Did Lincoln expect secession during his campaign, or was he surprised?


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#3
He did not take it seriously, based on some of his letters. I'll have to dig up some exact quotes, but this one always comes to mind when thinking of his opinion of secession in general:

https://quod.lib.umich.edu/l/lincoln/lincoln4/1:313.1?rgn=div2;view=fulltext

What is the particular sacredness of a State? I speak not of that position which is given to a State in and by the Constitution of the United States, for that all of us agree to---we abide by; but that position assumed, that a State can carry with it out of the Union that which it holds in sacredness by virtue of its connection with the Union. I am speaking of that assumed right of a State, as a primary principle, that the Constitution should rule all that is less than itself, and ruin all that is bigger than itself. [Laughter.] But, I ask, wherein does consist that right? If a State, in one instance, and a county in another, should be equal in extent of territory, and equal in the number of people, wherein is that State any better than the county? Can a change of name change the right? By what principle of original right is it that one-fiftieth or one-ninetieth of a great nation, by calling themselves a State, have the right to break up and ruin that nation as a matter of original principle? Now, I ask the question---I am not deciding anything---[laughter,]---and with the request that you will think somewhat upon that subject and decide for yourselves, if you choose, when you get ready,---where is the mysterious, original right, from principle, for a certain district of country with inhabitants, by merely being called a State, to play tyrant over all its own citizens, and deny the authority of everything greater than itself. [Laughter.]​
 
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#7
As has been noted by other members, @Andy Cardinal @Andersonh1 @Potomac Pride, Lincoln under estimated the seriousness of the secession issue, he over estimated the Unionist strength, and he mislead the people at times, with statements like there is no crisis, it is a manufactured crisis, and even nothing to worry about.

Lincoln's refusal to compromise on the extension of slavery into the territories help lead the nation to war. I am not saying he was wrong or right on that subject, but had he taking the secession crisis as a real possibility, as it was, perhaps he may have been willing to compromise more on the extension of slavery. However, with that said, Lincoln did know for a fact, that if he compromised on the slavery extension question, it would destroy his party and his political career................So was it a war for the Union (Keeping it together) or was it a war to save him and his party?

Respectfully,

William

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wbull1

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#8
As has been noted by other members, @Andy Cardinal @Andersonh1 @Potomac Pride, Lincoln under estimated the seriousness of the secession issue, he over estimated the Unionist strength, and he mislead the people at times, with statements like there is no crisis, it is a manufactured crisis, and even nothing to worry about.

Lincoln's refusal to compromise on the extension of slavery into the territories help lead the nation to war. I am not saying he was wrong or right on that subject, but had he taking the secession crisis as a real possibility, as it was, perhaps he may have been willing to compromise more on the extension of slavery. However, with that said, Lincoln did know for a fact, that if he compromised on the slavery extension question, it would destroy his party and his political career................So was it a war for the Union (Keeping it together) or was it a war to save him and his party?

Respectfully,

William

One Nation
Two countries
View attachment 294227
During his second Presidential campaign, Lincoln abandoned the name "Republican" in favor or the "National Unity" Party, which doesn't suggest to me that saving the political party was a priority. Buchanan's failure to act resulted in his not being re-nominated. At the point of his first election any contender willing to discuss allowing the extension of slavery into new territories and states would not have been nominated by either major party due to the sentiment against it in the North, just as nobody with any position other than allowing slavery everywhere could have been popular in the South.
 
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#9
During his second Presidential campaign, Lincoln abandoned the name "Republican" in favor or the "National Unity" Party, which doesn't suggest to me that saving the political party was a priority. Buchanan's failure to act resulted in his not being re-nominated. At the point of his first election any contender willing to discuss allowing the extension of slavery into new territories and states would not have been nominated by either major party due to the sentiment against it in the North, just as nobody with any position other than allowing slavery everywhere could have been popular in the South.
Did Buchanan activity seek the 1860 Presidential Democratic Party nomination?
Leftyhunter
 
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#10
During his second Presidential campaign, Lincoln abandoned the name "Republican" in favor or the "National Unity" Party, which doesn't suggest to me that saving the political party was a priority. Buchanan's failure to act resulted in his not being re-nominated. At the point of his first election any contender willing to discuss allowing the extension of slavery into new territories and states would not have been nominated by either major party due to the sentiment against it in the North, just as nobody with any position other than allowing slavery everywhere could have been popular in the South.

I totally agree with you.............In his 2ND Presidential election in 1864, but in 1860...............That was not the case. Had Lincoln abandoned Fort Sumter, what would have happened? IIRC he was told in so many words he and his party would be dead. Had he compromised on the extension of slavery the republican party and Lincoln's political career would have been dead. In 1864 after 3 years of war that was not the case, and it is possible that in 1864 Lincoln may have changed the party's name to National Unity Party, to win the election that at times seemed that he and the Republican party may lose. Again did he do that to save the party and his career?

Respectfully,

William

One Nation
Two countries
Confed-American Flag - Thumbnail.jpg
 
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#13
"Convinced that I owe my election to the inherent love for the Constitution and the Union which still animates the hearts of the American people, let me earnestly ask their powerful support in sustaining all just measures calculated to perpetuate these, the richest political blessings which Heaven has ever bestowed upon any nation. Having determined not to become a candidate for reelection, I shall have no motive to influence my conduct in administering the Government except the desire ably and faithfully to serve my country and to live in grateful memory of my countrymen."
Buchanan's Inaugural Speech
 
#14
Even after secession, Lincoln underestimated the depth of commitment. He (like many other northerners) assumed that secession was caused by a few firebrands and that the mass of southern people remained loyal to the Union. I don't think he was convinced otherwise until after Bull Run, if not later.
I agree. Lincoln believed that secession was a flash in the pan and that the Southern people would come to their senses and return to the Union. Lincoln's original national strategy was that of restoring the Federal authority in the rebellious areas of the South without the overthrow of their fundamental political, economic or social institutions. Up to mid 1862, Lincoln was quite willing to let bygones be bygones and let the Southern States re-enter the flock with slavery and pretty much everything else untouched. While Lincoln was pushing a conciliatory policy he was under increasing pressure from Radical Republicans including some of his cabinet members, commanders in the field, abolitionists, and Black leaders, to attack slavery which they felt was the primary source that led to the rebellion and a Southern resource that allowed the freeing up of its white males to continue the fight. Following Federal military setbacks and the failure of Southern Unionists to rise up in 1862, and at the same time under increasing Northern pressure, Lincoln decided to change the strategy to that of hard war which included the seizure and destruction of enemy property although he was still hesitant to order an all-out emancipation order.

"On Sunday, the 13th of July, the day following this last hopeless interview, the President invited Mr. Seward and myself to accompany him in his carriage to the funeral of an infant child of Secretary Stanton...It was on this occasion and this ride that he first mentioned to Mr. Seward and myself that he had about come to the conclusion that, if the rebels persisted in their war upon the Government, it would be a necessity and a duty on our part to liberate their slaves. He was convinced, he said, that we could not carry on a successful war by longer pursuing a temporizing and forbearing policy toward those who disregarded law and Constitution, and were striving by every means to break up the Union. Decisive and extreme measures must he adopted. His reluctance to meddle with this question, around which there were thrown constitutional safeguards, and on which the whole Southern mind was sensitive,was great. He had tried various expedients to escape issuing an executive order emancipating the slaves, the last and only alternative, but it was forced upon him by the rebels themselves. He saw no escape. Turn which way he would, this disturbing element which caused the war rose up against us, and it was an insuperable obstacle to peace."
The History of Emancipation, Gideon Welles, The Galaxy, Vol. 14, Issue 6, pp. 842-843 (December 1872)
 
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#15
Understand, also, that even if Lincoln HAD seen secession as a real threat, he would have been unable to allow those states in rebellion to break away.

Europe had just endured a massive war, fought to a virtual stalemate. Many of those players were now involved in political issues in the Western Hemisphere, and any sign of weakness by the Federal Government could have led to a resumption of those hostilities on a world-wide scale.

Yes, I'm aware that a number of Alternate History Fiction books have been written around this supposition, but the facts behind the fiction are even more compelling.

Yes, I believe Lincoln underestimated the Southern resolve, just as he had underestimated Great Britain's reaction to the Trent debacle. His learning curve was certainly steep, but in the end, it's obvious that he learned some very important lessons early in his presidency that established a firm and lasting foundation for our Nation.
 
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#16
Understand, also, that even if Lincoln HAD seen secession as a real threat, he would have been unable to allow those states in rebellion to break away.

Europe had just endured a massive war, fought to a virtual stalemate. Many of those players were now involved in political issues in the Western Hemisphere, and any sign of weakness by the Federal Government could have led to a resumption of those hostilities on a world-wide scale.

Yes, I'm aware that a number of Alternate History Fiction books have been written around this supposition, but the facts behind the fiction are even more compelling.

Yes, I believe Lincoln underestimated the Southern resolve, just as he had underestimated Great Britain's reaction to the Trent debacle. His learning curve was certainly steep, but in the end, it's obvious that he learned some very important lessons early in his presidency that established a firm and lasting foundation for our Nation.
Absolutely, the North wasn't prepared for war. But once they got it rolling, whew, what a juggernaut
 

wbull1

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#17
As has been noted by other members, @Andy Cardinal @Andersonh1 @Potomac Pride, Lincoln under estimated the seriousness of the secession issue, he over estimated the Unionist strength, and he mislead the people at times, with statements like there is no crisis, it is a manufactured crisis, and even nothing to worry about.

Lincoln's refusal to compromise on the extension of slavery into the territories help lead the nation to war. I am not saying he was wrong or right on that subject, but had he taking the secession crisis as a real possibility, as it was, perhaps he may have been willing to compromise more on the extension of slavery. However, with that said, Lincoln did know for a fact, that if he compromised on the slavery extension question, it would destroy his party and his political career................So was it a war for the Union (Keeping it together) or was it a war to save him and his party?

Respectfully,

William

One Nation
Two countries
View attachment 294227
I totally agree with you.............In his 2ND Presidential election in 1864, but in 1860...............That was not the case. Had Lincoln abandoned Fort Sumter, what would have happened? IIRC he was told in so many words he and his party would be dead. Had he compromised on the extension of slavery the republican party and Lincoln's political career would have been dead. In 1864 after 3 years of war that was not the case, and it is possible that in 1864 Lincoln may have changed the party's name to National Unity Party, to win the election that at times seemed that he and the Republican party may lose. Again did he do that to save the party and his career?

Respectfully,

William

One Nation
Two countries
View attachment 294273
I have no doubt Lincoln was told abandoning Fort Sumter would be political suicide. Equally, I have no doubt that he wanted his party and himself to succeed. I simply see no reason to believe that was an important factor in making his decision. Some advisors told him the opposite, that letting the fort go would be the politically savvy thing to do. Some people believed that the Southern states would quickly "come to their senses" and ask to come back. Lincoln took an oath to preserve the Union. He used preservation of the Union as the rally cry to promote the Union Army and men from different political beliefs, and different views on slaveholding joined the cause. Lincoln's opposition to the expansion of slavery started years before his presidency and did not change over time. I don't see any reason to think advice, pro or con, shortly before his action made any difference.
 

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