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A Fearful Danger and Political Menace

The electoral college system erected by the Founders worked best when limited to two candidates, but became what was described as a “fearful danger” when multiple candidates emerged in 1860. New Yorker Samuel Tilden’s dark prophesy of a purely sectional candidate becoming president was realized in 1860; when the Gulf States began to go out of the Union he stated that “The situation was unprecedented, and it is worse than idle, it is presumptuous, to rail at [President James] Buchanan for his failure to act.” The latter is scapegoated for failure, though the Founder’s failed to foresee such a calamity.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Fearful Danger and Political Menace in 1860

“The election of Abraham Lincoln has been studied from every angle. It is well to disregard the providential aspect of the outcome. Seventeen years ago, Mary Scrugham made a careful examination of the returns. Her “Peaceable Americans of 1860-1861” shows how ridiculously the machinery of the electoral college misrepresented American opinion in this critical campaign.

To question the constitutionality of Lincoln’s election is absurd, but to criticize the system by which one of four candidates could carry the electoral college decisively with a large third of the popular vote is pertinent.

At the first two meetings of the electoral college, Washington was chosen without contest. Thereafter, as everyone knows, the growth of parties put an end to the deliberative character of the body, for each political organization put up its own list of electors in every State – where the legislatures did not choose them. Reporting the popular result became automatic.

Polling not a vote in almost one-third of the States, obtaining not a single elector from the South, and receiving a noticeable minority of the popular suffrage, a sectional candidate was chosen President of the United States – and all this according to the Constitution. What may happen in the future can only be imagined – should this dangerous system survive.

Miss Scrugham’s analysis of the election of 1860 should open our eyes. Lincoln had no votes in ten States of the Union; while [Vice President John] Breckinridge received more that 6,000 in Maine, 2,000 in Vermont, and 14,000 in Connecticut.   According to the “acid test of geographical membership,” the Republican was the only “out and out sectional party.”

Some accused the Southern Democrats of splitting their party for the sake of forcing the election of Lincoln and thus finding a compelling excuse for secession.

If the entire opposition to Lincoln, however, had been united on one candidate, the electoral college would still have given him the presidency “regardless of the fact that popular vote against him was a million more than that for him.”

In 1860, then, according to the returns, it would have been impossible for a majority of the American people to choose a president even if they had been united on a single hypothetical candidate.

In the face of the vote which both [Stephen] Douglas and [John] Bell received in the Southern States, “it is folly to assert,” continues Miss Scrugham, that the South was “aggressively pro-slavery and bent on maintaining slavery” even at the cost of the Union.”

[New York Governor Samuel] Tilden saw the fearful danger of the victory of Lincoln before it had occurred. Laying his finger on the political menace of any man’s being made President without one electoral vote from the South, he urged his fellow citizens to defeat [Lincoln] by any means possible.”

(Horatio Seymour of New York, Stewart Mitchell, Harvard University Press, 1938, excerpts, pp. 219-220)

The South’s Sable Arm

By January 1865 the alleged cause the North fought for, the emancipation of the Negro, was being advocated by many high officials in the South and effectively dispensed with that claimed Northern war aim. On November 7, 1864, President Jefferson Davis had proposed “the training of 40,000 Negroes for service,” and emancipation for those who should fight for Confederate independence. Davis had previously opposed arming blacks for military service as he felt they were not trained for war, were better suited to agriculture, and should not be used inhumanely as cannon-fodder as the North was doing.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The South’s Sable Arm

“[A group] of Southerners led by Gen. Pat Cleburne [wrote] in a petition presented to Gen. Joseph E. Johnston by several Confederate officers: “Will the Slaves fight? – the experience of this war has been so far, that half-trained Negroes have fought as bravely as many half-trained Yankees.”

[Judah] P. Benjamin, Secretary of State, urged that the slaves would be certainly made to fight against the Southerners if not armed for Southern defense. He advocated also the emancipation of those who would fight — if they should fight for Southern freedom.

In a letter to President Davis, another correspondent argued that since the Negro had been used from the outset of the war to defend the South by raising provisions for the army, that the sword and musket be put in his hands, and added: “I would not make a soldier of the Negro if it could be helped, but we are reduced to the last resort.”

Sam Clayton of Georgia wrote: “The recruits should come from our Negroes, nowhere else. WE should . . . promptly take hold of all means God has placed within our reach to help us through this struggle – a war for the right of self-government. The enemy fights us with Negroes, and they will do very well to fight the Yankees.”

A strong recommendation for the use of Negroes as soldiers was sent to Senator Andrew Hunter at Richmond by General Robert E. Lee, in January 1865. “I think, therefore,” said he, “We must decide whether slavery shall be extinguished by our enemies and the slaves be used against us, or use them ourselves at the risk of the effects which may be produced upon our social institutions. My own opinion is that we should employ them without delay. I believe with proper regulations they may be made into efficient soldiers.

[We must encourage fidelity in the black soldier] by giving immediate freedom to all who enlist at the end of the war to the families of those who discharge their duties faithfully (whether they survive or not), together with the privilege of residing in the South. To this might be added a bounty for faithful service . . . “

(Black Southerners in Confederate Armies, J.H. Segars & Charles Kelly Barrow, editors, Southern Lion Books, 2001, excerpts, pp. 6-7)

Senator Wigfall on the Cause of Discontent

Referring to the proposed Thirteenth Amendment in early 1861, offered by the Lincoln’s party and approved by him, Southern Commissioners Yancey, Rost and Mann wrote to British Lord John Russell on August 14, 1861: “The very [Republican] Party in power has proposed to guarantee slavery in the States, if the South would remain in the Union.” This underscored that their cause was not a defense of slavery, but the high price of protecting Northern manufacturers. Even with Lincoln’s support of slavery, the South chose political independence from the North.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Senator Wigfall on the Cause of Discontent

“Said Senator Louis Wigfall, of Texas, March 4th 1861 in the United States Senate, only a few hours before Mr. Lincoln’s inauguration:

“It is early in the morning and I hope I shall not say anything that may be construed as offensive. I rise merely that we may have an understanding of this question.  It is not slavery in the Territories, it is not expansion, which is the difficulty.

If the resolution which the Senator from Wisconsin introduced here denying the right of Secession, had been adopted by two-thirds of each branch of this department of the Government, and had been ratified by three-fourths of the States, I have no hesitation in saying that, so far as the State in which I live and to which I owe my allegiance is concerned, if she had no other cause for a disruption of the Union taking place, she would have undoubtedly have gone out.

The moment you deny the right of free government to the free white men of the South, they will leave the Government. They believe in the Declaration of Independence.

In the “address of the People of South Carolina, assembled in convention . . . to justify the passage of the South Carolina Secession Ordinance of 1860, it is declared that (excerpted): “The one great evil from which all other evils have flowed is the overthrow of the Constitution of the United States. The Government of the United States is no longer the Government of Confederated Republics, but of a consolidated Democracy. It is no longer a free Government, but a Despotism. It is, in fact, such a Government as Great Britain attempted to set over our Fathers; and which was resisted and defeated by a seven years struggle for Independence. The Revolution of 1776 turned upon one great principle, self-government — and self-taxation, the criterion of self-government.”

The Southern States now stand exactly in the same position towards the Northern States that the Colonies did towards Great Britain. The Northern States, having the majority in Congress, claim the same power of omnipotence in legislation as the British Parliament.

“The General Welfare” is the only limit of legislation of either; and the majority in Congress, and in the British Parliament, are the sole judges of the expediency of the legislation this “General Welfare” requires. Thus the Government of the United States has become a consolidated Government; and the people of the Southern States are compelled to meet the very despotism their fathers threw off in the Revolution of 1776.

The consolidation of the Government of Great Britain over the Colonies, was attempted to be carried out by the taxes. The British Parliament undertook to tax the Colonies to promote British interests . . . Our fathers resisted this pretension. And so the Southern States, toward the Northern States, in the vital matter of taxation.

They are in a minority in Congress. Their representation in Congress is useless to protect them against unjust taxation; and they are taxed by the people of the North for their benefit, exactly as the people of Great Britain taxed our ancestors in the British Parliament for their benefit. For the last forty years, the taxes laid by the Congress . . . have been laid with a view of subserving the interests of the North.

The people of the South have been taxed by duties on imports, not for revenue, but for an object inconsistent with revenue — to promote, by prohibitions, Northern interest in the productions of their mines and manufactures.

The people of the Southern States are not only taxed for the benefit of the Northern States, but after the taxes are collected, three-fourths of them are expended at the North. This cause . . . has made the cities of the South provincial. Their growth is paralyzed; they are mere suburbs of Northern cities.

The agricultural productions of the South are the basis of the foreign commerce of the United States; yet Southern cities do not carry it on. Our foreign trade is almost annihilated . . . by gradual and steady encroachments on the part of the people of the North, and acquiescence on the part of the South, the limitations in the Constitution have been swept away; and the Government of the United States has become consolidated, with a claim of limitless powers in its operations.

A majority in Congress, according to their interested and perverted views, is omnipotent. Numbers with them, is the great element of free Government. A majority is infallible and omnipotent. “The divine right to rule in Kings,” is only transferred to the majority.

The very object of all Constitutions, in free popular Government, is to restrain the majority. Constitutions, therefore, according to their theory, must be the most unrighteous inventions, restricting liberty. None ought to exist; but the body politic ought simply to have a political organization, to bring out and enforce the will of the majority. This theory is a remorseless despotism.

In resisting it, as applicable to ourselves, we are vindicating the great cause of free government, more important, perhaps to the world, than the existence of all the United States.”

(The Great Conspiracy, Its Origin and History, John A. Logan, A.R. Hart & Company, 1886, excerpts, pp. 226-227; 231-234)

 

The South the Land of Serfs

John C. Calhoun learned of secession from the New Englanders of 1814; it was heard again in the early 1830s, and by the 1850’s the quest for a Southern republic became more than mere abstractions. As the increasingly revolutionary and changed North became looked upon as a millstone around the neck of the South, making further progress within the Union seemed impossible. Lucius Q.C. Lamar would tell a Richmond crowd in June, 1861: “thank God, we have a country at last . . . to live for, to pray for, to fight for, and if necessary, to die for.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The South the Land of Serfs

“What should this new nation be called? Since there were questions of more importance to be settled in Montgomery, in a matter of fact way the constitution makers called it the Confederate States of America. Yet there were suggestions that it be called the Republic of the Southern United States of America, and Thomas R.R. Cobb wanted to call it the Republic of Washington. As time went on sundry other names were suggested, such as Appalachia, Alleghenia, Chicora, Panola, or even just Southland.

The Federals liked to call it Secessia, which did not displease the Richmond Whig editor too much, for he felt that the United States might well be renamed Servia, as it was a land of serfs made so by Lincoln’s tyrannies.

But this editor and other strongly State-rights Southerners wanted none of these names – not even Confederate States of America, for that indicated a nationality. They hated the word “national” when applied to the South; there was no Southern nation, they argued. There were eleven nations in the South; they hated the word “State,” as it was a Yankee term. They would compromise on “commonwealth”; but the term “League of Nations” should be applied to the whole, or “The Allied Nations” or the Allied Republics.”

As for the people, historically they came to be called Confederates . . . and though their enemies delighted in calling them “rebels,” the Southerners took up this term very early and gloried in it. They liked to recall that George Washington was the first great American rebel and Martin Luther was another great rebel. In fact, “Southern” was especially disliked by some, as it indicated merely the southern part of the old Union.

(A History of the South, Volume VII, The Confederate States of America, 1861-1865, E. Merton Coulter, LSU Press, 1950, excerpts, pp. 58-59)

 

Seward’s Analysis of Fort Sumter

Though a duplicitous and scheming politician, William Seward understood that any action to reinforce Fort Sumter would be an act of war, as was Major Anderson’s movement from Moultrie to Sumter. He further recognized that war on the North’s part would cause disunion.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Seward’s Analysis of Fort Sumter

“The question submitted to us, then, practically, is:

Supposing it to be possible to reinforce and supply Fort Sumter. Is it wise to attempt it, instead of withdrawing the garrison? The most that could be done by any means now in our hands would be to throw two hundred and fifty to four hundred troops into the garrison, with provisions for supplying it five or six months.

In this active and enlightened country, in this season of excitement, with a daily press, daily mails, and an incessantly operating telegraph, the design to reinforce and supply the garrison must become known to the opposite party in Charleston as soon at least as preparation for it should begin. The garrison then would almost certainly fall by assault before the expedition could reach the harbor of Charleston; suppose it to be overpowered and destroyed, is that new outrage to be avenged, or are we then to return to our attitude of immobility? Moreover in that event, what becomes of the garrison?

I suppose the expedition successful. We have then a garrison at Fort Sumter that could defy assault for six months. What is it to do then? Is it to make war by opening its batteries and attempting to demolish the defenses of the Carolinians? Can it demolish them if it tries? If it cannot, what is the advantage we shall have gained? If it can, how will it serve to check or prevent disunion?

In either case, it seems to me that we have inaugurated a civil war by our own act, without an adequate object, which after reunion will be hopeless, at least under this administration, or in any other way than by a popular disavowal both of the war and the administration which unnecessarily commenced it.

Fraternity is the element of union; war is the element of disunion.

Fraternity, if practiced by this administration, will rescue the Union from all its dangers. If this administration, on the other hand, take up the sword, then an opposite party will offer the olive branch, and will, as it ought, profit by the restoration of peace and union.”

(Life of William H. Seward, Frederic Bancroft, Volume II, Harper & Brothers, 1900, excerpt, pp. 99-100)

The Unknown Tongues of Lincoln’s Army

With some of the North’s major cities boasting nearly 50% foreign populations, many drawn into Lincoln’s armies spoke little or no English and had little comprehension of original American political ideals and history. New York City itself in 1860 held nearly 400,000 foreigners out of a total of 805,000, with Irishmen and Germans amounting to 323,000 of that total number. Lincoln’s Secretary of State, William Seward, actively recruited in Ireland, England and Germany; by 1864 nearly one-quarter of the Northern army was German-speaking.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Unknown Tongues of Lincoln’s Army

“Probably no war has ever been fought in modern times . . . [which has] drawn men in whom justice burns brightly – knights errant; and no war has ever been fought to which have not gravitated men to whom fighting was as the breath of life – soldiers of fortune. Europe poured into the Union army hundreds of her best artillery, cavalry, and infantry officers.

Perhaps no better picture of the situation in regard to these adventurers is to be found than the one presented by the English journalist William Howard Russell. Writing on August 4, 1861, he said:

“There are daily arrivals at Washington of military adventurers from all parts of the world, some of them with many extraordinary certificates and qualifications; but, as Mr. Seward says, it is best to detain them with the hope of employment on the Northern side, lest some legally good men should get among the rebels.

Garibaldians, Hungarians, Poles, officers of Turkish and other contingents, the executory devises and reminders of European revolutions and wars, surround the State Department, and infest unsuspecting politicians with illegible testimonials in unknown tongues.”

There can be no question but that Seward approved and sought the enrollment of trained European officers in the undisciplined and raw American army. Through the American consuls abroad and through agents expressly sent to Europe, Seward encouraged war-eager officers of the Old World to cross the sea to find the fighting for which their souls thirsted.

[General George] McClellan received from General George Klapka, who had distinguished himself in the Hungarian [socialist] revolutionary army of 1849, a communication in which that Hungarian leader revealed that he had been invited by one of Seward’s agents to enter the Union army. Klapka was indeed ready to come, but shamelessly stipulated such conditions in his letter sent McClellan storming to President Lincoln, furiously demanding prohibition of such dabbling in military affairs by the Secretary of State.

As a matter of wonder and interest it should be recorded that Klapka demanded merely advance payment of a bonus of $100,000, a later salary of $25,000 a year, for a short period the position of chief of general staff, and later, after he had acquired a greater facility with the English language, appointment to McClellan’s place as general in chief of all armies!

How many German and Austrian officers were sought out through Seward’s agents cannot be established. Seward felt that volunteers should not be refused because they could not speak English.”

(Foreigners in the Union Army and Navy, Ella Lonn, LSU Press, 1951, excerpts, pp. 273-274)

War to Enhance the Power of Lesser Regions

Copperheads, or Peace Democrats, were not Southern secession sympathizers but those who saw peaceful solutions in compromises worked out in a Constitutional convention of the States, which would end the bloody war between Americans. Northern leaders like the eloquent and rational Horatio Seymour of New York were regarded with suspicion by Lincoln and his supporters, and nothing more than an ambitious schemer for power. They awaited an opportunity to put Seymour at a disadvantage, and then seek ways to remove him from office.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

War to Enhance the Power of Lesser Regions

“The Democratic upsurge in the elections of 1862, the widespread suspicion of the federal government’s growing power, the deep popular objection to the abolitionists and the Emancipation Proclamation were all embodied in Horatio Seymour, newly elected Governor of New York. As chief executive of the Union’s most populous State, Seymour was in a position to assume the leadership of the States’ rights forces – a leadership that might take him into the White House. Seymour brought an integrity that was incorruptible and a scholarly intelligence beyond the wont of politicians. Neither quality, however – even when backed by the mounting discontent and growing war-weariness – could prevail against the power and propaganda of the national government. Abraham Lincoln beheld the rise of Horatio Seymour with well-place apprehension.

The governor’s inaugural address began by calling attention to his oath to support the constitutions of both the United States and New York . . . [and that] the rights of the States must be sacred. A consolidated government, declared the governor, would destroy “the essential home-rights and liberties of the people.”

With a realism strange to the political oratory of war, Seymour placed the unionism of the central and Western States on economic grounds; the West needed the Southern markets. But there were constitutional implications as well in the situation. Division of the country would produce a centralization of power. The small States, explained Seymour – and by small States he meant New England – were more willing than the larger ones to centralize power, because they had a disproportionate power in the national government.

The division of the Union, or the disenfranchisement of the Southern States – making them territories – would enhance the power of the lesser regions. And in turn, this concentration of political power would place the national economy in leading-strings to the limited economic pursuits of New England. The national debt would be owned on the Atlantic seaboard and would divide the country into the “perilous sectional relations of debtor and creditor regions.” Then, the Governor continued, the advantages of the protective tariff, growing out of this debt, would accrue to the same creditor States that enjoyed the excessive political power.

The only way to prevent these developments was the restoration of the Union – complete in all its parts. The vigor of the war would be increased when the national effort was concentrated on restoring the Union, and not upon a “bloody, barbarous, revolutionary, and unconstitutional scheme” that gratified hatred, party ambition, and sectional advantage!

Interspersed through this economic and political dissertation, and illustrating his exposition, were Seymour’s comments on the unconstitutionality of the Emancipation Proclamation, arbitrary arrests, and conscription.

Promptly the address became a sensation . . . [though] William Cullen Bryant of the Post ruminated that while Seymour spoke much truth on arbitrary arrests, yet these methods had saved Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri for the Union. But Horace Greeley, eschewing any thought of rationality, denounced the address as “dexterous dishonesty” concocted of cowardice, drunkenness, and masked disloyalty by a demagogue.”

(Lincoln and the War Governors, William B. Hesseltine, Alfred A. Knopf, 1955, excerpts, pp. 281-284)

 

The War Against North Carolina Civilians

After Sherman’s 65,000-man army entered North Carolina in early March, 1865, eighteen-year-old Janie Smith wrote friend Janie Robeson of nearby Bladen County and described the invasion of her home in Lebanon, North Carolina. This was near the battle of Averasboro, where Lt. Gen. William Hardee’s 10,000 man army former garrison troops stopped the battle-hardened veterans of Sherman’s left wing. All of Janie’s brothers were in Confederate service.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The War Against North Carolina Civilians

“Where home used to be. April 12, 1865:

Your precious letter, my dear Janie, was received night before last, and the pleasure that it afforded me, and indeed the whole family, I leave for you to imagine, [and I am thankful] when I hear that my friends are left with the necessities of life, and unpolluted by the touch of Sherman’s Hell-hounds.

My experience since we parted has indeed been sad . . . Our own army came first and enjoyed the cream of the country and left but little for the enemy . . . [and] such an army of patriots fighting for their hearthstones is not to be conquered by such fiends incarnate as fill the ranks of Sherman’s army. Our political sky does seem darkened with a fearful cloud, but when compared with the situation of our fore-fathers, I can but take courage.

[At] about four o’clock the Yankees came charging, yelling and howling. They just knocked down all such like mad cattle. Right into the house, breaking open bureau drawers of all kinds faster than I could unlock. They cursed us for having hid everything and made bold threats if certain things were not brought to light, but all to no effect. They took Pa’s hat and stuck him pretty badly with a bayonet to make him disclose something . . . The Negroes are bitterly prejudiced to his minions. They were treated, if possible, worse than the white people, all their provisions taken and their clothes destroyed and some carried off.

They left no living thing in Smithville but the people. One old hen played sick and thus saved her neck, but lost all of her children. The Yankees would run all over the yard to catch the little things to squeeze to death.

Every nook and corner of the premises was searched and the things that they didn’t use were burned or torn into strings. No house but the blacksmith shop was burned, but into the flames they threw every tool, plow, etc., that was on the place. The battlefield does not compare with [the Yankees] in point of stench.

I don’t believe they have been washed since the day they were born. I was too angry to eat or sleep . . . Gen. Slocum with two other hyenas of his rank, rode up with his body-guard and introduced themselves with great pomp, but I never noticed them at all.

Sis Susan was sick in bed and they searched the very pillows that she was lying on, and keeping up such a noise, tearing up and breaking to pieces, that the Generals couldn’t hear themselves talk, but not a time did they try to prevent it. They got all of my stockings and some of our collars and handkerchiefs. If I ever see a Yankee woman, I intend to whip her and take the clothes off her very back.”

(Janie Smith’s Letter (excerpts), Mrs. Thomas H. Webb Collection, NC Division of Archives & History)

Isolationism and America

In his address on the Fourth of July, 1821, President John Adams reiterated the foundation-stone of American foreign policy with: “America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion only of her own. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication . . . [and in doing so] She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Isolationism and America

“[President George Washington said]: Put not your trust in allies, especially those who are stronger than you. At worst they will betray or disappoint you; at best they will make you the pawn in their games. Trust instead in the Lord and yourselves in your dealings with aliens, and cast not away the protection conferred by a generous Providence.

The second great tradition of US foreign policy is habitually dubbed “isolationism.” This, despite dogged efforts by some diplomatic historians to instruct us that no such principle ever informed American government, and that the word came into general use only in the 1930s.

In the post-Civil War decades the word “isolation” up more often, but as an echo of Victorian Britain’s slogan of Splendid Isolation. What brought “isolation” to the consciousness of the American public was the propaganda of navalists like Captain A.T. Mahan, who sought to pin on their anti-imperialist critics a tag that implied they were old-fashioned curmudgeons.

Thus the Washington Post proclaimed at the time of the Spanish-American War that “the policy of isolation is dead,” and the Oxford English Dictionary first made reference to the concept in 1901: “Hence, Isolationist, one who favors or advocates isolation. In US politics, one who thinks the Republic ought to pursue a policy of political isolation.”

The Encyclopaedia Britannica never made “isolation” a rubric, and only after World War II did its articles on diplomacy refer to the phenomenon. Most telling of all, not even the “isolationists” of the 1930s had any use for the term, preferring to call themselves neutralists or nationalists. So, our vaunted tradition of “isolationism” is no tradition at all, but a dirty word that interventionists, especially since Pearl Harbor, hurl at anyone who questions their policies.

Let us dispense with the term altogether and substitute for it a word that really describes the second great tradition in American foreign relations: Unilateralism. It was a natural, even inevitable corollary of the first American tradition, for if the essence of Exceptionalism was liberty at home, the essence of Unilateralism was to be at liberty to make foreign policy independent of the “toils of European ambition.”

Unilateralism never meant that the United States should, or for that matter could, sequester itself or pursue an ostrich-like policy toward all foreign countries. It simply meant, as Hamilton and Jefferson both underscored, that the self-evident course for the United States was to avoid permanent, entangling alliances and to remain neutral in Europe’s wars except when our Liberty – the first hallowed tradition – was at risk.

[And] if the United States became enmeshed in war and imperialism on the European model, it would have to raise large armies and navies, tax and conscript its people, and generally compromise domestic freedom, the [American] Republic’s raison d’etre.

[And if] it became enmeshed in foreign conflicts, the European powers would compete for Americans’ affections, corrupt their politics with propaganda and bribes, and split them into factions. And finally, if the United States joined in Europe’s rivalries, the arenas of battle would surely include America’s own lands and waters, as they had for over a century.”

(Promised Land, Crusader State, Walter A. McDougall, Houghton-Mifflin, 1997, excerpts, pp. 39-40; 42)

Veritable Social Revolution in the South

FDR’s Secretary of Labor, Francis Perkins, belief that more Southerners wearing shoes would spark a consumer tsunami, is on par with New England’s early wartime belief that much good would come from giving former slaves land to cultivate on occupied Hilton Head and the Sea Islands. The logic was that the new-found wealth of the freedmen would be spent on Yankee notions and manufactured goods, and Northern industry would benefit.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Veritable Social Revolution in the South

“Some years ago Secretary of Labor Francis Perkins raised the temperature of many Southerners to fever height by suggesting that if the people of that section could be persuaded to wear shoes a veritable “social revolution” would result. The mass-production system of the United States, the secretary told a welfare council in May, 1933, depends upon purchasing power, the proper development of which would lead to prosperity beyond anything we “have ever dared to dream of.”

If the wages of the millworkers of the South could be raised to such a level that they could afford shoes, a great demand for footwear would result. Indeed, said the secretary, when it is realized that “the whole South is an untapped market for shoes” it becomes clear that great “social benefits” and “social good” would inevitably come from the development of our “mass-production system” to meet this latent consuming power.

Southern editors and speakers indignantly denied the canard that Southerners bought no shoes and retorted that such comments were only what might have been expected from a woman, especially one who knew nothing about the South.

It was even suggested that should all the inhabitants of the South suddenly wake to wearing shoes the resultant wear and tear on streets, sidewalks, and hotel carpets might cause grave financial loss to the area.

That was in 1933 . . . [and it was maintained that] Markets can only exist where there is demand; demand comes close upon the heels of knowledge. Knowledge, or education in the ways of the West, has therefore been considered essential if “backward” peoples are to be induced to purchase western goods. [Henry M.] Stanley, the African explorer, in an address before the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, published in 1884 [asserted] that if Christian missionaries should clothe naked Negroes of the Congo, even in one dress for use on the Sabbath, “320,000,000 yards of Manchester cotton cloth” would be required . . . Should they become sufficiently educated in the European moral code to feel the necessity for a change of clothing every day, cloth to the value of [26 million pounds] a year would be necessary.

When the natives have been educated they would abandon their idleness and sloth, [John Williams, missionary to Tahiti said in 1817], and become industrious workers. Then, he asserted, they will apply to our merchants for goods . . . “

[When FDR called for a New Deal in the South] He certainly must have been aware of the implications of the thesis that the poorly housed, undernourished, and ill-clad Southerner must be given greatly increased purchasing power to enable him to better his economic condition, thus strengthening the demand for manufacture products and consequently improving the economy of the nation as a whole.

It is also certain that the concern which Secretary Perkins felt for the shoeless Southerner was not without precedent. When the armies of Grant and Sherman liberated the Southern Negro, the economic implications were not lost on the people of the victorious section. Following in the wake of the Union armies a host of teachers and missionaries flocked to the South, determined to Christianize and educate the freed Negro . . . with a decidedly abolitionist tinge, to be sure.

[These] people, their robes of self-righteousness wrapped firmly around them . . . carried with them the New England school, complete with curriculum, texts and method, but they also took with them the attitudes and beliefs of the social reformer and, specifically, the militant abolitionist. Politically, the teachers and missionaries became the tools of the [Republican] Radicals in their program of reconstruction . . .

Sensing in the alphabet and the book the key to the white man’s position of dominance, the open-sesame which would unlock the magic door of equality and wealth, the Negro, like the Polynesian, flocked to the church and the school. As one observer wrote, the “spelling book and primer” seemed to them Alladin’s [sic] lamp, which will command over all the riches and glory of the world. In brief, they believed that education was “the white man’s fetish,” which would guarantee wealth, power, and social position.

Some of the teachers [and missionaries] understood the inevitable result of the extension of freedom, Christianity, and education to the Negro – the development of a vast new market for northern goods, which would result in great profits to northern mills.”

(Northern Interest in the Shoeless Southerner, Henry L. Swint; Journal of Southern History, Volume XVI, Number 4, November 1950, excerpts, pp. 457-462)

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