Browsing "Crusaders and Revolutionaries"

Immigrant Politics and Recruits

A congressional committee investigating naturalization frauds in New York and Philadelphia found it was the common practice on the eve of elections for immigrants, many not yet qualified by residency, were naturalized in droves by political machines like Tammany Hall. The immigrant influx had created two Americas by the late 1850s: An immigrant-dominated North versus a South still consisting of English and Scots-Irish who originally settled the region. The former knew little of American institutions; the latter revered limited government, self-reliance and independence.  

In 1860, the South contained some 233,000 people born under a foreign flag, while the North held nearly 4 million foreign-born inhabitants. While running for president in mid-1860, Lincoln purchased Springfield (Illinois) Zeitung to gather immigrant votes; by 1864, fully 25% of Lincoln’s war machine consisted of Germans.

Immigrant Politics and Recruits

“In 1835, it was reported that more than one-half of the paupers in the almshouses of New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Baltimore were foreign-born, and in later years the proportion was even higher. Crime statistics, too, revealed a disproportionate number of foreign-born offenders; in 1850 there were three times as many foreign-born inmates of the New York State prisons as there were natives.

To many nativists an equally grave and more immediate threat to republican freedom stemmed from the political role of the foreign-born. In places the proportion of foreign-born voters had so increased as to hold the balance of electoral power; this of itself was a source of alarm, for most immigrants remained ignorant of American institutions.

In addition, the electoral violence and voting frauds, which had come to characterize immigrant voting in politics, we believed to be sapping the very foundations of the American political system.  There were numerous complaints of native voters being kept from the polls by organized mobs of foreign laborers, of immigrants voting on the very day of their arrival in America, and of hired witnesses and false testimony as the commonplaces of naturalization proceedings.

[Native resentment] of German arrogance gave way to excited warnings against the machinations of a disaffected and turbulent element to whom America had unwisely given asylum. [An example of this were] the demands of Communist Forty-Eighters like Wilhelm Weitling, who advocated complete social revolution and the establishment of an American “republic of the workers.”

In Missouri in the spring of 1861, the bulk of Union forces consisted of German militiamen [who] thwarted secessionist attempts to take the State out of the Union.  What led many to enlist was the offer of a bounty greater than an unskilled laborer’s annual earnings.  Large numbers, too, joined the army because the trade depression at the beginning of the war, and its consequent unemployment, left them no choice save starvation or military service.

Such cases were common, for example, in New York where Horace Greeley, struck in April 1861 by the high proportion of foreigners among the recruits, wondered whether “the applicants were actuated by the desire of preserving the Union of the States or the union of their own bodies and souls.”

(American Immigration, Maldwyn Allen Jones, University of Chicago Press, 1960, excerpts pp. 152-154; 171-172)

Democrats Adopt Soviet Bill of Rights

Confronted with a Democratic party platform nearly identical to theirs, the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) in early 1944 formally dissolved as a political party and perennial CPUSA presidential candidate Earl Browder announced his support of President Roosevelt for a fourth term. Browder’s vice-presidential running mate in 1936 and 1940 was James W. Ford, the first black man on a presidential ticket.

Democrats Adopt Soviet Bill of Rights

[The] historic Democratic party is no more, that it has been transformed into a labor party so completely that there is nothing left of it but the name.  The process by which [the] transformation . . . was brought about had its beginnings during the period of “crisis government” established by Franklin D. Roosevelt and his “brain trust” in 1933.  Measures having far-reaching application and effect were drafted by the President’s “advisors” and were jammed through Congress, frequently without most of the members having an opportunity to read them.

Mr. Roosevelt had been elected in 1932 by an electoral majority of eight to one . . . In such circumstances, Congress practically abdicated. It became literally a “rubber stamp” Congress. And Republican Senators and Representatives, with the majority of their constituents supporting President Roosevelt, were careful not to show too much opposition to measures which he favored.  That’s why is was so easy to junk the Democratic platform of 1932 and to enact so many measures that violated the most fundamental principles of the historic Democratic party without protest from Southern Democrats, and even with their support.

One sequence [of the transformation] began during the period from 1935 to 1937, or at the very height of what Eugene Lyons has called “The Red Decade,” when it was fashionable in certain circles in New York, Los Angeles and Washington to glorify all things Russian and to affect a “revolutionary” attitude toward all existing institutions in the United States. It was a time when literally dozens of organizations with high-sounding names were set up in this country by the Communists to attract innocent “fellow travelers” and when The Daily Worker undertook to popularize the slogan “Communism is the Americanism of the Twentieth Century.”

In February, 1935, Joseph Stalin announced that the Russian Constitution would be democratized; in June, 1936, the first draft of the new Soviet Constitution was completed and published, [and adopted December 5, 1936].  It was promptly translated into English and by February, 1937, copies of it in the form of a five-cent pamphlet were available throughout this country.  It immediately became the leading topic of discussion among the so-called “liberals” in the United States.

[The] Soviet Bill of Rights . . . guarantees every citizen a job . . . the right to material security in old age and also in case of illness and loss of capacity to toil . . . [and] “The equal rights of citizens of the USSR, independent of their nationality and race, in all fields of economic, state, cultural and public-political life is unalterable law.  Any direct or indirect limitation of rights, or conversely, any establishment of direct or indirect preferences of citizens dependent on their racial and national membership, as well as all preaching of national exclusiveness, or hate and contempt, is punishable by law.”

[In late January, 1944] President Roosevelt revealed that the [New Deal] was being replaced by a streamlined post-war program.  Here is what President Roosevelt said:

“As our nation had grown in size and stature, however – as our industrial economy expanded – [our previous life and liberty] political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness. We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident.

We have accepted, so to speak, a second bill of rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all – regardless of station, race or creed.  Among these are: The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or mines of the nation; The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;  The right of every business man, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;  The right of every family to a decent home; The right of adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health; The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident and unemployment;  The right to a good education.” 

The striking resemblance which this whole passage bears to the . . . Soviet Bill of Rights need not be dwelt upon.

 In his message to Congress on September 6, 1945, President Truman said: “The objectives for our domestic economy which we seek in long-range plans were summarized by the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt over a year and a half ago in the form of an Economic Bill of rights.  Let us make the attainment of those rights the essence of post-war American economic life.”

Notably, he issued a “salute to labor” on Labor Day, 1946, and more recently on June 28, 1947 . . . he discussed the subject in an address to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People at Lincoln Memorial in Washington. In his “salute to labor,” President Truman said:

“Labor, perhaps more than any other group, has consistently supported [FDR’s] “Economic Bill of Rights.” We must now move forward to full achievement of these objectives: useful and remunerative jobs for all; income high enough to provide adequate food, clothing and recreation; freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopoly; adequate health protection; more effective social security measures, and educational opportunities for all.”

In his more recent address to the [NAACP], by coupling these “economic” rights with other civil rights, he stated clearly . . . that it is the responsibility of the federal government to guarantee and to enforce these new rights. “The extension of civil rights today means not protection of the people AGAINST the government, but protection of the people BY the government.”

(The South’s Political Plight, Peter Molyneaux, Calhoun Clubs of the South, Inc., 1948, pp. 56-57, 67-70, 75-77, 81-84,)

“Little Jokers” of 1876

During the election of 1876, Florida’s carpetbag Republican platform declared the party “to be in accord with the just and enlightened sentiment of mankind and largely answerable for material, intellectual and moral progress throughout the world” – while endorsing its past governance of the State as being “wise, just, economical and progressive.”

Little Jokers” of 1876

“The Republican managers were directing the Radical campaign with large activity and small scruple. They were preparing shrewdly to overcome by fraud what Democrats might gain by force. Rumors were abroad of ugly plans entered into by Republican bosses to unfairly influence the elections.

The election machinery was in Republican hands, because most of the men who had anything to do with directing the election and counting the votes were the appointees of the Republican governor or boards of county commissioners of like politics. A visitor from the North did not exaggerate much when he described the situation thus:

“From the precinct ballot-boxes to the Tallahassee State-house, the place for voting, the precinct officers who receive the vote, the officer who records the vote, the county officers whose judgment affects the certificate of the vote, the State officers who by law canvass the county returns of the vote, all are Republicans or under Republican control. Such is the law, such is the fact. The Florida Democratic Committee are unaware that county returns have been stolen in the mails, which are under Republican control.”

The public school teachers, the majority of local officials, and the Federal office-holders were more or less active in organizing the Radical [Republican] vote. “The whole public school system”, says [Republican John] Wallace, “was made a powerful auxiliary to the campaign fund of [Gov. M.L.] Stearns. The State Superintendent . . . devoted his whole energy and time to the nefarious canvass for the nomination of Stearns, to the utter neglect of the education of the masses.

The local Negro leaders strove to keep their grip upon the individual colored voter for the November test. “Two weeks before election time the colored brothers in every precinct were notified . . . that unless they voted as many times as they could on the day of election they would be put back into slavery [by Democrats].”

J. Bowes, the superintendent of schools for Leon County, ordered printed a quantity of small thin Republican ballots called “little jokers”, with which to stuff the ballot boxes on election day. He jocularly told his friends of the project and later used the ballots to good effect.”

(The Civil War and Reconstruction in Florida, William W. Davis, Columbia University, 1913, excerpts pp. 698-700)  

“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.

Social Democrats and Revolution

In 1883 Georgi Valentinovich Plekhanov, son of a prosperous country gentleman, founded the first Russian Marxist movement and dominated it for over twenty years.  Coming from the country where many revolutionary leaders originated rather than cities, he was turned to radical politics as a student. He formed a “Liberation of Labor” group whose principal object was to systematically apply Marxism to the Russian scene.  

Plekhanov believed that Russia would have to become industrialized in order to produce a proletariat, a working class, before Czarism could be overthrown. Only the workers could produce a revolution. The Narodniks had a different view, opposed the capitalistic and industrial path of eventual revolution, holding that “serfdom to socialism” was more direct.

Karl Marx was a contributor to Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune before the war, promoted Lincoln’s cause in Europe and penned supportive letters to both Lincoln and his successor, Andrew Johnson. Marx saw the industrialized North as fertile ground for a socialist proletariat, and black people as workers to be organized against capitalism.

Social Democrats and Revolution

“One starts to see here the beginnings of a future rivalry; the Marxists with their emphasis on the industrial worker and the Narodniks with their emphasis on the peasants. It was Plekhanov, presiding over his revolutionary court in Geneva, who most rapidly began to gain ground.  In his writings he urged that terrorism was a secondary weapon; the main object was to set up a socialist organization among the working class in Russia, to train agitators, to stimulate strikes and demonstrations, and to spread Marxist ideas through the illegal printing press.

Soon small groups of his followers began to form in the principal cities in Russia. They called themselves Social Democrats.

Neither Marx nor Engels, moreover, had thought very highly of the Russians. Marx was particularly trenchant about them. “I do not trust any Russian,” he once wrote Engels. Russia, in any case, Marx thought, still had a long way to go before it achieved socialism; he had much better hopes of the United States where “the masses are quicker.”

(The Russian Revolution, Alan Morehead, Bantam Books, 1959, excerpts pp. 35-36)

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)

Unceasing Blows and Sheer Attrition

In early May 1864, Grant moved across the Rapidan River in Virginia to pass quickly through the Wilderness before giving battle. Instead, there he lost some 26,000 men in the dense thickets. On June 3rd Grant lost “more men in the eight minutes of hottest fighting than in any period of the war.”  Though this carnage intensified the peace movement in the North, Lincoln provided Grant with an endless supply of immigrants, substitutes and conscripted men to continue this fearful slaughter. Lincoln, despite ruling the North with near-dictatorial powers, was well-aware 1864 was an election year and victories at any cost were needed before November.

Unceasing Blows and Sheer Attrition

“With the spring of 1864, the war entered a new phase. Union victories in the West had cut deeply into the economic and military strength of the Confederacy.  They had done more, for they had associated the names of Grant and his lieutenants with a habit of mind which connoted aggressiveness, strategy on a large scale, and victory.

It was not that Grant was a supreme master of the “science of war,” nor even that he merited full credit for the victories under his command . . . It was rather that a situation had been reached where, with Northern recruiting, Confederate depletion, and Grant’s sledge-hammer blows, the essential conditions of Union triumph had been presented.

Almost immediately [after Grant’s elevation to lieutenant-general] the final grand strategy of the war began to unfold itself, a strategy by which Grant used his numerical superiority and plunged ruthlessly ahead in Virginia, losing an enormous number of men, but wearing out the Confederates by sheer attrition; while in the lower South Sherman attained unenviable laurels by destroying vast amounts of food and other supplies in his “march” through Georgia and the Carolinas.  

It was by these unceasing blows at the heart of the Confederacy that the war, which had dragged on indecisively for three years, was brought to an end in 1865.”

(The Civil War and Reconstruction, James G. Randall, D.C. Heath and Company, 1937, excerpts pp. 539-543)

A Shameful Line of Work

Charles Ignatius Pfaff was the owner of New York City’s “Pfaff’s Cave” where customers “lounged among the hogsheads in an atmosphere of pipe smoke and laughter.”  The New York Illustrated News of February 23, 1861 wrote about the Pfaffians – “free-thinkers and free lovers, and jolly companions well met, who make symposia, which for wit, for frolic, and now and then for real intellectual brilliance, are not to be found in any house within the golden circles of Fifth Avenue.”

Pfaff’s was the meeting place of the self-appointed intellectuals including Saturday Press editor Henry Clapp, Jr., who was asked his opinion of newspaperman Horace Greeley. Clapp responded that Greely “is a self-made man who worships his creator.”

A Shameful Line of Work

 “Newspapermen lived on the periphery of a society which barely understood their function. Dickens, the most widely-read novelist of the day, had held them up to ridicule in Martin Chuzzlewit. Among American novels of the period, only two of seventeen touching upon journalism mentioned reporters at all; both were by James Fenimore Cooper, and both derogatory.

To be a reporter was to be a Paul Pry, a Jenkins, a busybody, a snooper, a penny-a-liner, a ne’er do-well.  Edmund Clarence Stedman, a reporter on the Tribune in 1860, considered that “it is shameful to earn a living in this way.”

It had been a quarter of a century since the penny papers led the way in broadening the concept of news, but it was their reporting of sex and crime that most impressed the public and left a lingering conviction that reporters were disreputable. Half a dozen of them had gone along with the armies of Scott and Taylor to report the Mexican War; many more had brought the story of “Bloody Kansas” to the country, often inventing the blood . . .”

But the emphasis of the press remained on opinion rather than news, on editorials and editorial commentary, as witness the fame of Greeley himself, of Henry J. Raymond, of Bryant, of a galaxy of editors . . . The Superintendent of the Census of 1860 reflected the prevailing view when he classified eighty percent of the periodicals of the country, including all 373 daily newspapers, as “political in their character.”

[The reporters at Greeley’s New York Tribune] gave superb implementation to Greely’s credo: that the newspaper must provide American society with leadership – moral, political, artistic and intellectual leadership – before anything else.”

(Bohemian Brigade: Civil War Newsmen in Action, Louis M. Starr, University of Wisconsin Press, 1987, excerpts pp. 4-6; 19)

News Fronts, Rumors, False Reports and Speculations

“When we study the history of journalism we are principally studying a way in which men in the past have grasped reality.” James W. Carey, (“The Problem of Journalism History, Journalism History, Vol. 1, No. 1, Spring 1974)

In 1860 New York City was the hub of journalism and locked in the maelstrom of lurid crime reports, immoral [tales of varied personages] . . . created by James Gordon Bennett’s news machine, the New York Herald. Pay for “reporters” was minimal and all that was required was a reasonable grasp of the English language. The worst “were not above fabricating news if facts did not come readily to hand.”

The New Orleans Picayune editorialized that “The Herald may be said to represent, in one particular, the genius of the ‘universal Yankee nation’ — that is, in its supreme regard for what is vulgarly called the main chance.”

News Fronts, Rumors, False Reports and Speculations

“The people of the interior,” President [James] Buchanan wrote apprehensively to James Gordon Bennett on the very day that South Carolina left the Union, “are kept in a constant state of excitement from what are called “telegrams.” The Philadelphia Morning Pennsylvanian, among many others, though the telegraph “a curse to the country.”

“We warn the people to beware of this new power in our midst, more potent than ‘an army with banners.’ Its whole stock in trade consists in the perpetual excitement of the community.”

The Erie Weekly Gazette had another caution: “Beware of this ‘special correspondence’ confidence game . . . in the New York or Philadelphia journals. A safe plan is to believe nothing you find in a ‘sensation’ column, however seemingly well authenticated . . .”

There was ample justification for these forebodings.  As word came of State after State preparing to follow South Carolina out of the Union in anticipation of a Republican in the White House . . . the press began dispensing news, rumors, false reports and speculations on a scale that left men confounded. 

Undercover men from the New York World, the Tribune, the Evening Post, the Baltimore American, and the Philadelphia Press arrived [in Charleston] as the tension mounted. Everyone who could read knew by the middle of February [1861] that the brick walls of Sumter were eight feet thick, that the Major and his garrison numbered scarcely a hundred . . .

[Charles A. Dana of Horace Greeley’s Tribune, had] three men in Charleston. These and other Tribune men in the South sported blue secession cockades in their lapels, wrote in an elaborate code Dana had devised, and addressed their material to New York banks and commercial houses which had agreed to serve as fronts.

In the third week of May . . . Dana [served an editorial] with plenty of lead: “On to Richmond! To Richmond Onward! On to Richmond, then is the voice of the people . . . Let her still sowing of the wind, have generous harvest of the whirlwind, and let it be now . . . To Richmond! To Richmond!”

(Bohemian Brigade: Civil War Newsmen in Action, Louis M. Starr, University of Wisconsin Press, 1987, excerpts pp. 9-11; 20-21; 33-34)

Pages:1234567...25»