Browsing "Antebellum Realities"

Thomas Jefferson’s “Rupture”

Author Roger Lowenstein writes that on Christmas Eve, 1825, “Thomas Jefferson let out an anguished cry. The government of the country he had helped to found, half a century earlier, was causing him great distress. It was assuming vast powers, specifically the right to construct canals and roads, and to effect other improvements. Jefferson thought of the federal government in the most restrictive terms: as a “compact” or a “confederated fabric” – that is, a loose affiliation of practically sovereign States.”

Thomas Jefferson’s “Rupture”

“He was roused at the age of eighty-two to issue a “Solemn Declaration and Protest” against what he termed the “usurpation” of power by the federal branch. Jefferson was so agitated that he declared that the “rupture” of the United States would be, although a calamity, not the greatest calamity. Even worse, reckoned the sage of Monticello, would be “submission to a government of unlimited powers.”

Though Federalists led by Alexander Hamilton had sought to establish a strong central government, Jeffersonians adamantly objected. No fewer than six of President Jefferson’s successors vetoed or thwarted federal legislation to build roads and canals, improve harbors and riverways, maintain a national bank, [and] fund education . . .”

Had Jefferson survived until 1860, the federal government of that day would not have displeased him. Its main vocation was operating the postal service and collecting customs duties at ports, [and] its army consisted of merely sixteen thousand troops scattered mostly among a series of isolated forts west of the Mississippi. The federal payroll was modest . . . the civilian bureaucracy in Washington consisted of a mere two thousand employees.

The modest federal purse was supported by tariff duties and a smattering of land sales. Federal taxes (an unpleasant reminder of the English Parliament) were reflexively scorned. Then came the “rupture.”

The Republicans – [Lincoln elected in November 1860] – vastly enlarged the federal government . . . [and] accomplished a revolution that has been largely overlooked.”

(Ways and Means: Lincoln and His Cabinet and the Financing of the Civil War. Roger Lowenstein, Penguin Books, 2022. pp. 1-2)

Robert Hayne Lectures Daniel Webster

Famed orator and debater Robert Y. Hayne of South Carolina served as South Carolina Senator 1823-1832, governor of that State 1832-1834, and mayor of Charleston 1836-1837.  He famously debated Daniel Webster of Massachusetts in Congress in early 1830 over concerns that the federation’s government was attracting too much revenue, accumulating too much debt and trending toward consolidation. Hayne further reminded Webster of New England’s infamous trading with the enemy and threats of secession during the War of 1812.

Robert Hayne and Daniel Webster

“If there be one State in this Union (and I say it not in a boastful spirit) that may challenge comparison with any other for a uniform, zealous, ardent and uncalculating devotion to the Union, that State is South Carolina.

Sir, from the very commencement of the Revolution, up to this hour, there is no sacrifice, however great, she has not cheerfully made; no service she has ever hesitated to perform.”

“What sir, was the conduct of the South during the Revolution? Sir, I honor New England for her conduct in the glorious struggle . . . [but] I think equal honor is due the South. Favorites of the mother country, possessed of neither ships nor seamen to create commercial rivalship, they might have found in their situation a guarantee that their trade would be forever fostered and protected by Great Britain. But trampling on all considerations, either of interest or of safety, [the South] rushed into the conflict, and, fighting for principle, periled all in the sacred cause of freedom. Never was there exhibited, in the history of the world, higher examples of noble daring, dreadful suffering and heroic endurance, than by the whigs of Carolina, during that Revolution.”

And the War of 1812, called in derision by New England, said Hayne, “the southern war,” what was the conduct of South Carolina? The war was for the protection of northern shipping and New England seamen.

‘What interest had the South in that contest? If they sat down coldly to calculate the value of their own interests involved in it, they would have found they had everything to lose and nothing to gain. But sir, with that generous devotion to country so characteristic of the South, they only asked if the rights of any portion of their fellow-citizens had been invaded; and when told that northern ships and New England seamen had been arrested on the common highway of nations, they felt that the honor of the country was assailed . . . they resolved to seek, in open war, for a redress of those injuries which it did not become freemen to endure.’

The conduct of Massachusetts, declared Hayne, was in that war so unpatriotic and disgraceful, her acts in opposing the war so shameless, that “her own legislature, but a few years ago, actually blotted them out from the records as a stain upon the honor of the country.”

(The True Daniel Webster. Sydney George Fisher. J.B. Lippincott Company. 1911, pp. 254-255)

South Carolina’s Devotion to the Union

Famed orator and debater Robert Y. Hayne of South Carolina served as South Carolina Senator 1823-1832, governor of that State 1832-1834, and mayor of Charleston 1836-1837.  He famously debated Daniel Webster of Massachusetts in Congress in early 1830 over concerns that the federation’s government was attracting too much revenue, accumulating too much debt and trending toward consolidation. Hayne further reminded Webster of New England’s infamous trading with the enemy and threats of secession during the War of 1812.

South Carolina’s Devotion to the Union

“If there be one State in this Union (and I say it not in a boastful spirit) that may challenge comparison with any other for a uniform, zealous, ardent and uncalculating devotion to the Union, that State is South Carolina.

Sir, from the very commencement of the Revolution, up to this hour, there is no sacrifice, however great, she has not cheerfully made; no service she has ever hesitated to perform.”

“What sir, was the conduct of the South during the Revolution? Sir, I honor New England for her conduct in the glorious struggle . . . [but] I think equal honor is due the South. Favorites of the mother country, possessed of neither ships nor seamen to create commercial rivalship, they might have found in their situation a guarantee that their trade would be forever fostered and protected by Great Britain. But trampling on all considerations, either of interest or of safety, [the South] rushed into the conflict, and, fighting for principle, periled all in the sacred cause of freedom. Never was there exhibited, in the history of the world, higher examples of noble daring, dreadful suffering and heroic endurance, than by the whigs of Carolina, during that Revolution.”

And the War of 1812, called in derision by New England, said Hayne, “the southern war,” what was the conduct of South Carolina? The war was for the protection of northern shipping and New England seamen.

‘What interest had the South in that contest? If they sat down coldly to calculate the value of their own interests involved in it, they would have found they had everything to lose and nothing to gain. But sir, with that generous devotion to country so characteristic of the South, they only asked if the rights of any portion of their fellow-citizens had been invaded; and when told that northern ships and New England seamen had been arrested on the common highway of nations, they felt that the honor of the country was assailed . . . they resolved to seek, in open war, for a redress of those injuries which it did not become freemen to endure.’

The conduct of Massachusetts, declared Hayne, was in that war so unpatriotic and disgraceful, her acts in opposing the war so shameless, that “her own legislature, but a few years ago, actually blotted them out from the records as a stain upon the honor of the country.”

(The True Daniel Webster. Sydney George Fisher. J.B. Lippincott Company. 1911, pp. 254-255)

Feb 25, 2024 - Antebellum Realities, Historical Accuracy, Race and the North, Race and the South    Comments Off on A Yankee Bride in North Carolina

A Yankee Bride in North Carolina

The letter below describes a newlywed Northern woman’s experience in North Carolina and interaction with the colored people on her husband’s plantation. In a subsequent letter home, a few weeks later she wrote that ‘The Negroes are not overtasked on this plantation’ and that ‘one house girl at the North will accomplish more than two here.’ Also observed was an overseer summarily discharged for striking a colored worker; the servants ‘have plots of lands they cultivate and own what they grow from them.’

A Yankee Bride in North Carolina

Clifton Grove, North Carolina, October 10, 1853

My Dear Parents:

I arrived safely at my new home on Friday last, but have had no time to write until now . . . You may imagine I have seen many strange things. As for my opinions, in so short a time, it would not be fair to give them.

I have seen no unkind treatment of servants. Indeed, I think they are treated with more familiarity than many Northern servants. They are in the parlor, in your room, and all over. The first of the nights we spent in the Slave Holding States, we slept in a room without a lock. Twice before we were up a waiting girl came into the room, and while I was dressing, in she came to look at me. She seemed perfectly at home, took up the locket with your miniatures in it and wanted to know if it was a watch. I showed it to her. “Well,” she said, “I should think your mother and father are mighty old folks.”

Just before we arrived home, one old Negro caught a glimpse of us and came tearing out of the pine woods to touch his hat to us. All along the road we met them and their salutation of “Howdy (meaning How do you) Massa Ben,” and they seemed so glad to see him that I felt assured that they were well treated.

At dinner we had everything very nice. It is customary when the waiting girl is not passing things at table, to keep a large broom of peacock feathers in motion over our heads to keep off flies, etc. I feel confused. Everything is so different here that I do not know which way to stir for fear of making a blunder. I have determined to keep still for a while, at any rate.

Yesterday I went to Church in a very handsome carriage, servants before and behind. I began to realize yesterday how much I had lost in the way of religious privileges. On arriving I found a rough framed building in the midst of woods with a large congregation, white and black. Things that Northerners consider essential are of no importance here. I have seen enough to convince me that the ill-treatment of the Slaves is exaggerated at the North, but I have not seen enough to make me like the institution.

I am quite the talk of the day, not only in the whole County but on the plantation. Yesterday I was out in the yard and an old Negro woman came up to me, “Howdy Miss Sara, are you the lady who won my young Master? Well, I raised him.” Between you and me, my husband is better off than I ever dreamed of. He owns 2000 acres of land in this vicinity, but you must bear in mind that land here is not as valuable as with you.  Love to all. Ever your Sara.

PS: I wish you could see the cotton fields. The Bolls are just opening. I cannot compare their appearance to anything but fields of white roses. As to the cotton picking, I should think it a very light and pleasant work.

(J.C. Bonner (ed.), “Plantation Experiences of a New York Woman,” North Carolina Historical Review, XXXIII, pp. 389-400, 532-533)

Jul 30, 2023 - Antebellum Realities, Historical Accuracy, Recurring Southern Conservatism, Southern Statesmen    Comments Off on American Jews in Grey

American Jews in Grey

To put the below in perspective, the number of Jewish men in the northern army was anywhere between 6,000 to 15,000. The Jewish contribution to the military effort of the Confederacy was significant, and Secretary of War John Seddon’s estimated that there were between 10,000 and 12,000 Jews fighting in grey.

American Jews in Grey

“At the time of the Civil War there were about 150,000 Jews in the United States among a white population of 27 million. Jews thus constituted slightly more than half of one percent of the total.

The intense loyalty of Southern Jews to the Confederacy was to be expected in view of the fact that the South was the first region in the United States to tear down the barriers blocking the political and social advance of Jews. Thus, the first Jew to serve as a State governor was David Emanuel, who, having distinguished himself for valor in the siege of Savannah in the Revolutionary War, was elected Governor of Georgia in 1801. In contrast, the last State to retain discriminatory laws against Jews holding public office was New Hampshire, which did not remove them until 1876.

The first Jew to be elected to the United States Senate was also a Southerner. David Levy Yulee was elected Florida’s first United States Senator in 1845. In Congress he was vociferous in his opposition to federal restrictions on the introduction of slavery into the territories to be acquired from Mexico.

The second Jew to serve in the Senate was Judah P. Benjamin, a man descended from Spanish Jews who were expelled from the peninsula, then ended to England, then to the American South. He left Yale without graduating, arrived in New Orleans with four dollars in his pocket, married into a distinguished Creole family, became an immensely successful lawyer and planter, and pioneered in the mechanization of sugar cultivation.

President Zachary Taylor nominated him for Attorney General; Millard Fillmore nominated him for Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.”

(The Jew in American Politics. Nathaiel Weyl. Arlington House. 1968, pp. 50-51)

Ramaswamy and Dred Scott

Though one of the brightest stars in the line-up for US president, Vivek Ramaswamy greatly errs in his uninformed explanation of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney’s (pronounced “Taw-nee”) majority opinion in the Dred Scott Case of 1857. Ramaswamy recently opined that Justice Taney’s majority opinion denying free status to Scott was for the purpose of “keeping guns out of the hands of black people.” He offers no documentation to support this belief.

First, Justice Taney was born in Maryland in 1777 and had a far better understanding of the Founders’ minds and logic than Mr. Ramaswamy does today. Further, prior to his seat on the Court, Taney served as US Attorney General and Secretary of the Treasury under President Andrew Jackson.

In the Dred Scott decision before them, Justice Taney and his Court were primarily concerned with Dred Scott’s free or slave status, and if somehow he had obtained citizenship in some State under the Articles of Confederation or the later Constitution. Prior to the postwar 14th Amendment, the US Constitution did not include the word “citizen” and each State set its own standard for citizenship.  As Dred Scott was born an African slave, was not freed from this status and was not a “citizen” of a State who could sue in federal court.

The question of access to weapons had no bearing on the case as Mr. Ramaswamy suggests.

The Court ruled, with two Justices dissenting, that black people descended from American slave ancestors were not such persons as the word “citizen” means when the Constitution gives federal courts jurisdiction over suits between citizens of different States.”

(The Legal & Historical Status of the Dred Scott Decision. Elbert William R. Ewing, Cobden Publishing, 1909, pp. 54-55)

The Morrill Tariff War

The Morrill Tariff War

The United States House and Senate passed on March 2, 1861, a pro-slavery amendment by the required 2/3 vote which received the endorsement of newly elected President Abraham Lincoln. This would prohibit the United States government from ever interfering with the domestic institution of African slavery in any State. The amendment was ratified by at least three States prior to Lincoln’s ill-advised attempt to reinforce and supply Fort Sumter in mid-April, after which he began raising an army which a president is forbidden to do.

The amendment, as a clear assessment of northern political feeling at the time, indicates that the ensuing war was not prosecuted by the north for emancipation. If the American South’s only interest was “preserving slavery” it need only remain in the 1789 union and join the other States in ratifying the amendment.

At the very same time in early March the northern-dominated Congress passed the oppressive Morrill Tariff Act, which imposed a 40% sales tax on imported goods shipped primarily to the Southern States. This Act protected northern commercial interests.

The only way the American South could avoid the tariff was to withdraw from political union with the north, and initially the northern press supported this. Editor Horace Greeley wrote of “erring sisters” departing the union but entitled to determine their own political future – and not “pinned to the other States with a bayonet.”

In early March 1861 the Confederate States Congress convened and passed a minor 10% tariff which would bring the world’s shipping traffic to Southern ports instead of high-tariff northern ports. This sent a veritable shock wave through the commercial north as it would bankrupt those ports and business interests.

The north’s attitude of letting the “erring sisters” enjoy their political independence changed to invasion and conquest as the only remaining path to collecting their all-important tariff.  Hence, all Southern ports from Virginia to Texas had to be brought under northern control.

As only Congress is authorized to raise and supply an army and would not convene until July, it looked the other way while State governors in the north supplied Lincoln with troops after the provocation at Fort Sumter.

 

Apr 26, 2023 - Antebellum Realities, Northern Culture Laid Bare, Race and the North, Race and the South    Comments Off on The Antebellum North and South

The Antebellum North and South

Born in Lynchburg, Virginia on 6 October 1808, Ellwood Fisher spent his life in Maryland and the District of Columbia. A well-educated man and endowed with perspicuous mind, he delivered a lecture in early 1849 entitled “The North and the South” from which the excerpt below is taken. Fisher died in Atlanta, Georgia on his birthdate in 1862.

Fisher was no friend of slavery but castigated Northern agitators who “had at home thousands of criminals to reform and hundreds of thousands of paupers to be relieved, and on whom their philanthropy may be exhausted.” He saw their supposed concern as ill-placed when the North’s wage-slavery cast its subjects out of the factories at the end of a 14-hour workday and into the streets to endure the crime and cold at night, only to return to their low-wage toil in the morning. Lacking the plantation healthcare, the slave of the South received, high mortality was common among Northern factory workers.

The Antebellum North and South

“But we are told slavery is an evil. Well, so is war an evil, and so perhaps is government itself an evil since it also is an abridgement of liberty. But one of the first objects of our Constitution is to provide for war – for the common defense. And the people of the United States prefer the evil of war to the greater evil of anarchy.

So, the people of the South prefer slavery to the evils of a dense manufacturing and commercial population which appear to be inevitable without it; and the black man may prefer the slavery of the South to the want, the crime, the barbarism and blood which attend his race in all other countries.

In the practical affairs of human life in its present state, choice of evils is frequently all that is in our power. Good an evil in fact become relative, and not positive terms. And the necessity is recognized by the example of our Saviour, who applied the extreme remedy of the lash to the moneychangers who profaned the temple.

And we may all hope for the time to come when in the progress of Christianity, the evils of slavery in the South, and those of pauperism, crime and high mortality in the North will be greatly mitigated or abolished. But the North can now make no protest because the luxurious system of Northern civilization not only subjects the great mass of people to unwonted labor and privation, but actually sacrifices in peace a greater amount of life than is usually expended by communities at war.”

(The North and the South. Lecture Delivered before the Young Men’s Library Association of Cincinnati, Ohio. January 16, 1849, by Ellwood Fisher. Daily Chronicle Job Rooms, Cincinnati. 1849. pp. 43-44)

Plantation Life in the Old South

Plantation Life in the Old South

“A visit to the ‘Quarters,’ or homes of the slaves, was one of the most interesting features of the plantation. A regular little village with streets of shaded trees, it contained well-built cabins which are separate from the Mansion some distance. Ample fireplaces were in each house and patches for garden, a hen house and a pig pen belonged to each householder.

A house was set aside in the Quarters as a hospital for the slaves, and here the sick received attention from the mistress herself, though the family doctor was called in when necessary. When the women were in childbirth it was their mistress who daily visited them with broth and other nourishments from her own table. The large number of children under ten years of age on the plantation attested to the care of their health by their owners.

The average servant was allowed three full sets of clothes annually, with plenty of wool and cotton for as many socks as needed.

A wedding in ‘de quarters’ was a great event and the festivities attendant were superintended by “Ole Marster and Ole Missus.” The groom was often attired in the old frock coat of the planter, and the bride was happy in a satin dress from the wardrobe of young ‘Mistus.’

Corn shuckin’ was one of the red-letter days of the plantation when darkies were invited from miles around, and the air resounded with songs of the slaves. Hog-killing was another gala time on the plantation, looked forward to be the darkies as well as the young folks from the ‘Great House.’ Possum hunting was a sport in which both white and colored engaged, and when a fine large animal (well-fatted on persimmons) was caught – it was eaten with great relish.”

(Plantation Life in the Old South, Lucy London Anderson. The Southern Magazine, Vol. II, No. 11, May 1936, excerpt pp. 9-10)

Mar 18, 2023 - America Transformed, Antebellum Realities, Southern Conservatives, Southern Statesmen, Southern Unionists    Comments Off on John C. Calhoun – Jeffersonian Democrat

John C. Calhoun – Jeffersonian Democrat

John C. Calhoun – Born March 18, 1782 at Abbeville, South Carolina

The passage below is taken from Dr. Clyde N. Wilson’s Introduction to “John C. Calhoun: American Portrait” by Margaret Coit. (Houghton Mifflin, 1950). Dr. Wilson notes that the outcome of the war of 1861 -1865 “fixed and image of Calhoun as a fanatic” and a defender of African slavery by authors who knew little of the early history of that worldwide institution or the American political system created by the States themselves. In her book, Coit reminds the reader that Calhoun was educated in Connecticut where slavery was still practiced, and Jeffersonian Democracy was still preached by many.

Calhoun the Jeffersonian Democrat

“From 1811 to 1850 – as a representative from South Carolina, secretary of war, vice president, twice a presidential contender, secretary of state, and senator for fifteen years – John C. Calhoun was a central figure in the American experience. He was never predominant in influence, even in the South in his own lifetime, but there was never a time when he was not a major player who had to be taken into account.

Despite the absence of all the hallmarks of political power – large political base and patronage power – Calhoun arrested public attention and influenced public opinion. He had a major if not always decisive influence on every issue of the period – in regard not only to State and federal conflict over authority, but also to free trade and tariff, banking and currency, taxation and expenditures, war and peace, foreign relations, Indian policy, public lands, internal improvements, the two-party system, and the struggle between congressional and presidential power.

Calhoun was part of the Great Triumvirate with Webster and Clay which ‘triangulated the destiny of the nation’ according to Merrill D. Peterson. They were American political life between the time that Jefferson crossed the Potomac going South for the last time, leaving behind a modest federal establishment for a union of the States, and that time when Lincoln, with the help of General Grant and Sherman, forged the modern American state out of blood and fire.”

 

Pages:1234567...29»