Below is the very fine review by member Joyce Bennett:
The State of Maryland is said now to “keep step to the music of the Union.”…She saw “line upon line” of good soldiers coming; and she heard “here a little and there a”—great deal of persuasion….But how long before Virginia and Jefferson Davis are taught the Maryland quickstep.— Editorial, New York Times, May 4, 1861.
Lawrence Denton’s A Southern Star for Maryland presents a convincing argument for the inevitability of Maryland’s secession from the Union. More significantly, in addition to documenting the Old Line State’s allegiance to the South, her native region, and her hopelessly captive legislature’s defiance of the Yankee invaders, Denton also reveals the perfidy, arrogance and self-delusion of the North, particularly the all-powerful Northern press.
The New York Times described the bloodshed in Baltimore on 19 April 1861 as a “peaceful triumph over the secession mob” and an “instructive lesson for the future.” Boasting that Maryland’s “change of sentiment” regarding the Yankees followed on the heels of “a little stern showing of the tusks of Power,” the Times reveled in Lincoln’s despotism, thankful that Maryland, “willing or unwilling,” had “been compelled” to face the reality of the North’s “free right of way…through her territory” and her “speedy annihilation” had she not submitted to Lincoln. The New York Tribune also gloated over the subjugation of the first Southern state and cheered that soon “a force of two hundred thousand men…[would] march through, (not around) Baltimore, Richmond, Raleigh, Charleston.”
Denton’s Lincoln is not as much an emperor as he is a puppet of this omnipotent Northeastern fourth estate. The Times warned the president:
“We are in the midst of Revolution, and in such emergencies the people are very apt to find some representative leader if the forms of law do not happen to have given them one. It would be well for Mr. Lincoln to bear in mind the possibility of such an event.”
Calling for real revolution in the form of deposing a sitting president, this “more moderate” Northern newspaper, according to Denton, shamelessly accused Southerners of treason and rebellion when they were merely exercising their God-given right to withdraw consent to be governed by what they considered an illegitimate central authority. The Times was advocating something far more drastic than secession, something far more dangerous.
In the spring and summer of 1861, big Northern interests were seeking supremacy over the rest of the nation; victorious in the end, they were to change America forever. With the whole of the industrial North bearing down on her and obsessed with her military reduction, Maryland’s precarious position was complicated further by her polite and conservative disposition and naive assumption that she was still part of a free and constitutional republic. Devoting considerable space to the divergent politics and temperaments of the Upper and Lower South, Denton gives due attention to a topic that is glossed over by too many contemporary historians. Maryland was part of the same region the anti-secessionist Robert E. Lee called home, a less impulsive borderland that was slower to act. Virginia held out as long as she could before passing an ordnance of secession because she thought Lincoln might have been interested in a resolution of hostilities.
Deferential to a fault, Denton unfortunately asks to be forgiven if he in his enthusiasm to prove his thesis seems “overly biased,” possibly a bone thrown to Lincoln apologists who, even if they are honest enough to acknowledge Lincoln’s depredations, will justify his tyranny because of the “sacred imperative” that required him to preserve at any cost the “indivisible” Union and a nationalist government of, by and for something called “the people.” But Denton in the end challenges such labored interpretations of Article VI of the Constitution and American history itself while demonstrating that Maryland would have boarded the Dissolution Wagon had she not “wait[ed] for Virginia” too long. Though even a perfect argument for Maryland’s secession will be dismissed as conjecture, what is clearly not conjectural, is that Maryland, a state in the Upper South, was conquered by Lincoln. In an age when everything moved very slowly, in a matter of weeks, he “crush[ed ] out her boundary lines” as U.S. Senator Henry Wilson had predicted he would. Equally indisputable is her contempt for Northerners and for their immoral war. Lincoln, his myrmidons, the New York Times and other Yankee newspapers and the “fanatical and excited multitudes of Northern cities” knew this and hated Maryland for it. No matter what else can be said about the state, Denton proves that in or out of the Union Maryland deserved her “Southern star.”