Browsing "Aftermath: Despotism"

War of Conquest, Not Emancipation

Following the War Between the States, the freedmen were exploited by the infamous Union League to help ensure the election of Northern radical Republicans who exploited and bankrupted the exhausted South.  The emergence of the Ku Klan Klan was a predictable result.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

War of Conquest, Not Emancipation  

“Reconstruction” is a curious name to apply to the period following the war. Indeed, the war had left widespread destruction, but the government in Washington had no policy of reconstruction.  The South was left to its own economic devices, which largely amounted to being exploited by Northern interests who took advantage of cheap land, cheap labor, and readily available natural resources. This exploitation and neglect created an economic morass, the results of which endure into the twenty-first century.

Not surprisingly, governments based on the leadership of carpetbaggers, scalawags, and freedmen, groups that represented a minority of the population, met widespread and violent opposition. This attempt to create a government based on racial equality was made even more ludicrous when many of [the] Northern States rejected the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments to the U.S. Constitution, creating a situation where the States that said they had worked to free the slaves failed to grant equality to people of color.

(Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Escort and Staff, Michael R. Bradley, Pelican Publishing Company,

Roosevelt’s “New Nationalism”

“Roosevelt the First,” as Mencken referred to Theodore, seemed unaware that his own party was responsible for the national malady he spoke against – it was the Republican Party’s marriage of government and business in the 1860s that unleashed the Gilded Age as the conservative South was no longer there to resist the government corruption and scandal. As he asserted new powers for the president, Roosevelt was creating new authority beyond what the United States Constitution confers upon the executive branch, his New Nationalism was indeed a refuge for “presidential lawbreakers.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Roosevelt’s “New Nationalism”

“[Former President Roosevelt] arrived in New York on June 18 [1910], after visiting courts and other interesting scenes in Europe. In all these places he received great honor, and his landing in New York called forth a demonstration worthy a world hero.

The public was curious to see whether Roosevelt would side with his old friend [William H. Taft], now the President . . . Shortly after landing he visited Taft and outwardly all seemed harmonious. In all he said openly he did not criticize Taft, but he did not abate his opposition to big business in politics.

Then suddenly he hurled a thunderbolt. Speaking on August 31 at Osawatomie, Kansas, he announced a political program, which he called “New Nationalism.” Government by the people, he said, was threatened by wealth in national politics, and the power of the nation should be so extended over it that it could not do what it is doing.

To reach this end he would give the federal government all needed power. If the Constitution was not strong enough he would amend it. He denounced what he called the “twilight zone” between federal and State authority, “a refuge for lawbreakers, and especially for lawbreakers of great wealth, who can hire the vulpine legal cunning which will teach the way to avoid both jurisdictions.”

“New Nationalism,” he added, regards the executive power as the steward of the public welfare. It demands of the judiciary that it shall be interested primarily in human welfare, rather than in property, just as it demands that the representative body shall represent all the people rather than one class or section of the people.” From the individualism of [Grover] Cleveland to the “New Nationalism” of Roosevelt was a long step.”

(Expansion and Reform, 1889-1926, John Spencer Bassett, Kennikat Press, 1971 (original 1926), pp. 175-176)

 

Carpetbaggers in the Philippines

The entrance of the United States into the game of imperialism came after an unnecessary war with Spain and the seizure of the latter’s former imperial possessions of Cuba and the Philippines. The promise of independence for the natives was soon realized to be empty, and the standard procedure of installing US-friendly regimes in conquered regions began — and continues today.

As articulated below, it is worth pondering if exploitation by the dominant Tagalogs after the US military departed was worse than exploitation by American carpetbaggers. The latter believed, and still seem to believe, that all people of the world are really hard-working New England Puritans in native clothing and if taught to master the art of democratic town hall meetings they could be left alone.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Carpetbaggers in the Philippines

“The problem of giving self-government to the Filipinos was made difficult by the existence of several distinct tribes speaking different languages and cherishing race enmities among themselves. The most important tribe was the Tagalogs, numbering 1,466,000 out of a population of nearly 8,000,000. They exceeded the others in culture and in the will to dominate the islands. If left to themselves it was believed that they would establish supremacy over the islands both political and economic. This policy has weighed down our policy in the islands.

Whatever the reasons why the United States should withdraw from the conduct of government there, it would be against the spirit of our promises to all the people if by so doing the large majority of the natives were left to the exploitation of the Tagalogs.

[In 1900], a governmental commission was appointed, with William H. Taft at the head, with instructions to introduce civil government as far and as rapidly as possible. The commission itself was at the top of the system with wide executive and law-making powers. It was directed to establish schools and create courts of justice.

Provision was made that the language of the United States should be taught in the schools, and that the officials should be taken from the natives as far as possible. These instructions were written by Secretary of War [Elihu] Root after a careful study of conditions in the Philippines.

The next step in developing government for the Philippines was McKinley appointing Taft Governor] and made him with the other members of his commission a Council to assist him in governing. At the same time three of the ablest natives were added to the membership of the Council, in which they were a minority.

Taft’s first care was to establish local self-government in the provinces . . . The suffrage for this process was awarded to persons who had held office in the islands, or owned a specified amount of property, or who spoke, read, and wrote Spanish or English. Elections were held in 1907, and the Assembly fell at once into the hands of a nationalist party.

The natives, that is, the Tagalog ruling class, were disappointed that no larger share of the government of their own country was given them, and they likened themselves to the [American] South when it was ruled by carpetbag officials from the North.

When President [Warren] Harding came into authority he sent General [Leonard] Wood and Lieutenant-Governor General Forbes to investigate and give advice on the withdrawal of the United States from the islands. They reported, in 1921, that the natives were not ready for self-government and advocated the continuance of the existing system. The natives were disappointed at the decision of the commissioners and continued to protest against the continuance of United States authority over them.”

(Expansion and Reform, 1889-1926, John Spencer Bassett, Kennikat Press, 1971 (original 1926), pp. 103-107)

The War to Create Many Large Fortunes

After the departure of conservative Southern congressmen in 1861, the old Whigs in the Republican party went unrestrained in their merger of government and corporations. Historian Charles Beard would later write of the War that it was not easy to tell “where slavery as an ethical question left off and economics – the struggle over the distribution of wealth – began.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The War to Create Many Large Fortunes

“As the election of 1872 approached, the tax and tariff issues were potent enough for [President Ulysses] Grant to take at least some action. Trying to shore up support among farmers and others, Congress approved a 10 percent reduction in tariffs on most items including cotton and wool textiles, iron, steel, paper, glass and other items. But these were baby steps with marginal impact, designed to preserve the whole protectionist system.

Throughout the assault on the [Civil War] income tax, opponents had considered the step of going to court to challenge the tax’s constitutionality. Some suits were filed, and parts of the tax were upheld by various courts, including the Supreme Court. But as the expiration of the tax approached, there did not seem to appear much sentiment in Congress to continue it anyway. Senator [John] Sherman [brother of General Sherman] fought once again to keep the tax alive. He asserted that one of the most solemn obligations of the federal government was to protect the property of Americans. It was therefore only proper “to require property to contribute to their payment.”

Sherman’s appeal was to no avail. Congress was more sensitive to the demands of the growing number of wealthy entrepreneurs, investors, and tycoons, who were at their moment of maximum influence. The power of the new wealthy rested on the newly consolidated railroads and the many large fortunes create by the Civil War.

The landscape of wealth had changed. Whereas New York City had had a handful of millionaires before the conflict, there were hundreds of millionaires afterward. Their fortunes were in the tens of millions of dollars. A.T. Stewart, the dry goods magnate, was worth $50 million, and other millionaires, such as William B. Astor, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and the banker Moses Taylor, were not far behind.

Before Congress abolished the publication of income tax returns, it was reported that Astor had paid more than $1 million in income tax, while Vanderbilt and Taylor had paid more than $500,000. After the war, many millionaires routinely engaged in tax evasion or tricks to hide their income. What they did not bother to hide was their vast influence.

In 1869, Grant’s friend Jim Fisk worked with [Northern financier] Jay Gould to monopolize the market in gold, driving up its price so they could make a killing. Instead, on “Black Friday,” September 24, 1869, a collapse in gold prices engulfed a vast number of speculators and investors.

Fisk and Gould managed to bribe enough officials to avoid prosecution, and Fisk remained close to his trusting friends in the White House. Years later the Credit Mobilier scandal revealed that the construction company owned by stockholders of the Union Pacific Railroad had ensnared many prominent members of the Grant administration and Congress.

As tax the historian Sidney Ratner notes, the Civil War debt “became one of the most powerful instruments in America for the enrichment of the rentier class, the leading capitalists. For the next forty years, farmers, workers, small merchants and other working-class Americans carried this debt burden, to the benefit of the rich.”

(The Great Tax Wars, Lincoln to Wilson, Steven R. Weisman, Simon & Schuster, 2002, pp. 99-101)

Threats of Federal Interference in Elections

The Republican Party used freedmen votes to win elections from Grant onward, though the election of Democrat Grover Cleveland demonstrated that more federal election interference in the South was needed to ensure GOP victories. Amid Republican claims that free elections were not being held in the South, Senator Zebulon Vance spoke against the Republican’s 1890 Force Bill and their assertion of electoral purity:

“[t]he supporters of this bill . . . is the same party, which inaugurated Reconstruction. By Reconstruction, it will be remembered one-fifth of the votes in eleven States was suppressed by law. The punishment of disfranchisement was freely inflicted [on Southerners] as a punishment for crime without trial and conviction. Thousands upon top of thousands of other votes were suppressed by fraud . . . [and] there were received and counted the ballots of those who were not entitled to suffrage under any law known to American history or tradition.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Threats of Federal Interference in Elections

“At the end of Reconstruction period the South, which had lost so much in other ways, gained in its representation in Congress through counting all the Negroes in the apportionment. In 1860 it had 108 representatives, in 1880 it had 135. In the same period the three Middle Atlantic States rose from 66 to 73, and the six New England States declined from 41 to 40.

The Southern gain worked for the advantage of the Democrats and the disadvantage of the Republicans. The Republicans, now controlling both houses of Congress, were indignant at a situation which . . . deprived them of votes in the House. This feeling led them to bring in the Federal Election Bill of 1890 . . . On its face the law applied to all parts of the country, but it was aimed mainly at the South and the city of New York.

Candid Southerners did not deny suppressing the Negro vote, but they justified it by saying a great wrong had been done when Negro suffrage was imposed on the South by military force; and they insisted it was necessary to eliminate that vote in order to have good government. Southerners gave clear warning that it would be impossible to enforce a law to put the South in the hands of the Negroes.

The bill passed the House but came to a halt in the Senate. The more it was considered the greater was the unwillingness to enter upon the stormy course its passage would produce. The proposal was finally killed by an agreement between eight free-silver Senators and a group of Southern senators.

The threat to pass the election bill alarmed Southerners greatly, and the defeat of the bill did not altogether remove their fears; for federal interference might be renewed at any time.

Another source of anxiety to the Southern Democrats was the appearance of the People’s [Populist] Party in their midst with a fair prospect of dividing the white vote. These two things led Southerners to pass certain amendments to several State constitutions, in order to exclude the Negro from voting without incurring penalties for violating the Fifteenth Amendment.

To do this it was necessary to word the alterations so that the Negro was not disenfranchised upon the specified grounds of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude,” the only grounds on which at that time the rights of suffrage might not be denied.

It was natural that these amendments should go to the Supreme Court for interpretation. But that tribunal showed a strong unwillingness to pas upon them in fact. To overthrow them would produce a critical situation in the South, where the whites were more determined that the Negroes should not rule either all or any part of the section. The Court showed a desire to avoid precipitating a sectional conflict.

Nevertheless the Fifteenth Amendment is still a part of the federal Constitution; and when the Negro race comes to have the weight of trained intelligence and the substantial possession of property, it will probably find a way to qualify and vote under the present State amendments.”

(Expansion and Reform, 1889-1926, John Spencer Bassett, Kennikat Press, 1971 (original 1926), pp. 22-24)

A Warning of Things to Come

Reverend H. Melville Jackson warned his Richmond audience in 1882 that there will come a day when the victor’s literature and monuments shall crowd out remembrances of the Southern patriots who fought and perished in the cause of independence.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

A Warning of Things To Come

“It is been said of General Robert E. Lee that he often expressed the fear lest posterity should not know the odds against which he fought. [The] daily witness of incredible heroism, daily spectator of the dauntless courage with which a decimated army faced undismayed an overwhelming foe, the chieftain of your armies, gentlemen, feared lest the examples of knightly valor and splendid fortitude, which you have exhibited to the ages, might, through the incapacity or incredulity, or venal mendacity of the historian, be finally lost to the human race.

And there is, I will venture to say, scarcely a soldier of the Confederacy who does not share this apprehension that posterity may not do justice to the cause for which he fought. Soldiers, you cannot bear to think that your children’s children shall have forgotten the fields on which you have shed your blood. You cannot think with equanimity that a day will come when Virginia shall have suffered the fame of her heroes to be lost in obscurity, and the valorous achievements of her sons to fade from memory.

And if you thought, to-night, that the muse of history would turn traitor to your cause, misrepresent the principles for which you fought, and deny to you the attributes of valour, fortitude and heroic devotion you have grandly won, your souls would rise up within you in immediate and bitter and protesting indignation.

This apprehension is thought by some to be not altogether groundless. The North, it is said, is making the literature of these times, has secured the ear of the age and will not fail to make the impression, unfavorable to you, which time will deepen rather than obliterate.

Diligent fingers are carving the statues of the heroes of the Northern armies, writing partizan and distorted versions of their achievements, altering, even in this generation, the perspective of history, until, at no distant day, they shall have succeeded in crowding out every other aspirant of fame and beguiled posterity into believing that the laurels of honor should rest, alone and undisturbed, upon the brows of your adversaries.”

(Our Cause in History, Address of Reverend H. Melville Jackson of Richmond. Given at the Richmond Howitzer’s Banquet, December 13, 1882. From the Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume XI, pp. 26-30)

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)

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