No World War I

Farewell the plumed troop, and the big wars,
That make ambition virtue!

Othello, Act 3, Scene 3

 

 

Alternate history has always fascinated me, and Andrew Roberts, a great contemporary historian, I heartily recommend his recent biography of Churchill, does a good job of pointing out the traumas that arose in the wake of the grand blood-letting we call World War I, and how they may have been avoided if World War I had not occurred.  Do I think  World War I could have been avoided?  Well, certainly the crisis over Sarajevo could have been settled peacefully if a modicum of common sense by Austria-Hungary and Germany had prevailed.  However, Europe had enjoyed an unprecedented, up to that time, peace since Waterloo in 1815, interrupted only by relatively brief wars between the Great Powers, but by 1914 this vacation from history was manifestly breaking down.  The Balkans had produced, since the closing decades of the 19th century, a series of minor wars that were always threatening to get out of hand and involve the Great Powers.  For good reason Otto von Bismarck, the man who created Imperial Germany, had predicted the year before his death:“That one day the great European War would come out of some damned foolish thing in the Balkans.”   In the decades leading up to the Sarajevo Crisis, Europe had weathered a series of crises that threatened great power clashes.  Below the surface of the stability of the Great Powers were revolutionary movements, waiting impatiently in the wings of contemporary history for their forthcoming moment on center stage.  In retrospect it is not of note that the Great War came, but that its outbreak had been delayed so long by jury-rigged emergency diplomacy, a general hesitation among the Great Powers to risk all on a roll of the iron dice of war and, above all, good luck.  When peace depends primarily on luck, sooner or later the good luck will run out.

 

 

Darryl Bates : What started it?

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Published in: on January 7, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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The Man in the High Castle Season Three: October 5, 2018

Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:

Ecclesiastes 12:5

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=61souSkwDk4

 

Well that took a while.  I have eagerly anticipated Season Three of the Amazon Prime Series The Man in the High Castle, and it will finally premiere on October 5, 2018.

The late Philip K. Dick, paranoid, left-leaning, mentally ill and drug abuser, was nevertheless a science fiction writer of pure genius.  His book The Man in the High Castle (1962) introduced me as a boy to the genre of alternate history, with his unforgettable evocation of a United States divided by the victorious Axis powers of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.  One of the main plot devices in the book is a novel The Grasshopper Lies Heavy which posits an alternate reality in which the Allies won World War II.  Like most of Dick’s work, the book suggests that the dividing line between alternate realities can be very thin.

Dick’s novel brings out the contingency of history, a factor overlooked by many people.  History is what has occurred.  While we are living it, making our contribution to what will be the history of our times, we understand that what will be is the result of many factors and predicting the future is a fool’s game.  The past seems rock solid by comparison.  Understanding however the events and circumstances that shaped the past, and also comprehending that different paths could easily have been followed, gives us a different view of the past and the present.    It is one thing to go through life with the philosophy that “what will be, will be” and quite another to appreciate that the future depends upon what we and our contemporaries do now.

Published in: on August 7, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Man in the High Castle Season Three: October 5, 2018  
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President John J. Pershing

 

It has long been thought by most historians that General John J. Pershing made a great mistake by agreeing to the Republican draft for President in 1920.  A national hero after World War I, he was no politician, a point he repeatedly made during his term in office.   A few revisionist historians have contended that Pershing was a highly effective President who saved the country much trouble and care down the road, but these historians are distinctly in the minority.  The current writer is firmly in the camp of the majority of historians who view Pershing’s Presidency as an unfortunate end to a glorious career.

Once Pershing had the Republican nomination in 1920, his election was a foregone conclusion even though he did almost no campaigning.  By 1920 the country was tired of the policies of the Democrats under Wilson and ready for a change.  The economic downturn after The Great War only increased the unlikelihood of a Democrat victory in November, and Pershing and the GOP won in a landslide.

Pershing ran his administration much as he ran the AEF.  Find the right men for the job, tell them in broad terms what to do, and then get out of their way.  The economy quickly rebounded and prosperity made the new administration popular, popular enough to get away with a move that most Republicans viewed with displeasure.  When the French and Belgians occupied the Ruhr to extract reparations called for under the Versailles Treaty from the recalcitrant Germans in January of 1923, Pershing gave his full-throated approval.  Pershing had always believed that the armistice which ended the fighting had been a mistake, and that Germany should have been occupied by the Allies to make plain to them that they had been beaten in the field, and that planning for a future war of vengeance was madness.  Pershing knew that he could never get Congress to appropriate funds for American troops to join in the occupation of the Ruhr;   he instead announced 25 new consulates in the Ruhr and sent a force of 2,000 Marines to protect them.  Isolationists in Congress howled, but Pershing responded that he had seen too many American boys die in the Great War and he would do whatever it took to to prevent that from happening in a second Great War.  With American involvement, the British also dispatched troops and spearheaded negotiations with the Germans to make the reparation payments more feasible for the Germans.

Perhaps things would have calmed down if not for the declaration of emergency in Bavaria by Bavarian Prime Minister Eugen von Knilling on September 26, 1923.  Pershing, over the strong objections of the German government, sent 1,000 Marines from the Ruhr to Munich to protect the American consulate.  This move led to ever increasing mass protests outside of the American consulate.  On November 9, 1923 a huge crowd attempted to storm the consulate.  The Marines opened fire and some 243 Germans were killed and 1523 wounded.  Among the dead were General Erich Ludendorff and an obscure Austrian politician and former corporal in the German army, Adolf Hitler, who led a small party calling themselves the National Socialist Workers’ Party.  The Munich massacre, as it came to be called, led to political convulsions in Germany with the German army seizing control and imposing martial law throughout the country. (more…)

Published in: on April 1, 2018 at 11:50 pm  Comments (2)  
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What If Abraham Lincoln Had Died Young?

 

 

On his 209th birthday it is perhaps appropriate to consider how the world would have changed if Abraham Lincoln had died young.  Unlike many great figures in history, Lincoln did not matter in a historical sense until around the last decade of his life.  Up to that time his political career had been mostly undistinguished and he had attracted little national notice.  If he had died in 1855 his name would now be unknown except in the pages of the most comprehensive histories of Illinois in the middle of the Nineteenth Century.  With his birth in the harsh conditions of a pioneer family, death was certainly not a stranger.  His brother Thomas died before he was three days old.  His mother died at the age of 34.  His sister died at age 20 in childbirth.  Lincoln came close to death when he was kicked by a horse in the head at 9 years of age in 1818.  He was clubbed in the head during a robbery attempt in 1828.  He contracted malaria in Illinois and had two bouts of it in 1830 and 1835.  He suffered from bouts of depression and some of his friends feared on at least one occasion that he might try to commit suicide.  Lincoln in 1838 may have published a poem,  authorship is still debated, called The Suicide’s Soliloquy:

 

Here, where the lonely hooting owl
Sends forth his midnight moans,
Fierce wolves shall o’er my carcase growl,
Or buzzards pick my bones.

No fellow-man shall learn my fate,
Or where my ashes lie;
Unless by beasts drawn round their bait,
Or by the ravens’ cry.

Yes! I’ve resolved the deed to do,
And this the place to do it:
This heart I’ll rush a dagger through,
Though I in hell should rue it!

Hell! What is hell to one like me
Who pleasures never knew;
By friends consigned to misery,
By hope deserted too?

To ease me of this power to think,
That through my bosom raves,
I’ll headlong leap from hell’s high brink,
And wallow in its waves.

Though devils yell, and burning chains
May waken long regret;
Their frightful screams, and piercing pains,
Will help me to forget.

Yes! I’m prepared, through endless night,
To take that fiery berth!
Think not with tales of hell to fright
Me, who am damn’d on earth!

Sweet steel! come forth from your sheath,
And glist’ning, speak your powers;
Rip up the organs of my breath,
And draw my blood in showers!

I strike! It quivers in that heart
Which drives me to this end;
I draw and kiss the bloody dart,
My last—my only friend!

 

Lincoln was a remarkable man, and perhaps not the least remarkable feature about him is that he survived long enough to become a national figure and President.

Now let us assume that fate was not so kind, and Lincoln departed this Veil of Tears circa 1855 or earlier.  What would have been different in 1860?  The Democrats would still have been facing a party split.  Southern Democrats were unwilling to support a nominee who was not a forthright no compromise advocate of slavery.  The Northern Democrats, facing the rising Republican Party, realized this was political suicide and would still have rallied around Douglas as their political standard bearer.  On the Republican side, Seward of New York would likely have won the nomination unless a dark horse moderate on the slavery issue had arisen.  That of course is how Lincoln ultimately won the nomination, Republican party leaders viewing Seward as too radical on the slavery issue and potentially scaring away moderate Northerners and costing the Republicans their first win at the White House.  However, in the absence of Lincoln, who was a moderate on slavery but who gained a good deal of support from abolitionists due to confronting Douglas on the slavery issue in the Lincoln-Douglas debates in 1858, I think it likely that Seward would have gained the nomination.  Seward would have gone on almost certainly to win the general election, the Democrat split making a Republican victory in 1860 almost a foregone conclusion.

If Seward had been elected would the South have seceded?  Almost certainly.  Lincoln was largely an unknown quantity in the South while Seward had been in the anti-slavery vanguard for many years.  Seward had been a devil figure in the South since his maiden speech in the Senate on March 11, 1850 with this passage:

I deem it established, then, that the Constitution does not recognize property in man, but leaves that question, as between the states, to the law of nature and of nations. That law, as expounded by Vattel, is founded on the reason of things. When God had created the earth, with its wonderful adaptations, He gave dominion over it to man, absolute human dominion. The title of that dominion, thus bestowed, would have been incomplete, if the lord of all terrestrial things could himself have been the property of his fellow- man.

With this appeal to natural law, Seward ever after in the South was viewed as an anti-slavery radical who regarded a higher law demanding freedom as putting the safeguards of the Constitution, that the South relied upon to protect their Peculiar Institution, as mere parchment barricades that could be breached instantly.  Secession likely would have been swifter under a President Elect Seward than it was under a President Elect Lincoln.

This of course would have been immensely ironic since Seward was quite willing to give the South virtually everything it wanted to avoid secession historically in early 1861.  Of course his vantage point would have been quite different as incoming President than as the incoming Secretary of State, but the urge to avert splitting the nation by surrender on the slavery issue would have been the same.  Would it have worked?  Almost certainly not.  Lincoln gave half-hearted support to a Thirteenth Amendment that would have enshrined slavery in the Constitution and that had zero impact on the desire of the South to form the Confederacy.  The South was not in a mood to accept anything short of independence.

Once compromise failed would Seward have fought to preserve the Union?  Likely no.  Seward historically was in favor of evacuating Fort Sumter.  He also thought that starting a foreign war with France or England would cause the Confederates to rejoin the Union.  That last idea was so divorced from reality, I suspect that Seward viewed a war to preserve the Union prior to the firing on Fort Sumter as being unthinkable.  A President Seward may well have evacuated federal installations in the South and adopted a policy of watchful waiting to see if the South would have come back voluntarily.  This policy would have ended in de facto recognition of the independence of the Confederacy, and probably a bitter civil war within the Republican party that would have led to Democrat victories at the polls in 1862 and 1864.  There would have been many areas where a Confederate States and United States would have come into conflict, including territories in the West, the border states, runaway slaves and further efforts at foreign expansion by both countries, but they are beyond the scope of the present exercise in musing on alternate history.  Thus we leave President Seward presiding over a rump United States and return to our reality.

 

Published in: on February 12, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on What If Abraham Lincoln Had Died Young?  
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United Socialist States of America

 

 

An exercise in alternate history.

The path to the creation of the United Socialist States of America began with the death of President Franklin Roosevelt on  April 12, 1944 and the accession to the Presidency by Vice-President Henry Wallace.  Personally favorable to the Soviet Union, the new President surrounded himself with fellow travelers and security risks.

In the Presidential election of 1944 Thomas E. Dewey, the Republican nominee, denounced Wallace as “soft on Communism”, a charge that Wallace vigorously denied. Wallace was elected in a close contest with Senator Glen Taylor (D.Id) as his Vice-President.

Following the conclusion of World War II, Wallace followed a policy of rapid demobilization which was quite popular, leaving only three divisions in Europe for occupation duties. General Eisenhower denounced this as being an inadequate force and resigned from the Army.  Wallace turned a blind eye to the Soviet imposition of Communist governments in Eastern Europe, with his inaction being denounced vociferously by the Republicans and by many Democrats, most notably Senator Harry Truman (D.Mo.).

Which member of the Wallace administration secretly provided the Soviets with the blue prints to build atomic bombs in 1945 remains unclear, but suspicion has usually focused on Secretary of State Alger Hiss.  Hiss was certainly instrumental in turning Werner von Braun and his associates over to the Soviets in 1945.  By 1948 Communist parties dominated all of Eastern Europe and Italy.

Wallace was defeated for re-election in 1948, running on the Progressive Party ticket after being denied the Democrat nomination which went to Harry Truman.  Thomas E. Dewey, the Republican standard bearer,  won in the fall with Truman a close second and Wallace a humiliating third with 2.4% of the votes.

The Wallace administration was history, but it left behind in the government bureaucracies many individuals who served as agents for the Soviet Union out of ideological conviction.  Steps to remove them were only partially successful, and throughout the ensuing Cold War they provided steady intelligence to the Soviet Union which allowed it to maintain a technological parity with the United States as the years passed.  Rising to senior positions in the various government bureaucracies they sheltered younger agents who joined them over the years.

With the defeat of US forces in Vietnam, the Henry Wallace wing of the Democrat party became dominant, with George McGovern narrowly defeating Ronald Reagan in 1976.  Embarking on a policy of a 37% reduction in military spending, which represented in practice a policy of unilateral disarmament, McGovern was not a knowing agent of the Soviet Union, although it is difficult to see what difference  it would have made in his policies if he had been.  He steadfastly ignored the toppling of governments of Central America by communist insurrections and the swarms of Soviet advisors that helped prop up the new regimes.  The beginning of a Communist insurrection in Mexico in 1978 alarmed many in the United States, but McGovern stuck to his policy of “Come Home America” and continued his policy of non-involvement in military struggles abroad. (more…)

Published in: on January 21, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on United Socialist States of America  
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Imperial German Plans to Invade the US

 

Other than the diplomatic debacle of Germany attempting to tempt Mexico to engage in a hopeless war with the US if America and Germany went to war which led to the Zimmerman Telegram, Imperial Germany had no plans to invade the US, having more than it could handle in Europe and the Middle East.  However, plans had been drawn up to invade the US from 1897 to 1903 at the request of the Kaiser who was perturbed at the growing global influence of the US.

The first plan written by a German naval Lieutenant envisaged a naval war of the east coast of the US with raids against American east coast naval bases.

After American victory in the Spanish-American War, the plan was revised to include German troop landings and occupation of Boston and New York.

A third and final plan concentrated on bringing America to the negotiating table by seizing Puerto Rico and establishing a  naval base there and polished up the ideas of invading at Boston and New York.  The plan noted that none of this could be undertaken unless Germany enjoyed peace in Europe. (more…)

Published in: on April 30, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Imperial German Plans to Invade the US  
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Theodore Roosevelt, the Rough Riders Corps and the Great War

I make no pretense to accuracy. I shall be quite content if the sensibilities of no one are wounded by anything I may reduce to type.

Recollections of Thomas R. Marshall:  A Hoosier Salad (1925)

Something for the weekend:  Onward Christian Soldiers by Mahalia Jackson.  This stirring hymn was the campaign song of the Bull Moose Party in 1912 and was the unofficial anthem of the Rough Riders Corps that Major General Theodore Roosevelt led in the Great War.  We are almost a century away from the day when the US intervened in that War, and it is a good time to look at the controversial role that our 26th President played in that conflict.

In March of 1917 Congress passed a bill allowing Roosevelt to raise four divisions of volunteers, similar in nature to the Rough Rider regiment he raised and led in the Spanish American War.  It is said that President Wilson opposed this move.  There was certainly no love lost between Wilson and Roosevelt, Roosevelt having been the harshest critic of Wilson.  However, the stroke that killed President Wilson on April 1, 1917 rendered any such opposition moot, except to historians or writers of alternate history.  Vice President Thomas R. Marshall who now became President had no personal animosity towards Roosevelt, rather the reverse, and after his call for a declaration of war on Germany appeared at the White House with Roosevelt and former President Taft, the three men urging that now there were no Republicans and no Democrats, but only Americans united for victory.  After this there was no way that Marshall could probably have kept Roosevelt out of the War if he had wanted to, and he did not attempt to do so.

One other man could have stopped Roosevelt, however, if he had wished to, the commander appointed by President Marshall to lead the American Expeditionary Forces in France.  General John J.Pershing was a friend of Theodore Roosevelt who he had served with at the battle of San Juan Hill when Pershing was a thirty-eight year old First Lieutenant, and whose career Roosevelt had jump started when he was President by promoting him from Captain to Brigadier General, over the heads of 835 officers more senior to Pershing.  Pershing had every reason to be grateful to Roosevelt, and he was, but he was also concerned with a military amateur commanding a corps in the American Expeditionary Forces that he was to lead onto the deadly battlefields of France.  Going to visit Roosevelt at Oyster Bay, he was quickly relieved by their talk, which he discussed in his Pulitzer Prize winning memoir, My Experiences in the World War:  

“President  Roosevelt demonstrated that he had been keeping up with military developments in the Great War and was intrigued with the coordination of artillery and infantry with the newfangled air power and tanks.  He told me that he was willing to serve as a private in the force he was raising, and that as far as he was concerned no man would have a commission for any officer rank in the Rough Riders without my permission.  Touched by his self-less patriotism, I suggested that he serve as second in command of the Rough Riders with General Adelbert Cronkhite, currently in command of artillery in the Canal Zone, appointed as commander.  A worried frown passed over his face:  “The Rough Riders are not going to spend the War guarding the Canal Zone are they?”  I laughed.  “No Mr. President, I will need the best troops available with me on the Western Front, and, as was the case in Cuba, I suspect the Rough Riders in this War will be second to none.”  We shook hands and parted, still friends.”

Roosevelt made it known that he was seeking men for the Rough Riders with this advertisement he placed in all major newspapers.

Rough Riders are being recruited by Theodore Roosevelt for service in France.  Roosevelt expects that he and his Rough Riders will be constantly in the forefront of the fighting and their casualties will likely be extreme.  Only fighters with courage need apply.   Regional recruiting offices are being established at the following locations:

Roosevelt’s recruiters were quickly besieged by endless lines of volunteers.  Estimates are that some three million men filled out applications for the 100,000 slots in the four divisions of the Rough Rdiers.  Roosevelt, as with his original Rough Riders, favored men from dangerous out door occupations, men with prior military experience, athletes, and those from unusual backgrounds, like the troupe of circus clowns he allowed to enlist as a group.  Cowboys with nothing in this world except the shirts on their backs, as in the original Rough Riders, rubbed shoulders with the scions of families of great wealth.  Roosevelt made it clear that no man without prior military experience would be commissioned in the Rough Riders, and all other commissions would be earned in battle in France.  Regular Army officers looked askance at all this and referred to the Rough Riders as Teddy’s Wild West Show and by less printable terms.  Pershing assigned a number of junior officers to the Rough Riders to help bring order out of chaos, giving them the temporary rank of full Colonel.  Among them were Douglas MacArthur, George Patton, George Marshall and Dwight Eisenhower.

As in the original Rough Riders, Latinos and Indians from the West served.  A group of black regular officers, headed by Colonel Charles Young, wrote a letter to Roosevelt requesting to serve in the Rough Riders.  Although not wholly free from the racial prejudice of his day, Roosevelt got the approval of Pershing for these officers to serve on detached status with the Rough Riders, and enlisted two black regiments to serve in one of his divisions.  When a group of white Rough Rider officers protested this decision, Roosevelt had the complaining officers immediately cashiered from the Rough Riders. (more…)

Published in: on April 1, 2017 at 7:35 pm  Comments Off on Theodore Roosevelt, the Rough Riders Corps and the Great War  
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The Man in the High Castle

 

 

 

Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:

Ecclesiastes 12:5

 

The late Philip K. Dick, paranoid, left-leaning, mentally ill and drug abuser, was nevertheless a science fiction writer of pure genius.  His book The Man in the High Castle (1962) introduced me as a boy to the genre of alternate history, with his unforgettable evocation of a United States divided by the victorious Axis powers of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.  One of the main plot devices in the book is a novel The Grasshopper Lies Heavy which posits an alternate reality in which the Allies won World War II.  Like most of Dick’s work, the book suggests that the dividing line between alternate realities can be very thin.

 

“The Nazis have no sense of humor, so why should they want television? Anyhow, they killed most of the really great comedians. Because most of them were Jewish. In fact, she realized, they killed off most of the entertainment field. I wonder how Hope gets away with what he says. Of course, he has to broadcast from Canada. And it’s a little freer up there. But Hope really says things. Like the joke about Goring . . . the one where Goring buys Rome and has it shipped to his mountain retreat and then set up again. And revives Christianity so his pet lions will have something to—”

(more…)

Published in: on July 18, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Man in the High Castle  
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What if Red Dawn Had Happened?

 

When I was watching Red Dawn when it came out in 1984 I was thinking to myself whether this type of partisan resistance to an invasion of the United States would take place.  I concluded that almost certainly it would.  In the Revolution, after the Continental Army in South Carolina surrendered at Charleston, partisan bands under Francis Marion, Thomas Sumter and Andrew Pickens, and many lesser know figures, sprang up, and made life hell for the occupying British.  When Washington sent troops to take back South Carolina, the partisans gave valuable intelligence and acted as force multipliers for the Continental troops and state militias.  During the Civil War, similar partisan bands fought for the Confederacy and forced the Union to tie down huge amounts of troops guarding supply lines.  After the Japanese invaded the Philippines, American and Filipino guerillas made certain that the Japanese had little control out in the countryside.  The strategic situation set forth in the movie was fanciful, but the partisan war it depicted would have been a likely consequence of such an invasion.

Doubtless the occupying enemy would have tried an extensive propaganda effort: (more…)

Published in: on May 26, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on What if Red Dawn Had Happened?  
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Lincoln and His Second Term

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One hundred and fifty years ago Lincoln was at the high point of his Presidency.  The Civil War was coming to a victorious conclusion.  His popularity would zoom to heights not reached by any President since Washington when on April 14, 1865 he foiled the assassination plot of John Wilkes Booth by wrestling him to the floor of the theater box at Ford’s Theater.  (One wonders if Booth would have succeeded if Lincoln had not been standing and stretching, his face to the door of the theater box, when Booth burst through the door.)  Less than four years later, he left Washington, widely reviled North and South.  Although revisionist histories appear occasionally defending Lincoln, the consensus of his contemporaries still stands:  that Lincoln made an adequate wartime President, but an abysmal peacetime President.  I think this verdict is overblown, but one cannot argue that his second term after the War was anything but a disaster.  Let us look at the factors that led to this.

 

1.  Former Confederate States-Lincoln’s theory was that the former Confederates States had never been out of the Union.  So soon as ten percent of the voters based on 1860 totals had taken an oath of allegiance to the Union and organized a state government that abolished slavery, the new state government would be recognized by the federal government and members elected to Congress seated.  This was far too lenient for Radical Republicans who feared that these new state governments would simply be replicas of the state governments that existed in 1860 with a de facto abolition of slavery while de jure blacks would be fifth class citizens.  Their fears were soon realized with new state governments recognized by the Lincoln administration adopting Black Codes, laws that severely restricted the freedom the newly freed slaves.  This remained a bone of contention between Lincoln and the Congress controlled by the Radical Republicans from the beginning until the end of his second term.

2.  Rights of Blacks-That Lincoln was sincerely committed to the civil rights of former slaves cannot be doubted in good faith by anyone.  The ringing words of his 1865 Fourth of July “Life and Liberty” oration before the freedmen of Richmond should eliminate any doubt on that score.  Throughout his second term Lincoln used military force to enforce the rights of blacks that were routinely trampled upon by the new governments in the former Confederate states that he recognized.  He was instrumental in establishing the largely black states of Liberty, Emancipation and Freedom in the West that ensured black representation in Congress and a haven for blacks disenfranchised in the rest of the country.  However, the use of the military was met by a virtual guerilla warfare in the South led by the Ku Klux Klan, often receiving clandestine aid from the governments that Lincoln had helped install.  This was all very confusing for the war weary citizens of the North, and a common complaint of “What did we fight the War for?” became ever more common in the North as Lincoln’s second term went on.

3.  Mary Lincoln- The assassination attempt on Lincoln seemed to unhinge Mrs. Lincoln.  She would often shriek in public to strangers that she knew that they were out to murder her husband.  Lincoln perhaps had no choice in having her committed to an insane asylum, but that decision added to his unpopularity.

4.  Fissions in the Republican Party-With slavery ended, the Republican party fractured between radicals and conservatives, former Whigs and former Democrats, and a myriad of different state factions.  Much of Lincoln’s time was devoted to healing these fractures, with Lincoln often receiving strong criticism from all factions for his troubles as a would be peacemaker.

5.  Seward’s Folly- Throughout the second term Democrats often attacked Lincoln for having run up a huge national debt during the Civil War.  This charge received more ammunition when the US purchased Alaska for 7.2 million dollars, which Democrats painted as money wasted for a worthless icy wasteland.  When it got out that Lincoln was considering attempting to set up  more black states in Alaska, he was subject to laughter and ridicule, often accompanied by a quoted statement from a black that he did not want to go and freeze in Alaska.

 

6.  Man of the Past-Lincoln often seemed like a figure of the past by the end of his second term.  Secession and slavery, the two issues most associated with Lincoln, quickly became relics of the past to a nation, at least the white part of the nation, eager to turn the page.  Heroes who win often seem outdated as times rapidly change, and that fate befell Lincoln.

(more…)

Published in: on April 1, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Lincoln and His Second Term  
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