Browsing "Aftermath: Despotism"

Radical Reconstruction and Negro Suffrage

The victorious Radicals in the North were faced with a practical dilemma as they punished the South for seeking political independence. Should the freedmen be left alone with their former masters they would vote with them and possibly remove the Republicans from power. The infamous Union League was then unleashed on Southern blacks to hold their white neighbors in contempt and vote against their interests – a sad result still in evidence today. In 1868, Grant was narrowly elected over Democrat Samuel Tilden with 500,000 freedmen-provided  votes.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Radical Reconstruction and Negro Suffrage

“The reconstruction of the Southern States . . . is one of the most remarkable achievements in the history of government. As a demonstration of political and administrative capacity, it is no less convincing than the subjugation of the Confederate armies as an evidence of military capacity.

The Congressional leaders – Trumbull, Fessenden, Stevens, Bingham and others – who practically directed the process of reconstruction, were men of as rugged a moral and intellectual fiber as Grant, Sherman and the other officers who crushed the material power of the South.

In the path of reconstruction lay a hostile white population in the South, a hostile executive at Washington, a doubtful if not decidedly hostile Supreme Court, a divided Northern sentiment in respect to Negro suffrage and an active and skillfully-directed Democratic Party.

With much the feelings of the prisoner of tradition who watched the walls of his cell close slowly in from day to day to crush him, the Southern whites saw in the successive developments of Congress’ policy the remorseless approach of Negro rule. The fate of Southern whites, like that of the prisoner of tradition, may excite our commiseration; but the mechanism by which the end was achieved must command an appreciation on its merits.

The power of the national government to impose its will upon the rebel States, irrespective of any restriction as to means, was assumed when the first Reconstruction Act was passed, and this assumption was acted upon to the end.

That the purpose of reconstruction evinced as much political wisdom as the methods by which it was attained, is not clear. To stand the social pyramid on its apex was not the surest way to restore the shattered equilibrium in the South.

The enfranchisement of the freedmen and their enthronement in political power was as reckless a species of statecraft as that which marked “the blind hysterics of the Celt,” in 1789-95. But the resort to Negro suffrage was not determined to any great extent by abstract theories of equality.

Though Charles Sumner and the lesser lights of his school solemnly proclaimed, in season and out, the trite generalities of the Rights of Man, it was a very practical dilemma that played the chief part in giving the ballot to the blacks.

By 1867 it seemed clear that there were three ways available for settling the issues of the war in the South: first, to leave the [Andrew] Johnson governments in control and permit the Southern whites themselves, through the Democratic Party, to determine either chiefly or whole the solution of existing problems; second, to maintain Northern and Republican control through military government; and third, to maintain Northern and Republican control through Negro suffrage.

The first expedient was . . . grotesquely impossible. The choice had to be made between indefinite military rule and Negro suffrage. It was a cruel dilemma. The traditional antipathy of the English race toward military rule determined resort to the second alternative. It was proved by the sequel that the choice was unwise. The enfranchisement of the blacks, so far from removing, only increased, the necessity for military power.

Seven unwholesome years [to 1877] were required to demonstrate that not even the government which had quelled the greatest rebellion in history could maintain the freedmen in both security and comfort on the necks of their former masters. ”

(Essays on the Civil War and Reconstruction and Related Topics, William A. Dunning, The Macmillan Company, 1898, pp. 247-252)

What Lincoln Accomplished

What Lincoln Accomplished

“The world claims now, and rightly, that Lincoln made the United States of America a “government of the people, by the people and for the people.” Lincoln found the United States of America a government of the States, by the States and for the States. He changed it by force of a four-year war into a nation.

Up to 1861, the Federal government was a republic of sovereign States of such wisdom and power as to win the respect and love of all true lovers of political liberty, but too wise and not powerful enough to coerce sovereign States.

Now, since 1861, we are a nation with sovereign States reduced to provinces, State rights gone (for what rights have they who dare not strike for them?); a nation, admired still by the world, but feared and mistrusted as a nation boastful and overbearing, ready and willing to regulate, if not to rule, the world like old Rome. O what a fall was there, my countrymen!”

(What Lincoln Accomplished, Berkeley Minor, Charlottesville, VA, Confederate Veteran, September 1926, page 324)

Sheridan Hastens the Indians’ Demise

Grant, Sherman and Sheridan applied the same hard hand of war used on the American South to the Plains Indians. Sheridan endorsed the slaughter of western buffalo herds as a way to subjugate the Indians and break their will to fight – the same as he had done earlier in the Shenandoah Valley. Notably, one of the most successful western hunters was “New England Yankee Josiah W. Mooar, who killed nearly 21,000 buffalo in three years . . .”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Sheridan Hastens the Indians’ Demise

“At the same time they were going hungry [on reservations], the Indians watched with impotent disgust as growing numbers of white hunters set up their forked rifle sticks on ancestral hunting grounds and slew the animals in staggering numbers with their .50 caliber Sharps buffalo guns.

In 1872-73 alone, 1,250,000 hides were shipped east to fashionable furriers. By the end of 1874, an estimated 4,373,730 buffalo had been slain, of which a grand total of 150,000 had been taken by the Indians.

The hunters’ intrusion on tribal lands was patently illegal, but the army did little to stop it. Despite the Medicine Lodge Treaty, which had outlawed white intrusion on Indian land, the unofficial attitude of the government toward the hunters was one of de facto cooperation.

Secretary Columbus Delano, whose department was charged with looking out for the Indian’s welfare, stated bluntly in his annual report, “I would not seriously regret the total disappearance of the buffalo from our western prairies, in its effects upon the Indians, regarding it as a means of hastening their sense of dependence upon the products of the soil.”

Sheridan, who had rather less confidence in the farming capabilities of the Indians, nevertheless looked upon the slaughter of the buffalo as an effective means of subjugating the tribes and breaking their wills.

When the Texas legislature briefly considered passing a bill outlawing buffalo poaching on native lands, Sheridan made a personal appearance before the lawmakers in Austin. Rather than penalize the hunters, he said, the legislature ought to give them each a medal, engraved with a dead buffalo on one side and a discouraged-looking Indian on the other.

In an attempt to keep closer watch on the wide-ranging Sioux, Sheridan received permission from Grant in late 1873 to mount an expedition into the Black Hills to scout locations for a new fort in the area. Custer and the Seventh Cavalry spent the better part of eight weeks exploring the sacred territory. As usual, Custer turned the expedition into a combination picnic, big-game hunt, and public relations extravaganza, sending back glowing reports of the region’s vast animal and mineral resources.

Injudiciously, he also fanned the flames of public greed by claiming, with some exaggeration, that pieces of gold could be plucked up from the very ground one walked on. At the first mention of gold, hundreds, then thousands, of ears pricked up. It was, after all, the Gilded Age, and fortune-making was the national sport.

[Though the 1868 treaty with the Sioux] “virtually deeds this portion of the Black Hills to the Sioux,” [Sheridan suggested] that miners and homesteaders try their luck further west in the unceded lands of Wyoming and Montana. The Sioux had hunting rights there, too, but Sheridan hoped to nullify these rights by encouraging the further depopulation of buffalo and other game. When there was nothing left to hunt, he reasoned, the Indians would have no more hunting rights to lose. Needless to say, the Sioux were unamused by this line of reasoning.”

(Sheridan: The Life and Times of General Phil Sheridan, Roy Morris, Jr., Crown Publishers, 1992, pp. 342-343; 348-349)

The Forces Lincoln Unleashed

By initiating war against his own people, overturning the Constitution, creating fiat money and fusing government with corporations, Lincoln destroyed the Founders’ republic and ushered in the Gilded Age.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

The Forces Lincoln Unleashed

“As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow and the Money Power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working on the prejudices of the people until wealth is aggregated in the hands of the few and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war.”   Abraham Lincoln.

(Collective Speeches of Louis T. McFadden, Omni Publications, pg. vi, 1970)

Taxes Only for Public Objects and Ends

In May of 1882 Delaware’s Senator Bayard recalled the meaning of the Mecklenburg Resolves and warned against the continuing expenditure of public tax dollars on projects unrelated to a strictly “public objects and ends.” Americans then were witnessing a federal government, unrestrained since 1861, complicit in subsidies to private businesses and pursuing vast imperial ambitions.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Taxes Only for Public Objects and Ends

“The commemorative celebration of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence took place at Charlotte on May 20th [1882]. The streets were fairly decked with flags and banners, filled with citizen soldiers in bright uniforms, and at least 20,000 people from the surrounding country.

Governor [Thomas] Jarvis and his staff, Senators Vance, [Matt] Ransom, Wade Hampton and [Thomas] Bayard were present. The Mecklenburg Declaration was read by Senator Ransom, and Senator Vance introduced the orator of the occasion, Thomas F. Bayard of Delaware. The address was enthusiastically received, especially the sentiments contained in the following extract:

“I wish I could impress upon you gentlemen, and not upon you only but upon our fellow-countrymen everywhere, the fatal fallacy and mischief that underlies and inheres to every proposition to use the money of the people — drawn from them by taxation, the powers of the government, the force of their government, under any name or pretext — for any other than really public objects and ends.

I include the maintenance of the public honor, dignity, and credit, the protection of American citizenship everywhere, among the just objects for the exercise of governmental powers; but I wish to deny . . . the rightfulness of involving the welfare and happiness of the 50,000,000 men, women, and children of the country, whether by laying taxes upon them which are not needed for the support of their government, or paying bounties and subsidies to maintain lines of private business which are too unskillfully or unprofitably conducted otherwise to sustain themselves, or promising the presence of our fleets or armies, or risking the issue of peace or war, or shedding the blood of our soldiers and sailors in aid of schemes of private greed or personal ambition under the guise of claims foreign or domestic.”

(North Carolina, Appleton’s Annual Cyclopedia, 1882, New Series Vol VII, D. Appleton and Company, 1883, page 634)

New England Rebels and Tyrants

Admiral Raphael Semmes wrote in the immediate postwar that “Constitutions are made for the protection of minorities,” that “they naturally cling to the guarantees and defences provided for them in the fundamental law; it is only when they become strong” and become majorities “that their principles and their virtues are really tested.” He was referring to New England which when in the minority was firmly for States’ rights, but in 1860 when it became the majority, became strongly nationalist and embarked on a path to subjugate the South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

New England Rebels and Tyrants

“The American Constitution died of a disease that was inherent in it. It was framed on false principles inasmuch as the attempt was made, through its means of binding together, in a republican form of government, two dissimilar peoples, with widely dissimilar interests.

Monarchical governments may accomplish this since they are founded by force, but republican governments never. The secession of the Southern States was a mere corollary of the American proposition of government; and the Northern States stultified themselves, the moment they started to resist it. The consent of the Southern States being wanted, there should have been an end of the question.

If the Northern States were not satisfied to let them go, but entertained, on the contrary, a desire to restrain them by force, this was a proof that those States had become tired of the republican form and desired to change it.

So loth was the South to abandon the Union that she made strenuous efforts to remain in it, even after Mr. Lincoln had been made president in 1860. In this election that dreaded sectional line against which President Washington had warned his countrymen in his Farewell Address, had at last been drawn . . . There had at last arisen a united North, against a untied South.

[Lincoln’s election] was purely geographical; it was tantamount to a denial of the co-equality of the Southern States with the Northern States, since it drove the former out of the common Territories. In both houses of Congress the Northern faction which had so recently triumphed in the election of their president, was arrayed in hostility to the South, and could not be moved [to compromise] an inch. Rebels, when in a minority, [New Englanders] had become tyrants now that they were in a majority.

Nothing remained to the South, but to raise the gauntlet which had been thrown at her feet. The federal government which had been established by our ancestors had failed of its object. Instead of binding the States together, in peace, and amity, it had, in the hands of one portion of the States, become an engine of oppression of the other portion. It so happened, that the slavery question was the issue which finally tore them asunder, but . . . this question was a mere means, to an end.

[That] end was empire . . . in this hemisphere, the drama which had so often been enacted in the other, of the more powerful nation crushing out the weaker.

The war between the American sections was but the prototype of many other wars, which have occurred among the human race. It had its origin in the unregenerated nature of man, who is only an intellectual wild beast, whose rapacity has never yet been restrained, by a sense of justice. The American people thought, when they framed the Constitution that they were to be an exception to mankind, in general.

History had instructed them that all other peoples, who had gone before them had torn up paper governments, when the paper was the only bulwark that protected such governments, but then they were the American people, and no such fate could await them.”

(Memoirs of Service Afloat During the War Between the States, Raphael Semmes, 1868, LSU Press, 1996, excerpts, pp. 53-70)

 

Common-Sense Agrarian

Tom Watson of Georgia was old enough in 1863 to see Yankee prisoners on trains, and his father and two uncles served in defense of the American Confederacy. He remembered his grandfather’s plantation as belonging to another world, “a complete social and industrial organization, almost wholly sufficient unto itself,” and the old agrarian traditions of his childhood held sway for all his days.  He attacked those wanting to increase military appropriations for being “Afraid of your own proletariat. You are afraid of the dissatisfied workman, thrown of work by these soulless, these heartless, these insatiable trusts and combinations of capital . . .”

Watson was elected senator from Georgia in September 1920, and fought tirelessly against Woodrow Wilson’s League of Nations.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Common-Sense Agrarian

“The first subject on which the new Senator delivered himself at any length was the proposed treaty with Columbia, intended to conciliate that country for the Panama affair by the payment of $25,000,000. Republican senators, rallying to the defense of [Theodore] Roosevelt, had opposed the treaty as proposed by the Wilson administration.

Now that Roosevelt was dead . . . even [Henry Cabot] Lodge had reversed himself to support the treaty . . . [and] let the cat out of the bag by his statement: “We must not only enlarge our trade, but we must enlarge our source of supply of oil wherever it is possible to do so, and we cannot do it if we take the position that it is a sin for Americans to make money and that those who are engages in foreign investment and foreign commerce are to be punished instead of sustained.”

“Mr. President, are we the agents of Standard Oil Company – that and nothing more?” asked Watson. “When did that infant, protected in all its roots and branches, need our assistance in securing access to foreign oil fields?” He intimated that all the fine talk about Pan-American brotherhood turned his stomach. “Let us confess what we are doing – that we are here to buy property for the Standard Oil Company.”

If the country was in such need of oil, why did we cut ourselves off from the richest oil fields in the world – those of Soviet Russia.? “Because we did not like their form of government.” Did the senators like the form of government in Columbia any better? “What is it, by the way? “Despotism tempered by assassination.”

[Senators] who professed to be horrified at Red atrocities met with his ridicule. “Where is the consistency,” he asked, “of staying in a state of war, or at least non-intercourse, with a great nation which has always been our friend and at the same time handing out food to them as objects of charity? First we destroy their commerce and then try to replace it by gifts, by doles of food.” We had no more right to dictate Russia’s form of government than we had to dictate Germany’s.

He quoted a speech of [Daniel] Webster’s advocating recognition of Greece. “Let us not affect too much saintliness,” he admonished. “Are our skirts entirely clear of wrong in Hawaii, the Philippines, and in Santo Domingo?”

In a different connection, but in the same trend, he said: “We are hereditary revolutionists. We are so from instinct, history and tradition. We are so by sentiment.” Whence, then, all this outcry against revolutionists.”

[On questions of foreign policy Watson opposed] anything that remotely smacked of the [Woodrow Wilson’s] League of Nations, which, he said, was as much like the Holy Alliance of the nineteenth century “as two black cats are like one another.”

His most conspicuous fight was waged against the ratification of the Four-Power Treaty upon insular affairs in the Pacific. He denounced it as in reality an alliance with the dominant imperialist powers, designed to promote imperialism, and to draw the United States into the web of foreign rivalries, if not into the League itself.”

(Tom Watson, Agrarian Rebel, C. Vann Woodward, Oxford University Press, 1979, pp. 477-479

When Conservative Statesmen Walked the Earth

The Southern Dixiecrat movement was greatly the result of the communist-dominated labor union infestation of FDR’s Democrat party from 1936 onward. FDR’s labor advisor was Sidney Hillman, Russian refugee from the 1905 revolution who as a radical labor organizer in New York City, earlier delivered communist votes to Roosevelt for governor. In 1936 Hillman formed the CIO and the first political action committee, CIO-PAC, with the intention of funneling labor money directly to FDR’s reelection campaigns. Roosevelt’s 1940 running mate, Henry Wallace, saw nothing wrong with communism and the Southern Democrats had had enough. Hillman’s CIO spawned the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee, a communist labor-organizing training facility attended in the mid-1950’s by M.L. King and Rosa Parks.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

When Conservative Statesmen Walked the Earth

“From the outset of his administration, the central theme of the [Virginia Governor William] Tuck tenure was hostility to organized labor. In his first message to the General Assembly, the new governor denounced public employee unions, and the legislators responded by declaring public employee collective bargaining to be contrary to the public policy of Virginia.

When employees of the Virginia Electric and Power Company threatened a strike in the spring of 1946, Tuck declared that a state of emergency existed, and mobilized the unorganized State militia, and threatened to induct 1,600 of the utility’s employees. The next year he convened a special session of the General Assembly and secured passage of two additional measures: one permitting State seizure of strike-plagued utilities, and another outlawing compulsory union membership (the “Right to Work Law”).

Across the nation a rash of postwar strikes caused the organized labor movement’s popularity to plummet. President Truman in 1946 vetoed legislation designed to curb union power, and that move, in combination with concessions made by the administration in order to end a United Mine Workers strike, brought the new President widespread criticism.

Senator [Harry F.] Byrd and the State’s conservative Democratic congressmen spent much of their reelection campaigns in 1946 pillorying organized labor; Eighth District Congressman Howard W. Smith, for example, assailed the Congress of Industrial Organizations’ political action committee (“CIO-PAC”) as a “new swarm of carpetbaggers who are invading the Southern States [and] are impregnated with communism.”

The ever-widening gulf between Senator Byrd and the national Democratic Party was the principal reason for the [Virginia] Republicans high hopes. Byrd supported Franklin Roosevelt for President in 1932, but he quickly became disenchanted as the new President repudiated the conservative thrust of his 1932 platform and embarked on a broad new social agenda.

When Roosevelt’s ill-fated “court-packing” plan was advanced in 1937, Byrd and other Southern Democrats joined with the Republicans to defeat it, thereby giving birth to the conservative coalition that would remain a formidable force within the Congress for decades. It was President Truman, however, who most infuriated Byrd.

Like most of his Southern colleagues, the Virginia senator initially greeted Harry Truman’s ascension to the Presidency in April 1945 with favor. Truman, after all, was the son of a Confederate soldier, and his Missouri accent fueled the feeling among Southerners that one of their own was finally in charge. In fact, Truman owed his spot on the national ticket in 1944 to Southern party leaders who had insisted that Roosevelt jettison liberal Vice President Henry Wallace as the price of their continued support.

[After Truman] attempted to breathe new life into FDR’s New Deal coalition, the President proposed a variety of liberal initiatives in his State of the Union message. The President’s initiative brought a sharp and swift denunciation from Virginia’s senior senator. “[Taken] in their entirety,” declared Byrd, “[the Truman civil rights proposals] constitute a mass invasion of States’ rights never before even suggested, much less recommended, by any previous President.”

The senator’s disdain for Truman was surpassed, perhaps, only by that of Governor Tuck. On February 25, 1948, the governor went before the General Assembly to denounce the Truman civil rights program and to propose a measure of his own for dealing with the President. The Tuck “ballot bill” would keep the names of all presidential candidates off of the November ballot in Virginia. Instead, only the parties would be listed . . . [to] keep Truman from getting Virginia’s electoral votes . . . In Washington, Senator Byrd took to the floor to strongly endorse the Tuck bill and commend it to his Southern colleagues.”

(The Dynamic Dominion, Realignment and the Rise of Virginia’s Republican Party Since 1945, Frank B. Atkinson, George Mason University Press, 1992, pp. 20-22)

 

 

Death is Mercy to Secessionists

Sherman viewed Southerners as he later viewed American Indians, to be exterminated or banished to reservations as punishment for having resisted government power. They were subjects and merely temporary occupants of land belonging to his government whom they served. The revealing excerpts below are taken from “Reminiscences of Public Men in Alabama,” published in 1872.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Death is Mercy to Secessionists

Headquarters, Department of Tennessee, Vicksburg, January 1, 1863.

[To] Major R. M. Sawyer, AAG Army of Tennessee, Huntsville:

“Dear Sawyer — In my former letter I have answered all your questions save one, and that relates to the treatment of inhabitants known, or suspected to be, hostile or “secesh.”  The war which prevails in our land is essentially a war of races. The Southern people entered into a clear compact of government, but still maintained a species of separate interests, history and prejudices. These latter became stronger and stronger, till they have led to war, which has developed the fruits of the bitterest kind.

We of the North are, beyond all question, right in our lawful cause, but we are not bound to ignore the fact that the people of the South have prejudices that form part of their nature, and which they cannot throw off without an effort of reason or the slower process of natural change.

Now, the question arises, should we treat as absolute enemies all in the South who differ with us in opinions or prejudices . . . [and] kill or banish them? Or should we give them time to think and gradually change their conduct so as to conform to the new order of things which is slowly and gradually creeping into their country?

When men take arms to resist our rightful authority, we are compelled to use force because all reason and argument ceases when arms are resorted to.

If the people, or any of them, keep up a correspondence with parties in hostility, they are spies, and can be punished with death or minor punishment. These are well established principles of war, and the people of the South having appealed to war, are barred from appealing to our Constitution, which they have practically and publicly defied. They have appealed to war and must abide its rules and laws.

The United States, as a belligerent party claiming right in the soil as the ultimate sovereign, have a right to change the population, and it may be and it, both politic and best, that we should do so in certain districts. When the inhabitants persist too long in hostility, it may be both politic and right that we should banish them and appropriate their lands to a more loyal and useful population.

No man would deny that the United States would be benefited by dispossessing a single prejudiced, hard-headed and disloyal planter and substitute in his place a dozen or more patient, industrious, good families, even if they be of foreign birth.

It is all idle nonsense for these Southern planters to say that they made the South, that they own it, and that they can do as they please — even to break up our government, and to shut up the natural avenues of trade, intercourse and commerce.

We know, and they know if they are intelligent beings, that, as compared with the whole world they are but as five millions are to one thousand millions — that they did not create the land — that their only title to its use and enjoyment is the deed of the United States, and if they appeal to war they hold their all by a very insecure tenure.

For my part, I believe that this war is the result of false political doctrine, for which we are all as a people responsible, viz:  That any and every people has a right to self-government . . . In this belief, while I assert for our Government the highest military prerogatives, I am willing to bear in patience that political nonsense of . . . State Rights, freedom of conscience, freedom of press, and other such trash as have deluded the Southern people into war, anarchy, bloodshed, and the foulest crimes that have disgraced any time or any people.

I would advise the commanding officers at Huntsville and such other towns as are occupied by our troops, to assemble the inhabitants and explain to them these plain, self-evident propositions, and tell them that it is for them now to say whether they and their children shall inherit their share.

The Government of the United States has in North-Alabama any and all rights which they choose to enforce in war — to take their lives, their homes, their lands, their everything . . . and war is simply power unrestrained by constitution or compact. If they want eternal warfare, well and good; we will accept the issue and dispossess them, and put our friends in possession. Many, many people, with less pertinacity than the South, have been wiped out of national existence.

To those who submit to the rightful law and authority, all gentleness and forbearance; but to the petulant and persistent secessionists, why, death is mercy, and the quicker he or she is disposed of the better. Satan and the rebellious saints of heaven were allowed a continuance of existence in hell merely to swell their just punishment.”

W.T. Sherman, Major General Commanding

(Reminiscences of Public Men in Alabama, William Garrett, Plantation Printing Company’s Press, 1872, pp. 486-488)

 

Wilson’s Worldwide Liberal Crusade

Woodrow Wilson campaigned for president with the vow that he would not send young Americans to their deaths in Europe, though once in power, his high-minded, progressive utopian collectivist ideals got the best of him. Any dissent was quickly crushed.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Coirca1865.com

 

Wilson’s Worldwide Liberal Crusade

“Modern liberalism did not originate in the New Deal. The concentration of state power, the use of government for humanitarian ends, the rise of the expert, all began with Wilson’s high-minded decision to take America into World War I (a war much of the country and the Congress didn’t want).

The word “liberal” first came into wide political usage in America during this period, when the editors of The New Republic began to substitute it for “Progressive,” which was now tarnished by their former hero [Theodore] Roosevelt’s political defeats and increasingly crankish jingoism.

They were importing the word from England, where it referred to the nineteenth-century European idea of enlarging individual freedom against the power of the state and to the Liberal Party’s activist program of using government to address modern social ills. In nineteenth-century America few people spoke of being politically “liberal” because almost all Americans were liberal in their belief in self-government and freedom. It was during the second decade of the twentieth century that the word came to mean a specific attitude toward government’s role in industrial society.

The declaration of war galvanized The New Republic’s New Liberals to claim Wilson as their own, his war as their war. “Mr. Wilson is today the most liberal statesman in high office,” the magazine editorialized, “and before long he is likely to be the most powerful. He represents the best hope in the whole world.”

The war would join “the forward liberal movement in American national life.” It would be a collectivist war, involving industry, labor, economic central planning, nationalization of railroads, the first large-scale conscription in American history, the most draconian suppression of dissenting speech since the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, and a nationwide propaganda campaign waged by the new Bureau of Public Information. The population of Washington, DC would grow by 40,000 in one year. It would be America’s first truly national war.”

(Blood of the Liberals, George Packer, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000, pp. 77-78)

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