Lincoln Vs. Davis Charles Beard, a noted historian said that the American Civil War was a conflict between industry and agriculture. Alexander Stephens, a southern statesman said that the war was about states rights. Horace Greeley, a northern newspaper man, and prominent abolitionist claimed the war was fought over the issue of slavery. Abraham Lincoln said it was a struggle testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. Lincoln said his paramount object was to save the Union, and if he could accomplish that by not freeing any slaves, he would free none; if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.
What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union. What would have happened if Davis would have said that his paramount object was to save the Confederacy, and if he could accomplish that by not freeing any slaves, he would free none; if he could save it by freeing all the slaves he would do it; and if he could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone he would also do that. What if he would have taken the attitude that what he did about slavery and the colored race would be done to help save the Confederacy? Jefferson Davis was profoundly dedicated to the cause that he led. Many prominent Southerners, including Robert E. Lee, were troubled in conscience by slavery.
Davis never manifested any qualms about either slavery or secession. His support of state sovereignty and the Southern way of life was based on deep conviction. When Lincoln composed the Gettysburg Address he did not talk much about the way most historians perceive the war. It was his perception..The men who had died at Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Chancellorsville, Balls Bluff, Big Bethel, Shiloh..had not given the last full measure of devotion to free the slaves, nor to establish a modern nation nor to create an industrial empire. They died for the Union, and beyond that for the idea of democracy, so that the ray of hope sent forth by the American Revolution would never dim (Stephen E.
Ambrose). The issue of the Civil War was democracy. Lincoln saw to it that the North fought to insure that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth. The constitution drawn up at Montgomery defined the new government as the creation of sovereign and independent states. Davis subscribed to the principles of state sovereignty but he was far less provincial in his views than were many of his fellow Confederates.
As the South’s chief executive he was tremendously handicapped by the deep and pervasive attachment of Southerners to states rights(Bell I. Wiley). Davis was also handicapped by the excessive individualism which characterized the South’s ruling classes. The individualism was a product of the plantation system. Each planter was in effect a petty sovereign and his exalted status tended to make him self-reliant, proud, resentful of opposition, and averse to teamwork. Great men are never cruel without necessity.
In war as in politics, no evil, even if it is permissible under the rules, is excusable unless it is absolutely necessary. Everything beyond that is a crime. Men who have changed the world never achieved their success by winning the chief citizens to their side, but always by stirring the masses. The first method is that of a schemer and leads only to mediocre results; the other method is the path of genius and changes the face of the world (Napoleon Bonaparte). According to his contemporary critics, Abraham Lincoln’s Presidential record was notable for his despotic use of power and his blatant disregard for the Constitution.
Lincoln ordered thousands of arrests, kept political enemies in prison without bringing charges against them, refused these hapless men their right to trial by a jury of their peers, and ignored orders from the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to release them. In his first few months in office he made the most direct violations of the Constitution in the Nation’s history. He increased the size of the Regular Army without Congressional approval, spent money without Congressional authorization, suspended the writ of habeas corpus without authority and generally acted as if he had never heard of the other two branches of the government. He threw out the Constitution and retained popular appeal of the masses. Davis lacked popular appeal. At no time in his life did he mingle freely with the masses under circumstances that might have enabled him to develop an appreciation of their aspiration and virtues. He never felt close to them, nor they to him.
Davis never succeeded in dramatizing the issues of the war or in arousing public enthusiasm for their support. Confederates like to compare their struggle with the Colonial revolt against England. But their President was never able to infuse the Southern movement with the lofty purposes and timeless qualities that Jefferson and Paine breathed into the American Revolution (Wiley). Jefferson Davis was known for his integrity. He was not always as forthright as he might have been in dealing with difficult persons and situations, but he observed a strict code of conduct with respect to money, favors and gifts.
As President he repeatedly demonstrated his moral courage by unwavering support of unpopular individuals and measures. He had rich experiences in public affairs. He was an effective public speaker, known for their clarity and logic. He was profoundly dedicated to the Southern cause. It seems quite paradoxical when you think about it. Jefferson Davis was never known as Honest Jeff, and the man who led the Union by basically ignoring the Constitution was known as Honest Abe. When Lincoln felt it was necessary he could act in the most undemocratic manner (as he delivered the Gettysburg Address, his troops guarded the polls at a state election in Delaware, insuring a Republican victory).
Realizing that the Constitution was not made for war, especially civil war, and knowing that it took too long to change it, he was willing to bypass it and create his own emergency powers in order to preserve it for peacetime. Events were moving too rapidly to stay within the due process of the law. Both presidents hovered closely to the War Department. Davis began to become very unpopular with the populace of the South for his persistent support of discredited officers such as Lucius B. Northrop, the Confederate commissary General, and Generals Theophilus Holmes, John Pemberton, and Braxton Bragg. Northrop and Bragg were grossly incompetent and their long retention in high position, against an ever- increasing tide of public criticism, cannot be justified on any reasonable ground. There was a great deal of criticism of Davis for his removal of General Beauregard.
Also a major destructive relationship took place between Davis and Joe Johnston. Lincoln on the other hand either fired or sat back and let the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War fire popular or unpopular generals for perceived ineptitude. McClellan and Buell (too slow for the northern voters) — Porter (we’ll hang this one on the Joint Committee, thus keeping Lincoln clean) — Pope (no one likes a braggart, especially one who nearly gets his army annihilated..easy call) — Butler in New Orleans (good move, it places the Beast in the den of depravity..he can’t lose battles and he …