Browsing "Aftermath: Despotism"

Holden's Evil Genius in North Carolina

After the military overthrow of North Carolina’s government in 1865, political opportunist William Woods Holden was appointed provisional governor by Andrew Johnson. An organizer of the Republican party in the State, he was elected governor in 1868 through election corruption and the disqualification of white voters. Holden biographer William C. Harris wrote: “Most contemporaries characterized Holden as a bitter, unscrupulous, and arrogant demagogue who frequently changed his political stripes to advance his own ambitions.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Holden’s Evil Genius in North Carolina

“Governor Holden in his inaugural address laid down the doctrine that no part in government should be played by those who had opposed reconstruction. He then advocated and threatened the use of force by the State administration. These two ideas, with his defense of the carpetbaggers, were prophetic of the character of his administration, for it was bitterly partisan throughout, force was employed to uphold it, and it was entirely controlled by carpetbaggers.

With the one exception of John Pool, who was, throughout his administration, his evil genius, no one had any such upon him as was exerted by the corrupt gang of aliens who infested the State and surrounded him. All played on his ambition, and there lay his most fatal weakness. Into their hands he committed his future, believing that high national honors were soon to be his, and the result was not only disastrous to himself, but well-nigh ruinous to the State.

The first matter to receive the attention of the governor was, as was to be expected, the filling of such offices as lay within his gift. [The] governor busied himself with the appointments, keeping clearly in mind their political value, and taking care that the Negroes obtained their full share of these cheap honors.

The office of magistrate in North Carolina had always been one of honor and importance. It now became a by-word and a reproach. Governor Holden’s appointments were notoriously poor and, in the main, the white men appointed were not much more fitted to discharge the duties of the office than were the Negroes. Hundreds of them could not read or write and prisoners often had to make out the papers to which the justice laboriously affixed his mark. Much of the later trouble in the administration of justice was due to these ignorant and often corrupt appointees of the governor.

The towns next won the governor’s attention and, without any authority, he commenced the appointment of mayors and commissioners of the various towns of the State. The municipal officers of Raleigh refused to yield to the new [city] administration which was headed by the governor’s brother-in-law. The governor then telegraphed to General Canby for a military force to seat his appointees. The next day he wired for the necessary force to oust the sheriff of New Hanover who had also declined to recognize an appointee of the governor. The sheriffs of Granville, Randolph, and other counties refused to and in every case military force was employed.

It was not a favorable outlook for North Carolina, though the real evils of Reconstruction were scarcely dreamed of. The leaders of [Holden’s Republican] party were holding back until the presidential election should be won, when they would be safe from unfriendly interference by the national government. To that time they looked forward with more eagerness than any slave had ever hoped for freedom and with more longing than any weary Hebrew had ever felt for the Promised Land.”

(Reconstruction in North Carolina, Joseph G. deR. Hamilton, 1914, excerpts, pp. 343-349)

Southerners a Conquered and Foreign People

With the South under military rule despite the fiction of the Union being saved, the Republican party enlisted the manipulated vote of the freedmen in 1868 to ensure that the election of Grant was assured – lest their military victory be lost with the election of New York Democrat Horatio Seymour.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Southerners a Conquered and Foreign People

“Not everything was settled on the day the Federal flag was raised once again over the capitol building in Richmond. The nation had to go forward resolutely to complete the revolution begun by the Civil War . . . It was needful not only to impose obedience on the conquered inhabitants but also to raise them up again after having subjugated them, to bring them back into the bosom of the Union; to rebuild the devastated countryside and enlist the people’s sincere acceptance of the great reform about to be inaugurated.

They must be made to feel the firm hand of a determined government that would not, however, be a threat to their liberties. Armed repression must give way to politics . . .

[In dealing with the Southern States, they] might be considered conquered territory and be told that when they left the Union they gave up all their rights under the Federal Constitution that they had ceased to be sovereign States.

In that case they must be treated as a conquered foreign people; their State and local governments must be destroyed or allowed to collapse and then reorganized as territories . . . Then someday, when the memory of the Civil War had been completely erased, they would be readmitted to the Union.

This procedure, the Radicals argued, would be merely the literal application of the United States Constitution, the sole method of ensuring respect for national authority. It would be the only way to restore the former Union on a solid foundation, having levelled the ground beforehand by stamping out all tendencies to rebellion . . .

It would be a good thing for the Southern States to be subjected for a time to the rigors of military rule and arbitrary power, or at least for them to be kept for a number of years under the guardianship of Congress, that is to say, under the domination of the North.

Their delegates might come, like those from the territories, and present their grievances or defend their interests; but they would only have a consultative voice in Congress and would have no share in the government. Great care must be taken not to give back to the South the preponderant influence it had exercised for so long.

The rebellion is not yet dead, the Radical orators declared; it has only been knocked down and it may get back on its feet if we are not vigilant. Never has the Union been in such danger as in this moment of victory when peace seems to prevail, but when the future depends on the decisions the people and the government now adopt.

If the [Democratic party] is once again allowed to reorganize, if the Southerners renew their alliance with the Northern Democrats, it will be all up for national greatness and liberty. The same arrogant claims and the same quarrels will reappear . . . all this will someday or another lead to another civil war which will encompass the total destruction of America.”

(A Frenchman in Lincoln’s America, 1864-1865, Ernest Duvergier de Hauranne, Volume II, R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company, 1975 (original 1866), pp. 543-545

 

His Fraudulency, Mayor Mot

Lincoln appointed Salmon P. Chase as Chief Justice due to the latter’s presidential ambitions though this would resurface after the former’s death. Though Chase was purportedly in Florida to survey the condition of the courts, he was really there to ensure that the freedmen and others were properly instructed and scripted on how to vote after his candidacy was announced. In the Radical Republican vernacular, “patronage” meant bought votes.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

His Fraudulency, Mayor Mot

“The “new state of things” to which [a Tallahassee editor] referred was beginning to be realized in Florida as Chief Justice Chase was welcomed in Fernandina the latter part of May, 1865 by a “thunderous volume of song” from former slaves. The correspondent of a New York newspaper described the visit as the “most notable sensation of this isolated place for some time past” and reported that the Chief Justice “in the course of his judicial pilgrimage, took occasion to call upon all his political representatives sent out under patronage of the Treasury.”

The correspondent further reported that a Mr. Mot, “an intelligent French gentleman, formerly a tutor in Mr. Chase’s family in Ohio, and who came here last Fall as the Clerk of the Tax Commission, at a municipal election, held without law and in disregard of the provisions of the act of incorporation, had been elected “Mayor of the City of Fernandina.” The Chief Justice was invited to formally install him in office, and with great pomp the ceremony was performed, and Fernandina has now a city government recognized by the highest judicial officer in the land, though its head is not a citizen of the State and his election has no shadow of legal authority.

Chase wrote to President Johnson that before Mot was elected a vote was taken to decide whether the Negroes should participate in the election; inasmuch as the vote was favorable, the Negroes did participate in the municipal election. Chase, therefore, “had the honor of administering the oath of office of the first Mayor of Fernandina under the new regime,” he further reported. “So you see,” he concluded, “that colored suffrage is practically accepted in Florida — or rather that part of it included in Amelia Island.”

The Chief Justice made some amazing “discoveries” of intelligence among the ex-slaves neither previously nor since known to the human race, and on this visit to the South wrote optimistically of the future of the freedmen. These “discoveries” were of course presented for political consumption.

Although the announced purpose of Chase’s trip was to survey conditions and restore the courts, it was not so interpreted by James Gordon Bennett, editor of the New York Herald, who said “his tour . . . was only part of a grand scheme for the promulgation of ideas which he and his associates imagined would place him in the presidential chair at the close of Mr. Johnson’s term.”

Harrison Reed, later Republican governor of Florida, had been privately informed, he reported to Washington, that Chief Justice Chase “had made sure of all the patronage necessary to control the State, including the Military Governor.”

(Flight Into Oblivion, A.J. Hanna, LSU Press, 1999 (originally 1938), pp. 213-215)

Tormenting the Defeated South

Though the South laid down its arms to rejoin the Union without slavery or secession, it would not be allowed the dignity of self-government by the victorious Radicals. Some tormenters “hoped to goad them into violent action or language by forcing them to salute the United States flag or walk under it.”  The radical German immigrant Carl Schurz visited the South after the surrender and declared that the South was “not impressed with any sense of its criminality” as if the Americans there committed a crime by forming a more perfect union according to Jefferson’s precepts.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Tormenting the Defeated South

“One of the foremost characteristics of a civilized people is its need and desire for government. It was a fearful sight to see law and order disintegrate with the collapse of the Confederate armies . . . Incoming Federal troops prevented the legislators from meeting except in Mississippi, where the legislators were speedily dispersed.

To prevent anarchy the army of occupation marched in [and comprised departments] under a major general. Even if the soldiers had been forbearing it would have had difficulty in preserving order everywhere; but with soldiers singing “John Brown’s Body” and exciting the Negroes . . . for a short interim there was little law and order in some parts of the South.

At the end of the war the tendency was for the best element in the Federal army to get mustered out first, leaving a less reliable soldiery to police the South. Many of these troops remaining were Negroes, the number in October 1865 amounting to 85,000. Many of them were scattered widely over the South where they became almost without exception a vicious influence.

Elated over their high station, their uniforms and guns, they took special delight in insulting white people and in instilling dangerous notions into the heads of the freedmen. Occasionally they had bloody clashes with the whites and ravished white women. In Nashville they collided with the police and were disarmed and turned over to the provost marshal; in Beaufort, North Carolina, a Negro soldier raped a white girl and was arrested . . . [the Negro troops in nearby Fort Macon] threatened to turn the guns of the fort on the city; and near Augusta, Georgia, marauding [black] troops demolished the home and threatened the lives of a family who objected to the Negroes drinking out of the well bucket instead of the proffered gourd dipper.

In Newberry, South Carolina, a Confederate soldier returning after the war to his Texas home was beset by Negro troops and murdered because he attempted to protect two white girls from their insults.

Southerners felt especially aggrieved that they should be thus humiliated by their former slaves and by self-obtruding blacks from the North. Was it to show the Southern people that a fundamental revolution was in the making for them?

Even Northerners felt the shame of it. Said one, “I am at a loss to see what good [the black soldiers’] presence here is now. If to humble the Southern pride, that end has been fully accomplished. I have heard black soldiers make the most insulting remarks to Southerners, who are too glad to get by with only that to take notice of them.” General Grant, seeing no good purpose served in having Negro troops in the South, advised their removal. Before the end of 1866 practically all had been withdrawn.”

(A History of the South, Volume VIII, The South During Reconstruction, 1865-1877, E. Merton Coulter, LSU Press, 1947, pp. 29-30)

Equality and Corporate Tricks

Few Gilded Age tycoons had ever studied economics and all might be described as graduates of the school of hard knocks – but all knew the theories of supply and demand, law of diminishing returns and that bad money drives out bad. They assumed that any man was motivated by the selfish love of gain and most believed in competition, theoretically, and unless bribed government officials could be used to handicap the competition. Grant’s postwar administration of corrupt and bought politicians led the way into the Gilded Age.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Equality and Corporate Tricks

“Nobody expounded the folly of tampering with the laws of economics more eloquently than Yale’s great teacher of political economy, the dynamic William Graham Sumner. In his book What Social Classes Owe to Each Other, published in 1883, he had put the reformers to rout.

“The yearning after equality,” he had written, “”is the offspring of envy and covetousness, and there is no possible plan for satisfying that yearning which can do aught else than rob A to give to B; consequently all such plans nourish some of the meanest vices of human nature, waste capital, and overthrow civilization.”

This emphatically did not mean that Sumner was opposed to a better life for everybody. On the contrary, as a man of high and generous principle – he had begun his working life as a clergyman – he was heartily in favor of it. But he believed in the wider extension of opportunity, not in changing the rules under which business was conducted. He argued that:

“[Instead] of endeavoring to redistribute acquisitions which have been made between the existing classes, our aim should be to increase, multiply, and extend the chances. Such is the work of civilization. Every improvement in education, science, art or government expands the chances of man on earth. Such expansion is no guarantee of equality. On the contrary, if there be liberty, some will profit by the chances eagerly and some will neglect them altogether. Therefore, the greater the chances, the more unequal will be the fortune of these two sets of men. So it ought to be, in all justice and right reason.”

Sumner would not have argued that there were not some ways in which legislation could protect the economically helpless. But he thought that most reform legislation was conceived in ignorance and drafted in folly.

“You need not think it necessary,” he would tell his Yale classes, “to have Washington exercise a political providence over the country. God has done that a good deal better by the laws of political economy.”

The irony of the situation lay in the fact that for generations men have been tinkering with economic law to their own advantage, and in the process had produced institutions which were emphatically not God’s work – as most of Sumner’s hearers presumably supposed them to be – but man’s.

The corporation, for instance, was not an invention of God’s. It was an invention of man’s. It was a creature of the state . . . [and] one of the great inventions of the nineteenth century . . . Yet by taking adroit advantage of the legislative acts which defined its privileges, one could play extraordinary tricks with it. Corporate devices could be used to permit A to rob B – or, let us say, more charitably, to permit A to drain off all the gravy in sight and leave none for B.

It was largely as a result of the discovery of tricks that could be played with corporations, and particularly with their capital stock, that the wealth produced in such a tremendous spate at the turn of the century flowed in large proportion into a few well-placed hands.”

(The Big Change, America Transforms Itself, 1900-1950, Frederick Lewis Allen, Harper & Brothers, 1952, pp. 67-69)

On Diversity

The Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution in 1868 was illegally enacted without the requisite number of States ratifying it. This so-called amendment has been the source of many political and social conundrums then and today — most recently it allegedly allows children born on US soil to be instant citizens. It indeed was only a measure by the Republican party to ensure votes in the South from grateful and compensated former African slaves.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

On Diversity

“How much diversity can America tolerate and still be America?

There is no question that, at the time the Declaration of Independence was signed and the Constitution was framed, an American was white and English-speaking, and a product of Western Christian civilization. Non-whites were not allowed citizenship until Republicans forced through the 14th Amendment in 1868 partly as a way to enfranchise blacks in the South who they thought would then vote for the Grand Old Party.

Moreover, whenever non-white immigration reached any significant level, restrictions and prohibitions were enacted, e.g., the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1907, and the Oriental Exclusion Act of 1924.

When the Founding Fathers talked about religious freedom, they were essentially thinking of disestablishing the Anglican Church. “Freedom of worship” meant that Baptists, Presbyterians, Quakers and Catholics should no longer suffer as they had under English rule. I really don’t think the Founders were thinking about Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, animists, and Santerians.

What is America is five or ten percent non-white, non-English-speaking, non-Christian, non-Western? No problem. A little salt and pepper is interesting, enlivens and invigorates culture, and introduces new perspectives.

But what if that number becomes 40, 60, 80 percent of the population? No, I think it is called fragmentation, separation, Balkanization. Los Angeles is an outstanding example of this.

While politicians, school officials, and other so-called community leaders mouth inane slogans such as “Diversity is Our Strength,” whites flee to far-flung suburbs as fast as their SUV’s will carry them.

There are so few whites left in the Los Angeles Unified School District that busing only means that blacks and Hispanics are bussed to schools in white neighborhoods. All the white children whose parents can afford it are in private or parochial schools, leaving the local school no more than 20 or 30 percent white. In most of the elementary schools, English is a foreign language.

It seems to me that it is perfectly natural, moral, ethical, and legal for a people to want to preserve their identity. Would Japanese allow themselves to become Russian? Would Israeli’s allow themselves to become Arab? Would Indians allow themselves to become Chinese? Why should it be our fate to lose our American identity?”

(On Diversity, Dr. Roger D. McGrath, Chronicles Magazine, June 1999,excerpts, pp. 4-5)

Loyal Leagues, Klans and Precedents

In postwar North Carolina the Loyal Leagues, Union League, etc., of the North’s Republican party were regarded as hostile organizations and designed to instill hatred in the freedmen against their white neighbors – for political purposes. During 1869 “there was an epidemic of barn-burnings in several counties of the State” charged to the Leagues as they encouraged blacks to destroy the agricultural livelihood of white farmers who were Democrats. Southern leaders advised Northern Republicans that if they disbanded their Loyal Leagues, the Klan would immediately disappear.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Loyal Leagues, Klans and Precedents

“The part played by the Loyal Leagues and similar organizations [Union League] in provoking the Southern people to defensive expedients was recognized by fair-minded Northern newspapers, and when in April, 1868, General [George G.] Meade issued an order for the suppression of the Ku Klux Klan, the New York Herald commented:

“The order of General Meade . . . will meet with the approval of all who espouse the cause of order and good government. But the General must not exercise his power on that organization alone. He must rigorously suppress the secret “Loyal Leagues” of Negroes; for they are equally, if not more, pernicious in their influence than the white man’s society.

The arrogance of the Negroes and their attempt to reduce the whites of the South to political vassalage by means of the “Loyal Leagues,” and the many other outrages that have been committed by these same Leagues, are equally as dangerous to the peace and safety of society as are the retaliatory actions of the Ku Klux Klan.”

An Alabama paper in an editorial denouncing the Loyal League said: “The League is nothing more than a [black] Ku Klux Klan . . . Let [their carpetbagger leader] break up the League and thus remove all temptation from the Kluxes to come here.”

It was the usual practice for the Leagues, when they held their meetings, to throw out armed pickets in all directions about the building . . . [a white resident commented that] “The Negroes acted here just like an invading army after they had conquered everything and were going rough-shod over everything. They thought they were the big dogs in the ring.”

Even so prejudiced an observer as the carpetbagger Judge [Albion] Tourgee said: “There is no doubt about this feeling, taken in connection with the enfranchisement of the blacks, induced thousands of good citizens to ally themselves with the Ku Klux Klan upon the idea of that they were acting in self-defense in so doing, and especially that they were securing the safety of their wives and children thereby.”

In such a state of affairs . . . throughout the South there began spontaneously to spring up local defensive groups, generally in the form of secret societies, designed primarily to offset the aggressiveness of the Loyal Leagues.

The members of the Boston Tea Party – and the members of the Ku Klux Klan – were but following a precedent set for them in earlier days in other lands. England had known the Moss Troopers, who took drastic means of manifesting their disapproval of the iron rule of the Normans; the misrule of Louis XI of France had resulted in the formation of that powerful and mysterious organization known as the Free Companions; Italy had its Carbonari during the Napoleonic wars.

Freedom loving people everywhere, when overwhelmed by oppression against which they have no their defense, have never hesitated to resort to secret and, if needs be, violent organizations for relief.”

(The Invisible Empire, The Story of the Ku Klux Klan, 1866-1871, Stanley F. Horn, Houghton-Mifflin, 1939, pp. 26-30)

Terror, Looting and Banishment in Tennessee

General Eleazer A. Payne (Paine) was an Ohio lawyer and prewar friend of Abraham Lincoln. Formally reprimanded for brutality toward civilians in western Kentucky, he was known to have allowed Southern prisoners to ride away on old horses to be chased down and killed by his men.  After the war Mrs. T.J. Latham became president of the Tennessee Division, United Daughters of the Confederacy and State Agent for the Jefferson Davis Monument Fund. She also raised funds for the Nathan Bedford Forrest Monument.

www.Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Terror, Looting and Banishment in Tennessee

“Mrs. Latham was married at her home in Memphis just at the beginning of the war to T.J. Latham, a young attorney and Unionist of Dresden, Tenn., their home till the close of war.

Dresden was debatable ground, subject to raids by “bushwhackers” and “guerillas,” one week by one side, and the next week by the other. These incursions, frequent and without notice, were sometimes to arrest “disloyal” citizens and always to secure every good horse, or any moveable article they could make available.

From these harassing surroundings, Mr. Latham sought refuge by making Paducah his homes, but passing much of his time in New York. The notorious Gen. Payne was in charge at Paducah, and soon became a terror to every one suspected of being a Southern sympathizer. Soon after the famous Forrest raid into Paducah, Payne’s reign became much more oppressive and unbearable. Nero in his prime did not exceed him in heartless cruelty.

The couple with whom Mr. and Mrs. Latham boarded also came from Dresden. They were highly estimable people and had a son in the army. [The gentleman] was quite old and feeble, and under excitement subject to apoplectic attacks. Payne had him arrested. [His wife] fainted and he became alarmingly excited, appealing to Mrs. Latham to go with him, fearing, he said, that Payne’s Negroes would shoot him.

She went, and the first sight that confronted her at headquarters was a lovely woman at on her knees at Payne’s feet, praying for the release of her son, who was arrested the day before while plowing in the field a few miles from the city. Being refused, she asked what in deepest anguish: “What will you do with him?”  “Have him shot before midnight, Madam, for harboring his brother, who is a Forrest Rebel,” and [Payne then] executed his threat.

Mrs. Latham was more fortunate, securing the release of her friend; but Gen. Payne then, addressing her, said he would pardon her and furnish carriage and the best white escort, if she would return to her home in Dresden and point out the Rebels.

Instantly she replied: “Never! Sooner than betray my country and three brothers in the army, I would die!”

Turning savagely to Mrs. Latham, he said: “You will hear from me soon, and T.J. Latham though now in New York, will be attended to. He is a fine Union man to have the impudence to visit Gen. [Napoleon] Dana, at Memphis, my commanding officer; and, with others, induce him to annul my order that no person having sons or brothers in the Southern army should engage in business of any kind in the Paducah district. I will teach him a lesson in loyalty he will remember.”

Next morning a lieutenant went to Mrs. Latham’s and ordered her to get ready, as Gen. Payne had banished her with about ten other women to Canada. He advised her that he had selected Negro soldiers as a guard.  At Detroit the militia was ordered out to insure the safe transportation of a dozen women and children prisoners across to Windsor. On landing, John [Hunt] Morgan and many of his men and others gave them a joyous greeting, and at the hotel they sang Dixie war songs till a late hour.

Thence Mrs. Latham went to New York to join her husband. Mrs. Payne advised [her husband and others] of Payne’s despotic rule, and it was soon known to “honest old Abe” and Gen. Grant. A committee of investigation and a court-martial soon followed, with the speedy relief of Paducah of the most obnoxious and cruel tyrant.

In [Gen. Payne’s] desk were found letters [to his subordinates] saying: “Don’t send any more pianos or plated silver or pictures; all the kin are supplied. But you can send bed linen and solid silverware.”

(United Daughters of the Confederacy, Annual Convention at Montgomery, Alabama; Confederate Veteran, December, 1900, pp. 522-523)

False Reasons for Removing the Confederate Flag

Karl Marx, European correspondent for Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune, saw the American war1861-65 as a struggle of workers versus capital. He was brought to the Tribune by socialist editor Charles A. Dana who became Lincoln’s assistant secretary of war, and it was Dana who ordered Jefferson Davis manacled at Fortress Monroe.  Below, the late columnist Sam Francis writes of the effort to remove a symbol of South Carolina’s proud heritage in 1997 — David Beasley was a one-term governor of that State.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

False Reasons for Removing the Confederate Flag

“A people separated from their heritage are easily persuaded,” wrote a correspondent for the New York Times during the American Civil War who zealously supported the Northern side in that conflict. If you erase the symbols pf a peoples’ heritage, you erase their public memory and identity, and then you can “persuade” them of whatever you want. For once the correspondent knew what he was talking about.

His name was Karl Marx, and his legacy lives on in the Republican governor of South Carolina.

Last month, Gov. David Beasley unveiled his plan to remove the Confederate Battle Flag that flutters on top of South Carolina’s State capitol, and he’s lined up an impressive coalition of former governors, white business leaders, black political activists and the antediluvian Sen. Strom Thurmond to go along with him.

This month, the State legislature will vote on his proposal to remove the flag to a more obscure location on the capital grounds, and the only thing between separating the people of the State from the heritage the flag symbolizes is the people themselves.

Why Gov. Beasley is so intent about his proposal is something of a mystery. In 1994 he supported keeping the flag where it is and has been since 1962, and his betrayal explicit pledges to retain the banner can bring him no political gains. Indeed, with several Southern heritage groups mobilizing against him, it seems more likely that he has committed a major blunder that will haunt his re-election efforts in 1998.

In a televised speech to the State in November, the governor came up with a number of transparently phony reasons why the flag has to go. “I have a question for us tonight,” he intoned to his fellow Carolinians, “Do we want our children to be debating the Confederate flag in ten years? . . . And the debate will not subside, but intensify. I don’t want that for my children or yours.”

But of course there would be no debate at all if it were not for the governor’s own proposal to get rid of the flag. Similar proposals were roundly rejected in 1994, and State law now requires that the flag continue to fly. The debate was settled. Only by reviving this divisive issue himself has Mr. Beasley insured that the “debate” will intensify.

And so what if the “debate” does live on? Why is it a bad thing for South Carolinians to think, talk and argue about the flag and its meaning? Maybe in the process of doing so, some of them – not least the governor and his allies – will learn something about their own heritage and why erasing it is not a good idea.

Mr. Beasley also maundered on about the evils of “racism” and alluded to several recent “hate crimes,” while denying that the flag itself was a racist symbol. If it isn’t, then why drag in the hate crimes, and why take it down at all?

“Hate-filled cowards cover their heads and meet under the cloak of night, scattering their seeds of racism in the winds of deceit about the flag and its meaning.”

The governor’s argument seems to be that since many blacks and not a few whites have come to regard the Confederate Flag as a symbol of “racism” and “hate,” then the flag is divisive and needs to come down. There is no question of trying to correct their flawed view of the flag’s meaning. The burden is not on those who invest the flag with meaning it never had but on those who want to retain the meanings it has always represented.

For the business elites, the flag and the controversy about it are “hurting economic growth,” according to the New York Times. How they do so is not quite so clear, nor is it clear why economic growth should take precedence over preservation of a cultural identity, but then Economic Man never likes to consider that question.

For the racial enemies of the flag, the goal is their own empowerment, a goal they know cannot be attained until the flag is removed and the heritage it represents and they despise is wiped clean. “That symbol only embraces the heritage of a particular people,” sneers one flag enemy, black lawyer Carl Grant. It’s not the flag but the heritage he seeks to destroy.

But whether driven by race or greed, the foes of the flag agree on one thing, that as long as the flag over the Capitol waves, the people of South Carolina will know that the heritage it represents retains some official meaning.

Only when it is removed will the people be separated from their heritage, and only then can they be easily persuaded to pursue whatever goals the enemies of their real heritage desire.” (published January 7, 1997)

 

Postwar Gospel of Pecuniary Success

The United States of 1868 was unrecognizable to someone returning to this country after a ten year absence – the Founders’ republic had been replaced by a virtual military dictatorship of one-party rule, government informants and a nouveau-rich class of corporations and congressmen.  The adminstration of Grant — enabled by the military subjugation of the American South, enfranchising illiterates while disenfranchising literates, and fraudulent Republican regimes governing defeated States — became the first such in American history known for rampant corruption, vote-buying and outright incompetency.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Postwar Gospel of Pecuniary Success

“The great omnipresence during this pivotal decade [1860-1870] in American thought was, of course, the Civil War and its aftermath. In that crucible were produced not merely a new South but a new nation. Said Henry Adams, referring to his return to American soil in 1868: “Had they been Tyrian traders of the year B.C. 1000, landing from a galley fresh from Gibraltar, they could hardly have been stranger on the shore of a world, so changed from what it had been ten years before.”

The cataclysm had compressed a profound economic upheaval into a few short years; it had introduced almost overnight the vast complexities of an industrial society; it had bred up a new race of entrepreneurs who acknowledged no morality but pecuniary success. The nation had been brought to a point of ethical exhaustion.

“The old idealism had been burnt away, the hopes of the patriot fathers, the youthful and generous dreams of the early republic. The war, with its fearful tension, draining the national vitality, had left the mind of the people morally flabby.”

The effect of the war . . . was not only to waste away the old democratic values of American life, but to raise up new gods and new ideals in their vacated places. The new capitalism required a gospel of assertion as well as of negation; its position would not be secure if it rested only on moral indifference: it needed discipleship.”

(American Conservatism, In the Age of Enterprise, 1865-1910, Robert Green McCloskey, Harper, 1951, pp. 100-101)