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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)

Undermining the Constitution

Thomas J. Norton notes below in 1951 that Congress has no authority to “lend money or to give it away” – and cites James Madison’s warning of paper barriers being insufficient to stop evil persons in government. Jefferson Davis stated in 1881: “Of what value then are paper constitutions and oaths binding officers to their preservation, if there is not intelligence enough in the people to discern the violations, and virtue enough to resist the violators?”

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865.com

 

Undermining the Constitution

“The Constitution gives power to Congress (1) “to coin money” and (2) “to borrow on the credit of the United States” — but not to lend money, or to give it away, either at home or abroad.

What is expressed in a Constitution is equivalent to a prohibition of what is not expressed. The powers over money mentioned are the only ones that the Constitutional Convention brought in from the world of inherent powers and fixed in the Fundamental Law.

Those specifications reject the theory of unlimited powers exercised by European monarchs in 1787. Not long before that, Louis XIV had kept Europe embroiled in wars by loans or grants of money to belligerent rulers. Did the Constitutional Convention, at least one member of which was born in his reign, intend to give that power to Congress? It did not say so. The power was therefore withheld by the people from their servants.

The United States is now, without authority — under a denial of authority — lending or granting money to Europe, and to the rest of the world. Postwar programs, twenty-two in number, for aiding foreign nations, in addition to the military aid program, have piled on top of the costs [330 billion] of [World] War II $30,757,000,000, according to Senator Byrd of Virginia, speaking in September 1949.

Thus, the limitations of the Constitution become what Madison gave warning of — “paper barriers.”

(Undermining the Constitution: A History of Lawless Government, Thomas James Norton, Devin-Adair Company, 1951, page 22)

Southern Historians Sapping and Mining the Northern Myth

Historian and author Frank L. Owsley dedicated his professional life to righting the revisionist history of postwar Northern textbooks and relating an honest appraisal of why the War was fought between North and South. He viewed the conflict of 1861 as a struggle between Southern agrarian culture versus Northern industrialism intent upon political and economic control of the entire country.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Southerners Sapping and Mining the Northern Myth

“In describing the writings of one New Southerner, Frank Owsley wrote Allen Tate on February 29, 1932: “He is the typical “New Southerner,” the defeated [and] conquered . . . American. Dodd [William E. Dodd, Frank’s major professor at Chicago] remarked to me that it did not hurt him so much to be whipped! Or to see the South whipped! What broke his heart was to see the South conquered . . . he says it is the most completely defeated and conquered people of all history.”

Frank continued: “I believe that the spiritual and intellectual conquest of the South, which Dodd laments, is superficial. The leadership is in the hands of [these New Southerners] . . . and the history textbooks have been written by Yankees.

The purpose of my life will be to undermine by “careful” and “detached,” “well-documented,” “objective” writing the entire Northern myth from 1820-1876. My books will not interest the general reader. Only the historians will read them, but it is the historians who teach history classes and write textbooks and they will gradually, and without their own knowledge be forced into our position. There are numerous Southerners sapping and mining the Northern position by objective, detached books and Dodd is certainly one of the leaders.

By being critical first of the South itself, the Northern historian is disarmed, and then Dodd hits where it will do the most good . . . [Dodd told Davidson] that the younger Southern writers were making the Northern writers look unimportant.”

Frank’s essay in I’ll Take My Stand, “The Irrepressible Conflict,” concerned “the eternal struggle between the agrarian South and the commercial and industrial North to control the government, either in its own interest, or negatively, to prevent the other section from controlling it in its interests.”

At the time the Union was formed, the two sections were evenly balanced both in population and in number of States. The conflict worsened as the balance of power began to change. Slavery was an element of the agrarian society, but not an essential one. Even after the war, when there was no slavery, the South was an agrarian section. The irrepressible conflict was not a conflict between slavery and freedom, nor was it merely a protest against industrialism. It was equally a protest against the North’s brazen and contemptuous treatment of the South “as a colony and as a conquered province.”

(Frank Lawrence Owsley, Historian of the Old South, Harriet C. Owsley, Vanderbilt University Press, 1990, pp. 78-81)

Unfounded Fears of Slavery Expansion

Lincoln receives insufficient credit for his part in defeating the compromise measures of 1860-61 which would have averted war, whose effects are still felt today. The author below asserts that slavery had reached its natural limits and was “a cumbersome and expensive system [that] could show profits only as long as it could find plenty of rich land to cultivate” and a market that would take the product. He adds that “the free farmers in the North who dreaded its further spread had nothing to fear. Even those who wished [slavery] destroyed had only to wait a little while – perhaps a generation, probably less. It was summarily destroyed at a frightful cost to the whole country and one-third of the nation was impoverished for forty years.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Unfounded Fears of Slavery Expansion

“In the forefront of that group of issues which, for more than a decade before the secession of the cotton States, kept the Northern and Southern sections of the United States in irritating controversy and a growing sense of enmity, was the question of whether the federal government should permit and protect the expansion of slavery into the western territories . . . It was upon this particular issue that a new and powerful sectional party appeared in 1854, that the majority of the Secessionists of the cotton States predicated their action in 1860-1861, and it was upon this also that President-elect Lincoln forced the defeat of the compromise measures in the winter of 1860-61.

It seems safe to say that had this question been eliminated or settled amicably, there would have been no secession and no Civil War . . .

Disregarding the stock arguments – constitutional, economic, social and what-not – advanced by either group, let us examine afresh the real problem involved. Would slavery, if legally permitted to do so, have taken possession of the territories or of any considerable portion of them?

The causes of the expansion of slavery westward from the South Atlantic coast are now well-understood. The industrial revolution [in the North and in England] and the opening of world markets had continually increased the consumption and demand for raw cotton, while the abundance of fertile and cheap cotton lands in the Gulf States had steadily lured cotton farmers and planters westward. Where large-scale production was [possible, the enormous demand for a steady supply of labor had made the use of slaves inevitable, for a sufficient supply of free labor was unprocurable on the frontier . . . and slave labor was usually not profitable in growing grain.

This expansion of the institution was in response to economic stimuli . . . [and the] movement would go on as long as far as suitable cotton lands were to be found or as long as there was a reasonable expectation of profit from slave labor, provided, of course, that no political barrier was encountered.

But by 1849-50 . . . and by the time the new Republican party was formed to check the further expansion of slavery, the westward march of the cotton plantation was evidently slowing down. The only possibility of a further westward extension of the cotton belt was in Texas. In that alone was the frontier line of cotton and slavery still advancing . . .

In New Mexico and Arizona, Mexican labor is cheaper than Negro labor, as has always been the case since the acquisition of the region from Mexico. It was well-understood by sensible men, North and South, in 1850 that soil, climate, and native labor would form a perpetual bar to slavery in the vast territory then called New Mexico. [By 1860], ten years after the territory had been thrown open to slavery, showed not a single slave; and this was also true of Colorado and Nevada. Utah, alone of all these territories, was credited with any slaves at all . . . [and] the census of 1860 showed two slaves in Kansas and fifteen in Nebraska.

The Northern anti-slavery men held that a legal sanction of slavery in the territories would result in the extension of the institution and domination of the free North by the slave power; prospective immigrants in particular feared that they would never be able to get homes in this new West. Their fears were groundless; but in their excited state of mind they could see neither the facts clearly nor consider them calmly.

In the cold facts of the situation, there was no longer any basis for excited sectional controversy over slavery extension . . . [but] the public mind had so long been concerned with the debate that it could not see that the issue had ceased to have validity. In the existing state of the popular mind, therefore, there was still abundant opportunity for the politician to work to his own ends, to play upon prejudice and passion and fear.”

(The Causes of the Civil War, Kenneth M. Stampp, Prentice-Hall Inc., 1965, pp. 86-91)

Union Captain Murrey’s Toast

Northeastern North Carolina suffered enemy occupation early in the war – those that could left the area. The occupation troops had little consideration for the African race they were emancipating, and seemed to consider the people of North Carolina their subjects and whose land would become resorts for Northerners.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Union Captain Murrey’s Toast

“With their young men away at war, Washington and most of Beaufort County came under the heel of the Union Army. They found the town evacuated by its defenders and abandoned by about three-quarters of its inhabitants. All who could possibly leave, and find refuge with friends and relatives further inland, had done so.

The occupation force included units of the 24th Massachusetts Cavalry; 3rd New York Artillery; 3rd New York Cavalry; and some Marine artillery. Gunboats anchored across the river, off the town. Union forces continued to occupy Washington from the end of March 1862, until 20 April 1864.

On March 30, Captain Murrey, commander of the gunboat Commodore Hull, invited six of the older men who had remained in Washington, to dinner on his vessel. He is alleged to have gotten them drunk, then proposed a toast: “To the reconstruction of the Federal Union, a plantation in Georgia with a hundred niggers, and a summer residence in North Carolina.” It is recorded these men all drank with zest to this toast.

During this period, conditions in Washington were growing steadily worse. Older men who were compelled to remain with their business, had sent their wives and families away. Food was scarce. Though the freed Negroes who had collected in the town were given better food than the inhabitants could procure, bands of these Negroes roamed the streets at night, pillaging and stealing. Strong protests were made by the representatives of eastern North Carolina to President Davis, to return North Carolina troops from Virginia, to clear Union forces from their homes.”

(History of Beaufort County, C. Wingate Reed, Edwards & Broughton, 1962, pp. 184-188)

Audacious Caesars and Test Oaths

On December 7, 1861, former Governor William A. Graham of North Carolina spoke in Convention in opposition to his State requiring a test oath for its citizens. In April 1865, after being overwhelmed by military force,  North Carolinians were forced to swear an oath to the government of the United States, and could not conduct business nor public affairs without taking this oath.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Audacious Caesars and Test Oaths

“Mr. President, if this Convention, like a French National Assembly, were to declare itself in permanent session, and abrogate all the powers of government, it would give no greater shock to public sentiment, and make no more dangerous stride towards despotism, than would be effected by this [test oath] ordinance.

What, then, will be their surprise, not to say indignation, if this ordinance shall pass, and they are told that no man can ever vote again – nay, that no man will be allowed to remain in the State, but everyone will be exiled who does not take an oath that the Convention has ordained?

Sir, every North Carolinian rejoices in the idea, that, like St. Paul, he was free-born. And, although his freedom was purchased at a great price, no less than the blood of his fathers shed in every battle-field of American independence, from the shores of the Hudson to the everglades of Florida, it came to him as an inheritance, the more valued, because of its association with his ancestral pride and glory.

His right to dwell in and breath the pure air of the land of his birth; his right to participate in the election of rulers, and, if it suit his inclination and the will of the majority, to be himself invested with a portion of the powers of the republic, he will suffer neither to be taken away nor trifled with.

He did not acquire them by an oath, and he will spurn any oath offered to him as a condition of their continued enjoyment. It is one of those blunders characterized by Talleyrand as worse than a crime, for statesmen by their measures will encroach upon and offend so sacred a feeling as the pride of nativity – the self-respect and manhood of a high-spirited and free-born American.

Sir, the people when presented with this oath, will turn upon this Convention, and inquire “upon what food have these our Caesars,” at Raleigh, “fed, that they have grown so great?” We thought they were our servants; how have they become our masters?

We had a free election according to the usages and Constitution of our fathers when we chose them as our representatives; by what legerdemain, by what audacity, do they declare that we shall never vote again . . . nor inhabit our present homes, but shall be driven out as fugitives and vagabonds, unless we take an oath that they have dictated?

We render to the government our loyalty and duty, as we cherish and support our wives and children, and perform other obligations as members of society; but we will take no oaths upon compulsion, to bind us to those duties, and least of all, an oath that is accompanied by the polite alternatives of exile or degradation.

Mr. President, the very mention of a test oath carries us back to the “bigot monarchs and the butcher priests” of the days of the Tudors and Stuarts, and beyond these, to the Inquisition itself. It is a device of power in Church and in State, to perpetuate itself by force, against free discussion and inquiry, and in defiance of what in more liberal times we call public sentiment.”

(The Papers of William A. Graham, Volume V, 1857-1863, J.G. Hamilton, Max Williams, editors, NCAH, 1973, excerpts, pp. 314-317)

 

Nothing Less Than a War of Conquest

Lincoln, controlled by a disjointed Republican party, was unable to recognize that he was waging war upon free Americans who followed the very words of Jefferson’s Declaration. Former Governor William A. Graham, in his Hillsboro, North Carolina speech of April 27, 1861 and nearly a month before his State seceded, explains the logical and peaceful course Lincoln could have taken to defuse the crisis and thereby saved the lives of a million Americans, the Constitution and as well as the Union he claimed to be saving.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Nothing Less Than a War of Conquest

“We are in the midst of great events. For months past our political skies have been dark and lowering. The country has stood in anxious suspense on the perilous edge of civil war. It is well known that I among others, have insisted, that the election of Mr. Lincoln . . . obnoxious as were his own avowals of sentiment in relation to slavery in the South, and still more obnoxious as was the spirit of hostility to us, which animated the mass of his party followers, was not a sufficient cause for a dismemberment of this Government, and the destruction of the Union . . .

The seven States, however, stretching from our Southern frontier to the confines of Mexico, one by one in rapid succession have declared themselves separated from the Government of the United States, and formed a new confederation.

They found in the election which had taken place sufficient cause of occasion, in their estimation, for this hitherto untried course of proceeding, and levied armies to defend it by force. The authorities of the United States denied the right of secession claimed by these States, and the danger became great of a collision of arms.

The issue was made, but evaded under the administration of [President James] Buchanan. Its solution by Mr. Lincoln has been a matter of anxious contemplation to the people of the country since his accession to power. Whatever may be the true construction of the Constitution, or the President’s idea of his duty to enforce the laws, a wise statesmanship cannot close its eyes to the facts.

It is impossible to treat so extensive a revolution like a petty rebellion; for if suppressed by force, it would be at the expense of desolation and ruin to the country. He should have dealt with it . . . [and] yielded to the necessities by which he was surrounded, and adjusted by arrangement what he found impossible to control by force, or if possible, only at a sacrifice to the nation itself never to be repaired.

Had Mr. Lincoln risen to the height of the great occasion, promptly withdrawn his troops from fortifications which he could not defend; convened Congress in extra session; recommended and procured the passage of a law, or amendment to the Constitution, acknowledging the independence of the seceded States . . . he might yet have maintained a Union of twenty-seven contented States . . . And after an experiment of a few years, there might, and in my opinion probably would have been, a re-annexation of the seceded States themselves.

But instead of this bold and magnanimous policy, his action has been vacillating. His inaugural address in equivocal, interpreted by some, on its first appearance as portending force, assurances are thrown out that his intentions are only peaceful. And when the public mind in all the eight [Southern States] that had not seceded, was settling down in the conviction that the forts were to be evacuated and repose was to be allowed, so favorable to conciliation and harmony, a Proclamation suddenly bursts upon the country announcing a determination on coercion, and calling for a militia force so great as to endanger the safety of more than the seceded States.

Careless of any terms of conciliation, or adjustments of differences with the border States, he resolves, but not till after his own adherents have been demoralized by his hesitation and professions of peace, on the application of force to maintain the authority of the Government in the States which have withdrawn, and requires us to cooperate as instruments in their subjugation.

The sober sense of the people of North Carolina had met this question, and for themselves have settled it. Ardent in their attachment to the Constitution and the Union, they had condemned separate State secession as rash and precipitate . . . as long as there was hope of an adjustment of sectional differences, they were unwilling to part with the Government . . . But the President gives to the question new alternatives.

These are, on the one hand, to join with him in a war of conquest, for it is nothing less, against our brethren of the seceding States, or, on the other, resistance to and throwing off the obligations of the Federal Constitution. Of the two, we do not hesitate to accept the latter.

And withal, we cannot exclude from our contemplation the idea, that when [the seceded States] shall be subdued upon the issues involved in the contest, our turn will come next; our only exemption above theirs being, like the victims of Cyclops, we shall be last to be devoured.”

(The Papers of William A. Graham, Volume V, 1857-1863, J.G. Hamilton, Max Williams, editors, NCAH, 1973, excerpts, pp. 244-247)

The Strong Economic Interest of the Union War Effort

The Union League was able to muster such a large membership as many Northern men remained home while immigrants, former slaves, draftees and substitutes were off fighting Americans in the South. The Union League became a powerful propaganda arm of the Republican Party and an effective instrument of political control in the postwar South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Strong Economic Interest of the Union War Effort

“The first Union League was founded in Pekin, Illinois, by a Republican party activist, George F, Harlow. As war weariness deepened, and the restraint that had held back dissenters in the early months of the war fell away, loyal Republican became alarmed by the resurgence in support for the Democratic Party. To combat this, they formed a secret society “whereby true Union men could be known and depended on in an emergency.” By the end of 1864 the Leagues claimed more than a million members.

In May 1863, the [Philadelphia] Press urged that the north unite “by any means” and called on Unionists to “silence every tongue that does not speak with respect of the cause and the flag.” Union Leagues institutionalized the denial of legitimate partisanship by conflating opposition to the Union [Republican] Party with disloyalty to the United States. “Men of the Northwest! Are you ready for Civil War?” asked an editorial in the radical Chicago Tribune, “the danger is imminent; the enemy is at your door . . . a Union Club or league ought to be formed in every town and placed in communication with the State central committee.” They formed vigilante groups, which reported suspected disloyalists to the War Department and called for the suppression of opposition newspapers. Leagues also mobbed the offices of several small-town newspapers whose editors had expressed support for Democratic candidates or had attacked the [Lincoln] administration.

Unlike the mass-membership Union Leagues, the Union League of Philadelphia, the New York Union League Club, and the Boston Union League Club were founder with the appropriate accoutrements of a mid-Victorian gentlemen’s club: elegant headquarters with libraries, billiard rooms and butlers. Membership was by invitation only and determined by social status and “unqualified loyalty to the Government of the United States and unwavering support for the suppression of the rebellion.” The idea was to exclude anyone suspected of Southern sympathies from business or social relations with members.

“Sympathy with [armed rebellion] should in social and commercial life be met with the frown of the patriotic and true. Disloyalty must be made unprofitable.” [A founding member of the Philadelphia club] . . . the issue of the war was, after all, one that directly confronted the class interests of the city’s business elite. “We . . . live under the national law. If that is broken down, our interests, our property, and our lives may be lost in the disorder that will ensue . . . Nothing but ruin awaits all business interests of ours . . . if the doctrines of the Secession leaders are to prevail” Sustaining the federal government was essential . . . [and] Furthermore, as bankers and the monied elite of New York assumed an ever-greater responsibility for financing the war effort through buying government bonds, there was also a strong economic interest in the success of the Union war effort.

(No Party Now, Politics in the Civil War North, Adam I.P. Smith, Oxford University Press, 2006, pp. 68-74)

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