Browsing "Abolitionists & Disunionists"

Emerson the Northern Secessionist

Wanting to depart Boston should New England ever “surrender to the slave trade,” the idealistic abolitionist Ralph Waldo Emerson must have forgotten that Massachusetts was the linchpin in the transatlantic slave trade and that Lowell Mills was amassing a fortune processing slave-produced raw cotton. Emerson was ready for the secession of New England from the Union if Buchanan won election in 1856 instead of Fremont.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Emerson the Northern Secessionist              

“The events of the fifties confirmed Emerson’s fears of Southern political power. It was “the ascendancy of Southern manners” that drew public men into the support of the South. At the same time, his attitude toward the North grew more sentimental and less critical. He drew more sharply the line between the slave states and the free states. Expressions such as “party of darkness” versus “party of light,” “aristocracy” versus “plebian strength” began to appear in his journals and addresses. Like his fellow-abolitionists, he assumed that the goodness of the individual was simply lost in the badness of the slavery system.

Emerson maintained that no slaveholder could be free. He fell into the abolitionist assumption that nobility and sincerity were inevitable concomitants to the Negro’s ignorance and simplicity. Those who ran away were fleeing from plantation whips and hiding from hounds.

Those who cooperated with the South were stigmatized. Any judge who obeyed the Fugitive Slave Law by returning a runaway slave to the South made of his bench an extension of the planter’s whipping post. Emerson’s anger over [Preston] Brooks assault on [Charles] Sumner led him to exaggerate uncritically his account of both Northern and Southern values:

“Life has not parity of value in the free state and in the slave state. In one, it is adorned with education, with skillful labor, with arts, with long prospective interests, with sacred family ties, with honor and justice. In the other, life is a fever; man is an animal, given to pleasure, frivolous, irritable, spending his days in hunting and practicing with deadly weapons to defend himself against his slaves and against his companions brought up in the same idle and dangerous way. Such people live for the moment, they have properly no future, and readily risk on every passion a life which is of small value to themselves or others.”

Emerson’s letter to his brother William in June of 1856 revealed the extent of his pessimism. He stated that he was looking at the map to find a place to go with his children when Boston and Massachusetts should surrender to the slave trade. “If the Free States do not obtain the government next fall, which our experience does not entitle us to hope, nothing seems left, but to form a Northern Union, & break the old.”

(The South in Northern Eyes, 1831-1861, Howard R. Floan, McGraw-Hill, 1958, pp. 57-59)

 

Exalting a Piratical and Murderous Fanatic

John Brown has been described by author Otto Scott (The Secret Six) as a political assassin, one who murders in order to attract attention and who would “incite and terrify as many people as possible.”  Brown was a fanatic who used terror to force a new political pattern of his choosing, cared little of the carnage he was instigating,  and won praise from Northern journalists who declared him a hero of the people.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Exalting a Piratical and Murderous Fanatic

“When the State of Virginia seceded from the Union on the 17th day of April, 1861, most of her citizens, belonging to the United States Navy, resigned their commissions and offered their services to the State of their birth. [I]t was believed by many persons that a large party at the North would oppose the prosecution of a war of subjugation.

It will be remembered . . . how strong had been the party opposed to secession in the Convention then in session at Richmond . . . [but] The call upon Virginia, by President Lincoln for her quota of troops to aid in subjugating the South, had settled the question [and] she became a member of the Confederacy.

I had visited, some months previous to the secession of the State, many of the little villages in New England, where I saw that the population [was] in terrible earnest. “Wide awake,” and other secret societies were organized; and inflammatory harangues aroused the populace. The favorite theme of the orators was the “martyrdom” of John Brown; the piratical and murderous raid of that fanatic into the State of Virginia being exalted into a praiseworthy act of heroism.

When I returned to Virginia and contrasted the apparent apathy and want of preparation there with the state of affairs at the North, I trembled for the result. Volunteers responded with alacrity to the call to defend the State from invasion; and none responded more readily, or served more bravely, than those who had opposed secession in the Convention.

It seems invidious to cite particular examples; but the “noblest Trojan of them all”  will point a moral, and serve as an exemplar for generations to come. Wise in council, eloquent in debate, bravest and coolest among the brave in battle, and faithful to his convictions in adversity, he still lives to denounce falsehood and wrong. Truly the old hero, in all he says and does, “gives the world assurance of a man.” — I allude to General J. A. Early.”

(Narrative of a Blockade Runner, John Wilkinson, Valde Books, 2009, pp. 3-5)

Lincoln's Political Millenium

Southern conservative M.E. Bradford saw Lincoln as the politician he was – one who used the abolitionist movement as a partisan tactic to destroy the Democratic Party in the North and pursued Alexander Hamilton’s dream of a commercial empire. The Northern military victory enabled Lincoln’s to break with the original Constitution and implement a new interpretation with the support of fellow revolutionaries.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Lincoln’s Political Millenium

“Lincoln’s personal opinions about and his actual public policies toward African Americans are evidence, according to Bradford, that partisan politics were behind Lincoln’s high-sounding rhetoric . . . His claim that a nation half free and half slave cannot endure in spite of a historical record to the contrary, the Black Codes of his home State of Illinois, the racist attitudes of his Northern electoral base, his support for recolonization of African Americans to Liberia, selective emancipation, and the plight of freedmen overall (at the Hampton Roads Conference of 1865 Lincoln is quoted as saying they can “root, hog, or die”) give an empty ring to his rhetoric of universal human rights.

As Bradford poignantly remarked, “For the sake of such vapid distinctions he urged his countrymen to wade through seas of blood.”  . . . [Can] one reasonably assume that Lincoln was zealously obsessed with the pursuit of power for a just cause and that the “seas of blood” that flowed during his tenure were justifiable consequences of his “new birth of freedom” he alluded to in his Gettysburg Address? Or, was there a more mundane motive behind Lincoln’s policies, with the ensuing war unexpectedly getting out of hand?

There can be little question that Lincoln and his Republican supporters had a mundane public policy agenda that overshadowed the rhetoric and legacy of their tenure in power. That agenda was Hamiltonian, insofar as it required a substantial transfusion of power from the States to the national government, in order for the latter to more effectively promote the style and pace of development toward a commercial empire and the corresponding opportunities for personal and national profits that such rapid commercial development entailed.

The politically contentious issues of internal improvements, the national bank, and [tariff] protectionism made giant strides on behalf of national supremacy during the Lincoln Administration. In fact the Gilded Age can be traced to the political economy of those Republicans who controlled the national government in the early 1860s:

“It is customary to deplore the Gilded Age, the era of the Great Barbeque. It is true that many of the corruptions of the Republican Era came to a head after Lincoln lay to rest in Springfield. But it is a matter of fact that they began either under his direction or with his sponsorship. Military necessity, the “War for the Union,” provided an excuse, and umbrella of sanction, under which the essential nature of the changes made in the relation of government to commerce could be concealed [Bradford, Remembering Who We Are, 146].”

Lincoln’s rhetoric in the Gettysburg Address reveals the importance of a Republican Party committed to the fulfillment of Hamilton’s dream of a commercial empire. The emergence of a commercial empire within the conceptual framework of Lincoln’s incorporation of the Declaration [of Independence] into the Constitution (or vice versa) would result in the political millennium he alludes to in the Gettysburg Address.

And Lincoln had good reason to be optimistic. During the Republican Party’s Civil War and postbellum dominance, the use of government as a means toward commercial expansion and personal aggrandizement was shifted into overdrive.

[And] Lincoln’s expansive interpretation of presidential powers made him the most imperial president in American history, thereby setting a dangerous precedent for predisposed successors. The incarceration of approximately twenty-thousand political prisoners, the closing of over three hundred newspapers, the interruptions of State legislatures, the blockade of the South, the unilateral suspension of habeas corpus, explicit and implicit defiance of the Supreme Court, the sanctioning of the creation of West Virginia, private property seizures, and electioneering/voting irregularities have all been rationalized as necessary war measures.

[Bradford suggests] the evidence indicates that “in this role the image of Lincoln grows to be very dark – indeed, almost sinister . . . Thousands of Northern boys lost their lives in order that the Republican Party might experience rejuvenation, to serve its partisan goals.”

(A Southern Reactionary’s Affirmation of the Rule of Law, Marshall L. DeRosa; A Defender of Southern Conservatism, M.E. Bradford and His Achievements, Clyde N. Wilson, editor, University of Missouri Press, 1999, pp. 111-113)

Deep Seated Hostility Toward the South

William Lowndes Yancey of Alabama pointed to the relentless pressure from Northern States for trade advantages at the expense of the rest of the country while resisting any increase of new States friendly toward Southern interests. It should be noted also that Southern States were “free States” like the North though with an African labor system – and Northern States were former slaveholding States with many employing wage-slaves.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Deep-Seated Hostility Toward the South

“Yancey now saw the dangers . . . divined in the combination of tariff increases, repeal of the Gag Rule, and especially the exclusion of Texas. “I can see in this a deeply seated hostility to the South – a disposition to circumscribe it – to surround it with people and institutions hostile to it,” he began. The Missouri Compromise, he reminded New Yorkers, gave the free States the bulk of western territories enough to make twenty-six new States, according to his calculations.

Once the Union admitted Florida as a slave State, Yancey pointed out that slaveholders had nowhere else to turn. And yet, the Texas annexation – with the possibility of dividing that region into five slave States – “frighten[s] Northern men out of their wits about the enormous preponderance which annexation will bring to the South!”

So, he concluded, while Maine pressed her lumber interests in Congress, western States called for federal internal improvements, Pennsylvania and New England sought advantage for their industry and New York for commerce, “the South but urges annexation as a protection against assailants! Do you not see the difference?”

[Yancey] asserted that Northerners would cut their own throats by harming the peculiar institution. It was the produce of slave labor, not free labor, Yancey claimed, that resulted in the commercial prosperity of New York. [And] Yancey correctly noted that the Constitution’s three-fifths provision that many Northerners blamed for increasing Southern political power actually limited representation. If Northerners forced the end of slavery, African Americans in the South would suddenly count as five-fifths . . . for determining representation in Congress.

(William Lowndes Yancey, The Coming of the Civil War, Eric H. Walther, UNC Press, 2006, pp. 81-82)

Chase's Loyal and Disloyal Americans

Salmon P. Chase seemed not aware that as defined in the United States Constitution only States themselves can establish the privilege of suffrage, not the agent created by the States. That same Constitution holds that treason can only be committed against a State, by waging war against it or adhering to its enemies, which is precisely what Chase and his revolutionary cohorts were engaged in. Secession was a valid act in 1861, and equally as valid as that in 1776.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Chase’s Loyal and Disloyal Americans

“Salmon P. Chase . . . emerged as an early advocate of self-determination as the best solution to disorder in the South. Throughout the war, Chase argued that the federal government’s policy toward the rebellious South should be based on the principle that “the loyal citizens of a State constitute a State.” He defined as loyal those “who desire the suppression of the rebellion, and consent to the means which the government found necessary for its suppression.”

Loyal citizens included virtually all of the black population together with those whites who accepted emancipation and Negro suffrage. Chase thought it was vital that the federal government make “no distinctions between colored and white loyalists,” and he attributed the shortcomings of Lincoln’s efforts in Louisiana, where Chase believed “the old secession element is rapidly gaining the ascendancy,” to the exclusion of blacks from the ballot.

Chase believed that universal suffrage, incorporating the principle of equal suffrage for blacks, would provide the foundation necessary for universal amnesty and for the final reconciliation of North and South. Touring the South in May 1865, Chase wrote to Secretary of War Stanton that “universal suffrage is essential to thorough pacification.” Most important, he believed, “the white population will acquiesce in this policy without serious opposition if it is clearly announced, & firmly but kindly pursued.”

Like all reformers, Chase accepted the necessity of a period of military reconstruction and, indeed, insisted as chief justice that “military rule must be supreme” until civil order and civil law could be fully and safely restored. Similarly . . . Chase stood with most reformers in opposing [Gerrit] Smith’s dictum that the rebels loyalty to the de facto Confederate government could not be distinguished morally from unionist loyalty to the federal government. “If the rebels waging war against the government are not traitors, Chase responded, “secession was a valid act; and our war was one of conquest.”

(Morality and Utility in American Antislavery Reform, Louis S. Gerteis, UNC Press, 1987, pp. 198-199)

Broken Family Units and Legislating from the Bench

By ignoring the Constitution and allowing psychobabble to guide their decision, nine robed men on the Supreme Court in May of 1954 arbitrarily swept aside the legal precedents of generations of Americans from the Founders forward. This Court unconstitutionally legislated from the bench and all congressmen who allowed this to occur should have been impeached for treason. The 1960 source cited below was dedicated to David Lawrence, editor of the US News and World Report, “who befriended the South by telling the truth to the nation.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Broken Family Units and Legislating from the Bench

“In his sympathetic study of the [American] Negro, Dr. [Eli] Ginsberg [of Columbia University] includes this observation:

“The family structure of Negroes has long been subjected to serious stresses and strains. Moreover, a disproportionately large number of young Negroes are brought up in homes which the father has deserted or in other situations has where major responsibility for the continuance of the family unit centers around the mother and her relatives. According to the 1950 Census, over one-third of the Negro women who had ever been married were no longer married and no longer living with their husbands . . .”

Further proof of this chronic family disruption among Negroes is found in the 1957 study of The Negro Population of Chicago, by Otis Dudley Duncan and Beverly Duncan. With reference to family heads reporting “spouse absent,” they found:

“In both 1940 and 1950 this form of family disruption was reported about four times as often as non-white married males as by white married males, and about five or six times as often by non-white married females as by white married females . . .”

The shortcomings of Negroes in this realm of community life can be attributed to a combination of causes . . . [but] the result is that the average, or typical, Negro family lacks many of the characteristics which are counted desirable by the community – family cohesion and stability; family disciplines of manners, of cleanliness, of obedience; personal standards of reliability, dependability; personal goals based on ambition and the desire for self-improvement.

Is it any wonder that white parents are reluctant to undermine their own attempts to foster such habits among their own children, by exposing them to youngsters whose standards are demonstrably lower in almost every respect?

The professional integrationist, whether Negro or white, does not want either equality or opportunity; he wants merger. [The Negro] prefers to seek advancement by agitation.

Contrast the social worker concepts of contemporary federal judges with the hard-headed logic of a 1896 Supreme Court which was concerned more with establishing the equality of Negroes before the law than with providing solutions for tender feelings. Said the Supreme Court in the Plessy v. Ferguson case:

“The object of the 14th Amendment was undoubtedly to enforce the absolute equality of the two races before the laws, but in the nature of things it could not have been intended to abolish distinctions based on color, or to enforce social, as distinguished from political equality, or a commingling of the two races upon terms satisfactory to either . . . We consider the underlying fallacy of the plaintiff’s argument to consist in the assumption that the enforced separation of the two races stamps the colored race with a badge of inferiority. If this be so, it is not by reason of anything found in the act, but solely because the colored race [chooses] to put that construction upon it.”

(The Case for the South, William D. Workman, Jr., Devin-Adair Company, 1960, pp. 185-188)

Charles A. Dana, Carefree Socialist

Charles A. Dana, who might be termed a hippie of the 1840’s, lived for a period at George Ripley’s Transcendentalist “Brook Farm” commune in Massachusetts. New York Tribune publisher Horace Greeley later employed Dana as an editor in the 1850’s who gladly published the radical articles of Karl Marx, then exiled in London. Lincoln-appointed Dana Assistant Secretary of War and had him spy on generals to ascertain their political leanings — in 1865 Dana ordered manacles placed on state prisoner Jefferson Davis’s wrists.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Charles A. Dana, Carefree Socialist

“[Charles A.] Dana, though poor, had no such hardening time of it [growing up]; he had no “riding to plough,” no tree chopping, no printer’s apprentice job. He clerked in Buffalo to save money for a term at Harvard. Opinions formed during such a youth gave way easily before the experience of later years. In their boyhood the one thing that he and [Horace] Greeley had in common was an intense fondness for reading — Greeley for the country weeklies and for any book he could borrow. Dana plumbed deeper; he was absorbed in the ancient philosophies and languages.

Both resented the oppressions of capital. The breeding ground of Dana’s socialism was Harvard — “where I learned the art of living without means” — and the lectures of Emerson. “They make me think,” he wrote to his sister.

Dana’s father dreaded what Emerson, Carlyle and particularly Harvard might do to his boy. “I know Harvard ranks high as a literary institution,” he wrote to him, “but the influence it exerts in a religious way is most terrible — even worse than Universalism . . . Ponder well the paths of thy feet lest they lead down to the depths of Hell.”

From his sister’s home at Guildhall, Vermont, Dana on April 12, 1840, told of his carefree life . . . ”here I study 8 hours daily. I am fed, warmed, lighted and otherwise cared for, for about nothing — perhaps a dollar a week — taken unwillingly.” Because of poor eyes, poor health and a poorer purse Dana did not return to Harvard for the fall term of 1841 . . . ”So genial Harvard is, and where but for the term bills and washerwomen one would never guess that there were such things as money and money-getting  in the world. Indeed I hold it an evidence of human depravity that there are such things . . . ”

The Brook Farm [commune] atmosphere therefore precisely fitted his mood. Contentedly he wrote his sister from there on September 17, 1841: “I am living with some friends who have associated themselves together for the purpose of living purely and of acting from higher motives than the world generally recognizes . . . ”

(Horace Greeley, Henry Luther Stoddard, G.P. Putnam & Sons, 1946, pp. 101-102)

 

Case for an Educated Postwar Black Debated

Radical Republican political hegemony in the postwar South depended upon the freedmen casting votes, despite their illiteracy and lack of education and experience in a republican form of government. These Republicans formed Union and Loyal Leagues in the South that would teach the freedmen to hate their white neighbors, vote against their interests, and cause irreparable racial wounds which remain today.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Case for an Educated Postwar Black Electorate Debated:

“Chaplain Noble, who conducted literacy classes for the enlisted men of the 128th United States Colored Troops in Beaufort (an infantry of ex-slaves), related the outcome of a debate he arranged to “enliven” the class. The question was whether Negroes should be given immediate suffrage or whether they should learn to read first, with “the more intelligent” of the class clearly favoring the latter position “on the ground that you ought never to undertake a job unless you know how to do it.”

But those who learned less easily were in favor of immediate suffrage. One of the speakers — a black thick-lipped orator — commenced his speech as follows:

“de chaplain say we can learn to read in short time. Now dat may de with dem who are mo’ ready. God hasn’t made all of us alike. P’rhaps some will get an eddication in a little while. I knows de next generation will. We hasn’t had no chance at all. De most of us are slow and dull. Dere fo’ Mr. Chaplain, I tink we better not wait for eddication.”

Whether because of the potential logic of universal suffrage for the illiterate black majority, or because the difficulties of the chaplain’s lessons made suffrage based on literacy seem rather remote for some of the slow learners, the speaker’s sagacity brought decisive nods of approval from the majority of the audience.”

(Black Over White, Negro Political Leadership in South Carolina During Reconstruction, Thomas Holt, University of Illinois Press, 1977, pg. 34)

 

 

Revisionist Canadian History and Slavery

Few recall that African slavery existed in Canada until 1833 and that between 1787 and 1800 fugitive slaves fled south to New England and the Northwest (Michigan) Territory. Throughout the 1800s Canadians segregated schools and communities, as well as military units.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Revisionist Canadian History and Slavery

“Canadian comments about American racial problems are further colored by the fact that few Canadians are well informed on Canada’s own Negro record. Cowper, in celebrating Justice Mansfield’s decision, thought that “Slaves cannot breathe in England: if their lungs receive our air, that moment they are free.” This was adequate poetry but inaccurate current events, for “Mansfield” decision freed no substantial body of slaves, even in England, and in Imperial Britain they remained enslaved until 1834.

Yet today most Canadians assume that slavery in British North America was struck down unilaterally by colonial assemblies which, in fact, lacked power to move against such Imperial laws. A standard account of Ontario’s history, published in 1898, concluded that because of the passage of Simcoe’s Bill (which prohibited the import of slaves) in 1793, “Canadians can therefore claim the proud distinction for their flag . . . that it has never floated over legalized slavery.”

An extensive guidebook to Canada credits the entire Negro population of Nova Scotia to men “who came north as slaves from the British West Indian colonies . . . ,” ignoring totally the Maroon and Refugee elements. An attempt to plumb the character of Canadians found that the Negroes of the Maritime Provinces – 15,000 in all – were descendants of runaway slaves, when in truth not even half are such.

And one of Canada’s leading students of race relations, in writing specifically of discrimination against the Negro, asserts that slavery did not exist in British North America in the Nineteenth Century, although slavery was in fact legal until 1833. In short, there is no accurate historical memory in Canada of British North America’s own experiences with the Negro, and even a clouded awareness of an earlier Negro presence is slight.

In truth, only Canada West [Ontario] served to any considerable extent as a haven for fugitive slaves, but the whole of the Canadian nation later accepted a mythology arising from but one of its units.”

(The Canadian Negro: A Historical Assessment, Robin Winks, Journal of Negro History, Volume LIII, No. 4., October, 1968, pp. 290-292)

Canadian Jim Crow

The popular legend of an underground creates the impression that escaped slaves found freedom and social equality in Canada, and standard historical accounts lead Canadians to believe that passage of Simcoe’s Bill in 1793 ended slavery in their country when in reality slavery remained legal in British North America until 1833. Author Robin Winks of Yale University wrote: “Canadians did give refuge to thousands of fugitives, and the mythology of the underground railway, the North Star, and the lion’s paw naturally fed the later Canadian assumption that Negroes fared better in Canada than elsewhere.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Canadian Jim Crow

“Canadian law drew no distinction between black and white in matters of citizenship, of which education was one. In practice, however, there were not infrequently some distinctions likely to be drawn, the whites preferring that Negroes should have schools of their own. When Benjamin Drew visited [Amherstburg, Ontario] in 1854 he found the Negro separate school having neither blackboard nor chairs. The whole interior was comfortless and repulsive. The teacher was a colored woman, apparently doing the best she could under the discouragement of poor surroundings and frequent absences of her pupils.

The coming of so many people of another race and color into southwestern Ontario was not pleasing to all the white inhabitants. Deep prejudice manifested itself at times and an occasional outburst in some newspaper reflected the feelings of an element of the population. The Amherstburg Courier of October 27, 1849, prints a resolution of the district council passed on October 8 of that year, protesting vigorously against the proposed Elgin settlement which was planned by Reverend William King as a home for fugitives from slavery.

This resolution, which appears to have been instigated by a local politician, Larwill, resident in Chatham, declared that “there is but one feeling, and that is of disgust and hatred, that they (the Negroes) should be allowed to settle in any township where there is a white settlement.”

The resolution proceeded to ask for a disallowance of sale of lands to Negroes, suggested a poll tax on Negroes entering the country, asked for an enactment against amalgamation and a requirement that Negroes shall furnish good security that they will not become a burden. It was also suggested that it would be well to ascertain whether it would be impolitic to allow them the suffrage.

Dr. Samuel G. Howe, who visited [Amherstburg] in 1863 to investigate conditions . . . [was told by a Mr. Park of the town] that the Negroes were part of them indolent and part industrious. They tended to neglect their own poor and begged more than the whites. A Captain Averill who was interviewed said that the Negroes were satisfactory as sailors, “the very best men we have,” but they were never made mates and none owned ships of their own.”

(Amherstburg, Terminus of the Underground Railroad, Fred Landon, The Journal of Negro History, Vol. X., No. 1, January 1925, pp. 5-8)