Browsing "Aftermath: Despotism"

Removing Mr. Lincoln

Following Lincoln’s assassination at Ford’s Theater in April 1865, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton ordered all roads from the city closed except the road south to Port Tobacco, the route Booth would most likely use for his escape. It was not until four hours after the shooting that Stanton released any official news to the newspapers, and without identifying the assassin.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Removing Mr. Lincoln

“None can doubt today that Lincoln was removed to prevent the reconciliation of North and South and the consolidation of the Union. Though the wound did seem later to heal, the events of today show it still to be raw, so that the conspirators’ aims of 1865 cannot yet be said, in 1950, to have failed. Time has yet to show this result, with all others.

Lincoln’s killer, John Wilkes Booth, escaped for awhile. The circumstances of Lincoln’s murder speak for themselves. The door of the box was unlocked, but on the inner side of it someone had placed a wooden bar and a mortice, so that Booth could ensure that none entered it after himself! At the door should have been Lincoln’s armed bodyguard . . . recently enlisted, called John F. Parker. Only his empty chair was there and no word survives in the records to say why he was not in it! Three years later he was . . . charged with dereliction, dismissed, and at that point vanishes from history!

The motive today seems as clear as the organization behind it remained, and remains, obscure. It was to remove Mr. Lincoln because he was an obstacle to the destruction of the South. To the collapsing South, he was the destroyer; to the North, he was the enemy of further destruction.

Today’s traveler may perceive a great flaw in the array of memorials erected to Lincoln in his country. Suggestively, they commemorate him as the slayer of slavery, first and foremost. It is the continuation of a falsehood; that was not his primary aim, as he was against violent demagogic actions, preferring judicial gradualness, and had at heart only the unity of the Union.

Thus his memory is misused today in the further pursuit of ulterior schemes; the false issue, the falsity of which he saw, is raised in his name and his words and monuments are presented [in the same manner].

Among high persons of that time the eye of today’s curiosity falls chiefly on Edwin Stanton. As Secretary of War in a country at war he was almost supremely powerful. All communications were under his personal censorship. All acts tending to deflect Booth’s pursuit, or after Booth’s death to obscure the trail, seem traceable to him and the Leftists around him.

Within a few hours of the murder he wrote to the American minister in London of “evidence obtained” to show that the murder was “deliberately planned and set on foot by rebels, under pretense of avenging the South.” Just so did Goering claim to have proof that the communists fired the Reichstag, while it still burned.”

(Far and Wide, Douglas Reed, CPA Books, 1951, excerpts, pp. 48-53)

To Secure Perpetual Ascendancy to the Republican Party

Radical Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania saw the defeated South not as Americans, but simply “foreign enemies subject under international law to the will of the conqueror . . .” He also contemplated executing the South’s leaders and confiscating their property as well as that of all who supported the independence of the American South. He was anxious to pass radical reconstruction amendments for purely partisan reasons – to disenfranchise white men in the South while enfranchising black men who could be counted upon to ensure the ascendancy of the Republican Party. This had to be accomplished while the military ruled the South, and before civilian courts were reinstated.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

To Secure Perpetual Ascendancy to the Republican Party

“The day after Lincoln’s death, Ben Butler was appointed Secretary of State. That was a clear omen; he was the Northern general who ordered his troops at New Orleans in 1862 to treat as common prostitutes any white woman there who “by word, gesture or movement insulted or showed contempt” for them.

Outside the government, real power in the Republican Party passed to Thaddeus Stevens, a dying and malignant man. Club-footed, bald but bewigged, of indeterminate origins, clamant for blood and ruin, he was of the type of Marat, Goebbels, Dzherzinsky or Szameuly. Stevens pointed the way: “Hang the leaders, crush the South, arm the Negroes, confiscate the land.”

The vote should be taken from the whites and given to the Negroes. Attacking “racial discrimination” he forced through Congress a bill “establishing for the security of the colored races safeguards which went infinitely beyond what the government has ever provided for the white race.” (President Lincoln’s successor, Mr. [Andrew] Johnson, vetoed this bill and narrowly escaped arrest at General Butler’s demand).

From the Negro-less North these white men raved for the extermination of the Southern whites. They tried to suspend trial by jury and, when the Supreme Court resisted, to pack this with compliant judges (President [Franklin] Roosevelt was the next to try that).

When the victorious General Grant became president the military commander in Louisiana, General Sheridan, telegraphed asking him to declare the whites there “banditti,” saying “no further action need be taken except that which will devolve on me.”

The real aim of all this was, as Stevens said, “to secure the perpetual ascendancy to the Republican Party.”

(Far and Wide, Douglas Reed, CPA Books, 1951, excerpts pp. 27)

Atlanta Compared to Warsaw and Budapest

Author Douglas Reed writes of the South’s defeat and radical Republican rule that “The wonder is that the South ever lifted itself from that prostration, and by its own bootstraps.” And Truslow Adams said of the twelve years of postwar reconstruction that “There is no parallel for the situation in the history of modern civilized nations, and it is almost incredible that it happened in our own country.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Atlanta Compared to Warsaw and Budapest

“So strong is the memory of what the Republicans did after the war that Southerners still automatically vote Democratic. The most their representatives can do, when they reach Congress, is somewhat to retard the new campaign against the South; on the whole they promote the aim of the new immigration to “take over the future of America.”

The clear trail from the Civil War to the present [1951] was the first of my surprises in America. Like most Europeans, probably, I was ignorant of that war and when I studied it felt like an archaeologist who finds the original of the Communist Manifesto in Greek ruins.

What went with that wind was more than the political power of the South; what came with the new one was the enslavement of white men by Soviet methods. Only the particular spirit of the South prevented that condition from becoming permanent.

“That the Southern people were put to the torture is vaguely understood” (wrote Mr. Claude G. Bowers in 1929 in The Tragic Era), “but even historians have shrunk from the unhappy task of showing us the torture chambers . . . It is impossible to grasp the real significance of the revolutionary proceedings of the rugged conspirators working out the policies of Thaddeus Stevens without making many journeys among the Southern people and seeing with our own eyes the indignities to which they were subjected.”

The key-words are “revolutionary” and “conspirators” and they fit today’s situation like a glove. That the North, with its newly-discovered gold, growing industry, command of the sea and increasing population would win that war was plain to clear heads in the South from the start, and did not deter them from a war which, they believed, had to be fought. The way to the South was opened to persons recognizable today as the revolutionary conspirators we know as Communists.

Of the twelve years that followed, the miracle is that the South survived. Mr. John Gunther . . . says, “If you read the history of those days . . . Atlanta on the 1870s must have startingly resembled Warsaw or Budapest under the Nazis in the 1940s . . . Chopping up the South and ruling it by an absolute dictatorship of the military, while every kind of economic and social depredation was not only allowed but encouraged, is so strikingly like what is going on in Germany at present that the imagination staggers.

Slightly different comparisons might be more correct. The sufferings of the South compare more closely with those of Budapest, Warsaw and all of Eastern Europe under the communists after the 1939-1945 war ended than even under the Nazis in 1940.”

(Far and Wide, Douglas Reed, CPA Books, 1951, excerpts pp. 25-26)

 

“It Was Lincoln Who Made War”

The author quoted below, US Navy Captain and Virginia-native Russell Quynn, was a veteran of both World Wars and a member of the Virginia bar since 1941. He writes that against the North, “the armies of the South at peak strength never exceeded 700,000 men,” and that “imported “Hessians” were used “by Lincoln to crush Americans of the South whose fathers had served in the armies of Washington, Jackson, Taylor, to make the nation, to found its renown.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

“It Was Lincoln Who Made War”

“Jefferson Davis, with his family, was captured in the Georgia pines on May 10, 1865, while en route to the Trans Mississippi, where he had hoped forces were still intact to continue the struggle Johnston and Beauregard had given up to Sherman at Durham, North Carolina . . . The odds now were ten to one; the North was being armed with Spencer-magazine repeating rifles, against the Confederates muzzle-loaders, to turn the war into mass murder.

During the four years of war the Northern armies had been replenished with large-scale inductions of more than 720,000 immigrant males from Europe; who were promised bounties and pensions that the South afterwards largely had to pay (see the Union Department of War records).

Charged with detestable crimes that, it was only too well known, he could not be guilty of, Davis was unable to obtain a hearing, and finally was released. A bail bond of $100,000 had been posted for him, oddly enough, by some of the men who had been his bitterest enemies – Horace Greeley, Gerrit Smith, Vanderbilt, and others among the twenty men who pledged $5,000 each in federal court.

Davis himself thought that “. . . by reiteration of such inappropriate terms as “rebellion” and treason,” and the asseveration that the South was levying war against the United States, those ignorant of the nature of the Union, and of the reserved powers of the States, have been led to believe that the Confederate States were in the condition of revolted provinces, and that the United States were forced to resort to arms for the preservation of their existence . . . The Union was formed for specific enumerated purposes, and the States had never surrendered their sovereignty . . . It was a palpable absurdity to apply to them, or to their citizens when obeying their mandates, the terms “rebellion” and “treason”; and, further, the Confederacy, so far from making war or seeking to destroy the United States, as soon as they had an official organ, strove earnestly by peaceful recognition, to equitably adjust all questions growing out of the separation from their late associates.”

It was Lincoln who “made war.” Still another perversion, Davis thought, “was the attempted arraignment of the men who formed the Confederacy, and who bore arms in its defense, as “instigators of a controversy leading to disunion.” Of course, it was a palpable absurdity, and but part of the unholy vengeance, which did not cease at the grave.”

(The Constitutions of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis: A Historical and Biographical Study in Contrasts, Russell H. Quynn, Exposition Press, 1959, excerpts pp. 126-128)

Belligerent Public Enemies in a Territorial War

Lincoln’s unfortunate choice of a mentor on reconstruction, William Whiting of Massachusetts, below refers to the American people in the South peacefully seeking self-government as belligerent public enemies, who, when finally conquered with fire and sword, deserved no more than eternal contempt and suspicion. He further proclaims the North’s “right to hang them as murderers and pirates,” and “whatever rights are left to them besides the rights of war will be such as we choose to allow them.  He believed the Southern States had forfeited their legal status in the Union they departed, only to be dragged back in as conquered territories and a people entitled to no rights.

As far as loyal Union men of the South are concerned, and they were numerous, Lincoln refused their wise counsel to abandon Fort Sumter in early 1861 to allow time and diplomacy for the settlement of sectional differences. They, as well as former President James Buchanan, suggested calling a Constitutional Convention of the States as the proper solution for disputes. These measures would have saved a million lives, and quite possibly the Union.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Belligerent Public Enemies in a Territorial War

“Lincoln’s plan of reconstruction was built on a concept of a wartime President’s powers so extended as to transcend the points of reference of earlier chief executives. It was military reconstruction, and it was the most direct imaginable intervention of the will of the national government into the internal structure of the State’s. In terms of power, Lincoln’s reconstruction plan was radical indeed.

The fact is that Lincoln enjoyed the services as mentor – with respect to the war-swollen power potentials of his office – of a prominent champion of Radical Republicanism, an old-line Boston abolitionist, William Whiting.

Brought into the War Department as its solicitor – primarily in order to prepare briefs that the government employed to fend off suits – in Northern States and in border areas, alleging the unconstitutionality of conscription and internal security measures – Whiting was the most learned lawyer in the United States in matters of the international laws of war.

He became the natural source of legalisms in support of the reconstruction program that the President was gradually evolving out of information he gained primarily from Army and War Department sources.

Here is Whiting’s prophetic essay of July 28, 1863, issued as a letter to the Philadelphia Union League, under the title, “The Return of the Rebellious States to the Union.” Note its harmony with the Lincoln plan as issued the following December, so far as the assumption of national powers is concerned, as well as its expression of concern with respect to the untrustworthiness of a conquered South.

“As the success of the Union cause shall become more certain and apparent to the enemy, in various localities, they will lay down their arms, and cease fighting. Their bitter and deep-rooted hatred of the Government, and of all the Northern men who are not traitors, and of all Southern men who are loyal, will still remain interwoven in every fiber of their hearts, and will be made, if possible, more intense by the humiliation of conquest and subjugation.

The foot of the conqueror planted upon their proud necks will not sweeten their tempers; and their defiant and treacherous nature will seek to revenge itself in murders, assassinations and all other underhand methods of venting a spite which they dare not manifest by open war, and in driving out of their borders all loyal men.

To suppose that a Union sentiment will remain in any considerable number of men, among a people who have strained every nerve and made every sacrifice to destroy the Union, indicates dishonesty, insanity or feebleness of intellect.

Beware of committing yourselves to the fatal doctrine of recognizing the existence, in the Union, of States which have been declared by the President’s proclamation to be in rebellion. For, by this new device of the enemy – this new version of the poisonous State rights doctrine – the Secessionists will be able to get back by fraud what they failed to get by fighting. Do not permit them, without proper safeguards, to resume in your counsels, in the Senate and in the House, the power which their treason has stripped from them.

Do not allow old States, with their Constitutions still unaltered, to resume State powers.

The rebellious districts contain ten times as many traitors as loyal men. The traitors will have a vast majority of the votes. Clothed with State rights under our Constitution, they will crush out every Union man by the irresistible power of their legislation. If you would be true to the Union men of the South, you must not bind them hand and foot, and deliver them to their bitterest enemies.

Having set up a government for themselves . . . they were no longer mere insurgents and rebels, but became a belligerent public enemy. The war was no longer against “certain persons” in the rebellious States. It became a territorial war; that is to say, a war by all persons situated in the belligerent territory against the United States.”

(The Radical Republicans and Reconstruction: 1861-1870, Harold M. Hyman, Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1967, excerpts pp. 91-95)

 

Lincoln Facilitates Western Virginia Secession

In James Randall’s “Civil War and Reconstruction” of 1937 (DC Heath & Company), he writes that “In tracing the formation of West Virginia, the historian finds it necessary to go behind the printed histories, most of which follow a definite pattern and justify every step of the new-state movement as a triumph of Unionism and a vindication of popular rule . . . [but] the masses of archival and manuscript material that have come down to us reveal irregularities and extra-legal processes of such a nature that traditional conclusions will have to be abandoned.”

Randall writes further that “It is probable that, had war not supplied the impulse, no dismemberment of the State would have occurred,” and that a so-called ordinance from Wheeling on August 20, 1861, “was in reality the work of an active but limited group of seperationists in the counties near Pennsylvania and Maryland.” As the secessionists drew a map of their new “State,” the people within “had no opportunity, county by county, to determine whether they would adhere to Virginia, or join the new commonwealth” (pp. 329-330)

It is worth noting that the United States Constitution which Virginia ratified, stipulates in Article IV, Section 3: “. . . no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State . . . without the Consent of the Legislature of the State concerned . . .”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Lincoln Facilitates Western Virginia Secession

“Lincoln was not opposed to secession if it served his political purposes. This fact is proven when he orchestrated the secession of western Virginia from the rest of the State and set up a puppet government of the new State of West Virginia, in Alexandria, Virginia, right across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

His own attorney General, Edward Bates, believed that this act was unconstitutional, arguing the obvious – that States must first exist before being accepted into the Union. Neither the president or Congress had the constitutional authority to create States, for a truly free State can only be created by its people.

This was another patently undemocratic or dictatorial act that, once again, Lincoln rationalized in the name of “saving democracy.” Lincoln ignored the arguments of his attorney general as well as the words of the Constitution, but benefited in 1864 by additional electoral votes and congressional representation that was completely controlled by the Republican party in Washington, not the people of western Virginia.

Interestingly, the legislation establishing West Virginia allowed for the people of the new State to vote on a gradual emancipation program. This was Stephen Douglas’s position in the Lincoln-Douglas debates – that the new territories should be permitted to vote on whether or not they wanted slavery.”

(The Real Lincoln, A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda and an Unnecessary War, Thomas J. DiLorenzo, Forum, 2002, excerpts pp. 148-149)

A Shoddy Aristocracy Rules Conquered Provinces

Other than humiliating the American South and its people after military defeat and utter desolation, Radical Republicans led by the vindictive Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania had little plan for restoring the Union they claimed to have saved. Stevens was a Gettysburg iron furnace owner who benefited from high protective tariffs promoted by his party. His abolitionist credentials were tarnished by successfully arguing a case to return a fugitive slave to their owner; and being accused of murdering a pregnant black woman in the late 1820s.

The war can be said to have been waged by Lincoln’s party as retribution for the Confederacy’s virtual free tariff importation rates established in early 1861 — Northern ports faced desolation as the Northern-majority U.S. Congress passed Vermont Senator Justin Morrill’s 47 percent tariff.  With the Radical Republican firmly in power in 1865, nothing could restrain them from even higher tariffs to protect their party’s industrialist supporters.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

A Shoddy Aristocracy Rules Conquered Provinces

“Throughout the North, as in Iowa, Radicals won smashing [electoral] victories. Congressional propaganda, campaign smears, claptrap discussions, and the evasion of fundamental issues had won over presidential patronage and blundering.

Neither the Congress nor the President nor the South had been wise. In the North the people had been deceived into believing that the Radicals had a plan for orderly restoration and the competence to put it into operation. But in reality they had a plan which, burdened with the spirit of vengeance, was designed to achieve little more than their own temporary supremacy.

They had no program designed to achieve reasonable and enduring solutions. The Union had been saved, but in the wake of the war the rising leaders were showing the lack of foresight and wisdom to grapple with the problems of the new order. The end result for a generation was to be a “shoddy aristocracy” in the North, destitution in the South, and a low level of political morality in the nation.

Old Thad [Stevens of Pennsylvania] and his satellites on the Joint Committee were grinding out measures to deprive [President] Johnson of the federal patronage and control of the army, and to vest these functions in the hands of Congress. And at the first party caucus Stevens rebuked Republicans who . . . assured constituents that the Fourteenth Amendment alone was an adequate condition for the restoration of the “conquered provinces.”

In this session, revisions of wartime economic legislation had been pushed into the background by Reconstruction matters. However, when, through Morrill, industrialists quietly slipped in a bill to revise the tariff upward by 20 percent . . .”

(John A. Kasson, Politics and Diplomacy from Lincoln to McKinley, Edward Younger, State Historical Society of Iowa, 1955, excerpts, pp. 217- 219)

 

Radical Republicans Consolidate Power

Long unhappy with Lincoln’s lack of severity in punishing the South, Radical Republicans knew that freedmen could not be left in friendly relations with their former owners and jeopardize triumphant Republican war gains. The Union League was the terror-arm of the party which taught the freedmen that their white neighbors would re-enslave them at the first opportunity, and unwavering Republican voting would protect them. As the Radicals no doubt were responsible for Lincoln’s demise, they also found his successor lacking in sufficient hatred for the South and disposed of him as well.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Radical Republicans Consolidate Power

“While a stunned people paid final tribute to Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis fled southward from Richmond. His capture symbolized the end of power of a restraining, agrarian aristocracy in America. Lincoln’s passing removed the last effective check on vindictive Radicals and symbolized the end of power of a restraining, agrarian democracy.

Out of the confusion created from the scars of war and from the demise of hoary agrarian restraints, business-industrial America was to swagger in under the cloak of the [Republican] platform of 1860 and Radical Reconstruction.

Ephemerally, hate and revenge would run rampant, tarnishing reputations, sweeping away moderate men, and pushing to the top many who had not even expected political leadership only a few years before.

For a few fleeting days following Lincoln’s assassination, Radicals had purred contentedly around Andrew Johnson. The new President was one of them: he talked of harsh treatment for rebels. But by . . . late May, Johnson . . . was following Lincoln’s moderate reconstruction policies.

In the [mid-June 1865 Iowa] State convention . . . A rising temper of Radicalism had been revealed . . . Radicals on the floor had pushed through a proposal committing the party to an amendment to the State constitution allowing Negro suffrage.

To grant universal suffrage to the Negro would enable “base politicians” to pander to “ignorance and incapacity”; the race as a whole would be unfit to exercise the voting privilege for a generation.

Thad Stevens, cool, grim and confident, sat ready to “spring the drop” on [new] Southern Congressmen, on President Johnson, and on any moderate Republicans who stood in his way. With malice toward the defeated, and charity toward Negroes, railroad entrepreneurs and industrialists, this cynical old man had some carefully laid plans for the perpetual ascendancy of the Republican party.

[Johnson’s reconstruction plan] would bring Western and Southern men (with certain Eastern allies] into a combination to rule the republic. Such a rule, agrarian in nature, might mean loss of power for Republicans; and it would almost certainly dilute or reverse wartime tariff, railroad and monetary policies so lucrative to the expansive business, financial and industrial interests. [Financiers], ironmasters, and railroad entrepreneurs had as much to lose from an unfavorable economic policy as did Radical politicians from a Reconstruction policy which might bring loss of power and patronage.”

(John A. Kasson, Politics and Diplomacy from Lincoln to McKinley, Edward Younger, State Historical Society of Iowa, 1955, excerpts, pp. 178-179; 181-184; 189-190)

Postwar Corruption and Thievery in Washington

The war waged against the American South was more about destroying it’s political and economic power in the Union, so that Northern political and economic interests could prevail nationally. The resulting carnival of political vice and scandal is best summarized with: “The festering corruptions of the post-war period sprang up in every part of America and in almost every department of national life. Other loose and scandalous times . . . had been repellent enough; but the Grant era stands unique in the comprehensiveness of its rascality.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Postwar Corruption and Thievery in Washington

“The Civil War had severed the Southern checks on the exploitation of natural resources, had supplanted an old, experienced ruling class for a new, inexperienced one, had released the dynamic energies of the nation, and had ushered in the Era of Manipulation.

Under President Grant, pliant and politically naïve, the government had fallen into the hands of dishonest and incapable men . . . politics under the cloak of Radicalism more and more had become identified with manipulation for economic favor. Hordes of lobbyists had swarmed over the land, seeking railroad subsidies, mining concessions, and thousands of other government handouts.

The West was being plundered by railroad and mining corporations, the South by Carpetbaggers and Scalawags. The cities and the State legislatures, in North and South alike, were infested with rings, lobbyists, bribe-givers, and bribe-takers. Even the national Congress had become a tool of predatory business interests. Machine politics, firmly founded on patronage, economic privilege, the bloody shirt, and the soldier vote, prevailed everywhere.

The new ruling classes, flushed with prosperity, had lost their sense of responsibility, and corruption had kept pace with the upward swing of the business cycle. Political morality had sunk to its lowest level in American history.

In the closing days of the last Congress, [Grant’s self-styled House floor leader] Ben Butler and a few others had slipped through a measure increasing the salaries of the President, members of Congress, and other high officials. Tacked onto the unpopular measure was a retroactive feature which in effect gave each member a $500 bonus for his service the last two years.”

(John A. Kasson, Politics and Diplomacy from Lincoln to McKinley; Edward Younger, State Historical Society of Iowa, 1855, excerpts pp. 250-252)

A Superior Race of Yankee Employers

The land seized, sold and leased in occupied South Carolina by the North’s Direct Tax Commission was dominated by Northern philanthropists and others who had acquired their wealth by exploiting free labor. They developed Northern support for the “Port Royal Experiment” by convincing manufacturers that successful black farmers would become ravenous purchasers of Yankee goods. In a June 15, 1864 letter to the Edward S. Philbrick mentioned below, Northern General Rufus Saxon wrote: “What chance has [the Negro] to get land out of the clutches of the human vulture, who care for him only as they can gorge themselves upon his flesh? If you had seen the hungry swarms gathered here at the land sales in February . . .”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

A Superior Race of Yankee Employers

“[In the occupied South Carolina’s Sea Islands], the first purchasers were principally the New England wing of the planter-missionaries [who] welcomed more favorable circumstances in which to prove their theory that free labor could grow more cotton, more cheaply, than slave labor. The largest buyer [of land] was Edward S. Philbrick, backed by wealthy Northern philanthropists . . .

Federal authorities were reluctant to lease or sell subdivided plantation tracts to the freedmen [though some] managed to purchase several thousand acres . . . but the acreage they acquired was always well below that purchased by Northern immigrants, and this result was intended by a majority of the tax commissioners.

The truth is, not many of the liberators had boundless faith in the freedmen’s capacity for “self-directed” labor so soon after their emancipation. When in January 1865 General William T. Sherman set aside a strip of land along the southeastern seaboard for the exclusive occupancy of the thousands of slaves who followed his army to the sea, the news was generally greeted in the North with lamentation and deep foreboding.

It was a great mistake in statesmanship, the New York Times said, for what the ex-slaves needed was not isolation and complete independence, but “all the advantages which the neighborhood of a superior race . . . would bring to them. And what they needed even more was the good example and friendly guidance such as Yankee employers could largely provide. Few doubted, after emancipation, that the freedmen had some promise, provided that Yankee paternalism was allowed full scope.

When the old masters talked of free labor, they really meant slave labor, “only hired, not bought.” And how could men whose habits and customs were shaped by the old order readily grasp the requirements of the new order? The case seemed plain to all who had eyes to see. If the freedmen were ever to be transformed into productive free laborers within the South, the New York Times argued with unintended irony, “it must be done by giving them new masters.”

(New Masters: Northern Planters During the Civil War and Reconstruction, Lawrence N. Powell, Yale University Press, 1980, excerpts, pp. 4-5)

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