How Justified Were President Lincoln’s Wartime Decisions?
In a time of war, it is necessary for the President to enforce limits on the power of individuals. President Lincoln was entirely justified in limiting rights during the wartime situation to protect the nation. It was also necessary for him to increase the size of the federal army in order for the North to have any possibility of winning the war. Lincoln had to do all that he could to keep the Border States, each of which the Union could not afford to lose. Setting limits on the rights of individuals was unavoidable for President Lincoln, because Copperheads posed a significant threat to the Union.
It is almost certain that the North would have lost the war if Lincoln did not improve the Union’s army. The South had superior military trained personnel because most of the U.S. military that had been professionally trained seceded with the South. A number of notable military institutions were located in the South. The North only had a small “standing army” before the war. Congress was not in session at the time of crisis, so Lincoln himself requested 75, 000 men, most of which had never even held a gun. This large army needed training and supplies. Had Lincoln waited for the $2 million needed for military services to be appropriated, it may have been too late to successfully train such a large army.
It was crucial that the Union did not lose any of the Border States. Martial Law had to be ordered in Maryland immediately, because the loss of Maryland would mean that the Union’s capital, Washington D. C., would become enemy territory. If the line between the North and South shifted further north, the Union would lose many people, jobs, and railroad lines. President Lincoln needed Kentucky because it supplied much of the iron, gunpowder, and grain for the South. Slavery still existed in the Border States, which could be used to lure the Confederate States back. Lincoln’s priority was to preserve the Union. Keeping Maryland, Missouri, Kentucky, Delaware, and West Virginia may have made it possible.
It was entirely necessary for Lincoln to limit the rights of individuals. Northerners who sympathized with the South, also called “Copperheads”, openly attacked President Lincoln and the draft in newspapers, magazines, and their words. They often shipped goods to the South. Their actions may have posed a threat to the Union and could have lead to the loss of Border States. To prevent this, Lincoln arranged for “supervised” voting, and rightfully suspended Habeas Corpus and free speech. Those who threatened the North by outwardly speaking against the Union could be jailed immediately.
In order to protect the nation, President Lincoln was entirely justified in suspending rights during the wartime situation. The North would have had no chance of victory over the Confederacy’s superior military had Lincoln not supported our small, inexperienced army. It was also crucial that the President kept the slave-holding Border States to be able to lure the Confederate States back in, and more importantly, to protect Washington D. C., the capital of the Union. If Lincoln allowed the sympathizers to continue freely expressing their hate for the war, the “Copperheads” may have lead to many losses for the North, including the vital Border States. If President Lincoln had not infringed on the rights of the people, we could be living in the Confederate States of America today.
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