Browsing "Bringing on the War"

Northern Hatred Shrouded in False Humanitarianism

Lincoln as president-elect had ample opportunity to tour the South to better understand the region, as well as chastise the fanatic abolitionists who fueled the secessionist impulses of the South. He did neither, and after his unconstitutional call for troops to levy war upon a State, gave North Carolina Unionists no alternative but to join their brethren in what they regarding as a more perfect American union.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Northern Hatred Shrouded in False Humanitarianism

“Appealing to his constituents on a platform which included a protective tariff, internal improvements, free homesteads to free-soilers, and limiting slavery to its current borders, Abraham Lincoln won the presidency by pulling in the electoral votes of all the Northern States with the exception of New Jersey. In ten Southern States he pulled no votes at all and consequently had no electors from that section. The national voting performance indicated that Lincoln drew considerably fewer votes than the total number of ballots cast for his three rivals, Douglas, Breckinridge, and Bell.

In searching for solutions to the troubling problems following the national elections, alert citizens wanted to know more about the kind of program the new president intended to implement during his administration. To effectively counter secession arguments, Southern Unionists needed answers to vital questions – answers only the president-elect could give.

Reflecting the anxiety of many was North Carolina Congressman John A. Gilmer’s letter of December 10, 1860, to Lincoln . . . [that] before assuming his high office, should “give the people of the United States the views and opinions you now entertain on certain public questions now so seriously distract[ing] the country.”

Lincoln, in his return letter . . . chose to continue his policy of silence relative to his pending administration. Giving assurance he did not intend to interfere with slavery in the District of Columbia, [and] seemed to imply flexibility “on everything except the territorial question, and on this he would not yield.”

To those citizens both North and South who were thoroughly convinced that slavery extension existed more in theory than in fact, the president-elect’s position bordered on absurdity. In truth, the plantation system was not destined to expand into any existing territories of the United States. The territory of New Mexico, for ten years open to settlement by slaveholders, recorded not one slave in the census of 1860. Colorado and Nevada were likewise without slaves. A few bondage blacks were to be found in Utah, and for the same year, census statistics indicated that two slaves resided in all of Kansas.

Thoughtful observers knew it would be a tragic mistake for Lincoln to proceed without a thorough understanding of the present South, reflecting the conditions brought on by a decade of intense and often bitter sectional rivalry with the North. Republican leaders, convinced as they were that an inevitable climax to the slavery issue was drawing near, surely would not overlook the strong likelihood that resolution was not attainable without secession and war.

Also, might certain essential observations have escaped Lincoln in his firm belief that there still remained throughout the South a strong residue of Union support and loyalty? In truth, Union sentiment in the region was much weaker than it had been in years past. The loyalty that had made North Carolinians proud to send James K. Polk to the presidency had now been supplanted by new and disturbing sensations.

For reasons valid or otherwise, there was furthermore a persistent suspicion that selfish and sinister forces were behind or perhaps a part of the Northern anti-slavery movement. If an irrepressible conflict lay ahead, as contended by some, how accurate was it to conclude that black people held in forced labor were the major cause of this impending crisis?

Tariffs revised upward, a national government favorable to the industrialization and capital investments so essential to expanding industry and commerce – these and related matters occupied the attention of Northern entrepreneurs and political leaders. Could it be that when spokesmen for these special interests lashed out critically against slavery, very often their zeal was intended not so much to liberate unfortunate black people as to obliterate the political power of the region in which they resided?

Was not the South – represented by its phalanx of representatives in Congress, by its dominance of the Supreme Court and almost continuous control of the executive branch, and by its agriculturally-oriented society . . . the real target of North attacks? Until this establishment was dismantled, impatient but determined Northern economic forces would continue to be held in check. So why not strike at the South’s Achilles’ heel by mounting a convincing humanitarian campaign against its “peculiar” institution?”

(Matt W. Ransom, Confederate General From North Carolina, Clayton C. Marlow, McFarland & Company, 1996, pp. 3-5)

Northernizing the South

Arguably the first shots of the War Between the States were fired by Reverend Beecher’s guns in mid-1850s Kansas; John Brown’s armed attack on Virginia in 1859 was a logical result of abolitionist fanaticism. Unwilling to work toward a practical and peaceful solution to the riddle of African slavery in the United States, they plunged the country into revolution and war costing nearly a million lives.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Northernizing the South

“By the fall of 1856, some members of the Massachusetts aid committee, concluding that private support for the Kansas free-State settlers was not sufficient to protect them from proslavery advocates there, were urging northern State governments to intervene in the territory. [Amos Lawrence] consulted with some of his conservative friends about the idea and was told the State of Massachusetts had no constitutional authority to act in Kansas affairs.

Lawrence admitted that such an action could then only be justified upon “higher law” ground. The concept of higher law was one abolitionists were fond of invoking, and Lawrence confessed that it was a concept “which I never believed tenable, except for extreme cases, which come up once in a lifetime.”

[Lawrence] told Samuel Gridley Howe that he deemed the denial of honest elections in Kansas to be “a sufficient cause for revolution.” Lawrence hoped to avoid civil war in the territory, but if it came to that, he predicted, “it will be a contest between liberty and slavery, and it cannot last long for the slaves will not wait for its termination.” Instead, they would revolt and the uprising would spread into neighboring Missouri, toppling slavery there.

The leaders of the [New England Emigrant Aid] company made every effort to divorce themselve’s from the abolitionist camp. Rather than emphasize the evils of slavery for the slave, most of the men active in the [company] stressed the threat of slavery to northern values and institutions . . . New Englanders believed that the very future of republican government was at stake in Kansas and, furthermore, the nation.

Thus for them, Kansas became battleground between New England and Southern ways of life.   Eli Thayer, who founded the company, shared in this New England sense of mission. He hoped to keep the Emigrant Aid Company alive and to use it to promote free-labor colonies north and south of Kansas. By 1858, he was even proposing to “New Englandize” Central America . . . “we [will] send steam engines sir, which are the greatest apostles of liberty that this country has ever seen.”

[At] . . . the company’s annual meeting in 1856 he raised the possibility of colonizing Virginia . . . and in 1857 settled some northerners in western Virginia, near the Ohio River. By such means, Thayer proposed to “Northernize the South.”   [Lawrence]. . . preferred to secure the western territories for freedom and let the superiority of the northern economic system eventually transform the South. Until then, the Southerners should be left alone to bear responsibility for owning slaves; “it is not for us who imported their ancestors to complain.”

(Cotton and Capital, Boston Businessmen and Anti-Slavery Reform, Richard H. Abbott, UMass Press, 1991, pp. 42-47)

 

An Exemplar for Generations to Come

General Jubal Early notes in his “Narrative of the War Between the States”: “On the 24th of May [1861], the day after the election in Virginia ratifying the ordinance of secession, the Federal troops . . . crossed over from Washington into Virginia, the bands playing and the soldiers singing “John Brown’s soul goes marching on”; and John Brown’s mission was, subsequently, but too well carried out in Virginia and all the Southern States under the inspiration of that anthem.” Slavery may have cause secession, but secession was the cause of invasion and war.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

An Exemplar for Generations to Come

“[It] was believed by many persons that a large party at the North would oppose the prosecution of a war of invasion. It will be remembered by those at all conversant with the history of events at that time, how strong had been the party opposed to secession in the Convention then in session at Richmond (at least two-thirds of its members having been elected as Union men), and what strenuous efforts towards peace and compromise had been made by the Border States Commissioners.

The call upon Virginia, by President Lincoln, for her quota of troops to aid in subjugating the South, had settled the question, however, in the Convention; and in a few hours after Governor Letcher’s reply to that call, Virginia had virtually cast her lot with the Gulf States, although two weeks elapsed before she became a member of the Confederacy.

I had visited, some months previous to the secession of the State, many of the little villages in New England, where I saw that the population were in terrible earnest. “Wide awake,” and other secret societies were organized; and inflammatory harangues aroused the populace. The favorite theme of the orators was the “martyrdom” of John Brown; the piratical and murderous raid of that fanatic into the State of Virginia being exalted into a praiseworthy act of heroism.

When I returned to Virginia and contrasted the apparent apathy and want of preparation there with the state of affairs at the North, I trembled for the result. But when the State severed her relations with the Union, the Governor acted with great vigor and ability, and the most was made of the limited resources at his command. Volunteers responded with alacrity to the call to defend the State from invasion; and none responded more readily, or served more bravely, than those who had opposed secession in the Convention.

It seems invidious to cite particular examples; but the “noblest Trojan of them all” will point a moral, and serve as an exemplar for generations to come. Wise in council, eloquent in debate, bravest and coolest among the brave in battle, and faithful to his convictions in adversity, he still lives to denounce falsehood and wrong. Truly the old hero, in all he says and does, “gives the world assurance of a man.” I allude to General J[ubal] A. Early.”

(The Narrative of a Blockade Runner, John Wilkinson, (reprint) Valde Books, 1876/2009 pp. 4-5)

Lincoln, Grant and Beast Butler

President John Tyler’s son Lyon Gardiner Tyler was incensed in 1917 by a New York Times editorial which compared Southern planters to Hohenzollern autocrats plaguing the world. In 1928, Tyler was provoked again when the Virginia legislature adjourned on Lincoln’s birthday and declared publicly that Lincoln did not merit the honor. Time magazine fired back that President Tyler was a dwarf in comparison to the rail splitter, and Lyon published a book in 1929 defending his distinguished father – who had met Thomas Jefferson as a boy.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Lincoln, Grant and Beast Butler

“The reader of [Dr. Tyler’s] book will also have called to his attention the fact that in the recent World War this country had its flag fired upon time and time again and its citizens killed on the high seas without resorting to war, and Lincoln knew that the capturing of a fort guarding and controlling the most important city of South Carolina meant merely protection for that city and not an attack on the North.

It could be likewise been shown here that just a matter of weeks before the ballyhoo about “firing on the flag” at Sumter had been set to work to enrage the North, the flag had been fired upon when the Star of the West was shot at and turned back, but under Buchanan’s calm rule there was practically no excitement.

As to Lincoln’s cabinet [in contrast to John Tyler’s], “the accounts teems with the insubordinate actions of Seward, Stanton and Chase, to say nothing of Welles, while Stanton and Chase reveled in insults to Lincoln.”

As to the ideas of the two men in regard to personal responsibility and family obligations . . . ”Lincoln wrote to Grant in February 1865 (the war almost over), asking that his son, aged twenty-two, who had been kept at Harvard in spite of the draft, should be put on his staff and “not in the ranks.” President Tyler had four grandsons in the Confederate army, one of whom was killed and another wounded, and two sons by his second marriage who surrendered at Appomattox, aged sixteen and seventeen.”

“When [Beast] Butler issued his notorious “Order N0. 28” at New Orleans (an order that shocked decent humanity), which Lord Palmerson, the Prime Minister of England declared in the British Parliament was “unfit to be written in the English language;” Lincoln did not revoke the order, but on the contrary promoted Butler to responsible positions and wanted him as his running mate for the vice presidency in 1864. Yet Butler is the man who, Dr. John Fiske declared, “could not have understood in the smallest degree the feelings of gentlemen.”

(John Tyler and Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Lyon G. Tyler; book review by A. H. Jennings, Confederate Veteran, June 1929, pp. 213-214)

Republicans Block Schemes of Reconciliation

Seldom mentioned as a direct cause of the War Between the States is the Republican party refusal to compromise with Southerners in Congress in order to save the Union. As president-elect, Lincoln is said have led the resistance to compromise and pushing the South toward secession. After its first national electoral contest in 1856, the Republican party in 1861 would destroy the Founders’ Constitution and the union of fraternal States it had created.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Republican Block Schemes of Conciliation

“Congress was in session beginning December 3 [1860]; and in a bungling, legalistic fashion it was going about the business of saving the country. Incidentally, this should be borne in mind as a sidelight of Buchanan’s policy. With Congress seeking modes of adjustment, the President would have been going counter to the national legislature if he had taken warlike measures against the South.

Panaceas and compromise solutions piled up in such quantity that each house chose its committees to centralize the discussion, sift the numerous schemes, mediate between opposing points of view, and report such solution as seemed most hopeful of success.

In the House of Representatives this function was performed by the “Committee of Thirty-three,” a special “grand committee,” one from each State, created at the suggestion of Representative [Alexander R.] Boteler of Virginia. On the one hand the committee was embarrassed by the attitude of the radical Republicans, in Congress and elsewhere, who seemed intent upon blocking schemes of conciliation . . . [and on] December 13 . . . a group of Southern members of Congress, before secession had been voted in any State, issued an address to their constituents which read as follows:

“The argument is exhausted. All hope of relief in the Union, through the agency of committees, Congressional legislation, or constitutional amendments, and we trust the South will not be deceived by appearances or the pretence of new guarantees.

The Republicans are resolute in the purpose to grant nothing that will or ought to satisfy the South. We are satisfied the honor, safety, and independence of the Southern people are to be found only in a Southern Confederacy – a result to be obtained only by separate State secession – and that the sole and primary aim of each slaveholding State ought to be its speedy and absolute separation from an unnatural and hostile Union.”

(The Civil War and Reconstruction, James G. Randall, D.C. Heath and Company, 1937, pp. 200-201)

Lincoln Forces the Issue of War

Lincoln’s failure to find compromise between North and South and intent to wage war upon South Carolina left North Carolina Unionists with no alternative but favor withdrawal from the federated compact. Unionist Jonathan Worth wrote on 30 May 1861: “North Carolina would have stood by the Union but for the conduct of the national administration which for folly and simplicity exceeds anything in modern history . . . ”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Lincoln Forces the Issue of War

“The Robert Todd Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress reveal a tremendous pressure put upon the President by Northern men to hold Fort Sumter. Against this policy are a few letters, particularly one of March 13, 1861, from Neal Dow, the famous prohibition champion of Maine, assuring the President that “the evacuation of Fort Sumter will be fully approved by the entire body of Republicans in this State,” if such an action arises from “a military necessity,” but expressing hope that Fort Pickens will be held.

Most of the letters relating to this crisis which have been preserved in the Lincoln collection urge a firm course, not only from motives of patriotism and honor but also from fear that a policy of appeasement would ruin the Republican party. Recent Democratic victories in local and State elections had alarmed the Republicans. Carl Schurz, a leader of the radical wing of the party, urged Lincoln on April 5 to take firm action to reinforce the forts, declaring that the Republicans were disheartened by his indecisive action and warning him of the loss of the fall elections by the Republicans if he failed to do so.

On March 28 a message form General [Winfield] Scott advised the abandonment of both Sumter and Pickens for political reasons. Shocked by the advice of the general in chief, Lincoln consulted his cabinet again (March 29) in regard to Fort Sumter, and this time only three of the seven secretaries clearly advocating holding the fort.

On the following day he ordered an expedition to be prepared in New York harbor for the purpose of relieving the beleaguered garrison at Charleston, to be “used or not according to circumstances.” The next move was up to the South Carolina authorities and the Confederate government. Accordingly, on April 10 President [Jefferson] Davis ordered [General P.G.T.] Beauregard, the Confederate commander at Charleston, to demand the surrender of Fort Sumter and to reduce it if the request should be refused. On April 13 Major Anderson surrendered the fort to Beauregard . . .

A study of public opinion in the North indicates that the mass of Northerners . . . strongly favored reinforcing Fort Sumter. Lincoln responded like a shrewd politician to this popular pressure which also coincided with his own convictions. {Delaying] the Fort Sumter expedition to the last moment . . . His policy was based on what has been aptly called “the strategy of defense,” or making it appear that the Federal government was engaged in the peaceful act of “enforcing the laws” and preserving Federal territory. If a conflict resulted therefrom the South, not the North, would be guilty of striking the first blow.

Lincoln’s purpose in dispatching the Fort Sumter expedition seems to have been non-aggressive, but actually in view of the state of feeling at Charleston this act was virtually forcing the issue of peace and war. One may well raise the question whether [William] Seward’s policy at this juncture, of letting the fort go as a result of military necessity and of continuing to seek a reconciliation, might not have been the wiser course.”

(A History of the Southern Confederacy, Clement Eaton, Free Press, 1965, pp. 24-28)

Moribund Republican Party Saved by Lincoln

Lincoln reportedly gave a great deal of attention to the last half of his “House Divided” speech, a trumpet call to form ranks against a South which he claimed wanted to push slavery into the Northern States, when no such threat existed. With that paragraph, Lincoln “gently cut the [Republican] party loose from its old Whig moorings and warily charted its course to the port of the abolitionists.” This solidified his party of disunion, and forced the South to react.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Moribund Republican Party Saved by Lincoln

“Lincoln possessed political sagacity to a high degree and well understood the force of public opinion. When [he] sounded the “eventually all free” note in his campaign against [Stephen] Douglas, he had a very definite political object in view. His immediate purpose was to win enough votes to get elected to the United States Senate.

His ground for asking for the votes of his fellow Illinois citizens was that he would represent those who did not want slavery to spread into any of the national territories. However, at the time he was making this race for the Senate with Douglas, it was becoming increasingly clear that slavery did not have the ghost of a show for establishment in any of the unsettled lands then belonging to the nation because the economic basis for the system was lacking in all of them.

The defeat of the slave-State constitution in Kansas made it certain that none of the land which Douglas had opened to slavery north of 36-30 would become slave. In view of the economic circumstances it was becoming more evident that unless the Republican party acquired new tenets there was no reason for continuing its organization.

The purpose for which it had been organized, i.e., restoring the free status of the land north of 36-30, having been accomplished, it would fall to pieces unless it acquired new reasons to continue its existence.

[William] Seward, one of the leading lights of the party, and [Horace] Greeley, the leading editor of the party, were willing at this time to dissolve the party, but Lincoln was unwilling for the Republicans to disband their distinctive anti-slavery organization and have nobody to follow but Douglas, who did not care whether slavery was “voted up or voted down.”

Accordingly, in his debate with Douglas, he had to supply additional material for the sustenance of the party’s life; for the time was rapidly approaching when it would become obvious to everybody that the extension of slavery into the territories had been checked permanently by prevailing economic conditions.

In order to win victory at the polls in 1858 it would be necessary for a Republican candidate not only to hold persons already enrolled in the moribund political organization, but also gain additional recruits . . . [and] two groups from which new members could be drawn were the bona-fide abolitionists and the Henry Clay “Whigs,” who had hitherto refused to enroll themselves in the sectional political party.

The abolitionists supplied the soul of the anti-slavery movement of the north, but they had in general refused to vote for anybody who compromised on anything less than a declaration in favor of abolition of slavery in the slave States. The Henry Clay Whigs of the North opposed further acquisition of territory which could be devoted to slavery but desired ultimate abolition only under conditions equitable to the South. They had the most kindly feelings toward the Southern whites and like Clay preferred the liberty of their own race to that of any other race, although they were no friends of slavery.

Lincoln so skillfully calculated the wording of his famous House-Divided speech that it won converts to his following from both the above-mentioned groups. It carried water on both shoulders, so to speak, for it was so constructed that it was acceptable to both radicals and moderate conservatives.”

(The Peaceable Americans of 1860-1861, A Study in Public Opinion, Mary Scrugham, Columbia, 1921, pp. 17- 20)

An End to Southern Abolition

Left alone regarding African slaves in their midst, Southerners, like the North before them, would have found solutions to what they saw as a great alien population among them, and a labor system they saw as detrimental to their progress. Southern emancipation efforts halted after the Nat Turner massacres in Virginia, which the South saw as fomented by fanatical abolitionists. Had the North channeled its energies into practical and peaceful solutions rather than violent ones, the country might have avoided that destructive war.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

An End to Southern Abolition

“I had a very interesting conversation with Governor [William] Graham on the subject of slavery, when I passed the day with him in the Spring of 1874. I told him that I had recently seen the commencement oration of my uncle, the Rev. John Haywood Parker, delivered at his graduation in 1832; and that it was an argument in favor of the abolition of slavery in North Carolina.

He replied that it was at that same commencement of 1832 that Judge Gaston, in his address to the Literary Societies, had made his famous plea to the young men of the State, that they should realize their duty of taking up that great problem and removing the burden of slavery which was depressing the influence, the development, and the best interests of the State. Governor Graham said that in 1832 the abolition of slavery was freely discussed in the State and was favored by many of our best and wisest men.

I asked him how it came about that there was such a sudden and total change in public opinion within the next twenty years. He replied that there were several concurrent causes of this. In the first place Nat Turner’s Insurrection in Southampton County, Virginia in 1831, had much to do with it. That short but bloody outbreak excited such horror and alarm that people feared talk of freeing the Negroes lest it might tend to suggest the idea of freedom to their minds and lead them to similar attempts at freeing themselves by force.

Also it was just about this period that the Quakers and others in the North began to send to Congress petitions for the abolition of slavery; and the struggles in Congress and the resentment of the people of the South at what they considered an interference in their domestic affairs caused a great revulsion of feeling. The Southern people were willing to consider the subject themselves, but they would not be dictated to.

I afterwards mentioned this conversation to Judge [George] Howard who agreed with Governor Graham; but he added that another element in the problem of abolition of slavery was the acquisition of immense territory by the Mexican War and then the discovery of gold in California immediately afterwards.

This opened so much additional territory for the extension of slavery in Texas and the Southwest, and so stimulated all values that slave property was more than doubled in value. When a Negro man was worth three or four thousand dollars, as he was before 1832, the abolition of slavery was one question. When the same Negro came to be worth one thousand dollars, as he came to be before many years had passed, the question of abolition had become a quite different one.”

(Nonnulla, Memories, Stories, Traditions More of Less Authentic, Joseph Blount Cheshire, UNC Press, 1930, pp. 136-137)

Emancipation Regardless of the Consequences

Today’s progressive religion of empathy with oppressed peoples worldwide emulates that of the antebellum abolitionist, who expressed deep concern with people he had never met, could not understand, and whose world was alien to him. To salve their own guilt and difficult grasp of reality, the abolitionist fomented a bloody conflict which unleashed forces no one could control, and an oppressive result we live with today.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Emancipation Regardless of Consequences

“Most Northerners before the Civil War, and indeed many slaveholders, were “against” slavery.” The abolitionists recognized also that they must continually reinforce their own commitment to their cause. The frequent meetings and intra-group journals of any movement for change serve an indispensable function even when they repeatedly pass the same resolutions and proclaim familiar truths to the already committed.

The twin tasks of refreshing the commitment of abolitionists and of converting outsiders’ passive disapproval of slavery into active opposition differed only in emphasis, especially after the movement had grown from a handful of pioneers into a network of societies with thousands of members.

In propaganda aimed at both groups, the abolitionists relied heavily on the same arguments: among others, that slavery denied the humanity of the Negro and prevented the slave from having normal family relations and religious life, that the North shared the slaveowners’ guilt, that absolute power of one individual over another encourages atrocities, that slavery was responsible for the degraded condition of Northern free Negroes . . . ”

[William Lloyd Garrison] deliberately [pictured] himself in the place of the oppressed. On the first anniversary of his marriage, he wrote to his brother-in-law describing his happiness and extolling the institution of marriage; and he added, how horrible it would be if he and Helen were slaves and were separated by sale. All the more reason, then, to rededicate his life to the abolition of slavery.

This theme, which for convenience will be referred to as “empathy,” appears repeatedly in abolitionists’ private discourse and public propaganda, in exhortations among themselves to increase their zeal and in efforts to induce complacent whites to imagine themselves in the place of the slaves.

But the abolitionist movement comprised mainly white men and women, most of whom had never been in the South. The empathy theme can thus be seen, perhaps, as a substitute for direct involvement in the suffering that movement was dedicated to end. It appeared in other forms as well. When Abby Kelley Foster was asked how she could leave her baby with others, to travel the abolitionist lecture circuit, she replied, “For the sake of the mothers who are robbed of all their children.” Beriah Green . . . [said]: You can act as if you felt that you were bound with those who are in bonds, as if their cause was all your own . . .”

Abolitionist propaganda reiterated that Northern whites were in fact indirectly “bound with” the slaves. Paradoxically, the North was not only an accessory to the enslavement of the Negroes; it was at the same time a secondary victim of the slaveowners. With their strong religious motive for proclaiming the duty of emancipation regardless of the consequences, the abolitionists could not in good conscious appeal to the North solely or chiefly on the basis of interest.

The empathy theme enabled them in a remarkable way to combine interest with principle, for if a Northern white could be made to feel bound with the slave he would fight the slave power to defend himself, as Beriah Green suggested, as well as to exculpate himself. To free the slave would be to free himself of both guilt and bondage; the two motives would become one.”

(Means and Ends in American Abolitionism, Aileen S. Kraditor, Pantheon Books, 1967, pp. 235-238)

The Old and New Republican Party

The first disputed presidential election occurred in 1796 with John Adams elected only “by the whim of two Southern electors” — one from Virginia and one in North Carolina – and both voted for Jefferson as Vice President. This electoral result and victory for the monarchical Adams spurred Jefferson and Madison to formulate the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, whose spirit was that State governments were the foundation of the American political system, and their power unlimited except for strictly delegated and enumerated functions.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The Old and New Republican Party

“The Democratic-Republican Party . . . was the political party whose theory was aimed at the increase of direct popular control over the Government, the widening of the right of suffrage, the limitation of the powers of the Federal Government, and the conservation of the powers reserved to the State governments by the Constitution. It is therefore a strict construction party and has always operated as a check upon the nationalization of the United States.

It at first (1792-3) took the name of the Republican party, which more properly belongs to its present possessors, and was generally known by that name until about 1828-30. Upon its absorption of the French or Democratic faction, in 1793-6, it took the official title of the Democratic-Republican party.

About 1828-30 its nationalizing portion having broken off and taken the name of “National Republican,” the particularist residue assumed the name of “Democrats,” which had been accepted since about 1810 as equivalent to “Republicans,” and by which the have since been known. Some little confusion therefore, has always been occasioned by the similarity in name between the strict construction Republican party of 1793 and the broad construction Republican party of 1856.

[During the formative period, 1789-93 period, the forces] which have always tended to the complete nationalization of the American Union were in operation at the adoption of the Constitution, [and their] influence was as yet by no means general. The mass of the people was thoroughly particularist, interested mainly in the fortunes of their State governments, and disposed to look at the new Federal Government as a creature of convenience only, to be accepted under protest until the exercise of its functions should prove burdensome or unpleasant.

The planters of the South, and particularly of Virginia, had generally supported the change in government [from the Articles of Confederation] and the early measures of the Federal party, induced partly by the influence of Madison and partly by the compromises by which the Constitution had been made acceptable to them.

When Hamilton, early in 1790, finally, and almost from sheer necessity, fell back upon commercial interest as the stock upon which to graft his nationalizing measures, he necessarily alienated the whole South, which was not only particularist but exclusively agricultural, except in a few isolated spots on the seaboard. The difference between the two sections was as yet only in degree, not in kind.

Both were mainly agricultural; both were particularist; neither possessed manufactures; but the South, which had far less banking and commerce than the North, and therefore in Jefferson’s words, “owed the debt while the North owned it,” first felt repulsion to the Hamiltonian policy.

The opposition to his plan for settling the public debt was mainly to its commercial aspect; the opposition to his project of a national bank in the following year was of a distinct party nature, and was based upon that strict construction of the Constitution which was always afterward to be the party’s established theory.

In 1791-2, therefore, we may consider the Anti-Federal party, which had so warmly opposed the adoption of the Constitution, as rehabilitated into a party, as yet without a name, which was to maintain the binding force of the exact and literal language of the Constitution, and to oppose any enlargement of the Federal Government’s powers by interpretation.

The first authoritative claim of the party name occurs in Jefferson’s letter of May 13, 1792, to Washington, in which he says:

“The Republican party, who wish to preserve the government in its present form, are fewer in number [than the monarchical Federalists]. They are fewer even when joined by the two, three or half-dozen Anti-Federalists, who, though they dare not avow it, are still opposed to any general government; but being less so to a republican to a monarchical one, they naturally join those whom they think pursuing the lesser evil.”

Before the close of the year 1792 we must regard the Republican party as fairly formed. Its general basis was a dislike to the control exercised by any government not directly affected by the vote of the citizen on whom the laws operated; a disposition to regard the Federal Government . . . as possibly a second avatar of royalty; and an opposition to the Federalist, or Hamiltonian, measures of a national bank, a national excise [tax], a protective tariff, a funding system for the debt, and to all measures in general tending to benefit the commercial or creditor classes.”

(American Political History, 1763-1876, Alexander Johnston, Volume I, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1905, pp. 208-212)