Browsing "Aftermath: Racial Conundrums"

Employing Underground Methods of Protection

Twice under brutal enemy occupation the inhabitants of York County, South Carolina armed themselves and retaliated as any free people would. According to the postwar congressional testimony of Generals Hood and Gordon, the Ku Klux Klan existed in response to the Republican party’s Union League which alienated the freedmen from their white neighbors for party purposes. They stated that if the Republicans ended the Union League, the Klan would vanish.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Employing Underground Methods of Protection

“After the fall of Charleston, all of South Carolina came under the control of the British save York County. Cornwallis sent Captain Huck to destroy the William Hull Iron Works . . . north of Yorkville. The patriots of York banded together to meet Captain Huck and valiantly defeated his far superior forces at Brattonsville, ten miles south of Yorkville.

This same Scotch-Irish determination brought York into international prominence during the Reconstruction period following the Confederate War. Occupation by Negro militia and Federal infantry and cavalry became an intolerable situation. Ku Klux Klan activities reached their zenith in York which was the first in the State to organize a clan in 1868. Washington [DC] declared York in a state of rebellion, and Federal troops occupied it for ten years after the war.

International attention was focused on York during the affair of Dr. Rufus J. Bratton, a York County planter, who had escaped to London, Ontario, after a particular Klan episode. He was discovered there by the Pinkerton Detective Agency, hired by the United States Government, and brought back forcibly to York to stand trial. When [British] Prime Minister Gladstone learned of the abduction, he corresponded with the President of the United States requesting the doctor’s return. The two countries were at the time negotiating over the ship Alabama, and the somewhat “troubled waters” between the two countries had overtones for the Bratton affair.

Later, President Grant allowed Dr. Bratton to return to York peaceably. These incidents prompted Thomas Dixon to write the famous book, The Clansman, on which the motion picture production, The Birth of a Nation was based. Dr. Cameron was the prototype of Dr. Cameron in the book.

The first Bratton’s had won fame as Revolutionary War officers. The Confederate Bratton’s won world fame during the Reconstruction period. As head surgeon of the Confederate hospitals at Milledgeville and Richmond, [Dr. Bratton] knew the price paid by the South. It was more than he and the other men in York could bear to submit to the arrogant insults of the Negro troops and U.S. Militia stationed in York after the war.

Feeling forsaken by the government these men felt pressed to employ underground methods to protect themselves and their property in what to them became an intolerable situation. Like the Regulators of old, they took it upon themselves through the activities of the Ku Klux Klan, to re-establish a safe environment for their families.”

(Plantation Heritage in Upcountry, South Carolina, Kenneth and Blanche Marsh, Biltmore Press, 1965, excerpts: pp. 40-52)

 

Vance Resists the Party of Misrule and Ignorance

Under the pretense of ensuring the purity of elections the South, the Republican party in 1890 proposed a Force Bill to reinstitute federal interference at the polls in the South as had been done during Reconstruction. Below Senator Zebulon Vance of North Carolina addresses his Republican colleagues.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circ1865.com

 

Vance Resists the Party of Misrule and Ignorance

“The title of this [Force] bill reads: “An act to prevent force and fraud in elections of the House of Representatives of the United States . . . and to insure the lawful and peaceable conduct of such elections.”

“[Senator Vance]: The object then, of the bill is to restore the purity of elections!

I presume that no one will doubt that this is desirable, nay, that it is indispensable. But the manner in which the Senator and his associates propose to bring about this purity is what strikes us with wonder.

When this [Republican] party presents itself as the defender of public virtue, and by reason of its high pretensions claims that only through its agency can this beatitude be reached, a prudent man would naturally inquire into its history for proof of its exalted qualifications.

Let us take this method for a moment and see who is, and what is the Republican party, as represented by the supporters of this bill. We shall find that it 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 as a punishment for crime without trial and conviction.

Thousands upon . . . thousands of other votes were suppressed by fraud, the returns being counted and canvassed in secret by men not sworn or in any way responsible to anybody, acting in States far distant from the places where the votes were cast. In addition to this there were received and counted the ballots of those who were not entitled to suffrage under any law known to American history or tradition.

In this way eleven Southern States were subjected to the control of this fountain of purity. The Republican party took full charge of them and their destinies. Behind and in support of their leaders stood the Army of the United States and all the moral power of the government then under the control of this great party whose chief desire is the purity and freedom of elections.

The carnival of corruption and fraud, the trampling down of decency, the rioting in the overthrow of the traditions of a proud people, the chaos of hell on earth which took place beggars the descriptive powers of plain history . . . I believe a committee of Congress, who took some testimony on this subject, estimated in 1871 the amount of plunder which was extracted from the Southern people in about 5 short years — some $300 millions of dollars in the shape of increased debt alone, to say nothing of the indirect damage inflicted by the many ways of corruption and misrule which can not be estimated in money.

The trick by which Republicans fastened itself for a term of years upon the downtrodden States was one which could only have been originated with a party devoted to the highest morality and the purest elections.

In the formation of new governments primarily, the Negro who had no right to vote was permitted to do so by military force. The historical inquirer will likewise learn that during the time the South was being thus plundered by the carpetbaggers through the ignorance of the Negroes in the Southern department of the party of purity and free elections, the home office was doing a business, which reflected no mean luster on the active and energetic Southern branches.

The system of levying contributions upon all Federal officeholders for corrupt political purposes was inaugurated and set going with efficiency and success.

Grants of the public domain equal to the area of many great nations were jobbed away to companies of loyal speculators. The Credit Mobilier was born and with incredible rapidity became the scandal of Christendom. Whiskey rings fastened their thievish grip upon the revenues. The Black Friday conspiracy shook the credit of the continent and made businessmen lose faith in human integrity.

As soon as there began to appear any necessity for it, that is to say, so soon as there appeared a feeble and languid rallying of political virtue in the dazed public mind, this pure and virtuous party began to provide against the reaction with a system of gerrymander. New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Ohio and various other States were so arranged in their Congressional and legislative districts as to completely drown the will of the majority and suppress their votes.

It is not an exaggeration to say that the dominant majority in both Houses of this Congress is the legitimate result of this suppression of the popular will by the methods of gerrymandering, aided and supplemented by a skillful application of the “fat” fried out of the tariff beneficiaries and used for the purposes of floating voters in blocks of five, by the very party leader who here says that the [Force] bill is intended to defend the Constitution of the United States against those who . . . are in the habit of substituting “processes of fraud, intimidation and bribery” [for honest elections].

At the present moment there are in the Union but twelve Republican States, representing some 9,000,000 of people, whilst there are thirty Democratic States containing 53,000,000 of people; yet the 9,000,000 control both Houses of Congress and every department of government . . .

The bill is not intended to preserve purity in elections. It is not intended to defend the Constitution of the United States against those who would substitute “processes of fraud, intimidation and bribery” for honest elections.

It is intended to resurrect, if possible, the Republican party and restore its hold on power. To do this, it is intended by this bill to subject the people of the South once more to the domination of their recent slaves. The objects at which the provisions of this bill are aimed are the Democratic South, the great Democratic cities of the North, and all naturalized citizens.

The policy of subjecting the intelligence and property of the South to the control of ignorance and poverty is not a new one. It has been tried. To the candid man who really desires the welfare of his country, the experiment resulted in a failure so disastrous that he would never desire to see it repeated.

The carpetbag rulers were infinitely worse than the Negroes. The evil propensities of the one were directed by intelligence, and the ignorance of the other became simply the instrument by which the purposes of the white leaders were carried out. The material and moral ruin wrought under this infernal conjunction of ignorance and intelligent vice was far greater than that inflicted by war. The very foundations of public virtue were undermined, and the seeds of hatred were thickly sown between the races.

In this great struggle to escape Negro rule and restore our State governments to the control of those who made them, and whose ancestors had established their principles in their blood, we had both the aid and the sympathy of Northern Democrats everywhere. We had neither from you.

You did not even stand by with indifference. You upheld the party of misrule and ignorance in every way you could. You kept the Army of the United States in the South to overcome the struggling whites as long as you dared. You sorrowed when the plundering of our people was stopped, and you received to your arms as martyrs the carpetbag fugitives expelled by the indignation of an outraged people.

In 1865, the property of North Carolina assessed for taxation was $121,000,000; in 1860 it had been $292,000,000, showing a loss of $171,000,000. In 1865, the debt of the State was $10,899,000; in 1871 the debt of the State was $34,887,000. Taxation in 1860 for State and county purposes was $799,000; in 1870 taxation for State and county purposes was $2,083,000 per annum.

But such were the recuperative powers of our people when freed from the corrupt yoke of strangers and permitted to manage their own affairs, that our taxable property is now assessed at about $230,000,000. Best of all, under the influence of the kindly associations of these years of labor and recuperation, race asperities have become softened and white and black have grown closer to each other in the recognition of the fact that the interest of one is inseparably connected with the other.

The direct effect, if not the object of this bill will be to disturb this prosperity and peace. There is made no secret of the fact that it is intended to secure the domination of the black voters of the South wherever they can be persuaded or morally coerced by this army of Federal officers into voting the Republican ticket. It [the bill] is a scheme for managing elections in the interest of a party as purely as was ever framed by designing politicians.”

(Excerpts of Speech by Senator Zebulon B. Vance of North Carolina in the Senate of the United States, December 15, 1890)

 

 

Exceeding All Other Nations at Political Corruption

During the 1890 Congressional debate on the election Force Bill, Southern representatives saw the farce of Northern oversight of Southern elections for what it was — a return to the corrupt Reconstruction measures which used racial hostility to gain political ascendancy and power. The political descendants of Tammany Hall and corrupt Northern machine politics were in no position to lecture the South on political ethics and propriety.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Exceeding All Other Nations at Political Corruption

“Speech (excerpts) of Honorable J.Z. George of Mississippi:

The Senate being in Committee of the Whole and having under consideration the bill (H.R. 11045) to amend and supplement the election laws of the United States, and to provide for the more efficient enforcement of such laws, and for other purposes—

Mr. George said:

“Thus Virginia, in the act of acceding to the Union which had been already formed, led and guided by the ablest and most eminent men in the United States — her own illustrious sons . . . and yet Mr. President, we see Virginia to-day, struggling, through her Senators and Representatives, to prevent the exercise of this power [of election supervision in the South by] Massachusetts, who seeks to impose its infliction upon her.

Virginia’s great son, James Madison, persuaded the State to ratify the Constitution . . . because the regulations to be made by Congress would operate impartially on all the States. He did not foresee the evil day when the great power of Virginia would have departed, when her great services would be forgotten, and when an alien and barbarian race, against her protest, had been elevated to citizenship.

He could not foresee . . . this power [of granting citizenship] would be exercised by Senators and Representatives from other States, who, whilst securing exemption to their own States from this burden, would seek through it to subjugate the land of Washington, Madison, Marshall and Jefferson, to a domination never imposed on a civilized people.

Rhode Island had contributed her full share to the success of the Revolution. Her great son, Nathaniel Greene was a Quaker, yet second only to Washington in his merits as a military commander. [After] freeing the Southern States from the British arms, and witnessing the final triumph of the American cause, he became a citizen of Georgia.

Is Rhode Island prepared to-day to repudiate her principles, her solemn declarations, and join in placing a yoke upon her Southern sisters, which, in the very act of joining the Union, she declared should not be placed on herself?

Mr. President, New England, against the protest of Virginia in the Federal Convention of 1787, voted to legalize the African slave trade for twenty years. Rhode Island, far more than any other State, was enriched by that trade.

Rhode Island persisted in this trade to the very last moment, introducing into Charleston, S.C. in the years 1804-1807 seven thousand nine hundred and fifty-eight slaves, to two thousand and six by all other States and countries. As late as 1822, she manifested her tolerance of this traffic by electing to this body James DeWolf, who had continued the slave trade up to the last moment allowed by law.

Will she now, for mere party purposes, engage in forcing on Virginia as New England had forced on her the slave trade in 1787, the ignorant and incompetent rule of the very barbarians whom Rhode Island deemed unfit for freedom even, so largely contributed to plant in her bosom?

Mr. President, in 1870, 1871 and 1872 a wide departure from the previous practice was inaugurated. Negro suffrage had been ordained by the Federal power. It was known that these . . . dependent wards who had been invested with political power would not understand how to exercise their newly conferred rights, except as Mr. Fessenden had said, “under such good advice as might be given,” and so provision for the good advice was made in the appointment of supervisors and deputy marshals at election precincts.

Mr. President, in those years, in the very midst of reconstruction, constitutional limitations and constitutional restraint constituted no hindrance to [Republican] partisan action; especially where the Southern States were concerned and the rights of the Negro were involved. That was the era of the civil rights act and other laws to perpetuate Negro supremacy, which had been held unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

The dominant [Republican] party had just succeeded in grafting in the Constitution the fifteenth amendment, securing Negro suffrage. This was done in direct violation of the pledges of the leaders of that party, and also of the solemn pledge of the party in their national convention which nominated General Grant for the presidency.

The party was flush with victory, not only in arms, but in subsequent elections. It had added to the electoral body of the Union more than a million of ignorant . . . noncitizens, and incapable of being made citizens but by a change of the Constitution.

If these could be made real and effectual suffragists, their enfranchisement would be no less than placing . . . automatons in the hands of the leaders of the Republican party. With this addition, the leaders could safely rely on victory when there was a majority of nearly a million white voters against them. Besides — and this was the essence of the political bonanza they had struck by amending the Constitution — the black voter was a blind, unreasoning follower whose allegiance had been secured by emancipation . . . certain to march in line to whatever destination he should be commanded.

[At this time] . . . Public men were enriched through measures for which they had voted; official virtue and fidelity had become bywords; Congressmen, judges, State and Federal and Cabinet officers were bought and sold as slaves in the market. To such an extent had this debasement gone that it was no longer concealed or attempted to be concealed. Our corruption had a world-wide fame.

To such a pitch had this gone that a distinguished member of the [Republican] party then and now in power . . . felt authorized to say that in the World’s Fair in Paris, the only product in which American had excelled all other nations was the corruption of her Government.”

(Federal Election Bill, Speech of Honorable J.Z. George of Mississippi in the Senate of the United States, December 10, 1890, Washington-GPO, 1890)

 

In Defense of Symbols: Southern and Otherwise

Eminent Southern historian Sam Francis clearly saw that the demands to remove symbols of our Confederate past would not be confined to them alone, but “extends to symbols associated with other ethnic groups” and America’s Western heritage in general.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

In Defense of Symbols: Southern and Otherwise

“One of the most ironic aspects of the attack on Southern symbols is that what is really a revolutionary onslaught, an attack intended to erase the symbols of a regional and even national heritage and thereby to alter the meaning of that heritage, is now supported by not only far-left groups like the NAACP and its racial allies but also by the ostensible conservatives.

In the last battle over the Confederate flag in South Carolina it was the Republicans who had to be watched and it was they who eventually voted to remove the flag from the capitol dome.

During the primaries last winter, it was Republican John McCain who first denounced the flag as a symbol of “racism and slavery” and then backed away from that statement, only to return to it again after the South Carolina primary. It was President George W. Bush who refused to say anything in support of the flag other than it was really a State issue, which was the easy way out, but it was Mr. Bush’s administration in Texas that only recently ordered plaques commemorative of the Confederacy removed from the Texas Supreme Court building.

And it was the force of big business that demanded that South Carolina settle the flag controversy in a way that the NAACP would approve of because the continuation of the controversy, their spokesman said, would be disruptive to business.

[What I] would like to emphasize here today that the attack on the Confederate flag and Confederate symbols is merely a prelude, a kind of dress rehearsal, for a larger and even more radical attack on all symbols of American heritage and American civilization.

The attack on Confederate symbols is coming first simply because, given the demonization of the South and the Confederacy in recent years, they are easier targets. But make no mistake, these are not the last symbols that will come under attack, and already we can see the attacks beginning as those on the Confederate symbols succeed.

For example, in 1997 . . . the Orleans Parish [Louisiana] school board, with a 5-2 black majority, voted unanimously to change the name of George Washington Elementary to [black surgeon] Dr. Charles Richard Drew Elementary; the school itself is 91 percent black. [New Orleans “civil rights” leader Carl Galmon stated]: “To African Americans, George Washington has about as much meaning as David Duke.”

In 1996, white former Marxist historian Conor Cruise O’Brien published an article in the Atlantic Monthly arguing that Thomas Jefferson should no longer be included in the national pantheon because of his “racism.” And indeed, the [Jefferson’s] Declaration [of Independence] itself, supposedly the document that serves as the very basis for racial equality in this country, is also rejected by black extremists. In February, 1999 in New Jersey [a bill to require public school students to memorize parts of the Declaration was withdrawn after] angry attacks on it by black lawmakers.

Indeed, it would probably be hard to find a figure from American history who has not come under attack from black racists. [Black reparations advocate Randall Robinson writes that] “America must dramatically reconfigure its symbolized picture of itself, its national parks, museums, monuments, statues, artworks must be recast in a way to include African-Americans.”

It does not seem to matter to Mr. Robinson that the historical events many of these cultural monuments to the American past commemorate might not have included blacks; the past must be recreated to include them.

Of course, the major defeat for the flag so far has been in South Carolina, where the legislature voted to remove the flag from its place above the capitol dome and to put it on a monument nearby. That wasn’t enough for the NAACP, which has refused to call off its boycott of the State and wants the flag removed. Last week, when the flag was actually removed, the NAACP’s State director in South Carolina said, “The economic sanctions will continue until the flag no longer flies.”

(Shots Fired, Sam Francis on America’s Culture War, Peter B. Gemma, editor, FGF Books, 2006, excerpts, pp. 277-283)

Securing the Political Obedience of Freedmen

South Carolina’s first reconstruction governor was former Northern General Robert K. Scott, who accomplished a tripling of the State debt through corruption and fraudulent bonds; his legislature voted itself a full-time saloon and restaurant at taxpayer expense. Scott’s successor, former Northern army officer Daniel H. Chamberlain was determined “to make his elected position pay,” though feeble attempts were made toward reform and Republican patronage which enraged black Republicans expecting favors for votes delivered.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Securing the Political Obedience of Freedmen

“There is ample evidence of both black domination and the exercise of controls over black leadership by the white [Republican] leadership. South Carolina was unique among the reconstructed States in that blacks constituted about 60 percent of the population. This population advantage was converted into a substantial numerical advantage in the legislature, where Negroes held a two-to-one majority in the lower house and a clear majority on joint ballot of House and Senate throughout the nine-year period of Reconstruction.

During this same period they held the office of secretary of state (from 1868 t0 1877), lieutenant-governor and adjutant-general (after 1870), secretary of treasury, Speaker of the House, and president pro tem of the Senate (after 1872).

On the other hand, Negroes never held the governorship, the office of US senator, any of the eight circuit judgeships, the offices of comptroller general, attorney general, superintendent of education, or more than one of the three positions on the State supreme court.

Furthermore, there were recorded instances of black officeholders serving as mere pawns of shrewder white [Republican] colleagues. The northern-born county treasurer of Colleton County boasted to Governor [Robert K.] Scott that he “could control every colored man’s vote in St. Paul’s Parish and St. Bartholomew Parish.” The Negro treasurer of Orangeburg County found himself in jail charged with malfeasance in office, while the white mentor who had gotten him the appointment and directed his peculations went free.

On another occasion it was alleged that the white [Republican] political boss of Colleton County engineered the removal from the county auditor’s position of a well-educated Negro political enemy, replacing him with another Negro who was illiterate. The latter was expected to be auditor in name only, while another white crony performed the duties of office.

[The] reactions of historians to [traditional images of racial relationships often betray] more emotion than analysis . . . [WEB] DuBois, for example, accepted the idea of the essential powerlessness of blacks in South Carolina’s Reconstruction government in order to minimize the culpability of blacks for the corruption of that government, even though [this actually] contradicts his thesis of black labor’s control of the government.

However, the key advantage of the white Republicans probably lay in their presumed or real contacts in the North which enabled them to promise and sometimes deliver funds, patronage or protection. White Northerners often passed themselves off as representing the “powers at Washington” in order to secure the political obedience of the Negroes, according to [carpetbagger] ex-Governor [Daniel H.] Chamberlain.

Just after the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment, a committee of South Carolina’s Negro political leaders made a secret trip to Washington to confer with Thaddeus Stevens and Charles Sumner about the formation of a political organization.

But many white Republicans continued to advocate efforts to attract native whites into the Republican party and the appointment of northern whites to sensitive positions. This policy reflected their lack of confidence in black officeholders . . . “There is not enough virtue and intelligence among the Blacks to conduct the government in such a way as will promote peace and prosperity” [wrote one Republican].

In other instances, white Republican officeholders urged the governor to replace with whites those black colleagues whom they considered “un-businesslike” or incompetent.”

(Black Over White, Negro Political Leadership in South Carolina during Reconstruction, Thomas Holt, University of Illinois Press, 1977, (excerpts) pp. 96-104)

Fiasco of Radical Reconstruction

The study of the postwar Republican party often reveals a political organization seeking power at any cost, and an abolitionist movement that was simply an expedient for the destruction of the American South politically and economically. The transcendentalists and Unitarian radicals drifted off after the war without a cause to embrace; the Republicans had their desired political hegemony which would only be interrupted by Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Fiasco of Radical Reconstruction

“By 1867, [Wendell] Phillips and “a little band of abolitionists he represented, like Robespierre and the Jacobins, believed that their will was the General Will” and looked for the federal government to establish and maintain an equal political and social position for the Negro in the South, by as much force as proved necessary. They were groping for something like the modern welfare state – foreshadowed as it was by pragmatic programs of the time like the Freedmen’s Bureau – but their intense hatred of the white South prevented a rational approach.

As a result, “Radical Reconstruction,” as it finally emerged from the Congressional cauldron, was a set of half-measures. Not faced was the problem of how a despised, impoverished, and largely illiterate minority was to maintain its rights in the face of a determined majority in full possession of economic and social power. The fiasco of Radical Reconstruction had begun.

Republican opportunism was important [in this fiasco]. There was the desire to get the Southern States readmitted to the Union under Republican control in time to deliver critical votes in 1868 and thereafter.

While idealists like Carl Schurz, Charles Sumner, Charles Francis Adams, and Horace Greeley were deserting the Republican party and the Reconstruction program to set up the abortive Liberal Republican movement of 1872, that cause of the Southern Negro was taken up and further discredited by political opportunists of the regular party organization.

The issues of the war were kept alive in the seventies and eighties as a Republican campaign technique – a way of recalling the “disloyalty” of the Democrats by “waving the bloody shirt.” In the character of Senator Dilworthy in The Gilded Age, Mark Twain has provided an unforgettable portrait of the Republican politician making unscrupulous use of the “Negro question” for his own ends.

The Reconstruction era was a perplexing time for intellectuals who had been antislavery militants before and during the war. Unable to support the sordid Grant administration and filled with doubts about the form that Radical Reconstruction was taking in the South, they had little to offer in the way of insight or inspiration.

William Dean Howells, who had once been a fervent abolitionist, intimated as editor of the Atlantic Monthly in 1869 that he was tired of the Negro question. Howell’s diminishing interest in the Negro, which reflected the disenchantment of the New England literary community in general, was further manifested in subsequent issues of the Atlantic.”

(The Inner Civil War, Northern Intellectuals and the Crisis of the Union, George M. Frederickson, Harper & Row, 1965, excerpts, pp. 191-196)

Black Legislators and Northern Racism

Grant won his 1868 presidential victory by a 307,000 vote margin enabled by the 500,000 enfranchised freedmen organized by Republican organizations like the Freedmen’s Bureau, Union League and Loyal League, and using black militia to suppress white votes in the South. In North Carolina, former Northern general and notorious carpetbagger Milton S. Littlefield had been elected president of North Carolina’s Union League, making him “Chief of Black Republicanism” under scalawag Governor Holden and charged with delivering the State to Grant, which was done.

Bernhard Thuersam,www.circa1865.org

 

Black Legislators and Northern Racism

“Most Reconstruction legislators in South Carolina – white as well as black – were political novices when they first arrived in Columbia. Democrats who had held State office before and during the war shunned any association with the new regime and left the field largely to less-experienced men. The northern white Republicans were former army officers, teachers and missionaries.

In one sense or another they were men on the make and, as such, not likely to have left successful political offices in the North for an uncertain competition in the war-torn South. And of course the Negroes had had little opportunity to gain experience in partisan politics . . . in most northern States they had not been able to vote, much less run for political office.

The Freedmen’s Bureau . . . was simply another patronage job [for many Northerners] to which they were attracted for strictly pecuniary reasons. Not only were many of them not moved by abolitionist sentiments, but some were described as being “more pro-slavery than the rebels themselves. Doing justice seems to mean, to them, seeing that the blacks don’t break a contract and compelling them to submit cheerfully in the whites do,” complained one northern teacher.

[For most black Reconstruction] legislator’s military service had bestowed benefits other than the glory of battle and the red badge of courage. Sergeant Richard H. Humbert sought to apply his expertise for direct political advantage during the postwar years. After his election to the lower house in the summer of 1868, Humbert wrote to the newly-inaugurated Governor Robert K. Scott to inform him that he had organized two militia companies in Darlington County, and that he planned to form several others in preparation for the presidential elections that fall.

He saw his previous military experience as essential to this enterprise and requested [an officer’s] commission from the governor. Humbert did not mince words when he stated that “the organization of the militia will be of great benefit to the Republican Party in this district.”

When [slave] Prince Rivers [enlisted] in the [Northern] First South Carolina Volunteers [he] was made first sergeant of the regiment and taken to New York City by General David Hunter in an attempt to gain support for his policy of enlisting black troops.

There was considerable antiwar and antiblack feeling in New York City, which would be the scene of the bloody draft riots in [July] 1863. White New Yorkers were incensed at the sergeant’s chevrons on the arm of the tall, proud, “jet-black” ex-slave; as he walked down Broadway, they attacked him viciously. However, Rivers managed to hold off the mob until police arrived to escort him away.

Robert Smalls had a somewhat similar experience with northern racism when he took his ship to Philadelphia for repairs. He became involved in that city’s . . . segregated public accommodations when he refused to surrender his seat on the streetcar to a white rider and move to the platform reserved for blacks.”

(Black over White, Negro Political Leadership in South Carolina During Reconstruction, Thomas Holt, University of Illinois Press, 1977, pp. 72; 78-79)

No Sanity in Reconstruction

Raised in poverty in Reconstruction North Carolina, Thomas Dixon became a State legislator before he was old enough to vote, practiced law, was a noted minister, and author of “The Clansman” at age thirty-eight. He was determined to one day write the story of Reconstruction to let the truth be known.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

No Sanity in Reconstruction

“[Many] corrupt [Northern] leaders sought means to give vent to hatreds that had been aroused by the war. William G. Brownlow, better known as “Parson Brownlow,” a preacher who became Governor of Tennessee during the Reconstruction era, had declared in a speech to a convention in New York in 1862:

“If I had the power, I would arm every wolf, panther, catamount and bear in the mountains of America, every crocodile in the swamps of Florida, every Negro in the South, every fiend in hell, clothe them all in the uniforms of the Federal army and turn them loose on the rebels of the South and exterminate every man, woman and child south of the Mason Dixon line. I would like to see especially the Negro troops, marching under Ben Butler, crowd the last rebel into the Gulf of Mexico and drown them as the Devil did the hogs in the Sea of Galilee.”

Such fanaticism from influential leaders was not conducive to soothing the wounds of the war. In Dixon’s native State of North Carolina, as a result of proceedings brought by Dixon’s uncle, Colonel [Lee Roy] McAfee, William W. Holden became the first governor to be impeached in an American commonwealth when his corrupt practices could no longer be borne by the people.

Many sane, responsible men, such as Dixon’s father and Colonel McAfee, took part in the Ku Klux Klan in an effort to bring some sort of order out of the tragedy of Reconstruction. These men did not tolerate injustice, and when they saw that the Klan had served its purpose, they immediately wanted to disband it.

In later years, Dixon wondered how any person could have lived through Reconstruction and still have retained his sanity. Lawlessness was, for a period of many months, the rule rather than the exception.

One of the brightest periods in Thomas’s childhood began on the day a young Negro boy, bloody, unconscious and almost dead, was brought to the home of the Dixon’s. The boy’s father, in a drunken fit, had tried to kill him with an axe. [The Dixon’s legally adopted him] and from that day forward young Dixon and little Dick were inseparable companions.”

(Fire from the Flint, The Amazing Careers of Thomas Dixon, Raymond Allen Cook, John F. Blair, Publisher, 1968, pp. 13-14)

Republicans Instilled Lessons of Hatred and Hostility

Acclaimed historian Dr. Clyde Wilson has written that the Republican party was solely responsible for carrying out the bloodiest war in American history against the American South, to destroy self-government. In South Carolina, a Republican-rigged postwar convention erected a corrupt political regime kept in power by Northern bayonets, carpetbaggers and freedmen.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Republicans Instilling Lessons of Hatred and Hostility

“When the war came to an end, and the Southern States lay prostrate at the feet of their conqueror, they experienced the bitterest consequences of the humiliation of defeat. There were no revengeful prosecutions (a few judicial murders in the flush of the victory excepted). The Congress devoted itself to the work of reconstruction . . . on the principle of equal rights to all men . . . there seemed to be no reason why the States should not proceed harmoniously in the career of peaceful progress.

But there was an element in the population which rendered such a principle fatal to all peaceful progress. In many of the States, and in South Carolina particularly, a majority of the people had been slaves. All these were suddenly elevated to the rank of citizens. Were this all, even then there might have been hope.

The slaves had always lived well with their masters, bore no resentment for past injuries, and if they were let alone in their own mutual relations, the two races might, and doubtless would have harmonized and soon discovered the art of living together in peace. But this was not to be.

With the progress of Northern arms grew up an institution founded ostensibly, perhaps really, for the protection of the rights of the newly emancipated slaves. This institution, known as the Freedmen’s Bureau, became for the time the ruling power in the State. It interfered in all the concerns of whites and blacks, its officers were generally men who not only had no love for the South, but who made it their mission to foster in the minds of the blacks a bitter hatred and mistrust of the whites.

They were, on all occasions, the champions of the Negroes rights, and never failed to instruct them that it was to the Republicans that they were indebted for all the rights which they enjoyed. In the train of the Bureau came the schoolmistresses who instilled into the minds of their pupils the same lessons of hatred and hostility.

The consequence was, that though the personal relations between the races were friendly, though the blacks invariably addressed themselves to the whites as to true friends for all offices of love and kindness, of which they stood in need, they would never listen to them, if the latter wished to talk about politics.

This feeling was intensified by the introduction of the Union League, a secret society, the members of which were solemnly bound never to vote for any but a Republican. By such means, the Negro presented a solid phalanx of Radicalism . . . a new business arose and prospered in Columbia, a sort of political brokerage by which men contracted with speculators to buy the votes of members when they were interested in the passage of any measure. Here was a corruptible Legislature under the influence of men utterly corrupt.

In South Carolina . . . Society was divided into the conquered whites, who were destined to satisfy the voracious appetites of the carpetbagger, and the needy and ignorant Negro, directed by his hungry teachers. The whites had no rights which they were bound to respect; if they paid the enormous taxes which were levied upon him, the Negro was satisfied; he had done all that it was necessary for him to do in the degenerate State.”

(Last Chapter of Reconstruction in South Carolina, Professor F.A. Porcher, Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume XIII, pp. 76-79)

Freedmen Fleeing Northern Race Prejudice

To quell the fears of Northerners who feared emancipated slaves flooding their way in search of employment and wages, Northern leaders began advancing interesting theories. Giving the freedmen political control of the defeated South would “drain the northern Negroes back to the South” as they fled the race prejudice common in the North. Lincoln and other Republicans advanced ideas of colonization; Grant as president gave serious thought to deporting freedmen to Haiti.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Freedmen Fleeing Northern Race Prejudice

“As the war for the union began to take on the character of a war for freedom, northern attitudes toward the Negro paradoxically began to harden rather than soften. This hardening process was especially prominent in the northwestern or middle western States where the old fear of Negro invasion was intensified by apprehensions that once the millions of slaves below the Ohio River were freed they would push northward – this time by the thousands and tens of thousands, perhaps in mass exodus, instead of in driblets of one or two who came furtively as fugitive slaves.

The prospect of Negro immigration, Negro neighbors, and Negro competition filled the whites with alarm, and their spokesmen voiced their fears with great candor. “There is,” [Illinois Senator] Lyman Trumbull told the Senate, in April, 1862, “a very great aversion in the West – I know it to be so in my State – against having free Negroes come among us.”

And about the same time [Senator] John Sherman, who was to give his name to the Radical Reconstruction Act five years later, told Congress that in Ohio “we do not like negroes. We do not disguise our dislike. As my friend from Indiana [Congressman Joseph A. Wright] said yesterday, the whole people of the northwestern States are, for reasons correct or not, opposed to having many Negroes among them and the principle or prejudice has been engrafted in the legislation of nearly all the northwestern States.”

So powerful was this anti-Negro feeling that it almost overwhelmed antislavery feeling and seriously imperiled the passage of various confiscation and emancipation laws designed to free the slave. To combat the opposition Republican leaders such as George W. Julian of Indiana, Albert G. Riddle of Ohio, and Salmon P. Chase advanced the theory that emancipation would actually solve northern race problems.

Instead of starting a mass migration of freedmen northward, they argued, the abolition of slavery would not only put a stop to the entry of fugitive slaves but would drain the northern Negroes back to the South. Once slavery [was] ended, the Negro would flee northern race prejudice and return to his natural environment and the congenial climate of the South.

One tentative answer of the Republican party to the northern fear of Negro invasion, however, was deportation of the freedmen and colonization abroad . . . the powerful backing of President Lincoln and the support of western Republicans, Congress overcame [any] opposition. Lincoln was committed to colonization not only as a solution to the race problem but as a means of allaying northern opposition to emancipation and fears of Negro exodus.

(Seeds of Failure in Radical Race Policy, C. Vann Woodward, New Frontiers of the American Reconstruction, Harold M. Hyman, editor, pp. 126-129)