Browsing "Aftermath: Despotism"

The Fictitious Status of a Sovereign State

The visiting Frenchman Hauranne, stayed in the North and supported its war against the American South. Yet, he wrote about and admitted the dictatorial and arrogant abuses of power inherent in Lincoln’s regime, often comparing it to the French Directory and Reign of Terror.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

The Fictitious Status of a Sovereign State

“[Diary Entry] December 21, 1864:

You know that senators are elected, not be direct popular vote, but by the State legislatures, with each sending two senators to Congress, whatever the size of the State’s population. But since last July Louisiana has a new State constitution, a semi-military document produced by General [Nathaniel P.] Banks and a Mexican-style junta chosen exclusively by known friends of the Federal Government. Thus Louisiana’s rights of Statehood have been restored, at least on paper; the reorganized State government exercises its full sovereign rights; but officials are elected under the protection of the military authorities, by a twentieth, at most, of its citizens.

That is called “reconstruction” of the State of Louisiana, though it serves only to give an appearance of legality to a state of martial law. Louisiana could have been made a “territory” for the time being; that is, the policies of the Washington government could have been imposed on her without giving representation in Congress. She could have been left for awhile longer under the undisguised rule of a military commandant and this arbitrary exercise of power would at least have had the merit of honesty.

It was thought preferable to give her the fictitious status of a sovereign State in order to wield in her name in the halls of Congress the power of which she has been despoiled. Some Republicans . . . give their unreserved approval to all the dictatorial measures of General Banks. Finally, the dictator of Louisiana has come to Washington in person to support his protégés, and no one doubts that the two senators will be seated.”

(A Frenchman in Lincoln’s America, Volume II, Ernest Duvergier de Hauranne, Donnelly & Sons, pp. 218-219)

Nov 17, 2014 - Aftermath: Despotism    No Comments

The Shameful Period of Reconstruction

The following is excerpted from a Tuesday, 31 May 1892 address by Col. Alfred Moore Waddell of Wilmington, before the Alumni Association of the University of North Carolina. His address was entitled “The Life and Character of William L. Saunders,” and Waddell described the postwar experience administered to the South.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 
The Shameful Period of Reconstruction

“[Reconstruction] constitutes the one indelible and appalling disgrace of the American people—the one chapter of their history which contains no redeeming feature to relieve it from the endless execration of the civilized world.

A distinguished orator from a Northern State declared in Congress in 1872 that one-third of the boundaries of this Republic had been filled “with all the curses and calamities ever recorded in the annals of the worst governments known on the pages of history,” and attacking the authors of these calamities, he exclaimed:

“From turret to foundation you tore down the governments of eleven States. You left not one stone upon another. You rent all their local laws and machinery into fragments, and trampled upon their ruins. Not a vestige of their former construction remained.” And again he said: “A more sweeping and universal exclusion from all the benefits , rights, trusts, honors, enjoyments, liberties, and control of government was never enacted against a whole people, without respect to age or sex, in the annals of the human race. The disgraceful disabilities imposed against the Jews for nearly eighteen hundred years by the blind and bigoted nations of the earth were never more complete or appalling.”

Those old enough to remember that most shameful period of our history will readily recall the degradation, the crimes against civilization, and the terrorism which then prevailed, and how, amidst the general dismay, the faint-hearted stood helpless and silent before the arbitrary and reckless power exercised over them.”

Nov 10, 2014 - Aftermath: Despotism    No Comments

Absolute Despotism in America

In good faith Americans in the South laid down their arms in 1865 in expectation of Constitutional guarantees and rights within the Union, and President Andrew Johnson naively assumed that the Radical Congress would extend peace and such guarantees to the South. His miscalculation resulted in impeachment.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Absolute Despotism in America:

“The veto of the Military Reconstruction bill was a more formidable document, consisting of some 200,000 words or more. [President Johnson] had examined the bill with care and anxiety; his reasons for vetoing it were so grave that he hoped the outline of them might “have some influence on the minds of the patriotic and enlightened men with whom the decision must ultimately rest.”

The bill “placed all people of the ten States therein named under the absolute domination of military rulers.” The language of the preamble of the bill, which undertook to justify such measures, failed to justify them. The preamble had asserted that, in the States in question, legal government did not exist, and that life and property were not adequately protected. The President denied that this was a true point in fact.

The ten States had actual and existing governments, quite as properly organized as those of other States, and administering and executing laws concerning their local problems.

The Reconstruction bill, he continued, showed on its face that its real object was not the establishment of peace and good order. Its fifth section . . . revealed . . . that it sought to establish military rule, “not for any purpose of order, or for prevention of crime, but solely as a means for coercing the people in the adoption of principles and measures to which it is known that they are opposed, and upon which they have an undeniable right to exercise their own judgment.”

Did not Congress realize, that such an act, in its “whole character, scope and object, was without precedent and without authority,” in open conflict with the plainest provisions of the Constitution, and “utterly destructive to those great principles of liberty and humanity for which our ancestors . . . have shed much blood.”

He analyzed the powers of the military commander of a district, as those being those of an absolute monarch. “His mere will is to take the place of all law . . . Being bound by no State law, and there being no other law to regulate the subject, he may make a criminal code of his own . . . He is bound by no rules of evidence; there is indeed no provision by which he is authorized or required to take any evidence at all. Everything is a crime which he chooses to call so, and all persons are condemned whom he pronounces to be guilty. “

Such authority “amounts to absolute despotism,” and to make it even more unendurable, the district commander could delegate it to as many subordinates as he wished. For more than 500 years, no English monarch had ruled with such power, in that time no English-speaking people “have borne such servitude.” The whole population of ten States would be reduced “to the most abject and degrading slavery.”

(The Age of Hate, Andrew Johnson and the Radicals, George Fort Milton, Coward-McCann, Inc., 1930, page 398)