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"In his zeal to preserve the Union, [Lincoln] abandoned statecraft, exploiting the delicate issue of Fort Sumter and committing the nation to a bloodbath far worse than he or any of his advisors ever envisioned. At the time, his belligerent course promised no better result than maintaining the territorial integrity of the United States at the expense of weakening the Constitution, and with no initial hint at eliminating slavery.
In his mission to preserve the nation's geographic boundaries, Lincoln quickly violated his oath to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States." He did so in the executive power he assumed, in the increase of federal authority that he imposed in order to prosecute the war, and in his arbitrary suspensions of constitutional liberties.
By sheer military might his proxies deposed the duly elected legislatures of two States of the Union. If he did not resurrect the Roman custom of dictatorship in a time of crisis, he did introduce a modified form of the concept in a republic that would previously never have borne it.
Lincoln gradually arrogated so much authority to his office that his own dominant party dared not pass that power on to a member of the opposition. When the Democrat Andrew Johnson succeeded Lincoln and resisted Radical Republican aims, a Republican Congress and Supreme Court quickly curtailed presidential powers through legislation, judicial interpretation, and political maneuvers, including the first exercise (and the first abuse) of the power to impeach a president. Unfortunately, no retroactive restraint could restore the antebellum intolerance to authoritarian government.
Lincoln . . . might have averted the clash [at Sumter] had he been willing to negotiate a peaceful separation, but he represented a nationalist faction [and culmination] of a peaceful settlement would have demanded truly inspired statecraft: instead, Lincoln elected to risk a confrontation at Fort Sumter even though his personal emissary, Stephen Hurlbut, had assured him that it would end in violence.
By the end of his first year in the White House he had probably begun to understand the depth of his misjudgment on that point, although he may not yet have begun to imagine how ghastly the consequences would be." (Mr. Lincoln Goes to War, William Marvel, Houghton Mifflin, 2006, pp. 281-282)