Browsing "Abolitionists & Disunionists"

Sumner the Accidental Senator

After his richly deserved gutta-percha thrashing by Preston Brooks, Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner feigned serious injury for advantage over his political opponent. As a Radical Republican and abolitionist, he provided much of the impetus for bringing on the war that destroyed the Founders’ Republic.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Sumner the Accidental Senator

“If (Charles) Sumner had been given to self-criticism, the firing of Fort Sumter might have caused him to ponder what part he himself had played in bringing on the sectional conflict. In the minds of many Southerners, extremists like Sumner were responsible for the breakup of the Union. As a “Conscience Whig,” he had helped kill the national Whig party, which had once bound together conservatives of both North and South.

As a Free Soil senator, he had seized every opportunity to attack the South and embitter sectional feelings. As Republican martyr, he had been instrumental in keeping his party committed to an antislavery course and in scotching efforts at compromise. “By degrees,” as Carl Sandburg has remarked, “”Sumner had come to stand for something the South wanted exterminated from the Union; he was perhaps the most perfect impersonation of what the South wanted to secede from.”

He might also have reflected upon the role that chance had played in elevating him to his prominent position. He had stumbled into politics largely by accident. He rose to leadership in the Massachusetts Free Soil movement as much through the unavailability of his rivals as through his own talents and exertions. Candidate of a minority party, he was first chosen to the Senate through the devious workings of a political coalition.

At nearly every point during his first five years in office, had he been up for reelection, he would almost certainly have been defeated. Then Preston Brook’s attack gave him his second term in the Senate and thereby assured him seniority and prestige within the Republican party.

Never chosen by direct popular vote for any office, Sumner, by 1861, nevertheless had become one of the most powerful men in the United States.”

(Charles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil War, David H. Donald, Fawcett Columbine, 1960, pp. 387-388)

 

 

Craven Abolitionist Creatures

Ohio Congressman Samuel S. “Sunset” Cox and other Northern Democrats encouraged Lincoln to end his war with a convention of the States. They believed the States held the key to reunion or separation, not the federal agent at Washington which held strictly delegated powers.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Craven Abolitionist Creatures:

“President Lincoln, proceeding on his own initiative, suspended habeas corpus in specified areas and directed summary arrest of suspected persons. In September 1862 he proclaimed that, for the duration of the war, individuals engaging in disloyal activities would be subject to martial law and trial by military commission. Under this directive the War Department jailed thousands of offenders without civil trial. Democratic success in the elections of 1862 sprang partly from popular reaction to this policy of arbitrary arrest.

Cox, outraged by the charge of disloyalty against Northern Democrats, turned the charge against the Radicals. It was not Democrats “who urged the “Wayward sisters” to depart in peace,” he said. “Were they Democrats,” he asked . . . who hounded on the war, and then brought Southern Negroes to fight the battles in which they would not risk their own lives? . . . How many abolitionist . . . were hiding from the draft, or paying . . . substitutes?

It was such craven creatures as these, who charged Northern Democrats with secession sympathy . . . By what irony of events was it that these creatures – who were at times more disloyal to a constitutional Union than the most violent secessionists – who wormed themselves and their plots into national affairs, and prolonged the war in which they had no part, except to incite the conflict and fan the flames of passion.”

(“Sunset” Cox, Irrepressible Democrat, David Lindsey, Wayne State University Press, 1959, pg. 68)

Lincoln's Muscovite Friends

Lincoln’s Muscovite Friends

The lack of foreign recognition, especially from England and France, during the War Between the States is often cited as a primary reason for the fall of the Southern Confederacy. It is commonly related by historians that those two countries and others would not support the South after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of January 1863 as anti-slavery sentiment was ascendant internationally.

Though Radical Republicans viewed the proclamation as a diplomatic trump card which assured no European recognition for the American South, it was seen abroad for what it was – incitement to race warfare and virtually identical to England’s two previous emancipation proclamations. The first was issued by Virginia’s Royal Governor, Lord Dunmore, in November 1775; the second proclamation was made by Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane in 1814. Both had freed slaves who flocked to His Majesties banners and were intended to bring colonists to their knees as their slaves reverted to massacre as occurred in Santo Domingo.

Lincoln was aware that he held no authority as president to interfere with a State’s labor force and policies, but his proclamation was simply a war strategy designed to strike at the agricultural strength of the South. This is why invading Northern forces seized African workers and carried them off – thus denying the South of the ability to plant and harvest crops.

The Russian minister at Washington, Baron de Stoeckl, expressed dismay over Lincoln’s proclamation to Secretary of State William Seward, and referred to it “as but a futile menace” because “it would set up a further barrier to the reconciliation of the North South – always the hope of Russia.” Writing to his government, Stoeckl charged the radical Republicans with forcing Lincoln to issue the decree out of desperation, and with plans to inaugurate a reign of terror to silence critics of their regime.

Stoeckl questioned the Emancipation Proclamation’s intent as it offered the protection of Lincoln’s government as a premium to slave owners who remained loyal to his regime, and was simply a military weapon rather than an important document proclaiming human liberty.

It is worth pointing out here that Lincoln could have played a more humane trump card by encouraging a convention of the States to settle the problems of the Union in 1861 – much the same as was done in 1787 to revise the Articles of Confederation that some said were not effective – and the new federated arrangement agreed upon in 1789. The convention would have found a peaceful solution to a more perfect union, or unions.

A more plausible explanation for the reluctance of the British and French to intervene on behalf of the South is not well known, but very well-documented in several important volumes. The most revealing is James Morton Callahan’s “Russo-American Relations during the American Civil War” published in January, 1908 in West Virginia Studies in American History, Series 1, Number 1. In this paper Callahan begins: “After the grand and sudden emancipation of [twenty million] serfs by the Czar” on March 3, 1861, “the admiration for Russia was assiduously cultivated in the North for intimate political reasons.”

Foremost among the reasons behind this Northern interest in Russia was the neutral attitude of England and France in 1861, as well as later British shipbuilding aid to the Confederacy and the offer of French mediation – not to mention French intervention in Mexico for unpaid debts.

The Czar applauded Lincoln’s efforts to suppress an internal rebellion which he equated with the independence-minded Poles resisting Russian troops. Ironically, both the Czar and Lincoln were emancipating serfs and slaves respectively while crushing independence movements with an iron hand.

It should be kept in mind that despite Russian serfdom being somewhat different than the African slavery inherited from British colonialism, Czar Alexander II was well-aware of the numerous serf uprisings that had caused his father, Nicholas I, such anguish, especially after the 1848 socialist revolts in Europe. Alexander saw more revolts inevitable and used an autocratic decree to hasten the act after his nobles could not agree upon a gradual solution. Perhaps Lincoln was influenced by the Czar’s actions and concluded that slavery could only be abolished if the Union was saved – even by fire, sword and a million perishing in the act.

Though many heralded the Czar’s humanitarianism toward the lowly serf, former Cornell President Andrew Dickson White, who served for a time in St. Petersburg in 1855 and 1892-94 wrote that “I do not deny the greatness and nobleness of Alexander II . . . [but] feel obliged to testify that thus far . . . there is, as yet, little, if any, practical difference between the condition of the Russian peasant before and since obtaining his freedom.”

As Lincoln’s minister at St. Petersburg, Cassius M. Clay, began his diplomatic duties in June 1861 and soon reported to Secretary of State Seward that the Czar was earnest in “the hope of the perpetuity of friendship between the two nations” which was “increased by the common sympathy in the cause of emancipation.” Clay suggested to Seward the potential alliance of Russia, Mexico and the United States in an effort to discourage European recognition of the Confederacy. He reasoned that if France or England dared recognition, they would have to face the Russian fleets in addition to Lincoln’s ever-increasing war machine.

Clay added in his message to Seward that the United States “could not trust England with our national life,” and that in “Union with Russia land and army at no distant day to settle accounts with her in China and the Indies.”

General Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania was selected to succeed Clay in St. Petersburg in January 1862, and according to a published statement by Senator James Harlan of Iowa, Cameron was secretly charged by Lincoln to interview Czar Alexander II. Lincoln was troubled by “the possibility of interference by England or France in behalf of the Confederacy” and subsequently received the Czar’s assurance that in the event of intervention, the friendship of Russia for the United States will be known in a decisive manner, which no other nation will be able to mistake.” The Crimean defeat administered by England and France was not forgotten.

After Northern defeats and reverses mounted by October 1862 and France sought British and Russian aid in mediating the American conflict, Lincoln wrote the Czar in search of an alliance should European recognition of the South become reality. He was assured that Russia would not be a party to any mediation, and that Lincoln could rely upon Russian support.

In May 1863 Clay returned as minister at St. Petersburg and found that England, Austria and France were desirous of mediating the Polish-Russian conflict on behalf of the Poles, and with hopes that the United States would join. Clay was instructed by Seward to refuse any and all intervention into Russian affairs which of course pleased the Czar, and the United States was rewarded with a grant of a charter for a telegraph line through Russian territory

In his “Lincoln and the Russians” Albert A. Woldman notes that years before in Springfield, Illinois, Lincoln took a leading part in protesting against “the foreign despot” Russia who “in violation of the most sacred principles of the laws of nature and of nations” had conquered Hungary with an unwarranted armed intervention when she was fighting to break free of Austrian tyranny.

Lincoln may have held some sympathy with the rebellious Poles, but the need for a strong Russian ally to help defeat his own “rebellion” modified previous views. He and Seward issued an official statement that “Polish grievances would be righted by the liberalism, sagacity and magnanimity of Czar Alexander II.”

Lincoln’s refusal to help mediate the Polish uprising drew sharp criticism from the Missouri Republic, charging in an editorial that “the pale corpse of Poland’s murdered liberty” would continue to haunt Lincoln for years to come. Britain’s Punch magazine characterized Lincoln as collaborating with the Russian bear, and the French depicted Lincoln shaking the bloody hand of the Czar.

The French newspaper La Patrie of January 12, 1864 wrote “is it right that fifty million Muscovites should unite to retain ten or twelve million Poles under a detested yoke? Is it right that twenty million Northern Germans and Irishmen [the North’s immigrant population] should unite to impose on eight million Southerners an association they spurn?”

The strong international denunciations of his ruthless Polish campaign caused the Czar concern regarding the possibility of war and reminded him of his fleets bottled up in the Baltic and Mediterranean by the British and French navies in the Crimean War ten years earlier. He made secret arrangements to send his fleets to the open sea and friendly ports of the United States, which would then be in “a favorable position for cruising against British commerce in the Atlantic and Pacific, should war suddenly break out over the tempestuous Polish question.”

Those fleets were ordered to remain in American ports and await the outcome of negotiations regarding Poland. Though nothing in the fleet admirals’ orders referred to assisting Lincoln in his war upon the American South, the inference was clear that Britain and France should not interfere with the conquest of the South lest they hasten war with Russia.

At the same time it was clear to Lincoln, Seward and Clay that an alliance with Russia against England and France would be beneficial in thwarting French designs on Mexico. Clay wrote Seward in September 1863 that “the time had come for all America to unite in a defensive alliance to sustain the Monroe Doctrine.”

Callahan writes that “While rumors of contemplated Franco-English intervention in favor of the Confederacy were still afloat, Russia sent a fleet under Admiral [Andrei Alexandrovich] Popov to San Francisco, and soon thereafter (September 11 and 24) sent another under Admiral S.S. Lessoffsky to New York.

Americans in both cities and across the North interpreted this show of naval force as evidence “of sympathy and encouragement for the Union,” and both San Francisco and New York held endless “receptions, processions and various festivities” which “finally ended in a great Russian ball in honor of the guest.” Harper’s Weekly opined that the United States had outgrown Washington’s policy against entangling alliances and that diplomatic relations and an alliance with Russia would prevent European interference in US affairs and “mark an important epoch.”

In a further gesture of friendship with his new ally, Seward provided navigation charts for the American coast to the Russian fleets. Additionally, the governor of Rhode Island invited Admiral Lessoffsky to visit that State with his fleet; on December 5, 1863 Seward welcomed the same fleet after it had ascended the Potomac to Washington.

The Continental Monthly of February 1864 commented upon Northern enthusiasm for their new friends and especially New York City, which “had gone mad over the Muscovites, forgetting the woes of Poland while they kissed the hands of the knout-bearers of the Czar, and agitated for alliance between what they called the twin sister empires of the future . . . “

Admiral Lessoffsky and his officers were given a grand banquet at Boston in June 1864 with an oration by the renowned New Englander, Edward Everett.

Some questioned the true purpose of the Russian visit with Charles Sumner of Massachusetts writing a friend in October 1863 that “foreign intervention will introduce a new, vast and incalculable element . . . You will observe the hob-nobbing at New York with the Russian admiral. Why is that fleet gathered there?”

Callahan tells us that “it was believed that Lessoffsky had secret orders to place his fleet at the disposal of the President in case the United States should be attacked by France and England. There is no doubt the appearance of the fleets in American harbors caused apprehension in the European courts as they saw the Russians posturing for war. In his memoirs, Cassius Clay wrote of the Russian fleets: “Whatsoever may have been the ultimate purpose – Russia thus made a masterly exhibition which broke up the Mexican invasion [by France] and prevented a foreign invasion of the United States.”

New York banker Henry Clews related (Literary Digest, March 5, 1904) that Seward had informed him that when Confederate armies threatening Washington, he had requested a Russian fleet be sent to New York as a shrewd manner of demonstrating to Europe a Russo-American alliance.

There is no doubt that both Lincoln and Seward were well aware of Russian intentions and that their “action toward us . . . were but moves made by her upon the chessboard of European diplomacy,” though both “took full advantage of the fortuitous circumstance and used it astutely for the best interest of the Union cause.”

An interesting commentary on Lincoln’s wartime leadership came from another foreign observer, Rudolf M. Schleiden, Minister to the United States from the Bremen Republic. In February 1864 he mentioned in a dispatch “that Lincoln said to a Judge Thomas, of Massachusetts, that he would be satisfied if his successor was elected from the Republican Party. If that did not take place [Lincoln] feared that he would spend the rest of his life in jail for repeated violations of the Constitution.” (Rudolf Schleiden and the Visit to Richmond, April 25, 1861, Ralph Haswell Lutz, American Historical Association Annual Report, 1915, Washington, 1917, pp. 212-216)

The appearance of Russian friendship at that time was described by the Odessa-born American historian Frank A. Golder in 1915: “It was a most extraordinary situation, Russia had not in its mind to help us but did render us distinct service; the United States was not conscious that it was contributing in any way to Russia’s welfare and yet seems to have saved her from humiliation and perhaps war [with England and France]. There is probably nothing to compare with it in diplomatic history.”

As a postscript to the Russo-American friendship, Callahan notes the 1867 treaty whereby Russia transferred Alaska to United States control which few understood the logic of. Given the anticipation of war, those like Charles Sumner saw Russia “stripping for the contest with England,” providing North Pacific ports for the American navy and setting the stage for American absorption of Canada.

Intimately informed of Russian motives, Clay wrote from St. Petersburg that “the Russians hoped the cession might ultimately lead to the expulsion of England from the Pacific.” Secretary Seward, interviewed shortly after the Alaska purchase explained that it was an effort “to limit England’s coast line on the Pacific, strengthen American influence in British Columbia,” and to hasten the destiny of Canada into political union with the United States.

For the same purpose of hostility toward England, Northern politicians suggested the acquisition of Greenland and Iceland from Denmark as a further step toward “hemming in” Great Britain. The Alaska cession was viewed by many in the North as the beginning of a new national policy which would continue with annexation of British Columbia and Canada, the Sandwich Islands and naval stations for the US Navy on the coasts of China, Japan, West Indies and Caribbean. Seward’s nationalist energies had now broadened as he envisioned the United States joining the major powers of the world and pursuing even grander opportunities.

Keeping in mind that the 1867 Act of Confederation [strongly influenced by former Confederate Secretary of State Judah Benjamin] was prompted by fears of a two million-man Northern war machine marching northward after 1865, and Russia’s hatred for England, Canadian motivations seem clear.

Though it seemed the United States was doing Russia a favor by purchasing Alaska, American consul to France John Bigelow said in 1867 that “I doubt if there was any member of either house of Congress who supposed the government then had any other motive in the purchase of Alaska than to recognize its obligations to the Czar.”

Charles Sumner Plays the Victim

Charles Sumner’s well-deserved injuries from Senator Preston Brook’s gutta-percha were slight according to his Capitol physician, though his condition were transformed into life-threatening when an opponent appeared and Sumner required a political edge.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Charles Sumner Plays the Victim

“The day after the [caning] attack, Senator [Henry] Wilson, of Massachusetts, denounced Brook’s action as “brutal, murderous and cowardly assault.” [Senator Andrew Pickens] Butler, who had that morning returned, retorted “You are a liar,” and Brooks soon challenged Wilson to a duel, but he declined, as did a Connecticut Congressman.

As Brooks challenged and Northern Senators and Representatives declined, the North grew restive and a young Massachusetts House member saw an opportunity. This was Anson Burlingame, an anti-slavery man ambitious to be elected to Sumner’s Senate seat, of which there had been some chance. He now made a vitriolic speech denouncing Brooks’ assault, concluding with the statement that, if challenged, he would fight.

Brooks challenged promptly, but Burlingame sought out Lewis D. Campbell, of Ohio, for help in devising an acceptance which would preserve his reputation but avert the duel. They finally picked the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, a ruse which worked. “I could not reach Canada,” Brooks later said, “without running the gauntlet of mobs and assassins, prisons and penitentiaries, bailiffs and constables . . . I might as well have been asked to fight on Boston Common.”

When Brooks asked that another place be selected for the meeting, the Northern papers spoke of his cowardice, and praised Burlingame to the skies. But they said nothing of Brooks’ renewed insistence and Burlingame’s stubborn declination to name a closer point. At length, Burlingame left Washington secretly for the Middle West, thus avoiding further danger. A few months later Brooks died.

When Sumner was carried home after the assault, Dr. Cornelius Boyle, one of the Capitol’s best-known physicians, who attended, found him suffering solely from flesh wounds. The next day Sumner told the Doctor that he had not lost a single day’s session that Congress and he wanted to go to the Senate.

But Burlingame’s comedy of dueling had a fine Massachusetts reaction; there was some talk of electing him to the Senate and Sumner’s friends grew worried. His brother arrived and began playing up the gravity of Sumner’s wounds. Articles began appearing in the Intelligencer that Sumner had had a relapse. Dr. Boyle, who was calling twice a day, never detected any sign of fever, nor a pulse beat higher than 82 and gave the Intelligencer a correction. Soon thereafter he was discharged from the case.

The anti-slavery surgeon then employed, understanding the situation, sent Sumner back to bed and published that his condition had become quite dangerous. The Senator came forth again to testify to the House Committee but soon left Washington . . . and carried his martyrdom across the seas to European spas.”

[Note: When Dr. Boyle was before the House Committee of Investigation, he was questioned by Representative Cobb as to the nature of Sumner’s injuries. “They are nothing but flesh wounds,” he answered and repeated. “How long need he be confined on account of these wounds?” Cobb continued. “His wounds do not necessarily confine him one moment,” Dr. Boyle answered. “He would have come to the Senate on Friday if I had recommended it . . . He could have come with safety, so far as his wounds are concerned . . . Mr. Sumner might have taken a carriage and driven as far as Baltimore [47 miles] on the next day without any injury.” See also New York Herald, May 25, 1856; Washington Union, May 28, June 19, 1856]

(The Eve of Conflict, Stephen A. Douglas and the Needless War, George Fort Milton, Houghton Mifflin, 1934, pp. 236-237)

Despicable and Malevolent Old Thad Stevens

Lincoln’s devastating warfare upon the American South was followed by the brutal military-occupation regimes of Pennsylvanian Thaddeus Stevens and his Radical Republicans.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Despicable and Malevolent Old Thad Stevens

“[M]y first recollections of the social and political life of our little village of five hundred inhabitants are all set in a sense of mystery and uncanny terror. A dreaded name was on every man’s lips—“Old Thad Stevens.”

Lest it be thought that I am giving a prejudiced Southern record of this strange old man and his character, I quote a sentence from The Epic of America by James Truslow Adams, the greatest historian our nation has yet produced, a scholar of Northern birth and training. On page 275 Mr. Adams says:

“Unfortunately, on Lee’s dash into Pennsylvania, the iron-works of a man whose one idea had been to get rich quickly were destroyed. They belonged to Thaddeus Stevens, perhaps the most despicable, malevolent and morally deformed character who has ever risen to high power in America.”

A man from our county went to Washington to ask of President Johnson the pardon of a friend who was still a political prisoner. Johnson had declined to interfere. He learned that the President had been stripped of all power by the Radical bloc in Congress headed by Thaddeus Stevens. He must see Stevens and present his petition to the Dictator, the real ruler of America . . . And on the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, whom he loathed, this malevolent outcast had suddenly become master of the nation, determined to destroy Lincoln’s plan of Reconstruction and enforce one of his own, inspired by his black mistress.

Steven’s plan was as simple as Lincoln’s but as different as night from day. He declared the Southern States conquered territory and subject only to the will of the conqueror. He proposed to stamp out the white race of the South from the face of the earth and make their States into [Negro] territories. To this end, two years after the close of the war, he destroyed the Union, wiped out the Southern states, established five military districts instead of the eleven old commonwealths, took the ballot from the white leaders of the South, enfranchised the whole Negro race and set them to rule over their former masters. And this at a time when the people were in a life and death struggle to prevent famine.

Mr. Stevens thus paralyzed every industry of the South, turned every Negro from the field to the political hustings and transformed eleven peaceful States into hells of anarchy. His fanatical followers, blinded by passion, deliberately armed a million ignorant Negroes and thrust them into conflict with the proud half-starved white men of the South. Such a deed can never be undone. It fixed the status of these two races in America for a thousand years.”

(Southern Horizons, The Autobiography of Thomas Dixon, IWV Publishing, 1984, pp. 20-23)

 

European Jacobin Views of a Massachusetts Whig

The visiting Frenchman, Ernst D. de Hauranne, travelled only in the North for his eight months in America and was a strong supporter of the Northern invasion of the American South. Ironically, when confronted by a Radical lieutenant enraged at Americans resisting subjugation, the Frenchman could reel off the specifics of Lincoln’s destruction of liberty, and compared the despotic Northern government to the worst aspects of the French Revolution.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

European Jacobin Views of a Massachusetts Whig

[Diary Entry] June 28, 1864

“Here I found my first expert on American politics, Lieutenant C. He is not only a Republican, he is a Radical, and we have already crossed swords several times. Like all Americans, he pushes adulation of his country well beyond the limits of politeness and acceptability. Democracy is his oracle, his god, and he will never agree that it may not be the same thing as liberty.

If I reply that even the will of the people should have its limits, and that if it exercises in America the absolute reign that he talks about, it is more likely to pave the way to tyranny than to preserve liberty, he answers brusquely that I am French, that I don’t understand anything about freedom and that I have no right to judge his country. “Europeans,” he told me, “are born slaves. They always have been and they always will be. Only America knows what freedom is.”

“Oh,” I replied, “get off your high horse. There are many darks spots on your wonderful picture of American freedom.” Thereupon I ticked off for him the suspension of habeas corpus, the violation of the freedom of the press, the transfer of jurisdiction over many cases from civil to military courts, secret arrests, arbitrary imprisonments and all the other abuses of power that are the sad accompaniments of the Civil War. I asked him if that was what he called freedom.

“It is freedom if we have willed it. Mr. Seward boasts that he needs only ring his little bell to have absolutely anyone put in prison. That is true, but behind him are the American people who direct him. Let him strike down the rebels and traitors . . . We want martial law, do you understand? We want it, and that’s why we are still free.

“[I replied] Revolutionary power is a seed of dictatorship. Watch out that the seed doesn’t take root. You refuse to see the danger; the freedom of your neighbor means little to you! This is the way to lose your own freedom and to rush headlong into despotism one of these days. [Let’s] get to the bottom of it. I know your theories. We practiced them under the [French revolutionary] National Convention. You think you’ve discovered a new idea, but all you do is recite the sophistries of the Committee of Public Safety.”

Are these not strange opinions in the mouth of an American, notions that would fit better with the outlook of a European Jacobin or a Massachusetts Whig? We think the Americans are madly in love with their individual freedom, yet there is a school of thought which springs up to repudiate it in the name of public safety, which views freedom as submission to the multitude. Love of freedom, like all human passions, falls asleep when it is not contested.”

(A Frenchman in Lincoln’s America, Ernst D. de Hauranne, Donnelly & Sons, 1974, Volume I, pp. 67-70)

 

 

French Experiment with Equality

The French Revolution’s promise of equality ended with anarchy and Bonaparte in France; the lofty experiment of equality in St. Domingo terminated not in freedom, but military despotism after a fearful destruction of human life. After all the horrors of their bloody revolution, the blacks in Haiti only effected a change of masters. “The white man had disappeared, and the black man , one of their own race and color, had assumed his pace and his authority.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

French Experiment with Equality

“[We shall quote] from the language of Dr. [W.E.] Channing, the scholar-like and the eloquent, though visionary, advocate of British [slave] emancipation. Even as early as 1842, in an address delivered on the anniversary of that event, he burst into the following strain of impassioned eulogy: “Emancipation works well, far better than could have been anticipated . . . Freedom, simple freedom, is in my estimation just, far prized above all price.”

In these high-sounding praises, which hold up personal freedom as “our proper good,” as “our end,” it is assumed that man was made for liberty, and not liberty for man. It is, indeed, one of the fundamental errors of the abolitionist to regard personal freedom as a great substantive good, or as in itself a blessing, and not merely as a relative good.

It may be, and indeed often it is, an unspeakable benefit, but then it is so only as a means to an end. The end of our existence, the proper good, is the improvement of our intellectual and moral powers, the perfection of our rational and immortal natures.

When freedom subserves this end, it is a good; when it defeats this end, it is an evil. Hence there may be a world of evil as well as a world of good in “this one word.”

The wise man adapts the means to the end. It were the very height of folly to sacrifice the end to the means. No man gives personal freedom to his child because he deems it always and in all cases a good. His heart teaches him a better doctrine when the highest good of his child is concerned. Should we not be permitted then, to have something of the same feeling in regard to those who Providence has placed under our care, especially since . . . they stand in utmost need of guidance and direction?

Few of the abolitionists are disposed to offer any substitute for our method. They are satisfied merely to pull down and destroy, without the least thought or care in regard to consequences.

But what is meant by the freedom of the emancipated slaves, on which so many exalted eulogies have been pronounced? Its first element, it is plain, is a freedom from labor – freedom from the very first law of nature. In one word, its sum and substance is a power on the part of the freed black to act pretty much as he pleases. Now . . . would it not be well to see how he would be pleased to act?

This kind of freedom, it should be remembered, was born in France and cradled in the revolution. May it never be forgotten that the “Friends of the Blacks” at Boston had their exact prototypes in “les Amis des Noirs” of Paris. Of this last society Robespierre was the ruling spirit, and Brissot the orator. By the dark machinations of the one, and the fiery eloquence of the other, the French people . . . were induced, in 1791, to proclaim the principle of equality to and for the free blacks of St. Domingo. This beautiful island . . . thus became the first of the West Indies in which the dreadful experiment of a forced equality was tried.

The authors of that experiment were solemnly warned of the horrors into which it would inevitably plunge both the whites and the blacks of the island. Yet firm and unmovable as death, Robespierre sternly replied, then “Perish the colonies rather than sacrifice one iota of our principles.”

The atrocities of this awful massacre have had . . . no parallel in the annals of human crime. “The Negroes,” says Alison, “marched with spiked infants on their spears instead of colors; they sawed asunder the male prisoners, and violated the females on the dead bodies of their husbands.” The work of death, thus completed with such outbursts of unutterable brutality, constituted and closed the first act in the grand drama of Haytian freedom.

But equality was not yet established. Equality had been proclaimed, and anarchy produced. In this frightful chaos, the ambitious mulattoes, whose insatiable desire for equality had first disturbed the peace of the island, perished miserably beneath the vengeance of the very slaves whom they had roused from subjection and elevated into irresistible power. Thus ended the second act of the horrible drama.”

(An Essay on Liberty and Slavery, Albert Taylor Bledsoe, J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1856, pp. 269-278; available from www.confederatereprint.com)

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)