Austin De Castro Mr. Markert U. S. History H-7 5/20/11 Abraham Lincoln: Good or Bad Wartime President? Abraham Lincoln was thought up as one of the greatest presidents to have ever lived but contrary to belief he was actually a terrible wartime president. He had many people of his own cabinet, such as Salmon Chase, who connived against him while also having to deal with riots and protests against his war policies (Basler 75). Others say Lincoln was a tyrant for suspending writs of habeas corpus, repressing the press, and the fact that he arrested dissenters.
Even abolitionists thought Lincoln was bad when it came to slavery and how he would not move quickly to finally free the slaves, while the people who were in favor of slavery accused him of waging war on slavery. Lincoln could be seen as a dictator since he has overused his presidential powers, such as declaring blockades in the South, ordering the writ of habeas corpus suspended in parts of Maryland, and so on (McPherson 55).
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As you can see, Abraham Lincoln was a bad wartime president for all of the terrible actions he has done such as overusing his powers and it is clear that he was not the president to be chosen at this time period because many people have scorned him for his actions. To start off, Lincoln was a terrible wartime president since he could be seen as a dictator for overusing his powers. The Constitution gives the Congress the right to declare war, but on the contrary Lincoln used the powers given to Congress to declare a blockade onto the South which is none of his business since that power was given to Congress only.
Lincoln declared the blockade on the South in April 1861 and it was called the Union Blockade. The Union Blockade was part of the Anaconda Plan which was made by Winfield Scott and it was designed to close much territory of the Confederate coastline and major ports which would divide the South into three parts. The Union Blockade led to Confederate cotton exports being reduced because of the inability to transport goods and exports, or it even prevented the importation of weapons since the ports were closed (Thomas 34). There was another part to the Anaconda Plan, but the blockading of the
South is relevant to the situation in which Lincoln declared the obstruction. This situation was later brought to the Supreme Court and as said before, the power to declare war is a right given to the Congress and not the president. Lincoln was obviously the president during this time period, and he overused his powers in order to declare a blockade onto the South, which is like declaring war. Lincoln put matters into his own hands and did not care for the rules of how the Constitution gave certain rights to the president and certain rights to the Congress.
Other than proclaiming a blockade on the South, Lincoln also increased the size of the federal army when he called for volunteering troops. What had happened was on April 15, 1861 Lincoln said the Southern states had opposed the laws of the Union because they had “constituted combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings. ” Since Lincoln said that the South said this, he ended up calling for 75,000 volunteer troops who were to serve for three months in order to stop the combinations that South has claimed and so they could also stop the laws the South created (Sandburg 64).
The troops were lucky to get two meals a day, and supply was short such as uniforms and so on, but as said before this is not a right of a president; it was a right of the Congress which was again given from the Constitution. This was another instance of how Lincoln was a bad wartime president because he would overuse his powers many times; in this case he was increasing the size of the federal army which is not a power of the president
Furthermore, Lincoln could be seen as a bad wartime president because he used powers and rights that were given to the Congress and used them for his own business during the event where he directed the secretary of the treasury to advance two million without appropriation or security to three private citizens for military purposes. In fear of more battles because the battle at Fort Sumter had already ended, Lincoln called in his cabinet secretaries and told them that he would have to direct his secretary, Salmon Chase, to advance $2 million to John A. Dix and others in order to pay for military and naval measures such as weapons and so on.
As said during the introduction, Salmon Chase conspired against Lincoln for his actions (Basler 78). Not only did Salmon Chase conspire against Lincoln, but same for his own generals that openly ridiculed him for interfering with their military campaigns by telling them what to do and so forth. This event was a severe regularity opposing to the Constitution and again, this makes Lincoln a terrible wartime president because he was using powers and rights that were given to the Congress for his own business, which in this case was to buy items for military purposes.
In addition, Lincoln was a bad wartime president because he suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. What is habeas corpus is a question that many people would ask and why was suspending this privilege a big deal. Habeas Corpus is a write that requires a person to be brought before a judge or a court, especially for investigation of a restraint of the person’s liberty. Basically, habeas corpus is used as a protection against illegal imprisonment and it prevents people from being thrown into jail without formal charges or trials (Herndon 99).
As you can see, habeas corpus is an important idea needed in America or else life without it would not be fair. Without this privilege people would be sent to jail for no reason without being told why or being brought to a judge, so in the end this idea is needed everywhere but later disappeared during Lincoln’s time as president. He suspended this privilege of habeas corpus which means he took this right away and it ended up people who were thought of as aiding the South were thrown into jail without getting a formal charge or trials from the courts and judges.
Any anti-Unionists, also known as the people from the South, could be arrested because of the abandonment of habeas corpus during his presidency. What had happened was Lincoln wrote to Winfield Scott to suspend habeas corpus in order to have safety in the North and later the suspension of habeas corpus had grown to other places such as in parts of Maryland (McPherson 58). Other than the fact that suspending habeas corpus was bad, it was also none of his business to do so.
Habeas corpus could only be set aside by the authorization of the Congress; again a power and right given from the Constitution therefore Lincoln used a power that was not his. All in all, habeas corpus was a necessary idea needed since it gives you the right to have a court hearing and so on, but in the end Lincoln used the powers of the Congress once again in order to suspend habeas corpus to jail people he thought could be helping out the South.
Not only did all these events occur, but Lincoln could be considered a terrible wartime president because of all the riots and protests that occurred and the fact that he censored the press. There were many reasons why people were rioting and protesting, such as slavery, but a great example of a riot that occurred because of Lincoln was during the New York City draft riots. These riots were the largest civil insurrection in American history other than the Civil War and the reason why people were rioting was because of the draft in which soldiers were being drafted.
As said before, Lincoln continued to call for volunteering troops and this meant that the rioters, who were working class men, felt that they were being unfairly treated by having to be drafted because they could not pay the $300 commutation fee to exclude themselves from being drafted (Sandburg 89). People were rioting because of Lincoln’s decision of calling for more troops which should have not occurred at all because that right and power is given to Congress from the Constitution. Other than that, Lincoln censored the press many times such as taking control of the telegraph lines.
Not only did he do that, but he also shut down disloyal newspapers that would say bad things about Lincoln and he would deny them access to the mails which was the best means of communication. Finally, he arrested editors of the newspapers because habeas corpus was not around, as said before. Lincoln was a bad wartime president because his actions led to protests and riots and he also took away peoples freedom of speech and threw them into jail because habeas corpus was not around so in the end Lincoln could be looked at as a tyrant.
Last but not least, Lincoln could be seen as a terrible wartime president because abolitionists attacked him since he did not move quickly when it came to the topic of freeing slaves. Not only were abolitionists attacking him about this, but same with the people who were against the freeing of slaves and they accused him of waging war on slavery. Examples of Lincoln not moving quickly with freeing the slaves was how he rejected two emancipation attempts by John Fremont and David Hunter since he thought it would upset the border states loyal to the Union. Also, Lincoln was not oving quickly with freely slaves because he thought that slavery would end on its own by not having it expand anymore in the U. S. territory or how he persuaded the states to accept compensated emancipation in return for freeing slaves. Compensation emancipation is when you pay the owner of a slave in order to have the slave be free, and Lincoln used this idea in order to have slavery end on its own. After a while, he ended up announcing emancipation on September 22, 1862 but people who were not in favor of freeing slaves were also mad at him (Thomas 12).
The non-abolitionists accused him of waging war on slavery, which was that they believed he was against slavery and what they believed in. Lincoln was in favor of the Union and the North, which was why the non-abolitionists have accused him of this. Other than that, the Emancipation Proclamation meant that the free slaves could join the United States military. That meant that many ex-slaves joined the Union Army, which brought about 200,000 blacks (Herndon 123). Obviously that would help the North because they had more people and the Confederacy started allowing slaves into their army towards the end of the war.
Above all, abolitionists attacked Lincoln and same with the people who were against emancipation therefore Lincoln was a terrible wartime president because he caused conflicts and so on. In conclusion, although Abraham Lincoln was thought up as one of the greatest presidents to have ever lived he was actually a terrible wartime president. People connived against him and he had many riots and protests against his war policies of drafting troops and so on. Other than that, people say that Lincoln could be seen as a tyrant because he suspended writs of habeas corpus, censored the press, and how he arrested dissenters.
Abolitionists and people who were against emancipation had comments about him saying he took his time to free slaves, or that he was waging war on slavery. Lincoln was a dictator in my opinion since he overused his presidential powers by suspending writs of habeas corpus, declaring blockades, and so on. Overall, Abraham Lincoln was a bad wartime president because of all the terrible actions he has made and it is obvious that he was a horrendous president at this time because of all the people who scorned him for his actions and how he would overuse his powers.
Works Cited Herndon, William Henry, and Jesse William Weik. Abraham Lincoln; the True Story of a Great Life,. New York: D. Appleton, 1892. Print. Lincoln, Abraham, and Roy Prentice Basler. Abraham Lincoln: His Speeches and Writings,. Cleveland: World Pub. , 1946. Print. McPherson, James M. Abraham Lincoln. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009. Print. Sandburg, Carl. Abraham Lincoln; the Prairie Years and the War Years. Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest Association, 1970. Print. Thomas, Benjamin P. Abraham Lincoln a Biography. New York: Knopf, 1967. Print.