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As Virginia Patriots Did Before Them

Northern General John Pope was a veteran of Missouri fighting and as commander of Lincoln’s army in Virginia in mid-1862, with Lincoln’s approval, issued orders for his men to confiscate from Virginia citizens “whatever food, forage, animals and other supplies they might require; to exile behind federal lines all male citizens who refuse to swear allegiance to the United States; to execute all persons who fire upon federal troops; to destroy the property of all such persons; to force local residents to repair any railroads, wagon roads, or telegraphs destroyed in their neighborhoods; and to deny guards for the homes of citizens who seek protection.” These were orders unprecedented in warfare, and directed against Americans.

As Virginia Patriots Did Before Them

“January 6, 1862: “Today Governor Letcher issued a proclamation designed to stir the passions of Virginians. The murderous and barbaric actions of the United States government during nine months of war have more than justified Virginia’s decision to secede, avers its chief executive.

Abraham Lincoln’s government, by its “unnatural” and “wicked” behavior, has “violated” and “annulled” the old compact between the States. More than that, Lincoln’s personal conduct has served to remind Southerners of another tyrannical and oppressive monarch who sought to enslave a free people some four score years ago. In another summer, in another century, that free and irrepressible people had risen up, joined together, cast off self-doubt, shoved aside its sunshine patriots, defied the penalty for failure, and declared its independence.

That, “our first revolution,” proclaims Letcher, can only serve to inspire Virginians and all Southerners in the unfinished task ahead. “We must be content with nothing less than the unqualified recognition of the independence of the Southern Confederacy and its nationality,” he continues; “and to this end we must meet the issue . . . with spirit, energy and determination.”

[In July, 1862, Culpepper, Virginia] has reacted as best it can. Some citizens take to the woods to plague detachments of federal troops as guerillas. Staccato exchanges of pistol and rifle fire vibrate across the country for the first time in the war. “The horrid Yankees have arrived,” reports one young lady. “There is skirmishing every day about the Rapidan River.”

The county makes so bold because they have heard rumors that Stonewall Jackson is rushing to the rescue. [No] one doubts that Stonewall will press on to liberate Culpepper [and that] includes the Union troops. It is as Pope has feared. Whatever confidence his address [to his troops] may have momentarily inspired is being corroded by the sniping and dreaded name of Jackson.”

(Seasons of War: The Ordeal of a Confederate Community, 1861-1865, Daniel E. Sutherland, excerpt, pp. 87-88; 117-119)

Gibbon’s Long-Haired Barbarian

Admiral Raphael Semmes (1809- 1877) was a Naval Academy graduate, prewar lawyer and remarkable naval strategist who quite-nearly destroyed the US merchant marine with his devastating commerce raiding tactics. A frequent critic of the New England mind and character, he saw the Yankee as “ambitious, restless, scheming, energetic, and has no inconvenient moral nature to restrain him from the pursuit of his interests, be the path ever so crooked. In the development of material wealth he is unsurpassed.” Below, he describes President Jefferson Davis’ path after departing Richmond in 1865.

Gibbon’s Long-Haired Barbarian

“[President Davis] moved soon to Charlotte, in North Carolina, and in a few weeks afterward he fell into the hands of the enemy. The reader knows the rest of his history; how the enemy gloated over his captivity; how he was reviled, and insulted, by the coarse and brutal men into whose power he had fallen; how lies were invented as to the circumstances of his capture, to please and amuse the Northern multitudes, eager for his blood; and finally, how he was degraded by imprisonment, and the manacles of a felon!

His captors and he were of different races – of different blood. They had nothing in common. He was the “Cavalier,” endowed by nature with the instincts and refinement of the gentleman. They were of the race of Roundheads, to whom all such instincts and refinements were offensive.  God has created men in different moulds, as he has created the animals. It was as natural that the Yankees should hate Jefferson Davis, as that the cat should arch its back, and roughen its fur, upon the approach of the dog.

I have said that the American war had its origins in money, and that it was carried on throughout, “for a consideration.” It ended in the same way.

The “long-haired barbarian” – see Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” – who laid his huge paw on Jefferson Davis, to make him a prisoner, was paid in money for the gallant deed.  A President of the United States had degraded his high office, by falsely charging Mr. Davis with being an accomplice in the murder of President Lincoln, and offered a reward for his apprehension; thus gratifying his malignant nature, by holding him up to the world as a common felon.”

(Memoirs of Service Afloat During the War Between the States, Raphael Semmes, LSU Press, 1996 (Original 1868) excerpt pp. 817-818)

Requiem for the States

General Don Piatt, who travelled with Lincoln and knew him perhaps as well as anyone, said “When a leader dies all good men go about lying about him. I hear of him, I read of him in eulogies and biographies, but fail to recognize the man I knew in life . . . Lincoln faced and lived through the awful responsibility of war with a courage that came from indifference.”

Lincoln’s intimate friend Ward Lamon and W.H. Cunningham of the Montgomery [Missouri) Star sat immediately behind Lincoln at Gettysburg, “publicly stating that the speech published was not the one delivered by Lincoln; that both Edward Everett and Seward expressed their disappointment and there was no applause; that Lincoln said: “Lamon, that speech was like a wet blanket on the audience.” (Two Presidents: Abraham Lincoln & Jefferson Davis, C.E. Gilbert, Naylor Company, 1973, pg. 78)

Requiem for the States

“The Gettysburg dedication was planned to emphasize the role of the States in the war. The governors, the State commissioners, and the flags of the States occupied prominent places in the formal plans for the ceremony. But two weeks before the occasion Lincoln accepted an invitation to attend. His sudden and unexpected acceptance forced changes in plans. Massachusetts’ famed Edward Everett was the orator of the day, but the President had perforce to be given a place on the program.

Whether or not the governors had expected the occasion to redound to the glory of the States, Abraham Lincoln rose at Gettysburg to talk of the nation. He failed to mention that four score and seven years before, the fathers had brought forth thirteen independent States. He talked of the nation, “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition to the proposition that all men are created equal,” and of the high resolve “that this nation, under god, shall have a new birth of freedom.”

No one noted, then or later, that at the moment the President was pledging that “government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth,” General Robert Schenck’s soldiers, less than a hundred miles away, were patrolling the polls in Delaware.

But Lincoln knew that they were there, and that they too, were upholding the nation. This was his theme at Gettysburg, and he thanked Everett for making an argument for the national supremacy and for excoriating the idea “of the general government being only an agency, whose principals are the States.” [Pennsylvania] Governor Andrew Curtin had his cemetery, but on that 19th of November, at Gettysburg and in Delaware, Lincoln by word and deed had interred States’ rights.”

(Lincoln and the War Governors, William B. Hesseltine, Alfred Knopf, 1955, excerpts pp. 344-345)

Lieber’s Puzzling Code of War

Nearly two years into the war, Lincoln’s government announced “General Orders No. 100,” the rules under his armies would conduct their operations. Selected to write the code was Prussian emigre Francis Lieber, a fervent nationalist in Prussia who fled his country while under police investigation in 1825 for plotting to overthrow the government.  After short residence in England, he was recruited to teach at Columbia University, and in the United States “directed the ardent nationalistic emotion with which he had regarded Germany.” Lieber believed he left behind the “bureaucratic ministries and police spies,” though his new employer relied on these as well.

Lieber’s Puzzling Code of War

“But there is a puzzling side to this document that has gone largely unnoticed by historians and legal scholars. Why was it allowed to be created and adopted? One could argue that the process by which Lieber’s code of war came into being contradicted constitutional principles and the established practices of the United States.

The Constitution states that the power to declare war and, even more pertinently, to “make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces” belongs with the Congress. When the [United States] created the Articles of War in 1806, it did so through congressional legislation, not executive fiat. With General Orders No. 100, the executive branch took a bolder step than many have realized, by assuming the right to determine the parameters of war making, especially the meaning of “military necessity,” without these policies originating with Congress.

As the compilation of military law and usages made its way through the bureaucracy, Lieber understood that at least a few paragraphs might benefit from “the assistance of Congress,” but added that it “is now too late.”

[Some] sections gave the executive and his generals broad powers. The instructions allowed for the bombardment of civilians feeling a siege back into towns so their suffering could force surrender more quickly; and for taking most of the property from an enemy based on military necessity.”

(With Malice Toward Some: Treason and Loyalty in the Civil War Era, William A. Blair, UNC Press, 2014, excerpt. pp. 93-94)

War for Economic Greatness

Author Philip Leigh below writes that in late March 1860 as Lincoln wrestled with the question of whether to abandon Fort Sumter and preserve peace, or commit to war, he was visited by a group of New York merchants. Their desire for profits prevailed as it was “better to pay for armed conflict now than suffer prolonged economic disaster in a losing trade war.”

War for Mercantile Greatness

“[A] low tariff Southern Confederacy was an economic threat to a truncated Federal Union, particularly considering the North’s growing expectations for economic hegemony as the South lost influence in the Government. About a month before Fort Sumter surrendered, the Boston Transcript concluded on March 18, 1861 that the South did not seceded to protect slavery, but to become the North’s economic competitor:

“Alleged grievances in regard to slavery were originally the causes for the separation of the cotton States, but the mask has been thrown off, and it is apparent that the people of the seceding States are now for commercial independence . . . the merchants of New Orleans, Charleston and Savannah are possessed with the idea that New York, Boston and Philadelphia may be shorn . . . of their mercantile greatness by a revenue system verging upon free trade. If the Southern Confederation is allowed to carry out a policy by which only a nominal duty is laid upon imports, no doubt the businesses of the chief Northern cities will be seriously injured.

The difference is so great between the tariff of the Union and that of the Confederacy that the entire Northwest [present day Midwest] must find it to their advantage to purchase imported goods at New Orleans rather than New York. In addition, Northern manufacturers will suffer from the increased importations resulting from lower duties . . .”

More than a month before South Carolina started the secession trend and about two weeks after the election, outcome was known, the Boston Herald concluded on November 12, 1860: “[Should South Carolina secede] she will immediately form commercial alliances with European countries [that] . . . will help English manufacturing at the expense of New England. The first move the South would make would be to impose a heavy tax upon the manufacturers of the North, and an export tax on the cotton used by Northern manufacturers. In this way she would seek to cripple the North. The carrying trade, which is now done by American [Northern] vessels, would be transferred to British ships.”

(Causes of the Civil War, Philip Leigh, Shotwell Publishing, 2020, excerpt pp. 133-134)

Republicans to Restore the Good Old Days

From its formation from the ashes of the Whig party in 1856, the Republican party in less than 5 years drove the Southern States to secession and engulfed the country in a devastating war which destroyed the American republic of 1789.  This party was formed in violation of Washington’s solemn warning against the formation of geographical political parties which he knew would endanger the very existence of the Union.

Republicans to Restore the Good Old Days

“The Republican leaders sought to convince the Northern voter that there would be no just cause for secession in the event of the election of the sectional president: that the Southern leaders were only bluffing and were trying to intimidate the Northern voter into voting against the dictates of his conscience.

[William] Seward, the author of the “Irrepressible Conflict” oration, explained that “the South would never in a moment of resentment expose themselves to war with the North while they have such a great domestic population ready to embrace any opportunity to assert their freedom and inflict revenge.”

He further explained that the election of Lincoln would terminate the conflict he had prophesied – not begin it. “Vote for us,” he cried, “and you will have peace and harmony and happiness in your future years.” And again he said, “When the Republicans are in office, what may we expect then? . . . I answer, “No dangers, no disasters, no calamities . . . all parties will rejoice in the settlement of the controversy which has agitated the country and disturbed its peace for so long.”

However, the New York Herald openly accused Seward of “pussyfooting.” Seward, it asserted, was a “moderate anti-slavery man at Detroit, a radical abolitionist at Lansing, a filibusterer at St. Paul, and the Brother Seward of John Brown did not hesitate to claim to be a good conservative, Union-loving patriot in New York.”

The election of Lincoln, according to Salmon P. Chase, another of the Republican leaders, would mean a restoration of the good old days of concord and goodwill between the North and the South, Tranquility, liberty and Union under the Constitution.” [Horace] Greeley, the Republican editor whose paper had the largest circulation of any paper in the United States, solemnly assured his readers that the election of Lincoln would be like “oil on troubled waters and would promptly remove all sectional excitement.”

(The Peaceable Americans of 1860-1861: A Study in Public Opinion, Mary Scrugham, Columbia University, 1921, excerpt pp. 45-46)

Dark Forces Unleashed by War

Of the wartime and postwar Congress, shorn of Southern statesmen, author Richard Hofstadter wrote: “Before business learned to buy statesmen at wholesale, it had to buy privileges at retail.” Railroad promoters actively lobbied for land grants and other subsidies at every level of government, while choruses of Northern manufacturers demanded tariff protection from foreign competitors. The American Third Republic ended with war in 1861, waged against a new Southern agrarian republic seeking peace and prosperity for its people. With its war of independence lost, the South became a poor economic colony within a foreign political arrangement dominated by corporate interests allied with an all-powerful central government.

Dark Forces Unleashed by War

“After the Civil War several transcontinental railroads, all but the Great Northern the beneficiaries of federal land grants, were completed. Chastened by scandals connected with the government’s subsidization of these enterprises, Congress made no new land grants after 1871, but in the nostrils of many people the odor of something rotten – corruption and special, unwarranted privilege at the expense of the general public – lingered about the land-grant railroads for decades.

After the 1870s, growing numbers of huge manufacturing corporations, including such still-familiar firms as Standard Oil, Bethlehem, American Tobacco, and Armour, achieved prominence. People accustomed to dealing with small locally-owned firms had difficulty in reconciling themselves to an economy in which such corporate behemoths did much of the nation’s business.

The great corporations, known to contemporaries as “trusts” though only a few were every trusts in the strict legal sense, raised the specter of monopoly power in the market. American public opinion and legal tradition had long been hostile toward monopolies. Conspiracies in restraint of trade were unquestionably illegal under the common law.

Unsuccessful competitors complained bitterly that the “monopolists” were driving them to the wall. Customers frequently objected to real or imagined price discrimination. More than anything else, rate discrimination provoked the outrage of Midwestern shippers against the railroads. Often the criticism of a big corporation’s alleged monopoly power could be deflected by showing that the firm produced better products or services in growing volumes at ever lower prices.

But this defense, even if appropriate, did nothing to allay the charge that the great corporations subverted the democratic political process. “Corruption,” charged the Populists in the preamble to their platform of 1892, “dominates the ballot-box, the Legislatures, the Congress, and touches even the ermine of the bench.”  Henry B. Brown, an associate justice of the US Supreme Court, told the Yale law students in 1895 that “[b]ribery and corruption are as universal as to threaten the very structure of society.”

(Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government, Robert Higgs, Oxford University Press, 1987, excerpts pp. 80-81)

 

An American Chamber of Horrors

In an effort to forestall a Republican “Force Bill” designed to bring reconstruction horrors back to the postwar South, fourteen spokesmen that included Zebulon Vance, Robert Stiles and Bernard J. Sage undertook to explain the Solid South to what may be termed the New North. In April 1890 they published a symposium “Why the Solid South? Or Reconstruction and its Results,” designed to appeal to the self-interest of the North’s business class and a very clear recapitulation of what Reconstruction thus far “had cost in money, public morale and cultural retardation.”

An American Chamber of Horrors

“Hilary Herbert of Alabama, who served as editor, expressed . . . in a preface: “Its object is to show to the public, and more especially to the businessmen of the North, who have made investments in the South, or who have trade relations with their Southern fellow citizens, the consequences which once followed an interference in the domestic affairs of certain States by those, who either did not understand the situation or were reckless of results.”

There followed factual histories of Reconstruction in each of the ex-Confederate States, including West Virginia and Missouri, which also had suffered from the fraud, repression and vicious partisanship of the postwar settlement. All in all, it is one of the most dismal stories ever told, unrelieved by a single ray of light, unless a revelation of how much people can endure and how they will struggle to attain their hopes even in extremis be such.

Governor Vance of North Carolina in a particularly mild and philosophic chapter pointed out that during what was supposed to be a moral and political rebirth “the criminals sat in the law-making chamber, on the bench and in the jury-box, instead of standing in the dock.” It has become the fashion nowadays to regard Reconstruction as a kind of chamber of horrors into which no good American would care to look, but Governor Vance reminded his readers that no portion of our history better deserves study “by every considerate patriot.”

From the comparatively uneventful story of North Carolina’s experience, the chronicle moves on to the wild saturnalia of South Carolina, where amid riotous spending of public funds the State House was turned into a combination of saloon and brothel. Yet the ordeal of South Carolina was matched by that of Louisiana, where in four years’ time the incredible Warmoth regime squandered an amount equal to half the wealth of the State.

“Corruption is the fashion,” Governor Warmoth, an ex-soldier who had been dishonorably discharged from the Federal army, remarked with laudable candor. “I do not pretend to be honest, but only as honest as anybody in politics.”

(The Southern Tradition at Bay: A History of Postbellum Thought, Richard M. Weaver, George Core/M.E. Bradford, editors, Regnery Publishing, 1989, excerpts pp. 330-332)

History versus Social Studies

Richard M. Weaver wrote: “Where education is under the control of collectivist fanatics, not only is the individual’s loyalty to truth despised, but the objective findings of science may be thus perverted to serve the ends of a political ideology.” And, he adds: “There are those in America today who apparently get academic freedom mixed up with students’ rights in general” – “and it goes without saying that academic freedom is not a tool for the “democratizing” of universities by turning them over to students.”

History versus Social Studies

“History has always been a sobering discipline because it presents the story not only of man’s achievements but also of his failures. History contains many vivid lessons of what can happen to man if he lets go his grip upon reality and becomes self-indulgent; it is a record of the race, which can be laid aside alongside the dreams of visionaries, with many profitable lessons.

Yet the modern tendency is to drop the old-fashioned history course and to substitute something called “social science” or “social studies,” which one student has aptly dubbed “social stew.” What this often turns out to be is a large amount of speculation based on a small amount of history, and the speculation is more or less subtly slanted to show that we should move in the direction of socialism or some other collectivism.

Often this kind of study is frivolous; the student is invited to give his thought to the “dating patterns” of teenagers instead of to those facts which explain the rise and fall of nations. There is more to be learned about the nature of man as an individual and as a member of society from a firm grounding in ancient and modern history than from all the “social studies” ever put together by dreamy “progressive” educators.”

(In Defense of Tradition: Collected Shorter Writings of Richard M. Weaver, 1929-1963, Ted J. Smith, III, editor, Liberty Fund 2000, excerpt pp. 191; 201-202)

Paying Tribute to the North

The prewar national dominance of the North eventually gave rise to those who thought that economic and political measures were not sufficient to put the South on a par with the North. They saw that the only way the South could rid itself of subservience to the North was to leave the Union, and do so with the Founders’ Constitution.  The South’s attempts to reduce tariffs had been increased in 1842, and in 1846 with the help of a Southern president and secretary of the treasury, forced through Congress the Walker Tariff which was so low as to be practically revenue only.  Additionally, President John Tyler’s vetoes of a national bank were upheld by Southern votes in Congress.

Northern commercial interests were determined to reclaim their government subsidies and establish national banking, with Lincoln and his new party a convenient vehicle to permanent national dominance.

Paying Tribute to the North

“There were other methods by which the profits from the cotton crop found their way into Northern pockets. Since two-thirds of the cotton crop went to England, the freight charges on its transportation across the sea amounted to a large sum.  Although the river boats of the South were generally Southern-owned and Southern- built, the South never engaged in the building or operating of ocean-going ships, principally because capital could more profitably employed in agriculture.

Most of the cotton sold was carried on coastwise ships to New York, and the great part transshipped from that place to England. All the coastwise ships and most of the ocean-going shipping was Northern-owned and consequently the freight charges went into Northern pockets. In 1843 this amounted to nearly a million dollars. In addition the insurance costs while the cotton was in transit were generally paid to Northern firms.

Not only did the cotton growers pay “tribute” to the North through their exports, but through their imports as well. The imports to the South came through Northern ports; the exports of the South amounted to two-thirds the total of the United States but her direct imports were less than one-tenth. The freight charges to New York and Boston, the tariff duties, and the cost of transportation on coastwise vessels to the South all added to the cost of merchandise.

In the hard times of the forties, Southern economists were prone to find the explanation for their distress in the “tribute” paid to the North. They came to believe that the economic progress of the North depended on this “tribute,” and epitomized their opinion in the phrase “Southern wealth and Northern profits.”

By the phrase “operation of the federal government” the South meant bounties to New England fisheries, internal improvements in the North such as harbors, roads, canals, and public buildings, tariff duties, and deposits of government funds.”

(The Old South: The Geographic, Economic, Social, Political and Cultural Expansion, Institutions and Nationalism of the Antebellum South, R.S. Cotterill, Arthur H. Clark Company, 1939, excerpts pp. 192-199)

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