Browsing "Aftermath: Racial Conundrums"

Lincoln's Party of White Supremacy

The freedmen did not receive the franchise because of their political maturity and judgment as the clear intent was to simply keep the Republican party in power. The Republican party’s Union League organization taught the Southern black man to hate his white neighbor, and to vote for Northern men whose own States had initiated Jim Crow laws. An excellent source for Northern antebellum racial views is “North of Slavery: The Negro in the Free States, 1790-1860,” Leon Litwack, Chicago, 1961.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Lincoln’s Party of White Supremacy

“The Republican leaders were quite aware in 1865 that the issue of Negro status and rights was closely connected with the two other great issues of Reconstruction – who should reconstruct the South and who should govern the country. They were increasingly conscious that in order to reconstruct the South along the lines they planned they would require the support and the votes of the freedmen.

And it was apparent to some that once the reconstructed States were restored to the Union the Republicans would need the votes of the freedmen to retain control over the national government. While they could agree on this much, they were far from agreeing on the status, the rights, the equality, or the future of the Negro.

The fact was that the constituency on which the Republican congressmen relied in the North lived in a race-conscious, segregated society devoted to the doctrine on white supremacy and Negro inferiority.

“In virtually every phase of existence,” writes Leon Litwack with regard to the North in 1860, “Negroes found themselves systematically separated from whites. They were either excluded from railway cars, omnibuses, stagecoaches, and steamboats and assigned to special “Jim Crow” sections; they sat, when permitted, in secluded and remote corners of theaters and lecture halls; they could not enter most hotels, restaurants and resorts, except as servants; they prayed in “Negro pews” in the white churches . . . Moreover, they were often educated in segregated schools, punished in segregated prisons, nursed in segregated hospitals, and buried in segregated cemeteries.”

Ninety-three per cent of the 225,000 Northern Negroes in 1860 lived in States that denied them the ballot, and 7 per cent lived in the five New England States that permitted them to vote. Ohio and New York had discriminatory qualifications that practically eliminated Negro voting.

Ohio denied them poor relief, and most States of the old Northwest had laws carrying penalties against Negroes settling in those States. Everywhere in the free States the Negro met with barriers to job opportunities, and in most places he encountered severe limitations to the protection of his life, liberty and property.

[Many Republican leaders], like Senator Lyman Trumbull of Illinois, the close friend of Lincoln, found no difficulty in reconciling antislavery with anti-Negro views. “We, the Republican party,” said Senator Trumbull in 1858,” are the white man’s party. We are for free white men, and for making white labor respectable and honorable, which it can never be when negro slave labor is brought into competition with it.” [And] William H. Seward, who in 1860 described the American Negro as “a foreign and feeble element like the Indians, incapable of assimilation”; [and], Senator Henry Wilson of Massachusetts, who firmly disavowed any belief “in the mental or intellectual equality of the African race with this proud and domineering race of ours.”

(Seeds of Failure in Radical Race Policy, C. Vann Woodward, New Frontiers of the American Reconstruction, Harold M. Hyman, editor, pp. 125-12”

 

States' Rights Lyndon Johnson

Lyndon Johnson was said to be a political chameleon who craved power at any price. Despite the self-serving conservative rhetoric below, it was Johnson who presented black socialist A. Philip Randolph with a United States Medal of Freedom in September, 1964. Randolph was a former president of the Communist Party USA-supported National Negro Congress (NNC) and who later teamed with black communist Bayard Rustin to organize mass marches on Washington.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

States’ Rights Lyndon Johnson

” [W]ith the waning of the [Franklin D.] Roosevelt influence, [Democrat] conservatives had consolidated their political power in Texas. If Johnson was ever to run for the Senate, he needed their support, and needed to erase from their minds the impression that he was a New Dealer.

In these post-war years, Harry Truman submitted to Congress an impressive new liberal agenda to end the wartime hiatus in social reform: increased Social Security benefits, a higher minimum wage, federal aid to education, prepaid medical care, health insurance, and — in what would, if passed, be the first major civil rights legislation of the century — laws against lynching and against segregation in interstate transportation and laws ensuring the right to vote and establishing a permanent Fair Employment Practices Commission [FEPC].

Speaking out as he had never before done in Congress, Lyndon Johnson in 1947 opposed most of Truman’s “Fair Deal.”  The proposed civil rights program, he was to say, was a “farce and a sham — an effort to set up a police state in the guise of liberty.” It is, he was to say, “the province of the State to run its own elections. I am opposed to the anti-lynching bill because the federal government has no more business enacting a law against one form of murder than another. I am against the FEPC because if a man can tell you whom you must hire, he can tell you whom you cannot employ.”

(Means of Ascent, The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Robert Caro, Vintage Books, 1991, page 125)

 

Rochester's Spirit of Hate

The vigilante justice of lynching was not confined to the South as is commonly believed, and race relations in the North, before and after the war, were not as harmonious as abolitionists and accounts of the mythical underground railroad claimed.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865

 

Rochester’s Spirit of Hate

“After his Rochester, New York, home was burned to the ground by incendiary on June 1, 1872, Frederick Douglass expressed his anger in his weekly New National Era: “Was it for plunder, or was it for spite? One thing I do know and that is, while Rochester is among the most liberal of Northern cities, and its people are among the most humane and highly civilized, it nevertheless has its full share of the Ku-Klux spirit . . . It is the spirit of hate, the spirit of murder.”

Race relations were often contentious in Rochester due in part to Douglass’s strong civil rights voice. By 1870, although Rochester’s African-American population was minute – just 427 out of a total population of 62,386 – racial tension, especially over employment, prompted concern by whites.

On Saturday, December 30, 1871, the [Rochester Daily] Union’s third edition published the city’s first report of the rape of an eight-year-old German girl by a black man after she had returned from a church event. News of the crime “spread like wild fire” after the child was returned to her parents. She had been brutally beaten but described her attacker to the police who began a frantic search for him.

Early Monday morning officers arrested William Edward Howard, and he was identified as the rapist by the girl at her home. Her father later “apologized to [a] reporter for not having killed the Negro when he was in the house.” Howard was not a stranger to the city’s police. In early 1871, he was arrested for voting illegally, and he served six months in jail. At the time of his arrest for rape, there was a warrant for his arrest for stealing from a local German woman.

Douglass’s son, Charles, who worked with his father on New National Era, wrote to his father on January 20: “That Howard boy was in my company in the 5th Cavalry. He came to the regiment as a [paid] substitute, and asked to be in my Co. I had to tie him up by the thumbs quite often. His offence was stealing.”

Outside the jail an agitated mob assembled . . . composed mainly of Germans, was intent on taking the law into its own hands, and the jail became Howard’s fortress. The [Rochester Daily] Union’s reportage was most descriptive: “Threats were made to lynch him and matters looked serious . . . four or five hundred people in the assemblage . . . [and cries of] “kill the nigger, give us the nigger” were loud and frequent.” [Judge R. Darwin Smith pronounced] “The sentence of the Court is that you be confined to Auburn State Prison for the period of twenty years at hard labor. The law formerly punished your crime with death.”

At the prison entrance, Howard turned toward [an angry crowd of several hundred men] and with his free hand placed his thumb on his nose and waved his fingers to mock them. Once in jail, Howard renounced his guilty plea, and professed his innocence.”

(The Spirit of Hate and Frederick Douglass, Richard H. White, Civil War History, A Journal of the Middle Period, Volume 46, Number 1, March 2000, pp. 41-47)

Forebodings of Unequal Equality

Alexander H. Stephens of Georgia thought African slavery “one of the greatest problems of this interesting age,” and wondered “what is to be the fate of the poor African God only knows. His condition as a slave is certainly not a good one” though far better in the American South than in “his own barbarous clime.” Stephens believed the problem of Africans selling their own people into slavery to be a Christian nation’s duty to solve, and this was something European nations fairly accomplished in the late 19th century.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Forebodings of Unequal Equality

“I see in the Boston Herald that there was a riot yesterday in Washington, D.C., between Federal soldiers and Negroes; attack by the former upon the latter; 150 or 200 soldiers engaged. The military, or provost guard was called on to suppress it. Several were wounded and some killed on both sides.

Is this but the beginning of deplorable conflicts hereafter to be enacted between the races, until one or the other is extinguished? Sad forebodings haunt me. I apprehend intestine strifes, riots, bloodshed, wars of the most furious character, springing from antipathies of castes and races.

Equality does not exist between blacks and whites. The one race is by nature inferior in many respects, physically and mentally, to the other. This should be received as a fixed invincible fact in all dealings with the subject. It is useless to war against the decrees of nature in attempting to make things equal which the Creator has made unequal; the wise, humane, and philosophical statesman will deal with facts as he finds them. In the new order of things, I shall hope and, if permitted, strive, for the best; yet I cannot divest myself of forebodings of many evils.

My own judgment was that those who elected to go to a free State would not be so well off as those who should remain at home with masters of their choice. Still, that was a matter for their own decision and which I did not feel at liberty to control.

So far as my own Negroes are concerned, there is nothing now that would give me more pleasure, under the changed order of things, than to try the experiment and see what can be done for them in their new condition.

(Recollections of Alexander H. Stephens, His Diary, Myrta Lockett Avary, LSU Press, 1998 (Original 1910), pp. 207-208)

Free Colored People Unhappy in Rhode Island

As in the postwar South, the Republican party believed the votes of Rhode Island’s colored population were for sale – the following early 1880s resolution was apparently aimed at black Republican voters: “Resolved: That we will hold in contempt, as a traitor to mankind and his race, that man who will permit his vote to be influenced by a tender of money or any other corrupting influences.”  It should be remembered that Providence, Rhode Island was the highly-profitable center of the slave trade in North America in 1750.

Bernhard Thuersam, ww.circa1865.org

 

Free Colored People Unhappy in Rhode Island

“Colored Voters: The colored voters of Rhode Island, who have long complained of the treatment which they have steadily received at the hands of the Republican party in the State — they being unrecognized as citizens, neglected and totally ignored in regard to their political rights, excepting that of suffrage, which is eagerly sought for — assembled in convention at Newport on the 18th of October, 1882, to express and make known their sentiments.

Several public speakers of high repute among them addressed the convention, set forth in plain language, besides other causes of complaint, that the colored voters were highly insulted by the [Republican] party in power, as they were not considered worthy being voted for, for any public offices in the gift of the people; declaring also that henceforward they intended to act independently of the Republican party on all occasions, but vote for the person, whatever the party to which he might belong, who would recognize them as citizens.

The colored people of the State numbered 6271 in 1875, and 6592 in 1880.”

(Rhode Island, Appleton’s Annual Cyclopedia, 1882, Appleton & Company, pp. 791-792)

"There is No Fourteenth Amendment"

The following was a September 27, 1957 editorial by US News Report editor David Lawrence.  An activist Supreme Court had just used questionable sociological reasoning, not law, to call for the desegregation of schools in the United States.  Lawrence reviewed the alleged constitutional basis for the Court’s decision, and the illegality of that basis.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

“There is No Fourteenth Amendment” 

“A mistaken belief—that there is a valid article in the Constitution known as the “Fourteenth Amendment”– is responsible for the Supreme Court decision of 1954 and the ensuing controversy over desegregation in the public schools of America.

No such amendment was ever legally ratified by three-fourths of the States of the Union as required by the Constitution itself.

The so-called “Fourteenth Amendment” was dubiously proclaimed by the Secretary of State on July 20, 1868. The President shared that doubt. There were 37 States in the union at that time, so ratification by at least 28 was necessary to make the amendment an integral part of the Constitution. Actually, only 21 States legally ratified it. So it failed ratification.

The undisputed record, attested by official journals and the unanimous writings of historians, establishes these events as occurring in 1867 and 1868:

Outside the South, six States—New Jersey, Ohio, Kentucky, California, Delaware and Maryland—failed to ratify the proposed amendment.

In the South, ten States—Texas, Arkansas, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana—by formal action of their legislatures, rejected it under the normal processes of civil law.

A total of 16 legislatures out of 37 failed legally to ratify the “Fourteenth Amendment.”

Congress—which had deprived the Southern States of their seats in the Senate—did not lawfully pass the resolution of submission in the first instance.

The Southern States which had rejected the amendment were coerced by a federal statute passed in 1867 that took away the right to vote or hold office from all citizens who had served in the Confederate army. Military governors were appointed and instructed to prepare a roll of voters. All this happened in spite of the presidential proclamation of amnesty previously issued by the president. New legislatures were thereupon chosen and forced to “ratify” under penalty of continued exile from the union. In Louisiana, a General sent down from the north presided over the State legislature.

Abraham Lincoln had declared many times that the union was “inseparable” and “indivisible.” After his death and when the war was over, the ratification by the Southern States of the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery had been accepted as legal. But Congress in the 1867 law imposed the specific conditions under which the Southern States would be “entitled to representation in Congress.”

Congress, in passing the 1867 law that declared the Southern States could not have their seats in either the Senate or House in the next session unless they ratified the “Fourteenth Amendment”, took an unprecedented step. No such right—to compel a State by an act of Congress to ratify a constitutional amendment—is to be found anywhere in the Constitution. Nor has this procedure ever been sanctioned by the Supreme Court of the United States.

President Andrew Johnson publicly denounced this law as unconstitutional. But it was passed over his veto.

Secretary of State Seward was on the spot in July 1868 when the various “ratifications” of a spurious nature were placed before him. The legislatures of Ohio and New Jersey had notified him that they rescinded their earlier action of ratification. He said in his official proclamation that he was not authorized as Secretary of State “to determine and decide doubtful questions as to the authenticity of the organization of State legislatures or as to the power of State legislatures to recall a previous act or resolution of ratification”.

He added that the amendment was valid “if the resolutions of the legislatures of Ohio and New Jersey, ratifying the aforesaid amendment, are to be deemed as remaining of full force and effect, notwithstanding the subsequent resolutions of the legislatures of these States.”

This was a very big “if.” It will be noted that the real issue therefore is not only whether the forced “ratification” by the ten Southern States was lawful, but whether the withdrawal by the legislatures of Ohio and New Jersey—two northern States—was legal.

The right of a State, by action of its legislature to change its mind at any time before the final proclamation of ratification is issued by the Secretary of State has been confirmed with other constitutional amendments.

The Oregon Legislature in October 1868 — three months after the Secretary’s proclamation was issued—passed a rescinding resolution , which argued that the “Fourteenth Amendment” had not been ratified by three-fourths of the States and that the “ratifications” in the Southern States “were usurpations, unconstitutional, revolutionary and void” and that “until such ratification is completed, any State has a right to withdraw its assent to any proposed amendment.”

What do the historians say about all this? The Encyclopedia Americana states:

“Reconstruction added humiliation to suffering . . . Eight years of crime, fraud and corruption followed and it was State legislatures composed of Negroes, carpetbaggers and scalawags who obeyed the orders of generals and ratified the amendment.”

W.E. Woodward, in his famous work “A New American History” published in 1936 says:

“To get a clear idea of the succession of events let us review [President Andrew] Johnson’s actions in respect to the ex-Confederate States.

In May 1865, he issued a Proclamation of Amnesty to former rebels. Then he established provisional governments in all the Southern States. They were instructed to call Constitutional Conventions. They did. New State governments were elected.

White men only had the suffrage (the Fifteenth Amendment establishing equal voting rights had not yet been passed). Senators and Representatives were chosen but when they appeared at the opening of Congress they were refused admission. The States governments however continued to function during 1866.

“Now we are in 1867. In the early days of that year Thaddeus Stevens brought in, as Chairman of the House Reconstruction Committee, a bill that proposed to sweep all the Southern State governments into the wastebasket. The South was to be put under military rule.

“The bill passed. It was vetoed by Johnson and passed again over his veto. In the Senate it was amended in such fashion that any State could escape from military rule by ratifying the Fourteenth Amendment and admitting black as well as white men to the polls.”

In challenging its constitutionality, President Johnson said in his veto message:

“I submit to Congress whether this measure is not in its whole character, scope and object without precedent and without authority, in palpable conflict with the plainest provisions of the Constitution, and utterly destructive of those great principles of liberty and humanity for which our ancestors, on both sides of the Atlantic, have shed so much blood and expended so much treasure.”

Many historians have applauded Johnson’s words. Samuel Eliot Morison and Henry Steele Commager, known today as “liberals”, wrote in their book “The Growth of the American Republic”:

“Johnson returned the bill with a scorching message arguing the unconstitutionality of the whole thing and most impartial students have agreed with his reasoning.”

James Truslow Adams, another noted historian writes in his “History of the United States”: “The Supreme Court had decided three months earlier in the Milligan case…that military courts were unconstitutional except under such war conditions as might make the operation of civil courts impossible, but the president pointed out in vain that practically the whole of the new legislation was unconstitutional….There was even talk in Congress of impeaching the Supreme Court for its decisions! The legislature had run amok and was threatening both the Executive and the Judiciary.”

Actually, President Johnson was impeached but the move failed by one vote in the Senate.

The Supreme Court in case after case, refused to pass on the illegal activities involved in the “ratification”. It said simply that they were acts of the “political departments of the government”. This of course was a convenient device of avoidance. The Court has adhered to that position ever since Reconstruction days.

Andrew C. McLaughlin, whose “Constitutional History of the United States” is a standard work, writes: “Can a State which is not a State and not recognized as such by Congress, perform the supreme duty of ratifying an amendment to the fundamental law? Or does a State — by congressional thinking — cease to be a State for some purposes but not for others?

This is the tragic history of the so-called “Fourteenth Amendment” — a record that is a disgrace to free government and a “government of law.” Isn’t the use of military force to override local government what we deplored in Hungary?

It is never too late to correct an injustice. The people of America should have an opportunity to pass on an amendment to the Constitution that sets forth the right of the federal Government to control education and regulate attendance at public schools either with federal power alone or concurrently with the States.

That’s the honest way, the just way to deal with the problem of segregation or integration in the schools. Until such an amendment is adopted, the “Fourteenth Amendment” should be considered null and void.

There is only one supreme tribunal — it is the people themselves. Their sovereign will is expressed through the procedures set forth in the Constitution itself.”

 

 

Senatorial Deceptions and Conjures

Northern Republicans and local scalawags made every effort to frighten voters against Democratic rule in postwar North Carolina. The Republican press gave assurances that should Democrats win they would levy a tax to pay for lost slaves, abolish public schools and Jefferson Davis would be made president of the university with the obscene annual salary of ten thousand dollars. In a campaign speech, black Republican candidate from Chowan County named Page said “If we get control of the convention, we will give the white folks hell, damn them.” (Hamilton, Reconstruction in North Carolina, pg. 633)

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Senatorial Deceptions and Conjures

“The [North Carolina] Constitutional Convention of 1875 may be likened, not inaptly, to the Mecklenburg Declaration. But the new assertion of independence did not need any Bill of Rights precedent to incorporate the causes of discontent in the hearts of North Carolinians or to catalogue the rights for which they yearned. It was a protest against actual wrongs inflicted; against malicious bonds fastened on a people held in the grip of unrestrained military power.

The [Mecklenburg] Resolves were to right wrongs and even those were expressed in moderate tone. The Republicans were reinforced by a body of well-trained black voters, enfranchised ostensibly for freedom’s sake, really to keep a standing political army in the Southern electorate.

Banking on the Negro disposition, the schemers in the Republican party planned to amuse them with baubles. Not even this was necessary. No colored man voted with a sure-enough white man. If he did, he was a son of Belial and an outcast from his color.

[At the convention were] Negroes of education and no education [and] a carpet-bag writer of agnostic pamphlets who believed in all the isms except the isms of the Bible. There was a particularly contentious radical Negro, a boaster of his mulatto blood. Another as black as the Duke of Hell’s boots, whose newspaper name was “Archives of Gravity.”

Also, there was a contest in Robeson County where the Republicans tried to overturn a Democratic victory by herding and voting a number of Negro laborers working on railroad construction. Then there was William H. Moore, a coal-black Negro from New Hanover County, conjure doctor. Think of the wealthiest constituency in the State having such a senator!

But that is what Reconstruction meant. When [Moore] left the senate he became what is called a conjure doctor and prospered sufficiently on the ignorance of his patients to maintain a handsome horse and buggy and many other comforts with which his victims had no acquaintance.

On one occasion an unusually ignorant woman believed she had swallowed a spring lizard and that he could cure her. That was an easy matter. The next day after procuring a small lizard and bringing it along with him together with a harmless emetic, he threw her into a spasm of nausea and by an adroit bit of legerdemain produced the lizard which he had bought.

This almost miraculous feat added greatly to his prestige and his pocketbook. I asked him if he were not ashamed to practice such deceptions. His answer was very frank.

“There was no way to deal with a fool who thought she had swallowed a lizard but by getting the lizard. I did it and she was cured. No other doctor could have done any more.”

(Southern Exposure, Peter Mitchel Wilson, UNC Chapel Hill, 1927, pp. 97-110)

Despicable and Malevolent Old Thad Stevens

Lincoln’s devastating warfare upon the American South was followed by the brutal military-occupation regimes of Pennsylvanian Thaddeus Stevens and his Radical Republicans.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Despicable and Malevolent Old Thad Stevens

“[M]y first recollections of the social and political life of our little village of five hundred inhabitants are all set in a sense of mystery and uncanny terror. A dreaded name was on every man’s lips—“Old Thad Stevens.”

Lest it be thought that I am giving a prejudiced Southern record of this strange old man and his character, I quote a sentence from The Epic of America by James Truslow Adams, the greatest historian our nation has yet produced, a scholar of Northern birth and training. On page 275 Mr. Adams says:

“Unfortunately, on Lee’s dash into Pennsylvania, the iron-works of a man whose one idea had been to get rich quickly were destroyed. They belonged to Thaddeus Stevens, perhaps the most despicable, malevolent and morally deformed character who has ever risen to high power in America.”

A man from our county went to Washington to ask of President Johnson the pardon of a friend who was still a political prisoner. Johnson had declined to interfere. He learned that the President had been stripped of all power by the Radical bloc in Congress headed by Thaddeus Stevens. He must see Stevens and present his petition to the Dictator, the real ruler of America . . . And on the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, whom he loathed, this malevolent outcast had suddenly become master of the nation, determined to destroy Lincoln’s plan of Reconstruction and enforce one of his own, inspired by his black mistress.

Steven’s plan was as simple as Lincoln’s but as different as night from day. He declared the Southern States conquered territory and subject only to the will of the conqueror. He proposed to stamp out the white race of the South from the face of the earth and make their States into [Negro] territories. To this end, two years after the close of the war, he destroyed the Union, wiped out the Southern states, established five military districts instead of the eleven old commonwealths, took the ballot from the white leaders of the South, enfranchised the whole Negro race and set them to rule over their former masters. And this at a time when the people were in a life and death struggle to prevent famine.

Mr. Stevens thus paralyzed every industry of the South, turned every Negro from the field to the political hustings and transformed eleven peaceful States into hells of anarchy. His fanatical followers, blinded by passion, deliberately armed a million ignorant Negroes and thrust them into conflict with the proud half-starved white men of the South. Such a deed can never be undone. It fixed the status of these two races in America for a thousand years.”

(Southern Horizons, The Autobiography of Thomas Dixon, IWV Publishing, 1984, pp. 20-23)

 

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)

 

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)