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Roosevelt’s Progressive Party and the South

Theodore Roosevelt’s mother was Martha Bulloch (1835-1884), who grew up near today’s Roswell, Georgia on her father’s plantation worked by thirty-one slaves. Her two brothers James and Irvine had illustrious careers serving the Confederacy, and it is said that those patriotic uncles served as exemplary role models for him later in life. When he became president, TR labored in vain to entice Southern Democrats away from their party, as the damage done by the Republican party to the South seemed irreparable.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Roosevelt’s Progressive Party and the South

“When by accident Theodore Roosevelt came to the presidency in 1901, he entered that office with a desire to revise the political map of the country, for he was positive that a change in the traditional Republican attitude toward the Southern white voter would go far to break the Democratic political monopoly of the solid South.

Accordingly, in his early appointments and in his public speeches he attempted to pursue a course of conciliation calculated to entice the white citizen of the South away from the Democratic party.

After his departure from the Republican party in June 1912, however, Roosevelt realized at once that perhaps this was his chance to break the political monopoly of States below the Ohio River by organizing a rival party designed to appeal to Southern whites.

It was upon [growing] discontent [with Democratic leadership in the South] that Theodore Roosevelt proposed to found the new Progressive party in the South, which, freed of the incubus of the Republican label, would be “without one touch of sectional feeling,” and which therefore could offer the first serious opposition to Southern Democracy since the days of the old Whigs.

Yet the leader of the Progressive party was well aware that if a strong, permanent party were to be built in the South it would necessarily have to be organized upon a “lily white” basis.

[Roosevelt defined his position on race with], in the North there were numerous intelligent and honest Negroes who could be incorporated into the party machinery to the mutual good of both the individual and the party. The situation in the South, however, was a different matter. In this opinion, Roosevelt declared, he stood not on theory but upon actual observation.

For forty-five years the Republican party had been trying to build a successful organization there based upon black participation, and the result for a variety of reasons had been “lamentable from every standpoint.”

To repeat the experiment, he felt, would make a Progressive party victory impossible in the South, and would do nothing for the Negro except “to create another impotent little corrupt faction of would-be office holders, of delegates whose expenses had to be paid, and whose votes sometimes had to be bought.”

In conclusion, he maintained that the only man who could help the Negro in the South was his white neighbor; and therefore he hoped the Progressive party would put the leadership of the South into the hands of “intelligent and benevolent” white men who would see to it that the Negro got a measure of justice, something which the Northerner could not obtain for him, and something he could not obtain himself. Thus, Charles Sumner and Thaddeus Stevens were publicly disavowed by a former Republican president.”

(The South and the Progressive Lily White Party of 1912, George E. Mowry, Journal of Southern History, VI, May 1940, excerpts, pp. 237-242)

Convincing Southerners of Republican Hostility

Lincoln’s only attempt at including a Southerner in his cabinet was sounding out North Carolinian and Congressman John Gilmer, who was “wary, mistrustful of Lincoln and reluctant to ally himself with an administration” opposed to the interests of his State and section. Conservatives feared that should Gilmer not accept, Lincoln would select radical hard-liner Montgomery Blair and add fuel to the sectional fire.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Convincing Southerners of Republican Hostility

“[Far from Fort Sumter] the president-elect was still at work composing his cabinet . . . [and] the impossibly tangled party considerations that continued to vex him. As [President James] Buchanan’s advisors planned their reinforcement expedition . . . Lincoln was committing the first major blunder of his administration. It began on Sunday, December 30 . . . when he met with that “greatest of Pennsylvania wirepullers,” Simon Cameron, about a place in the cabinet.

[Lincoln] knew it would be a controversial appointment. For one thing, Cameron’s easy movements from the [Democrats] to the Know Nothings to the Republicans had gained him a reputation as an unprincipled opportunist.

More damaging was the taint of corruption that surrounded him. Known to his critics as “the Great Winnebago Chief” for his mishandling of Indian funds in the 1830s, Cameron was also charged with manipulation elections and legislatures through bribery. Yet so many recommendations poured into Springfield that Lincoln could hardly see how not to appoint him.

It was one of the first important choices Lincoln had made for himself since the election, and he immediately had cause to regret foregoing his usual process of passing his decisions by [Lyman] Trumbull and [Hannibal] Hamlin . . . word of the selection [of Cameron] provoked a flood of outraged letters and visits from Republican leaders.

Displaying an indecision that was characteristic in those early months, Lincoln immediately reversed himself . . . [and] addressed a short, private note to Cameron rescinding his offer . . . [but] the imbroglio . . . exploded into what one historian has called “a mighty battle of Republican factions.” For the next several weeks Republican managers throughout the North appeared considerably more concerned with the patronage than with secession.

Placing [Salmon P.] Chase at the head of the Treasury Department [would reconcile] the powerful New York radicals to [William] Seward’s appointment [as Secretary of State].

[But] Lincoln was aware of the predicament of Southern unionists and the damage Republican rigidity [against compromise] might do to their cause. Nominating Chase, a long-acknowledged leader of the radicals, would give secessionists a powerful weapon in their fight to convince Southerners of Republican hostility.”

(Lincoln and the Decision for War, the Northern Response to Secession, Russell McClintock, UNC Press, 2008, excerpts pp. 123-125)

 

 

 

Resisting New England’s Cultural Imperialism

The war was the result of a revolution in American politics as the Whigs disintegrated after the election of 1852 and the Democrats came apart in 1860 – resulting in the loss of the national spirit in the parties and the onset of purely political sectional opinion. The pattern of support for the new Republican Party in 1856 was a map of greater New England and new States colonized by the descendants of Puritan migration. Author David Hackett Fischer (below) writes of Lincoln: “On his father’s side, Lincoln was descended from New England Puritans who had intermarried with Pennsylvania Quakers and migrated to Appalachia and the Ohio Valley. He represented every regional components of the Republican coalition.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Resisting New England’s Cultural Imperialism

“In defense of their different cultures, the two sections also fought differently. The armies of the North were at first very much like those of Fairfax in the English Civil War; gradually they became another New model Army, ruthless, methodical and efficient. The Army of Northern Virginia, important parts of it at least, consciously modeled itself upon the beau sabreurs of Prince Rupert. At the same time, the Confederate armies of the southwest marched into battle behind the cross of St. Andrew, and called themselves “Southrons” on the model of their border ancestors.

The events of the war itself radically transformed Northern attitudes toward Southern folkways. As casualty lists grew longer Northern war aims changed from an intention merely to resist the expansion of Southern culture to a determination to transform it. As this attitude spread through the Northern States the Civil War became a cultural revolution.

After the War . . . The Republican coalition dominated national politics by its electoral majorities in the north, and by military occupation in the South. Radical reconstruction was an attempt to impose by force the cultures of New England and the midlands upon the coastal and highland South. The Southern States were compelled to accept Yankee constitutions and Yankee judges, Yankee politics and Yankee politicians, Yankee schools and Yankee schoolma’ams, Yankee capitalists and a Yankee labor system.

The cultural revolution continued in some parts of the South until 1876. It succeeded for a time in modifying many Southern institutions . . . with the exception of slavery itself, most effects lasted only as long as they were supported by Northern bayonets. As long as the old folkways survived in the South, it was inevitable that the material and institutional order of Southern life would rapidly revive when Yankee soldiers went home.

After the elections of 1876 . . . Union troops were withdrawn. Yankee school systems were abolished; Yankee schoolma’ams were shipped back to New England; Yankee constitutions were rewritten. Despite talk of a “new South” after 1876, young Southerners (both white and black) continued to learn the old folkways.”

(Albion’s Seed, Four British Folkways in America, David Hackett Fischer, Oxford University Press, 1989, pp. 860-863)

 

Ensuring Northern Political Hegemony

On May 29, 1865, President Andrew Johnson issued his North Carolina Proclamation which made no provision for the extension of the vote to freedmen, and only those who voted before May 20, 1861 and who had taken the amnesty oath to the US government could take part in the constitutional convention. This enraged Radical Republicans and their supporters who saw permanent political hegemony over the South through black voters herded to the polls with Republican ballots in hand. Political opportunists rather than statesmen reigned in the North – led by Thaddeus Stevens and Charles Sumner –all who had little if any understanding of the intent of the Framers and their Constitution, or the proper orbits of States and the federal agent of strictly limited powers they had created in 1789.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Ensuring Northern Political Hegemony

“At the time when the North Carolina Proclamation was issued, only six States in the North and West had granted suffrage to Negroes. Even in New York colored voters were required to own $250 worth of property as a condition of being permitted to register [to vote]. Lincoln had recognized provisional governments in Arkansas and Louisiana from which Negroes had been excluded as voters.

Logically, therefore, Johnson’s position [of following Lincoln’s example] was sound, and in conformity with the principle of States’ Rights in which he so ardently believed. His great mistake was in omitting to take into consideration the temper of the people of the North, who feared with some reason that the Southern States would return to Congress the same type of men they had elected before the War.

Such men, and their allies, the Northern and Western Democrats, might form a coalition strong enough to undo what the War had accomplished [for the Republican Party]. The enfranchisement of the Negro, for which they showed little enthusiasm at first, might at least change the balance of power in the South, and enable good Union men to be returned to Congress.

The Constitution of the United States had made no provision for secession . . . Johnson . . . had come to the conclusion that the Union had never been dissolved [and that secession] had been unconstitutional and ineffective. Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania had repeatedly urged that the South be treated as a conquered nation. Charles Sumner [thought] the seceded States had “committed suicide” and no longer existed as legally organized governments. He had declared that it would be contrary to the Constitution to readmit these States on their prewar basis.

The right of the Negro to suffrage had in his opinion been won in the War, and to exclude them as voters in the South would be a betrayal of their cause and of the principles for which the war had been fought.”

(The Uncivil War: Washington During the Reconstruction, 1865-1878, James H. Whyte, Twayne Publishers, 1958, excerpts, pp. 45-47)

The Men of America’s Natural Aristocracy

American political theorist and historian Russell Kirk wrote that the Framers of the United States Constitution were gentlemen-politicians rather than philosophers, “whose perceptions of the human condition came from the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer.” Kirk contrasted these learned men who fought to preserve their British heritage with the arrogant French revolutionaries who were drunk on theories and revenge, who opened the way for a self-appointed emperor. The men of America’s natural aristocracy governed the Republic from 1775 to 1825 — their Republic afterward frayed and was pulling apart by 1830. By 1850, constituent States were speaking loudly of withdrawal, and by 1861 it had unraveled completely with an American dictator enthroned.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Men of America’s Natural Aristocracy

“Sometimes the Constitution of the United States is commended as if it had been created out of whole cloth, overnight, from the glowing imagination of the Framers. That notion is far from the truth. Sometimes the Framers themselves are spoken of with the veneration like that accorded to the Hebrew prophets or the mystical founders of Greek cities. But actually the Constitution grew out of centuries of practical experience on either side of the Atlantic, rather than springing from ingenious fine-spun innovating theory.

Truly the Constitution is a bundle of compromises among interests and classes: a principal merit of the Framers was their ready recognition of this electable fact. As Burke said of government generally, it is a contrivance of human wisdom to supply human wants. In the sagacious words of Daniel Boorstin, “The American future was never to be contained in a theory.”

The politicians who framed the Constitution were not an elite of theorists, but an assembly of governors, in the old signification of that word “governor.” They were representatives of a class, in every former colony, that had exercised authority almost from the early years of British settlement in North America; they were drawn from a natural aristocracy.

Experience, education, and wealth, passed on from generation to generation of Americans, tended to develop a continuity of public influence within leading families; while the relatively broad franchises that came to pass in most colonies nevertheless gave provincial and local government a democratic cast.

Broadly speaking, it was the body of men familiar with America’s provincial and local governments who made both the Revolution and the Constitution. This was a class that, far from intending any subversion of the social and moral order in America, took alarm at Shay’s Rebellion and so forged a strong Constitution.

Long participation in provincial and local public affairs shaped this American natural aristocracy; while the French revolutionaries, for the most part, were men previously excluded from any effective exercise of power, and so naïve in great questions of political policy.”

(The Essential Russell Kirk, Selected Essays, George A. Panichas, editor, ISI Books, 2007, excerpts, pp. 452-453)

 

The Southern Confederacy’s Objective

If we are true to the English language and its usage, what is referred to as the American Revolution was in reality a civil war as opposing sides fought for control of the governance of the American Colonies.  The 1861-1865 war was not a civil war as several Southern States had withdrawn from their voluntary political compact with other States, and formed their own voluntary Union.  The South, then, had no interest in governing the North and truly fought in self-defense; the North, then, truly fought the war for conquest.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Lincoln’s War

“Matthew Forney Steele in his 1951 American Campaigns points out that the American Civil War was unusual for a civil war in having a purely sectional bias. Allegiance in this civil war was decided by one’s geographic location rather than class, religion, political allegiance, ethnicity or other factors that usually set the battling factions in a civil war apart from each other.  This meant, in practical terms, that in the American Civil War the sides fought not among themselves but arrayed against each other.

The Southern Confederacy’s objective was simply to be left alone.  The Union’s determination was to deny them that forbearance.  Thus, an “invasion” of the Southern portion of the country, in Abraham Lincoln’s blandly legal phraseology, to “subdue combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings,” became the war’s inevitable strategy.”

(Maps and Mapmakers of the Civil War, Earl B. McElfresh, H.N. Abrams Publishers, 1990, excerpt, pg. 20)

Lincoln’s Illinois Opposition

Though Republican organs like the Chicago Tribune defended Lincoln’s unconstitutional actions in prosecuting his war against the South, a majority of people of Lincoln’s own State opposed the war. In that newspaper’s view, anyone opposing its editorials or Lincoln’s actions was guilty of disloyalty and treason.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Lincoln’s Illinois Opposition

“{Stephen A.] Douglas had originally secured the support of the Democrats in Illinois for the war; but Douglas had died, and the North had suffered a long series of humiliating defeats on the battlefields. The Lincoln administration had announced in September, 1862, that on January 1 he would issue the Emancipation Proclamation. Many had pressed Lincoln to take that step. He had resisted largely through fear of losing the support of the War Democrats.

Governor [Richard] Yates, a Republican, in his address to the [Illinois] legislature scraped the raw wounds. He congratulated the country on the prolongation of the war since it had resulted in the Emancipation Proclamation. The house at first refused to print this message except with “a solemn protest against its revolutionary and unconstitutional doctrines.”

The first task of the legislature was the election of a United States Senator. There were several candidates who, according to the Chicago Tribune, “vied with each other in their expression of disloyalty.” One of the candidates was [Melville Weston] Fuller’s sponsor [Democrat W.C.] Goudy. Goudy declared that “in the event of the President’s refusing to withdraw the [Emancipation] Proclamation he was in favor of marching an army to Washington and hurling the officers of the present administration from their positions.”

“A Union man,” the Tribune reported, “is in as much danger in some localities here as if he were in Richmond.” Both the Illinois and Indiana legislatures were Democratic in 1863, while the governors of both States were Republicans. In each State the House of Representatives as a strict party measure passed resolutions protesting against further prosecution of the war unless the Emancipation Proclamation were withdrawn.

In Illinois this resolution denounced “the flagrant and monstrous usurpations” of the administration, demanded an immediate armistice, and appointed several prominent Democrats . . . as commissioners to secure the cooperation of other States for a peace convention at Louisville, Kentucky.”

(Melville Weston Fuller, Chief Justice of the United States, 1888-1910, Willard L. King, MacMillan Company, 1950, excerpts, pp. 54-55)

 

American Boys Dying in European Wars

The British faced the peril of 1940 as they faced the peril of 1916, by maneuvering Americans into bailing them out of wars that should have been avoided, or settled with diplomacy and an armistice. Roosevelt critic Burton K. Wheeler knew well that providing loans, equipment and munitions to one belligerent in a conflict makes the United States a target and American financial interests would always seek political assurances that their investments are amply protected. Few American leaders seemed to learn the stern lessons of the Great War.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

American Boys Dying in European Wars

“I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again: Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars . . . The purpose of our defense is defense.”

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had said it during his campaign for re-election in 1940. Wendell Wilkie, the Republican, had made approximately the same pledge that fall. They had made their peace and neutrality covenants with the people that autumn, but now it was January, 1941 – an ominous time . . .

The wind ruffled the bunting on the stand where President Roosevelt took his inaugural oath again. Four years earlier he stood in this same place and spoke of the crisis of the banks, poverty, unemployment, and other agonies of a nation in the spasms of the Depression. That pain was not fully gone and so he referred to it again: “The hopes of the republic cannot forever tolerate either undeserved poverty or self-serving wealth.”

The real peril, in a world threatened by aggressors, he said, is inaction. “We risk the peril of isolation,” he told the shivering crowd. Only a few days before, a great new issue had arisen to confront the Seventy-Seventh Congress: Lend-Lease, a program to sustain besieged Britain.

That Roosevelt proposal, Senator Burton K. Wheeler of Montana had said, means “war – open and complete warfare” which will “plow under every fourth American boy.” Roosevelt was infuriated.

Now Roosevelt’s words . . . told Americans: “In the face of great perils never before encountered, our strong purpose is to protect and perpetuate the integrity of democracy . . .”

[Congressman Henry M.] Jackson voted against the initial Lend-Lease proposal. He held out for a tightening of the original bill: It should have stronger restrictions, he said, to ensure against another national frustration like that which occurred from the unpaid war debts following World War I.”

(A Certain Democrat, Senator Henry M. Jackson, Prochnau and Larsen, Prentice-Hall, 1972, pp. 101-103)

A Foreigner’s Observations of America’s War

 

The Russian diplomat to Washington during the war was Baron Edouard de Stoeckl, who wrote detailed letters of American politics to his government in St. Petersburg.  A born aristocrat, Stoeckl blamed America’s plight and tragedy on its “ultra-democratic system.” He pointed out that “only a handful of demagogues were able to accomplish this work of destruction.” He never ceased deploring the rule of the mob and warned that this tragic result of democracy should be a warning to Europe.  It should be noted that he never overlooked an opportunity to offer his services as a conciliator between North and South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

A Foreigner’s Observations of America’s War

“This revolution has undermined the foundation of pure democracy as it existed in the United States. The Constitution is now an empty shell. Step by step the President has assumed more and more discretionary powers. Universal suffrage is practiced here today more or less as it exists in certain parts of Europe. The writ of habeas corpus has been suspended [and] the rights of States have been almost annulled, and military authority is absolute in every part of the country. In Europe the revolutionists, the Utopians and the other restless spirits are agitating to upset the whole order of things and to substitute for them democratic institutions. In America, these same institutions seem to have run their course. The military regime is taking root more and more, not only in governmental affairs, but even in the day to day activities of the American people.”

Regarding Lincoln’s Re-election in 1864, he noted that the election campaign continued in an atmosphere of military excitement.

“In spite of all the efforts which the administration is making to conceal the true state of affairs from the public, these last [Union] defeats have not produced an unfavorable impression about the party in power. However, Mr. Lincoln and his adherents are sure of winning the forthcoming presidential election.”

Democrats denounced the War Department for turning its power into the service of Lincoln’s re-election. They rightly claimed that thousands of Republican soldiers were furloughed to return to doubtful districts and vote, while few Democrats were granted leaves.

This caused the Russian minister to write: “If the vote were free, the chances would certainly be in favor of General [George B.] McClellan, but with the powers which the government possesses, it will find the means of controlling the election. Universal voting is as easily managed here as anywhere else.”

Of Radical Republicans Stoeckl wrote:

“The Republicans demand the subjugation of the South without realizing the obstacles which two years of fighting have demonstrated so clearly. The Democrats contend that a compromise based on the federal compact is today more possible than the conquest of the South. So, the Americans seem to be rushing blindly into a state of anarchy which will be the inevitable consequence of the war if it continues much longer.”

“Peace, no matter what the terms, is the only way of resolving this situation. But leaders in charge of affairs do not want it. Their [radical Republican] slogan is all-out war. Any compromise would endanger their political existence. They are politicians of low caliber — men without conscience, ready to do anything for money, individuals who have achieved rank in the army and others who still have hopes of obtaining high commissions.

They constitute the swarm of speculators, suppliers of material, war profiteers through whose hands pass a large portion of the millions of dollars spent daily by the federal government. Aside from these and some fanatics, practically everybody desires the cessation of hostilities. But unfortunately, few dare to protest, and those who have the courage and patriotism to express their opinions, are too few in number to make their influence felt.”

“The conservatives want peace. They say now that Northern honor is saved, the time is at hand to start negotiations with the Confederates for their re-entry into the Union on an equal footing with Northern States. On the other hand the radical Republicans are demanding that the government should continue the vigorous prosecution of the war and that it should not lay downs arms until the South is completely subjugated. Unfortunately the administration is completely dominated by the radicals.”

(Lincoln and the Russians, Albert A. Woldman, World Publishing Company, 1952, excerpts)
 

 

The Beginning of the End of the United States

Chaos reigned in 1919 America as Woodrow Wilson labored for his League of Nations while anarchist immigrants advocated domestic labor strikes – and newly-created police unions demanded pay increases comparable to the labor unions. In Boston, most of the predominantly Irish police force walked off the job and looting began in earnest as “professional criminals arrived by the trainload from New York and other cities to get a share of the swag.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Beginning of the End of the United States

“On the floor of Congress, Representative James Byrnes of South Carolina made an incendiary speech, accusing the Bolsheviks of influencing black Americans to turn against their country. He blamed the reds for the recent riots in Washington, DC and Chicago. A Department of Justice investigation of the role of radicals in racial unrest confirmed this accusation.

[Attorney-General A. Mitchell Palmer] estimated that there were 60,000 Bolshevik plotters loose in the United States. Virtually confirming this estimate for the jittery public, in Centralia, Washington, a gunfight broke out when the newly-founded American Legion, marching in its first Armistice Day parade, detoured to clean out an IWW [International Workers of the World] union hall with baseball bats and pistols. On November 7, 1919 . . . Palmer ordered federal agents to raid organizations suspected of Bolshevik ties in eleven cities.

During the fall [of 1919], paranoia about Soviet Russia had similarly replaced paranoia about Germany. The Bolsheviks were blamed for terrorist bombs and the ongoing epidemic of strikes. The US Army patrolled the streets of IWW strongholds, such as Bisbee, Arizona, and Butte, Montana.

When workers went on strike in the steel mills of Gary, Indiana; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and other cities, army military intelligence agents worked closely with local police to arrest hundreds of suspected Bolsheviks. On October 16, 1919, the Pittsburgh Post wrote . . . “every third man on the streets . . . seems to be a government official.”

In late December, 249 aliens seized . . . in roundups were marched to the aging troopship Buford and deported to Russia. Newspapers dubbed the ship “the Soviet Ark” and gave the story reams of publicity. As the ship got under way, one of the most outspoken radicals, Emma Goldman, shouted, “This is the beginning of the end of the United States.”

[J. Edgar] Hoover, backed by 250 armed soldiers, personally supervised the departure. The State Department said the deportees were “obnoxious” and a “menace to law and order” as well as to “decency and justice.” They were therefore being “sent from whence they came.”

Liberals were aghast that their former hero, Woodrow Wilson, apparently countenanced Palmer, J. Edgar Hoover and the operations of the military intelligence agents.”

(The Illusion of Victory, America in World War One, Thomas Fleming, Basic Books, 2003, excerpts pp. 425-426; 438-439)

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