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Southern “fire eaters” and Massachusetts factory-hands had together got control of the State and local governments, had repealed laws for making foreign-born factory hands stay at home of nights and otherwise to “know their place,” and were criminally looting the treasury and recklessly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)