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23 November 2012


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The brilliance of Spielberg's film is surpassed by your review. pl

Clifford Kiracofe

Yes, well I would point out the influence of Prof. Harry Jaffa on neoconservative circles and others with respect to Lincoln and to the interpretation of Lincoln. Jaffa is considered a "West Coast Straussian" in the circle of the Leo Strauss cult.

These cultists emphasize Lincoln because they wish to cloak their own fascist concepts with an American historical figure. Straussians give their own perverse twist to each of their targets of study. We had such a professor briefly in the International Studies department of an institution with which I am familiar. He didn't stay long, opting for a grant to study with Prof. Harvey Mansfield at Harvard, another Straussian, and then going on to a cushy job at a big Midwestern University in Michigan one hears. Fortunately the institution found an excellent replacement for the Straussian.

Harvard...Obama...law school/government department??? Law schools are permeated with Straussians. Obama taught Constitutional Law at U Chicago so ...?:

It was fairly easy for Leo Strauss, a Jewish protege of the Nazi legal philosopher Carl Schmitt, to adopt this method when he came to the US from Europe gratis Rockefeller Foundation support.

A few years ago, I posted the topic of the Unitary Executive and all this Strauss and Carl Scmhitt fascist ideology:

It would be interesting to delve into the screenplay research for this film to see whether there was some Harry Jaffa, etal. influence on the screenwriter and on Spielberg.

The matter of sectionalism/separatism was taken up by George Washington in his Farewell Address. I think the Founding Fathers had it right:

Haven't seen the film but wonder whether it depicts the British designs of Russell and Palmerston and the French designs of Napoleon III and their Maximilian project and such. Also, how is the assassination of Lincoln handled/ foreign connections? Selby Letter?

Charles I

Thanks very much. I owe most everything I know about the WBS, over and above, and below too, the slavery issue, to this forum and its contributors. Never even heard the term War Between the States, nor knew of anything but the Blue and Grey on the screen.

Clifford Kiracofe

"The Library of Congress, which holds the largest collection of Civil War documents, pulled 200 items from its holdings to reveal both private and public thoughts from dozens of famous and ordinary citizens who lived in the North and the South. Many are being shown for the first time.

Robert E. Lee, for one, was grappling with divided federal and state allegiances. He believed his greater allegiance was to his native Virginia, as he wrote to a friend about resigning his U.S. Army commission.

"Sympathizing with you in the troubles that are pressing so heavily upon our beloved country & entirely agreeing with you in your notions of allegiance, I have been unable to make up my mind to raise my hand against my native state, my relatives, my children & my home," he wrote in 1861. "I have therefore resigned my commission in the Army."

Lee's handwritten letter is among dozens of writings from individuals who experienced the war. They are featured in the new exhibit "The Civil War in America" at the library in Washington until June 2013. Their voices also are being heard again in a new blog created for the exhibition

William R. Cumming

Lincoln did not live to see the 13th Amendment become part of the Constitution. It was ratified finally on December 6th, 1865!


Ratified by governments of a number of states not re-admitted to the Union.



If memory serves, ratification of the 13th, 14th and 15th were conditions for re-admission. pl


Seconded. I owe my awareness of a great many facets of America and the world to SST. Years of reading here has been a real education.


Thanks for these fascinating links. I was unaware of the Straussian appropriation of Lincoln. Are there any books of theirs you would particularly recommend for an insight into their thinking?



We thank you and acknowledge our debt in return. Did you read "The Killer Angels?" pl


No, but I will now.

FB Ali

Quite apart from these underlying ramifications it is a great movie. And Daniel Day-Lewis is superb.

Clifford Kiracofe


The most insightful books for an introduction with analysis to the problem of Strauss and Struassians are by Prof. Shadia Drury, a Canadian. Three of hers: Political Thought of Leo Strauss, Leo Strauss and the American Right, and Alexandre Kojeve The Roots of Postmodern Politics. These will give you a good foundation from which to explore other studies by other scholars.

Jaffa created the West Coast School of Straussians, supposedly more moderate and also more gentile in composition. Strauss would send very selected students to Paris to study under Kojeve...Alan Bloom, for example. There are circles within circles, Jew and gentile, gay (male) and straight (male) and so on....its esoteric.

Straussians permeate universities now in the US and Canada: political science, philosophy, and law. The US Federalist Society, a right wing legal group, is influenced by Strauss and Carl Schmitt which is where you get the "Unitary Executive" thing of little Bush and apparently Obama.

It is essential, of course, to study Carl Schmitt the Nazi jurist as he was Leo Strauss' mentor. His concept of "states of emergency" and role of "the leader" are of particular interest.

Strauss' problem in coming in exile to the US was to find a way to promote the ideas of Carl Schmitt but cloaked in American and "philosophical" garb...very clever...but then merely clever. Dangerous though.

David Habakkuk

Clifford Kiracofe,

After reading discussions of Schmitt by yourself and Kieran, I looked at ‘The Concept of the Political’. It seemed to me that a central premise of its argument, that the ‘specific political distinction’ is ‘that between friend and enemy’ is sophomoric rubbish.

Rather few political relationships are clear cut cases of perfect friendship or absolute enmity. Most are somewhere in between, and moreover the factors determining what relationship is appropriate can metamorphose rapidly. From this it follows that the setting and adjusting of priorities is actually the key to the successful conduct of foreign affairs. It also follows that ‘appeasement’ is an indispensable part of the arsenal of statecraft, along with ‘deterrence’ and ‘compellence’: indeed, very often they are appropriately practised together.

An interesting case is provided by the view taken by the experts at the German Foreign Office of the country’s proper relationship with the Soviet Union – which was clearly a case of ‘existential enmity’ in Schmitt’s view. The expanded edition of ‘The Concept of the Political’ was published in 1932; in early 1934, the German Ambassador to Moscow, Rudolph Nadolny, directed a trenchantly argued despatch at the new Nazi government.

At its core was the notion that recent developments in Germany and the Soviet Union were rendering the notion of an ‘existential enmity’ between the two countries out of date. The German Moscow Embassy view came to be that a strategy which one might call ‘appeasement from strength’ in relation to the Soviet Union could give Germany a position of decisive influence in Eurasia. It might have worked. In the event, Hitler’s Schmittian simplicities brought the country to ruin.

Unfortunately, such simplicities can be made to mesh rather well with elements in American nationalism which come out of the Puritan heritage – which seems to be a kind of ‘dominant gene’ in the United States. Following his return from inflicting ‘shock and awe’ on the Irish in May 1650, Cromwell embarked on a ‘preventive war’ against Scotland. The tutor to the daughter of the commander in chief, Sir Thomas Fairfax, who had resigned because he opposed the attack on Scotland, was the poet Andrew Marvell.

The poem Marvell wrote about these events, entitled ‘An Horatian Ode upon Cromwell’s Return from Ireland’ is one of the greatest, and most ambivalent, political poems in the language. Some of its most ambiguous lines about Cromwell seem apposite, in relation to Kieran’s fascinating discussion of Spielberg’s film: “A Caesar, he, ere long to Gaul,/ To Italy a Hannibal, /And to all states not free / Shall climacteric be.”

If in rather different way from that of Schmitt, the vision of oneself as a God-appointed bringer of freedom lends itself to a sharp division between friends and enemies. And this may I think be an element in the bizarre adoption by acolytes of the dubiously reconstructed German ‘Caesarist’ Leo Strauss of American nationalism. Also relevant, of course, has been the delusional belief of some American Jewish intellectuals that American military power could be a ‘climacteric’ for the Arab and Muslim states of the Middle East.

The antinomian potentialities which Kieran highlights may also helpful in looking at the ‘dark crusade’ about which you have written.

The text of Marvell’s poem, with good – and mercifully short – notes, is available at


Clifford Kiracofe


Thank you for this very thoughtful reply and for the fascinating insights.

I agree entirely that the Schmittian ideology coupled with certain deep strain (or strains) of American jingoism is dangerous indeed. Bush43 is a case in point. We have it today in both the Neoconservative and in the Humanitarian Interventionist factions of the foreign policy establishment.

Over a century ago, President McKinley used "Biblical" language to stir up the jingoism of his day for an imperial crusade in the war against Spain. Imperialism was then a key foreign policy issue in the national campaign of 1900 with the Democratic Party espousing officially the anti-Imperialism policy line.

And today it's the war against Syria/Iran supported by both parties. Romney's comment on Russia as the number one enemy clearly demonstrated the influence of his Neoconservative advisors.

A truly dangerous feature of the transmission of Schmittian fascist ideology to the United States lies within the legal profession. Increasingly, law schools are permeated by Straussian ideology. There are implications for our Constitutional order. There is a strong influence in The Federalist Society:

Will look forward to reading Marvell and reflecting on times past. Thank you for this reference.

Clifford Kiracofe

Judge Bingham's summation re the conspiracy against Lincoln:




Based on long study I have concluded that Lincoln's assasination was a legitimate act of war carried out by agents of the Confederate States. The United States acted toward the Confederate States as though they had actually withdrawn from the Union. The supreme proof of that was the requirement that the "military districts" under occupation after the war be re-admitted to the Union one by one. Some radical Republicans wanted to re-structure the conquered South's borders and transport its people into exile while re-settling the region with Yankees. Additionally, Confederate soldiers wen captured were treated as PWs rather than criminals. The point is that both parties to this struggle understood the old Union to be separated into two warring parts. That being the case, Lincoln, as commander in chief of the US armed forces was a legitimate target just as Saddam was a legitimate target for us. Finally, the Dahlgren Raid papers must be considered. These have been judged genuine by the Smithsonian Institution. In those papers Ulric Dahlgren told his men that if they succeeded in penetrating the Richmond defenses they would hang Davis and his cabinet without trial. p

Charles I

". . . if they succeeded in penetrating the Richmond defenses they would hang Davis and his cabinet without trial."

If they'd only had drones back then. . .

Clifford Kiracofe


I have not studied the assassination in any detail or legal aspects relating to it. But my own interest is in the actual conspiracy itself. In your research did you detect any foreign connections to the conspirators? Any linkages to secret societies, lodges, foreign directed or domestic?

Lincoln was aware of a plot (or plots) and the Selby Letter was one indicator.

As I understand it, the northern counterintelligence folks made a number of arrests relating to certain lodges during the course of the war. This and any foreign connections are the areas which interest me. There was also something about the conspirators having some connections in Canada of some kind.

There was an old story that the cipher Booth allegedly used was linked to a machine allegedly used by Judah P. Benjamin. Benjamin fled to the UK and became a Queen's Counsel taking many secrets with him.



I think this was a straight Confederate Secret Service operation run by Benjamin using Signal Corps assets in part. The plan probably called for kidnapping with death as a "backup" and was triggered by the Dahlgren incident. I agreed with the late Bill Tidwell who outlined the op in "Come Retribution." and "April, 1865." The protagonist of my trilogy lives in Tidwell's universe. Tidwell and I believe that the Confederates had European training assistance in setting up their services. France and Britain are good candidates. The Confederate services both civilian and military had facilities in Ontario that the British colonial government chose not to notice. This was a convenient base area, training area, etc. There does not really seem to have been any connection to any lodge or society. The "Knights of the Golden Circle" did not really exist. The Lincoln government invented it as a cover for CI operations. The civilian confederate service used a French cipher wheel device. One was found in Booth's DC hotel room. The key setting of the month, "Come Retribution" was found with it. pl



A profound and eloquent piece. Thank you.


Judah P. Benjamin was a remarkable man. We could use a couple like him today.

Clifford Kiracofe


Many thanks. This is very helpful. I can see I need to get going on your books which I have at home. Also, I will locate the Tidwell books.

In survey type US history courses the CW/WBS is often not covered in international context. In US diplomatic history courses, however, this dimension is addressed. There is no question that influential circles in Britain and France supported the Confederacy while Russia and Prussia and others were pro-Union.

From a power politics standpoint, the "divide and rule" approach of the British and French Empires is quite understandable as is the pro-Union attitude of their rivals Russia and Prussia and others.

The relationship between Juarez and Lincoln is also understandable given the Anglo-French Maximilian gambit. I once visited the room in the convent in Queretero where Max was kept prior to his execution.

The letters of the Union's ambassador at Vienna during this period, John Lothrop Motley, are very revealing of the European attitudes toward the war. They are in his two volume letters. There is a set of volumes on Confederate diplomatic correspondence somewhere out there but I have not had time to look it over.

Thanks for clarifying the French cipher wheel. I believe that another one and/or the cipher Booth used found to be in the possession of Benjamin. I saw a reference to this about forty years ago in a 19th century publication but I do not at the moment recall the exact date and pub. Something about the 1870s or 1880s time frame in a retrospective piece on the war. It does appear Benjamin's operation. As he had foreign connections, perhaps there is more.

According to the Summary by Judge Bingham, assassination of General Grant and Sec. Seward was also part of the overall plot.

As to the lodges, they were based in Charleston SC and New York City from what I gathered some years ago when looking at all this. I believe Lafayette Baker moved against some of their members.

The Canadian attitude would understandably reflect the attitude and policy of the sovereign.

It is an interesting case to be sure.



Benjamin is one of the most remarkable men in American history. i dedicated the first volume of my trilogy to him in the words that both you and I used. He was effectively the DNI of the Confederacy, having been given control of all secret covert government money by the president. Self made wealthy planter, US senator, successful lawyer, Confederate Attorney General, Secretary of War and Secretary of State, British judge; you name it. He did it. He finally retired to Paris to live with his Catholic Creole wife from Louisiana. He is buried in Pere Lachaise cemetery with other heroes of western civilization. His grave is kept decorated with the CS flag and white camelias by the Paris branch of the UDC. pl


What were these lodges called? This sounds like fruitful ground for research. Another such is the attitude of the Catholic Church towards the CSA. This was generally favorable. Reasons for that center on the identification by the Church of the Northern cause with Yankee Protestantism and what it saw as its aggressive actions toward full integration of Catholic immigrants into the industrial life and work habits and mentality associated with northern capitalism. The public school system in the North was promoted by industrialists for this purpose. The rise of Catholic parochial schools was largely a reaction to this. Slavery was a major issue for the Catholic Church as a great moral hazard for the slaveowner although not a sin in itself. This was tempered by the belief that this life is transient and that what should be sought is salvation in the next world. Catholic teaching held that a poor person and especially a slave was more likely to be saved through virtuous endurance of adversity than was the master who was enjoined to treat the bondsman humanely. Contrary to popular belief today there were relatively large Catholic populations in the coastal areas and cities of the South and the bishops in these places were significant figures. There were about 20 Catholic chaplains in the CS Army. These were often Redemptorists but sometimes Jesuits. There is an interesting memoir called "Confederate Chaplain" by a CSSR priest named Sheeran (?) who was Stonewall's friend. And then there is the saga of Father John Bannon, CSSR. He was chaplain of a Missouri regiment. He was captured at Vicksburg. He went to Rome at the behest of President Davis, Judah Benjamin, and the bishop of Richmond. All three of the priests involved were Irish immigrants. Bannon persuaded Pius IX to address Davis in a letter as "your excellency, President Jefferson F. Davis." The pope was already inclined to do that and agreed to it as ruler of the papal States after receiving an assurance of gradual emancipation. The letter was used in Ireland to reduce the effect of Union recruiting there. Much more could be said of this interesting Church attitude including the story of the Lincoln assisination operational tream. pl

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