Browsing "America Transformed"

Liberalism’s New World of Freedom

Liberal internationalists can be counted on to explain the complex causes of war as simply “unprovoked aggression,” and eliminating aggression anywhere they saw as the only way to make the world safe for democracy. Regardless of public opinion, diplomats like George Kennan advised the public to allow national leaders to speak for them in “councils of the nations,” Republican presidents replaced Democratic presidents “without the slightest diminution of executive power,” and Congress was seen as an obstruction to liberal progress.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Liberalism’s New World of Freedom

“Since the beginning of this century, American liberalism has made little measurable progress toward two of its most important goals: a more equitable distribution of income and an improved level pf public services. Confronted with the realities of corporate power and the conservatism of Congress, the reforming zeal of the liberal state has been easily frustrated.

This is mirrored in the stymied hopes of the New Freedom by 1916, the stalemate of the New Deal by 1938, and the dissolution of the Great Society by 1966. What is left by these aborted crusades is not the hard substance of reform but rather the major instrument change – the powerful central state. In the process the ideological focus of liberalism have moved from the concepts of equality and democracy to those of centralization and governmental unification.

The liberal search for national unity and an expanding domestic economy could not be separated from the vision of an internationalist order which was “safe from war and revolution and open to the commercial and moral expansion of American liberalism.”

This was a vision shared by Woodrow Wilson and Cordell Hull. To Hull and Wilson and later to Dean Rusk, peace required the restructuring of diplomacy through an elaborate network of collective security arrangements; prosperity demanded the removal of national trade barriers.

Such a vision, as N. Gordon Levin has brilliantly argued, could not contain within it the forces of either revolution or reaction and led almost inevitably to a foreign policy marked by conflict and crisis. Each new foreign policy crisis in turn strengthened the state apparatus and made the “National Idea” seem even more appropriate – a development which liberals, especially of the New Deal vintage, could only see as benign.

Peace and prosperity, political themes of the Eisenhower years, were considered indulgences by Kennedy liberals such as Walter Rostow. Eisenhower’s cautious leadership was considered without national purpose.

To those liberals the American mission could be no less than “the survival and success of liberty.” The “National Idea,” glorified by such transcendent goals, became a Universal Mission, viz., Arthur Schlesinger, Jr’s assessment, “The United States has an active and vital interest in the destiny of every nation on the planet.” Presidents felt mandated not only to complete a mere domestic program but rather, to quote the Kennedy inaugural, “to create a new world of freedom.”

Nevertheless, such missionary rhetoric was eminently compatible with the liberal mission of government problem solving and reform emanating from the top. Setting the tone in 1960 for another liberal return to power, Townsend Hoopes insisted, “Under our system the people can look only to the President to define the nature of our foreign policy problem and the national programs and sacrifices required to meet it with effectiveness.”

After a generation of such fawning rhetoric, it is little wonder that the modern president’s conception of himself bears closer resemblance to the fascist notion of the state leader than even the Burkean concept of democratic leadership. As President Nixon described his role, “He (the president) must articulate the nation’s values, define its goals and marshal its will.”

(The Ideology of the Executive State: Legacy of Liberal Internationalism, Watershed of Empire, Essays on New Deal Foreign Policy, Myles Publishing, 1976, Robert J. Bresler, pp. 2-4)

Voodoo Economics, Circa 1864

Lincoln’s choice for the cabinet post of treasury, Salmon P. Chase, was no financial expert yet he was to advise Congress on the framing of financial bills, obtaining money from “keen-minded bankers and investors” like Jay Gould, as well as loans and paper money. The taxes collected were far smaller than expenditures and throughout the war the total amount received in loans was 2621 million dollars, against 667 million dollars obtained from taxation.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Voodoo Economics Circa 1864

[Diary Entry] July 2, 1864:

“There is discord in the Cabinet. Mr. Seward represents the moderates, while Mr. Chase, the abolitionist and the inventor of paper money, represents the Radicals. He is regarded here, rightly or wrongly, as the greatest financier in the world. It seems to me that his entire science has consisted of keeping the ship afloat by throwing the provisions overboard. It is easier to borrow than to repay, and I fear Mr. Chase is leaving the difficult task to those who will follow him.

The failure of his financial policy and the defeat of a bill on gold that he recently submitted to Congress have led Mr. Chase to hand in his resignation.”

[Diary Entry] July 5, 1864:

“A financial crisis can, from one day to the next, reduce the value of paper money to virtually nothing. Everything now hangs on the hope of taking Richmond. But because Grant moves this way and that without gaining ground, because Petersburg, a town defended by children and schoolmasters, continues to stand firm against a hundred thousand men, and because the Confederates, far from giving in, are threatening Maryland with an invasion which is forcing the President to call up the militia and because, in a word, nobody sees an end to the war, public confidence is growing weaker.

The government itself, obliged to pay interest on the public debt in gold, is requiring that all customs duties be paid in gold. Nothing depreciates the currency so much as this self-distrust manifested in the Treasury. Until now the “greenbacks” have had more value in actual trading than that indicated by the rates quoted for them on the official gold market. But if ever the small businessmen should refuse to take them and if ever they should cease to circulate freely among the people, the poor Mr. [William P.] Fessenden (who has just succeeded Mr. Chase) will have to take over the direction of the Treasury only to associate his name with the impending national bankruptcy.

Let us return to Mr. Chase. He had a single obsession: to strangle speculation and force down the price of gold. He thought that to do this he needed only to decree an increase in the value of paper money, and that economic interests could be manipulated so easily as the parts of a machine. Thus he proposed a law prohibiting overdraft operations, speculative transactions which result in a paper loss or gain on balance. Judge for yourselves whether the waving of the Treasurer’s wand has had the magical effect he expected it to have.

By the very next day the speculators had taken fright and activity was concentrated in a small number of hands; now it is continued in secret, without competition, and this quasi-monopoly has immediately raised the price of gold by 40 percent. Congress wanted the bill withdrawn. Mr. Chase insisted that it be acted upon, and it was himself who had to withdraw.

If the moment of crisis ever comes when paper money is forced into the hands of only a few holders, the public will think only of getting rid of it, and America will offer to the world in a twofold sense the spectacle of “hideous bankruptcy.”

(A Frenchman in Lincoln’s America, Ernest Duvergier de Hauranne, Donnelly & Sons, 1974, pp. 77-88)

Vote for Abraham Lincoln!

Assistant Secretary of War Charles A. Dana, testified after the war that the whole power of the war department was used to secure Lincoln’s reelection in 1864. It was essential to obtain the soldier vote and politically-connected Northern officers helped distribute Republican ballots to their commands while Democrat ballots were lost. In cities Republican newspapers spread fear among voters should Democrat George B. McClellan be elected.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Vote for Abraham Lincoln!

[Diary entry] Chicago, November 5, 1864:

“It was one of those amazing [newspaper] appeals to the voters that is half circus poster and half sermon . . . the sort of thing that shows how the Americans excel in catering to the lowest levels of public taste.

It carried this portentous title in large black type: “THE TRUTH!” There followed a long list of the dire consequences that will be sure to follow the election of [George B.] McClellan.

“Twenty million people under the heel of 300,000 slave-owners!” – “A Confederacy of the Northwest!” – “A Democratic insurrection (see the threats in the World and the Chicago Times)!” – “McClellan leading the revolt (see the speeches at the Chicago Convention)!” –“The theatre of war shifted from Atlanta and Richmond to New York, Cincinnati, Philadelphia and Chicago (see the Richmond papers supporting the Copperheads)!” – “Barricades; civil war” — “Our streets drenched with blood – our countryside laid waste – Our country’s credit ruined – Gold at 2,000 and the price of necessities in proportion (see the history of the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror in Paris)!”

Do you doubt any of this? Here is a table comparing “Republican Prices,” Democratic Prices,” McClellan Prices (those that would result from his compromise with Jefferson Davis – that is, guaranteeing the Rebel debt and paying the Southern States for their war costs,” – and finally, “Rebel Prices” such as will be seen “if [August] Belmont succeeds in raising a Democratic insurrection.”

But if, on the contrary, you want the Union’s flag to “float gloriously from the Great Lakes to the Gulf, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, over a hundred free States without a single despot, over fifty million — soon to be a hundred million — people without a single slave, then sweep the country clean, once and for all, of the party that is so greedy . . . this gang of slave-merchants and perpetrators of rebellion, debts and taxes that calls itself the Democratic party! . . . Vote for Abraham Lincoln!”

One must distrust all such accounts of triumphal demonstrations, of “gigantic mass-meetings,” that fill the newspapers of the two parties at this time. People lie as shamelessly in America as in Europe, with the sole difference that since here everyone has the right to lie, no one has the privilege of being believed.”

(A Frenchman in Lincoln’s America, Ernest Duvergier de Huaranne, Donnelly & Sons, 1975, pp. 3-7)

Reconstruction, the Most Shameful Period of Our History

The following is an excerpt from an 1892 address by Lt. Col. Alfred Moore Waddell to the Alumni Association of the University of North Carolina. He served as a United States Congress 1871-1879.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Reconstruction, the Most Shameful Period of Our History

“[Reconstruction] constitutes the one indelible and appalling disgrace of the American people — the one chapter of their history which contains no redeeming feature to relieve it from the endless execration of the civilized world.

A distinguished orator from a Northern State declared in Congress in 1872 that one-third of the boundaries of this Republic had been filled “with all the curses and calamities ever recorded in the annals of the worst governments known on the pages of history,” and attacking the [radical Republican] authors of these calamities, he exclaimed,

“From turret to foundation you tore down the governments of eleven States. You left not one stone upon another. You rent all their local laws and machinery into fragments, and trampled upon their ruins. Not a vestige of their former construction remained.”

And again he said:

“A more sweeping and universal exclusion from all the benefits, rights, trusts, honors, enjoyments, liberties, and control of government was never enacted against a whole people, without respect to age or sex, in the annals of the human race. The disgraceful disabilities imposed against the Jews for nearly eighteen hundred years by the blind and bigoted nations of the earth were never more complete or appalling.”

Those old enough to remember that most shameful period of our history will readily recall the degradation, the crimes against civilization, and the terrorism which then prevailed, and how, amidst the general dismay, the faint-hearted stood helpless and silent before the arbitrary and reckless power exercised over them.”

(The Life and Character of William L. Saunders, address to the Alumni Association of the University of North Carolina, Tuesday, May 31, 1892, Col. Alfred Moore Waddell of Wilmington)

The War Against Reason

The War Against Reason

“June 7 [1861], Crawfordville [Georgia]:

From present indications it would seem that we did not cut loose from the North too soon. They will go into anarchy or despotism, The only hope for constitutional liberty on this continent is now with us; and whether we shall successfully pass through the ordeal in store for us time alone can determine.”

September 3 [1861]:

“I see no end to the war – not the slightest prospect of peace. So far from it, all the signs of a protracted conflict are more portentous to me than they have even been. The war on the part of the North is founded on no rational principle. It is against principles, against interest, and against reason; and with nations it is as with individuals when they act against reason, there is no accounting for their conduct or calculating upon it on any rational principles.

This is but the beginning. The guillotine, or its substitute, will soon follow. The reign of terror there has not yet fully commenced. The mob, or “wide-awake” spirit, has not the control there yet, but it will have before the end. All the present leaders will be swept from the board. They will be deposed or hung to make way for worse men who are yet to figure in this great American drama . . . We have a great conflict before us, and it will require all our energy, our resources, and patriotism, under a favoring Providence, to bear us safely through it.”

(Life of Alexander H. Stephens, Richard M. Johnston & William H. Browne, J.B. Lippincott & Company, 1883, page 407)

The War Against Civilians

Lee’s grand army departed Gettysburg “dog-tired and hungry.” Poorly fed, they have existed on bread, berries and green apples with the horses eating only grass, and only after arriving at Culpepper did the men enjoy a cooked meal and the horses found loose corn. Of the battle at Gettysburg, Lee tells President Davis not to blame his men, that he alone is to blame “in perhaps expecting too much of [his army’s] prowess and valor.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The War Against Civilians

“August 4 [1863]: Culpepper civilians are apprehensive again. [General JEB] Stuart has not even enough men to protect them from the Federal raiders who seem to cross the Rappahannock at will. Sally Armstrong’s family is still plagued by the blue devils.

“Nothing but Yankees from morning to night,” she protested on July 29, “no signs of them leaving yet.” She hears of how horribly the Federals have been treating people in Fauquier County, and lives “in dread of having the infantry come over and pillage.” “Great anxiety we live in . . . our neighbors . . . have had almost every mouthful taken from them.”

[Nearby enemy regiments have] emboldened Culpepper slaves to dash toward Union lines all along the river, from Kelly’s Ford to Waterloo. On one evening alone, about forty “children of Ham,” as [the enemy commander] calls them, moved within his picket lines . . . . Many of the boys and men will be hired by Federal officers as body servants, although some officers refuse under any circumstances to hire “wretched niggers.”

Most have been mere field hands as slaves, complains one [Northern officer], and therefore are ignorant of the duties of a personal servant. “To this ignorance,” he elaborates, “must be added the natural laziness, lying, and dirt of the Negro, which surpasses anything an ordinary white man is capable of.” Not [all Northern troops] agree with this assessment . . . A member of the 20th New York Militia admires “the thousands” of contraband blacks laboring in [General] Meade’s camps as cooks, teamsters and servants . . . he informs his mother. He believes the blacks “as a class” exhibit more “native sense” than the majority of white Southerners.

[Meade] makes no move [and many sense] that Meade is not yet comfortable as the army’s commander. Word has it that he nearly gave up the fight at Gettysburg after the second day, and he now seems overly deliberate and cautious.

Meanwhile, Culpepper’s civilians hunker down. Captain Charles Francis Adams, Jr., commanding the Union picket force on the Hazel River . . . knows that these people hate him and his men, but he understands the reason. He has witnessed daily “acts of pillage and outrage on the poor and defenceless” that make his “hair stand on end,” and cause him to “loathe all war.” [His] Soldiers, usually under cover of darkness, break into homes, rifle closets and drawers, take what they like, and abuse and threaten their victims. Some citizens are too terrified to sleep.

“Poor Virginia!” laments Captain Adams. “Her fighting men have been slaughtered; her old men have been ruined; her women and children are starving and outraged; her servants have run away or been stolen; her fields have been desolated; her towns have been depopulated.”

“The horrors of war are not all to be found in the battle-field,” he laments, “and every army pillages and outrages to a terrible extent.”

“What shall I write for these times?” [Sally] asks her diary. “Yankees doing all conceivable wickedness.” “If God did not rule we would die in despair. He only can help us.”

(Seasons of War, The Ordeal of a Confederate Community, 1861-1865, Daniel E. Sutherland, LSU Press, 1995, excerpts, pp. 269-276)

War — Even if Slavery Were Removed as an Issue

Abolitionist Moncure Conway saw deeper into the question of immediate emancipation than most of his contemporaries. He rightly sensed that the more fierce the North’s desire to subjugate the South became, the more the black man would be used as a weapon to achieve their goal of political supremacy. The postwar Union League which incited Southern blacks against their white neighbors followed this stratagem, against which the Ku Klux Klan became the predictable antidote.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

War – Even if Slavery Were Removed as an Issue

“Conway’s disenchantment with the Northern cause began in 1862 when his deep-seated hatred of war came again to the fore, overcoming his bellicosity of the previous year. In April, he wrote to Charles Sumner on his recent lecture tour “a growing misgiving that a true peace cannot be won by the sword in an issue of this nature.” His second book, The Golden Hour, which was published that same year, displayed an increasing concern with the evils of war.

“The moralization of the soldier,” Conway now wrote, “is the demoralization of the man. War is the apotheosis of brutality . . . Should we continue this war long enough, we shall become the Vandals and Hessians the South says we are.”

Complaints about the low morale of the troops meant to him simply that the Northern soldier was still civilized and under the influence of Christian morality. The inescapable conclusion was that the longer the war continued, the more savage and brutalized the North would become. Here he generalized the insight at the end of The Rejected Stone that if emancipation did not come before it became a “fierce” necessity, it would reflect war passions rather than benevolence.

After the President did take up his pen and sign the [proclamation], Conway felt that it was too little and too late. In part this may have reflected his disappointment that the war continued as fiercely as ever; for he had refused as an optimistic humanitarian to believe that the eradication of one evil might require acceptance of another. A case can be made for the theory that Lincoln framed and enforced his edict in such a way that the fewest possible slaves would be freed – while at the same time taking the bite out of antislavery criticism of the administration.

By April 1863, when he sailed for England as an unofficial envoy of the American abolitionists, Conway was completely fed up with the bloody conflict which e saw as inflicting terrible damage on the South without adequate justification . . . and in any case, war was a worse evil than slavery.

Soon after arriving in England, Conway stirred up a hornet’s nest by making a peace offer to James M. Mason, the Confederate envoy, which he innocently misrepresented as coming from the American abolitionists. Conway proposed to Mason that if the South would abolish slavery on its own, the antislavery men of the North would “immediately oppose the further prosecution of the war . . . ”

The storm that broke over the head of poor Conway was something from which he never fully recovered. Almost to a man the abolitionists condemned and repudiated his offer. Conway now understood, apparently for the first time, that many of the abolitionists were devoted to a war which would crush the South even if slavery were removed as an issue.”

(The Inner Civil War, Northern Intellectuals and the Crisis of the Union, George M. Frederickson, Harper & Row, 1965, pp. 123-125)

Betrayed by Yankees Perverting the Constitution

The presidential messages of Jefferson Davis were filled with assertions of the South’s legal right to secede and form a more perfect union, and determine its own form of government to the letter of Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. Not losing sight of this, even in early 1865, one Confederate congressman stated that “This is a war for the Constitution, it is a constitutional war.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Betrayed by Yankees Perverting the Constitution

“Contributors to Confederate periodicals explored parallels between the Confederacy and other fledgling nations or independence movements – the Dutch republic, the “young kingdom of Italy,” and the Polish and Greek rebellions.

But the authors were careful to dissociate the South from genuinely radical movements; it was the conservative European nationalism of the post-1848 period with which the Confederacy could identify most enthusiastically. The Dutch struggle, an essayist in the July, 1862, issue of the Southern Presbyterian Review explained approvingly, was like the Confederate, for in both situations, “not we, but our foes, are the revolutionists.”

The Daily Richmond Enquirer was even more explicit about the Poles:

“There is nothing whatever in this movement of a revolutionary, radical or Red Republican character. It is the natural, necessary protest and revolt of, not a class or order, but an ancient and glorious nation, against that crushing, killing union with another nationality and form of society. It is . . . the aristocratic and high-bred national pride of Poland revolting against the coarse brute power of Russian imperialism . . . At bottom, the cause of Poland is the same cause for which the Confederates are now fighting.”

The Southern government welcomed a Spanish analogy between Napoleon’s invasion of Spain and northern advances across the Potomac. British recognition of the new Italian state encouraged [Robert] Toombs to see parallels there, as well. “Reasons no less grave and valid than those which actuated the people of Sicily and Naples,” he explained, had prompted the Confederacy to seek its independence.

But the nationalist movement with which the Confederates most frequently identified was . . . the American War of Independence. A central contention of Confederate nationalism, as it emerged in 1861, was that the South’s effort represented a continuation of the struggle of 1776. The South, Confederates insisted, was the legitimate heir of American revolutionary tradition. Betrayed by Yankees who had perverted the true meaning of the Constitution, the revolutionary heritage could be preserved only by secession. Southerners portrayed their independence as the fulfillment of American nationalism.

Secession represented continuity, not discontinuity; the Confederacy was the consummation, not the dissolution, of the American dream. A sermon preached in South Carolina explained that “The doctrines of the original Puritans were, and are, the doctrines of the Bible . . . but the descendants of the Puritans have gone far astray from the creed of their forefathers.”

[Southerners strived] to avoid the dangerous “isms” – feminism, socialism, abolitionism – that had emerged from Northern efforts at social betterment. But the logic of Confederate nationalism . . . was to prescribe significant shifts in the Southern definition of Christian duty. Secession thus became an act of purification, a separation from the pollutions of decaying Northern society, that “monstrous mass of moral disease,” as the Mobile Evening News so vividly described it.”

(The Creation of Confederate Nationalism, Drew Gilpin Faust, LSU Press, 1988, pp. 13-14, 27, 29-30)

War of Conquest, Not Emancipation

Following the War Between the States, the freedmen were exploited by the infamous Union League to help ensure the election of Northern radical Republicans who exploited and bankrupted the exhausted South.  The emergence of the Ku Klan Klan was a predictable result.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

War of Conquest, Not Emancipation  

“Reconstruction” is a curious name to apply to the period following the war. Indeed, the war had left widespread destruction, but the government in Washington had no policy of reconstruction.  The South was left to its own economic devices, which largely amounted to being exploited by Northern interests who took advantage of cheap land, cheap labor, and readily available natural resources. This exploitation and neglect created an economic morass, the results of which endure into the twenty-first century.

Not surprisingly, governments based on the leadership of carpetbaggers, scalawags, and freedmen, groups that represented a minority of the population, met widespread and violent opposition. This attempt to create a government based on racial equality was made even more ludicrous when many of [the] Northern States rejected the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments to the U.S. Constitution, creating a situation where the States that said they had worked to free the slaves failed to grant equality to people of color.

(Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Escort and Staff, Michael R. Bradley, Pelican Publishing Company,

The War of Conquest

The War of Conquest

“The only proper title of our war is “the war of conquest.” I always speak of it so. To call it a civil war is to acknowledge that the States, which are now merely counties of a government at Washington, were not the sovereignties they were until 1865.

Then we had a “Union” based on “the consent of the governed”; now we have a “nation,” founded on force like the monarchies of Europe. “Civil war,” therefore, does not express the truth. If England and France go to war . . . would it be called a “civil war?” Nor the war between the sovereign States of the North against the Confederate States.

Neither let us speak of the “Union troops” and the “ex-Confederates.” Are we not now just as much Confederate as ever? I don’t like the “ex.” “X” is an unknown quantity; and the world knows our quality and found out how small was our quantity when it was discovered that with only six hundred thousand men, all told, we kept out of Richmond for four years twenty-five hundred thousand men of the other nation. Let our war be known as what it was in reality, the “war of conquest.”

(Rev. P.G. Robert, Chaplain, Thirty-fourth Virginia Infantry, Confederate Veteran, November, 1898, page 520)

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