A Book With No Credibility — Chapter Thirteen

Just when  you thought Adams couldn’t get more inane, we get to this chapter in which he purports to criticize Lincoln’s logic.

Adams “considers” the Gettysburg Address.

He first discusses the beginning of the speech, in which Lincoln says, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth  on this continent, a new nation … ”

Adams writes, “By simple arithmetic that would be 1776, when the Revolutionary War started and the Declaration of Independence was signed.  That declaration was written with ‘decent respect for the opinions of mankind,’ to explain the reasons for the separation of the thirteen colonies from Great Britain.  It contained no endowment of governmental power and created no government.”  [pp. 193-194]  Adams apparently doesn’t understand what the words, “Declaration of Independence” mean.  He must not have read this part:  “We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”  We have to also understand a little bit of 18th Century English.  A nation that was a collection of states was referred to in the plural because grammatically it was a collective noun, and in English grammar usage collective nouns were referred to in the plural.  Eventually American English evolved away from that usage and in American English collective nouns are today referred to in the singular.  So to fully understand this document you have to read it in the language in which it was written, 18th Century English.  So in this document our Founding Fathers did indeed establish a new nation.  It was governed by the Second Continental Congress.  Adams’ history is as poor as ever.  Oh, and by the way, the Revolutionary War didn’t start in 1776.  Lexington and Concord were in 1775.

Adams continues, “The federal compact among the former thirteen colonies, the new ‘sovereign states,’ as expressed in the Articles of Confederation in 1781, was not a nation as that term was then and is normally used.  That was recently explained by Carl N. Degler, professor of American history at Stanford University, in a memorial lecture given at Gettysburg College in 1990:  ‘The Civil War, in short, was not a struggle to save a failed union, but to create a nation that until then had not come into being.’ ” [pp. 194-195]

As usual, Adams succeeds only in proving he is unreliable and incompetent as a scholar of any type.  He completely misrepresents what Degler was saying.  Degler made the claim that the Union wasn’t a nation but rather a vehicle to move toward nationhood, that a nation was united in purpose, that the secession of the confederate states showed the United States was not yet a nation, and that it was the result of the Civil War that established a nation in the United States.  This is a minority opinion among scholars.  It also runs afoul of the Supreme Court, who ruled in McCullough v. Maryland, Fletcher v. Peck, Gibbons v. Ogden, and in Cohens v. Virginia that the United States was a nation.

Adams writes, “Some years ago, while I was living in a British colony, we Americans got together on the Fourth of July for a barbecue and one of my older English friends asked me what the celebration was all about.  I took the bait and told him it was to celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  He replied, ‘Wasn’t that document kind of a farce?  All that verbiage about equality of all men and liberty when over a million black people were in bondage for life, and their children and children’s children?’  Of course I had no answer.”  [pp. 195-196]  Of course Adams had no answer, because he doesn’t know enough about his own country’s history and doesn’t have the intellectual ability to analyze the Declaration of Independence.

That phrase in the Declaration was a promise that men would be treated equally under the law.  Jefferson was talking about free men, not just white men.  Lincoln’s vision was to end slavery and thus bring to all men in the United States the promise of the Declaration of being equal before the law.

Adams next talks about Lincoln’s statement, “Now we are engaged in a great civil war … ” except that in his incompetence he doesn’t know what the actual wording is.  He calls it, “Today we are engaged in a great civil war.”  Adams shows more ignorance in writing, “Actually, it wasn’t a civil war as that term was then, and is now, defined.  A civil war is a war that breaks out in a nation between opposing groups for control of the state.”  [p. 196]  Webster’s Dictionary defines a “civil war” as “a war between groups of people of the same country.”  Adams again has no credibility.

Adams lets his racism and historical dishonesty out for a stroll again:  “It was, if you get down to the nuts and bolts of it, a war of conquest by the North to destroy the Confederacy and to establish a new political leadership over the conquered territories.  Illiterate slaves were given the vote, and the rest of the Southern society, the ruling groups, were not permitted to vote.  The poor, illiterate blacks were then told by Northern occupation forces to vote as directed, and they did so, infuriating the conquered people and creating a zeal for white supremacy that is only in our time losing its grip on Southern society.”  [p. 196]  We’ve already considered this garbage in our discussion of Chapter Twelve.

Adams next looks at the phrase, “testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and dedicated, can long endure.”  He says, “That comment seems to presuppose that the South was out to conquer the Northern federation.”  [p. 197]  This is again Adams’ incompetence.  It recognizes, as Thomas Jefferson recognized, that if a state could simply break up the Union because it didn’t like the results of an election, no representative government can possibly exist and last.  That Adams doesn’t understand this simple fact shows he can never be relied on as an authority for anything.  It underpins the rest of his commentary on the Gettysburg Address.

Adams favorably quote H. L. Mencken, who wrote, “The Union soldiers in the battle [of Gettysburg] actually fought against self-determination; it was the Confederates who fought for the right of their people to govern themselves.”  [p. 199]  To Mencken and Adams, only white folks matter.  The confederates were fighting to continue to deny self-determination for 40% of their population, and neither Mencken nor Adams cares.  In addition, they both don’t know what they’re talking about.  “Slaveholding aristocrats who established the Confederacy, believed untold unionists, posed a direct threat not only to the long-term success of the American republic but also to the broader future of democracy.  Should armies of citizen-soldiers fail to restore the Union, forces of privilege on both sides of the Atlantic could pronounce ordinary people incapable of self-government and render irrelevant the military sacrifices and political genius of the Revolutionary fathers.”  [Gary W. Gallagher, The Union War, p. 2]

Adams claims Clement Vallandigham “was a candidate for governor, giving a political speech at a Democratic rally.”  [p. 200]  As usual, Adams shows incompetence.  Vallandigham wasn’t a candidate for governor until after Lincoln released him from jail.

He repeats some of his previous lies with which we’ve already dealt, such as his previous false claims about Fort Sumter.

Adams claims that, “The horrors of Andersonville, that most notorious of Southern prisons for Union soldiers, can be blamed on Grant and Lincoln when they refused to send medicines and to exchange prisoners.”  [p. 209]

The blame for ending the exchanges properly belongs to the confederates who cheated on the exchange system by putting paroled men back into battle before they had been properly exchanged and, more egregiously, refusing to treat captured black Union soldiers as proper POWs eligible for exchange.

Washington City,
December 5, 1863.
A general summary of the military operations of the past year is furnished by the report of the General-in-Chief, herewith submitted. In the operations that have been alluded to, prisoners of war to the number of about 13,000 have fallen into the hands of the enemy and are now held by them. From the commencement of the rebellion until the War Department came into my charge there was no cartel or formal exchange of prisoners; but at an early period afterward a just and reasonable cartel was made between Major-General Dix and the rebel General Hill, which, until recently, was faithfully acted upon by both parties. Exchanges under that cartel are now stopped, mainly for the following reasons:
First. At Vicksburg over 30,000 rebel prisoners fell into our hands, and over 5,000 more at Port Hudson. These prisoners were paroled and suffered to return to their homes until exchanged pursuant to the terms of the cartel. But the rebel agent, in violation of the cartel, declared the Vicksburg prisoners exchanged; and, without being exchanged, the Port Hudson prisoners he, without just cause, and in open violation of the cartel, declared released from their parole. These prisoners were returned to their ranks, and a portion of them were found fighting at Chattanooga and again captured. For this breach of faith, unexampled in civilized warfare, the only apology or excuse was that an equal number of prisoners had been captured by the enemy. But, on calling for specifications in regard to these alleged prisoners, it was found that a considerable number represented as prisoners were not soldiers, but were non-combatants–citizens of towns and villages, farmers, travelers, and others in civil life, not captured in battle, but taken at their homes, on their farms, or on the highway, by John Morgan and other rebel raiders, who put them under a sham parole. To balance these men against rebel soldiers taken on the field would be relieving the enemy from the pressure of war and enable him to protract the contest to indefinite duration.
Second. When the Government commenced organizing colored troops the rebel leader, Davis, by solemn and official proclamation, announced that the colored troops and their white officers, if captured, would not be recognized as prisoners of war, but would be given up for punishment by the State authorities. These proceedings of the rebel authorities were met by the earnest remonstrance and protest of this Government, without effect. The offers by our commissioner to exchange man for man and officer for officer, or to receive and provide for our own soldiers, under the solemn guarantee that they should not go into the field until duly exchanged, were rejected. In the meantime well-authenticated statements show that our troops held as prisoners of war were deprived of shelter, clothing, and food, and some have perished from exposure and famine. This savage barbarity could only have been practiced in the hope that this Government would be compelled, by sympathy for the suffering endured by our troops, to yield to the proposition of exchanging all the prisoners of war on both sides, paroling the excess not actually exchanged; the effect of which operation would be to enable the rebels to put into the field a new army 40,000 strong, forcing the paroled prisoners into the ranks without exchange, as was done with those paroled at Vicksburg and Port Hudson, and also to leave in the hands of the rebels the colored soldiers and officers, who are not regarded by them as prisoners of war, and therefore not entitled to the benefit of the proposed exchange. The facts and correspondence relating to this subject are detailed in the accompanying report of Major-General Hitchcock, commissioner of exchanges. As the matter now stands, we have over 40,000 prisoners of war, ready at any moment to be exchanged, man for man and officer for officer, to the number held by the rebels. These number about 13,000, who are now supplied with food and raiment by this Government and by our benevolent and charitable associations and individuals. Two prisoners, Captains Sawyer and Flinn, held by the rebels, are sentenced to death, by way of a pretended retaliation for two prisoners tried and shot as spies by command of Major-General Burnside. Two rebel officers have been designated and are held as hostages for them. The rebel prisoners of war in our possession have heretofore been treated with the utmost humanity and tenderness consistent with security. They have had good quarters, full rations, clothing when needed, and the same hospital treatment received by our own soldiers. Indulgence of friendly visits and supplies was formerly permitted, but they have been cut off since the barbarity practiced against our prisoners became known to the Government. If it should become necessary for the protection of our men, strict retaliation will be resorted to. But while the rebel authorities suffer this Government to feed and clothe our troops held as prisoners we shall be content to continue to their prisoners in our hands the humane treatment they have uniformly enjoyed.
Respectfully submitted.
Secretary of War.
[OR Ser II Vol 6 pp. 647-649]
Washington, November 17, 1863.
Major-General BUTLER, Fort Monroe:
The whole subject of exchange of prisoners is under direction of Major-General Hitchcock, to whom, as commissioner of exchange, that branch of the service has been committed. He will be glad to have any idea or suggestion you may be pleased to furnish, but there should be no interference without his assent. It is known that the rebels will exchange man for man and officer for officer, except blacks and officers in command of black troops. These they absolutely refuse to exchange. This is the point on which the whole matter hinges. Exchanging man for man and officer for officer, with the exception the rebels make, is a substantial abandonment of the colored troops and their officers to their fate, and would be a shameful dishonor to the Government bound to protect them. When they agree to exchange all alike there will be no difficulty.
EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War.
[OR Ser II Vol 6 p. 528]
In the Field, Culpeper Court-House,
April 17, 1864.
Maj. Gen. B. F. BUTLER, Comdg. Dept. of Virginia and N. Carolina,
Fortress Monroe, Va.:
GENERAL: Your report of negotiations with Mr. Ould, C. S. agent, touching the exchange of prisoners, has been referred to me by the Secretary of War with directions to furnish you such instructions on the subject as I may deem proper. After a careful examination of your report the only points on which I deem instructions necessary are: First. Touching the validity of the paroles of the prisoners captured at Vicksburg and Port Hudson. Second. The status of colored prisoners. As to the first, no arrangement for the exchange of prisoners will be acceded to that does not fully recognize the validity of these paroles and provide for the release to us of a sufficient number of prisoners now held by the Confederate authorities to cancel any balance that may be in our favor by virtue of these paroles. Until there is released to us a sufficient number of officers and men as were captured and paroled at Vicksburg and Port Hudson not another Confederate prisoner of war will be paroled or exchanged. As to the second, no distinction whatever will be made in the exchange between white and colored prisoners; the only question being, were they at the time of their capture in the military service of the United States. If they were the same terms as to treatment while prisoners and conditions of release and exchange must be exacted and had in the case of colored soldiers as of white soldiers. Non-acquiescence by the Confederate authorities in both or either of these propositions will be regarded as a refusal on their part to agree to the further exchange of prisoners, and will be so treated by us.
I am, general, very respectfully,
your obedient servant,
U.S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
[OR Ser II, Vol 7, pp. 62-63]

Adams talks about Lincoln’s approval of the execution of slave trader Nathaniel Gordon [Adams spells the first name, “Nathanial”].  Then he writes, “Later, when another slave trader was caught, Lincoln went to the other extreme and granted a pardon.”  [p. 209]  As usual, Adams gives no other information.  He doesn’t name this alleged slave trader and gives no citation for his assertion.

Adams next claims, “Lincoln also participated in the execution of thirty-nine Sioux Indians.  The Sioux had rebelled at the starvation they had been experiencing when the government, as usual, breached its promises to them.  And with no means of support, the Indians–men, women, and children–were starving to death.  Lincoln had the rebellious Sioux executed in one grand hanging of all thirty-nine at one time, the only mass hanging on such a scale ever to take place in American history.  Even to this day, the descendants of those executed hold Lincoln and his government responsible for this barbaric execution.”  [p. 210]  Yet again, Adams proves he is a liar of the lowest character with no integrity whatsoever.

The Dakota Sioux Uprising of 1862 has been well documented, even though Adams provided no source for his lies–and after all, how could he provide a source for something he lies about?  The Dakota engaged in murder and rape, massacring many settler families in the process.  Adams doesn’t want his readers to know that.  He also doesn’t want his readers to know that 303 Dakota were condemned to be executed by the trial court.  Lincoln reviewed all the death sentences, trying to ascertain which were the ones who were actually guilty of being ring leaders and of perpetrating the murders.  He commuted the sentences of all but 39, and one more later had his sentence commuted, so as a result thirty-eight Dakota, instead of three hundred three Dakota, were executed.  Because of Lincoln, two hundred sixty-five Dakota lived who would otherwise have been executed.  But the truth isn’t part of what Adams would like anyone to know.


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