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Second Appomattox

Second Appomattox

“A visitor to the United States from abroad, ignorant of recent American history, might find himself perplexed by the fact that the further the War Between the States recedes into the past, the larger it looms as the angry obsession of “progressive” Americans – the same people who insist that the country needs to “move on” from one thing or another (usually something that makes progressives uneasy).

The latest round of progressive outrage sparked by the continued presence anywhere of monuments to the Confederacy suggests that what progressives want is not the total absence of those monuments, or a formal apology (but from whom?) for slavery and the CSA, but a Second Surrender staged at the famous McLean House, perhaps with Attorney General Sessions taking the role of Lee and Loretta Lynch playing the part of Grant.

The progressive crusade to extend a war that concluded 152 years ago into the present (and, no doubt, into the future) is probably less an exercise in reimagining and rewriting history to suit the left’s purposes than its tacit, implicit admission that the reality of 21st century America is an insufficient Mordor to justify their dire indictments of it, an unworthy target on which to train their biggest ideological guns.

In other words, progressives have, realistically speaking, no great encompassing Evil to oppose in their day as the Abolitionists of the antebellum period did, no monster to slay at the conclusion of a noble crusade. No imaginable microaggression is a satisfactory substitute for black chattel slavery, nor is the observation by the secretary of health and human services that poverty is (among other things) a state of mind.

Though [Dr. Ben] Carson did not think to mention the fact, poverty in America today is a mental state not just of the material poor, but the ideological poor as well. The urge to refight in the 21st century the war of 1861-65 is explained, first and foremost, by the ideological and political impoverishment of the American left today.”

(Second Appomattox, Chilton Williamson, Jr., Chronicles Magazine, July 2017, pg. 8; www.chroniclesmagazine.org)

Hamilton Envisions an American Pericles

Hamilton and Washington both foresaw ways in which future demagogues would undermine the Constitution by usurping powers reserved to other branches, and leading the country into war to hold onto power and increase their wealth. The usurper would be Lincoln, who wielded the power of an absolute dictator between April and July 1861, and by the time Congress had assembled in the latter month, could arrest and imprison anyone as he launched a ruinous and bloody war upon his own people.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Hamilton Envisions an American Pericles

“The Founders all knew war first hand; war on American soil, with a full third of their own countrymen against them, often in arms alongside the enemy. They built into their [Constitution] machinery to handle treason and rebellion. But they knew that crisis and war were favorite tools of demagogues. Hamilton reminded his readers of “the celebrated Pericles,” leader of Athens, motivated by fear and pique, who led his nation into a bloody and ruinous war to save his own political skin and to escape economic damage he had helped visit upon the state.

Hamilton saw that a leader who took America into war could use the circumstance to rob her of cherished liberties: “The violent destruction of life and property incident to war, the continual effort and alarm attendant on a state of continual danger, will compel nations the most attached to liberty to resort to repose and security to institutions which have a tendency to destroy their civil and political rights. To be more safe, they at length become willing to run the risk of being less free.”

“If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, Washington wrote, “let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit, which the use can any time yield.”

In Washington’s “Farewell Address,” the connection between perpetual voluntary union, and obedience to the Constitution, is explicit. His prayer for the country, he said, was “that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free Constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained.”

The cult of the union, as it evolved in the Civil War era, identified “liberty” and “union” as essentially identical. But to the Founders, “liberty” was tied to the balance of powers they had carefully woven into the Constitution: “Liberty itself will find in such a government, with powers properly distributed and adjusted, its surest guardian.” Washington wrote.

A little-known fact of the Constitution is that two of the largest States — Virginia and New York – made the right to withdraw from the union explicit in their acceptance of the Constitution. And in such an agreement between parties as is represented by the Constitution, a right claimed by one is allowed to all.”

(The Legality of Secession, excerpts, www.etymonline.com)

 

The Seeds of Sectionalism and War

Both Jefferson and Hamilton recognized that sectionalism had been a part of American politics since colonial days, and the emerging West was adding a third section to the political landscape. The political problem facing Federalists and Republicans was “how to win the allegiance of the absconding swindlers, murderers, fugitive slaves, bankrupts, brigands and failures” who settled the wild areas of the West. And certainly those Westerners would give their political allegiance to whomsoever got them what they wanted. Therein lay the seeds of future war.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The Seeds of Sectionalism and War

“[Jefferson] saw that factions were forming in the United States, and the political parties were emerging. This was something the Founding Fathers had not envisioned when they wrote and agreed upon the Constitution. But it was clear enough to Jefferson that, on one side, there was a Federalist Party, led by Hamilton.

This party, he felt, had made a virtual prisoner of Washington . . . and was hiding behind his prestige to effect its nefarious scheme of converting the United States into a monarchy for the specific benefit of Northern financiers. Hamilton, Jefferson somewhat wildly wrote, “was not only a monarchist, but for a monarchy bottomed on corruption.”

Jefferson saw the Federalists as aristocrats who were the enemies of natural law and the rights of man. They interpreted the Constitution to mean the Federal government could seize any rights not specifically denied it, in order to destroy liberty. They were hand in hand with the financiers of Great Britain, and their opposition to slavery was not humanitarian, but just a hypocritical way of seeking to undermine the economy, and hence the power, of the agricultural Southern States.

On the other side, in Jefferson’s view, there ought to be the “anti-Federalist” party, which would stand for strict construction and the rights of States in order to safeguard the rights of man. As he saw them, the anti-Federalists were those who feared the creation of a national bank as another Federalist plot to destroy these rights; they were the true revolutionaries, whereas the Federalists represented the forces of reaction.

As revolutionaries, the republicans were therefore the enemies of monarchical Great Britain and the friends of revolutionary France. If they believed in slavery, it was because – well, of course nobody could really believe in slavery; the South was at heart republican and of course someday slavery would be abolished, but not right now. It was not the time to raise that question: the times now demanded opposition to the anti-revolutionary Federalists.

The anti-Federalists should form a party.”

There was meanwhile a nation to govern – one whose destiny lay clearly in the West. Here, between the Appalachians and the Mississippi, were two-hundred thousand American settlers whose political opinions could be decisive. Both saw opportunities to speculate in western lands [but] both feared that the balance of political power might shift from the East Coast to these broad western lands with the swift growth of population there. It was a possibility that occurred to western politicians as well.”

(Eminent Domain: the Louisiana Purchase and the Making of America, John Keats, Charterhouse, 1973, excerpts pp. 242-244; 247-248)

 

The Republican Party Endangers the Union

The Republican Party which formed out of the ashes of the Whig Party and combined with the Know-Nothing and Free Soil political organizations, was seen as a harmless lunatic fringe in 1856. But by the national election of 1860 it appeared to many that their broad support in the North might enable them to win. And if they were victorious, their platform pledged them to arrest, jail and possibly execute anyone who disagreed with their views on the Kansas Territory. This purely sectional party never promoted a peaceful or practical solution to the African slavery they found in their midst, and claimed was the reason they hated the South with such intensity.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The Republican Party Endangers the Union

“Buchanan stated the keynote of his campaign in these words: “The Union is in danger and the people everywhere begin to know it. The Black Republicans must be, as they can be with justice, boldly assailed as disunionists, and this charge must be reiterated again and again.”

Forget the past, bury the bank, the tariff, and the rest of the historic fossils. The Democrats must publicize the statements of “the abolitionists, free soilers and infidels against the Union,” to show that the Union was in danger. “This race ought to be run on the question of Union or disunion.”

The Democratic press generally adopted this campaign them, and devoted columns to the antiunion pronouncements of prominent Republicans. Ohio’s Representative Joshua R. Giddings had announced “I look forward to the day when there shall be a servile insurrection in the South; when the black man . . . shall assert his freedom, and wage a war of extermination against his master; when the torch of the incendiary shall light up the towns of the South, and blot out the last vestige of slavery; and though I may not mock at their calamity, nor laugh when their fear cometh, yet I will hail it as the dawn of the millennium.”

New York’s Governor William H. Seward asserted that “there is a higher law than the Constitution,” and hoped soon to “bring the parties of the country into an aggressive war upon slavery.” Speaker of the House Nathaniel P. Banks said frankly that he was “willing . . . to let the Union slide.” Judge Rufus S. Spalding declared that if he had the alternatives of continuance of slavery or a dissolution of the Union, “I am for dissolution, and I care not how quick it comes.”

Editor James Watson Webb predicted that if the Republicans lost the [1860] election, they would be “forced to drive back the slavocracy with fire and sword.” A Poughkeepsie clergyman prayed “that this accursed Union may be dissolved, even if blood have to be spilt.”

O.L. Raymond told an audience in [Boston’s] Fanueil Hall, “Remembering that he was a slaveholder, I spit upon George Washington.”

(President James Buchanan: a Biography, Philip S. Klein, American Political Biography Press, 1962, excerpts pp. 257-258)

New England Sets the Example for the South

Lord Acton writes that “secession is not a theory of the Constitution, but a remedy against a vicious theory of the Constitution” — the right of a minority to withdraw from a political agreement which they no longer wish to be part of, and to escape the tyranny of the majority. Even a nationalist like Hamilton saw the balance necessary between national and State governments, and that both will be prevented from trespassing on each one’s constitutional limitations. The States would be further protected by the strictly delegated, and few, powers of the general government.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

New England Sets the Example for the South

As a consequence of troubles between Napoleon’s Berlin decree and the British response, President Jefferson determined to lay an embargo on all American vessels – with a subsequent Bill passed December 22, 1807.

“The embargo was a heavy blow to the ship-owning States of New England . . . the others were less affected by it. “The natural situation of this country,” says Hamilton, is to divide it interests into . . . navigating and non-navigating States. This difference in situation naturally produces a dissimilarity of interests and views respecting foreign commerce.”

Accordingly the law was received in those States with a storm of indignation. Quincy, of Massachusetts, declared in the House: “It would be as unreasonable to undertake to stop the rivers from running into the sea, as to keep the people of New England from the ocean . . .”

The doctrine of State-rights, or nullification, which afterwards became so prominent in the hands of the Southern party, was distinctly enunciated on behalf of the North on this occasion.

Governor Trumbull, of Connecticut, summoned the legislature to meet, and in his opening address to them he took the ground that, in great emergencies, when the national legislature had been led to overstep its constitutional power, it became the right and the duty of the State legislatures “to interpose their protecting shield between the rights and the liberties of the people, and the assumed power of the general government.”

They went farther and prepared to secede from the Union, and thus gave the example which has been followed, on exactly analogous grounds, by the opposite party.

John Quincy Adams declared in Congress that there was a determination to secede. “He urged that a continuance of the embargo much longer would certainly be met by forcible resistance, supported by the legislature, and probably by the judiciary of the State . . . Their object was, and had been for years, a dissolution of the Union, and the establishment of a separate confederation.”

Twenty years later, when Adams was President, the truth of this statement was impugned. At that time the tables had been turned, and the South was denying the right of Congress to legislate for the exclusive benefit of the North Eastern States, whilst these were vigorously and profitably supporting the Federal authorities.

It was important that they should not be convicted out of their own mouths, and that the doctrine they were opposing should not be shown to have been inaugurated by themselves.

(The Civil War in America: Its Place in History; Selected Writings of Lord Acton, Volume I, Essays in the History of Liberty, J. Rufus Fears, editor, Liberty Fund, 1985, excerpts pp. 231-234)

 

Neutralizing Maryland

After the armed resistance by Marylanders against Northern troops passing through their State in April 1861, the “Northern press howled for revenge on Baltimore and for the subjugation of Maryland.” Business in that city was at a standstill and the Potomac was patrolled by an armed flotilla aimed at cutting off Maryland from Virginia and the Southern Confederacy. On May 2, the New York Times suggested employing the same “experiment so successfully tried in Maryland” on Virginia. Secession, wrote the newspaper, was simply the result of a mob, and the “army . . . should immediately advance South to act as a local police. The mob at Richmond would prove to be as cowardly and contemptible as at Baltimore.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Neutralizing Maryland

“While other States of the South seceded peacefully and of their own free will, Maryland could not. In the final analysis, Maryland was forced to stay in the Union.

The end of the secession movement in Maryland, at least the de jure end, came on November 6, 1861, with the Union Party’s overwhelming victory in the State legislative contests and the election of their candidate, Augustus W. Bradford, as governor.

The election destroyed secessionist hopes of taking Maryland into the Confederacy, and many Marylanders who sympathized with the South fled across the Potomac to join fellow citizens who had already been recruited to Confederate arms by a station set up in Baltimore.

Following the election, federal authorities with State cooperation “promptly suppressed all signs of secession sympathy of an active nature . . . Maryland became in fact as well as in name a loyal State.”

Bradford, until 1861 a relatively little known politician, was an unconditional Unionist and therefore received the support of the Lincoln administration, as did his Union Party. Indeed, he scored an impressive victory – the margins of which were so skewed that many question their authenticity. Bradford won with 57,000 votes to his opponent’s 26,000, and his party won sixty-eight seats in the House of Delegates to only six for the opposition. Secessionists and others opposed to Lincoln naturally cried foul.

The Baltimore South gave its “Union friends . . . great credit for the moderation exercised as there was no earthly reason, beyond the expense of ticket printing, why the majority (in Baltimore) should have been 40,000 instead of 14,000.” The journal had been “reliably informed that the Federal troops from every section of the country kindly aided their Union friends here, and deposited their ballots in as many wards and precincts as suited their convenience.”

This wry report from a secessionist newspaper should be read for what it is, but [one writer] makes the compelling point that, “The size of the majority made no difference for the Lincoln administration could have made it what it chose by applying the test oath more strictly, and by arresting the State Rights men.”

Bradford did appear to be elected by fraudulent means, and some question, given the results, why an election was held at all. It was held, of course, because the Lincoln administration badly wanted the country, and the European governments closely watching developments across the Atlantic, to believe that, constitutionally speaking, things were still working normally and that most Americans supported the Administration.

Once Lincoln and the War Department determined that Maryland had to be neutralized, they were forced to implement drastic policies.”

(A Southern Star for Maryland, Maryland and the Secession Crisis, 1860-1861, Lawrence M. Denton, Publishing Concepts, excerpts pp. 116-119)

Lincoln Acts Alone and By Decree

As Lincoln never accepted the independence of those States which had withdrawn to form a more perfect union, his actions can be judged in a light illuminated by the United States Constitution and the strictly enumerated powers delegated to his branch. The crime of treason is clearly defined in Article III, Section 3 of that document: “Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying War against Them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” Note the emphasis on “Them,” individually. By commencing hostilities against South Carolina and other States, he violated Section III, Article 3.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Lincoln Acts Alone and By Decree

“By his selective use of the American past, his devotion of the nation to an abstract proposition, and his expansive vision of America’s role in the world, Lincoln undermined the old federated republic. He rewrote the history of the founding, and then waged total war to see his version of the past vindicated by success.

But in the course of subjugating the “insurrectionary” and “revolutionary” combination in the South, and in creating a unitary nation, he also compromised the integrity of the Presidency as a Constitutional office, first by invading the powers of the other two branches and then by assuming further powers nowhere mentioned in the Constitution.

He may have claimed that in the midst of an unprecedented national crisis necessity knew no law, but the Constitution in fact recognized the possibility of emergencies and delegated necessary and appropriate powers to the President and Congress. As historian Clinton Rossiter wrote: “The Constitution looks to the maintenance of the pattern of regular government in even the most stringent of crises.” But Lincoln acted alone.

From the fall of Fort Sumter in April, 1861, to the convening of a special session of Congress in July of 1861, President Lincoln ruled by decree, and on his own initiative and authority he commenced hostilities against the Confederacy. For 11 weeks that spring and early summer, Lincoln exercised dictatorial powers, combining them within his person the executive, legislative and judicial powers of the national government in Washington.

In his inaugural speech in March he had announced that the union had the right and the will to preserve itself. He promised to secure federal property in the seceded States, to collect all duties and to deliver the mails – all steps short of invasion but intended nonetheless to subjugate the South.

He assumed so-called “war-powers” – a familiar feature of the modern Presidency, but them a novelty – and proceeded to wage war without a declaration from Congress. The oft-raised concern that Lincoln could not have proceeded otherwise and still have preserved the Union should not obscure the problem of the means he resorted to.

The Constitutionality of his acts cannot be, as one historian claimed, “a rather minor issue,” for at stake was the integrity of free institutions.”

(The Costs of War, America’s Pyrrhic Victories, John V. Denson, Transaction Publishers, 1999, excerpts pp. 138-139)

A Tradition of Anti-Southern Hatred

In a fit of anti-South hatred, the radical Parson Brownlow of Tennessee told his pro-Lincoln audience that “we will crowd the rebels into the Gulf of Mexico and drown the entire race, as the devil did the hogs in the Sea of Galilee.” Abolitionist Wendell Phillips received cheers from his audience when he called for the near-extermination of American Southerners “and no peace until 347,000 men of the South are either hanged or exiled.” The blue clad soldiers of Sherman and Sheridan practiced wanton destruction of towns, cities and farms where they marched, slaughtering livestock indiscriminately, and leaving little of nothing for women and children – black or white — to eat.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

A Tradition of Anti-Southern Hatred

“Hatred of the South is not new, and examples of it are legion. Ralph Waldo Emerson declared, “If it costs ten years, and ten to twenty to recover the general prosperity, the destruction of the South is worth so much.” Prior to the War for Southern Independence, and Englishman stated that there was nothing Northerners “hate with so deep a hatred” as Southerners.

In 1862, Gen. Benjamin “Beast” Butler of Massachusetts added the lynch rope to the arsenal of weapons used against the South. A Southern youth made the mistake of removing the invaders flag from a building in occupied New Orleans. He paid dearly for his patriotic enthusiasm [as Butler] ordered the young Southerner hung by the neck until dead!

Such is the tradition of anti-Southern hatred, a tradition inherited and perpetuated by the liberal establishment. To perpetuate [the] liberal myth of history, the liberal establishment, like any other empire, requires a monopoly in the marketplace of ideas . . . [and] controls access to the media. The liberal propagandist rings the bell “slavery” and the masses respond with an outpouring of anti-Southern venom.

Imagine how embarrassing it would be for the liberal establishment if there were general knowledge that Massachusetts was the first colony to engage in the slave trade, that much of the capital used to build the industrial Northeast was amassed from profits of the New England slave trade, that it was primarily the Northern colonies which refused to allow a section in the US Constitution outlawing the slave trade, or that the thirteen stripes on the US flag represent thirteen slave-holding colonies, the majority of which were Northern colonies!”

(Driving Dixie Down – the Destruction of Southern Culture; Why Not Freedom! America’s Revolt Against Big Government, James & Ronald Kennedy, Pelican Publishing, 1995, excerpts pp. 367-369)

New England’s Perpetuation of Slavery

There is little question that the origins of the American Revolution, and the later War Between the States, are rooted in New England’s illicit trade in slaves and molasses, and England’s efforts to stop the maritime competition with the mother country. By 1750, Rhode Island had become the center of the transatlantic slave trade, surpassing Liverpool for the dubious honor.

The author below writes: “nine-tenths of the colonial merchants and skippers had become smugglers as the break with England neared. Such men as John Hancock, a prince of contraband traders, on the eve of Paul Revere’s ride had for counsel before the Admiralty Court in Boston none other than John Adams, answering for him a half-million dollar suit in penalties as a smuggler.” He went on that “One-quarter of all the signers of the Declaration of Independence were bred to commerce, to the command of ships and to contraband trade.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

New England’s Perpetuation of Slavery

“In accord with the spirit of the times the British Parliament passed a series of statutes in 1633 providing, among other things, that nothing could be brought into the colonies that wasn’t carried there in British ships, “whereof the master and three-fourths of the crew are English.”

[Concerned about the rise of illicit maritime trade of New England] the shipbuilders of the Thames district met in London in the winter of 1724-1725 and formally complained to the Lords of Trade:

“In the eight years ending in 1720 we are informed that seven hundred sail of ships were built in New England, and that in years since, as may if not more; and that the New England trade, by the tender of extraordinary inducements, has drawn over so many working shipwrights that there are not enough left to carry on the work [in England].”

Linked inseparably with the venture south to the [West] Indies the colonists’ brisk trade in rum and what they were in the habit of calling “Black Ivory.” For the Indies trade was a three-cornered affair hinging on rum, slaves and molasses. Together they comprised the foundation for more ships and hence more trouble than all the politicians ashore put together.

The New Englanders had Indian slaves as early as 1637 . . . and more or less formal business developed, with traders nabbing Indians along the banks of the Kennebec River in Maine and selling them into slavery up and down the coast. It was the black ivory from Africa, however, that turned the trick in the West Indies trade and established Southern slavery on a solid and enduring footing.

The mechanics of this all-important trade worked like this: molasses was brought to New England and made into rum; the rum, highly prized among Negroes on the west coast of Africa, brought its own price among the drinkers, a price that included any of their relatives or friends who might have the bad judgment to be lying about, and the resultant human cargoes were disposed of profitably in Boston, Newport [Rhode Island] and on south.

Not all the West Indies rum was drunk by Negroes. A flourishing local trade in fur was conducted with the Indians by the extremely profitable exchange of a few bottles of cheap rum or whiskey for the entire season’s catch of its drunken owner. The tribal chiefs . . . in 1726, begged without avail to have the sale of firewater to the young braves stopped.

It is hardly surprising, then, that among the first real troublemakers of all the British efforts to raise money [to support the colonies] was a new Molasses Act, for it was molasses brought in from the French West Indies from which New England rum was made. To put teeth into the effort Parliament authorized the use of writs of assistance, a sort of search warrant covering an entire community that gave British customs officials the right to search any ship, warehouse or even private home for smuggled goods.

When the harried Board of Trade and Plantations finally decided to act, its attempt to enforce the Navigation Acts [to restrict New England’s rum and slave triangle] was the spark in the touchhole that set the guns to booming.”

(Yankee Ships, an Informal History of the American Merchant Marine, Reese Wolfe, Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1953, excerpts pp. 39; 43-44; 49-51)

Immigrant Politics and Recruits Up North

An 1845 congressional committee investigating naturalization frauds in New York and Philadelphia found it was common practice on the eve of elections for immigrants, many not yet qualified by residency, to be naturalized in droves by political machines like Tammany Hall. This immigrant influx had created two Americas by the late 1850s: An immigrant-dominated North versus a South still consisting of English and Scots-Irish who originally settled the region. The former knew little of American institutions; the latter revered limited government, self-reliance and independence.

In 1860, the South contained some 233,000 people born under a foreign flag, while the North held nearly 4 million foreign-born inhabitants. While running for president in mid-1860, Lincoln purchased Springfield (Illinois) Zeitung to gather immigrant votes; by 1864, fully 25% of Lincoln’s war machine consisted of Germans.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Immigrant Politics and Recruits Up North

“In 1835, it was reported that more than one-half of the paupers in the almshouses of New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Baltimore were foreign-born, and in later years the proportion was even higher. Crime statistics, too, revealed a disproportionate number of foreign-born offenders; in 1850 there were three times as many foreign-born inmates of the New York State prisons as there were natives.

To many nativists an equally grave and more immediate threat to republican freedom stemmed from the political role of the foreign-born. In places the proportion of foreign-born voters had so increased as to hold the balance of electoral power; this of itself was a source of alarm, for most immigrants remained ignorant of American institutions.

In addition, the electoral violence and voting frauds, which had come to characterize immigrant voting in politics, we believed to be sapping the very foundations of the American political system. There were numerous complaints of native voters being kept from the polls by organized mobs of foreign laborers, of immigrants voting on the very day of their arrival in America, and of hired witnesses and false testimony as the commonplaces of naturalization proceedings.

[Native resentment] of German arrogance gave way to excited warnings against the machinations of a disaffected and turbulent element to whom America had unwisely given asylum. [An example of this were] the demands of Communist Forty-Eighters like Wilhelm Weitling, who advocated complete social revolution and the establishment of an American “republic of the workers.”

In Missouri in the spring of 1861, the bulk of Union forces consisted of German militiamen [who] thwarted secessionist attempts to take the State out of the Union. What led many to enlist was the offer of a bounty greater than an unskilled laborer’s annual earnings. Large numbers, too, joined the army because the trade depression at the beginning of the war, and its consequent unemployment, left them no choice save starvation or military service.

Such cases were common, for example, in New York where Horace Greeley, struck in April 1861 by the high proportion of foreigners among the recruits, wondered whether “the applicants were actuated by the desire of preserving the Union of the States or the union of their own bodies and souls.”

(American Immigration, Maldwyn Allen Jones, University of Chicago Press, 1960, excerpts pp. 152-154; 171-172)

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