Browsing "Antebellum Realities"
Dec 8, 2018 - Antebellum Realities, Indians and the West, Race and the South    Comments Off on Cherokee Slaves

Cherokee Slaves

Slaveholding among the Cherokees had greatly increased in the years after 1839, and by 1860 there were nearly 4000 African slaves among 21,000 Cherokee — with 10 percent owning more than one slave. Had the Cherokee sided with the North in 1861, they would have kept their slaves.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Cherokee Slaves

“The institution of black slavery among the Cherokees had a major impact on their economic growth after 1839 as well as on the emerging division between full-bloods and mixed bloods. It also dealt a fatal blow to Cherokee sovereignty after 1861, forcing the nation to choose between siding with the Union or the Confederacy.

While Indian tradition had for centuries allowed a form of slavery for captured enemies, the southeastern Indians never had much economic use for Indian captives. Probably as many captives were adopted into the tribe of their captors as were enslaved, and more were simply killed in rituals of tribal vengeance.

Prior to 1794 the cheap labor of Africans had been of small use to a people whose chief income came from skill in hunting furs and hides and whose agricultural needs were easily provided by the communally cultivated farms tended by women, children and old men. From 1794 to 1822, the federal government gave the men plows, hoes and seeds . . . [Those] who could afford it found that owning slaves provided many advantages, especially in a free-market, profit-oriented economy.

[A new] creation myth developed among the southeastern Indians after 1790 that explained that when the Great Spirit first created red, white and black people, he had given bows and arrows to the red man, paper and pens to the white man, and hoes and axes to the black man. This myth legitimized the servant role for blacks in southeastern Indian culture; it smoothed the transition for Indian males from warriors to slave masters. Being true to Cherokee ethnic values was the paramount issue; they never viewed Africans as their brothers.

After removal to the West, Cherokees who owned slaves found it far easier to resettle than those who had no slaves. Slave labor built their new homes, cleared their land, fenced their gardens and pastures, cultivated their fields, planted and gathered their crops, and tended their herds of cattle, horses and sheep.”

(After the Trail of Tears: The Cherokee Struggle for Sovereignty, 1839-1880, William McLoughlin, UNC Press, 1993, excerpts pp. 121-125)

The South Loyal to that Which No Longer Exists

President James Buchanan should receive higher marks for his presidency as he rightfully admitted having no authority to wage war against a State, despite holding personal views against secession. Being a diplomat, he saw a peaceful Constitutional Convention of the States as preferable to military force to settle the crisis. Buchanan also well understood Article III, Section 3 of the United States Constitution which reads: “Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” His successor violated this section inserted by the Founders.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The South Loyal to that Which No Longer Exists

“[The] onrushing revolution distressed President Buchanan and most of his Northern supporters, who had long proclaimed the North altogether wrong in the sectional controversy that now they were caught in their own emotional fixations. The Northerners who wrote Buchanan were chiefly men who had acquired their mental patterns decades earlier, and could regard the present scene in the light of the past.

For example, Judge Woodward, of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, who regarded himself “a Northern man of common sense,” believed slavery was “a special blessing to the people of the United States,” and wrote Attorney General [Jeremiah] Black that he “could not, in justice, condemn the South for withdrawing from the Union.” The truth was that the South had been “loyal to the Union formed by the Constitution – Secession was not disloyal to that, for that no longer exists – the North has extinguished it.”

The Administration should urge the Southern States “to bear and forbear a little longer,” but if they would not do so, “let them go in peace – I wish Pennsylvania could go with them.” The Attorney-General read this letter to the Cabinet, where it “excited universal admiration and approbation for its eloquence and its truth,” and the President was anxious to publish it to the world.

The fact that Buchanan applauded such views, added to his irresolution, led Radical Republicans to say that he was almost as much involved in Secession as were Cobb, Thompson, Slidell and Yancey.

These critics seldom gave sufficient weight to the inherent difficulties of Buchanan’s situation. As Black saw it in November [1860], if the President made any show of force, the Cotton States would “all be in a blaze instantly.” If no show of force were used, and the early seceders could show the other Slave States “the road to independence and freedom from Abolition rule without fighting their way,” each Slave State would before long secede.

The North had already turned against Buchanan, and the South would do so as quickly as he refused to “abandon his sworn duty of seeing the laws fully executed.”

But probably ineptitude more than turpitude bottomed Buchanan’s course from Lincoln’s election to inauguration. While his hatred of Douglas had made him the chief architect of the Democratic ruin, Buchanan never admitted his own part in it, for the dead hand of the past directed the mind of the President.

On November 9, at a Cabinet meeting . . . [he] suggested a plan for calling a general Constitutional Convention to propose some compromise. Should the North decline, the “South would stand justified before the whole world for refusing longer to remain within a Confederacy where her rights were so shamefully violated.”

(The Eve of Conflict: Stephen A. Douglas and the Needless War, George Fort Milton, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1934, excerpts pp. 505-507)

Oct 28, 2018 - Antebellum Realities, Lincoln Revealed, Northern Culture Laid Bare, Race and the North, Republican Party    Comments Off on The Real Abraham Lincoln

The Real Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln repeatedly stated that he was opposed to the political and social equality of the races, that he was not an abolitionist, and was supportive of colonizing black people from the United States to elsewhere. Lincoln himself admitted that his invasion of the South in 1861 was to “save the Union,” not to end slavery. His own State of Illinois amended its constitution to prohibit the emigration of black people, and Illinois Senator Lyman Trumbull, a Lincoln confidante, expressed the Republican Party’s position on the expansion of slavery into the Territories: “All the occupied territory shall be preserved for the benefit of the white Caucasian race – a thing that cannot be except by the exclusion of slavery.” Trumbull further identified his party as “the white man’s party” and pledged that he would never consent to “Negro equality” on any terms.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The Real Abraham Lincoln

“Ask any school child: “Who freed the slaves?” and he’ll answer, “Abraham Lincoln.” But few school children are taught that in 1847 Lincoln defended a Kentucky slave owner, Robert Matson, in his attempt to recover runaway slaves. He was under no compulsion to take the case; he did so willingly.

Lincoln believed that the white and black races could not live together because blacks were inferior. In addition, he was obsessed for years with the idea of repatriating the slaves to Africa. He was following in the footsteps of his political mentor, Henry Clay, who championed the return of slaves to their native land.

One colonization plan was attempted to Haiti under Lincoln’s direction, which ended in disaster. Eliminating all Negroes from American soil would be a “glorious consummation,” Lincoln proclaimed on July 6, 1852, during a speech delivered in the Illinois State House. In 1857, as an Illinois legislator, he urged his colleagues to appropriate money to remove all freed Negroes from the State.

In 1860, he advocated the peaceful departure of all blacks so that “their places be . . . filled by free white laborers.” To denounce Lincoln as a racist is too easy, since the vast majority of whites North and South, were racists by today’s standards. The misconception today is that racism was exclusive to the South.

While practicing law in Illinois in 1847, Lincoln was hired to represent slave owner Robert Matson in the return of fugitive slaves Jane Bryant and her four children. His partner in the case was Usher Linder, who as attorney general of Illinois gave an anti-abolition speech in 1837, which resulted in the murder of abolitionist Elijah Lovejoy. [Lincoln] came down squarely in favor of slavery by seeking the return of Jane Bryant and her four children to slavery.

The man whom history has enshrined as the Great Emancipator not only spoke in support of slavery, but also actively worked for a slave owner to recover his runaways.

Lincoln apologists have tried to explain away his behavior in this case by claiming that his business was law, not morality. And that somehow the conduct of attorney Lincoln with his pragmatic approach to the law excused this attempt to send a mother and her children back into slavery.

Lincoln’s indifference to the fate of Jane Bryant and her children in hopes of a legal fee foreshadowed his indifference to the enormous loss [of life] in a war that he could have easily prevented, or ended at any time. Nearly every other country in the world ended slavery peacefully during the 19th century through compensated emancipation.”

(Lincoln’s Defense of Slavery, J.D. Haines, Southern Mercury, May/June 2005, excerpts pp. 14-15)

Negro Minstrel Origins in the North

The Northern army adopted a Southern song” “Say, brothers will you meet us, On Canaan’s happy shore?” – with the refrain “Glory, glory hallelujah, Forever, evermore.” This was written by a Charlestonian, used at many Southern camp meetings and no doubt had it origins in Negro congregations. It made its way north and was corrupted into “John Brown’s Body.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Negro Minstrel Origins in the North

“In 1842 Negro minstrelsy had its birth in a northern theater in a mixed performance made up largely of songs and dances typical of Negro life and character; as a scientific presentation of plantation folk lore (as was never intended) it was faulty, still it served to introduce some phases of Negro folk-lore to the attention of a public ready to find amusement in it; and this prepared the way for the work of Stephen C. Foster, who is justly considered the folk song genius of America; and it also prepared the way for a later popular appreciation of Uncle Remus when his time should come.

Foster, although born in the North was the son of a Virginian, and he trained himself for the production of his peculiar style of song by attending Negro camp-meetings. He wrote in all about one hundred and sixty songs including “Old Susannah,” “Old Uncle Ned,” “My Old Kentucky Home,” “Massa’s in de Cold, Cold Ground,” and “De ‘Ol Folks at Home,” or “Suwanee Ribber,” the latter being a Negro corruption of San Juan, the Spanish name for the St. John’s River in Florida.

These are not folk-lore, excepting as they have received folk-adoption, so to speak, but it would be impossible to complete this survey of the subject of folk-lore in the South without mentioning this phase, the approximately good imitation of the best folk song of the country. Nor should another folk song by adoption be overlooked.

On the Fourth of July, 1861, while the Confederate army in Virginia was drawn up within hearing distance of the Federal army, General Kirby Smith wrote that the booming of the Federal guns had been ringing a national salute. Powder was too scarce in the Confederate army . . . to be wasted in salutes, “but,” wrote the general, “our bands have played “Dixie” from one end of the line to the other.”

“Dixie” would appear to have all the characteristics of a folk song. The name is undoubtedly a Negro corruption of Mason and Dixon’s Line, and it is thoroughly a Negro conception of the land south of that line as a “land of cotton” with cinnamon seas and sandy bottoms.” But the truth is that the senseless words were written by a white man in the North, Dan Emmett, the son of a Virginian, for the use of the Negro minstrels of which he was one of the founders; and the tune was probably appropriated from an old Negro air.

The people and the soldiers of the South liked it. It outlived the Southern Confederacy and now bids fair to become national.”

(Folklore, Arthur Howard Noll; History of the Literary and Intellectual Life of the Southern States, Volume VII, Southern Publication Society, 1909, excerpts pp. 68-70)

German Patriots of the South

In late antebellum years German immigrants were found in Virginia, North Carolina, New Orleans, and Texas. The German-language New Orleans Zeitung wrote that the war was “indeed of conquest and subjugation,” and called Lincoln the “personification of despotism.” Wilmington’s “German Volunteers,” which became Company A of the Eighteenth North Carolina Regiment, was led by Captain Christian Cornehlson. All but 30 of the 102 men in the company were natives of Germany; 26 of the 30 were born in North Carolina of German parentage.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

German Patriots of the South

“The Germans felt it wrong that the North, after selling its slaves to the South, should attempt to force the slaveholders to free their slaves without compensation. Furthermore on the question of commercial independence many of the Germans shared the free-trade principles of their Anglo-Saxon Southern neighbors.

They resented the high tariff, firmly believing that Northern manufacturers under its protection extorted tribute from every inhabitant of the South on almost every article he purchased, and demanded that the wrong should be corrected.

Like other residents of the South, they could not escape the fear, aroused by the John Brown raid, of possible Negro insurrections. It must not be forgotten that, while opposed to slavery, they, like [Robert E.] Lee, preferred to see it abolished in a lawful, peaceable manner.

Where the Germans took up arms voluntarily, they did do for the perpetuation of liberty, as they saw it through the lens of Confederate constitutionalism, not for the striking of the chains from the Negro, but for the casting off of political and economic shackles from the limbs of the whites.

On [November 30, 1860 the editor of the Richmond Anzeiger] spoke out on the political crisis which he called “long anticipated” and declared that Lincoln’s election “on a platform which openly mocks Southern rights guaranteed by the Constitution must lead to a decision of the pending crisis.” He later pointed to various fugitive slave laws of the Northern States as proof it was the North which had produced the crisis by its disregard of the Federal laws.

He asserted that if the Northern States would repeal those obnoxious laws, the conservative elements of the South would seize the hand of friendship thus expended and would regard a secessionist as a high traitor to the common fatherland.”

(Foreigners in the Confederacy, Ella Lonn, UNC Press, 1940, excerpts pp. 41-44)

Sen. Robert Toombs Cornerstone Speech

Address before the General Assembly of Georgia, November 13, 1860.

“GENTLEMEN OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY: I very much regret, in appearing before you at your request, to address you on the present state of the country, and the prospect before us, that I can bring you no good tidings.

We have not sought this conflict; we have sought too long to avoid it; our forbearance has been construed into weakness, our magnanimity into fear, until the vindication of our manhood, as well as the defence of our rights, is required at our hands. The door of conciliation and compromise is finally closed by our adversaries, and it remains only to us to meet the conflict with the dignity and firmness of men worthy of freedom.

We need no declaration of independence.  Above eighty-four years ago our fathers won that by the sword from Great Britain, and above seventy years ago Georgia, with the twelve other confederates, as free, sovereign, and independent States, having perfect governments already in existence, for purposes and objects clearly expressed, and with powers clearly defined, erected a common agent for the attainment of these purposes by the exercise of those powers, and called this agent the United States of America.

The basis, the corner-stone of this Government, was the perfect equality of the free, sovereign, and independent States which made it. They were unequal in population, wealth, and territorial extent – they had great diversities of interests, pursuits, institutions, and laws; but they had common interests, mainly exterior, which they proposed to protect by this common agent – a constitutional united government – without in any degree subjecting their inequalities and diversities to Federal control or action.

The Executive Department of the Federal Government, for forty- eight out of the first sixty years under the present Constitution, was in the hands of Southern Presidents . . . no advantage was ever sought or obtained by them for their section of the Republic. They never sought to use a single one of the powers of the Government for the advancement of the local or peculiar interests of the South, and they all left office without leaving a single law on the statute-book where repeal would have affected injuriously a single industrial pursuit, or the business of a single human being in the South.

But on the contrary, they had acquiesced in the adoption of a policy in the highest degree beneficial to Northern interests. We can to-day open wide the history of their administrations and point with pride to every act, and challenge the world to point out a single act stained with injustice to the North, or with partiality to their own section. This is our record; let us now examine that of our confederates.

The instant the Government was organized, at the very first Congress, the Northern States evinced a general desire and purpose to use it for their own benefit, and to pervert its powers for sectional advantage, and they have steadily pursued that policy to this day. They demanded a monopoly of the business of ship-building, and got a prohibition against the sale of foreign ships to citizens of the United States, which exists to this day.

They demanded a monopoly of the coasting trade, in order to get higher freights than they could get in open competition with the carriers of the world. Congress gave it to them, and they yet hold this monopoly. And now, to-day, if a foreign vessel in Savannah offer[s] to take your rice, cotton, grain or lumber to New-York, or any other American port, for nothing, your laws prohibit it, in order that Northern ship-owners may get enhanced prices for doing your carrying.

This same shipping interest, with cormorant rapacity, have steadily burrowed their way through your legislative halls, until they have saddled the agricultural classes with a large portion of the legitimate expenses of their own business. We pay a million of dollars per annum for the lights which guide them into and out of your ports.

The North, at the very first Congress, demanded and received bounties under the name of protection, for every trade, craft, and calling which they pursue, and there is not an artisan . . . in all of the Northern or Middle States, who has not received what he calls the protection of his government on his industry to the extent of from fifteen to two hundred per cent from the year 1791 to this day. They will not strike a blow, or stretch a muscle, without bounties from the government.

No wonder they cry aloud for the glorious Union . . . by it they got their wealth; by it they levy tribute on honest labor. Thus stands the account between the North and the South. Under its . . . most favorable action . . . the treasury [is] a perpetual fertilizing stream to them and their industry, and a suction-pump to drain away our substance and parch up our lands.

They will have possession of the Federal executive with its vast power, patronage, prestige of legality, its army, its navy, and its revenue on the fourth of March next. Hitherto it has been on the side of the Constitution and the right; after the fourth of March it will be in the hands of your enemy.

What more can you get from them under this Government? You have the Constitution – you have its exposition by themselves for seventy years – you have their oaths – they have broken all these, and will break them again. They tell you everywhere, loudly and defiantly, you shall have no power, no security until you give up the right of governing yourselves according to your own will – until you submit to theirs. For this is the meaning of Mr. Lincoln’s irrepressible conflict – this is his emphatic declaration to all the world.

But we are told that secession would destroy the fairest fabric of liberty the world ever saw, and that we are the most prosperous people in the world under it. The arguments of tyranny as well as its acts, always reenact themselves. The arguments I now hear in favor of this Northern connection are identical in substance, and almost in the same words as those which were used in 1775 and 1776 to sustain the British connection. We won liberty, sovereignty, and independence by the American Revolution – we endeavored to secure and perpetuate these blessings by means of our Constitution.

We are said to be a happy and prosperous people. We have been, because we have hitherto maintained our ancient rights and liberties – we will be until we surrender them. They are in danger; come, freemen, to the rescue. Withdraw yourselves from such a confederacy; it is your right to do so – your duty to do so. As for me, I will take any place in the great conflict for rights which you may assign. I will take none in the Federal Government during Mr. Lincoln’s administration.”

Oct 1, 2018 - Antebellum Realities, Emancipation, Freedmen and Liberty, Race and the South, Southern Culture Laid Bare    Comments Off on Robert Carter’s Deed of Gift

Robert Carter’s Deed of Gift

The Virginia House of Burgesses in 1769 petitioned the King to curtail his importation of slaves to the colony, arguing that slavery “greatly retards the Settlement of the Colonies.” With no other means of dependable labor for their plantations, Virginia slaveholders like Robert Carter rewarded those who worked on Sunday when needed, provided them measured independence, and allowed them to build their own quarters and supervise his plantation enterprises. The reward for faithful service was often emancipation by deed and will.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Robert Carter’s Deed of Gift

“On September 5, 1791, Robert Carter III of Nomony Hall, one of Virginia’s wealthiest slaveholders, delivered to the Northumberland District Court a document he called a “Deed of Gift.” It was a dry document . . . [which] signaled Carter’s intent to free his slaves, more than four hundred fifty in number, more American slaves than any American slaveholder had ever freed, more American slaves than any American slaveholder would ever free.

Carter lived next to the Washington’s and the Lee’s on the Northern Neck of Virginia, he was friend and peer to Jefferson, George Mason, Patrick Henry, and other members of the Revolutionary elite.

No monuments honor him, nor the Deed of Gift. No published map exists that can direct you to the patchwork ruins of his house and plantation; no stone wall tells exactly where his body lies. Sweep through the great bestselling histories of the Revolution and the founders, and you will rarely find even a footnote mentioning Robert Carter.

Eugene D. Genovese, in his classic “Roll, Jordan, Roll,” refers to Carter three times, once as an example of a slaveholder who consulted his slaves on the performance of their overseers, once as an example of a slaveholder who allowed his slaves to practice medicine, and once as a slaveholder who believed that slavery was unprofitable.

In the summer of 1791 . . . as Robert Carter composed the Deed of Gift, the private emancipation of slaves in the State of Virginia had been lawful for almost a decade. Such emancipations were difficult financial propositions, but certainly feasible: before Robert Carter freed his slaves, small slaveholders across Virginia had liberated almost ten thousand of their black servants, and entire States with significant slave populations, such as New Jersey, were learning how to finance emancipations on a public scale.

Similarly, like many slaveholders before him, Carter provided financial support and sponsorship that eased the transition to freedom, provided for disabled and indigent freed slaves, and laid the groundwork for an interracial republic, challenging in numerous small instances the notion that young America would fall apart if blacks and whites were free at the same time.”

(The First Emancipator: Slavery, Religion and the Quiet Revolution of Robert Carter, Andrew Levy, Random House, 2005. Excerpts pp. xi-xviii)

The Republican’s Avenue to Power

The following passage refers to Lincoln’s “lost speech” at the 1856 Bloomington, Illinois Republican party convention, where he reportedly fixated on keeping slaves in States where they lived while keeping the Kansas-Nebraska violence inflamed – the issues which his new party fed upon. The politically-ambitious Lincoln narrowly lost the vice-presidential nomination to William Dayton of New Jersey shortly after the Illinois convention, but then became what the author below refers to as a “Messiah-in-waiting” and coveting the presidency.  His plurality election in 1860 was the death knell of the United States Constitution.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The Republican’s Avenue to Power

“The 1856 presidential election was pivotal in Lincoln’s formation as a foe of the South. It now appeared that the Republicans, not the “Know-Nothings,” would inherit the Northern Whig voters. Illinois Republicans [organized in Bloomington with] . . . all sorts of political leaders gathered there. Their common attribute was non-membership in the Democratic Party. They were Whigs, abolitionists, Free-Soilers, anti-Douglas Democrats, bolting Democrats, Know-Nothings – a collection of politicians of any stripe outside the Democratic Party. It was a political gathering . . . a group of people clubbed together to seek power.

They had only one common issue – the need, as they saw it, to attack slavery. The people they represented did not want slaves (or free Negroes) admitted to their State or territory of interest. The Northern and foreign immigrants did not want Negroes where they lived. They wanted to keep them out, to make them stay in the South. The politicians were going to use that popular attitude as an avenue to power.

In 1856, [Lincoln] accepted election as a delegate to the convention in Bloomington . . . meant to organize a State Republican party. He stood up with a show of reluctance . . . [and] spoke from scribbled notes. When he finished, and hour and a half after beginning, “a mob of frenzied men churned around him, congratulating him, praising him, pumping his hand.”

(Lincoln As He Really Was, Charles T. Pace, Shotwell Publishing, 2018, excerpts pp. 139-140)

Intolerant Mountaineers

While the North Carolina mountains are normally described as antislavery and Unionist during the war, it was also strongly resistant to foreigners and a hotbed of Know-Nothingism imported from the North in the mid-1850s. Originally a secret, anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic and anti-party fraternal order, the “Know-Nothings” was a response to “the vast influx of immigrants” who would drive native-born Americans from northeastern cities toward the West. This immigrant invasion affected the North and was changing the electorate there from those who understood the Framers’ vision of America, to those born in European kingdoms ruled by royalty. The American South remained mostly free of such threats to the republic, and enjoyed many immigrant groups who assimilated; the new, sectional Republican party absorbed the intolerant Know-Nothings.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Intolerant Mountaineers

“At first glance, the North Carolina mountain region might have seemed infertile soil for a party dedicated to curbing the political influence of Catholics and foreigners, both of who were practically nonexistent in [the mountain] district. Nevertheless, many westerners proved susceptible to dire warnings that their democratic system of government was being threatened by hordes of immigrant criminals and paupers who owed primary allegiance to the Pope.

With their rallying cry of “Americans should rule America,” the Know-Nothings made impressive gains not only among the Whigs and boasted that their party had “arisen upon the ruins, and in spite of the opposition, of the Whigs and Democratic parties.”

But as the congressional elections of 1857 approached, the Know-Nothings – seemingly so formidable just two years earlier – now found themselves “weak, broken down, and scattered.” The party had been thoroughly demoralized by its abysmal showing in 1856 . . .”

(Thomas Lanier Clingman: Fire Eater From the Carolina Mountains, Thomas E. Jeffrey, excerpt pp. 105-107; 115)

Creating Engines for Political Security

The “glittering prize” of political party victory was control of the distribution of political offices, and Lincoln astutely arranged the patronage to control his party as well as keep jealous competitors at bay. The Collectors of Customs posts were most important, and were decisive in Lincoln’s decision for war rather than lose his tariff money and appointing powers.  Count Gurowski, the Polish immigrant and political gadfly mentioned below, believed in the European tradition that “treason” was simple opposition to royalty. In the United States, however, Article III, Section 3, defines treason only as waging war against “them,” the States, or adhering to their enemies.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Creating Engines for Political Security

“The arduous task of cabinet-making was far from completed before Lincoln was beset with a swarm of office-seekers. Indeed, Washington was a veritable mecca for patronage mongers bent upon securing consulships, Indian agencies, postmaster-ships, or anything else in the gift of the appointing power [of the President].

Those who witnessed the rush of job hunters could not easily forget the spectacle. Wrote home a Michigan Congressman: “The City is overwhelmed with a crowd of rabid, persistent office-seekers – the like never was experienced before in the history of the Government.”

An Indiana member reminisced later: “I met at every turn a swarm of miscellaneous people, many of them looking as hungry and fierce as wolves, and ready to pounce upon members [of Congress] as they passed, begging for personal intercessions, letters of recommendations, etc. . . . the scuffle for place was unabated.”

And the eccentric Count Adam Gurowski, viewing the scene, confided to his diary in this same month of March 1861 his impressions:

“What a run, a race for offices. This spectacle likewise new to me. The Cabinet Ministers, or, as they call them here, the Secretaries, have old party debts to pay, old sores to avenge or to heal, and all this by distributing offices, or by what they call it here, the patronage. They, the leaders, hope to create engines for their own political security, but no one seems to look over Mason and Dixon’s line to the terrible and with lightning-like velocity spreading fire of hellish treason.”

Politically and financially, the collectors of customs posts were among the most important at the disposal of the Administration. That at the metropolis of the Empire State was the most lucrative. “There is no situation in the U. States which enables the incumbent to exert such influence . . . as the Collectorship of New York,” one political observer had written in the 1840’s; to another this position was second only in influence to that of Postmaster-General.”

Under the caption “Fat Offices of New York,” Horace Greeley’s Tribune informed its readers in 1860 that ranking first in importance and revenue was the collectorship, with its fixed salary of $6,340, and some $20,000 more in the form of “pickings and fees.” Before Lincoln’s first administration had run its four years, the Surveyor of the Port estimated the number of employees in the New York Custom House at 1,200 and the assessment on their salaries for political party purposes at 2 percent.”

(Lincoln and the Patronage, Harry J. Carman & Reinhard H. Luthin, Peter Smith, 1864, excerpts pp. 53-54; 59-60)

 

Pages:1234567...23»