A Book With No Credibility–Chapter Eleven

In this chapter, Adams purports to discuss the Copperheads.  He starts off by putting his ignorance and dishonesty on display again.  He writes, “No doubt the thrill of adventure and the romanticizing of war enticed young men to enlist, go to war, and go to an early grave.  But what blinded Civil War-era young men to the horrors of the battlefield?  Southerners had a cause–independence and repelling an invading foreign army–a just cause like the American Revolution.  But Northerners had no correspondingly noble cause.  Preserving the Union can be translated into conquering the South and imposing Northern will on the Southern people.  Hardly a rallying cause to die for.”  [p. 168]  Adams deliberately leaves out some important information in an effort to dishonestly deceive his readers.  Did some confederates see defending homes as a reason for enlisting?  Sure.  There were a number of motivations for individual confederates to sign up.  Among these were patriotism for their state, a desire for adventure, a conviction that it was their duty, a desire not to be shamed by being the only or one of the few young men who didn’t sign up, and even a religious conviction they were fighting a war for God.  But, as James McPherson tells us in his book, For Cause and Comrades, they all understood that one of the “southern rights” they were fighting for was the right to have slaves.  McPherson writes, “Only 20 percent of the sample of 429 Southern soldiers explicitly voiced proslavery convictions in their letters or diaries.  As one might expect, a much higher percentage of soldiers from slaveholding families than from nonslaveholding families expressed such a purpose:  33 percent, compared with 12 percent.  Ironically, the proportion of Union soldiers who wrote about the slavery question was greater. … There is a ready explanation for this apparent paradox.  Emancipation was a salient issue for Union soldiers because it was controversial.  Slavery was less salient for most Confederate soldiers because it was not controversial.  They took slavery for granted as one of the Southern ‘rights’ and institutions for which they fought, and did not feel compelled to discuss it.  Although only 20 percent of the soldiers avowed explicit proslavery purposes in their letters and diaries, none at all dissented from that view.  But even those who owned slaves and fought consciously to defend the institution preferred to discourse upon liberty, rights, and the horrors of subjugation.”  [James M. McPherson, For Cause and Comrades:  Why Men Fought in the Civil War, p. 110]  As to Federal soldiers, the Union was looked on with great reverence.  Adams just lies when he says it was merely imposing will on the secessionists.  He lies when he says the Federals did not have a noble cause.  The Union meant their safety and security.  The Union meant their freedom.  They got this from the Founding Fathers themselves.  Look at the Federalist Papers and see how the first papers made the argument that preserving the Union was essential to the safety of the nation and the liberty of its people.  George Washington impressed upon the nation the necessity of preserving the Union:  “The unity of Government, which constitutes you one people, is also now dear to you. It is justly so; for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very Liberty, which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee, that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed, to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment, that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national Union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the Palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion, that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.”  [George Washington, “Farewell Address,” 17 Sep 1796]

Adams writes that during the Civil War “there were no constitutional rights–no trial by a jury of your peers, no right to due process in even its most basic fundamentals.  It was America’s reign of terror, without the guillotine.  In France there was the Revolutionary Tribunal administering brutal judgments; in America there were the generals and the military court-martials condemning many to death, and many thousands, perhaps 14,000, to prisons for as long as the generals thought necessary.  Lincoln as the commander in chief had the power to prevent all this, and on occasion he would free someone whose innocence was unquestionable.  But for the ‘crime’ of voicing disapproval of his war and his war policies, Lincoln stood by his generals.”  [p. 169]  Adams is lying again.  He would have us believe absolutely no one in the loyal states ever was tried by a jury.  He would have us believe that people were terrified to speak out against the government.  He would have us believe no one had any constitutional rights.  That’s absolute hogwash.

That there were prisoners who were arrested and not given a trial is true.  That some were tried by military commission is true as well.  But there were also people who were tried by jury.  Most opposition newspapers excoriated the government with impunity.  In writing of military arrests controlled by Secretary of State Seward, Mark Neely says, “Most arrests had little or nothing to do with the issue of dissent or free speech, as the large numbers of Confederate citizens and blockade-runners among the prisoners suggest.  Arrests often dealt with genuinely complicated problems and most netted prisoners whose liberties most Northerners could not have cared less about–be they Democrats or Republicans.”  [Mark E. Neely, Jr., The Fate of Liberty:  Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties, p. 28]  He tells us, “Of the 1,561 cases in the Record of Prisoners of State where a charge is noted, at least 74 can be classified as fraud cases.  Forging discharge papers, selling passes, financial fraud committed while employed in an army or government bureau, buying or selling government property, posing as a government detective in order to accomplish fraud or theft, stealing wood from government piles or reserves, and taking bribes to exempt men from enrollment for conscription were among the charges noted.  In addition, some people were held as witnesses in fraud cases or as likely accomplices, like the civilian clerks of defaulting army paymasters.”  [Ibid., p. 104]  Many of those arrested were deserters, draft, dodgers, blockade runners, spies, saboteurs, and the like.  “Of the 154 arrests in the North of known charge in the microfilmed Turner-Baker Papers, few involved questions of freedom of speech, press or assembly.  Most prisoners were rather ordinary characters arrested on suspicion of contraband-trading, desertion, or draft-dodging.”  [Ibid., p. 131]

Adams claims, “The most famous and notorious of the Copperheads was Clement Vallandigham, whose story became the subject of a book and a motion picture, The Man Without a Country.”  [p. 172]  Anyone who’s read the short story [it’s not a book] or has seen the movie based on the short story knows that Vallandigham’s story is not the subject of either the short story or the movie.

Adams discusses Vallandigham’s arrest and claims, “The Republican administration in Washington seems to have played a behind-the-scenes role in the Vallandigham affair.  Lincoln had put Secretary of State Seward in charge of Internal Security, the nineteenth-century equivalent of secret police.  Seward bragged about his ability to lock up people at his whim, shut down newspapers, and silence an outspoken antiwar Democratic candidate for the governorship.”  [p. 174]

Adams lies again.  In the first place, there was no secret police.  Secondly, the story about Seward bragging about being able to arrest people is apocryphal.  “There is no trace of the remark in the detailed reports of Lyons to the British foreign minister, and at a dinner party in early 1864 Lyons told an interlocutor that he remembered no such conversation.  The quote first appeared in anti-administration newspapers in 1863, and it has been repeated regularly since then.”  [Walter Stahr, Seward:  Lincoln’s Indispensable Man, p. 338]  And the claim was made that he said it in 1861, not in 1863, so it had nothing to do with Vallandigham.  The reference to Ohio was simply a reference to a state that was far from Washington, DC.  Adams is so incompetent he can’t even get the lie correct.

Adams writes, “No honest court could possibly have convicted Vallandigham of anything whatsoever.  So his arrest by Seward’s henchmen, and being tried by a select group of military officers for the crime of ‘sympathy with the enemy,’ was an outrage.  Under Lincoln’s signature, he was banished from the United States, not unlike the Soviet Union banishing Solzehnitsyn for criticizing the policies of that government.”  [p. 174]  Seward is again an incompetent liar.  Seward only oversaw internal security until February 15, 1862.  Vallandigham was only arrested by order of Ambrose Burnside, not by anyone in the administration.  Lincoln, in fact, commuted Vallandigham’s sentence.  He had Vallandigham released from jail and then sent to the confederates.  Adams doesn’t want you to know that Lincoln let Vallandigham out of jail.  Adams tries to make people think Vallandigham was arrested on Lincoln’s order through Seward, but as we’ve seen, it’s just another in his long line of lies.



  1. A couple of points from my dim recollection of reading the Classic Comics verion of Man Without a Country: Wasn’t the story prompted by the Vallandigham case? I know it was set in Burr’s day, but it was published the same year as the Congressman’s arrest.

    Also, while I accept Neely’s view on the suppression of dissent, there was certainly a widespread perception in 1863 that the creation of the Provost Marshall’s office carried with it the germs of a Federal police for sniffing out dissidents. How many Tea Party members would Obama have to arrest before people from that movement felt their liberties were at risk?

    I would also disagree with the statement that “Lincoln, in fact, commuted Vallandigham’s sentence. He had Vallandigham released from jail and then sent to the confederates.” Lincoln’s expulsion was hardly a “release from jail” any more than the deportation of a detained immigrant is a “release from jail.” Frankly, it is difficult to understand what Lincoln did from a legal perspective.

    1. Hi, Pat. The short story was a pro-Union story designed to buck up support for the Union war effort. Many said it was inspired by Vallandigham, but I would have to see if we can compare when it was written to when Vallandigham was sent to the confederacy. I suspect we would find they don’t line up, but I could be wrong. The stories aren’t really similar in any way at all, especially since Vallandigham was allowed to return and was basically ignored after his return. While the Copperheads may have had some claims about the PM office, in reality it wasn’t a secret police. And Vallandigham’s sentence was to be imprisoned for the entire war. Lincoln commuted that to time served and then sent him to the confederacy. Since the official United States position was that the confederacy was still a part of the United States, it wasn’t a deportation or an exile. Lincoln released him and sent him to another state.

  2. I would suggest that Democrats generally, and not just “Copperheads”, were concerned about the PM. I would also note that Vallandigham’s arrest was based on testimony of Union officers attending his speech who were out of uniform.

    1. I would assume the War Democrats weren’t all that concerned about the PM.

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