Browsing "Conservatism and Liberalism"

A New Nation of Men of Lesser Minds

The brief Gettysburg address of Lincoln was described by listeners as “a wet blanket” after Edward Everett’s stirring oration, but it did announce the end of the original confederation of States. While Northern governors expected words of appreciation for the sacrifices of the various States supporting his war, “Lincoln rose at Gettysburg to talk of the nation.” He did not “mention that four score and seven years before, the Father had brought forth thirteen independent States.”  As Lincoln spoke of government of the people and by the people, few were aware that a hundred miles away General Robert Schenck’s blue-clad soldiers were patrolling the election polls in Delaware.

A New Nation of Men of Lesser Minds

“Only three times did groups of [Northern] governors assemble to formulate policy. The Cleveland meeting of Western governors and [Pennsylvania’s Governor] Curtin in May 1861 came at the height of initial enthusiasm for the war, and the governors merely demanded that more attention be given to the West.  Lincoln accepted their pledge of cooperation and gave the governors so much work in raising troops that they had no time for further consultation over campaign strategy.

The Providence meeting of New England governors sent a committee to Lincoln to demand cabinet changes, but the President skillfully . . . turned them away. [Massachusetts Governor] Andrew led his neighbors from Providence to Altoona, but was unable to get agreement from other governors for schemes to use Negro troops [to avoid drafting white men] and replace McClellan with Fremont.

On the eve of the conference Lincoln issued the preliminary emancipation proclamation and cut the ground out from under Andrew’s radical plot.  Thereafter the governors attempted no meeting, and Lincoln dealt with them separately.

Lincoln had an enormously swollen patronage to dispense . . . but no part of the patronage was at the disposal of the governors. Moreover, the military patronage was at the President’s disposal. Governors might appoint company and regimental officers, but promotions from grade to grade and the selection of general officers depended on the President. The army and the civil patronage – as the experiences in the Border States, in Ohio in 1863, and in the campaign of 1864 proved – put the Republican Party exclusively in Lincoln’s hands.

But in the long run Lincoln’s victory over the governors was the triumph of a superior intellect. Of the sixty-three chief executives of the States only [New York’s] Horatio Seymour could approach the President in quality of mind. Seymour’s partial success in blocking conscription was a tribute to his intellectual power [and he] might have prevented the destruction of States’ rights [in the North].  But Seymour stood alone [and most] of the others were mediocrities who owed their positions to “availability” rather than to ability.

And this, above all, made Lincoln the architect of the new nation. The victory of nationalism over localism, of centralization over States’ rights, was, in the last analysis, a victory of a keener intellect over men of lesser minds. The new nation that emerged from the Civil War was not solely the result of the military defeat of the armies of Robert E. Lee. It was equally the result of the political victory that Abraham Lincoln’s mind and personality won over the governors of the Northern States.”

(Lincoln and the War Governors, William B. Hesseltine, Albert A. Knopf, 1955, pp. 391-392)

President Buchanan’s Last Annual Message

President James Buchanan’s last annual message of December 3, 1860, placed the blame for the country’s sectional divide squarely upon the Republican party and its adherents. Below, the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Patriot and Union cited and commented upon the message in its December 6, 1860 issue.

President Buchanan’s Last Annual Message

“At no previous period of our national history has the message of the President of the United States been looked for with more solicitude than was the last annual message of Mr. Buchanan; for it was felt that upon his recommendation might depend the future of the country, and that the issues of peace or civil war were, to a great extent, in his hands.

If any man in the country has the right to speak with authority to the South it is JAMES BUCHANAN, as President of the United States and head of the Democratic party; for in his official capacity he has ever been faithful to all his constitutional obligations, and as a party leader has endeavored to bring about those just concessions which, had they been granted, would have saved the country from the perils that now environ it.

The President traces our present difficulties to their true source when he attributes them to the persistent agitation of years against the system of Negro slavery as it exists in the Southern States, and to the alarming sense of insecurity growing out of that agitation . . . growing and extending, until it culminated in the formation of a sectional Northern party, thoroughly imbued and entirely controlled by hostility to the institutions of the Southern States.

It is true that the platforms and creeds of the Republican party profess loyalty to the spirit of the Constitution, and disclaim any intention of interfering with the domestic institutions of the Southern States. But professions weigh nothing when contrasted with facts.

Since the organization of the Republican party the Abolitionists have ceased to exist in this latitude as a separate party, because they merged themselves in the Republicans, deeming that the best means of promoting their ultimate objects.

Every form and degree of Abolitionism has flourished and developed under the fostering care of this Republican party, which, when confronted with the fruits of its own teaching, meekly points to its platform, and says, “we mean no harm to the Southern States.”—Turning from fair words to foul deeds, the Southern people find that the consequences of Republicanism are—the encouragement of Abolitionism, which does not hesitate to avow hostility to slavery wherever it exists; the enactment of unconstitutional laws by Republican Legislatures to nullify the fugitive slave law; the circulation of incendiary publications throughout the South, calculated, if not designed, to encourage servile insurrections, and endanger the lives of the Southern people; the promotion of John Brown raids, and the subjection of the Southern States and people to a position of inferiority.

These are unmistakably indicated as the consequences of the existence of the Republican party, which, however moderate its professions, cannot escape direct responsibility for what it promotes or encourages, and is naturally judged by the Southern people from its fruits, and not from its platforms.

The President shows conclusively that secession is not a remedy conferred upon any State by the Constitution against the encroachments of the General Government, but that it would be a revolutionary step, only justifiable “as the last desperate remedy of a despairing people, after every other constitutional means of conciliation has been exhausted.”

Notwithstanding that the message takes grounds against the constitutional right of any State to secede from the Union, the position is maintained that the Constitution has delegated to Congress no power to coerce a State into submission; and this doctrine is fortified with powerful arguments. We do not see how they can be controverted.

The proceedings of the Convention that framed the Constitution—the very highest authority—show that “Mr. Edmund Randolph’s plan, which was the ground work of the Constitution, contained a clause to authorize the coercion of any delinquent State. But this clause was struck out at the suggestion of Madison, who showed that a State could be coerced only by military force; that the use of military force against a State as such would be in the nature of a declaration of war; and that a state of war might be regarded as operating the abrogation or dissolution of all pre-existing ties between the belligerent parties, and it would be of itself the dissolution of the Union.” Thus it appears that the idea of coercing disobedient States was proposed in the Constitutional Convention and rejected.

But the President advances one step further in the argument. Suppose a State can be coerced, how are we to govern it afterwards? Shall we invite the people to elect Senators and Representatives after they are subdued and conquered? Or shall we hold them as subjects, and not as equals? How can we subdue the unconquerable will? And how can we practically annul the maxim that all governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed? Such a process would undermine the foundations of the government and destroy the principles upon which it is reared more certainly than to admit the want of coercive power in the general government.

The President concludes that portion of the message relating to our domestic troubles by suggesting that they may be settled by amending the Constitution, in the way provided by that instrument, so as to secure to the South the rights for which she contends.

Let the South pause before striking the last fatal blow at the Union, and await the time when a returning sense of justice shall induce the North to concede all her just demands . . . Let the North cease its unmanly aggressions—repeal its unconstitutional statutes—stop its reckless agitation against an institution for which it is not responsible and over which it has no control—overthrow any man or party that seeks to perpetuate strife—and the Union may yet be preserved, and even made stronger and more enduring by reason of the shock it has endured.

But without this spirit of concession and mutual forbearance, there is nothing to hope for in the immediate future but contention and disunion.”

(The President’s Message: Harrisburg (Pennsylvania) Daily Patriot and Union, December 6, 1860)

 

Two Views of Freedom

The following excerpt is from Senator Hubert Humphrey’s account of his interview with Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev in 1959. Though claiming to be staunchly anti-communist, Humphrey in 1944 endorsed and promoted the fusion of the Farmer-Labor party with Democrats, as well accepting the support of “Stalinists and other assorted radicals who dominated the CIO [Congress of Industrial Organizations] in Minneapolis at this time.” Humphrey was also admired by Roosevelt’s pro-Soviet vice president, Henry Wallace.

Two Views of Freedom

“I told [Krushchev] that a lot of young and vigorous Democrats . . . were coming up and that things would be very different after the 1960 elections. “Mr. Premier,” I said, “you and your system have been living on borrowed time. You have just had it easy with the Republicans. Just wait until the Democrats come in. You want economic competition? We’ll run you right out of Gorki Park.”

[Then] Krushchev made the most interesting statement of the whole interview. “They are old-fashioned, they are reactionary,” he said of the communes. “We tried that right after the revolution. It just doesn’t work. That system is not nearly so good as the state farms and the collective farms. You know Senator, what those communes are based on? They are based on that principle, “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.” You know that won’t work. You can’t get production without incentive.”

[We] got into a debate about over the nature of capitalism and “socialism” (meaning Soviet Communism). I told him that he was sadly misinformed about as to how American capitalism really works and he told me Americans “just plain don’t understand us.” His remarks included a remarkable statement of the Communist idea of freedom:

“In the USSR there is freedom.” Krushchev said, “In the capitalist world there is freedom of enterprise, freedom just to take care of yourself. In the USSR freedom means every member taking care of all the others. The citizen of the USSR regards the country’s welfare as his own welfare.  This needs to be understood. As a religious man believes in God, so does a citizen of a socialist country depend on the welfare of the country as a whole. You believe in God and you believe that your welfare is in the hands of God. We believe the individual’s welfare is the welfare of the state and is in the hands of the state.”

(My Marathon Talk with Russia’s Boss, Hubert Humphrey, LIFE, January 12, 1959, pg. 86)

Bringing Lincoln’s War to an End

The following are editorials appearing in the February 11, 1863 issue of the Allentown Democrat, of Allentown, Pennsylvania, a newspaper highly critical of Lincoln’s war and impending use of black troops to quiet widespread draft resistance.

“A Question: The Republican party we assert is an Abolition party. If we tell them so, most of them deny it. Now, if they are not Abolitionists, we would ask them to point us out the word or paragraph of any Republican paper that ever opposed Abolition, or that now condemns the 1st of January Abolition Proclamation. Do they not to a man sustain the President in his n****r policy, either by open declaration or by significant silence? Be sure they do, and they only expose their hypocrisy by attempting to conceal it.”

“The Homogenous Army: The administration organs are preparing the way for a general decapitation of all generals who are not abolitionists, and the [New York] Tribune and Wendell Phillips declare any man unfit to lead the Union armies who does not adopt the radical [program] all the way through.

If it be true that no man but an abolitionist should be a general, certainly no man but one of the same faith should fight in the ranks. What is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander. A general’s ability to lead an army depends on his genius and knowledge of the art of war, and not on his ideas of ethnology and diversity of the races of mankind –

A man may make a good soldier who never voted the abolition ticket, and if conservative sentiments disqualify a general to lead an army, it also disqualifies the soldier from being fit to follow. If we must have abolition generals, let us have an abolition army, and then the war will soon come to an end beyond all manner of doubt.”

(Allentown Democrat, February 11, 1863)

Defending British Interests in the Orient

Contrary to mainstream textbook histories, FDR faced stiff opposition in Congress and the military with regard to Japan.  As a committed Anglophile, Roosevelt allowed a neutral US to supply munitions to a belligerent England and sought a backdoor to the European war by luring Japan into shooting first. Admiral J.O. Richardson, commander of the US Pacific fleet in 1940, was relieved of command when he twice criticized FDR’s order for the fleet to remain at Pearl Harbor as obvious bait, instead of steaming back to the safety of San Diego.

An early warning of Japanese intentions was sent by US Ambassador Joseph C. Grew on January 27, 1941: “There is a lot of talk around town to the effect that the Japanese, in case of a break with the United States, are planning to go all out in a surprise mass attack on Pearl Harbor. Of course I informed our Government.” (Ten Years in Japan, Grew, Simon & Schuster, 1944, pg. 368)

Defending British Interests in the Orient

“In mid-August General Douglas MacArthur, the Army Chief of Staff, had told Secretary of War Hurley that, “While this country may conceivably become engaged in a war in the Pacific or with other countries of this hemisphere, such a war under present conditions is not probably and in any event would not be of such a magnitude as to threaten our national safety.”

A bit later he and [Admiral William] Pratt assured the President that Japan could be defeated were war to eventuate; how long it would take depended on whether Great Britain were an active ally of the United States. The views of MacArthur, that war with Japan was “improbable,” reflected a species of folk wisdom extant in the country at that time. There had been no crises in Japanese-American relations since the [California] Immigration Act of 1924, and considerable cooperation had been manifested since 1927.

As an institution, the [US Navy] General Board had long accepted as fact that Japan was the national “enemy” (today the term would be “threat”) and eventually the conflict of interests between the two nations would lead to war. In 1927 the board accepted the premise that Japan’s goal was “political, commercial and political domination of the Western Pacific.”  The events of 1931-1932 merely confirmed this premise.

Led by Rear Admiral Bristol, a former Asiatic Fleet Commander (1927-1929), the Board stood foursquare for maintaining the Open Door [China policy], resisting Philippine independence measures, and promoting American commerce in the Orient. On the other hand, Admiral Taylor, the current CINCAF; his relief in 1933, F.B. Upham; and the respected Rear Admiral W.D. Leahy, destined to become Chief of Naval Operations in January 1937, all shared a common feeling that the United States had so few genuine interests in China that it was foolish to be needling the Japanese. Leahy summed up a lot of [naval] service opinion when he wrote in his diary:

“I do not understand what the Japanese are trying to do . . . It would seem that the United States has little interest there but may be drawn into a war in the Orient by the desire of Europe to have somebody else preserve its trade advantages in China.  It would be wise for America to keep hands off before it is too late.

“Today press news by radio brings us information that the training squadron and all available ships in the Atlantic have been ordered into the Pacific Ocean “for maneuvers . . .”

“Lacking any information as to a reasonable excuse for getting into trouble in the Orient at this time it seems that a movement of all ships to the Pacific can only intensify the existing unfavorable attitude of the Orient toward us. It definitely looks like a bluff that the other side may have to call whether it wants to or not.”

When writing to his brother, Admiral Taylor felt China was “up to its old tricks trying to get someone, preferably the U.S., to fight her battles for her.” A year later he concluded that Secretary [of State Henry] Stimson had “botched” things badly because he had forgotten that legalistic judgment against Japan was worthless unless the public and a sheriff backed the verdict.  “It seems to me that one of the most dangerous persons in the world is a lawyer turned diplomat . . . So in diplomacy, treaties can be quoted, but what is their value as a deterrent to a nation determined on a course of action unless violation brings in its train the international police represented by fleets and troops.”  

Admiral F.B. Upham . . . had a simple prescription: the United States should clear out of the Orient and close its markets to Japanese products.  

(Admiral William V. Pratt, US Navy, A Sailor’s Life (excerpts), Gerald F. Wheeler, Naval Historical Division, 1974, pp. 340-349)

Nov 21, 2020 - Conservatism and Liberalism, Foreign Viewpoints, Historians on History, Prescient Warnings    Comments Off on The Pursuit of Truth

The Pursuit of Truth

“By enlarged intellectual culture, especially in philosophic studies, men come at last to pursue truth for its own sake, to esteem it a duty to emancipate themselves from party spirit, prejudices and passion, and through love of truth to cultivate a judicial spirit in controversy. They aspire to the intellect not of a sectarian but of a philosopher, to the intellect not of a partisan but of a statesman.”  Lecky

(William Edward Hartpole Lecky (1838-1903) was “an Irish historian, essayist and political theorist with Whig proclivities” and author of “History of England During the Eighteenth Century.”)

A Constitution All Sail and No Anchor

Lord Macaulay on American Institutions

“On May 23, 1857, he stated: “You are surprised to learn that I have not a high opinion of Mr. Jefferson, and I am surprised at your surprise. I am certain that I never . . . uttered word indicating an opinion that the supreme authority in a state ought to be to be entrusted to a majority of citizens told by the head, in other words the poorest and most ignorant of society.

I have long been convinced that institutions purely democratic must, sooner or later, destroy liberty or civilization, or both . . . I have not the smallest doubt that if we had a purely democratic government [in England] . . . Either the poor would plunder rich, and civilization would perish; or order and prosperity would be saved by a strong military government, and liberty would perish . . .

Your fate I believe to be certain, though it is deferred by a physical cause.  As long as you have a boundless extent of fertile and unoccupied land, your laboring population will be far more at ease than the laboring population of the Old World, and, while that is the case, the Jefferson politics may continue without causing any fatal calamity.

But the time will come when New England will be as thickly populated as old England . . . then your institutions will be fairly brought to the test . . . I seriously apprehend that you will, in some such season of adversity as I have described, do things that will prevent prosperity from returning . . . There will be, I fear, spoliation. The spoliation will cause distress. The distress will produce fresh spoliation. There is nothing to stop you. Your Constitution is all sail and no anchor.

Your republic will be as fearfully plundered and laid waste by the barbarians in the twentieth century as the Roman Empire was in the fifth . . . your Huns and Vandals will have been engendered within your own country by your own institutions. Thinking thus, of course, I cannot reckon Jefferson among the benefactors of mankind . . .”

On October 9, 1858, Macaulay continued: “I am perfectly aware of the immense progress which your country has made, and is making in population and wealth. But I see no reason for attributing these things to the policy of Jefferson. The progress which you are now making is only a continuation of the progress which you have been making ever since the middle of the seventeenth century . . . enjoyed by your forefathers, who were loyal subjects of the kings of England . . . I do not admit that the prosperity which your country enjoys arises from those parts of your polity which may be called, Jeffersonian.” [The Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay, Sir George Trevelyan, Vol. II, New York, 1875, pp. 407-412]

(The Correspondence Between Henry Stephens Randall and Hugh Blair Grigsby, 1856-1861, Frank J. Klingberg and Frank W. Klingberg, editors, Volume 43, University of California Press, 1952, excerpts pp. 185-186)

“Kossuth Exile” in Florida

The commander of Northern forces attacking Marianna, Florida in late September, 1864 was “Kossuth Exile” Alexander Asboth, a Hungarian revolutionary and contemporary of Lajos Kossuth in the failed 1848 socialist uprising. Fearing execution for treason, he fled that country in 1849.

A large contingent of Hungarian socialists journeyed to Iowa where they received US government interest-free loans. Kossuth conducted a fund-raising tour of the US to support his revolutionary cause, but expended most of it on a lavish lifestyle.  

Initially on the staff of General John C. Fremont in 1861, Lincoln promoted Asboth to the rank of brigadier-general with an eye to enlist more Hungarian refurgees in this country. After an undistinguished military career, he was assigned to western Florida. At the one-sided battle of Marianna against old men and teenage boys, Asboth was severely wounded in the left cheek and left arm before his retreat.  

In recognition of his accomplishments, in early 1866 President Andrew Johnson promoted Asboth to the permanent rank of major-general, and then appointed him US Minister to Uruguay.

Fellow Hungarian revolutionary Albin Francisco Schoepf became one of Lincoln’s brigadier generals who eventually commanded the notorious Fort Delaware prison camp. Schoepf allowed his subordinates absolute control over Southern prisoners, some of whom were tortured and used as forced labor, resulting in a high death rate and reputation as the most brutal POW camp in America.

If Our Enemies Prevail

Prominent South Carolina theologian James H. Thornwell saw the sectional conflict as not being merely between abolitionists an slaveholders,” but waged on one side by “athiests, socialists, communists, red Republicans and Jacobins, and the other by the “friends of order and regulated freedom. In one word, the world is the battleground and Christianity and Atheism the combatants.” Thornwell saw the progress of humanity as being at stake in the war.  Among Lincoln’s staunchest supporters were Karl Marx, many influential German revolutionaries who had fled the failed socialist revolutions of 1840s Europe, and New England utopians.

If Our Enemies Prevail

“Some Southerners saw such deception [as Lincoln’s] coming, James H. Thornwell, a prominent Presbyterian preacher and seminary professor in South Carolina, predicted if the South were defeated, then the North would not only revolutionize “the whole character of the government” from ‘a federal republic, the common agent of the sovereign and independent States’ to a “central despotism, with the notion of States forever abolished,’ but also would brand the South with the stigma of slavery:

“And what have we to expect if our enemies prevail? Our homes, too, are to be pillaged, our cities and property confiscated, our true men hanged, and those who escape the gibbet, to be driven as vagabonds and wanderers in foreign climes. This beautiful country is to pass out of our hands. The boundaries which mark our States are, in some instances, to be effaced, and the State that remain are to be converted into subject provinces, governed by Northern rulers and by Northern laws.

Our property is to be ruthlessly seized and turned over to mercenary strangers, in order to pay the enormous debt which our subjugation has cost. Our wives and daughters are to become the prey of brutal lust. The slave, too, will slowly pass away, as the red man did before him, under the protection of Northern philanthropy; and the whole country, now like the Garden of Eden in beauty and fertility, will first be a blackened and smoking desert, and then the minister of Northern cupidity and avarice.

There is not a single redeeming feature in the picture of ruin which stares us in the face, if we permit ourselves to be conquered.  It is a night of thick darkness that will settle upon us. Even sympathy, the last solace of the afflicted, will be denied to us.  The civilized world will look coldly upon us, and even jeer us with the taunt that we have deservedly lost our own freedom in seeking to perpetuate the slavery of others.

We shall perish under a cloud of reproach and of unjust suspicions, sedulously propagated by our enemies, which will be harder to bear than the loss of home and of goods. Such a fate never overtook any people before.”

(From Founding Fathers to Fire Eaters: The Constitutional Doctrine of States’ Rights in the Old South, James Rutledge Roesch, Shotwell Publishing, 2018, excerpt pp. xiv-xv)  

The Covenant with Power

In Woodrow Wilson’s call for a declaration of war against Germany, he spoke of freedom of the seas yet was silent on Britain’s blockade of Europe. He also proclaimed self-determination as a great principle while declaring Irish independence as irrelevant and avoiding the question of Southern self-determination 56 years earlier in his own country. Senator Robert LaFollette wrote of Wilson: “I sometimes think the man has no sense of things that penetrate below the surface.  With him, the rhetoric of a thing is the thing itself.  Words, phrases, felicity of expression and a blind egotism have been his stock in trade.”

The Covenant with Power

 “If the United States had refused to intervene in 1917, would a German victory in 1918 have been a better historical alternative? The answer is debatable.

What would have happened if Wilson had taken William Jennings Bryan’s advice and practiced real rather than sham neutrality? Without the backing of American weaponry, munitions and loans, the Allies would have been forced to abandon their goal of the knockout blow. The war might have ended in 1916 with a negotiated peace based on a mutual admission that the conflict had become a stalemate.  As a genuine neutral, Wilson might have even have persuaded both sides to let him be a mediator.

Lloyd George’s argument – that unless the United States intervened, Wilson would have no place at the peace table – was specious at best. Both sides would have needed America’s wealth and industrial resources to rebuild their shattered economies.

A victorious Germany would have no need of political adventurers such as Adolf Hitler. Nor would this counterfactual Germany have inserted the Bolsheviks into Russia and supported them with secret-service money.  Lenin and Trotsky might have agitated in a political vacuum in Switzerland unto a crabbed old age. The war created the collapse that gave Bolshevism its seventy-year reign of blood and terror.

Perhaps the best way to look at Woodrow Wilson’s tragically flawed intervention in World War I is, in the words of the historian Lloyd C. Gardner, as a covenant with power. Painfully, with mistakes aplenty, the United States recognized that power is at the heart of history.

At the Paris Peace Conference, Wilson discovered limitations to America’s power . . . [especially those that] lay in the prime illusion of idealism – the expectation that noble words can easily be translated into meaningful realities.

Woodrow Wilson struggled with his inadvertent covenant with power. Like Lincoln, who suspended habeas corpus and jailed [thousands] of dissenters during the Civil War, Wilson tolerated a brutally realistic government of the home front.”

(The Illusion of Victory: America in World War I, Thomas Fleming, Basic Books, 2003, excerpts pp. 480-482)