Browsing "Abolitionists & Disunionists"

South Carolina Declares the Causes of Secession

In his “Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina,” Christopher Memminger, revisited the original American concept of self-government and restated that whenever any “form of government becomes destructive of the ends for which it was established, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government.”  It should be noted that though reference is made below to “anti-slavery” feeling in the North, Republican Party doctrine held that African slavery must be kept within the borders of the South, not that the slaves must be freed. Republicans were a white supremacy party and the territories were for white settlers alone.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

South Carolina Declares the Causes of Secession

“Dr. J.H. Thornwell . . . [stated] immediately after secession [that] . . . ”The real cause of the intense excitement of the South, is not in vain dreams of national glory in a separate confederacy . . .; it is in the profound conviction that the Constitution . . . has been virtually repealed [by the North]; that the new [Lincoln] Government has assumed a new and dangerous attitude . . .”

In South Carolina [this] idea was repeatedly expressed in the secession period. For example, [Robert Barnwell] Rhett in a speech of November 20 said: We are two peoples, essentially different in all that makes a people.” [D.F.] Jamison in his opening speech to the [secession] convention said there was “no common bond of sympathy or interest between the North and South.”

The “Declaration of Immediate Causes,” after defending the right of secession under the compact theory of the Union, justified the exercise of that right almost entirely on the point that Northern States had infringed and abrogated that compact by refusal to abide by their constitutional obligations . . . When [the Northern sectional] President should gain control of the government, constitutional guarantees would no longer exist, equal rights would have been lost, the power of self-government and self-protection would have disappeared, and the government would have become the enemy. Moreover, all hope of remedy was rendered in vain by the fact that the North had “invested a great political error with the sanctions of a more erroneous religious belief.”

Rhett . . . held that the one great evil from which all others had flowed was the overthrow of the Constitution of the United States.

The tariff, unequal distributions of appropriations, and attacks on slavery, were only manifestations of a broken faith and a constitution destroyed through construction for Northern aggrandizement at the expense of a weaker South.

The sections had grown apart; all identity of feeling, interest, and institutions were gone; they were divided between slaveholding and non-slaveholding, between agricultural and manufacturing and commercial States; their institutions and industrial pursuits had made them totally different peoples. The South was unsafe under a government controlled by a sectional anti-slavery party . . .”

Many South Carolinians, in the military service of the United States when war came, proved themselves Unionists by refusing to resign to enter the service of the State. Feeling against such men was violent. The [Charleston] Mercury thought that such refusal constituted “hideous moral delinquency, ingratitude, dishonor and treachery.”

The well-nigh complete unity after secession is no more striking than the universal belief that the cause was just . . . [and belief] that the future of republican government was involved in the struggle . . . Secession was endorsed by the synod of the Presbyterian church and by the annual conference of the Methodists. One need not question the sincerity of the legislature for appointing on the eve of secession a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer.”

(South Carolina Goes to War, 1860-1865, Charles Edward Cauthen, UNC Press, 1950, excerpts, pp. 72-78)

 

The South Seeks a Convention of the States

Contrary to mainstream belief, Lincoln and his Republican Party demonstrated no interest in preserving the Union and regularly spurned peace initiatives. Those who wanted to resort to the United States Constitution for a solution to the intense sectionalism in both North and South, saw a convention of the States as the method provided by the Founders. As in the peace overture noted below, all efforts to end the bloodshed of Lincoln’s war originated in the South, and all ended in failure due to Lincoln’s intransigence.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The South Seeks a Convention of the States

“As early as February, 1863, it was rumored that [South Carolina Representative William W. Boyce] had been advocating in secret session of the [Confederate] House [of Representatives] some form of conciliation with the Northwestern States.

When the Democratic convention, meeting at Chicago August 29, 1864, adopted a platform declaring that efforts should be made immediately for a cessation of hostilities and that a convention of the States be employed to restore peace “on the basis of the Federal union of the States,” Boyce addressed an open letter to President [Jefferson] Davis urging him to declare his willingness for an armistice and such a convention that Northwestern Democrats proposed.

In his letter of September 29 Boyce argued that a republic at war inevitably drifted into despotism . . . [through] conscription, illegally laid direct taxes, [issuing] vast quantities of paper money . . . suspended the writ of habeas corpus . . . in short, [giving] the President all the powers of a military dictator.

Nor would the evils necessarily end with the war; that would depend on the nature of the peace. “A peace without reconciliation carried in its bosom the seed of new wars.”   A peace without harmony would be a mere armed truce. Such a peace would cause the North to develop a great military power and the South would be forced to do likewise. There would then be two opposing military despotisms under which republican institutions would permanently perish.

To prevent such an outcome a peace of harmony must be negotiated with the United States. In bringing this to pass a successful military policy was essential but it was not enough; it must be accompanied by a political policy, a political policy which could not succeed if Lincoln, representing the fanaticism of the North, were returned to the White House.

The South’s only hope for a satisfactory peace, therefore, lay in the victory [in November 1864] of the Northern Democratic Party which should be encouraged in every possible way. [Boyce’s advice was to] . . . Assure [Northern Democrats] of the South’s willingness to cooperate in a convention of the States, and let South cooperate even if an amendment of the Constitution be necessary for that purpose. Such a convention would be the “highest acknowledgment” of State rights principles.”

(South Carolina Goes to War, Charles Edward Cauthen, University of South Carolina Press, 1950, 1860-1865, excerpts, pp. 217-218)

 

Southern Christianity and Slavery

That Lincoln and his abolitionist colleagues did not propose a peaceful and practical to the African slavery they seemed to object to, is a national tragedy. Had they followed compensated emancipation as the British had done earlier (the British were primarily responsible for populating their American colonies with Africans), or helped advance a reasonable solution to the need for large numbers of workers to support their agricultural economy, a million lives would have been spared as well as the death, destruction and tortured legacy of the war Lincoln was responsible for.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Southern Christianity and Slavery

“ . . . Southern [slavery] reformers cast much blame on the Northern Abolitionist movement. They constantly complained that it was difficult to persuade planters that they should be teaching their slaves to read when the Abolitionists were sparing no effort in smuggling into the Southern States inflammatory literature which urged the slaves to rise up and slit their masters’ throats, among other things.

The palpable hostility and antagonism displayed by the Abolitionists toward the white South, their calls for a bloody slave rebellion, and their unrealistic demands for immediate and unconditional emancipation made slavery reform more difficult by producing resentment, fear, and a siege mentality among the whites.

[Many] Northerners (including Sen. Daniel Webster, Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, and Princeton theologian Charles Hodge) condemned the Abolitionists for actually worsening the plight of the slaves and for creating hostility and distrust between the Northern and Southern people.

[It] is at least possible that an independent South might have enacted the reforms urged by her Christian leaders and thus avoided falling into a state of economic backwardness and dependency.  After all, Southerners consistently valued such non-monetary goods as country living, personal independence and liberty, and an harmonious and rich social life at least as much as mere wealth and material accumulation; and independence [from the North] might have created a more favorable environment for Christian reform of their labor system.

Southerners might have introduced a smaller and more humanely scaled industrialization to provide some measure of industrial self-sufficiency, and black Southerners might eventually have achieved legal equality and propertied independence.  In other words, an independent South could well have found an alternate – and perhaps more Christian – path to modernity.  Thanks to Mr. Lincoln, we shall never know.”

(Christianity and Slavery in the Old South, excerpt, H. Arthur Scott Trask, Chronicles Magazine, July 1999, page 33)

 

 

 

Southern Statesmen Save the Union

The final breakup of the union of States in 1861 was preceded by over 80 years of conflict and compromise, and it was Southern statesmen who most often tried valiantly to save the confederation of the Founders. Just as colonial New England frequently antagonized England with its independently-minded maritime fleet, it often threatened secession and independence from the United States as it viewed its own interests as paramount to any other.  The infamous Hartford Convention of New England Federalists seriously entertained secession in late 1814, and espoused States’ rights doctrines.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Southern Statesmen Save the Union

“The period from the ratification of the treaty of peace to the adoption of the Constitution has been called the critical period of American history; and the first year of that period was scarcely less critical than the last, the year in which, to use a familiar evangelistic expression, the Constitution was hair-hung and breeze-shaken over the bottomless pit.

It is scarcely to be doubted that at that time [1784] the New Englanders in particular seriously contemplated the dissolution of Congress and the abandonment of the union of the thirteen States.

At such a time, when the bands of union were slipping, the centrifugal forces were everywhere running amuck, it was Thomas Jefferson who conceived the idea that the preservation of a “visible head” of the government was of supreme importance, lest, with the disappearance of even a symbol of the union, all faith and hope in a more perfect union should likewise perish; and it was the Southern members of Congress, nobly aided by Pennsylvania alone, who strove with might and main to combat the threatened peril.

Again, when men of the North would have hog-tied and bound the West and have delivered it into permanent subjection to the East, it was Southern statesmen, more than any others, who strove to establish the principle that the West should be carved into self-governing States, having equal rights in the union with the original thirteen.

Once more, in that long and hard-fought contest over the free navigation of the Mississippi River, when the North would have sold that American birthright for a mess of Spanish turnip greens and them frostbitten, it was Southern statesmen who saved the West to itself and to the nation.

During the contest over the navigation of the Mississippi . . . the forces of disunion again began slithering through the East. In the late summer of 1786 [James] Monroe was alarmed to discover that, in the very shadow of Congress, an intrigue was asquirm, the design of which appeared to be the disruption of the existing union and the creation of a Northern confederation that would extend, if possible, as far southward as the Potomac.

The scheme may have died a-borning . . . At all events there are grounds for suspicion that it was the same infant, waxed a bit stronger, that was exhibited at Hartford in 1814.”

(Southern Statesmen and the Confederation, Edmund Cody Burnett, North Carolina Historical Review, Volume XIV, Number 4, October 1937, NC Historical Commission, excerpts, pp. 357-359)

 

Du Pont and His Powder Industry

E. I. Du Pont’s position as an anti-slavery advocate may have been more about containing black people in the South and forbidding them into the North and territories, as was common among Republicans. He may also have been opposed to the war but made a fortune through powder orders by providing 4 million barrels to the Northern government. Du Pont’s revolutionary “mammoth powder” for heavy artillery allowed greater range for bombarding American cities in the South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Du Pont and His Powder Industry

“. . . Du Pont, a strong Whig and anti-slavery partisan could hardly feel much enthusiasm for the [Mexican] war, even if it did bring him government powder orders. [In the postwar] Ohio and Indiana farmers were industriously clearing away timber land, and potent charges of Du Pont powder were needed to extract the stumps. This was the first era of railway building, and powder was a necessity for railroad contractors. William Astor and his Oregon Fur Company needed powder for hunting in the Northwest. Mining was also beginning to develop.

Du Pont did not need a war, but the gods smiled and gave him one. In 1854 England, Turkey, and others went to war with Russia, and guns in the Crimea needed powder. Du Pont filled [orders from both England and Russia, and] shipments of the “black death” went forth to the far corners of the world.

During the American Civil War Du Pont was again the patriot – at least the Northern patriot. Naturally the war brought Du Pont large orders and he was the mainstay of the Northern government.

The Civil War created a virtual partnership between Du Pont and the government. When the war was over, this relationship was not disturbed . . . [and] Working hand in glove with the government became a regular practice for Dupont.

The last decades of the nineteenth century witnessed the formation of powerful combines and trusts in American business. It was only natural that Du Pont should be transformed from a simple powder company into a gigantic combine with international ramifications.

The development came as a result of the Civil War [and] Government orders had been so reckless that the supply of powder on the market proved a drug to the entire industry. The government sold its surplus at auction prices sand the bottom fell out of the powder industry.

Beginning in 1872 the Du Pont Company gradually brought “order” into the industry, and in 1907 it was not only supreme in the field, but had virtually united all powder companies in the country under its guidance, control, or ownership.

The result of this monopolistic policy may be seen in the fact that by 1905 Du Pont controlled the orders for all government powder orders. Having established this monopoly, Du Pont turned again to price-fixing [and] national prices were established from which there was no deviation.

During the World War Du Pont supplied 40 per cent of the powder used by the Allies, and after 1917 its orders from the United States government were enormous.”

(Merchants of Death, A Study of the International Armament Industry, H.C. Engelbrecht & F.C. Hanighen, Dodd, Mead & Company, 1934, excerpts, pp. 29- 36)

Santa Anna Popular Up North

The Mexican War saw the sectional divide widen further as abolitionists and their allies in the North asserted that this was “simply a Southern plot to bring more slave States into the Union.” As New England sided with the enemy during the War of 1812 by selling them supplies and threatened to secede and form a separate republic, they would side with the enemy in 1846. The contingent of Americans fighting with the Mexicans noted below were the “San Patricios,” Irish Catholic immigrants in the US Army who refused to fight against Mexican Catholics. Those captured were executed for treason.  Ohio Senator “Black Tom” Corwin denounced the war in Congress and was summarily hung in effigy near Buena Vista by Ohio troops. They first dressed his likeness in a Mexican uniform.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Santa Anna Popular Up North

“Daniel Webster flung his oratory into caustic criticism of the war and he was abetted by fanatics like [Charles] Sumner. Soon, drinking of this heady fire water, Northern newspapers were fulminating against [President James] Polk and the continuance of the war. This was one of the few wars waged by the United States in which the enemy was popular.

Black Tom Corwin said that American soldiers in Mexico should be welcomed by “hospitable graves,” and a whole nightmare school of literature sprang up. Some papers called for European intervention. One said editorially: “If there is in the United States a heart worthy of American liberty, its impulse is to join the Mexicans.” Another said: “It would be a sad and woeful joy, but a joy nevertheless, to hear that the hordes of Scott and Taylor were every man of them swept into the next world.”

Santa Anna, the rascally Mexican commander, became a hero in Boston and New York, and there was even a contingent of Americans who fought with the Mexican army.”

(Merchants of Death, A Study of the International Armament Industry, H.C. Engelbrecht & F.C. Hanighen, Dodd, Mead & Company, 1934, excerpt, pp. 28-29)

“What Should the South Do?”

The following December 1859 editorial of the Wilmington (North Carolina) Daily Herald asks its readers “What Shall the South Do” after the Harper’s Ferry attack by John Brown, later found to be armed and financed by wealthy abolitionists.  The open warfare between North and South in Kansas had moved eastward, and the South questioned why their Northern brethren were unable to contain murderous zealots of their section. The Daily Herald was edited and published by Alfred Moore Waddell, descendant of US Supreme Court Justice Alfred Moore and Revolutionary General Hugh Waddell. A staunch Unionist editor, Waddell followed his State into the Confederacy and served as Lieutenant-Colonel of the Third North Carolina Cavalry.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

What Should the South Do?”

“The chief actor in the affair at Harper’s Ferry has expiated his crime upon the gallows. Old Brown has been hanged. What will be the result of this enforcement of the law? Will the effect be salutary upon the minds of the Northern people? Have we any reason to suppose that it will cause them, for one moment only, to pause and reflect upon the course they have persistently followed towards the South and her institutions?

It is useless to disguise the fact, that the entire North and Northwest are hopelessly abolitionized. We want no better evidence than that presented to us by their course in this Harper’s affair. With the exception of a few papers (among them we are proud to notice that sterling Whig journal, the New York Express), that have had the manliness to denounce the act as it deserved, the great majority have either sympathized with the offenders, or maintained an ominous silence.

Let us look calmly at the case: A sovereign State [Virginia], in the peaceful enjoyment of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution, has been invaded by an armed force, not foreign mercenaries, but citizens of the same Confederacy, and her people shot down in the public highways. The question is a natural one — Why is this thing done? Why is murder and rapine committed? — And who are the perpetrators? — The answer is found in the fact, that the State whose territory has thus been invaded, is a Southern State in which the institution of slavery exists according to the law and the gospel; and the actors in the terrible drama were but carrying out the precepts and teachings of our Northern brethren.

The “irrepressible conflict” between the North and the South then, has already commenced; to this complexion it must come at last. It is useless to talk of the conservatism of the North. Where has there been any evidence of it? Meetings upon meetings have been held for the purpose of expressing sympathy for murderers and traitors; but none, no, not one solitary expression of horror, or disapprobation even, for the crime committed, have we yet seen from any State North of Mason & Dixon’s line.

And yet they claim to be our brethren, speak the same language, worship the same God. We yield to none in our veneration for the Union, but it is not the Union, now, as our Fathers bequeathed it to us. Then, the pulse that throbbed upon the snow-capped mountains of New Hampshire, vibrated along the Gulf and the marshes of the Mississippi; then, there was unison of feeling, brotherly kindness and affection, and the North and the South, in friendly rivalry, strove together how they could best promote the general welfare.

Now, all is changed. Do you ask why? Watch the proceedings of Congress, read the publications that are scattered by the North broadcast over the country, listen to the sentiments expressed at nearly all their public gatherings. The stereotyped cry, that these things are the work of fanatics only, will no longer answer; but if it be so, then fanaticism rules the entire North; for what has been the result of the elections held during the past summer?

Ask Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, — ask Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin, and even the great State of New York; — all, all, have given in their adhesion to the “higher law” principle, and the mandate for “irrepressible conflict.” Do these things indicate affection, brotherly kindness, Union? There can be no union without affection, — there can be no Union unless this aggressive policy of the North is stopped.

We confess that we look forward with gloomy apprehension towards the future. If Congress fails to apply the remedy, then it behooves the South to act together as one man — ship our produce direct to Europe, — import our own goods, — let the hum of the spinning-wheel be heard in our homes, as in the days of the Revolution, — manufacture our own articles of necessity or luxury, and be dependent upon the North for — nothing.

If such a course does not produce a different state of affairs, then set us down as no prophet; if such a course does not cause the Conservatives of the North to give some tangible evidence of their existence, then we must of necessity conclude, that that principle has no lodgment in their midst.”

(“What Shall the South Do?”- editorial, Wilmington Daily Herald, 5 December 1859)

 

 

A Slow and Gradual Method of Cure for Slavery

Writer Timothy Flint travelled the Mississippi Valley in the early 1800’s and his recollections were published in 1826. After witnessing firsthand the conditions on plantations, Flint cautioned patience and gradualism to erase the stain of slavery in the United States as the fanatic abolitionists would be incautious and rash in their bloody resolution to the question. This underscores the unfortunate fact that abolitionists advanced no practical and peaceful solutions to the matter of slavery in the United States. Only war to the knife.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

A Slow and Gradual Method of Cure for Slavery

“[Prior to Northern slavery agitation], The Southern people were beginning to esteem and regard the northern character. The term “yankee” began to be a term rather of respect than reproach.

It is easy to see how soon this will all be reversed, if we incautiously and rashly intermeddle in this matter. Let us hear for a moment, the Southern planter speak for himself, for I remark that if you introduce the subject with any delicacy, I have never yet heard one, who does not admit that slavery is an evil and an injustice, and who does not at least affect to deplore the evil.

[The Southern planter] says, that be the evil so great, and the thing ever so unjust, it has always existed among the Jews, in the families of the patriarchs, in the republics of Greece and Rome, and that the right of the master in his slave, is clearly recognized in St. Paul; that it has been transmitted down through successive ages, to the colonization of North America, and that it existed in Massachusetts as well as the other States.

“You,” they add, “had but a few. Your climate admitted the labour of the whites. You freed them because it is less expensive to till your lands with free hands, than with slaves. We have a scorching sun, and an enfeebling climate.  The African constitution can alone support labour under such circumstances.

We of course had many slaves. Our fathers felt the necessity, and yielding to the expediency of the case. They have entailed the enormous and growing evil upon us. Take them from us and you render the Southern country a desert. You destroy the great staples of the country, and what is worse, you find no way in which to dispose of the millions that you emancipate.”

If we [of the North] reply, that we cannot violate a principle, for the sake of expediency, they return upon us with the question, “What is to be done? The deplorable condition of the emancipated slaves in this country is sufficient proof, that we cannot emancipate them here.

Turn them all loose at once, and ignorant and reckless as they are of the use and value of freedom, they would devour and destroy the subsistence of years, in a day, and for want of other objects upon which to prey, would prey upon one another. It is a chronic moral evil, the growth of ages, and such diseases are always aggravated by violent and harsh remedies.  Leave us to ourselves, or point out the way in which we can gently heal this great malady, not at once, but in a regimen of years. The evil must come off as it came on, by slow and gradual method of cure.”

In this method of cure, substitutes would be gradually found for their labor. The best modes of instructing them in the value of freedom, and rendering them comfortable and happy in the enjoyment of it, would be gradually marled out. They should be taught to read, and imbued with the principles, and morals of the gospel.

Every affectionate appeal should be made to the humanity, and the better feelings of the masters. In the region where I live, the masters allow entire liberty to the slaves to attend public worship, and as far as my knowledge extends, it is generally the case in Louisiana. In some plantations they have a jury of Negroes to try offences under the eye of the master, as judge, and it generally happens that he is obliged to mitigate the severity of their sentence.”

(Recollections of the Last Ten Years in the Valley of the Mississippi, Timothy Flint; George Brooks, editor, Southern Illinois University Press, 1968, pp. 246-249)

The Spirit of Hate in Rochester

The vigilante justice of lynching was not confined to the South as is commonly believed, and race relations in the North, before and after the war, were seldom harmonious.  Black abolitionist Frederick Douglass thought his home in New York was surrounded by the spirit of Klansmen, perhaps attracted by his prewar militant activities which had brought on a war that claimed many Northern lives. Douglass fled to Canada after the State of Virginia wanted him extradited to stand trial as an accessory to John Brown; Brown met with Douglass prior to Harper’s Ferry.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Spirit of Hate in Rochester

“After his Rochester, New York, home was burned to the ground by incendiary on June 1, 1872, Frederick Douglass expressed his anger in his weekly New National Era: “Was it for plunder, or was it for spite? One thing I do know and that is, while Rochester is among the most liberal of Northern cities, and its people are among the most humane and highly civilized, it nevertheless has its full share of the Ku-Klux spirit . . . It is the spirit of hate, the spirit of murder.”

Race relations were often contentious in Rochester due in part to Douglass’s strong civil rights voice. By 1870, although Rochester’s African-American population was minute – just 427 out of a total population of 62,386 – racial tension, especially over employment, prompted concern by whites.

On Saturday, December 30, 1871, the [Rochester Daily] Union’s third edition published the city’s first report of the rape of an eight-year-old German girl by a black man after she had returned from a church event. News of the crime “spread like wild fire” after the child was returned to her parents. She had been brutally beaten but described her attacker to the police who began a frantic search for him.

Early Monday morning officers arrested William Edward Howard, and he was identified as the rapist by the girl at her home. Her father later “apologized to [a] reporter for not having killed the Negro when he was in the house.” Howard was not a stranger to the city’s police. In early 1871, he was arrested for voting illegally, and he served six months in jail. At the time of his arrest for rape, there was a warrant for his arrest for stealing from a local German woman.

Douglass’s son, Charles, who worked with his father on New National Era, wrote to his father on January 20: “That Howard boy was in my company in the 5th Cavalry. He came to the regiment as a [paid] substitute, and asked to be in my Co. I had to tie him up by the thumbs quite often. His offence was stealing.”

Outside the jail an agitated mob assembled . . . composed mainly of Germans, was intent on taking the law into its own hands, and the jail became Howard’s fortress. The [Rochester Daily] Union’s reportage was most descriptive: “Threats were made to lynch him and matters looked serious . . . four or five hundred people in the assemblage . . . [and cries of] “kill the nigger, give us the nigger” were loud and frequent.” [Judge R. Darwin Smith pronounced] “The sentence of the Court is that you be confined to Auburn State Prison for the period of twenty years at hard labor. The law formerly punished your crime with death.”

At the prison entrance, Howard turned toward [an angry crowd of several hundred men] and with his free hand placed his thumb on his nose and waved his fingers to mock them. Once in jail, Howard renounced his guilty plea, and professed his innocence.”

(The Spirit of Hate and Frederick Douglass, Richard H. White, Civil War History, A Journal of the Middle Period, Volume 46, Number 1, March 2000, pp. 41-47)

Impaling the South’s Agricultural Economy

Longtime-Democrat and early critic of Lincoln, Edwin M. Stanton, was appointed attorney general during the cabinet crisis by President James Buchanan in December 1860, though at the same time hobnobbing with Charles Sumner and other influential radical Republicans. As noted below, Stanton saw Negro emancipation as a weapon of war rather than a humanitarian policy — in truth a copy of British Lord Dunmore’s emancipation proclamation of 1775, and British Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane’s similar edict in 1814. All were aimed at inciting race war, denying the South its agricultural workers, and attracting black soldiers to be military laborers or cannon fodder.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Impaling the South’s Agricultural Economy

“Crusades, like politics, sometimes make strange bedfellows. Few antislavery Radicals in 1860 would have guessed that a member of Buchanan’s cabinet, an outspoken critic of Lincoln and the Republican Party, would become, by 1862, a valuable and enthusiastic ally. But then, few men ever were ingenious enough to predict the course Edwin M. Stanton might follow from one day to the next. Even today it is difficult to assess the degree of Stanton’s Radical Republicanism.

Although he had been a Democrat since his college days and had served in a Democratic cabinet . . . He was in complete sympathy the Radical’s demands for a vigorous prosecution of the war and for the emancipation and military employment of Negro slaves. Yet, he never committed himself clearly to the economic program of the Republican Party: the high tariff, the Homestead Act, national banking, and a sound currency.

Though he used the considerable power of the War Department to aid Republican candidates in wartime elections, he used it also to benefit War Democrats, many of whom could never quite believe that he had really deserted the old party.

Stanton, then, was a true Union man, a partisan of any politician who believed, as he did, that the Southern Confederacy was a conspiracy of traitors and that total war was necessary to destroy it. In his hands, emancipation and the military use of Negroes became weapons of war.

Seldom did he consider the long-term implications of the war; his concern centered on the immediate task of defeating the Confederacy with every means at hand. But he had the prescience enough to realize that emancipation, though it would eliminate the problem of slavery, would at the same time create the problem of the freed Negroes. Impetuous and forceful, Stanton could not sympathize with Lincoln’s cautious approach to the problem.

[Horace Greely prophetically predicted that under Stanton], “no General or other officer of the army will more than once return a fugitive slave.” [Stanton’s predecessor, Simon Cameron in his final report stated:] “Can we afford to send them forward to their masters to be by them armed against us, or used in producing supplies to sustain the rebellion?”

Stanton recognized in the Radicals the strongest single bloc in Congress, a group to be cultivated and respected [as they had] worked hard to put him in the War Department.

It was [then] easy for the Radicals to demand publicly a war policy which would include emancipation and the military use of freed Negroes. [General David Hunter was rebuked by Lincoln for arming Negroes and Stanton publicly denied any responsibility, but] General Hunter’s subordinates charged later that Stanton had expressly authorized the action and that he had furnished guns and uniforms for the troops.

In spite of the Hunter affair, and without the President’s consent, he had tolerated isolated instances of using Negroes as soldiers . . . and few obstacles impeded the secretary’s policy of enlisting and arming the fugitives. The entire structure of slavery, he believed, could be transformed from a bulwark of the South agricultural economy into a weapon on which to impale its defenders.

“The power of the rebels rests upon their peculiar system of labor,” he insisted, and it was the duty of the Union to strike down that system, to “turn against the rebels the productive power that upholds the insurrection.” Next to the armed might of the Union, he considered the Emancipation Proclamation, with its military implications, the strongest weapon in the Northern arsenal.”

(Blueprint for Radical Reconstruction, John G. Sproat, Journal of Southern History, Volume XXIII, Number 1, February 1957, excerpts, pp. 25-29, 31-33)

 

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