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Scourging Republicans from the Temple of Freedom

Scourging Republicans from the Temple of Freedom

As the Democratic party split into North and South factions in early 1860, it paved the way for the new, sectional Republican party — comprised of former Whigs, abolitionists, transcendentalists, and anti-Catholic Know-Nothings — to triumph in November with a 39% plurality. Aware of the extreme danger Republicans posed to the Union, rational Southern men traveled northward to alert their Democratic brethren.

One voice was William L. Yancey, born at Warren County, Georgia but educated at Williams College in northwestern Massachusetts, where he likely absorbed that State’s tradition of threatening secession from the 1789 union should that State’s equality in the federation be threatened. He relocated to Elmore County, Alabama in 1837 and eventually represented his district in the United States House of Representatives.

Aware of the extreme danger to the Union should the Democratic party fragment in 1860, he joined “Southern men of all parties who came north in an effort to arouse the masses to the danger of the situation.” He was then prevailed upon to make an extended campaign from Memphis to Boston, speaking to many audiences.

In a speech at Nashville on August 14, 1860 and published in the Nashville Union and American shortly afterward:

“Yancey denied that he was a disunionist per se; but declared that in the event of a Republican victory, “I hope to God there will be some man or set of men, whom Providence will rear in our midst . . . that there will be some great Washington [to] arise who will be able to scourge them from the temple of freedom, even if he is called a traitor – an agitator, or a rebel during the glorious process.”

(Source: The Secession Movement: 1860-1861, Dwight L. Dumond, The MacMillan
Company, 1931, pg. 110)

 

Paving the Way for Final Catastrophe

John Brown’s deadly insurrection at Harper’s Ferry in 1859 destroyed the South’s belief that conservative gentlemen ruled the North and understood the slavery they had been saddled with. After all, New England merchants and their ships had profited greatly from the many Africans brought to these shores, who raised the raw cotton spun in New England mills. The Brown raid changed all that – DeBow’s Review wrote that the North “has sanctioned and applauded theft, murder, treason”; a Baltimore editorial asked how the South could any longer afford” to live under a government, a majority of whose subjects or citizens regard John Brown as a martyr and a Christian hero?” Not mentioned below among those fleeing to Canada was Frederick Douglass, who was to join Brown as a “liaison officer” to the slaves expected to join his band.

Notably, Brown was sentenced to hang for committing treason against Virginia, one of “them” (States) identified in Article III, Section 3 of the United States Constitution.

Paving the Way for Final Catastrophe

“Although more than 400 miles lay between Harper’s Ferry, Virginia and Boston, Massachusetts, John Brown’s raid made that distance seem much shorter. A number of prominent Boston men had been associated with John Brown over the past three or four years, and now it looked as though they were implicated in a criminal conspiracy. It was well known that industrialists such as Amos A. Lawrence, William Appleton and Edward Atkinson had sent both money and guns to “Captain” Brown during his military exploits in Kansas. George Luther Stearns, a wealthy Boston businessman, had made unlimited funds available to Brown and was later found to be one of the “Secret Six” who had conspired to assist Brown in his new undertaking.

Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, prominent physician and reformer, had become one of Brown’s closest associates in the East; preachers such as Unitarian Thomas Wentworth Higginson and the Transcendentalist Theodore Parker had also become ardent Brown supporters; Wendell Phillips, the “golden trumpet” for Garrison’s abolition movement, spoke out on his behalf; and young Franklin B. Sanborn, a Concord schoolteacher just recently out of Harvard, was a disciple of the Old Man from Kansas.

Suddenly Senator Jefferson Davis, the Mississippi statesman who had been wined and dined in Boston only a year earlier, became nemesis in the North, avenger of the South.

Some of Brown’s supporters remained steadfast in supporting their hero during the Senate’s investigations. Theodore Parker was still in Europe, but wrote back his approval of what Brown [had] done; Thomas Wentworth Higginson dared the Southern senators to call him to the witness stand. But many more feared losing their good names, their businesses, and quite possibly their freedom. Franklin Sanborn, Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, George Luther Stearns, and several other Boston residents suddenly decided it was time to pay a visit to Canada “for reasons of health.”

Conservatives throughout Boston were appalled by the aftereffects from John Brown’s raid. Mournfully, Edward Everett warned his friend Robert C. Winthrop that this event would surely pave the way for “final catastrophe.” The most influential figure in the Emigrant Aid Society, Amos A. Lawrence, still would not join the Republican party. Lawrence feared that the Republican party, with its openly sectional appeal, would further alienate the South and endanger the Union.”

(Civil War Boston: Home Front and Battlefield, Thomas O’Connor, Northeastern University Press, 1997, pp. 38-40)

War for a Certain Interpretation

“We talk of peace and learning,” said Ruskin once in addressing the cadets of the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, “and of peace and plenty, and of peace and civilization, but I found that those were not the words which the muse of history coupled together, that on her lips the words were peace and corruption, peace and death.” Hence this man of peace glorified war after no doubt a very cursory examination of the muse of history.”

 War for a Certain Interpretation

“The surrender of the armies of Lee and Johnston brought the struggle to an end. The South was crushed . . . “the ground of Virginia had been kneaded with human flesh; its monuments of carnage, its spectacles of desolation, it’s altars of sacrifice stood from the wheat fields of Pennsylvania to the vales of New Mexico.” More than a billion dollars of property in the South had been literally destroyed by the conflict.

The palpable tragedy of violent death had befallen the family circles of the South’s patriotic not merely twice as frequently as in times of peace, or three times as frequently, or even ten times, but a hundred times as frequently. Within the space of four years was crowded the sorrow of a century. Mourning for more than 250,000 dead on battlefield or on the sea or in military hospitals was the ghastly heritage of the war for the South’s faithful who survived. The majority of the dead were mere boys.

Many strong men wept like children when they turned forever from the struggle. As in rags they journeyed homeward toward their veiled and stricken women they passed wearily among the flowers and the tender grasses of the spring. The panoply of nature spread serenely over the shallow trenches where lay the bones of unnumbered dead – sons, fathers, brothers and one-time enemies of the living who passed.

War is at best a barbarous business. Among civilized men wars are waged avowedly to obtain a better and more honorable peace. How often the avowed objects are the true objects is open to question. Avowedly the American Civil War was waged that a certain interpretation of the federal Constitution might triumph.

To bring about such a triumph of interpretation atrocities were committed in the name of right, invading armies ravaged the land, the slave was encouraged to rise against his master, and he was declared to be free.

“The end of the State is therefore peace,” concluded Plato in his Laws – “the peace of harmony.” The gentle and reasonable man of today has not progressed much beyond this concept. “War is eternal,” wrote Plato “in man and the State.”

The American Civil war strangled the Confederacy and gave rebirth to the United States. It brought forth a whole brood of devils and also revealed many a worthy hero to both sections. Seen through the twilight of the receding past a war is apt to take on a character different from the grisly truth.”

(The Civil War and Reconstruction in Florida, William Watson Davis, Columbia, 1913, pp. 319-322)

The South Delivered Up to the Care of the North

When the Articles of Confederation were put to the States for ratification in November, 1776, the preparatory debates revealed very strong warnings of sectionalism. These clear and distinct divisions eventually produced threats of New England secession in 1814, economic fissures by the 1820s, talk of Southern secession by 1850, and eventually an all-out shooting-war in 1861 which ended the experiment in free government.

The South Delivered Up to the Care of the North

“The Congress debated the Articles throughout the summer of 1776. There were three main arguments. One was on whether each colony should have a single vote, and issue of large versus small States. The second was States’ rights, whether the confederation had authority to limit territorial expansion of individual States. Third was the method of apportioning taxation. The North wanted to tax according to total population. The South was opposed to taxing slaves.

The latter issue began one of the enduring sectional debates of the first American century. Were slaves part of the general population? Or were they property? The South held for property and Rutledge of South Carolina said that if ownership of slaves was to be taxed, then so should the ownership of the Northern ships that carried the slaves.

There were several strictly sectional votes on the subject with the bloc of seven Northern States lined up against the six-State Southern bloc. It was finally compromised that taxes would be apportioned according to the private ownership of land and the improvements thereon.

In November 1776 the Articles were sent to the States for ratification. The hottest opposition came from the Southern States (with the exception of Virginia) . . . The reaction of William Henry Drayton, chief justice of South Carolina, was typical of the eighteenth-century South. Drayton felt the Articles gave too much power to the central government and States’ rights would be run over roughshod. He observed that there was a natural North-South division among the States, arising “from the nature of the climate, soil and produce.”

He felt the South’s opportunities for growth would be crippled by the Articles because “the honor, interest and sovereignty of the South, are in effect delivered up to the care of the North.”

(The Natural Superiority of Southern Politicians, David Leon Chandler, Doubleday and Company, 1977, pg. 74)

Republicans, Sectionalism and War

Michigan Senator Lewis Cass was born in New Hampshire in 1782 and quite possibly had seen President George Washington as a young man. A lifelong Democrat and devoted Northwestern man who watched the latter territory develop, he longed to see the sectional troubles developing in the 1850’s resolved with faithful compromise. The nascent Republican party was not to be compromised with, and after electing its first president with a small plurality in 1860, plunged the country into a war it never recovered from.

Passing in 1866, he lived long enough to witness Washington’s republic perish in the flames of sectional warfare.

Republicans, Sectionalism and War

During the deliberations of the Compromise of 1850, Lewis Cass believed slavery to be a misfortune to the South, but only “the passage of ages” could bring about emancipation without the destruction of both races.

On the date July 6, 1854, the Whigs and Free-Soilers, or the “Free Democracy” of Michigan, met and formed a new party. The name Republican was adopted with old party trammels soon cast aside and all bent to the task of forming a party upon the cornerstone of unionism and freedom. This new party was opposed to State sovereignty as well as constitutional interpretations which were contrary to their views, and gave their strength to this party which advocated nationalism.

Though claiming to be a party of Americans for America, its absorption of the fiercely anti-Catholic Know-Nothings meant that only Protestants were to be tolerated.

It was a source of regret to Cass that a party with a “sectional” aim should find support in the country. For above all else he loved the Union, hoping against hope that harmony would be restored. But Michigan, so long faithful to him gave Fremont a popular plurality and elected a Republican legislature with an overwhelming majority.

“You remember, young man,” Lewis Cass said to James A. Garfield in 1861, “that the Constitution did not take effect until nine States had ratified it. My native State [of New Hampshire] was the ninth. So I saw the Constitution born, and I fear I may see it die.”

Though only nine of thirteen States ratified the third Constitution in June, 1788, the others remained fully independent States. And logically, should conventions of any of the thirteen (or subsequent States admitted) revoke or rescind their ratifications to resume their full-independent status and pursue another political arrangement, any lover of freedom and liberty would applaud this.

Lewis Cass, Andrew C. McLaughlin, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1891, pp. 301-324)

Party Above Country

Trying to save his party and opposed to any compromise with the South, Lincoln wrote Pennsylvania Congressman James Hale that accepting the Crittenden Compromise would mean the end of their Republican party and control of the national government.  Lincoln had sent similar letters to other important Republicans well before the Committee of Thirteen met to consider Crittenden’s solution to the sectional divide.

Party Above Country

“The Republican decision to frustrate compromise efforts was one of the most significant political decisions in American history. Although it would be unreasonable to assert that had the Republicans supported compromise they would definitely have ended the secession movement and prevented the Civil War, such a result was quite possible given the wide support that Crittenden’s plan attracted.

The Republican motivation for opposing Crittenden’s plan is, therefore, of prime importance.

Why didn’t Republicans promote conciliation and save Abraham Lincoln from the terrible burden of having to decide whether to allow secession or fight a civil war to restore the union?

Although Republicans explained at the Washington Peace Conference that they did not want to tie Lincoln’s hands, the answer lies much deeper. All the pro-southern aspects of the compromise disturbed Republicans; but their ire was raised in particular by the territorial provisions.

The Republican party’s strength was contained in its anti-slavery wing, which was held together by opposition to any [Southern labor taken into the territories or new States]. Had Republicans abandoned opposition to [this] in 1860, they would have committed political suicide.

Such a concession to the South would have constituted a repudiation of their own platform, “an admission that Southern complaints were valid,” and a confession that Lincoln’s election as president warranted secession. The result could only have been Republican disintegration.”

(The Glittering Illusion: English Sympathy for the Southern Confederacy, Sheldon Vanauken, Regnery Gateway, 1989, excerpt pg. 216-217)

 

 

War was Lincoln’s Choice

President James Buchanan disagreed with secession as the prerogative of a State, but admitted that he as president held no authority to levy war to stop it — and his attorney general concurred. Both were well-aware of Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying was against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” Buchanan could not use military force against a State without committing treason.

War was Lincoln’s Choice

“The States of the deep South dissolved their connection with the voluntary union of the United States with marked legality at the beginning of 1861. For a quarter of a year no one knew that there was to be a war. Then Lincoln (unauthorized by the Constitution) called for troops; and the upper South, led by Virginia, seceded.

The point is, Lincoln could have chosen to let the South go in peace on the grounds that a just government depends on the consent of the governed, and the Southern States had withdrawn that consent.

But, said the North, the majority do consent, since there are more people in the North. Even if most of the people in the South do not consent, we in the North are the majority of the whole nation. Thus, the rights of a minority, although a minority of millions, mean nothing.

This is precisely what [Alexis] de Tocqueville warned against: the tyranny of the majority. And Lord Acton was deeply convinced that the principle of States’ rights was the best limitation upon the tyranny of the majority that had ever been devised.

Thus Lee did represent the cause of freedom, and Lord Acton broke his heart over Lee’s surrender because the principle of States’ rights was finally and forever denied.

The America of today is the America that won that immense triumph in the war – the triumph of unlimited, equalitarian democracy. And its leaders have blurred the distinction between freedom and equality to the point where many people use those words as virtually interchangeable terms.”

(The Glittering Illusion: English Sympathy for the Southern Confederacy, Sheldon Vanauken, Regnery Gateway, 1989, excerpt pg. 142)

Converting Preachers into Devils

John Hay was one of three Lincoln secretaries, along with John Nicolay and William Stoddard, and it was they who most likely revised the Gettysburg speech which was described as “a wet blanket,” for publication. Hay was a young man who idolized Lincoln from his prewar days, and was quickly admitted to his inner circle at president.

Converting Preachers into Devils

“On April 29 we have this entry [in Hay’s diary]: “Going to Nicolay’s room this morning, C. [Carl] Schurz and J. [James] Lane were sitting. Jim was at the window, filling his soul with gall by steady telescopic contemplation of a Secession flag impudently flaunting over a roof in Alexandria. ‘Let me tell you,’ said he to the elegant Teuton, ‘we have got to whip those scoundrels like hell, C. Schurz. They did a good thing stoning our men at Baltimore and shooting away the flag at Sumter. It has set the great North a-howling for blood, and they’ll have it.’

‘I heard,’ said Schurz, ‘you preached a sermon to your men yesterday.’

“No, sir! This is not a time for preaching. When I went to Mexico there were four preachers in my regiment. In less than a week I issued orders for them all to stop preaching and go to playing cards. In a month or so, they were the biggest devils and best fighters I had.’

‘An hour afterwards, C. Schurz told me he was going home to arm his [German] clansmen for the wars. He has obtained three months’ leave of absence from his diplomatic duties, and permission to raise a cavalry regiment. He will make a wonderful land pirate; bold, quick, brilliant and reckless. He will be hard to control and difficult to direct.’

Hay and Nicolay, drawn to Lincoln by his unusual geniality, little suspected at first that he was destined to be . . . the savior of the Republic.

Hay [later] referred to [Orville] Browning’s suggestion that the North should subjugate the South, exterminate the whites, set up a black republic, and protect the Negroes “while they raised our cotton.” Optimists predicted that at the first reverse the Southern Confederacy would collapse . . . The North, however, clamored for action. It felt the sting of the humiliation of Sumter and Baltimore and of more recent rebuffs: it believed that the Government was now strong enough to crush the Rebellion . . .

Monday, the 22nd of July, was one of the [most dismal] days Washington had ever seen. Before afternoon the news spread that the Rebels, having given up the pursuit [after victory at Manassas], were not about to attack the outposts; but everyone realized that the war, alternately dreaded and doubted for forty years, had come in earnest.”

(The Life of John Hay, Vol. I, William R. Thayer, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1908, excerpts pp. 102-105; 107-110)

The Real Motives of the War

The British were comfortable with a near-aristocratic political system in the American South and feared the popular democracy of the North. They clearly saw the division since the early 1840s of the United States into two distinct peoples splitting into two independent countries.

The Real Motives of the War

“The ruling classes in Britain were inclined to accept the Confederacy’s leaders’ portrayals of themselves as defenders of liberty and independence and their portrayals of Northern leaders as tyrants seeking to impose their will on the South. The Liberal Party in England stood for the kind of political and economic liberalism that stressed limits on the powers of government.

A British scholar, Martin Crawford, described the newspaper’s persistent belief that the North could not win the war and that continued separation of North and South was inevitable:

“The longer the conflict lasted, the more convinced The Times became that Lincoln’s government should accept disunion for what it was, a sad and irrevocable fact . . . The critique of the American conflict which The Times fashioned in the late summer and autumn of 1861 would remain virtually unchanged for the duration of the war . . . Britain’s leading newspaper had established itself as a committed opponent of the federal cause, with the result that its capacity for independent judgment of American affairs was substantially impaired.”

The Times had no monopoly on anti-Northern prejudices. The conservative London Dispatch compressed into a single sentence most of the upper class prejudices against the North:

“The real motives of the civil war are the continuance of the power of the North to tax the industry of the South and the consolidation of the huge confederation to sweep every other power from the American continent, to enter into the politics of Europe with a Republican propaganda, and to bully the world.”

(One War at a Time: The International Dimensions of the American Civil War, Dean B. Mahin, Brassey’s, 1999, excerpt, pp. 27-30)

The High Functionary’s War

President Jefferson Davis’ message to the Third Session of the Provisional Congress of the Confederate States at Richmond, Virginia, July 20, 1861 (excerpts):

“Commencing in March last, with an affectation of ignoring the secession of the seven States which first organized this Government; persisting in April in the idle and absurd assumption of the existence of a riot which was to be dispersed by a posse comitatus; continuing in successive months the false representation that these States intended offensive war, in spite of conclusive evidence to the contrary . . . the President of the United States and his advisors have succeeded in deceiving the people of those States into the belief that the purpose of [the Confederate] Government was not peace at home, but conquest abroad; not the defense of its own liberties, but the subversion of those of the people of the United States.”

Under cover of [an] unfounded pretense that the Confederate States are the assailants, that high functionary, after expressing his concern that some foreign nations “had so shaped their action as if they supposed the early destruction of our National Union was probable,” abandons all further disguise, and proposes “to make this conflict a short and decisive one,” by placing at the control of the Government for the work at least 400,000 men and $400,000,000. The Congress, concurring in the doubt thus intimated as to the sufficiency of the force demanded, has increased it to a half a million of men.

These enormous preparations in men and money, for the conduct of a war on a scale more gigantic than any which the world has ever witnessed, is a distinct avowal, in the eyes of civilized man, that the United States are engaged in a conflict with a great and powerful nation; they are at last compelled to abandon the pretense of being engaged in dispersing rioters and suppressing insurrections . . . and are driven to the acknowledgement that the ancient Union has been dissolved.

In 1781 Great Britain, when invading her revolted colonies, took possession of the very district of country near Fortress Monroe, now occupied by troops of the United States. The houses then inhabited by the people, after being respected and protected by avowed invaders, are now pillaged and destroyed by men who pretend that the victims are their fellow-citizens.

Mankind will shudder to hear the tales of outrage committed on defenseless females by soldiers of the United States now invading our homes; yet these outrages are prompted by inflamed passions and the madness of intoxication. But who shall depict the horror with which they will regard the cool and deliberate malignity which, under pretext of suppressing an insurrection, said by themselves to be upheld by a minority only of our people, makes special war on the sick, including the women and the children, by carefully devised measures to prevent their obtaining the medicines necessary for their cure.

The sacred claims of humanity, respected even during the fury of actual battle, by careful diversion of attack from the hospitals containing wounded enemies, are outraged in cold blood by a government and people that pretend to desire a continuance of fraternal connections . . . The humanity of our [Southern] people would shrink instinctively from the bare idea of waging a like war upon the sick, the women, and the children of the enemy.”

(Messages and Papers of the Confederacy, 1861-1865, Volume I, James D. Richardson, editor, US Publishing Company, 1906, excerpts, pp. 118-120)

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