Browsing "Costs of War"

Lincoln’s Broad Economic Revolution

In the four prewar years 1856-1860, total federal expenditures were a mere $274 million, and financed by tariffs (disproportionately paid by the South), and the sale of public lands. The direct costs of the Northern war effort 1861-1865 is estimated at $2.3 billion; when indirect costs such as outright destruction and soldier pensions are included the estimate rises to $8 billion. “[The] Union’s expenditures on the war were equivalent to more than 70% of the North’s share of the 1859 gross domestic product. Lincoln’s war economy enabled Philip Amour to make $2 million selling pork to the Northern army; Clement Studebaker amassed a fortune providing wagons to Northern forces, and Andrew Carnegie grew rich as an iron merchant.

Lincoln’s Broad Economic Revolution

“First . . . the [Northern] citizenry remained passionately resistant to any form of federal income tax. A second option was to turn to borrowing. The great advantage of this choice was that it would pass some of the cost of the war on to future generations (in the form of interest and debt). A final choice was to print money and declare it legal tender – a policy not without cost. The printing of currency not backed by specie would raise prices, thus financing the war through inflation.

As soon as the war began, President Lincoln ordered Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase to begin taking steps to fund the war. Chase faced an economy that had barely recovered from the Panic of 1857 before being thrown into recession by the secession crisis. Chase initially turned to increase import fees, excise taxes and the sale of government land, but he soon shifted his attention to the sale of [war] bonds [hoping] to fund its war effort through a form of borrowing.

Congress [passed] the revolutionary Legal Tender Act [in] February 1862 [which] provided for the issuance of $150 million in non-interest bearing notes. Although not backed by gold or silver, these “greenbacks” were legal tender for all debts except import duties and interest on government loans. By issuing notes without the backing of specie, the government risked serious inflation.

In August 1861 Congress passed a 3 percent tax on incomes of more than eight hundred dollars, but it was a year before those funds were collects. The following July a new revenue measure expanded income taxes and added an assortment of other levies.

In late summer 1862 bond sales had dwindled [and] Secretary Chase turned to Philadelphia broker Jay Cooke to orchestrate a massive campaign to stimulate them. This strategy [of 2500 agents nationwide] anticipated the patriotic war bond drives of World Wars I and II. [Roughly] one in four Northern families [purchased them,] Yet it appears most war bonds ended up in the hands of banks and wealthy investors.

The final piece of Chase’s financial program did not fall into place until midway through the war. The National Banking Act of February 1863 (and legislation of June 1864) established a new system of banks. Finally, in March 1865, Congress passed a 10 percent tax on all notes issued by State banks [which was sufficient to] drive most State banks into the new banking system.

When all was said and done bond sales funded two-thirds of the North’s military expenses. Various forms of wartime taxation funded 21 percent of the war’s cost, and the remaining costs were financed through inflation. By printing greenbacks the federal government caused an increase in prices, which had a measurable impact on the Northern economy. At their peak, prices rose to 80 percent above antebellum levels.

The funding legislation passed by the war Congress raises a broader issue. How did wartime measures reshape the American economy?

One long-standing interpretation is that the war was a triumph of industrial capitalism. With for decades the intellectual heirs of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton had battled over the constitutionality of federal measures to assist economic development.

With the [Southern] congressmen safely out of the way [in 1861] – so the interpretation goes – Republicans were free to pursue an agenda which features protective tariffs and strong banking legislation. The Civil War provide the perfect excuse for imposing a broad economic revolution.”

(The North Fights the Civil War: The Homefront, J. Matthew Gallman, Ivan R. Dee, 1993, excerpts pp. 96-99)

Party Above Country

The scramble to organize the Republican party in the conquered States in 1867-68 was critical to maintain party ascendancy – the black man was to be enfranchised and told that voting Democratic would return them to the chains of slavery – their Republican friends would keep them free with Grant elected in 1868. Thus the freedmen were turned against their friends and neighbors by the infamous Union League in return for minor patronage positions for those delivering the black vote to the Republican party. Grant won the presidency against Horatio Seymour of New York by only 300,000 votes – a narrow victory achieved with 500,000 black votes.

Party Above Country

“Immediately after the war there a brief period of uncertainty [in Republican ranks] about the course to follow in reconstruction the Union. However, when several of the lately seceded States refused to accept in complete good faith Andrew Johnson’s plan of restoration, the Republicans were all but unanimous in imposing a much more stringent set of terms designed to remake the entire electoral system of the South. Purely political considerations were undoubtedly a factor.

The three-fifths clause of the Constitution having become a dead letter with the abolition of slavery, the Southern States stood to gain thirteen seats in the House of Representatives and thirteen votes in the Electoral College. Were the “solid South” to join just two Northern States – New York and Indiana – voting Democratic, the party of [Stephen] Douglas, [James] Buchanan and Jefferson Davis would recapture the presidency and resume control of the nation’s destiny.

It was an appalling prospect for any sincere Republican to contemplate; so the party had no choice but to follow the lead of Charles Sumner and Thaddeus Stevens on the questions of Reconstruction.

[Conservatives] within the party, who in no way shared the Radicals concern with equal political rights for Negroes, accepted black suffrage in 1867 and 1869 because the exigencies of the situation seemed to demand it [if Republicans were to maintain political dominance].”

(The Politics of Inertia: The Election of 1876 and the End of Reconstruction, Keith Ian Polakoff, LSU Press, 1973, excerpts pp. 14-15)

No Union Saved

No Union Saved

“The notion that Lincoln “saved the Union” is as naïve as the notion that he “freed the slaves.” The Union he saved was not the one he set out to save. The Civil War destroyed the “balance or powers” between the States and the federal government which he had promised to protect in his 1861 inaugural address.

This was not Lincoln’s intention, but it is the reason many of his champions praise him. James McPherson celebrates Lincoln’s “second American Revolution”; Gary Wills exults that Lincoln “changed America” with the Gettysburg Address, which he admits was a “swindle” (albeit a benign one).

In other words, Lincoln’s war destroyed the original constitutional relation between the States and the federal government. His own defenders say so – in spite of his explicit, clear and consistent professed intent to “preserve” that relation.

The Civil War wasn’t just a victory of North over South; it was a victory for centralized government over the States and federalism. It destroyed the ability of the States to protect themselves against the destruction of their reserved powers.

Must we all be happy about this? Lincoln himself – the real Lincoln, that is, – would have deprecated the unintended results of the war. Though he sometimes resorted to dictatorial methods, he never meant to create a totalitarian state.

It’s tragic that slavery was intertwined with a good cause, and scandalous that those who defend that cause today should be smeared as partisans of slavery. But the verdict of history must not be left to the simple-minded and the demagogic.”

(Slavery, No; Secession, Yes, Joseph Sobran, Sobran’s Real News of the Month, March 2001, Volume 8, Number 3, excerpts pg. 9)

The Sack and Destruction of an American City

The 65,000-man army of the infamous William Sherman, virtually unopposed since leaving Atlanta in flames before the cold of winter, entered Columbia on 16 February 1865. Departing four days later, they left this American city “reduced to ashes and a trail of destruction that could not be described in any of the city’s newspapers, simply because none had survived the onslaught. Commonly heard during the pillaging as a pistol was pointed to “the bosom or the head of woman, the patient mother, the trembling daughter, was the ordinary introduction to the demands of the robbers: “Your gold, silver, watch, jewels.” Sherman’s actions bore the tacit approval of Abraham Lincoln.

The Sack and Destruction of an American City

“At about 11 o’clock, the head of the column, following the deputation – the flag of the United States surmounting the carriage – reached Market Hall, on Main street, while that of the corps was carried in the rear.

Hardly had the troops reached the head of Main street, when the works of pillage was begun. Stores were broken open in the presence of thousands within the first hour after their arrival. The contents, when too cumbersome for the plunderers, were cast into the streets. Gold and silver, jewels and liquors, were eagerly sought.

No attempt was made to arrest the burglars. The authorities, officers, soldiers, all, seemed to consider it a matter of course. And [woe] to him who carried a watch with gold chain pendant; or who wore a choice hat, or overcoat, or boots or shoes. He was stripped by ready experts in a twinkling of an eye.

It is computed that, from first to last, twelve hundred watches were transported from the pockets of the owners to those of the soldiers. Purses shared the same fate; nor was Confederate money repudiated.

The experience of the firemen in putting out the fires . . . were of a sort to discourage their farther efforts. They were thwarted and embarrassed by the continued interference of the soldiery. Finally, their hose was chopped with swords and axes, or pierced with bayonets, so as to be rendered useless. The engines were in some cases demolished also.

Robbery was going on at every corner – in every house – yet there was no censure, no punishment. But the reign of terror did not fairly begin till night. Among the first fires at evening was one about dark, which broke out in a filthy purlieu of low houses, of wood, on Gervais street, occupied mostly as brothels.

Almost at the same time the enemy scattered over the Eastern outskirts of the city, fired severally the dwellings of Mr. Secretary Trenholm, Gen. Wade Hampton, Dr. John Wallace, J.U. Adams, Mrs. Starke, Mr. Latta, Mrs. English and many others . . . in the heart of the most densely settled portion of the town; thus enveloping in flames almost every section of the devoted city.

The wretches engaged in this appointed incendiarism were well prepared with all the appliances essential to their work. They did not need the torch. They carried with them, from house to house, pots and vessels containing combustible liquids, composed probably of phosphorous and other similar agents, turpentine, etc., and, with balls of cotton saturated in this liquid; with which they overspread floors and walls, they conveyed the flames with wonderful rapidity from dwelling to dwelling.”

(A City Laid Waste: The Capture, Sack and Destruction of the City of Columbia, William Gilmore Simms, USC Press, 2005, excerpts pp. 61-62; 64-65)

Lincoln’s War Against the People

Lincoln’s War Against the People

“Did not Jefferson Davis have a better grasp of the Revolution when he said that Southerners were simply imitating their forebears, and that the Confederacy “illustrates the American idea that government rests upon the consent of the governed?

The desire for [centralized government] “consolidation on the part of some Americans, perhaps not a majority, had reached a point that the observations made by [Alexis de] Tocqueville and [James Fennimore] Cooper were no longer relevant. Lincoln could launch war against a very substantial part of the people. To this end he was willing to kill 300,000 Southern soldiers and civilians and even more of his native and immigrant proletariat.

The crackpot realist General Sherman said it well: We are in the enemy’s country, and I act accordingly . . . The war will soon assume a turn to extermination, not of soldiers alone, that is the least part of the trouble, but the people.” Clearly, the government, the machinery controlled by the politicians in Washington, who had been chosen by two-fifths of the people, now had supremacy over the life and institutions of Americans.”

(Society Precedes Government: Two Counterrevolutions, Clyde N. Wilson, Chronicles, April 2015, excerpts pg. 18) www.chroniclesmagazine.org

The American Revolution Reversed

The American Revolution Reversed

“In 1863 Abraham Lincoln declared in pseudo-biblical language that our forefathers had brought forth “a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” and that “we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.” Lincoln at Gettysburg committed a quadruple lie that has since become standard American doctrine about the Revolution.

First, what was created in 1776 was not a nation but an alliance. At that time there was not even the Articles of Confederation. Second, he elevated the bit of obiter dicta about equality above the Declaration’s fundamental assertion of the right of societies of men to govern themselves by their own lights, attaching a phony moralistic motive to the invasion and conquest of the South – what [historian Mel] Bradford called “the rhetoric of continuing revolution.”

Third, Lincoln was not engaged in preserving the Union. The Union was destroyed the moment he had undertaken to overthrow the legitimate governments of 15 States by force. He was establishing the supremacy of the government machinery in Washington, which he controlled, over the many self-governing communities of Americans.

Fourth, he cast the Revolution in a mystical way, as if the forefathers had met on Mount Olympus and decreed liberty. But governments, even of the wisest men, cannot decree liberty. The Americans were fighting to preserve the liberty they already had through their history, which many saw as a benevolent gift of Providence. The American Revolution was reversed, its meaning disallowed, and its lesson repudiated.

Did not Jefferson Davis have a better grasp of the Revolution when he said that Southerners were simply imitating their forebears, and that the Confederacy “illustrates the American idea that government rests upon the consent of the governed?

Lincoln could launch a war against a very substantial part of the people. To this end he was willing to kill 300,000 Southerner soldiers and civilians and even more of his own native and immigrant proletariat. The crackpot realist General Sherman said it well: “We are now in the enemy’s country, and I act accordingly . . . The war will soon assume a turn to extermination, not of soldiers alone, that is the least part of the trouble, but the people.”

Clearly, the government, the machinery controlled by the politicians in Washington, who had been chosen by two-fifths of the people, now had supremacy over the life and institutions of Americans.”

(Society Precedes Government: Two Counterrevolutions, Clyde N. Wilson, Chronicles, April 2015, excerpts pp. 17-18) www.chroniclesmagazine.org

The Meaning of Freedom

The author below writes that in early postwar South Carolina, slave “desertion on . . . plantations became increasingly frequent . . . to enjoy the freedom the Yankey’s have promised the Negroes.” Rather than remain with the people and place they had known most if not all their lives, domestic Patience Johnson told her mistress that “I must go, if I stay here I’ll never know I am free.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The Meaning of Freedom

“Christmas Day, 1865, saw many South Carolina plantations entirely deserted by their Negro populations. After visiting the plantation of a relative on February 9, 1866, the Reverend John Hamilton Cornish reported that, “Not one of their Negroes is with them, all have left.”

Like many domestics, most of those field hands who remained . . . were very old, very young or encumbered. The mistress of the Ball plantation in Laurens District recalled . . . at end of 1865 “many of the Negroes sought employment on other places, but the least desirable stayed with us, for they could not easily find new homes and we could not deny them shelter.”

Large numbers of agricultural laborers left their native plantations during the Christmas season to camp in a neighboring village while they searched for an employer. Employment, however, was not always easily found. David Golightly Harris, visiting Spartanburg on New Year’s Day, 1866, “saw many Negroes enjoying their freedom by walking about the streets & looking much out of sorts . . . Ask who you may “What are you going to do,” & their universal answer is “I don’t know.”

Augustine Smythe found much the same conditions prevailing in . . . the Orangeburg District. “There is considerable trouble & moving among the Negroes,” he reported. “They are just like a swarm of bees all buzzing about & not knowing where to settle.”

Apparently, many freedmen were driven to return to their old places by economic necessity. Isabella A. Soustan, a Negro woman who had somehow found freedom in a place called Liberty, North Carolina, in July 1865, expressed her thoughts on the dilemma that many ex-slaves faced in their first year of emancipation. “I have the honor to appeal to you one more for assistance, Master,” she petitioned her recent owner. “I am cramped [here] near to death and no one [cares] for me [here], and I want you if you [please] Sir, to send for me.”

Some few freedmen were willing to exchange freedmen for security. “I don’t care if I am free,” concluded Isabella, “I had rather live with you, as I was as free while with you as I wanted to be.”

(After Slavery: The Negro in South Carolina During Reconstruction, 1861-1877, Joel Williamson, UNC Press, 1965, excerpts pp. 39-41)

Nov 18, 2018 - America Transformed, Costs of War, Economics, Lincoln's Grand Army, Lincoln's Revolutionary Legacy, Northern Culture Laid Bare, Northern Pensions    Comments Off on Congressional Demagogues and Conscienceless Profiteers

Congressional Demagogues and Conscienceless Profiteers

By 1890 the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), as a fraternal order of Northern veterans, had become not only indispensable to politicians for election victory, a guiding light for “correct” histories of the war in textbooks and a Northern view of American nationalism, but most importantly, a very powerful lobby for pensions.

In late January 1879, Congress passed the Arrears of Pension Act for Northern veterans who could collect past monies due for any claimed disability, which “placed a tremendous premium on deception and fraud.” Men who had an attack of fever while in the army persuaded themselves that every ill since being discharged was caused by that fever. By the time Grover Cleveland became president in 1885, the pension list had grown to 385,125 who drew more than $65 million annually from the public treasury, North and South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Congressional Demagogues and Conscienceless Profiteers

“It has ever been easy to arouse popular excitement upon the treatment of wounded or disabled soldiers, and this noble sentiment has been often played upon by designing men. Moreover, the Democratic party has always been compelled to deal with more than the usual caution with the question when it affected soldiers who served in the Federal ranks . . . as any unwillingness to pass pension bills for such soldiers was certain to be interpreted as reflecting sympathy for the lost cause.

For this reason Grover Cleveland, as he looked over the pension system of the nation of which he was chosen president, must have summoned all of his courage. To allow the [pension] scandals which had developed to pass unrebuked was impossible for a man with his views of the duty as a President; to attempt to end them was to bring down more abuse from his enemies in both political parties.

Under a just system of army pensions the maximum of expenditure on account of any war is reached within eight or ten years of its close. Thereafter death steadily diminishes the number of legitimate pensioners . . . In 1866 there had been 126,722 pensioners drawing from the public treasury, all told, about thirteen and a half million dollars annually. As the years passed these numbers increased until, in 1873, there were more than 238,000 names on the roll, which called for some $29,000,000 a year.

From that time mortality should have materially reduced the number of pensions; and if the congressional demagogues had kept their hands off, this would certainly have happened.

In his first annual message to Congress [Cleveland] used the words: “It is fully as important that the rolls should be cleansed of all those who by fraud have secured a place within, as that meritorious claims should be speedily examined and adjusted.”

Conscienceless profiteers, intent upon coining into gold a noble public sentiment, had adopted the practice of disregarding the decisions of the Pension Bureau, and taking spurious claims directly to Congress in the form of private pension bills, which dishonest manipulators or too sentimental patriots steered through, as secretly as the rules would allow. It was a practice safe as well as profitable, for few politicians dared to resist, lest they be regarded as unpatriotic.”

(Grover Cleveland: The Man and the Statesman, Volume I, Robert McElroy, Harper and Brothers, 1923, excerpts pp. 189-191)

Lincoln’s Legacy of Political Assassination

Lincoln’s array of assumed extra-constitutional powers is broad, and one was the authority to order the assassination of Jefferson Davis and his cabinet in early 1864. One could certainly envision Ford’s Theater as a retaliatory measure more than a year later, but that was clearly the work of Lincoln’s own radical opponents in his own party – eliminating him through political assassination.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Lincoln’s Legacy of Political Assassination

“The United States emerged from World War II militarily victorious but politically deformed. Instead of a republic, it was now a superpower with military and economic capabilities previously unimagined. In place of a constitutional government of limited powers and official accountability was a national-security regime of executive orders, the CIA, and plausible deniability.

Instead of “no entangling alliances,” the US government not only entered alliances, but created and fostered them . . . Instead of respecting the sovereignty of other nations, Washington subscribed to the messianic ideology of American Exceptionalism, the belief that the United States is politically and morally superior to other countries and, therefore, entitled to intervene in their domestic affairs.

Arguably, not since the Lincoln regime had the federal government usurped so much power or imbibed such a messianic doctrine. This shaped its foreign policy, which occasionally has been conducted less by diplomacy than by selective political assassination. Here, again, Lincoln provided a precedent.

By February 1864, Lincoln’s attempt to defeat the Confederacy – first by starving and bombarding Southern civilians, and later, by striving to foment a race war in the South – had failed. With antiwar sentiment growing and a presidential election looming in November, Lincoln desperately needed a major military victory. To that end, he authorized a cavalry raid on Richmond, Virginia, the capital of the Confederacy.

[The] raid’s ostensible goal was to rescue 1,500 Union officers incarcerated in Richmond and another 10,000 rank and file soldiers imprisoned on nearby Belle Isle. Taking part in this raid was Col. Ulric Dahlgren, son of Lincoln’s close friend Rear Admiral John Dahlgren.

The raid, which began as a comedy of errors, ended as a military fiasco. Among those killed by Confederate defenders was Colonel Dahlgren, on whose body was found an order describing the true purpose of the raid – “the city [Richmond] must be destroyed and Jeff Davis and [his] cabinet killed.”

Such an act would be entirely consistent with how Lincoln waged his war against the South. It is more than likely that an increasingly desperate and despondent Lincoln sought his reelection in the political assassination of his Confederate counterpart.

The precedent Lincoln established was adopted by the US government during the Cold War. Executing political assassinations is the responsibility of the CIA under the supervision of an oversight committee, called the Special Group . . . To ensure plausible deniability, the CIA often employs citizens of the targeted regime, frequently military officers, to perform the actual assassinations.

If the US government can assassinate foreign opponents by demonizing them as “terrorists” or supporters of terrorism, what is to prevent Washington from employing this tactic against domestic opponents? The process Lincoln began is now complete.”

(Lincoln’s Legacy: Foreign Policy by Assassination, Joseph E. Fallon, Chronicles, January 2003, excerpts pp. 50-51)

Homage to the Hounds

“The children owned a pretty little pet, a grey hound . . . Gathering up a stone, one of the soldiers watched his moment, and approaching the group where they were at play, suddenly dashed out the brains of the little dog, at the very feet of the children.”

William Gilmore Simms, Columbia, South Carolina, 1865

“We were determined that no dogs should escape, be it a cur, a rat dog, or bloodhound; we exterminated all. The dogs are easily killed. All we had to do was bayonet them.”

Col. Oscar Jackson, Sixty-third Ohio Volunteers, 7 March 1865

“It was pitiful to see the poor, half-starved cur go up to the men with almost melancholy countenance, as much to say: “I have seen better days but now am starving. Just let me go along, and I will be a good, dutiful dog.” Sometimes he gets a kick or a bullet for his confidence . . . As for the general run of these animals, they were relentlessly shot down.”

David Conyngham, reporter, New York Herald, February 1865

 

Homage to the Hounds

“You suffered too.

It was war on dogs as well –

On every living thing it seems:

Ages of mutual friendship

All are betrayed

In one fire-breathing

Dragon day.”

 

(Poems from Scorched Earth, James Everett Kibler, Charleston Press, 2001, page 5)

 

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