Browsing "Aftermath: Despotism"

Dark Forces Unleashed by War

Of the wartime and postwar Congress, shorn of Southern statesmen, author Richard Hofstadter wrote: “Before business learned to buy statesmen at wholesale, it had to buy privileges at retail.” Railroad promoters actively lobbied for land grants and other subsidies at every level of government, while choruses of Northern manufacturers demanded tariff protection from foreign competitors. The American Third Republic ended with war in 1861, waged against a new Southern agrarian republic seeking peace and prosperity for its people. With its war of independence lost, the South became a poor economic colony within a foreign political arrangement dominated by corporate interests allied with an all-powerful central government.

Dark Forces Unleashed by War

“After the Civil War several transcontinental railroads, all but the Great Northern the beneficiaries of federal land grants, were completed. Chastened by scandals connected with the government’s subsidization of these enterprises, Congress made no new land grants after 1871, but in the nostrils of many people the odor of something rotten – corruption and special, unwarranted privilege at the expense of the general public – lingered about the land-grant railroads for decades.

After the 1870s, growing numbers of huge manufacturing corporations, including such still-familiar firms as Standard Oil, Bethlehem, American Tobacco, and Armour, achieved prominence. People accustomed to dealing with small locally-owned firms had difficulty in reconciling themselves to an economy in which such corporate behemoths did much of the nation’s business.

The great corporations, known to contemporaries as “trusts” though only a few were every trusts in the strict legal sense, raised the specter of monopoly power in the market. American public opinion and legal tradition had long been hostile toward monopolies. Conspiracies in restraint of trade were unquestionably illegal under the common law.

Unsuccessful competitors complained bitterly that the “monopolists” were driving them to the wall. Customers frequently objected to real or imagined price discrimination. More than anything else, rate discrimination provoked the outrage of Midwestern shippers against the railroads. Often the criticism of a big corporation’s alleged monopoly power could be deflected by showing that the firm produced better products or services in growing volumes at ever lower prices.

But this defense, even if appropriate, did nothing to allay the charge that the great corporations subverted the democratic political process. “Corruption,” charged the Populists in the preamble to their platform of 1892, “dominates the ballot-box, the Legislatures, the Congress, and touches even the ermine of the bench.”  Henry B. Brown, an associate justice of the US Supreme Court, told the Yale law students in 1895 that “[b]ribery and corruption are as universal as to threaten the very structure of society.”

(Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government, Robert Higgs, Oxford University Press, 1987, excerpts pp. 80-81)

 

An American Chamber of Horrors

In an effort to forestall a Republican “Force Bill” designed to bring reconstruction horrors back to the postwar South, fourteen spokesmen that included Zebulon Vance, Robert Stiles and Bernard J. Sage undertook to explain the Solid South to what may be termed the New North. In April 1890 they published a symposium “Why the Solid South? Or Reconstruction and its Results,” designed to appeal to the self-interest of the North’s business class and a very clear recapitulation of what Reconstruction thus far “had cost in money, public morale and cultural retardation.”

An American Chamber of Horrors

“Hilary Herbert of Alabama, who served as editor, expressed . . . in a preface: “Its object is to show to the public, and more especially to the businessmen of the North, who have made investments in the South, or who have trade relations with their Southern fellow citizens, the consequences which once followed an interference in the domestic affairs of certain States by those, who either did not understand the situation or were reckless of results.”

There followed factual histories of Reconstruction in each of the ex-Confederate States, including West Virginia and Missouri, which also had suffered from the fraud, repression and vicious partisanship of the postwar settlement. All in all, it is one of the most dismal stories ever told, unrelieved by a single ray of light, unless a revelation of how much people can endure and how they will struggle to attain their hopes even in extremis be such.

Governor Vance of North Carolina in a particularly mild and philosophic chapter pointed out that during what was supposed to be a moral and political rebirth “the criminals sat in the law-making chamber, on the bench and in the jury-box, instead of standing in the dock.” It has become the fashion nowadays to regard Reconstruction as a kind of chamber of horrors into which no good American would care to look, but Governor Vance reminded his readers that no portion of our history better deserves study “by every considerate patriot.”

From the comparatively uneventful story of North Carolina’s experience, the chronicle moves on to the wild saturnalia of South Carolina, where amid riotous spending of public funds the State House was turned into a combination of saloon and brothel. Yet the ordeal of South Carolina was matched by that of Louisiana, where in four years’ time the incredible Warmoth regime squandered an amount equal to half the wealth of the State.

“Corruption is the fashion,” Governor Warmoth, an ex-soldier who had been dishonorably discharged from the Federal army, remarked with laudable candor. “I do not pretend to be honest, but only as honest as anybody in politics.”

(The Southern Tradition at Bay: A History of Postbellum Thought, Richard M. Weaver, George Core/M.E. Bradford, editors, Regnery Publishing, 1989, excerpts pp. 330-332)

A Progressive Empire, Left and Right

It can be argued that the end of American republican government ended in 1861 with the industrialized state warring upon the Constitution and the agricultural South. The triumphant North launched its Gilded Age combine of government, corporations, millionaires and financial manipulation, as well as foreign imperialism, which brought the country to European military intervention. Then came the Depression. The first European military intervention set the stage for another even more costly; an American president then warned of a military-industrial complex that had emerged.

Progressive Empire, Left and Right

“If the American Republic is defunct, and if most Americans no longer subscribe to the classical republicanism that defined the Republic as its public orthodoxy, what is the principal issue of American politics?

Ever since the Progressive Era, the issue that has divided Americans into the two political and ideological camps of “Right” and “Left” has been whether or not to preserve the Republic.

The Progressives (at least their dominant wing) argued that the small-scale government, entrepreneurial business economy, and localized and private social and cultural fabric that made a republic possible was obsolete at best and at worst repressive and exploitive.

They and their descendants in New Deal/Great Society liberalism pushed for an enlarged state fused with corporations and unions into the economy with massive, bureaucratized cultural and educational organizations. In contrast, the “Right” pulled in the opposite direction, defending the Republic and the social and economic structure that enabled republicanism to flourish, but with less success and with ever-diminishing understanding of what they were doing.

Today the conflict over that issue is finished. The Progressive Empire has replaced the old American Republic, and even on the self-proclaimed “Right” today, virtually no one other than the beleaguered “paleo-conservatives” defends republicanism in anything like its pristine form.

The collapse of the conflict over republicanism is the main reason why the labels “Left” and “Right” no longer make much sense and also why – much more than the end of the Reagan administration and the Cold War – the “conservative coalition” of the Reagan era is falling apart.

Mr. Reagan’s main legacy was to show his followers, who for decades griped against “Big Government,” that they too could climb aboard the Big Government hayride and nibble crumbs at its picnic. With such “conservatism” now centered mainly in Washington and its exponents happily dependent on the federal mega-state, the historic raison d’etre of the American “Right” has ceased to exist.

Such conservatives no longer even pretend to want to preserve or restore the old Republic, and it now turns out that even when the said they did, it was all pretty much a charade anyway.”

(Revolution from the Middle, Samuel T. Francis, Middle American Press, 1997, excerpts pp. 90-91)

Military Government Perfected

“Lee, indeed, saw an analogy between the Revolution of 1776 and the Revolution of 1861. In ’76 the Colonists threw off the yoke of Great Britain, in ’61 eleven Southern States threw off the yoke of the North. In each instance the act was one on revolution. Lee maintained that a government held together by coercion – such as Lincoln’s call for troops would create – was but a semblance of a government. He remembered that Washington himself had declared, “There is nothing which binds one country or one state to another but interest.”

Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation made an impression upon Robert E. Lee. He understood the significance. Lincoln intended to win the war and to preserve the Union regardless of consequences.  When he was inaugurated he had affirmed that he had neither the power nor the disposition to interfere with slavery. He had now reversed himself. But thereby his military government was made perfect.

This view Lee expressed to [President Jefferson] Davis. “The military government of the United States has been so perfected by the recent proclamation of President Lincoln, which you have no doubt seen, and civil liberty so completely trodden under foot, that I have strong hopes that the conservative portion of [the Northern] people, unless dead to the feelings of liberty, will rise and depose the party now in power.”

Yet while Lee was penning this letter to Davis he was signing and delivering a deed of manumission to the three hundred Custis slaves [he had inherited through marriage]. This act antedated Lincoln’s proclamation by three days; Lincoln’s proclamation became operative January 1, 1863, Lee’s manumission papers had been in effect since December 29 previous.”

(Robert E. Lee: A Biography, Robert W. Winston, William Morrow & Company, 1934, excerpts pp. 96; 208-209)

Fraud was National

The contested result of the 1876 election was settled in a back room, with Democrats acquiescing to “His Fraudulency” Rutherford B. Hayes ascent to the presidency in exchange for the removal of Northern occupation troops from the South and the assurance of federal railroad aid.

Fraud was National

“Early in the morning after the election, [the New York Times], after accounting politically for every State in the Union but Florida, announced: ‘This leaves Florida alone still in doubt. If the Republicans have carried that State, as they claim, they will have 185 votes, a majority of one.’ The situation was not quite that simple, but Florida’s vote was that important. “Visiting statesmen” from both parties hastened to Tallahassee. Local partisans were active too.

[Politician and former Northern general] Lew Wallace described the Florida situation in a letter to his wife: “It is terrible to see the extent to which all classes go in their determination to win. Conscience offers no restraint. Nothing is so common as the resort to perjury . . . Money and intimidation can obtain the oath of white men as well as black to any required statement . . . If we [Republicans] win, our methods are subject to impeachment for possible fraud. If the enemy [Democrats] win, it is the same thing . . .”

Fraud was national. It applied to the Presidency as well as railroad bonds. “Visiting statesmen” who came late showed no more scruples than carpetbaggers who came early or the scalawags whom they found. The Republicans secured the vote of Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina.

But the Florida vote remains more significant in view of Dr. Vann Woodward’s statement that the consensus of modern scholarship is “that Hayes was probably entitled to the electoral votes of South Carolina and Louisiana, and that [Samuel] Tilden was entitled to the four votes of Florida, and that Tilden was therefore elected by a vote of 188 to 181.”

(Prince of Carpetbaggers, Jonathan Daniels, J.B. Lippincott, 1958, excerpts pp. 282-283)

Sadly Fighting Your Own People

Lincoln launched his war in 1861 with the stated goal of maintaining the Union, and by use of force, to refuse recognition of those States choosing to form a more perfect Union of their own. After Lincoln had become disenchanted with several ineffectual commanders, he settled upon U.S. Grant who achieved some measure of success with relentless mass attacks upon numerically inferior numbers, the latter to be worn down by simple attrition.

Grant’s wife, Julia Dent, inherited thirty slaves and her father’s plantation, White Haven, making Grant the proprietor of a large slaveholding estate.  Grant was indifferent to slavery and no abolitionist, writing his father that “I am sure that I have but one desire in this war and that is to put down the rebellion. I have no hobby of my own with regard to the negro, either to effect his freedom or to continue his bondage.”

Appreciating a fellow autocrat who was consolidating scattered republics into a centralized empire, Bismarck supported Lincoln’s war and encouraged Germans to purchase Union war bonds – and by 1864, German immigrants made up fully one-quarter of Lincoln’s army.

Sadly Fighting Your Own People

“They met in Berlin in June, 1878, while Bismarck was presiding over the Congress of Berlin, one of those nineteenth-century gatherings where the rulers of Europe redrew the map of the continent to make it more to their liking.  Grant did not attend the Congress; he was just passing through town. But when Bismarck learned of his presence, the Chancellor sent a note to Grant’s hotel, inviting the general to visit him at the Radziwill Palace the next day at four o’clock. Grant accepted.

After . . . pleasantries, Bismarck led Grant into his office, which overlooked a sunny park, The Chancellor famous for uniting Germany was eager to talk to the general famous for reuniting the United States. But when Bismarck praised Grant for his military prowess, the general demurred.

“You are so happily placed in America that you need fear no wars,” said Bismarck, who ruled a country that bordered its rivals. “What always seemed so sad to me about your last great war was that you were fighting your own people. That is always so terrible in wars, so hard.”

“But it had to be done,” replied Grant.

“Yes,” said Bismarck. “You had to save the Union just as we had to save Germany.”

“Not only to save the Union,” replied Grant, “but destroy slavery.”

“I suppose, however, the Union was the real sentiment, the dominant sentiment”, said Bismarck.”

(Encounter, US Grant Talks War with Bismarck, Peter Carlson, www.history.net, accessed 11.22.20)

Nov 7, 2020 - Aftermath: Despotism, Democracy, Election Fraud, Lincoln's Revolutionary Legacy, Myth of Saving the Union, Northern Culture Laid Bare, Republican Party    Comments Off on Selling Cabinet Positions to Pay Election Expenses

Selling Cabinet Positions to Pay Election Expenses

It was said that the Republicans of 1888 fervently embraced the belief that their America was a “huge profit-sharing concern” which distributed dividends to its special business interests, the mainstay of their ability to remain in power.  The Fifty-first Congress soon became known as the “Billion Dollar Congress,” and Speaker Thomas Reed presided over “the auctioning of immense sums and of public privileges greater still.” The conservative hand of Southern leaders in Congress was a distant memory, and the Republican merger of government and corporations continued unabated – despite the short interval of Grover Cleveland.

Selling Cabinet Positions to Pay Election Expenses

“From his very youth, before the war, Benjamin Harrison had joined the Abolition Republicans who had risen in the West, and . . .” won their way to political power as a party of the people.” His Republicanism was intensely partisan and orthodox, and he could shut his eyes, puritan that he was, to the irregularities of “venal” Indiana’s Organization politics, through whose grades he had climbed steadily to the senatorship, the governorship, and the White House.

The work of the war, the success of the Republican party, the system of [tariff] Protection, and the sacredness of great property interests all became part of Harrison’s militant Calvinist creed.  His conservatism and the fact that he came from the West . . . had made him the choice of the convention managers in 1888.  Another son of Indiana commented:

“The late President Benjamin Harrison had the exclusive distinction of having served the railway corporations in the dual capacity of lawyer and soldier.  He prosecuted the strikers [in 1877] in the federal courts . . . and he organized and commanded a company of soldiers during the strike . . . Ten years later he was elevated to the presidency of the United States.”

Nevertheless it was not thinkable that this stubborn, self-controlled man of pure life, who had long taught a Bible class on Sundays, would comfortably tolerate new Whiskey rings and Star Route frauds.  Yet [party bosses] claims upon him could not be ignored.

Harrison brooded silently for long weeks over the problems raised by the disposition of cabinet posts in [his] Administration, his debts to the party chieftains, and his fear of them.

“When I came into power I found that the [Republican] party managers had taken it all to themselves,” Harrison once said in an intimate talk at which Theodore Roosevelt was present. “I could not name my own Cabinet.  They had sold out every place to pay for the election expenses.”

Harrison bowed before [Secretary of State James G.] Blaine’s dreadful power over the party but] held him at a distance, and marked the limits of his influence. The rest of his Cabinet Harrison [saw filled with] distribution among the regional bosses. Some lesser offices, on the other hand, were filled according to a nepotistic system, by which persona followers and a goodly number of relatives were installed as sort of a personal bodyguard.”

(The Politicos, 1865-1896, Matthew Josephson, Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1938, pp. 436-439)

“Little Jokers” of 1876

During the election of 1876, Florida’s carpetbag Republican platform declared the party “to be in accord with the just and enlightened sentiment of mankind and largely answerable for material, intellectual and moral progress throughout the world” – while endorsing its past governance of the State as being “wise, just, economical and progressive.”

Little Jokers” of 1876

“The Republican managers were directing the Radical campaign with large activity and small scruple. They were preparing shrewdly to overcome by fraud what Democrats might gain by force. Rumors were abroad of ugly plans entered into by Republican bosses to unfairly influence the elections.

The election machinery was in Republican hands, because most of the men who had anything to do with directing the election and counting the votes were the appointees of the Republican governor or boards of county commissioners of like politics. A visitor from the North did not exaggerate much when he described the situation thus:

“From the precinct ballot-boxes to the Tallahassee State-house, the place for voting, the precinct officers who receive the vote, the officer who records the vote, the county officers whose judgment affects the certificate of the vote, the State officers who by law canvass the county returns of the vote, all are Republicans or under Republican control. Such is the law, such is the fact. The Florida Democratic Committee are unaware that county returns have been stolen in the mails, which are under Republican control.”

The public school teachers, the majority of local officials, and the Federal office-holders were more or less active in organizing the Radical [Republican] vote. “The whole public school system”, says [Republican John] Wallace, “was made a powerful auxiliary to the campaign fund of [Gov. M.L.] Stearns. The State Superintendent . . . devoted his whole energy and time to the nefarious canvass for the nomination of Stearns, to the utter neglect of the education of the masses.

The local Negro leaders strove to keep their grip upon the individual colored voter for the November test. “Two weeks before election time the colored brothers in every precinct were notified . . . that unless they voted as many times as they could on the day of election they would be put back into slavery [by Democrats].”

J. Bowes, the superintendent of schools for Leon County, ordered printed a quantity of small thin Republican ballots called “little jokers”, with which to stuff the ballot boxes on election day. He jocularly told his friends of the project and later used the ballots to good effect.”

(The Civil War and Reconstruction in Florida, William W. Davis, Columbia University, 1913, excerpts pp. 698-700)  

If Our Enemies Prevail

Prominent South Carolina theologian James H. Thornwell saw the sectional conflict as not being merely between abolitionists an slaveholders,” but waged on one side by “athiests, socialists, communists, red Republicans and Jacobins, and the other by the “friends of order and regulated freedom. In one word, the world is the battleground and Christianity and Atheism the combatants.” Thornwell saw the progress of humanity as being at stake in the war.  Among Lincoln’s staunchest supporters were Karl Marx, many influential German revolutionaries who had fled the failed socialist revolutions of 1840s Europe, and New England utopians.

If Our Enemies Prevail

“Some Southerners saw such deception [as Lincoln’s] coming, James H. Thornwell, a prominent Presbyterian preacher and seminary professor in South Carolina, predicted if the South were defeated, then the North would not only revolutionize “the whole character of the government” from ‘a federal republic, the common agent of the sovereign and independent States’ to a “central despotism, with the notion of States forever abolished,’ but also would brand the South with the stigma of slavery:

“And what have we to expect if our enemies prevail? Our homes, too, are to be pillaged, our cities and property confiscated, our true men hanged, and those who escape the gibbet, to be driven as vagabonds and wanderers in foreign climes. This beautiful country is to pass out of our hands. The boundaries which mark our States are, in some instances, to be effaced, and the State that remain are to be converted into subject provinces, governed by Northern rulers and by Northern laws.

Our property is to be ruthlessly seized and turned over to mercenary strangers, in order to pay the enormous debt which our subjugation has cost. Our wives and daughters are to become the prey of brutal lust. The slave, too, will slowly pass away, as the red man did before him, under the protection of Northern philanthropy; and the whole country, now like the Garden of Eden in beauty and fertility, will first be a blackened and smoking desert, and then the minister of Northern cupidity and avarice.

There is not a single redeeming feature in the picture of ruin which stares us in the face, if we permit ourselves to be conquered.  It is a night of thick darkness that will settle upon us. Even sympathy, the last solace of the afflicted, will be denied to us.  The civilized world will look coldly upon us, and even jeer us with the taunt that we have deservedly lost our own freedom in seeking to perpetuate the slavery of others.

We shall perish under a cloud of reproach and of unjust suspicions, sedulously propagated by our enemies, which will be harder to bear than the loss of home and of goods. Such a fate never overtook any people before.”

(From Founding Fathers to Fire Eaters: The Constitutional Doctrine of States’ Rights in the Old South, James Rutledge Roesch, Shotwell Publishing, 2018, excerpt pp. xiv-xv)  

Lee’s Only Chance

Though Lincoln doubted that he would be reelected in 1864, and was heard to state that he hoped another Republican would replace him as he feared being imprisoned by a Democrat for his numerous unconstitutional acts, his Assistant Secretary of War Charles A. Dana said “the whole power of the War Department was used to secure Lincoln’s re-election in 1864.” By that time there were far too many whose careers and wealth depended upon the powerful centralized government Lincoln had created, and which the Radical Republicans wanted to rule.

The starving, ragged soldiers of Lee and Johnston were the last remaining barriers to full Radical control of the destiny of the “nation conceived in liberty” declared at Gettysburg in November 1863.  

Lee’s Only Chance

“In Lee’s ranks there was less fear of Grant than of that grim enemy, hunger. George Cary Eggleston [A Rebel’s Recollections] reports the rigid economies in food which his men practiced; then he adds:

“Hunger to starving men is wholly unrelated to the desire for food as that is commonly understood and felt. It is a great agony of the whole body and the soul as well. It is unimaginable, all-pervading pain inflicted when the strength to endure pain is utterly gone. It is a great despairing cry of a wasting body – a cry of flesh and blood, marrow, nerves, bones, and faculties for strength with which to exist and to endure existence. It is a horror which, once suffered, leaves an impression that is never erased from memory, and to this day the old agony of that campaign comes back upon me at the mere thought of any living creature’s lacking the food it desires, even though its hunger be only the ordinary craving and the denial be necessary for the creature’s health.”

In the whole campaign from the Wilderness to Cold Harbor, the Union losses were 55,000, nearly as much as Lee’s whole army. Grant, however, could find new recruits; he was amply reinforced; and he had no embarrassment from the lack of food or equipment. As a defensive accomplishment in fighting off superior numbers, the campaign stands as a significant chapter in Confederate annals.

Confederate losses in the Wilderness campaign were proportionally heavier than those of Grant, behind whom stood the North with its numbers, wealth, organization, and equipment.  Lee’s chance of conquering the Northern armies had gone.  His only chance was in the doubtful hope that a stout and desperate defense, if continued long enough, would wear down the Northern will to fight, produce Lincoln’s defeat in the election of 1864, and by the sheer force of war weariness bring peace on terms acceptable to the South.”

(The Civil War and Reconstruction, James G. Randall, D.C. Heath and Company, 1937, excerpts pp. 544-547)

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