Learning Lincoln On-line

FROM-- SET TWO, CIVIL WAR STUDIES

Abraham Lincoln Commander & Chief of the United States: Article--National Unity
PART ONE-INTRODUCTION  HOME PAGE PART TWO-   EVENTS BEFORE THE INAUGURATION PART THREE-   THE BATTLE OF FORT SUMTER PART FOUR-  THE FIGHTING BEGINS PART FIVE- LINCOLN RUNNING THE "WAR MACHINE" PART SIX- THE WAR ENDS PART SEVEN- ASSASSINATION/ FREEDOM

. . . Holding the Union Together

A.  What was country was going through around the time of Lincoln's first inauguration.
       At the time of his first inauguration, on March 4, 1861, President Lincoln confronted daunting challenges. For example, in response to his election to the presidency, seven slave states of the Southern region of the United States had seceded from the Federal Union to form the Confederate States of America and it seemed likely that other slave states would join the Confederacy.
B.  Washington D.C. "in the South," and Ft. Sumter in Danger

The nation's capital, Washington, D.C., was surrounded by the populations of two slave states, Maryland and Virginia. Many of these people were hostile to President Lincoln and the Republican party, and they were sympathetic to the Confederacy. And, Fort Sumter, a federal military post in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina was under threat of seizure by armed forces of the Confederacy.
So, right from the beginning of his presidency, Abraham Lincoln was in deep trouble.

C.  Lincoln’s extensive use of presidential war powers during the early months of the war
       President Lincoln acted quickly to defend the Constitution and the federal government against insurrection. He had taken an oath of office to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States," and Lincoln, a man of strong character and deeply held principles, was determined to fulfill this pledge by using every executive power available to him. So he issued executive orders: 1. to call up state militia for federal military service and 2.  to expand the size of the regular military forces. 3.  He proclaimed a blockade of Confederate ports. 4.  He suspended the writ of habeas corpus to curtail anti-Union activity by disloyal citizens and 5.  he authorized the borrowing and spending of money to pay for defense of the Union.
       President Lincoln acted without prior congressional approval because Congress was not in session at the outbreak of war. So, the president called a special session of Congress, which convened on July 4, 1861. On that occasion, Lincoln explained his actions and asked Congress to consent to what he had done during an unprecedented national emergency.

D.  In his July 4, 1861, “Message to Congress

       President Lincoln said "no choice was left but to call out the war power of the Government; and so to resist force employed for its destruction by force for its preservation." Lincoln claimed "nothing was done beyond the constitutional competency of Congress." And decisions were made, Lincoln said, "trusting that Congress would readily ratify them."  Congress did not disappoint him.
       By seeking and receiving the endorsement of Congress for his unprecedented exercise of war powers, Lincoln deflected the arguments of political opponents, who claimed he had violated “the separation of powers” principle at the core of the Constitution, and thereby he had usurped the authority of Congress.  So, by getting Congress to endorse his extensive and unprecedented use of presidential war powers, Lincoln justified the legality of his actions at the start of the Civil War.

E.  Presidential Public Respect

       Lincoln tried to avoid adding fuel to the attacks on him. During the 1860 campaign, he refrained from making any policy pronouncements – for fear they would be misconstrued in both North and South. After the election, Lincoln told one journalist: “I know the justness of my intentions and the utter groundlessness of the pretended fears of the men who are filling the country with their clamor. If I go into the presidency, they will find me as I am on record – nothing less, nothing more. My declarations have been made to the world without reservation. They have been often repeated; and now, self-respect demands of me and of the party that has elected me that when threatened, I should be silent.” As far back as 1856, Mr. Lincoln had told a Republican convention in Illinois: “We say to the southern disunionists, we won’t go out of the Union, and you shan’t.” Southern failure to abide by majority rule was at the center of the secession crisis.

F.  Abraham Lincoln's approach to slavery before he signed the Emancipation Proclamation

       Lincoln focused on returning the seceding states to the Union and ignored the question of abolition publicly, also aiming to keep the slave-owning boarder states in the fold. He had wanted to announce the Emancipation Proclamation earlier, but his cabinet persuaded him to wait until the North could


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How Lincoln Thought

Lincoln's Cabinet Lincoln's "Higher Moral Ground"   The Slavery Issue
Lincoln, the War and Congressional Oversight Mr. Lincoln's Generals (Finding a Fighting General) Lincoln Learning and Becoming Commander & Chief Lincoln's Political Leadership (the Issues) Post-War Reconstruction Planning Library of Congress Timeline

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