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May 26, 2024 - Aftermath: Despotism, America Transformed, Enemies of the Republic, Lincoln Revealed, Myth of Saving the Union, Newspapers, Prisons for Americans    Comments Off on Francis Key Howard’s “Middle Passage”

Francis Key Howard’s “Middle Passage”

By 1863, Congress had sanctioned Lincoln’s illegal suspension of the writ of habeas corpus and absolved him of the northern Democrats charge of “usurpation.” The latter charged that his “suspension of the writ justifies arrests without warrant, without oath, and even without suspicion of treason or other crime.” Howard, below, was editor of Baltimore’s Daily Exchange which was supportive of the South’s decision for political independence.

Francis Key Howard’s “Middle Passage”

“Frances Key Howard, grandson of Francis Scott Key, author of the Star-Spangled Banner, had been among the Baltimoreans arrested in September of 1861. By December 1862, he had finished a manuscript about his prison experiences, and the little book made its appearance in print early in 1863.

Like others in this genre of protest writing, Howard’s work made a special point “to show . . . how men, who were guiltless . . ., were treated in this age, and in this country” and stressed the crowded conditions and spartan hardships of prison life.

In a protest letter written to President Lincoln and reprinted in Howard’s book, he and other prisoners of state likened the conditions at Fort Lafayette to those on “a slave ship, on the middle passage.”

(The Fate of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties. Mark E. Neely, Jr. Oxford University Press. 1991, p195)

Lincoln’s Dark Days

Many European observers saw Lincoln’s early proclamation of September 1862 as simply imitating the actions of Virginia’s Royal Governor Lord Dunmore eighty-six years earlier. In the face of “insurrection,” Dunmore demanded loyalty oaths from colonists while proclaiming African slaves “free.” A desperate Lincoln did the same.

Lincoln’s Dark Days

“The war had indeed approached a crisis in late July [1861]. There had been little encouraging news from the Western theater since April, when the victory at Shiloh had been followed by the occupation of New Orleans. These victories were disappointing in that they seemed to be leading nowhere. The high hopes accompanying McClellan’s advance up the peninsula below Richmond had been cruelly dashed.

Waiting for victories, [Lincoln’s] Cabinet received news in late August of the most humiliating defeat of the entire war. General John Pope allowed his army to be trapped at Manassas, Virginia, practically on the doorstep of the Capitol, between the armies of Longstreet and Jackson; it was hurled back toward Washington in a retreat that was actually a rout.

When the full impact of this latest disaster was at last known in the North, a real desperation gripped the public. “That we are in serious danger of being whipped cannot be denied” wrote Edward Atkinson, “and there is scarce a man now in Boston, who would not thank God to hear of a serious insurrection among the slaves, such a change has this disaster wrought.”

Dr. Milton Hawks, perhaps the most fanatical missionary at Port Royal [South Carolina], repeated his belief that, unless emancipation were the goal of the war, the South would establish her independence. “The greatest kindness that a man could do this government today,” he wrote furiously, “would be to assassinate Pres. Lincoln – He stands directly in the way.”

Lincoln’s course was mysterious to the general public [but after the dubious victory at Antietam], the President seized the slim occasion for his [preliminary emancipation] Proclamation . . .”

(Rehearsal for Reconstruction: The Port Royal Experiment. Willie Lee Rose. Oxford University Press, 1964, pp. 184-185)

Martial Law is the Absence of Law

Martial Law is the Absence of Law

A review of the martial law imposed upon the island of Key West 1861-1865 was recently presented by a local college history teacher, and as a part of the North’s comprehensive military strategy during the Civil War. The audience was a local Civil War Roundtable (CWRT) group.

The lecturer noted the military takeover of the civilian government on the island in mid-January 1861 as the local commander, Capt. James Brannan surreptitiously barricaded his 44 men in the nearly completed Fort Zachary Taylor and turned its guns on the town. Overnight, the US military’s local friends and neighbors became an enemy to be treated with suspicion and contempt. Now fearing bombardment of their homes from the nearby fort, the residents became prisoners in their homes.

The reason cited for Brannan’s warlike action was overhearing “secession” talk among the residents as well as Florida’s recent decision to formally withdraw from the United States federation and become an independent State. Florida was to remain independent until it formally voted to join the Confederate States of America on April 22, 1861.

The arrival in March 1861 of more Northern troops increased armed patrols roaming the town and surveilling citizens. Arbitrary arrests were common, and Fort Taylor became an American bastille to hold prisoners of conscience. Locals, especially merchants with inventories to sell, sought favor with the military as willing informants, reporting on anyone complaining of military rule. Elected officials who disagreed with the military faced arrest and confinement, and new elections of approved candidates were held under armed supervision. Those considered “dangerous secessionists” were deported to the mainland.

What Capt. Brannan accomplished with his unilateral action, and unfortunately not pointed out by the lecturer, was to wage war against a State which is the very definition of treason in the US Constitution – Article III, Section 3. Though Brannan was applauded by his fellow officers and eventually promoted for his act, this does not absolve him of treason.

It was highly likely that Brannan was emulating Major Robert Anderson at Charleston as news of the Fort Sumter seizure could have reached him at Key West in early January. As Anderson suffered no adverse consequences for his fort seizure, Brannan perhaps saw a green light to do the same but should have been more circumspect as he certainly was aware that John Brown was hung in 1858 for waging war against Virginia – the crime being treason. Noteworthy is that Brown was tried and convicted in Virginia, where he committed his crime.

Though this speaker outlined how the island was placed under military rule, no adequate or honest discussion was provided regarding how or why military rule had suddenly materialized, how it was justified under American law, or who specifically ordered it. Martial law is generally considered to be the absence of law with arrests and detentions made at the discretion of the military commander, or those commanded by him. Missing was any explanation of how easily Northern commanders could ignore habeas corpus which was so deeply rooted in Anglo-American jurisprudence. But importantly, as Lincoln ignored the Constitution and approved the repressive actions of those like Brannan, it only encouraged more violations of the law.

The seizure of Fort Taylor came at the whim of a local military commander who was sworn to uphold the United States Constitution – and who should have clearly understood the definition of treason. Though simplistically following orders to protect the fort he was charged with commanding, the withdrawal of the State of Florida and its relationship with the United States government at Washington took precedence. After being officially advised of Florida’s decision to formally declare independence, and lacking any reason to remain on the island, which was no longer part of the United States, Capt. Brannan should have sought Florida officials to provide him with receipts for all equipment left behind before departing with his command. Though he likely would have been court-martialed for doing this, he would have been true to his oath to support the United States Constitution.

The above indicates that there is more than one viewpoint regarding this particular topic, and a more well-versed history teacher should have been able to present all credible perspectives beyond their own. In this particular case, the audience deserved a far better explanation of how military rule quickly overwhelmed a peaceful American town. The listeners were unfortunately left with a partial and limited view of this important and most revealing topic.

(For more information on this topic, see: “Key West’s Civil War: Rather Unsafe for a Southern Man to Live Here.” John Bernhard Thuersam – Shotwell Publishing and available on Amazon)

The War Against the States

“[The] fact remains that that the Civil War was a political and constitutional watershed in United States history. Although the Civil War draft was primarily an inducement to volunteering [with ample financial incentives], the arbitrary arrests [of civilians] and first use of [a clearly unconstitutional] national conscription established important precedents. Economically, power shifted toward the industrialized North.  Moreover, at war’s end the very concept of State sovereignty established by the Founders had little meaning.

As Professor William B. Hesseltine said many years later, it was a “war against the States, both North and South. Within half a century after Appomattox, the federal government began to regulate certain businesses and introduced a graduated income tax. These innovations would have been inconceivable prior to 1860.” Larry Gara, Wilmington College.

(Review of “The North Fights the Civil War: The Home Front,” J. Matthew Gallman (Dee Publishing, 1994. Published in Civil War History – A Journal of the Middle Period, Vol. 42, No. 3. September 1996).

Sherman’s Final Solution

The following is excerpted from a review of author Michael Fellman’s “Citizen Sherman: A Life of William Tecumseh Sherman (Random House, 1995). The reviewer is John Y. Simon of the Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, 1996.

Sherman’s Final Solution

“In 1875, a fellow officer reported to [General] Sherman that Indians in Florida were receiving training as soldiers and might eventually return to police their tribes [out West]. Sherman wrote in response that this experiment, if successful, might present a “final solution to the Indian problem.” (pg. 260). Sherman could write that that some Indians were “more to be pitied than dreaded” and others deserved pursuit with “vindictive earnestness” to the point of “extermination, men, women and children.” (pg. 264).

“This Country Splitting Business”

After the Japanese capitulation in 1945 the US government stymied an already-existing pan-Korean government, albeit leftist, in favor of installing Syngman Rhee, who ruled the south as a virtual dictator. The latter used former Japanese soldiers as police and government officials, with the support of the Americans. The 1950 war, which many believe was initiated by Rhee, cost the lives of a million Koreans and virtually leveled the country with bombing. Today, North Korea is the real Korea and ruled by Koreans; and South Korea remains a US-controlled colony.

“This Country Splitting Business”

“Senator Stuart Symington: ‘We go into this country splitting business . . . First, we split Germany. Then we split China. We stay with billions and billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of people in the case of Germany; China we stay with billions and billions of dollars and thousands of people. Then we split Korea and stay there with billions of dollars and tens of thousands of military [troops], all at heavy cost to the American taxpayer. Then we split Vietnam . . . now we split Laos . . . Do you know of any other country we plan to split pretty soon?

Mr. [William J.] Porter (US Ambassador to South Korea): No sir.

Senator Symington: This has been quite an interesting policy, hasn’t it, over the years? Our allies don’t do [this], nor do our possible enemies. We do it all over the world . . . ‘

(Hearings before the Subcommittee on US Security Agreements and Commitments Abroad of the Committee on Foreign Relations, US Senate, 91st Congress, 2nd Session, 1970, pp. 1579-82)

 

The War Secretary’s Government

The public mind of the North from April through the summer of 1865 was one of vengeance, blood and death to the “rebels.” The South was roundly blamed for “treason” as well as the horrors of Andersonville, though it was Grant – with Lincoln’s approval – who refused Southern offers of food, medicines and medical care for Northern prisoners.

The War Secretary’s Government

“The secret papers of the Lincoln administration had been kept sealed at the request of his heirs until certain persons named therein were dead. It is difficult to understand why Lincoln’s family wished to protect those at whom the finger of suspicion would have pointed by disclosure of these papers after his murder. For the papers indicated that Lincoln’s Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton, had prior knowledge of the reported plot of John Wilkes Booth and others at Mrs. Surratt’s boarding house in Washington, but had failed to either warn Lincoln or give him special protection.

It was obvious to observers at the time that the real beneficiary, should the plot have succeeded in killing the Vice-President and Secretary of State also would have been the Secretary of War – Stanton himself – who would have been next in line for the Presidency. Moreover, the Radical Republicans had refused to support Lincoln at the 1864 party convention, and this was the faction supported by and supporting Stanton in the disputes following Andrew Johnson’s accession.

Immediately following Lincoln’s assassination, Stanton was in full control of the government through martial law and was in charge of the trials of the so-called conspirators. While the hanging of so many persons without a civil trial did not arouse much comment abroad, the execution of Mrs. Surratt, because Booth had lodged at her house, was the subject of considerable discussion.

It is revealed in official testimony that Mrs. Surratt was offered her life if her son would give himself up. An effort was made by high members of the US government, including members of Congress, to obtain a civil trial for her. But the War Secretary refused on grounds that the executions were necessary to avert panic among the populace. This would indicate, of course, that the outcome of the military trial was predetermined.

Newspapers in France and Mexico began to refer to the Washington government as the “murderers of Mrs. Surratt.” The North’s bitterness against her son, Johnny Surratt, was heightened by the rumor that he was one of the leaders in the Confederate raid on St. Albans, Vermont, from Canada. A reward of $50,000 was offered for his apprehension but was never collected.”

(The Saga of Felix Senac: Legend and Life of a Confederate Agent in Europe. Regina Rapier, Bulletin of Art & History, No. 1, 1972. pp. 182-183)

Lincoln’s War to Establish Government Superiority

Lincoln’s War to Establish Government Superiority

“Abraham Lincoln, we are taught, fought the Civil War to free the Negro slaves. The truth is that the war was fought primarily because the Southern States, whom the Northern States had continually burdened with stifling tariffs and levies, wanted to secede from the Union.

What Lincoln accomplished was to reestablish government’s superiority over the individual, i.e., that men had to “belong to the country whether they wanted to or not.” After the North’s victory, the issue of the federal government’s authority over all people within “its” borders was never again seriously challenged.

In a letter to Horace Greeley in 1862, Lincoln wrote “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the union and it is not either to save or destroy slavery. And in a [prewar] debate with Stephen Douglas, Lincoln stated: “I am not nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social or political equality of white and black races . . . there must be the position of the superior and inferior, and as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.”

(Restoring the American Dream, Robert J. Ringer. Fawcett Crest Books, 1979, pp. 294-295)

What the American South Fought to Defend

What the American South Fought to Defend

(Excerpted from Barry Goldwater’s “Conscience of a Conservative)

The Governor of New York, [Franklin Roosevelt], in 1930 pointed out that the Constitution does not empower the Congress to deal with “a great number . . . of vital problems of government, such as the conduct of public utilities, of banks, of insurance, of agriculture, of education, of social welfare, and a dozen other important features.” And he added that “Washington must not be encouraged to interfere” in these areas.

Franklin Roosevelt’s rapid conversion from Constitutionalism to the doctrine of unlimited [national] government, is an oft-told story. But I am here concerned not so much by the abandonment of States’ Rights by the national Democratic party – an event that occurred some years ago when that party was captured by the Socialist ideologues in and about the labor movement – as by the unmistakable tendency of the Republican party to adopt the same course. The result is that today neither of our two parties maintains a meaningful commitment to the principle of States’ Rights. Thus, the cornerstone of our republic, our chief bulwark against the encroachment of individual freedom by big government, is fast disappearing under the piling sands of absolutism.

The Republican party, to be sure, gives lip-service to States’ Rights. We often talk about “returning to the States their rightful powers’; the administration has even gone so far as to sponsor a federal-state conference on the problem. But deeds are what count, and I regret to say that in actual practice, the Republican party, like the Democratic party, summons the coercive power of the federal government whenever national leaders conclude that the States are not performing satisfactorily.

There is a reason for the Constitution’s reservation of States’ Rights. Not only does it prevent the accumulation of power in a central government that is remote from the people and relatively immune from popular restraints; it also recognizes the principle that essentially local problems are best dealt with by the people most directly concerned. The people of my own State – and I am confident that I speak for the majority of them – have long since seen through the spurious suggestion that federal aid comes “free.”

The Constitution . . . draws a sharp and clear line between federal jurisdiction and State jurisdiction. The federal government’s failure to recognize that line has been a crushing blow to the principle of limited government.”

(The Conscience of a Conservative. Barry Goldwater. Victor Publishing Company, 1960, excerpts, pp. 24-29)

Looking Back at Wilmington’s “1898”

Largely, if not totally ignored in today’s discussion regarding November 1898’s unfortunate “newspaper editorial confrontation turned-violent” is the lack of perspective regarding the long lead-up to it. The local government, media and university are all complicit in beating the drums of racial animosity which will lead to less racial harmony, not more. The most detailed and informed book regarding this sad event is not a book, but a hard-to-find 800-page doctoral dissertation found at the end. Unfortunately, there are only several poorly researched and outright fictional books which do nothing to enlighten the reader.

Looking Back at Wilmington’s “1898”

First, it is probable that had the war of 1861-1865 not occurred and the South was left on its own to solve the riddle of racial coexistence, no November 1898 violence would have occurred. This racial conundrum was imposed on the American South by African tribes enslaving their own people and selling them to English, and later New England traders. After the Civil War the Republican party, anxious to maintain political hegemony over the country, enfranchised black men. These, along with Union veterans bought with pension money, kept Republicans in power.

The Democratic party finally rid North Carolina of Republican/Carpetbag rule by 1872, but Wilmington remained a holdout of Republican power due to its majority black population. The Democratic party dominated State politics through the early 1890s.

After the Republican-Populist victory in State politics in 1896, the Republicans began a program common to political parties – they dismantle and rearrange legislation the opposition party had erected to establish their own barriers to their opponents ever returning to power. This political strategy continues today.

In the run-up to the 1896 elections, Populists realized their plight as described by Hal W. Ayer, chair of the New Hanover County Populist party: “If the Democrats won, they would continue to ignore the farmers; if Republicans won, independently of Populists, they would be forced by the large black constituency which constitutes the great body of the party into some of the [Reconstruction] recklessness of 1868; and this is something to be feared as much as Democratic rule.”

These Populists, many of them farmers who believe the Democrats should have been more politically-attentive to them in the past, and “who distrusted the large black element of the Republican party,” decided to cooperate with the Republicans in order to “defeat the arrogant and hypocritical Democrats, and at the same time secure by such cooperation a balance of power in the State Legislature that would effectually check any wild or reckless plan that might be advocated by the Republican party.” As with many partnerships, the Republicans would forget their Populist associates once in power.

Both the Wilmington Messenger and Wilmington Morning Star newspapers wrote of the specter of corrupt Reconstruction politics returning to bedevil white residents. The black-owned Wilmington Sentinel endorsed Daniel Russell for governor – who was nominally a Republican and ignored by party leadership – to ensure black unity within Republican ranks. To the dismay of white Democratic voters, Russell, who promised patronage positions to those lieutenants delivering the vote, was elected thanks to strong turnout in sixteen black-dominated counties, with 87 percent of eligible blacks voting. It is noteworthy that 20 percent of eligible black voters cast ballots for the Democratic candidate, and 8 percent voted for the Populist candidate.

An irony within white Republican ranks was though they preached racial equality publicly, “they resented black officeholding and activity in Republican party affairs.” While earlier a superior court judge, Russell himself stated that “Negroes are natural-born thieves. They will steal six days in the week and go to church on Sunday to shout and pray it off.” However, by the mid-1890s white Republicans were a minority in their party and only constituted those hungry for political employment.

Prior to the elections of 1898, black newspaper editor Alex Manly penned an unfortunate editorial which insulted white women and predictably incurred the wrath of the area’s white menfolk. Many prominent men in Wilmington demanded that the city’s Republican mayor and aldermen close down the paper and force the editor to leave town. The Republicans did little or nothing which eventually led to a violent confrontation.

But lost in today’s rhetoric is the very basis of Manly’s editorial and what prompted it. Why is this ignored and not identified as the primary cause? Manly was commenting on an earlier speech of Rebecca Felton of Georgia, wife of a legislator, who addressed a group of Savannah women earlier and denounced the rape of white farm women by black men while their husbands were far off in the fields working. Mrs. Felton demanded that the Republican party, the political home of most black voters and which preached hatred toward Democrats, do something to end the heinous crimes of their constituents.

Manly’s later editorial claimed that the white women had somehow encouraged the advances of the black men attacking them in their homes. This predictably led an enraged group of white residents to march to Manly’s establishment to escort him to the rail station. Not finding Manly, on the march back to their homes these men were fired upon by black men concealed in houses being passed, and they returned fire. This entire episode was preventable.

The black New Hanover County Coroner, David Jacobs, summoned a Coroner’s Jury the following day to investigate the deaths of five black men from gunshot wounds. Three white men were wounded in the affair, one seriously. Though there are numerous unsubstantiated estimates of those killed or wounded, we have only the coroner’s investigation as an official source. On November 15th, black resident Thomas Lane was tried for firing a pistol into the group of men marching to Manly’s news office. Lane quickly ran out the back, but the return fire unfortunately caused the death of an occupant, Josh Halsey.

An important but marginalized voice in this 1898 affair is Collector of Customs John C. Dancy, a black Edgecombe County native appointed by Republican presidential patronage to his position, and the highest-paid person in North Carolina at the time. In this influential position he was considered the head of the Republican party and expected to foster and deliver the vote, and he surrounded himself with black employees at the Custom house who were expected to promote party interests. After the violence of November 1898, Dancy concluded that all blame be placed upon Manly’s editorial, which lit the flame.

A question to be put to rest is the often-heard claim that the conflict ended democratically elected government in Wilmington. The Republican-Populist legislature, once in power in 1895, altered municipal charters to benefit themselves. They amended Wilmington’s charter “so as to establish a partly elected and partly appointed Board of Aldermen.

The amended charter did not alter ward lines but allowed “qualified voters of each ward to elect one alderman and empowered the Governor to appoint one alderman from each of the five wards.” (McDuffie, pg. 460-461).  Under the guise of “preventing misrule by the propertyless and ignorant elements,” the Republicans strictly controlled Wilmington’s municipal government.

(Politics in Wilmington and New Hanover County, NC: 1865-1900. Jerome A. McDuffie, PhD dissertation, 1979, Kent State University, pp. 442-453; 738)

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