413]
That doesn’t sound a bit like what Adams would have us believe, does it?
Dicey in fact was a very perceptive observer: “The North is fighting against, the South is fighting for, the power of extending slavery across the American continent; and, if this was all that could be said, it is clear on which side must be the sympathies of any one, who really and honestly believes that slavery is an evil and a sin.
“But this is not all that can be said. The present war is working directly for the overthrow of slavery where it exists already. If you look at facts, not at words, you will see, that the progress of the anti-slavery movement has been more rapid since the war burst out than it has been in the last half-century. Slavery is abolished once for all in the district of Columbia, and no senator can come henceforth to Washington, bringing his slaves with him. With a free territory in their heart, slavery becomes ultimately impossible in Maryland, as well as in Virginia. For the first time in American history, a distinct national proposal has been made to emancipate the slaves.” [Ibid., p. 413] Dicey sees that the inevitable outcome of this war, with a victory of the United States, is the death of slavery. Again, remember this was published in the September, 1862 issue, before the Emancipation Proclamation. Dicey concludes, “This, then, is the upshot of the conclusions I have formed during my journeying through the Federal States–that, in the interest of humanity, in the interest of the negro, in the interest of America, and in the interest of England, the success of the North is the thing we ought to hope and wish for.” [Ibid., p. 420]
Adams quotes Karl Marx [out of context]: ” ‘The war between the North and the South is a tariff war. The war is further, not for any principle, does not touch the question of slavery, and in fact turns on the Northern lust for sovereignty.’ Karl Marx summarized what the major British newspapers were saying–the Times, the Economist, and the Saturday Review were all strong on the tariff interpretation of the conflict.” [p. 79]
What Adams doesn’t want us to know is that Marx, like Edward Dicey, completely destroyed that viewpoint. Adams would have you believe Marx agreed with those newspaper accounts, and that there could be no argument with them. That’s because he lacks character and integrity. Marx tells us, “It is characteristic of this discovery that it was made, not in Charleston, but in London.” He writes, “It is above all to be remembered that the war did not originate with the North, but with the South. The North finds itself on the defensive. For months it had quietly looked on while the secessionists appropriated the Union’s forts, arsenals, shipyards, customs houses, pay offices, ships and supplies of arms, insulted its flag and took prisoner bodies of its troops. Finally the secessionists resolved to force the Union government out of its passive attitude by a blatant act of war, and solely for this reason proceeded to the bombardment of Fort Sumter near Charleston.” In that article, Marx wrote, “The whole movement was and is based, as one sees, on the slave question. Not in the sense of whether the slaves within the existing slave states should be emancipated outright or not, but whether the twenty million free men of the North should submit any longer to an oligarchy of three hundred thousand slaveholders; whether the vast Territories of the republic should be nurseries for free states or for slavery; finally, whether the national policy of the Union should take armed spreading of slavery in Mexico, Central and South America as its device.”
Adams carefully cherry-picks writings, fabricates claims [nowhere, for example, does Dicey say, as Adams said he said, that the war was waged ” ‘with a ferocity which must have been learned not from ‘Europeans, but from Red Indian precedents.’ “] to create the impression he wants us to have. It’s a false impression made up of lies and half-truths.