Browsing "Aftermath: Despotism"

Industrial Machines and Political Machines

The triumph of Northern arms in 1865 ensured the political supremacy of the New England industrial elite over the agricultural South — the South that presided over the republic’s “classic years,” defended its political conservatism and produced most of the presidents. With the South in ruins, industrial interests with unlimited funds and government patronage had won the second American revolution.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Industrial Machines and Political Machines

“What Charles Beard has called “the second American Revolution — the revolution that assured the triumph of the business enterprise — had been fought and largely won by 1877. In four great lines of endeavor — -manufacturing, extractive industries, transportation and finance — business marched from one swift triumph to another.

In 1860 about a billion dollars was invested in manufacturing plants which employed 1,500,000 workers; but in less than fifty years the investment had risen to 12 billions and the number of workers to 5,000,000.

A bloody and riotous year, violence was everywhere evident in the America of 1877. The great railroad strike of that year was the first significant industrial clash in American society. “Class hatred,” writes Denis Tilden Lynch, “was a new note in American life where all men were equal before the law. The South was in the turmoil of reconstruction, sand-lot rioters ruled in San Francisco; and 100,000 strikers and 4,000,000 unemployed surged in the streets of Northern cities.

At a cabinet meeting on July 22, 1877, the suggestion was advanced that a number of States should be placed under martial law.

Once triumphant, the industrial tycoons discovered that they could not function within the framework of the social and political ideals of the early Republic. To insure their triumph, a new social order had to be established; a new set of institutions had to be created of which the modern corporation was, perhaps, the most important . . . [and with] the Industrial machine came the political machine.

Dating from 1870, the “boss system” had become so thoroughly entrenched in American politics by 1877 that public life was everywhere discredited by the conduct of high officials. The simplicity of taste which had characterized the “classic” years of the early Republic gave way to a wild, garish, and irresponsible eclecticism. “The emergence of the millionaire,” writes Talbot Hamlin, “was as fatal to the artistic ideals of the Greek Revival as were the speed, the speculation and the exploitation that produced him.”

In one field after another, the wealth of the new millionaire was used to corrupt the tastes, the standards, and the traditions of the American people.”

(A Mask for Privilege, Carey McWilliams, Little, Brown & Company, 1948, pp 8-10)

Duress and Trophies of the Victor

The United States Constitution provides that States cannot be forced, invaded, or their republican form of government changed; and the Constitution itself cannot be amended unless three-fourths of the States freely ratify the change or changes. The three postwar amendments which tremendously increased federal authority were forced upon subjugated States – ironically by the same federal agent they had granted strictly limited power to in 1787.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Duress and Trophies of the Victor

“Time had indeed shown – a mere decade of it, from 1858 to 1868 – a Civil War and an attempted overturn of the American form of government. The South had been charged, she would “rule or ruin”; but it is shown the North, “taking over the government,” as [South Carolina Senator Hammond] stated, did “rule and ruin” nigh half a great nation.

As the truths of 1861-65 emerge, we see but a barren Pyrrhic victory won on false pretenses, and memorialized on labored perversions and obscurities, a Lincoln of fabulous creation and facultative dimensions, a false god of idolatrous devotees, and “Olympian” that never was!

In his last address Washington had cautioned against “any spirit of innovation upon the principles of the Constitution, however specious the pretexts . . . Facility in changes upon the credit of mere hypothesis and opinion exposes to perpetual change from the endless variety of hypothesis and opinion; and, in any event, should a modification of the Constitutional powers be necessary, it is to be made in the way the Constitution designates . . . but no change by usurpation.”

What but “usurpation” of the rights of three fourths of the States by making such changes were those three postwar amendments? Eleven States had no say whatever, except the raw pretenses of seizure of power, about their own ratifications; and these States were those most intimately and immediately affected. It would seem as if efforts to abolish republican forms of government or to destroy equality (e.g., in the Senate) should not be subject to deliberation.

Three unconstitutional amendments, incorporating the final results of the so-called “Rebellion,” are in summary the treaty between the belligerents – a duress. In them are the trophies of the victors, but no mention of the cause, the real cause, of the conflict – States’ rights. One observer commented that “. . . of the war waged ostensibly to maintain the integrity of the Union, and in denial of the dogma of State sovereignty, the future historian will not fail to note that the three amendments are silent on this subject . . .

What was to be the government and who were to comprise the constituency – hence the sovereignty – in 1866, of eleven American States? Was it proposed to take these endowments away and to install the tyrant’s whim and rule? No wonder chaos reigned in all departments of the federal government in 1865! Nothing was said then about the right of secession; if that right existed, it exists now, so far as any declaration in the organic law is concerned. It has not been renounced, and the supremacy of the “nation” has not been affirmed in the Constitution. Truth crushed to earth will rise again . . .

Determination of such a constitutional question as the permanence of the Union can never be decided by four justices [Texas vs White, 1869] of the Supreme Court, leaving unheard about forty million citizens. By the Constitution, seven men could not abolish the States of the Union, but three-fourths of those States could abolish that court and all its judges. And, along with it, all the Lincolns that ever sat in the White House and all the Sumner’s and Stevens that ever sat in the House or Senate.”

(The Constitutions of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, A Historical and Biographical Study in Contrasts, Russell Hoover Quynn, Exposition Press, 1959, pp. 45-49)

Moral Tormentors

Moral Tormentors

“Of all the tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of it victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their consciences.”  C.S. Lewis

 

 

Uncle Gibb’s Liberators

The passage below describes the surrender and occupation of Smithville, now Southport, North Carolina in late January 1865 after Fort Fisher had fallen to Northern forces. The town’s public offices were plundered by the troops and those like Uncle Gibb suffered ill-treatment from soldiers who sought buried valuables.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Uncle Gibb’s Liberators

“Now Smithville [North Carolina] had relapsed into its state of quiet, but not the quiet of former days . . . Negroes however reaped a rich harvest in the shape of clothing from soldiers and blankets of which the forest was strewn.

A large assembly of Negro men, women and children had collected at the boat in order to greet their “saviors,” and to fall upon their necks and kiss them if such liberties should be allowed. [Northern] Captain [William] Cushing then addressed the sable crowd and informed them that they were free, that they were in all respects equal to the whites and would be so treated. In order to make that this was true he directed that they [the Negroes] should form a procession and give three cheers which they did saying, “God bless Massa Lincum, we’re free” and “Massa Lincum is cumin in a day or two to bring each of us a mule and deed for forty acres of land.”

The procession then started to move, and wild cheering for “Massa Lincum.” There were some small United States flags scattered among the crowds which they waved frantically in the air, crying “hallelujah, hallelujah.” The procession then moved through the garrison to Moore Street, a motley crowd dressed in every conceivable style bearing banners of anything that was bright color and they started down Moore Street amid cheering for “Massa Lincum.”

In the procession which had marched around town was “Uncle Gibb,” and in his posterity “Uncle Gibb” had been treated during his entire life as kindly as any white citizen in the town. He had a house to live in, plenty of food and clothes, and a horse and dray; and it was difficult to perceive how he had bettered his condition by freedom; but he soon found out as he was brought a prisoner into the [Northern army] Garrison for some alleged offense.

Here he was tied up by the thumbs to an oak tree which stood there, and hoisted till his toes barely touched the ground. This was done in full view of his own sister who was cooking in an adjoining kitchen, and who fainted and fell at the awful sight. We thus had an opportunity to find out whether the new friends of the colored race were any better than the old friends who had treated him with such kindness.

The ceremony attending the surrender [of Smithville] having been completed, the boat containing the plunder was dispatched back to the [USS] Monticello, and there being apparently nothing to do on shore, the sailors were given liberty and the officers proceeded to enjoy themselves.

The sailors spread themselves over the town, and proceeded first to inspect the public buildings. They broke open the court house and its offices, tore up such papers as they found lying around, among which happened to be the entire record of the Court of Equity and scattered them about the streets. They went to the Academy building in which was a Masonic Hall, and stole the jewels of the Order, and carried them to the ship.”

(Reminiscences, Dr. D.W. Curtis, Special Collections, W.M. Randall Library, UNCW, pp. 33-37)

Men of the Republican Political Machine

Congressman Roscoe Conkling of New York controlled patronage positions in the New York customhouse after the war, and selected friend and future vice president and president Chester Arthur to the top position of collector in 1871. Seen as a loyal Republican Party hack, Arthur was accused by reformers of taking “illegal kickbacks, overstaffing, insidious accounting and lax administration.” Ironically, Arthur’s custom house corruption investigation was initiated during the presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes, himself known as “His Fraudulency” and elected by Republican Party vote-fraud in the occupied South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Men of the Republican Political Machine

“The Radical Republicanism that defined the immediate years after the Civil War was an attempt by Congress to reengineer the former slave States. The Radicals narrowly failed to remove President Andrew Johnson . . . [was followed] by the election of Ulysses S. Grant. Grant had been a crusty, drunken, charismatic commander, but his presidency marked the end of the politics of passion and the beginning of a long period when personalities determined factions, and when competent, loyal (and at times corrupt) insiders thrived.

Grant’s defenders described him as an icon of pragmatism . . . his detractors assaulted his administration as a descent into a world where the highest bidder was rewarded. By the late 1860s, a new generation of Republicans and [Northern] Democrats jelled into a political class that shared a desire for order and control.

In place of stirring orators debating high principles . . . the Senate was occupied by a class of politicos who believed in “women, wine, whiskey, and war,” as Senator John McDougall of California remarked. They reveled in the martial cult of the Civil War and eagerly supported America’s military expansion against the Native Americans of the Plains. But they reveled more in the political machine and its benefits.

[Grant’s Vice-President Roscoe] Conkling defended the machine as necessary and even constructive force in American political life, thundering, “We are told that the Republican Party is a machine. Yes. A government is a machine, the common-school system of the State of New York is a machine, a political party is a machine . . .”

For him, as for Chester Arthur and even James Blaine, the party was a church to which absolute fealty was expected and demanded, and in emotional moments these men of the machine could wax about its virtues with the romantic zeal of a lover serenading his loved one.

In 1871, Arthur was offered one of the plum positions in the federal bureaucracy, the collector of New York Customhouse. The position of collector had opened up when the former occupant, Arthur’s friend Tom Murphy, was forced to step down in the face of corruption allegations.

The port of New York was the primary gateway for goods from abroad, and smuggling was a constant. As an incentive, officials who snared illegal, unregistered or undertaxed shipments were entitled to a percentage of the goods seized or the fines levied. This “moiety” process made it possible for even a low-level official to double or triple his income . . . [while] it struck reformers . . . as unsavory.”

(Chester Alan Arthur, Zachary Karabell, Henry Holt and Company, 2004, excerpts, pp. 18-20; 22)

Postwar Whiskey, Beer and Dollar Bills

In 1880, the shooting war had been over for 15 years though a conflict raged for political control of the South until 1877. James Garfield and Chester Arthur eked out a slim victory in 1880, and the New York Times wryly observed that so many [Republican] factions were convinced that they had been promised cabinet positions that “if all reports are true, President Garfield’s Cabinet will contain about one hundred and twenty-five persons.” The elimination of Southern conservative influence in Congress led to the corruption of the Gilded Age.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Postwar Whiskey, Beer and Dollar Bills

“The [presidential] campaign of 1880 is notable mostly for what it lacked. It was a contest of organization and will, not a battle over the future direction of the country. The Republican factions in Chicago were divided by personalities, not by beliefs, and the [Northern] Democrats did not offer a dramatically different vision.

But the main attraction had all the ideology of a horse race. That fact did not escape the disgusted intellectuals who sat on the sidelines wondering what had happened to the once noble republic of Washington [and] Jefferson . . . [and] . . . What was the election about, really, other than who would win?

[Republicans and Democrats] voted because of party loyalty or because some local organizer sweetened the pot. They voted because a Republican precinct boss in New York Boston or Buffalo or St. Louis or Nashville invited them to a picnic on a fine Sunday on September, trucked out a few respected and/or dynamic speakers, and handed out whiskey, beer and dollar bills.

Yet if you had collared [James] Garfield and Arthur or [Winfield Scott] Hancock . . . and asked them if they stood for anything, they would of course had said yes. They would have said they stood for good government, for the hopes and dreams of the common man, for the expansion of trade, for orderly cities and prosperous farms, well-managed railroads, solvent banks, stable currency, and the settlement of the West.

Having served the Union during the Civil War, they felt the North’s victory had closed the last great fissure that had threatened a country founded on principles of liberty, freedom and the pursuit of happiness. It wasn’t that they eschewed ideology . . . They believed, simply, that everyone would be best served by a government led by their faction. Political appointments and party discipline helped ensure order nationally, and if party leaders stood to gain from electoral success, all the better.

Most politicians of the era saw no inherent conflict between government service and personal gain. They would have looked at later generations of Americans, at the reformers of the twentieth-century who created one box for public service and a separate one for private advancement, and scoffed at the naivete. Most politicians of the 1870s and 1880s looked a government as a vehicle for both.

Accusations that they were feeding at the public trough made minimal sense to them. Government was an institution for the public good that was meant to reward those who entered it.

[To win] the pivotal State of Indiana, Arthur delegated Stephen Dorsey, the former carpetbag Arkansas senator. Dorsey was the ablest fund-raiser the [Republican] Stalwarts had, though it was understood that he was a political operator not afraid to push beyond the limits of law and propriety. He was the type of operative who gives politics a bad name. Dorsey went to the land of the Hoosiers, got some votes legally, and paid for others.

In 1880, not a single State south of the Mason-Dixon Line went Republican, and not a single State from the North went Democratic. A banquet was held by the Union League Club at Delmonico’s to honor Stephen Dorsey for delivering Indiana to the Republicans.

Reform-minded editors like E.L. Godkin sighed that the episode confirmed the venality of politics . . . Dorsey had already been the target of a congressional investigation into the “Star Route” scandals, a scheme that had made a number of Republican loyalists rich from postal route concessions at the federal government’s expense.”

(Chester Alan Arthur, Zachary Karabell, Henry Holt and Company, 2004, excerpts, pp. 45-47; 50, 54)

Undermining the Constitution

Thomas J. Norton notes below in 1951 that Congress has no authority to “lend money or to give it away” – and cites James Madison’s warning of paper barriers being insufficient to stop evil persons in government. Jefferson Davis stated in 1881: “Of what value then are paper constitutions and oaths binding officers to their preservation, if there is not intelligence enough in the people to discern the violations, and virtue enough to resist the violators?”

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865.com

 

Undermining the Constitution

“The Constitution gives power to Congress (1) “to coin money” and (2) “to borrow on the credit of the United States” — but not to lend money, or to give it away, either at home or abroad.

What is expressed in a Constitution is equivalent to a prohibition of what is not expressed. The powers over money mentioned are the only ones that the Constitutional Convention brought in from the world of inherent powers and fixed in the Fundamental Law.

Those specifications reject the theory of unlimited powers exercised by European monarchs in 1787. Not long before that, Louis XIV had kept Europe embroiled in wars by loans or grants of money to belligerent rulers. Did the Constitutional Convention, at least one member of which was born in his reign, intend to give that power to Congress? It did not say so. The power was therefore withheld by the people from their servants.

The United States is now, without authority — under a denial of authority — lending or granting money to Europe, and to the rest of the world. Postwar programs, twenty-two in number, for aiding foreign nations, in addition to the military aid program, have piled on top of the costs [330 billion] of [World] War II $30,757,000,000, according to Senator Byrd of Virginia, speaking in September 1949.

Thus, the limitations of the Constitution become what Madison gave warning of — “paper barriers.”

(Undermining the Constitution: A History of Lawless Government, Thomas James Norton, Devin-Adair Company, 1951, page 22)

Union Captain Murrey’s Toast

Northeastern North Carolina suffered enemy occupation early in the war – those that could left the area. The occupation troops had little consideration for the African race they were emancipating, and seemed to consider the people of North Carolina their subjects and whose land would become resorts for Northerners.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Union Captain Murrey’s Toast

“With their young men away at war, Washington and most of Beaufort County came under the heel of the Union Army. They found the town evacuated by its defenders and abandoned by about three-quarters of its inhabitants. All who could possibly leave, and find refuge with friends and relatives further inland, had done so.

The occupation force included units of the 24th Massachusetts Cavalry; 3rd New York Artillery; 3rd New York Cavalry; and some Marine artillery. Gunboats anchored across the river, off the town. Union forces continued to occupy Washington from the end of March 1862, until 20 April 1864.

On March 30, Captain Murrey, commander of the gunboat Commodore Hull, invited six of the older men who had remained in Washington, to dinner on his vessel. He is alleged to have gotten them drunk, then proposed a toast: “To the reconstruction of the Federal Union, a plantation in Georgia with a hundred niggers, and a summer residence in North Carolina.” It is recorded these men all drank with zest to this toast.

During this period, conditions in Washington were growing steadily worse. Older men who were compelled to remain with their business, had sent their wives and families away. Food was scarce. Though the freed Negroes who had collected in the town were given better food than the inhabitants could procure, bands of these Negroes roamed the streets at night, pillaging and stealing. Strong protests were made by the representatives of eastern North Carolina to President Davis, to return North Carolina troops from Virginia, to clear Union forces from their homes.”

(History of Beaufort County, C. Wingate Reed, Edwards & Broughton, 1962, pp. 184-188)

Audacious Caesars and Test Oaths

On December 7, 1861, former Governor William A. Graham of North Carolina spoke in Convention in opposition to his State requiring a test oath for its citizens. In April 1865, after being overwhelmed by military force,  North Carolinians were forced to swear an oath to the government of the United States, and could not conduct business nor public affairs without taking this oath.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Audacious Caesars and Test Oaths

“Mr. President, if this Convention, like a French National Assembly, were to declare itself in permanent session, and abrogate all the powers of government, it would give no greater shock to public sentiment, and make no more dangerous stride towards despotism, than would be effected by this [test oath] ordinance.

What, then, will be their surprise, not to say indignation, if this ordinance shall pass, and they are told that no man can ever vote again – nay, that no man will be allowed to remain in the State, but everyone will be exiled who does not take an oath that the Convention has ordained?

Sir, every North Carolinian rejoices in the idea, that, like St. Paul, he was free-born. And, although his freedom was purchased at a great price, no less than the blood of his fathers shed in every battle-field of American independence, from the shores of the Hudson to the everglades of Florida, it came to him as an inheritance, the more valued, because of its association with his ancestral pride and glory.

His right to dwell in and breath the pure air of the land of his birth; his right to participate in the election of rulers, and, if it suit his inclination and the will of the majority, to be himself invested with a portion of the powers of the republic, he will suffer neither to be taken away nor trifled with.

He did not acquire them by an oath, and he will spurn any oath offered to him as a condition of their continued enjoyment. It is one of those blunders characterized by Talleyrand as worse than a crime, for statesmen by their measures will encroach upon and offend so sacred a feeling as the pride of nativity – the self-respect and manhood of a high-spirited and free-born American.

Sir, the people when presented with this oath, will turn upon this Convention, and inquire “upon what food have these our Caesars,” at Raleigh, “fed, that they have grown so great?” We thought they were our servants; how have they become our masters?

We had a free election according to the usages and Constitution of our fathers when we chose them as our representatives; by what legerdemain, by what audacity, do they declare that we shall never vote again . . . nor inhabit our present homes, but shall be driven out as fugitives and vagabonds, unless we take an oath that they have dictated?

We render to the government our loyalty and duty, as we cherish and support our wives and children, and perform other obligations as members of society; but we will take no oaths upon compulsion, to bind us to those duties, and least of all, an oath that is accompanied by the polite alternatives of exile or degradation.

Mr. President, the very mention of a test oath carries us back to the “bigot monarchs and the butcher priests” of the days of the Tudors and Stuarts, and beyond these, to the Inquisition itself. It is a device of power in Church and in State, to perpetuate itself by force, against free discussion and inquiry, and in defiance of what in more liberal times we call public sentiment.”

(The Papers of William A. Graham, Volume V, 1857-1863, J.G. Hamilton, Max Williams, editors, NCAH, 1973, excerpts, pp. 314-317)

 

The Union League of the Republican Party

In the midst of the mostly inflammatory influence of the Republican’s Union League upon the freedmen, the Ku Klux Klan emerged in the immediate postwar. To underscore the Union League’s destructiveness, an 1870 Congressional Committee report provided this indictment of Republican rule over the conquered South: “[The] hatred of the white race was instilled [by the League] into the minds of these ignorant people by every art and vile that bad men could devise; when the Negroes were formed into military organizations and the white people of these States were denied the use of arms; when arson, rape, robbery and murder were things of daily occurrence, . . . and that what little they had saved from the ravages of war was being confiscated by taxation . . . many of them took the law into their own hands and did deeds of violence which we neither justify or excuse. But all history shows that bad government will make bad citizens.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Union League of the Republican Party

“The nocturnal secrecy of the gatherings, the weird initiation ceremonies, the emblems of virtue and religion, the songs, the appeal to such patriotic shibboleths as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Flag, and the Union, the glittering platitudes in the interest of social uplift — all these characteristics of the League had an irresistible appeal to a ceremony-loving, singing, moralistic and loyal race. That the purposes of the order, when reduced to the practical, meant that the Negro had become the emotional and intellectual slaves of the white Radical did not dull the Negro’s enthusiasm, he was accustomed to be a slave to the white man” [South Carolina During Reconstruction, Simkins & Woody, page 7].

The Union League gave the freedmen their first experience in parliamentary law and debating . . . the members were active in the meetings, joining in the debate and prone to heckle the speakers with questions and points of order. Observers frequently reported the presence of rifles at political rallies, usually stacked in a clump of bushes behind the speaker’s platform, sometimes the womenfolk left to guard them.

In the autumn of 1867, a League chapter made up mostly of blacks, but with a white president named Bryce, was holding a meeting with its usual armed sentries on the perimeter. When a poor white named Smith tried to enter the meeting, shots were fired; there followed a general alarm and, subsequently, a melee with a white debating club nearby. The Negroes rushed out; Smith fled, hotly pursued to the schoolhouse; the members of the debating club broke up in a panic and endeavored to escape; a second pistol was fired and a boy of fourteen named Hunnicutt, the son of a respectable [white] citizen, fell dead.

[Carpetbagger John W. De Forest wrote]: “The Negroes, unaware apparently that they had done anything wrong, believing, on the contrary, that they were re-establishing public order and enforcing justice, commenced patrolling the neighborhood, entering every house and arresting numbers of citizens. They marched in double file, pistol in belt and gun at the shoulder, keeping step to the “hup, hup!” of a fellow called Lame Sam, who acted as drill sergeant and commander. By noon of the next day they had the country for miles around in their power, and the majority of the male whites under their guard.”

(Black Over White, Negro Political Leadership in South Carolina During Reconstruction, Thomas Holt, University of Illinois Press, 1977, pp. 29-32)

 

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