Abraham Lincoln consecrated the Civil War.
The young men came to war for many reasons.
Northerners fought for “the Union” and Free Labor. Many
came for a sign-up fee. Others were drafted. Some believed in the
abolition of slavery as a moral imperative, but not the majority.
Southerners fought for honor and the “Southern way of life,”
and a vague notion of “rights.” The Confederacy pressed them into
service for the duration of the war, and desertion was greater than
in the Union armies. But, whatever the gloss the Confederacy gave
soldier and citizen to ennoble the cause, the Confederacy existed to
Even as late as August 1862, Abraham Lincoln showed emanci-
pation was not his priority in a letter to Horace Greeley, the influen-
tial editor of the New York Tribune:
If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it,
and 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; and what I forbear, I
forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. 1
But the Civil War killed millions of us, more than all our other wars
together, and its negative legacy lives on. 2 Just over a year of carnage
later, Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg, November 19, 1863. The sacrifice
had to be for something greater than a resolution of regional disputes.
How the United States Supreme Court Gutted the Fourteenth Amendment and
THE SUPREME COURT V. THE GET
ROBERT J. MCWHIRTER is a nationally and internationally known speaker and author on trial advocacy,
immigration law, and the history of the Bill of Rights. He is a Certified Specialist in Criminal Law with the State
Bar of Arizona and first-chair qualified to defend capital cases by the Arizona Supreme Court. He is the author
of BILLS, QUILLS, AND STILLS: AN ANNOTATED, ILLUSTRATED, AND ILLUMINATED HISTORY OF THE BILL OF RIGHTS (ABA 2015).
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth
on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and
dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
The Gettysburg Address
Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 19, 1863
BY ROBERT J. MC WHIRTER