Browsing "Carpetbag Crimes"

Loyal Leagues, Klans and Precedents

In postwar North Carolina the Loyal Leagues, Union League, etc., of the North’s Republican party were regarded as hostile organizations and designed to instill hatred in the freedmen against their white neighbors – for political purposes. During 1869 “there was an epidemic of barn-burnings in several counties of the State” charged to the Leagues as they encouraged blacks to destroy the agricultural livelihood of white farmers who were Democrats. Southern leaders advised Northern Republicans that if they disbanded their Loyal Leagues, the Klan would immediately disappear.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Loyal Leagues, Klans and Precedents

“The part played by the Loyal Leagues and similar organizations [Union League] in provoking the Southern people to defensive expedients was recognized by fair-minded Northern newspapers, and when in April, 1868, General [George G.] Meade issued an order for the suppression of the Ku Klux Klan, the New York Herald commented:

“The order of General Meade . . . will meet with the approval of all who espouse the cause of order and good government. But the General must not exercise his power on that organization alone. He must rigorously suppress the secret “Loyal Leagues” of Negroes; for they are equally, if not more, pernicious in their influence than the white man’s society.

The arrogance of the Negroes and their attempt to reduce the whites of the South to political vassalage by means of the “Loyal Leagues,” and the many other outrages that have been committed by these same Leagues, are equally as dangerous to the peace and safety of society as are the retaliatory actions of the Ku Klux Klan.”

An Alabama paper in an editorial denouncing the Loyal League said: “The League is nothing more than a [black] Ku Klux Klan . . . Let [their carpetbagger leader] break up the League and thus remove all temptation from the Kluxes to come here.”

It was the usual practice for the Leagues, when they held their meetings, to throw out armed pickets in all directions about the building . . . [a white resident commented that] “The Negroes acted here just like an invading army after they had conquered everything and were going rough-shod over everything. They thought they were the big dogs in the ring.”

Even so prejudiced an observer as the carpetbagger Judge [Albion] Tourgee said: “There is no doubt about this feeling, taken in connection with the enfranchisement of the blacks, induced thousands of good citizens to ally themselves with the Ku Klux Klan upon the idea of that they were acting in self-defense in so doing, and especially that they were securing the safety of their wives and children thereby.”

In such a state of affairs . . . throughout the South there began spontaneously to spring up local defensive groups, generally in the form of secret societies, designed primarily to offset the aggressiveness of the Loyal Leagues.

The members of the Boston Tea Party – and the members of the Ku Klux Klan – were but following a precedent set for them in earlier days in other lands. England had known the Moss Troopers, who took drastic means of manifesting their disapproval of the iron rule of the Normans; the misrule of Louis XI of France had resulted in the formation of that powerful and mysterious organization known as the Free Companions; Italy had its Carbonari during the Napoleonic wars.

Freedom loving people everywhere, when overwhelmed by oppression against which they have no their defense, have never hesitated to resort to secret and, if needs be, violent organizations for relief.”

(The Invisible Empire, The Story of the Ku Klux Klan, 1866-1871, Stanley F. Horn, Houghton-Mifflin, 1939, pp. 26-30)

Georgia's Corrupt Carpetbag Regime

The rampant corruption of carpetbag governors like Rufus Bullock below fostered the seedy environment in which vast railroad frauds were perpetrated upon disenfranchised American Southerners.  They watched helplessly as their already-bankrupted States were burdened with heavy debt, and their lands seized for non-payment of exorbitant taxes.  An excellent read on this topic is Jonathan Daniels “Prince of Carpetbaggers,” the story of New York General Milton S. Littlefield and his corrupt railroad bond schemes.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Georgia’s Corrupt Carpetbag Regime

“[Georgia’s new 1867 Constitution] had been written by scalawags and carpetbaggers and Negroes, the conservative Democratic white mistakenly having abstained from the voting for [convention] delegates, and while it was not too radical, it was not the kind of constitution they particularly desired.

For the gubernatorial election…ex-General John B. Gordon, was defeated in April by Rufus B. Bullock, the Republican candidate, a Northerner who had come to Georgia before the war, and who remained Governor from July 22, 1868 to October 1871.

The Bullock regime, like most carpetbag governments, combined social progressivism – as in education – with political corruption. Its most flagrant irregular practice was that of issuing State-endorsed bonds to one railroad company after another, on the flimsiest security, and very often before a foot of track was laid. There was evidence, latter adduced, showing that members of the legislature were shadily involved in these transactions, being bribed to vote for certain bond issues.

The State-owned railroad, the Western & Atlantic, was manipulated by the regime for all it was worth, and had always at least three times as many employees as it needed. Bullock himself had been connected with the southern Express Company before the war, and his government, in contradistinction to prewar Georgia governments, was one in which economics ruled.

Its point of view was that of making money and maintaining itself in power so that it could make more money. In order to remain in power it was eager to meet illegality with illegality.

When Bullock called a meeting in January 1870 of the legislature elected in 1868, this fact was rendered obvious by his “purging,” with the aid of General [Alfred] Terry, the [Northern] military commandant, a certain number of Democrats and replacing them with Republicans. He also saw to it that the Negroes who had been expelled in 1868 [for being unqualified by State law to hold office] were reinstated, and so assured himself a solid Republican majority, which immediately ratified the Fifteenth Amendment.”

(Alexander H. Stephens, A Biography, Rudolph von Abele, Alfred A. Knopf, 1946, pp. 266-267)

Employing Underground Methods of Protection

Twice under brutal enemy occupation the inhabitants of York County, South Carolina armed themselves and retaliated as any free people would. According to the postwar congressional testimony of Generals Hood and Gordon, the Ku Klux Klan existed in response to the Republican party’s Union League which alienated the freedmen from their white neighbors for party purposes. They stated that if the Republicans ended the Union League, the Klan would vanish.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Employing Underground Methods of Protection

“After the fall of Charleston, all of South Carolina came under the control of the British save York County. Cornwallis sent Captain Huck to destroy the William Hull Iron Works . . . north of Yorkville. The patriots of York banded together to meet Captain Huck and valiantly defeated his far superior forces at Brattonsville, ten miles south of Yorkville.

This same Scotch-Irish determination brought York into international prominence during the Reconstruction period following the Confederate War. Occupation by Negro militia and Federal infantry and cavalry became an intolerable situation. Ku Klux Klan activities reached their zenith in York which was the first in the State to organize a clan in 1868. Washington [DC] declared York in a state of rebellion, and Federal troops occupied it for ten years after the war.

International attention was focused on York during the affair of Dr. Rufus J. Bratton, a York County planter, who had escaped to London, Ontario, after a particular Klan episode. He was discovered there by the Pinkerton Detective Agency, hired by the United States Government, and brought back forcibly to York to stand trial. When [British] Prime Minister Gladstone learned of the abduction, he corresponded with the President of the United States requesting the doctor’s return. The two countries were at the time negotiating over the ship Alabama, and the somewhat “troubled waters” between the two countries had overtones for the Bratton affair.

Later, President Grant allowed Dr. Bratton to return to York peaceably. These incidents prompted Thomas Dixon to write the famous book, The Clansman, on which the motion picture production, The Birth of a Nation was based. Dr. Cameron was the prototype of Dr. Cameron in the book.

The first Bratton’s had won fame as Revolutionary War officers. The Confederate Bratton’s won world fame during the Reconstruction period. As head surgeon of the Confederate hospitals at Milledgeville and Richmond, [Dr. Bratton] knew the price paid by the South. It was more than he and the other men in York could bear to submit to the arrogant insults of the Negro troops and U.S. Militia stationed in York after the war.

Feeling forsaken by the government these men felt pressed to employ underground methods to protect themselves and their property in what to them became an intolerable situation. Like the Regulators of old, they took it upon themselves through the activities of the Ku Klux Klan, to re-establish a safe environment for their families.”

(Plantation Heritage in Upcountry, South Carolina, Kenneth and Blanche Marsh, Biltmore Press, 1965, excerpts: pp. 40-52)

 

Vance Resists the Party of Misrule and Ignorance

Under the pretense of ensuring the purity of elections the South, the Republican party in 1890 proposed a Force Bill to reinstitute federal interference at the polls in the South as had been done during Reconstruction. Below Senator Zebulon Vance of North Carolina addresses his Republican colleagues.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circ1865.com

 

Vance Resists the Party of Misrule and Ignorance

“The title of this [Force] bill reads: “An act to prevent force and fraud in elections of the House of Representatives of the United States . . . and to insure the lawful and peaceable conduct of such elections.”

“[Senator Vance]: The object then, of the bill is to restore the purity of elections!

I presume that no one will doubt that this is desirable, nay, that it is indispensable. But the manner in which the Senator and his associates propose to bring about this purity is what strikes us with wonder.

When this [Republican] party presents itself as the defender of public virtue, and by reason of its high pretensions claims that only through its agency can this beatitude be reached, a prudent man would naturally inquire into its history for proof of its exalted qualifications.

Let us take this method for a moment and see who is, and what is the Republican party, as represented by the supporters of this bill. We shall find that it is the same party, which inaugurated Reconstruction. By Reconstruction, it will be remembered one-fifth of the votes in eleven States was suppressed by law. The punishment of disfranchisement was freely inflicted as a punishment for crime without trial and conviction.

Thousands upon . . . thousands of other votes were suppressed by fraud, the returns being counted and canvassed in secret by men not sworn or in any way responsible to anybody, acting in States far distant from the places where the votes were cast. In addition to this there were received and counted the ballots of those who were not entitled to suffrage under any law known to American history or tradition.

In this way eleven Southern States were subjected to the control of this fountain of purity. The Republican party took full charge of them and their destinies. Behind and in support of their leaders stood the Army of the United States and all the moral power of the government then under the control of this great party whose chief desire is the purity and freedom of elections.

The carnival of corruption and fraud, the trampling down of decency, the rioting in the overthrow of the traditions of a proud people, the chaos of hell on earth which took place beggars the descriptive powers of plain history . . . I believe a committee of Congress, who took some testimony on this subject, estimated in 1871 the amount of plunder which was extracted from the Southern people in about 5 short years — some $300 millions of dollars in the shape of increased debt alone, to say nothing of the indirect damage inflicted by the many ways of corruption and misrule which can not be estimated in money.

The trick by which Republicans fastened itself for a term of years upon the downtrodden States was one which could only have been originated with a party devoted to the highest morality and the purest elections.

In the formation of new governments primarily, the Negro who had no right to vote was permitted to do so by military force. The historical inquirer will likewise learn that during the time the South was being thus plundered by the carpetbaggers through the ignorance of the Negroes in the Southern department of the party of purity and free elections, the home office was doing a business, which reflected no mean luster on the active and energetic Southern branches.

The system of levying contributions upon all Federal officeholders for corrupt political purposes was inaugurated and set going with efficiency and success.

Grants of the public domain equal to the area of many great nations were jobbed away to companies of loyal speculators. The Credit Mobilier was born and with incredible rapidity became the scandal of Christendom. Whiskey rings fastened their thievish grip upon the revenues. The Black Friday conspiracy shook the credit of the continent and made businessmen lose faith in human integrity.

As soon as there began to appear any necessity for it, that is to say, so soon as there appeared a feeble and languid rallying of political virtue in the dazed public mind, this pure and virtuous party began to provide against the reaction with a system of gerrymander. New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Ohio and various other States were so arranged in their Congressional and legislative districts as to completely drown the will of the majority and suppress their votes.

It is not an exaggeration to say that the dominant majority in both Houses of this Congress is the legitimate result of this suppression of the popular will by the methods of gerrymandering, aided and supplemented by a skillful application of the “fat” fried out of the tariff beneficiaries and used for the purposes of floating voters in blocks of five, by the very party leader who here says that the [Force] bill is intended to defend the Constitution of the United States against those who . . . are in the habit of substituting “processes of fraud, intimidation and bribery” [for honest elections].

At the present moment there are in the Union but twelve Republican States, representing some 9,000,000 of people, whilst there are thirty Democratic States containing 53,000,000 of people; yet the 9,000,000 control both Houses of Congress and every department of government . . .

The bill is not intended to preserve purity in elections. It is not intended to defend the Constitution of the United States against those who would substitute “processes of fraud, intimidation and bribery” for honest elections.

It is intended to resurrect, if possible, the Republican party and restore its hold on power. To do this, it is intended by this bill to subject the people of the South once more to the domination of their recent slaves. The objects at which the provisions of this bill are aimed are the Democratic South, the great Democratic cities of the North, and all naturalized citizens.

The policy of subjecting the intelligence and property of the South to the control of ignorance and poverty is not a new one. It has been tried. To the candid man who really desires the welfare of his country, the experiment resulted in a failure so disastrous that he would never desire to see it repeated.

The carpetbag rulers were infinitely worse than the Negroes. The evil propensities of the one were directed by intelligence, and the ignorance of the other became simply the instrument by which the purposes of the white leaders were carried out. The material and moral ruin wrought under this infernal conjunction of ignorance and intelligent vice was far greater than that inflicted by war. The very foundations of public virtue were undermined, and the seeds of hatred were thickly sown between the races.

In this great struggle to escape Negro rule and restore our State governments to the control of those who made them, and whose ancestors had established their principles in their blood, we had both the aid and the sympathy of Northern Democrats everywhere. We had neither from you.

You did not even stand by with indifference. You upheld the party of misrule and ignorance in every way you could. You kept the Army of the United States in the South to overcome the struggling whites as long as you dared. You sorrowed when the plundering of our people was stopped, and you received to your arms as martyrs the carpetbag fugitives expelled by the indignation of an outraged people.

In 1865, the property of North Carolina assessed for taxation was $121,000,000; in 1860 it had been $292,000,000, showing a loss of $171,000,000. In 1865, the debt of the State was $10,899,000; in 1871 the debt of the State was $34,887,000. Taxation in 1860 for State and county purposes was $799,000; in 1870 taxation for State and county purposes was $2,083,000 per annum.

But such were the recuperative powers of our people when freed from the corrupt yoke of strangers and permitted to manage their own affairs, that our taxable property is now assessed at about $230,000,000. Best of all, under the influence of the kindly associations of these years of labor and recuperation, race asperities have become softened and white and black have grown closer to each other in the recognition of the fact that the interest of one is inseparably connected with the other.

The direct effect, if not the object of this bill will be to disturb this prosperity and peace. There is made no secret of the fact that it is intended to secure the domination of the black voters of the South wherever they can be persuaded or morally coerced by this army of Federal officers into voting the Republican ticket. It [the bill] is a scheme for managing elections in the interest of a party as purely as was ever framed by designing politicians.”

(Excerpts of Speech by Senator Zebulon B. Vance of North Carolina in the Senate of the United States, December 15, 1890)

 

 

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