Browsing "Carpetbag Crimes"

Sen. Fulbright on Southern Poverty

Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas advised his fellow congressmen from the North as to why the South lagged behind in economic development and education, and the reason for this. Fulbright was a signatory of the Southern Manifesto of March 12, 1956 that denounced what was viewed as unconstitutional actions of an activist and legislation-enacting Supreme Court, and all advised legal means of resistance.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Senator Fulbright on Southern Poverty

“From 1946 when the Senate first dealt with Harry Truman’s proposed Fair Employment Practices Commission, (FEPC) and on through a series of filibusters and bitter civil rights contests, Fulbright has been prominent among the Southern bloc. He has been a leader in debate and strategy; he has spoken out as strongly and frequently as any other Southerner.

More than most, he has addressed himself to the South’s unique problems — poverty, ignorance, disease, lack of economic opportunities. He has tried to place these problems in historical perspective, and in that sense can he himself best be understood.

The historical facts of slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction and its bitter aftermath, crippled the South. The South WAS treated like a conquered territory; it WAS exploited; it DID become ever more insulated and removed from the mainstream of American life. Its fears, frustrations and antagonisms are without parallel in the American experience.

In common with other Southern politicians, Fulbright has been frustrated in attempting to effect change. With his own business background and intimate knowledge of financial conditions in Arkansas, he particularly has resented the domination of outside economic interests — Northern economic interests.

Once, when opposing the routine appointment of a Philadelphia banker to the Federal Reserve Board, he gave a revealing glimpse into his own attitudes:

“The people of the North are extremely solicitous of our welfare and progress,” he said. “They assure us that if we furnish better schools and abolish poll taxes and segregation, strife will cease and happiness [will] reign. They are critical of our relative poverty, our industrial and social backwardness, and they are generous in their advice about our conduct.

Their condescension in these matters is not appreciated . . . because these people . . . have for more than a century done everything they could to retard the economic development of the South.

It is no secret that the South was considered like a conquered territory after 1865. Since that time, the tariff policy and freight rate structure were designed by the North to prevent industrial development in the South; to keep that area in the status of a raw material producing colony. Above and beyond these direct restrictions, the most insidious of all, the most difficult to put your finger on, is the all-pervading influence of the great financial institutions and industrial monopolies.

These influences are so subtle and so powerful that they have in many instances been able to dominate the political and economic life of the South and West from within those States as well as from Washington.”

From his first moment in Congress . . . [Fulbright] has fought for passage of a federal aid to education bill . . . [as he believed] that the best hope for amicable race relations lies in improving education.

“It is paradoxical,” he once said, “that Southern educational systems should be expected to produce well-rounded, broad-minded, and wholly dispassionate individuals whose well-developed intellectuals can suddenly reject lifelong patterns of conduct. This is a high standard to expect for schools without adequate facilities — stemming from a tax base incapable of producing sufficient revenue. Southern States — and particularly my own — have made valiant efforts in recent years to devote greater portions of their resources to education, but . . . only since the 1930’s has the South begun to share in the prosperity and affluence of America.”

(Fulbright, The Dissenter, Johnson and Gwertzman, Doubleday & Company, 1968, excerpts, pp. 148-150)

 

Reconstruction’s Long Life in North Carolina

There were two clear-cut factions within the Republican Party in North Carolina in the early 1900s: one which supported industrial development, and the more dominant one whose primary interest was in the spoils of office with one political aim – the holding of a Federal job. As Secretary of War William H. Taft relates below, the entire Federal service in North Carolina was controlled by “a distant appointing power.” The author writes of “Revenue officials, often openly and unblushingly corrupt, almost alone had the ear of the Federal administration and dominated Federal politics in the State. The people could not forget that the Federal government had forced Negro rule on them at the point of the bayonet, nor that every Democratic victory for years had been accompanied by a threat of Federal interference in State elections.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Reconstruction’s Long Life in North Carolina

“The chief interest in State politics in 1906 centers in the fight within the Republican party for control of the organization. So bitter did the fight become that President [Theodore] Roosevelt felt called upon to take a hand. He sent his secretary of war, William H. Taft, to address a warning to the State Republican convention which met in Greensboro, July 9-10, and it was in this speech that Secretary Taft said:

“I do not wish to seem ungracious, but I must be candid. In my judgement the Republican Party in North Carolina would be much stronger as a voting party, if all the Federal officers were filled by Democrats. Of course I cannot deny that a wish to fill public office is an honorable aspiration, whether by appointment of by election, but when all hope of choice by the people is abandoned, and everything is given over to influencing a distant appointing power to choose particular men to perform official functions in a community hostile to those men, the result is not good for the men or the community . . . As long, however, as the Republican Party in the Southern States shall represent little save a factional chase for Federal offices in which business men of substance in the community have no desire to enter and in the result of which they have no interest, we may expect the present political conditions in the South to continue.” [Raleigh News & Observer, July 10, 1906]

The warning of Candidate Taft fell upon deaf ears . . . [and] Thus the Republican party in North Carolina specifically acknowledged itself to be an organization merely for the control of Federal patronage.”

(Republican Office Holders Refuse to Abdicate; North Carolina, Rebuilding an Ancient Commonwealth, 1584-1925, R.D.W. Conner, Volume II, American Historical Society, 1929, pg. 527)

 

South Carolina Injected with a Foreign Poison

Newspaper editor William Watts Ball of South Carolina could painted a vivid picture of life in the postwar South, and railed at the “foreign poison of democracy” injected into his State by Northern radicals. The Founders’ erected barriers to democracy in their Constitution; historian Charles Beard tells us that “When the Constitution was framed, no respectable person called himself or herself a democrat.” John C. Calhoun’s greatest fear was that democracy in the United States would evolve into a class warfare system with taxpayers perpetually looted by the tax consuming class. Alexis de Tocqueville also noted the evil powers of this “strange new democratic monster with its tyranny of public opinion and numerical majority dwelling in perpetual self-applause.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

South Carolina Injected with a Foreign Poison

“The State That Forgot” is a historical sketch of South Carolina from colonial days to the turn of the twentieth century, generously adorned with “local color” and autobiographical anecdotes. But the heart is [W.W.] Ball’s political philosophy; everything else is embellishment. South Carolina had surrendered to democracy, he said, and as surrender implies defeat, so had she induced her own decline when rule by the aristocracy gave way to rule by the masses. Ball traced the democratic curse back to Reconstruction:

“My political thesis is that the Federal Government, by means of armed forces, placed South Carolina on the operating table in 1867, that in 1868 the Carpetbaggers made an incision in its body, and, by the constitution they adopted, injected into it the deadly and foreign poison of democracy, which, after causing the loathsome ulcers of Reconstruction, subtly spread through the bloodstream of the white people and killed for ever in it the inherited corpuscles of political and social health.”

“The new constitution,” said Ball, was a long step but not a plunge in democracy.” The State had not spurned the colonial constitution fashioned along semi-feudal lines by John Locke. “A more “numerous democracy” had been made but a “too numerous democracy” had been avoided.

South Carolina, however, was forced to scrap that constitution and devise another which would better satisfy the [Northern Republican] Radicals who had taken control of the federal Reconstruction program. Accordingly, a convention composed almost entirely of carpetbaggers, scalawags, and Negroes fashioned the constitution of 1868. Ball appraised the new constitution with these words:

“The finished product of the convention was a document copied from constitutions of Northern States . . . [T]hus at last the rash of democracy was spread by law, backed by bayonets, over the body of South Carolina . . .”

(Damned Upcountryman: William Watts Ball, John D. Stark, Duke University Press, 1968, pp. 144-146)

The Anti-Government Instrument of Texas

Coke Stevenson (1888-1975) served as Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, lieutenant-governor, and governor. In 1948, he ran for the US Senate against Lyndon Johnson and narrowly lost by what he deemed fraudulent votes. Described as an honorable statesman of the traditional Southern type, Stevenson saw little in the calculating and devious Johnson to admire.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Anti-Government Instrument of Texas

“The Constitution of Texas, drafted in 1876 by delegates (many of whom had worn the Confederate gray; several had been Confederate generals) representing a people who felt that a decade of Carpetbag rule had shown the injustices of which government was capable, was, as the Texas historian [T.R.] Fehrenbach puts it, “an anti-government instrument.”

It not only bound the Legislature within very tight limits but said the Legislature would henceforth no longer meet every year but every other year because, as one Texan said, “the more the damned Legislature meets, the more Goddamned bills and taxes it passes!”

It was no more lenient with the executive branch: the powers of the Governor were reduced to a point where he was one of the weakest in America. “If future State Governments prove burdensome or onerous, it ought not to be the fault of this Convention,” one of the delegates said, and, indeed, the convention’s handiwork made it, in Fehrenbach’s words, almost impossible for government in Texas to be burdensome or onerous in the future.”

The spirit behind the Constitution was the spirit of farmers and ranchers; however, much they believed in education, pensions or government services, the taxes fell on them and their land.

The Constitution was the embodiment of what Fehrenbach describes as “a lasting philosophy that no Legislature or Governor was to be trusted” – as a result, one analyst concludes, “everything possible was done to limit the power of all branches of government . . . None of these [limitations] was controversial; they were what the people wanted.”

The philosophy embodied in the Texas Constitution dovetailed with the philosophy of [Coke Stevenson] who studied it in the light of a predawn fire in his ranch house by the South Llano [river]; its character was his. Thrift, frugality . . . Limits on government; the devotion to individuality, to free enterprise, individual freedom – he had lived his entire life by those principles.

This man who had taught himself history, who had read in it so widely, had a love of history – in particular, the history of his State, the proud heritage of Texas – almost religious in its depth. (On his ranch, he had found an old log cabin; when he learned that it had been built by Jim Bowie not long before he rode off to his death at the Alamo, Stevenson built a shelter around the cabin to protect it from the elements so that it would stand as long as possible. He erected a flagpole in front of his ranch house, and on March 2, Texas Independence Day, and other State holidays, he would, with no one to watch but his wife and son, solemnly raise, in those lonely, empty hills, the Lone Star flag.)

Now, in the 1920s, he was coming to believe that the government of Texas was doing violence to that heritage and those principles. The inefficiency of the State government – in particular, the antics of a Legislature whose lack of responsibility must, he felt, lead to higher taxes – troubled Hill country ranchers. No one in Austin seemed interested in economy, they said – of course not, it wasn’t their own money they were spending.”

(Means of Ascent: the Years of Lyndon B. Johnson, Robert A. Caro, Vintage Books, 1991, excerpt, pp. 156-157)

Irretrievably Bad Schemes in South Carolina

In the 1876 gubernatorial election in South Carolina, incumbent carpetbag Governor Daniel H. Chamberlain “bombarded the North with lurid accounts of the [Hamburg, SC riot] based on the excited claims of Negro participants” and that this act of “atrocity and barbarism” was designed to prevent Negroes from voting, though, as a matter of fact, the riot occurred five months before the election.” A Massachusetts native and carpetbagger of dubious reputation, Chamberlain left much evidence of a willingness for making his office pay.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Irretrievably Bad Schemes in South Carolina

“In an Atlantic Monthly article published twenty-five years later, ex-Governor Chamberlain stated that] “If the [election] of 1876 had resulted in the success of the Republican party, that party could not, for want of material, even when aided by the Democratic minority, have given pure or competent administration. The vast preponderance of ignorance and incapacity in that [Republican] party, aside from downright dishonesty, made it impossible . . . the flood gates of misrule would have been reopened . . . The real truth is, hard as it may be to accept it, that the elements put in combination by the reconstruction scheme of [Radical Republicans Thaddeus] Stevens and [Oliver] Morton were irretrievably bad, and could never have resulted . . . in government fit to be endured.”

While federal troops were still holding the State House in Columbia, The Nation informed its readers, “Evidently there is nothing to be done but to let the sham give way to reality . . . to see without regret . . . the blacks deprived of a supremacy as corrupting to themselves as it was dangerous to society at large.”

As Congressman S.S. Cox of New York and Ohio remarked:

“Since the world began, no parallel can be found to the unblushing knavery which a complete history of carpet-bag government in these [Southern] States would exhibit. If the entire body of penitentiary convicts could be invested with supreme power in a State, they could not present a more revolting mockery of all that is honorable and respectful in the conduct of human affairs. The knaves and their sympathizers, North and South, complain that the taxpayers, the men of character and intelligence in South Carolina and other States, finally overthrew, by unfair and violent means, the reign of scoundrelism, enthroned by ignorance. If ever revolutionary methods were justifiable for the overthrow of tyranny and robbery, assuredly the carpet-bag domination in South Carolina called for it. Only scoundrels and hypocrites will pretend to deplore the results.”

(Wade Hampton and the Negro: The Road Not Taken; Hampton M. Jarrell, USC Press, 1949, excerpt, pp. 54-55)

South Carolina’s Legislature of Crooked Aliens

Like other conquered Southern States, South Carolinians at the close of the war found themselves within a Union not of their choosing, yet they we not “of” this Union. Their governor was a prisoner of war, they were under martial law, and would be soon under the rule of their former servants.  The Robert Small (or Smalls) mentioned below is credited with the theft of the steamer Planter during the war, and delivering it to the Northern fleet which was aiding and abetting the enemy, and treason against South Carolina.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

South Carolina’s Legislature of Crooked Aliens

“In the [postwar South Carolina] Senate Chamber sat Major Corbin . . . a captain of Vermont troops badly wounded in the war and for a time in Libby prison, he had remained in military service until the end of the war and was then ordered to Charleston in charge of the Freedmen’s Bureau.

In the same body with Major [David T.] Corbin sat Robert Small, who while still a slave had won national fame as a pilot by running the Planter out of Charleston harbor to the Federal fleet. Some of the local black folk said that he did this in fear and trembling at the mouth of a loaded pistol leveled by a braver and more determined slave, one who never shared in the fame of the Planter exploit and was big enough not to care to.

Another of those South Carolina Senators was Beverly Nash. Black as charcoal . . . he was the perfect type of the antebellum ideal of a “white gentlemen’s colored gentleman.”

Besides those three . . . Senators, there was Leslie, once a member of the New York legislature, shrewd, crooked and cynical. And there was  [B.F.] Whittemore [of Massachusetts], who had got national notoriety while in Congress by selling a West Point cadetship for money instead of the customary price which was influence.

For the rest, the Senate floor was occupied by whites and blacks . . . But there was nobody of the old romantic type of South Carolina aristocrat. At the president’s desk sat a Negro, Lieutenant-Governor A.J. Ransier, who presided with dignity . . . A year or two before he died and [he was] working as a street cleaner in Columbia . . .

In the [House] chamber at the other end of the capitol building . . . were a great body of members, mostly Negroes. The body as a whole was in a legislative atmosphere so saturated with corruption that the honest and honorable members of either race had no more influence in it than an orchid might have in a mustard patch.”

(A “Carpetbagger” in South Carolina, Louis F. Post; Journal of Negro History, Carter G. Woodson, editor, Volume 10, January 1925, excerpts, pp. 15-17)

 

Suppose a Triumphant Confederate Government

The writer below left New York for South Carolina in November, 1870 for a position as a law clerk for a US Attorney and State Senator David Corbin, a New York native and fellow carpetbagger. Expecting to see “orange groves and palms” upon his arrival, the writer instead gazed upon blackened ruins “rudely shattered by a conquering foe.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Suppose a Triumphant Confederate Government

“Ten years after the secession of South Carolina and less than six after the close of the consequent Civil War between the States, I became a South Carolina “carpetbagger.” That is, I migrated from our “Empire” to the “Palmetto” State.

What I say [about carpetbaggers and scalawags] is said in no caviling temper. Whether to the debit or credit side, it must go to the account not of South Carolina nature in particular, but of human nature in general. No doubt the inhabitants of every other community in the world would in similar circumstances have acted as South Carolinians did. Take Massachusetts, for instance, the State which in those days and for two generations before was cross-matched with South Carolina in the harness of American politics.

Suppose the Confederacy had triumphed in the Civil War. Suppose it had not been satisfied with establishing secession of the Southern States, but had forcibly annexed the other States to the Confederacy under provisional governments subordinate to the Confederate authorities at Richmond. Suppose that in pursuit of this policy the Confederacy had placed Southern troops in Massachusetts, established bureaus in aid of foreign-born factory hands, unseated Massachusetts officials, and disenfranchised all voters of that aristocratic Commonwealth of New England who rejected an oath of allegiance they abhorred.

Suppose that in consequence Southern “fire eaters” and Massachusetts factory-hands had together got control of the State and local governments, had repealed laws for making foreign-born factory hands stay at home of nights and otherwise to “know their place,” and were criminally looting the treasury and recklessly piling State and county debts mountain high.

Suppose also that the same uncongenial folk were administering national functions under the patronage of a triumphant Confederate government at Richmond – the post offices, custom houses, internal revenue offices and all the rest. And suppose that this had been forcibly maintained by detachments of the victorious Confederate army, some of the garrisons being composed of troops recruited from alien-born factory hands.

Suppose moreover that there had been sad memories in Boston, as there were in fact in Charleston, of a mournful occasion less than ten years before, when the dead bodies of native young men of Brahmin breed to a number equaling 1 in 100 of the entire population of the city had lain upon a Boston wharf, battlefield victims of that same Confederate army now profoundly victorious. And suppose that weeds had but recently grown in Tremont Street as rank as in an unfarmed field, because it had been in range of Confederate shells under a daily bombardment for two years.

I am imagining those conditions in no criticism of Federal post-war policies with reference to the South nor as any slur upon the factory hands of New England, but for the purpose of creating the state of mind capable of understanding the South Carolina of 1871 by contrasting what in either place would at the time have been regarded as “upper“ and “lowest” class. If my suppositions do not reach the imagination, try to picture a conquest of your own State by Canada, and fill in the picture with circumstances analogous to those in which South Carolina was plunged at the time of which I write.”

(A “Carpetbagger” in South Carolina, Louis F. Post; Journal of Negro History, Carter G. Woodson, editor, Volume 10, January 1925, excerpts, pp. 11-12)

Suppressing Conservative Votes in Texas

The carpetbagger class was not the only alien fixture of postwar Texas. Edmund J. Davis was a former district judge in Texas who raised a regiment of Texas cavalry for the enemy and led the postwar “radical faction” of blacks and Texas scalawags. Davis was widely despised and one who, in the words of one loyal Texan, “led armies to sack and pillage their own State.”  The North’s Union League organized freedmen into a solid political bloc to support Republican candidates for office; the Ku Klux Klan was organized to oppose the Union League.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Suppressing Conservative Votes in Texas

“Passed over [President Andrew] Johnson’s veto on March 2, 1867, the First Reconstruction Act divided the former Confederate States, except [Johnson’s home State of] Tennessee, into five military districts and declared the existing civil governments in these States to be only provisional. Congress combined Texas with Louisiana into the Fifth Military District under the command of General Philip H. Sheridan.

The advent of Congressional Reconstruction shocked and angered Texas conservatives. Disregarding the four years of Civil War just ended, the Conservatives, or Democrats, now charged the northern Republicans with unleashing with “fanatical malignity” a “stupendous revolutionary scheme.” [To add fuel to the fire] Freedmen’s Bureau agents throughout the State continued to chronicle the many “sad complaints” of the freedmen and the routine “fearful state of things” in their respective districts.

[Texas freedmen and] often influential, newly arrived northerners (mostly former or current United States soldiers or officers whom Conservatives called “carpetbaggers”) held mass meetings of blacks and formed secret local Union Leagues for mobilizing the black Republican electorate.

Republican fortunes depended squarely on the leadership of the most stouthearted of the freedmen. Republican hopes also hinged on excluding from the voting lists every unqualified ex-Confederate. [Republicans leaders] denied that problems had arisen in some counties in finding competent registrars who could take the required “ironclad oath” that they had never voluntarily supported the Confederacy. (The vast majority of Texas white men in 1867 would not have been able to take this oath.)

[By] the end of January 1868, local boards throughout the State had registered about 89 percent of the black adult males, or 49,550 freedmen. A common charge made by Conservatives . . . was that blacks had been “registered with little regard for age.”

[Republican mobilization] of the freedmen had been a success. Texas blacks flocked to the polls and voted in large enough numbers to validate the holding of the constitutional convention. On the days of the election when blacks arrived en masse to vote, many county seats had the look of what one observer called an “African settlement.”

In Travis County, a group of Webberville blacks, dramatically led by their leader holding a sword and the national flag, came to the polls armed and on horseback. Upon their arrival, the local postmaster handed their leaders “Radical” ballots stamped on the back with “the United States Post Office stamp” so that the illiterate among their followers would be able to identify them as genuine Republican tickets.

White registrants avoided the polls in droves: over two-thirds i=of them sat out the referendum balloting. The turnout showed that most Texas whites did not consider that they had a genuine voice in the election or that they simply did not care.

(The Shattering of Texas Unionism, Politics in the Lone Star State During the Civil War Era, Dale Baum, excerpts, pp. 161-163; 172; 175)

Experimenting with Government Social Programs

Former Alabama Governor George Wallace recalled: “My father used to tell me that poverty and illiteracy in the South resulted from the way in which we were treated after the war when they burned the schools down, burned the railroads, just desecrated the South. We are just now overcoming the effects of that tyranny and of the iniquitous Thaddeus Stevens [the Radical Republican leader in Congress], who wanted nothing but vengeance.” Wallace felt himself as one of the South’s “rural proletariat,” and committed himself to “rid the region of what he considered a Northern-imposed inferiority.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Experimenting with Government Social Programs

“Most Southerners of the [postwar] – and their progeny, including George Wallace – viewed the period of military occupation as cruelly harsh . . . [but] for Southerners, “the unforgiveable reality was not that military rule was unbearably strict or unreasonably long but that it had been imposed at all; what mattered was that the bayonets had glittered among a people who had complied, whatever their reluctance and misgivings, with the Lincoln program for Reconstruction, only to find that the rules had changed as the political winds shifted.

Military rule (but not military occupation) ended in most States in 1868. By then, however, the federal Reconstruction Acts had placed the South’s political structure firmly under the control of [Republican] Radicals who, in practice if not in law, hand-picked governors, legislators, judges, tax collectors, and postmasters.

Many of the jobs were lucrative political plums that lent themselves to graft and payoffs. Legislators were bribed to sell railroad holdings to speculators for next to nothing. An Alabama editor of the time complained that “inside the State capitol and outside of it, bribes were offered and accepted at noonday and without hesitation or shame,” which helped “to drive capital from the State, paralyze industry, demoralize labor, and force the [best] citizens to flee Alabama as a pestilence, seeking relief and repose in the wilds of the distant West.”

Bribes and frauds notwithstanding, Reconstructions greatest dollar cost to the South came from enormous (and frequently wasteful) legislative spending on new programs fostered by the novel and, for the time, somewhat extraordinary notion that social responsibility was a function of the government.

These programs involved not only the establishment of free public school systems for white and black children but also the construction of insane asylums, hospitals, roads, and bridges. Despite extravagances and often misused funds, America’s first integrated governments – [Southern] legislatures comprising blacks, carpetbaggers and scalawags – were experimenting with social programs that State governments in the North had never before financed.

But these largely noble experiments were undertaken at the expense – financially and psychologically – of Southern white landowners, who saw the American republic’s traditional rights and values being overturned by what seemed to them a motley collection of blacks, Northern usurpers and Southern traitors.

In formal as in common speech . . . “the United States are” became “the United States is.” But to Southerners, the end of the war – the War Between the States, as most Southerners would refer to it for at least the next 125 years – meant encroaching federalism and government involvement in theretofore private sectors.

Thenceforth, at least well into the heyday of George Wallace, Alabamians would distrust and often detest the federal government, or at best, view it with deep misgivings.

In Barbour County, the defeated whites told their children and grandchildren horror stories of Reconstruction that would burn into their memories: black constables “paraded the streets,” administering “powers of sovereignty” over whites; federal troops carried off or killed farm animals, burned cotton, and plundered stores and homes; once-wealthy families were reduced to penury; local leaders were arrested on trumped-up charges; most whites were prohibited from voting in local and State elections while blacks, induced by threats, money or liquor, were permitted to vote two or three times each for candidates sympathetic to the Radicals.”

(George Wallace, American Populist, Stephan Lesher, Addison-Wesley, 1994, pp. 10-12)

Industrial Machines and Political Machines

The triumph of Northern arms in 1865 ensured the political supremacy of the New England industrial elite over the agricultural South — the South that presided over the republic’s “classic years,” defended its political conservatism and produced most of the presidents. With the South in ruins, industrial interests with unlimited funds and government patronage had won the second American revolution.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Industrial Machines and Political Machines

“What Charles Beard has called “the second American Revolution — the revolution that assured the triumph of the business enterprise — had been fought and largely won by 1877. In four great lines of endeavor — -manufacturing, extractive industries, transportation and finance — business marched from one swift triumph to another.

In 1860 about a billion dollars was invested in manufacturing plants which employed 1,500,000 workers; but in less than fifty years the investment had risen to 12 billions and the number of workers to 5,000,000.

A bloody and riotous year, violence was everywhere evident in the America of 1877. The great railroad strike of that year was the first significant industrial clash in American society. “Class hatred,” writes Denis Tilden Lynch, “was a new note in American life where all men were equal before the law. The South was in the turmoil of reconstruction, sand-lot rioters ruled in San Francisco; and 100,000 strikers and 4,000,000 unemployed surged in the streets of Northern cities.

At a cabinet meeting on July 22, 1877, the suggestion was advanced that a number of States should be placed under martial law.

Once triumphant, the industrial tycoons discovered that they could not function within the framework of the social and political ideals of the early Republic. To insure their triumph, a new social order had to be established; a new set of institutions had to be created of which the modern corporation was, perhaps, the most important . . . [and with] the Industrial machine came the political machine.

Dating from 1870, the “boss system” had become so thoroughly entrenched in American politics by 1877 that public life was everywhere discredited by the conduct of high officials. The simplicity of taste which had characterized the “classic” years of the early Republic gave way to a wild, garish, and irresponsible eclecticism. “The emergence of the millionaire,” writes Talbot Hamlin, “was as fatal to the artistic ideals of the Greek Revival as were the speed, the speculation and the exploitation that produced him.”

In one field after another, the wealth of the new millionaire was used to corrupt the tastes, the standards, and the traditions of the American people.”

(A Mask for Privilege, Carey McWilliams, Little, Brown & Company, 1948, pp 8-10)

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