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A Court Party Living Off the Farmers

The Founders referred to their creation as a republic and built in safeguards against the rise of democracy, which they saw as mob rule. Professor Donald Livingston instructs us that the United States is not a republic, but a federation of republics — and the federation itself, cannot be referred to as a “republic.”

Jefferson’s revolution of 1800 election temporarily ended the Federalist Party’s quest to mold the United States into an aristocratic and centralized nation, though encroachments of federal power upon the States continued through the Supreme Court (“sappers and miners”), centralized banking, special interest protectionism — and finally the creation of the States, the federal agent — waging war upon States that rightly opposed the encroachments. The new Republican Party of Lincoln was an incarnation of Adam’s Federalist Party, and empowered by the protectionist and banking interests of New England.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

A Court Party Living Off the Farmers

“Any system of government, from a democracy to an aristocracy to a monarchy, is capable of drowning its people in tyranny. “I see no infallible criterion for defining the nature of government, except its acts,” wrote John Taylor of Caroline in “Construction Construed and Constitutions Vindicated,” (1820). “If the acts of a monarchy, aristocracy and democracy are the same, these forms of government are to a nation essentially the same also. To contend for forms only, is to fight for shadows.”

How then, should we define the nature of a republic? The word itself was batted around by all the Founding Fathers, but its use varied. John Adams, who favored aristocracy and “balanced power,” wrote that the only “rational” definition of republic is “aa government, in which all men, rich and poor, magistrates and subjects, officers and people, masters and servants, the first citizen and the last, are equally subject to the laws.”

Taylor assailed this sort of “republic,” which puts its faith in the “rule of law.” Answering Adams in 1814 (An Inquiry into the Principles and Policy of the Government of the United States), he asked how this was any different from the government from which they had declared independence. What guarantees that the law to which everyone is “equally subject” is just – or good?

Adam’ imagined government would counter [inherent financial injustice] with a “balance of power,” by which each class, emerging “naturally” according to a divine distribution of talent, would find equal representation. But do such classes arise “by nature,” according to “God’s design?” Taylor argues that Adams’ classes are artificial – special interests created by laws and sustained by government. (Government’s creation of a standing army, for example, creates a “soldier class,” a military interest. Central banking, creates a banking interest. Etc.)

And man’s lust for power being what it is, these artificial classes would (did) seek to advance their standing among the others, if not dominate them altogether even; even taking the moral high ground for doing just so. “One tyrant may thank God that he is not another tyrant.”

During the infant days of the United States, the means by which the federal government was creating this phony aristocracy was, according to Taylor, its control of the economy, through central banking and taxation – unjust transfers of wealth from one interest to another.

“Wealth, established by law, violates the principle, which induced the American states to wage war with Britain. It separates the imposer from the payer of taxes. No nation would tax itself to enrich an order or separate interest. When therefore a nation is so taxed, it must proceed from the power of the order itself, which is invariably the imposer and receiver of the tax; whilst the rest of the nation is the payer.”

For Taylor, a true, sustainable republic is not characterized by a “balance of power” among artificial interest groups, but by self-government. “The distinguishing superiorities of our policy, are, the sovereignty of the people; a republican government, or a government producing publick or national good; and a thorough system of responsible representation.”

Who, then, were these sovereign “people,” and what is this “good.” The people are farmers. At the time of the War of Independence, 95 percent of Americans were engaged in farming. The prospect of owning a farm was what made the colonies attractive in the first place.

But this life had been threatened by a distant [British] central government that was cash-strapped and weary from financing its own imperial adventures. The small colonial farmer found it difficult to hold onto his land when the crown began to manipulate the money supply. Slapping taxes on his and stifling free trade only made things worse.

The Federalists’ “consolidated republic” threatened to do just the same. Federalist fiscal policy created new interests, a new Court Party of paper wealth. These sundry interests could not live without the farmers, yet they must live off them.

According to Jeffersonian tradition, of which Taylor was the greatest exemplar, the farmer is capable of self-government. His is the only vocation that is “natural” – that is not a creation of government. He depends upon God to sustain him . . . [and] he takes up his arms to defend hearth and home in the local militia, and the mantle of statesman when called upon – all the while eager, as Taylor was, to get back to his land, to the plow.

This is the true republican ideal [and] . . . its people are defined not by party affiliation or political law but by the mores majorum, the “customs of the fathers.”

(A Share in the Patria, Aaron D. Wolf, Chronicles, May 2009, excerpts, pp. 21-22)

Achieving Southern Destiny

Washington warned that sectional animosity would endanger the new Union; by 1826 both Jefferson and Adams deplored the loss of republican direction provided by the revolutionary generation. The tariff controversy of the early 1830s ignited the fire that would not be quelled until 1865, though the Constitution and the Union were destroyed in the process.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Achieving Southern Destiny

“[Henry] Clay’s campaign for his “American System” drew fire mainly from the South Carolinians.

In 1827, Robert J. Turnbull, under the pseudonym of Brutus, published a series of thirty-three articles in the Charleston Mercury, and promptly issued them in a pamphlet entitled “The Crisis: Or Essays on the Usurpation of the Federal Government,” which he dedicated “to the people of the “Plantation States” as a testimony of respect, for their rights of sovereignty.”

Turnbull vehemently urged the people of the South to face the facts, to realize that the North was beginning to use its control of Congress for Southern oppression by protective tariffs and otherwise; and he proposed as a remedy that South Carolina should promptly interpose her sovereignty, and safeguard Southern interests, by vetoing such congressional acts as she should decide to be based upon Federal usurpations and intended for Northern advantage at the cost of Southern oppression.

“. . . William H. Trescott’s “The Position and Course of the South” [was] an embodiment of the soundest realization of the sectional conditions of the Southern section in the closing decade of the ante-bellum period. The author, a leading, experienced, conservative citizen of South Carolina, states in his preface, dated Oct. 12, 1850, that his purpose is to unify the widely separated parts of the South.

He says his views are not new, but they are characteristically Southern: “We are beginning to think for ourselves, the first act toward acting for ourselves.” The essay begins with an analysis of industrial contrasts.

The political majority of the North represents labor; that of the South, capital; the contrast is violent. Free labor hates slave labor, and it will overturn the system if it can. The two sections with many contrasting and conflicting characteristics are combined under the United States Constitution, but they are essentially irreconcilable. Even in foreign relations the North is jealous of foreign powers for commercial and industrial reasons, while Southern industry is not competitive with, but complementary to European industry and commerce, and the South, if a nation by itself, would be upon most cordial terms with foreign powers.

“The United States government under the control of Northern majorities must reflect Northern sentiment, sustain Northern interests, impersonate Northern power. Even if it be conceded that the South has no present grievance to complain of, it is the part of wisdom to consider the strength and relations of the sections, and face the question, what is the position of the South? In case our rights should be attacked, where is our constitutional protection? The answer is obvious.

But one course is open to her honor, and that is secession and the formation of an independent confederacy. There are many men grown old in the Union who would feel an honest and pardonable regret at the thought of its dissolution. They have prided themselves on the success of the great American experiment in political self-government, and feel that the dissolution of the Union would proclaim a mortifying failure. Not so.

The vital principle of political liberty is representative government, and when Federal arrangements are discarded, that lives in original vigor. Who does not consider the greatest triumph of the British constitution the facility and vigor with which, under slight modifications, it developed into the great republican government under which we have accomplished our national progress. And so it will be with the United States Constitution.

We believe that Southern interests demand an independent government. We believe that the time has come when this can be established temperately, wisely, strongly. But in effecting this separation we would not disown our indebtedness, our gratitude to the past. The Union has spread Christianity, fertilized a wilderness, enriched the world’s commerce wonderfully, spread Anglo-Saxon civilization. “It has given to the world sublime names, which the world will not willingly let die — heroic actions which will light the eyes of a far-coming enthusiasm. It has achieved its destiny. Let us achieve ours.”

(History of the Literary and Intellectual Life of the Southern States (Vol. VII), Ulrich B. Phillips, Southern Historical Publication Society, 1909, pp. 193-198)

 

Aug 7, 2016 - America Transformed, Southern Culture Laid Bare, Southern Heroism, Targeting Civilians    Comments Off on Two of Seven Wounds

Two of Seven Wounds

British traveler and Scottish missionary David MacRae (1837-1907) toured the American South in 1867-68 to survey the postwar desolation and poverty. His most noteworthy meetings were with General Robert E. Lee and Admiral Raphael Semmes, being struck by the former’s “unconscious Christian character revealing itself almost unconsciously in his manners and conversation.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Two of Seven Wounds

“I was struck with the remark made by a Southern gentleman in answer to the assertion that Jefferson Davis had culpably continued the war for six months after all hope had been abandoned.

“Sir,” he said, “Mr. Davis knew the temper of the South as well as any man in it. He knew if there was to be anything worth calling peace, the South must win; or, if she couldn’t win, she wanted to be whipped – well whipped – thoroughly whipped.”

The further South I went, the oftener these remarks came back upon me. Evidence was everywhere that the South had maintained the desperate conflict until she was utterly exhausted. At its outbreak she had poured her best men into the field. Almost every man I met at the South, and especially in North Carolina, Georgia and Virginia, seemed to have been in the army; and it was painful to find how many even of those who had returned were mutilated, maimed or broken in health by exposure.

When I remarked this to a young Confederate officer in North Carolina, and said that I was glad to see that he had escaped unhurt, he said, “Wait ‘til we get to the office, sir, and I will tell you more about that.”

When we got there, he pulled up one leg of his trousers, and showed me that he had an iron rod there to strengthen his limb, and enable him to walk without limping, half of his foot being off. He showed me on the other leg a deep scar made by the fragment of a shell; and these were but two of seven wounds which had left their marks upon his body. When he heard me speak of relics, he said, “Try to find a North Carolina gentleman without a Yankee mark on him”

In Mobile I met a brave little Southern girl who had gone barefooted the last year of the war, that the money intended for her shoes might go to the poor soldier. When medicines could no longer be sucked into the South through the rigorous blockade, the Confederate Government called upon the women and children, who went into the woods and swamps and gathered horehound, boneset, wild cherry bark, dogwood, and everything that could help supply the want. When there was a danger of any place falling into the hands of the enemy, the people with unflinching hand, dragged out their last stores of cotton, tobacco, and turpentine, and consigned them to the flames. The people said, “we did it all, thinking the South would win . . .”

(Exhaustion of the South, David MacRae, America Through British Eyes, Allan Nevins, editor, Oxford University Press, 1948, pp. 345-346)

Theories of Conflict and Higher Law

Many in the antebellum South viewed the theories advanced by abolitionists and the new Republican Party as threatening the Union they wished to remain in and forcing their withdrawal. As South Carolina was threatened with coercion in 1832 over nullification, those in the South wondered why the Northern States which nullified federal laws were not threatened with coercion – which well might have impelled those Northern States to secede.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Theories of Conflict and Higher Law

“But whatever the real issue between the sections in the territorial dispute, there was no doubt, in the South at least, of the sectional objectives in defending or in opposing two new theories developed in the North during the decade of the fifties.

These were the theories of the “irrepressible conflict” and of the “higher law.”

Both were considered by the South to be incompatible [with the United States Constitution] . . . both were soundly denounced as a direct infringement of the principle of constitutional guarantees.

The theory of the “irrepressible conflict” was the joint product of Abraham Lincoln’s address before the Republican State Convention in Illinois, delivered on June 16, 1858, and of William Seward’s “Irrepressible Conflict” speech delivered at Rochester, New York, October 25, 1858.

This theory was denounced by every legitimate agency in the South from county assemblies to State conventions. On December 2, 1859, the General Assembly of Tennessee resolved “that we recognize in the recent outbreak at Harper’s Ferry the natural prints of this treasonable, “irrepressible conflict” doctrine put forward by the great head of the Black Republican party and echoed by his subordinates.”

The second of these theories — the theory of the higher law – [was championed by] William Seward of New York.

This theory doubtless sprang from the ranks of the abolitionists in the latter thirties, for as early as June 15, 1841, Representative Kenneth Raynor of North Carolina attacked the position of John Quincy Adams on the slavery question because he “has thrown aside law and Constitution, and has dared to put the issue of this question upon the high and impregnable ground of the Divine law”, a position which Raynor declared “sweeps away everything like human compact and rests the mutual rights of men on what the imagination of fanaticism may picture to itself as a Divine requirement.”

In February 1851, Robert Toombs discovered that a “great question is rising up before us [to] become a “fixed fact” in American politics. It is . . . sometimes called the higher law, in antagonism to our constitutional compact. If the first (i.e, higher law) succeeds, we have no other safety except in secession; if the latter (i.e, the constitutional compact succeeds) “liberty and Union, may be forever one and inseparable.”

Before the end of the following year, the “fixed fact” had found definite expression from the pen of William Hosmer in a volume of some two hundred pages entitled, The Higher Law. Within those pages, the author makes the following contention: “Men have no right to make a constitution which sanctions slavery, and it is the imperative duty of all good men to break it, when made . . . the fact that a law is constitutional amounts to nothing, unless it is also pure . . .”

On February 18, 1861, Fulton Anderson, commissioner from Mississippi to Virginia, warned the Virginia Convention that an “infidel fanaticism, crying out for a higher law than that of the Constitution . . . has been enlisted in this strife”; and in the Alabama Convention of that year L.M. Stone maintained that the “triumph of a Higher Law party, pledged to the destruction of our Constitutional Rights, forced us to dissolve our political connection with [the] hostile States.”

(The South As A Conscious Minority, Jesse T. Carpenter, New York University, 1930, pp 157-160)

Harriet the Deliverer

Harriet Tubman was utilized by Northern forces on the South Carolina coast to help in carry away black laborers who were supporting the Southern war effort. With the plantations overrun and crops destroyed, the African workers had lost their homes and livelihood and left with the liberators who promised farms for all.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Harriet the Deliverer

“They came down every road, across every field, just as they had left their work and their cabins; women with children clinging around their necks . . . all making at full speed for “Lincoln’s gun-boats.”  Eight hundred poor wretches at one time crowded the banks, with their hands extended toward their deliverers, and they were taken off upon the gun-boats, and carried down to Beaufort [South Carolina].

“I nebber see such a sight,” said Harriet [Tubman]; “we laughed an’ laughed . . . One woman brought two pigs, a white an’ a black one; we took ’em all on board; named the white pig Beauregard, and de black pig Jeff Davis.

And so they came pouring down to the gun-boats. At length Colonel Montgomery shouted from the upper deck, above the clamor of appealing tones, “Moses, you’ll have to give ’em a song.” Then Harriet lifted up her voice and sang:

“Of all the whole creation in the East or in the West,

The glorious Yankee nation is the greatest and the best,

Come along! Come along! Don’t be alarmed,

Uncle Sam is rich enough to give you all a farm.”

(Harriet, the Moses of Her People, Sarah Bradford, Citadel Press, 1961, pp. 101-102)

Moral Tormentors

Moral Tormentors

“Of all the tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of it victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their consciences.”  C.S. Lewis

 

 

Uncle Gibb’s Liberators

The passage below describes the surrender and occupation of Smithville, now Southport, North Carolina in late January 1865 after Fort Fisher had fallen to Northern forces. The town’s public offices were plundered by the troops and those like Uncle Gibb suffered ill-treatment from soldiers who sought buried valuables.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Uncle Gibb’s Liberators

“Now Smithville [North Carolina] had relapsed into its state of quiet, but not the quiet of former days . . . Negroes however reaped a rich harvest in the shape of clothing from soldiers and blankets of which the forest was strewn.

A large assembly of Negro men, women and children had collected at the boat in order to greet their “saviors,” and to fall upon their necks and kiss them if such liberties should be allowed. [Northern] Captain [William] Cushing then addressed the sable crowd and informed them that they were free, that they were in all respects equal to the whites and would be so treated. In order to make that this was true he directed that they [the Negroes] should form a procession and give three cheers which they did saying, “God bless Massa Lincum, we’re free” and “Massa Lincum is cumin in a day or two to bring each of us a mule and deed for forty acres of land.”

The procession then started to move, and wild cheering for “Massa Lincum.” There were some small United States flags scattered among the crowds which they waved frantically in the air, crying “hallelujah, hallelujah.” The procession then moved through the garrison to Moore Street, a motley crowd dressed in every conceivable style bearing banners of anything that was bright color and they started down Moore Street amid cheering for “Massa Lincum.”

In the procession which had marched around town was “Uncle Gibb,” and in his posterity “Uncle Gibb” had been treated during his entire life as kindly as any white citizen in the town. He had a house to live in, plenty of food and clothes, and a horse and dray; and it was difficult to perceive how he had bettered his condition by freedom; but he soon found out as he was brought a prisoner into the [Northern army] Garrison for some alleged offense.

Here he was tied up by the thumbs to an oak tree which stood there, and hoisted till his toes barely touched the ground. This was done in full view of his own sister who was cooking in an adjoining kitchen, and who fainted and fell at the awful sight. We thus had an opportunity to find out whether the new friends of the colored race were any better than the old friends who had treated him with such kindness.

The ceremony attending the surrender [of Smithville] having been completed, the boat containing the plunder was dispatched back to the [USS] Monticello, and there being apparently nothing to do on shore, the sailors were given liberty and the officers proceeded to enjoy themselves.

The sailors spread themselves over the town, and proceeded first to inspect the public buildings. They broke open the court house and its offices, tore up such papers as they found lying around, among which happened to be the entire record of the Court of Equity and scattered them about the streets. They went to the Academy building in which was a Masonic Hall, and stole the jewels of the Order, and carried them to the ship.”

(Reminiscences, Dr. D.W. Curtis, Special Collections, W.M. Randall Library, UNCW, pp. 33-37)

Menacing Tide of Abolitionist Fanaticism

A youth of fifteen when Fort Sumter fell, Walter Clark rose to the rank of major in the 35th North Carolina Regiment by the end of the war. Like most Southern men at the end of the war, he went back to his farm to eke out a living amongst the devastation. He found that an undependable labor supply would not bode well for the economic future of the South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Menacing Tide of Abolitionist Fanaticism

“[At the close of the war] . . . the former slaves were thoroughly confused. These Negroes were being deceived by the report that Lincoln had promised to give each family a mule and forty acres of land and that they as free citizens would not have to work for anyone. Thus demoralized and imbued with false hopes, they staged the first great “sit down strike.” In an effort to secure dependable labor for the plantation, Clark visited Raleigh, Baltimore and even New York, but with little success.

On December 2nd 1865 he wrote [to the Raleigh Sentinel]:

“The picture of abandoned farms, stagnated business, a dejected people and open lawlessness is fearful to contemplate. We must rid ourselves of the dead body of slavery, and with it dispose of the perplexing problems of Negro suffrage and Negro equality forever. We have fertile lands, navigable rivers, inexhaustible mines, and a brave and generous people. We need labor to develop these resources and improve our advantages. To do this, however, the labor must be dependable. The conduct of the newly emancipated freedmen is a problem yet to be solved by the future. The prosperity of a great State should not depend upon a contingency.”

Clark pointed out that if the resolution for the abolition of slavery introduced in the Virginia and Kentucky legislatures in 1831 and 1832 had not been defeated by the menacing tide of [abolitionist] fanaticism, our own interests would have long since led us to abolish a system which is “at variance with the spirit of our institutions and the genius of the age and has been fraught with the most baneful effects.”

He strongly urged the importation of free white labor and advocated the industrial development of the State, saying: “The broad fertile fields, unexplored mines, unimproved waterpower and dwarf cities of North Carolina are imperiously calling for the influx of population.”

(Walter Clark, Fighting Judge, Aubrey Lee Brooks, UNC Press, 1944, pp.37-39)

 

Men of the Republican Political Machine

Congressman Roscoe Conkling of New York controlled patronage positions in the New York customhouse after the war, and selected friend and future vice president and president Chester Arthur to the top position of collector in 1871. Seen as a loyal Republican Party hack, Arthur was accused by reformers of taking “illegal kickbacks, overstaffing, insidious accounting and lax administration.” Ironically, Arthur’s custom house corruption investigation was initiated during the presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes, himself known as “His Fraudulency” and elected by Republican Party vote-fraud in the occupied South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Men of the Republican Political Machine

“The Radical Republicanism that defined the immediate years after the Civil War was an attempt by Congress to reengineer the former slave States. The Radicals narrowly failed to remove President Andrew Johnson . . . [was followed] by the election of Ulysses S. Grant. Grant had been a crusty, drunken, charismatic commander, but his presidency marked the end of the politics of passion and the beginning of a long period when personalities determined factions, and when competent, loyal (and at times corrupt) insiders thrived.

Grant’s defenders described him as an icon of pragmatism . . . his detractors assaulted his administration as a descent into a world where the highest bidder was rewarded. By the late 1860s, a new generation of Republicans and [Northern] Democrats jelled into a political class that shared a desire for order and control.

In place of stirring orators debating high principles . . . the Senate was occupied by a class of politicos who believed in “women, wine, whiskey, and war,” as Senator John McDougall of California remarked. They reveled in the martial cult of the Civil War and eagerly supported America’s military expansion against the Native Americans of the Plains. But they reveled more in the political machine and its benefits.

[Grant’s Vice-President Roscoe] Conkling defended the machine as necessary and even constructive force in American political life, thundering, “We are told that the Republican Party is a machine. Yes. A government is a machine, the common-school system of the State of New York is a machine, a political party is a machine . . .”

For him, as for Chester Arthur and even James Blaine, the party was a church to which absolute fealty was expected and demanded, and in emotional moments these men of the machine could wax about its virtues with the romantic zeal of a lover serenading his loved one.

In 1871, Arthur was offered one of the plum positions in the federal bureaucracy, the collector of New York Customhouse. The position of collector had opened up when the former occupant, Arthur’s friend Tom Murphy, was forced to step down in the face of corruption allegations.

The port of New York was the primary gateway for goods from abroad, and smuggling was a constant. As an incentive, officials who snared illegal, unregistered or undertaxed shipments were entitled to a percentage of the goods seized or the fines levied. This “moiety” process made it possible for even a low-level official to double or triple his income . . . [while] it struck reformers . . . as unsavory.”

(Chester Alan Arthur, Zachary Karabell, Henry Holt and Company, 2004, excerpts, pp. 18-20; 22)

Postwar Whiskey, Beer and Dollar Bills

In 1880, the shooting war had been over for 15 years though a conflict raged for political control of the South until 1877. James Garfield and Chester Arthur eked out a slim victory in 1880, and the New York Times wryly observed that so many [Republican] factions were convinced that they had been promised cabinet positions that “if all reports are true, President Garfield’s Cabinet will contain about one hundred and twenty-five persons.” The elimination of Southern conservative influence in Congress led to the corruption of the Gilded Age.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Postwar Whiskey, Beer and Dollar Bills

“The [presidential] campaign of 1880 is notable mostly for what it lacked. It was a contest of organization and will, not a battle over the future direction of the country. The Republican factions in Chicago were divided by personalities, not by beliefs, and the [Northern] Democrats did not offer a dramatically different vision.

But the main attraction had all the ideology of a horse race. That fact did not escape the disgusted intellectuals who sat on the sidelines wondering what had happened to the once noble republic of Washington [and] Jefferson . . . [and] . . . What was the election about, really, other than who would win?

[Republicans and Democrats] voted because of party loyalty or because some local organizer sweetened the pot. They voted because a Republican precinct boss in New York Boston or Buffalo or St. Louis or Nashville invited them to a picnic on a fine Sunday on September, trucked out a few respected and/or dynamic speakers, and handed out whiskey, beer and dollar bills.

Yet if you had collared [James] Garfield and Arthur or [Winfield Scott] Hancock . . . and asked them if they stood for anything, they would of course had said yes. They would have said they stood for good government, for the hopes and dreams of the common man, for the expansion of trade, for orderly cities and prosperous farms, well-managed railroads, solvent banks, stable currency, and the settlement of the West.

Having served the Union during the Civil War, they felt the North’s victory had closed the last great fissure that had threatened a country founded on principles of liberty, freedom and the pursuit of happiness. It wasn’t that they eschewed ideology . . . They believed, simply, that everyone would be best served by a government led by their faction. Political appointments and party discipline helped ensure order nationally, and if party leaders stood to gain from electoral success, all the better.

Most politicians of the era saw no inherent conflict between government service and personal gain. They would have looked at later generations of Americans, at the reformers of the twentieth-century who created one box for public service and a separate one for private advancement, and scoffed at the naivete. Most politicians of the 1870s and 1880s looked a government as a vehicle for both.

Accusations that they were feeding at the public trough made minimal sense to them. Government was an institution for the public good that was meant to reward those who entered it.

[To win] the pivotal State of Indiana, Arthur delegated Stephen Dorsey, the former carpetbag Arkansas senator. Dorsey was the ablest fund-raiser the [Republican] Stalwarts had, though it was understood that he was a political operator not afraid to push beyond the limits of law and propriety. He was the type of operative who gives politics a bad name. Dorsey went to the land of the Hoosiers, got some votes legally, and paid for others.

In 1880, not a single State south of the Mason-Dixon Line went Republican, and not a single State from the North went Democratic. A banquet was held by the Union League Club at Delmonico’s to honor Stephen Dorsey for delivering Indiana to the Republicans.

Reform-minded editors like E.L. Godkin sighed that the episode confirmed the venality of politics . . . Dorsey had already been the target of a congressional investigation into the “Star Route” scandals, a scheme that had made a number of Republican loyalists rich from postal route concessions at the federal government’s expense.”

(Chester Alan Arthur, Zachary Karabell, Henry Holt and Company, 2004, excerpts, pp. 45-47; 50, 54)

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