Browsing "Aftermath: Despotism"

Reconstruction's Hungry Locusts

The wife of the president H.L. Mencken referred to as “Roosevelt the Second” provided much of the impetus for the communizing of the Democratic party in the mid-1930s, and could be readily found supporting and speaking before openly Marxist groups like the American Youth Congress, Communist National Student League, Young Communist League, and anti-Franco communists.

In a news column she wrote that “signs of poverty and unhappiness . . . will have to disappear if [the South] is going to prosper and keep pace with the rest [of the country].” Author W.E. Debnam noted that Mrs. Roosevelt need not travel South to discover “poverty and unhappiness” as she could easily find it looking out her hotel apartment window in New York City. Debnam referred her to the root cause of the South’s unhappy condition.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Reconstruction’s Hungry Locusts

“May we tell you something about Reconstruction, Mrs. Roosevelt? Apparently somebody needs to tell you for only your abysmal ignorance of Southern history could possibly explain your continued carping criticism of just about everything south of the Mason-Dixon line . . . your complete failure to understand certain social and economic problems and conditions about which you pose so frequently as an authority.

Some of our modern Southern scalawags need to be reminded too . . . and that great horde of Northern editors and reporters so prone to pillory the South on every occasion while they ignore even worse conditions in their own backyard.

When the War ended, Mrs. Roosevelt, the South was licked and no one knew it better than the men who had followed Lee. The South was defeated, but it was not penitent. It had lost the War but not its pride. There was no sense of guilt but the South was resigned to the verdict of the battlefield. There was no love for the Yankee, it’s true, but also there was – speaking generally – no hate.

Most Southerners still insisted, and laughed about it, that “damnyankee” was one word, but, while they were not prepared to forget, they were ready, given a little time, to forgive their conquerors.

But [the war] wasn’t over, Mrs. Roosevelt. The South’s Gethsemane had just begun. War, as your Yankee friend General Sherman said, is hell . . . but it’s a hell that about it a certain dignity. There was nothing of dignity about Reconstruction.

There was only the studied, deliberate debasement of a proud and defenseless people. Old Thaddeus Stevens and his gang of Radical Republicans set out to murder the South in the first degree. Their murderous assault, prompted by greed and revenge, was cold-blooded and premeditated. They worked night and day at the job of killing the South twelve long years.

They almost succeeded. Only the vitality of a civilization that simply refused to die kept the South alive.

Lee’s surrender . . . came on April 9, 1865. Have you been able to stand the heart-breaking ordeal of visiting the South in April, Mrs. Roosevelt? If you have, you must have observed – if you could bear to keep your eyes open – that by the middle of April the plowing has long since ended and the planting, for the most part, is over. Already in some areas the new crop is far advanced.

But there was little plowed land in the South in that black April of 1865 and almost no planting.

On the great plantations, and on the little farms of the small land owner, the land to a large degree lay fallow and grown up in weeds. The returning soldiers made the best they could of bad situation. They had almost no livestock – few cows, few pigs, few sheep, and even fewer horses and mules. Those that hadn’t died on the battlefield had been killed or stolen by the invading soldiers.

And labor! Well, Mrs. Roosevelt, you know what happened to the farm hands of the South. Five million Negro slaves had been set free. They did little work in the fields that spring and summer . . . and one can hardly blame them. The taste of freedom lay sweet upon their tongue. Why labor in the fields? The Yankees were going to take care of them and, come Christmas – so the story went – every black man was to be the proud owner of forty acres and a mule! More than that, he was to run the government! The government of the Southern States, that is.

Only a few Northern States allowed the Negroes to vote then, and in not one instance during the tragic era did a single Negro, no matter how intelligent, hold even the lowest elective or appointive office north of the Mason-Dixon line; not even Fred Douglass of New York, who was the idol of Northern abolitionists. But in the South, Mrs. Roosevelt, it was a different story.

The Southern white man was almost completely disenfranchised while for 12 long years the newly-liberated slavers and the carpetbaggers and the scalawags ran every Southern State government and a Negro Senator from Mississippi sat in the seat in Congress that had been held by Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy. Our Reconstruction lawmakers, of course, had some help.

They were backed by Federal troops – thousands of them Negroes in brand new Federal uniforms. They had the guidance of Thaddeus Stevens and his Radical Republican murderers and the help of the Union League. They had also the kindly assistance of self-appointed authorities on Southern problems from New York and other Northern States who came down on short visits to give out criticism and advice. You know, we imagine, the type to which we refer.

There is no need, Mrs. Roosevelt, to review in detail that saturnalia of official corruption and waste during which the new rulers, strutting like peacocks, set out deliberately to turn to their own profit every cent of taxes that could be wrung from a prostrate land.

[And our] Northern conquerors had no intention of letting [Southern cotton] serve those who had attempted to exercise their constitutional right and withdraw from the Union. The “cotton agents” descended upon the South like a swarm of hungry locusts. First they seized 3,000,000 bales outright, claiming they had been sold to the Confederate government and were, therefore, contraband of war.

What was left – or most of it – was taxed heavily, or what was more often the case, stolen by the cotton agents in one of the greatest swindles in the history of our country. The South, screamed the Radical Republicans, had caused the war . . . and the South should pay for it.”

(Weep No More My Lady, A Southerner Answers Mrs. Roosevelt’s Report on the “Poor and Unhappy South,” W.E. Debnam, Graphic Press, 1950, pp 27-37)

 

Democrat Party Absorbs Soviet Bill of Rights

Confronted with a Democratic party platform nearly identical to theirs, the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) in early 1944 formally dissolved as a political party and perennial CPUSA presidential candidate Earl Browder announced his support of President Roosevelt for a fourth term. Browder’s vice-presidential running mate in 1936 and 1940 was James W. Ford, the first black man on a presidential ticket.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Democratic Party Absorbs Soviet Bill of Rights

“[The] historic Democratic party is no more, that it has been transformed into a labor party so completely that there is nothing left of it but the name. The process by which [the] transformation . . . was brought about had its beginnings during the period of “crisis government” established by Franklin D. Roosevelt and his “brain trust” in 1933. Measures having far-reaching application and effect were drafted by the President’s “advisors” and were jammed through Congress, frequently without most of the members having an opportunity to read them.

Mr. Roosevelt had been elected in 1932 by an electoral majority of eight to one . . . In such circumstances, Congress practically abdicated. It became literally a “rubber stamp” Congress. And Republican Senators and Representatives, with the majority of their constituents supporting President Roosevelt, were careful not to show too much opposition to measures which he favored. That’s why is was so easy to junk the Democratic platform of 1932 and to enact so many measures that violated the most fundamental principles of the historic Democratic party without protest from Southern Democrats, and even with their support.

One sequence [of the transformation] began during the period from 1935 to 1937, or at the very height of what Eugene Lyons has called “The Red Decade,” when it was fashionable in certain circles in New York, Los Angeles and Washington to glorify all things Russian and to affect a “revolutionary” attitude toward all existing institutions in the United States. It was a time when literally dozens of organizations with high-sounding names were set up in this country by the Communists to attract innocent “fellow travelers” and when The Daily Worker undertook to popularize the slogan “Communism is the Americanism of the Twentieth Century.”

In February, 1935, Joseph Stalin announced that the Russian Constitution would be democratized; in June, 1936, the first draft of the new Soviet Constitution was completed and published, [and adopted December 5, 1936]. It was promptly translated into English and by February, 1937, copies of it in the form of a five-cent pamphlet were available throughout this country. It immediately became the leading topic of discussion among the so-called “liberals” in the United States.

[The] Soviet Bill of Rights . . . guarantees every citizen a job . . . the right to material security in old age and also in case of illness and loss of capacity to toil . . . [and] “The equal rights of citizens of the USSR, independent of their nationality and race, in all fields of economic, state, cultural and public-political life is unalterable law. Any direct or indirect limitation of rights, or conversely, any establishment of direct or indirect preferences of citizens dependent on their racial and national membership, as well as all preaching of national exclusiveness, or hate and contempt, is punishable by law.”

[In late January, 1944] President Roosevelt revealed that the [New Deal] was being replaced by a streamlined post-war program. Here is what President Roosevelt said:

“As our nation had grown in size and stature, however – as our industrial economy expanded – [our previous life and liberty] political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness. We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident.

We have accepted, so to speak, a second bill of rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all – regardless of station, race or creed. Among these are: The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or mines of the nation; The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation; The right of every business man, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad; The right of every family to a decent home; The right of adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health; The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident and unemployment; The right to a good education.”

The striking resemblance which this whole passage bears to the . . . Soviet Bill of Rights need not be dwelt upon.

In his message to Congress on September 6, 1945, President Truman said: “The objectives for our domestic economy which we seek in long-range plans were summarized by the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt over a year and a half ago in the form of an Economic Bill of rights. Let us make the attainment of those rights the essence of post-war American economic life.”

Notably, he issued a “salute to labor” on Labor Day, 1946, and more recently on June 28, 1947 . . . he discussed the subject in an address to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People at Lincoln Memorial in Washington. In his “salute to labor,” President Truman said:

“Labor, perhaps more than any other group, has consistently supported [FDR’s] “Economic Bill of Rights.” We must now move forward to full achievement of these objectives: useful and remunerative jobs for all; income high enough to provide adequate food, clothing and recreation; freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopoly; adequate health protection; more effective social security measures, and educational opportunities for all.”

In his more recent address to the [NAACP], by coupling these “economic” rights with other civil rights, he stated clearly . . . that it is the responsibility of the federal government to guarantee and to enforce these new rights. “The extension of civil rights today means not protection of the people AGAINST the government, but protection of the people BY the government.”

(The South’s Political Plight, Peter Molyneaux, Calhoun Clubs of the South, Inc., 1948, pp. 56-57, 67-70, 75-77, 81-84,)

Democracy Controlled with Machine Money

Republican party manager and future Senator Mark Hannah spent vast sums to ensure the election of William McKinley to the presidency in 1896, and was known as McKinley’s “political master.” It  was common in the postwar for the Republican president to have little or no say in selecting their own cabinet as these positions were already promised to party hacks and wealthy campaign contributors.  So desperate were the Republicans to maintain political hegemony after 1865 that only Democrat Grover Cleveland briefly served two terms before Woodrow Wilson in 1912.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Democracy Controlled with Machine Money

“[William Howard] Taft’s career would owe much to Mark Alonzo Hanna’s control of Ohio politics. Hanna, a former grocery clerk in Cleveland, had become a great merchant whose fleets transported tonnages of coal and iron ore along the Great Lakes. He was often portrayed in the press as a bully, smoking a big cigar, drinking whiskey, and stamping on the skeletons of working class women and children.

A big man, he was once described as looking like a “well-fed merchant prince from an old Dutch masterpiece.” Above all, he was the new man in party politics, the businessman who constructed a well-run machine that forced out the political adventurers who had come into Ohio after the Civil War and who were often personally corrupt and willing to prey on the rich as well as the poor.

Once Hanna became wealthy, he turned over his business to his brother and concentrated all his efforts on creating the “business state.” As he once remarked to a group of dinner companions, “All questions of government in a democracy [are] questions of money.” Eventually he became chairman of the Republican National Committee, and the most powerful boss in Republican politics. His signal triumph was putting Ohio’s governor William McKinley into the presidency in 1896, and a year later he himself served as a senator from Ohio until his death in 1904.

Will Taft was not particularly close to Hanna, but after Hanna became the dominant force in Ohio politics after 1888, Taft was responsive to the new order and backed McKinley. A telling factor that connected the Taft family to Hanna was the willingness of Taft’s brother Charles to join a “syndicate,” organized by Hanna to pay off McKinley’s debts when the governor found himself in serious trouble after endorsing large sums of notes owned by a ruined business associate. (Several future cabinet members and ambassadors were also in the “syndicate.”)

Under Hanna’s direction, political professionalism was allied to financial capitalism, whose mantra was high tariff protectionism for industry coupled with “sound money,” tying the dollar to gold. Under these conditions, foreign monies soon flowed into the United States, making the country independent of European capital markets and one of the great creditor nations of the world.”

(1912, Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft & Debs, The Election That Changed the Country, James Chace, Simon & Shuster, 2004, pp. 24-25)

Reasons for the Solid South

Zebulon B. Vance of North Carolina, former colonel, wartime governor and later United States Senator, explained to his Senate colleagues in 1879 by what manner the Southern States became solidly Democratic after the war.  Vance,  a prewar Unionist, was astonished at the temper of the Republican party victors and that they would subvert all law and civil governments in the South for the purpose of party supremacy.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Reasons for the Solid South

“Mr. President, who made the South solid?

The answer is as plain and unmistakable as it is possible to make anything to the human intellect: the Republican party is responsible for this thing. At the beginning of the late war almost the entire Whig party of the South, with a large and influential portion of the Democratic, were in favor of the Union and deprecated with their whole souls the attempt at its destruction, but through love of their native States and sympathy with their kindred and neighbors they were drawn into the support of the war.

Their wisdom in opposing it was justified by the ruinous results; their patriotism and courage were highly appreciated, and when peace came this class were in high favor at the South, while the secessionists as the original advocates of a disastrous policy were down in public estimation.

If you gentlemen of the North had then come forward with liberal terms and taken these men by the hand, you could have established a party in the South that would have perpetuated your power in this Government for a generation, provided you had listened to the views of those men, and respected their policy on questions touching their section.

But you pursued the very opposite course, a course which compelled almost every decent, intelligent man of Anglo-Saxon prejudices and traditions to take a firm and determined stand against you; a course which consolidated all shades of political opinion into one resolute mass to defend what they conceived to be their ancient forms of government, laws, liberties and civilization itself. By confiscation and the destruction of war, you had already stripped us of property to the extent of at least $3,000,000,000 and left our land desolate, rent and torn, our homes consumed with fire, and our pleasant places a wasted wilderness.

Peace then came – no, not peace, but the end of war came – no, not the end of war, but the end of legitimate, civilized war, and for three years you dallied with us. One day we were treated as though we were in the Union, and as though we had legitimate State governments in operation; another day we were treated as though we were out of the Union, and our State governments were rebellious usurpations. It was a regular game of “Now you see it and now you don’t.” We were in the Union for all purposes of oppression; we were out of it for all purposes of protection.

Finally, seeing that we still remained Democratic, the Union was dissolved by act of Congress and we were formally legislated outside in order that you might bring us into the Union again in such a way as to guarantee us a Republican form of government – that is, that we should vote the Republican ticket; and you cited Article IV, Section 4, of the Constitution as your authority to do this.

You deposed our State governments and ejected from office every official, from Governor to township constable, and remitted us to a State of chaos in which the only light of human authority for the regulation of human affairs and the control of human passions was that which gleamed from the polished point of the soldier’s bayonet.

You disenfranchised at least ten per cent of our citizens, embracing the wisest, best and most experienced. You enfranchised our slaves, the lowest and most ignorant; and you placed over them as leaders a class of men who have attained the highest positions of infamy known to modern ages.

In order to preserve the semblance of consent, conventions were called to form new [State] constitutions, the delegates to which were chosen by this new and unheard of constituency, The military counted the votes, often at the headquarters in distant States, the general in command determining the election and qualifications of the delegates.

Perhaps the annals of the [Anglo-Saxon] race from which we spring, with all its various branches spread throughout the world, cannot furnish such a parody upon the principles of free government based upon the consent of the governed.

[So constituted], the new governments went to work, and in the short space of four years they plundered those eleven Southern States to the extent of $262,000,000; that is to say, they took all that we had that was amenable to larceny, and they would have taken more, doubtless, but for the same reason that the weather could not get any colder in Minnesota, as described by a returned emigrant from that State.

And now recalling these facts and a hundred more which I cannot now name, can any candid man wonder that we became solid? Can he wonder that old Whigs and Democrats, Union men and secessionists, should unite in a desperate effort to throw off the dominion of a party which had inflicted these things upon them? And your military interference, your abuse, and your denunciations continue unto this day.

The Negro alone is your friend and very few whites . . . [though] One by one the Northern adventurers who led them have packed their carpet-bags and silently stolen back to the slums of Northern society whence they originated, and the lonely Republican makes his solitary lair in some custom-house or post-office or revenue headquarters. The broad, free, bright world outside of these retreats in all the South is Democratic, thanks to you, the Republican party of the North.”

(Life of Zebulon B. Vance, Clement Dowd, Observer Printing and Publishing House, 1897, pp. 226-229)

 

Beware Demagogues Seducing the Gullible

The late Southern conservative M.E. Bradford understood that the centrality of freedom was the core of Southerners’ insistence on their right to govern their private and local affairs in their own way, and the same for citizens of all other States. He held that “the only equality Americans can universally approve is accidental, a corollary of liberty or simple equality before the law with limited scope.” Bradford made his readers aware of Lenin’s belief that the only way to make men equal is to treat them unequally.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Beware Demagogues Seducing the Gullible

“The wrath [Bradford] directed against Lincoln, like the wrath he directed against Julia Ward Howe, the authors of the Reconstruction amendments, Lyndon Baines Johnson, and all those who had imposed the teleological will of an instrumental government and judiciary upon an unsuspecting nation, had little to do with personal animosity.

It stemmed from his indignation against people he viewed as so intellectually blind as to be incapable of understanding the enormity they had wrought or so morally blind as not to care, provided only that they accomplished their immediate ends. Such attitudes, for Bradford, embodied the reverse – indeed the repudiation – of the obligations of stewardship and amounted to the despoiling of the children as well as the desecration of the fathers.

Bradford refused to apologize for the severity of his message – that the Northern victory had extracted a terrible cost from the country and its culture. Rejecting the cult of equality as the opiate of the intellectuals, Bradford rejected the fashionable identification of the Declaration of Independence with the Constitution, referring to “the Great Divide of the War Between the States.”

He explained: “it has been more and more the habit of our historians, jurists, and political scientists to read the Continental Enlightenment, and the Age of Revolution that was its political consequence, back into the beginnings of our national beginnings by way of an anachronistic gloss upon the Declaration of Independence.”

He constantly reminds his readers that the Constitution, not the Declaration, embodies the country’s law, which it exists to articulate and protect. Thus, he argues in an uncharacteristically optimistic vein, the “Constitution makes it difficult or even impossible for us to alter our political identity on whim or when momentarily carried away by the adjuration of demagogues.”

By the time Bradford died [in 1993], he had reason to know that the American political identity he cherished was under formidable assault, primarily at the hands of the Supreme Court justices – those supposed custodians and interpreters of the Constitution itself.

Experience and history taught Bradford, as he believed they had taught the Framers, that in politics one must conjoin the “caution of David Hume and the pessimism of Saint Paul,” especially with respect to the seductive promises of demagogues. In the time of the Framers, as in our own, he insisted, caution and pessimism should lead to a deep mistrust of the myths of equality with which demagogues love to seduce the more gullible of the citizenry, and he approvingly quoted Rufus King of Massachusetts, “the unnatural Genius of Equality [is] the arch Enemy of the moral world.”

(M.E. Bradford’s Historical Vision, EF & ED Genovese; A Defender of Southern Conservatism, M.E. Bradford and His Achievements, Clyde N. Wilson, editor, University of Missouri Press, 1999, pp. 79-82)

Lincoln's Political Millenium

Southern conservative M.E. Bradford saw Lincoln as the politician he was – one who used the abolitionist movement as a partisan tactic to destroy the Democratic Party in the North and pursued Alexander Hamilton’s dream of a commercial empire. The Northern military victory enabled Lincoln’s to break with the original Constitution and implement a new interpretation with the support of fellow revolutionaries.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Lincoln’s Political Millenium

“Lincoln’s personal opinions about and his actual public policies toward African Americans are evidence, according to Bradford, that partisan politics were behind Lincoln’s high-sounding rhetoric . . . His claim that a nation half free and half slave cannot endure in spite of a historical record to the contrary, the Black Codes of his home State of Illinois, the racist attitudes of his Northern electoral base, his support for recolonization of African Americans to Liberia, selective emancipation, and the plight of freedmen overall (at the Hampton Roads Conference of 1865 Lincoln is quoted as saying they can “root, hog, or die”) give an empty ring to his rhetoric of universal human rights.

As Bradford poignantly remarked, “For the sake of such vapid distinctions he urged his countrymen to wade through seas of blood.”  . . . [Can] one reasonably assume that Lincoln was zealously obsessed with the pursuit of power for a just cause and that the “seas of blood” that flowed during his tenure were justifiable consequences of his “new birth of freedom” he alluded to in his Gettysburg Address? Or, was there a more mundane motive behind Lincoln’s policies, with the ensuing war unexpectedly getting out of hand?

There can be little question that Lincoln and his Republican supporters had a mundane public policy agenda that overshadowed the rhetoric and legacy of their tenure in power. That agenda was Hamiltonian, insofar as it required a substantial transfusion of power from the States to the national government, in order for the latter to more effectively promote the style and pace of development toward a commercial empire and the corresponding opportunities for personal and national profits that such rapid commercial development entailed.

The politically contentious issues of internal improvements, the national bank, and [tariff] protectionism made giant strides on behalf of national supremacy during the Lincoln Administration. In fact the Gilded Age can be traced to the political economy of those Republicans who controlled the national government in the early 1860s:

“It is customary to deplore the Gilded Age, the era of the Great Barbeque. It is true that many of the corruptions of the Republican Era came to a head after Lincoln lay to rest in Springfield. But it is a matter of fact that they began either under his direction or with his sponsorship. Military necessity, the “War for the Union,” provided an excuse, and umbrella of sanction, under which the essential nature of the changes made in the relation of government to commerce could be concealed [Bradford, Remembering Who We Are, 146].”

Lincoln’s rhetoric in the Gettysburg Address reveals the importance of a Republican Party committed to the fulfillment of Hamilton’s dream of a commercial empire. The emergence of a commercial empire within the conceptual framework of Lincoln’s incorporation of the Declaration [of Independence] into the Constitution (or vice versa) would result in the political millennium he alludes to in the Gettysburg Address.

And Lincoln had good reason to be optimistic. During the Republican Party’s Civil War and postbellum dominance, the use of government as a means toward commercial expansion and personal aggrandizement was shifted into overdrive.

[And] Lincoln’s expansive interpretation of presidential powers made him the most imperial president in American history, thereby setting a dangerous precedent for predisposed successors. The incarceration of approximately twenty-thousand political prisoners, the closing of over three hundred newspapers, the interruptions of State legislatures, the blockade of the South, the unilateral suspension of habeas corpus, explicit and implicit defiance of the Supreme Court, the sanctioning of the creation of West Virginia, private property seizures, and electioneering/voting irregularities have all been rationalized as necessary war measures.

[Bradford suggests] the evidence indicates that “in this role the image of Lincoln grows to be very dark – indeed, almost sinister . . . Thousands of Northern boys lost their lives in order that the Republican Party might experience rejuvenation, to serve its partisan goals.”

(A Southern Reactionary’s Affirmation of the Rule of Law, Marshall L. DeRosa; A Defender of Southern Conservatism, M.E. Bradford and His Achievements, Clyde N. Wilson, editor, University of Missouri Press, 1999, pp. 111-113)

Chase's Loyal and Disloyal Americans

Salmon P. Chase seemed not aware that as defined in the United States Constitution only States themselves can establish the privilege of suffrage, not the agent created by the States. That same Constitution holds that treason can only be committed against a State, by waging war against it or adhering to its enemies, which is precisely what Chase and his revolutionary cohorts were engaged in. Secession was a valid act in 1861, and equally as valid as that in 1776.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Chase’s Loyal and Disloyal Americans

“Salmon P. Chase . . . emerged as an early advocate of self-determination as the best solution to disorder in the South. Throughout the war, Chase argued that the federal government’s policy toward the rebellious South should be based on the principle that “the loyal citizens of a State constitute a State.” He defined as loyal those “who desire the suppression of the rebellion, and consent to the means which the government found necessary for its suppression.”

Loyal citizens included virtually all of the black population together with those whites who accepted emancipation and Negro suffrage. Chase thought it was vital that the federal government make “no distinctions between colored and white loyalists,” and he attributed the shortcomings of Lincoln’s efforts in Louisiana, where Chase believed “the old secession element is rapidly gaining the ascendancy,” to the exclusion of blacks from the ballot.

Chase believed that universal suffrage, incorporating the principle of equal suffrage for blacks, would provide the foundation necessary for universal amnesty and for the final reconciliation of North and South. Touring the South in May 1865, Chase wrote to Secretary of War Stanton that “universal suffrage is essential to thorough pacification.” Most important, he believed, “the white population will acquiesce in this policy without serious opposition if it is clearly announced, & firmly but kindly pursued.”

Like all reformers, Chase accepted the necessity of a period of military reconstruction and, indeed, insisted as chief justice that “military rule must be supreme” until civil order and civil law could be fully and safely restored. Similarly . . . Chase stood with most reformers in opposing [Gerrit] Smith’s dictum that the rebels loyalty to the de facto Confederate government could not be distinguished morally from unionist loyalty to the federal government. “If the rebels waging war against the government are not traitors, Chase responded, “secession was a valid act; and our war was one of conquest.”

(Morality and Utility in American Antislavery Reform, Louis S. Gerteis, UNC Press, 1987, pp. 198-199)

Case for an Educated Postwar Black Debated

Radical Republican political hegemony in the postwar South depended upon the freedmen casting votes, despite their illiteracy and lack of education and experience in a republican form of government. These Republicans formed Union and Loyal Leagues in the South that would teach the freedmen to hate their white neighbors, vote against their interests, and cause irreparable racial wounds which remain today.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Case for an Educated Postwar Black Electorate Debated:

“Chaplain Noble, who conducted literacy classes for the enlisted men of the 128th United States Colored Troops in Beaufort (an infantry of ex-slaves), related the outcome of a debate he arranged to “enliven” the class. The question was whether Negroes should be given immediate suffrage or whether they should learn to read first, with “the more intelligent” of the class clearly favoring the latter position “on the ground that you ought never to undertake a job unless you know how to do it.”

But those who learned less easily were in favor of immediate suffrage. One of the speakers — a black thick-lipped orator — commenced his speech as follows:

“de chaplain say we can learn to read in short time. Now dat may de with dem who are mo’ ready. God hasn’t made all of us alike. P’rhaps some will get an eddication in a little while. I knows de next generation will. We hasn’t had no chance at all. De most of us are slow and dull. Dere fo’ Mr. Chaplain, I tink we better not wait for eddication.”

Whether because of the potential logic of universal suffrage for the illiterate black majority, or because the difficulties of the chaplain’s lessons made suffrage based on literacy seem rather remote for some of the slow learners, the speaker’s sagacity brought decisive nods of approval from the majority of the audience.”

(Black Over White, Negro Political Leadership in South Carolina During Reconstruction, Thomas Holt, University of Illinois Press, 1977, pg. 34)

 

 

Controlling Elections in a Businesslike Manner

The political campaign of 1872 saw Grant win the presidency again though the corruption and scandals of his administration like Credit Mobilier would not surface until after his reelection. His opponent, Northern newspaperman Horace Greeley, was outspoken against the black vote being manipulated by Grant’s party, stating that “they are an easy, worthless race, taking no thought of the morrow.” He thought the freedmen no longer deserved government support, his harsh injunction being “root, hog, or die.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Controlling Elections in a Businesslike Manner

“In the summer of 1872 . . . my immediate recreation was the heated political campaign which was then in full swing . . . the Republicans had put forward their contention along the most radical lines. A black Negro man had practically dictated the platform, claiming complete civil and social rights; endorsing [scalawag Governor W.W.] Holden, who had been removed by impeachment from his governorship; and injecting various “isms” which had been imported by the carpet-bag elements.

The most distinguished of the deserters from Democracy, Samuel L. Phillips, had begun the campaign with the opening sentence, “Hitherto, I have not been a Republican.”

The Democrats . . . had named for governor Judge Merrimon, from the mountain country and a life-long rival of Governor [Zebulon] Vance, a representative of the Union and war sentiment. In those days there was no place for a Democrat on the Democratic ticket.

Judge Merrimon was a ponderous person, addicted to the Websterian style of garment and the Websterian habit of four-hour speeches. Vance had declined the nomination.

The national features of this election were historically and dramatically set. As North Carolina voted in August, it led the procession . . . The Negroes voted for the first time for a president and were drilled [by Republicans] to vote early and often. The presidential contest was between the regular Republican party, supporting Grant, and the Liberal Republicans, whose candidate, Horace Greeley, had been endorsed by the Democrats.

Fred Douglas, the Negro orator, was sent into the denser populations of colored people in the eastern counties. He spoke before a multitude in Warrenton. His racial instinct to magnify himself and display his superiority made him speak along lines that were so much metaphysics to the audience. They had come to hear paeans of praise for [Republican] officeholders and denunciation of the old masters, with jests broad enough to get over the platform.

John Hyman, a colored barkeeper and later successful candidate for Congress, had placed on the speaker’s table a glass of sherry for Fred Douglas’s refreshment. Douglas sipped it between perorations, explaining it to his audience that it was not liquor, but sherry wine; and that while it might have been worse, it puzzled him to see how.

This gave great offense. His hearers did not believe him; and John Hyman, who had donated the wine, remarked that “Mr. Douglas’s manners – what he has – may be good enough for his northern friends but they don’t set well with folks who know what manners is.”

The regular Republicans followed the military tactics of Grant, their leader, and they sat down to the task of carrying the State in a thoroughly businesslike manner. The Federal courts were prostituted to their purpose and issues thousands of orders for arrest for Democrats who were accused of belonging to the Ku Klux.

A quarter of a million dollars was spent on tipstaffs and underlings connected with the courts. Every branch of the Government was called upon to furnish its quota of force. The Congress had passed bills promising social equality to the black; every State had a garrison of [Northern] troops placed conveniently to suppress any outbreak which should be kindled by political provocation.

The idea of allowing the possession of the Government to pass out of the [Grant Republican] party’s hands was not tolerated [and] . . . The result of the election was foregone.”

(Southern Exposure, Peter Mitchel Wilson, UNC Press, 1927, pp. 83-87)

 

H.L. Mencken on the Calamity of Appomattox

After a Northerner complained that unexemplary statesmen represented the American South after the war and into the twentieth century, a Southerner reminded him that the Yankees had killed off the South’s finest leaders during the war and the unexemplary were all that remained. H.L. Mencken was no admirer of the South, but knew that two American countries would have been preferable to one held together by force.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

H.L. Mencken on the Calamity of Appomattox

“No American historian, so far as I know, has ever tried to work out the probable consequences if Grant instead of Lee had been on the hot spot at Appomattox. How long would the victorious Confederacy have endured?

Could it have surmounted the difficulties inherent in the doctrine of States’ Rights, so often inconvenient and even paralyzing to it during the war? Could it have remedied its plain economic deficiencies, and become a self-sustaining nation?

How would it have protected itself against such war heroes as Beauregard and Longstreet, Joe Wheeler and Nathan D. Forrest? And what would have been its relations to the United States, socially, economically, spiritually and politically?

I am inclined, on all these counts, to be optimistic. The chief evils in the Federal victory lay in the fact, from which we still suffer abominably, that it was a victory of what we now call Babbitts’ over what used to be called gentlemen. I am not arguing here, of course, that the whole Confederate army was composed of gentlemen; on the contrary, it was chiefly made up, like the Federal army, of innocent and unwashed peasants, and not a few of them got into its corps of officers.

But the impulse behind it, as everyone knows, was essentially aristocratic, and that aristocratic impulse would have fashioned the Confederacy if the fortunes of war had run the other way. Whatever the defects of the new commonwealth below the Potomac, it would have at least been a commonwealth founded upon a concept of human inequality, and with a superior minority at the helm. It might not have produced any more Washington’s, Madison’s, Jefferson’s, Calhoun’s and Randolph’s of Roanoke, but it would certainly not have yielded itself to the Heflin’s, Caraways, Bilbo’s and Tillman’s.

The rise of such bounders was a natural and inevitable consequence of the military disaster. That disaster left the Southern gentry deflated and almost helpless. Thousands of the best young men among them had been killed, and thousands of those who survived came North. They commonly did well in the North, and were good citizens.

My own native town of Baltimore was greatly enriched by their immigration, both culturally and materially; if it is less corrupt today than most other large American cities, then the credit belongs largely to Virginians, many of whom arrived with no baggage save good manners and empty bellies. Back home they were sorely missed.

First the carpetbaggers ravaged the land, and then it fell into the hands of the native white trash, already so poor that war and Reconstruction could not make them any poorer. When things began to improve they seized whatever was siezable, and their heirs and assigns, now poor no longer, hold it to this day. A raw plutocracy owns and operates the New South, with no challenge save from a proletariat, white and black, that is still three-fourths peasant, and hence too stupid to be dangerous. The aristocracy is almost extinct, at least as a force in government. It may survive in backwaters and on puerile levels, but of the men who run the South today, and represent it at Washington, not 5%, by any Southern standard, are gentlemen.

If the war had gone with the Confederates no such vermin would be in the saddle, nor would there be any sign below the Potomac of their chief contributions to American Kultur—Ku Kluxry, political ecclesiasticism, nigger-baiting, and the more homicidal variety of wowserism.

Such things might have arisen in America, but they would not have arisen in the South. The old aristocracy, however degenerate it might have become, would have at least retained sufficient decency to see to that. New Orleans, today, would still be a highly charming and civilized (if perhaps somewhat zymotic) city, with a touch of Paris and another of Port Said. Charleston, which even now sprouts lady authors, would also sprout political philosophers.

The University of Virginia would be what Jefferson intended it to be, and no shouting Methodist would haunt its campus. Richmond would be, not the dull suburb of nothing that it is now, but a beautiful and consoling second-rate capital, comparable to Budapest, Brussels, Stockholm or The Hague. And all of us, with the Middle West pumping its revolting silo juices into the East and West alike, would be making frequent leaps over the Potomac, to drink the sound red wine there and breathe the free air.

My guess is that the two Republics would be getting on pretty amicably. Perhaps they’d have come to terms as early as 1898, and fought the Spanish-American War together. In 1917 the confiding North might have gone out to save the world for democracy, but the South, vaccinated against both Wall Street and the Liberal whim-wham, would have kept aloof—and maybe rolled up a couple of billions of profit from the holy crusade. It would probably be far richer today, independent, than it is with the clutch of the Yankee mortgage-shark still on its collar.

It would be getting and using his money just the same, but his toll would be less. As things stand, he not only exploits the South economically; he also pollutes and debases it spiritually. It suffers damnably from low wages, but it suffers even more from the Chamber of Commerce metaphysic.

No doubt the Confederates, victorious, would have abolished slavery by the middle of the 80s. They were headed that way before the war, and the more sagacious of them were all in favor of it. But they were in favor of it on sound economic grounds, and not on the brummagem moral grounds which persuaded the North. The difference here is immense. In human history a moral victory is always a disaster, for it debauches and degrades both the victor and the vanquished. The triumph of sin in 1865 would have stimulated and helped to civilize both sides.

Today the way out looks painful and hazardous. Civilization in the United States survives only in the big cities, and many of them—notably Boston and Philadelphia—seem to be sliding down to the cow country level. No doubt this standardization will go on until a few of the more resolute towns, headed by New York, take to open revolt, and try to break out of the Union. Already, indeed, it is talked of.

But it will be hard to accomplish, for the tradition that the Union is indissoluble is now firmly established. If it had been broken in 1865, life would be far pleasanter today for every American of any noticeable decency. There are, to be sure, advantages in Union for everyone, but it must be manifest that they are greatest for the worst kinds of people.

All the benefit that a New Yorker gets out of Kansas is no more than what he might get out of Saskatchewan, the Argentine pampas, or Siberia. But New York to a Kansan is not only a place where he may get drunk, look at dirty shows and buy bogus antiques; it is also a place where he may enforce his dunghill ideas upon his betters.”

(Published in The American Mercury, Sept., 1930, The Vintage Mencken, Gathered by Alistair Cooke, Vintage Books, 1955, pp.197-201)