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The Liberal Obsession Since 1865

The Liberal Obsession Since 1865

“America [today] is not simply divided; she is fractured in a craze of spreading lines and hairlines that trace the boundaries of ideological, cultural religious, ethnic, and racial rivalries and resentments. The country is reaping the burden of a history shaped since 1865 by liberal thought and liberal politics.

First came the “reunion” of North and South – in fact, no reunion at all but the forcible union of institutional components of two broadly dissimilar geographic, social and political regions that from 1789 until 1865 were considered by the Founding Fathers and their descendants as sovereign States linked in voluntary and equal compact with one another.

National union at the cost of 618,222 men was succeeded by decades of the unrestrained free enterprise (excepting the tariff) favored by economic liberalism and a century and a half of increasingly liberal jurisprudence, liberalizing education, liberal secular metaphysics (described by George Santayana in Character & Opinion in the United States, published in 1920), liberalizing psychology, sociology, and economics, and their practical application: social engineering, the mass immigration of increasingly unlike, incompatible, and unassimilable peoples, multiculturalism, and the ensuing social confusion, resentment, chaos and public violence.

What used to be called the art of politics has long since become the abuse of it; while the most skillful government, unable to override or cancel history, is incapable of “solving,” or even adequately coping with, troubles of the fundamentally nonpolitical sort – what the country is experiencing today. And not the United States alone, but all the Western democracies.

On both sides of the Atlantic . . . governments are paralyzed by their inability to devise solutions to their respective crises compatible with the scruples of the liberal creed and the liberal agenda that have given form and meaning to their national projects for two centuries.

Liberalism is no longer capable of controlling liberally the liberal society for which it is responsible, and so far it appears that liberals would prefer to see their liberal world destroyed by barbarians, foreign and domestic, than to rescue it by illiberal means.”

(Liberalism in the Headlights, In Our Time; Chilton Williamson, Jr., Chronicles, September 2016, pp. 10-11)

An 1830 View of Slavery in the South

The following extract is from Robert Y. Hayne’s 1830 debate with Daniel Webster of the slave-trading State of Massachusetts, on the nature of the federal union. As is seen below, Hayne distinctly delineates the origin of African slavery in the Southern States, who profited from the nefarious trade, and those who did their Christian best with what they had inherited from the British colonial labor system.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

An 1830 View of Slavery in the South

“Sir, when arraigned before the bar of public opinion on this charge of slavery, we can stand up with conscious rectitude, plead not guilty, and put ourselves upon God and our country. We deal in no abstractions. We will not look back to inquire whether our fathers were guiltless in introducing slaves to this country.

If an inquiry should ever be instituted in these matters, however, it will be found that the profits of the slave trade were not confined to the South. Southern ships and Southern sailors were not the instruments of bringing slaves to the shores of America, nor did our merchants reap the profits of that “accursed traffic.” But, sir, we will pass over all this.

If slavery, as it now exists in this country be an evil, we of the present found it ready made to our hands. Finding our lot cast among a people, whom God had manifestly committed to our care, we did not sit down to speculate on abstract questions of theoretical liberty. We met it as a practical question of obligation and duty.

We resolved to make the best of the situation in which Providence had placed us, and to fulfill the high trust which had developed upon us as the owners of slaves, in the only way in which such a trust could be fulfilled without spreading misery and ruin throughout the land.

We could not send them back to the shores from whence their fathers had been taken; their numbers forbade the thought, even as we did not know that their condition here is infinitely preferable to what it possibly could be among the barren sands and savage tribes of Africa . . .

[With the false philanthropy of Northern abolitionists and the] shedding of tears over sufferings which had existence only in their own sickly imaginations, these “friends of humanity” set themselves systematically to work to seduce the slaves of the South from their masters.

By means of missionaries and political tracts, the scheme was in great measure successful. Thousands of these deluded victims of fanaticism were seduced into the enjoyment of freedom in our Northern cities. And what has been the consequence?

Go to these cities now, and ask the question. Visit the dark and narrow lanes, and obscure recesses, which have been assigned by common consent as the abodes of those outcasts of the world — free people of color. Sir, there does not exist, on the face of the whole earth, a population so poor, so wretched, so vile, so loathsome, so utterly destitute of all the comforts, conveniences and comforts of life as the unfortunate blacks of Philadelphia, and New York and Boston.

Sir, I have had some opportunities of making comparisons between the condition of the free Negroes of the North and the slaves of the South . . . Sir, I have seen in the neighborhood of one of the most moral, religious and refined cities of the North, a family of free blacks, driven to the caves of the rock, and there obtaining a precarious subsistence from charity and plunder.”

(Speech of Robert Y. Hayne of South Carolina, January 25, 1830; The Webster-Hayne Debate on the Nature of the Union, Herman Belz, Editor, Liberty Fund, 2000, excerpts, pp. 44-46.)

 

 

South Carolina Declares the Causes of Secession

In his “Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina,” Christopher Memminger, revisited the original American concept of self-government and restated that whenever any “form of government becomes destructive of the ends for which it was established, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government.”  It should be noted that though reference is made below to “anti-slavery” feeling in the North, Republican Party doctrine held that African slavery must be kept within the borders of the South, not that the slaves must be freed. Republicans were a white supremacy party and the territories were for white settlers alone.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

South Carolina Declares the Causes of Secession

“Dr. J.H. Thornwell . . . [stated] immediately after secession [that] . . . ”The real cause of the intense excitement of the South, is not in vain dreams of national glory in a separate confederacy . . .; it is in the profound conviction that the Constitution . . . has been virtually repealed [by the North]; that the new [Lincoln] Government has assumed a new and dangerous attitude . . .”

In South Carolina [this] idea was repeatedly expressed in the secession period. For example, [Robert Barnwell] Rhett in a speech of November 20 said: We are two peoples, essentially different in all that makes a people.” [D.F.] Jamison in his opening speech to the [secession] convention said there was “no common bond of sympathy or interest between the North and South.”

The “Declaration of Immediate Causes,” after defending the right of secession under the compact theory of the Union, justified the exercise of that right almost entirely on the point that Northern States had infringed and abrogated that compact by refusal to abide by their constitutional obligations . . . When [the Northern sectional] President should gain control of the government, constitutional guarantees would no longer exist, equal rights would have been lost, the power of self-government and self-protection would have disappeared, and the government would have become the enemy. Moreover, all hope of remedy was rendered in vain by the fact that the North had “invested a great political error with the sanctions of a more erroneous religious belief.”

Rhett . . . held that the one great evil from which all others had flowed was the overthrow of the Constitution of the United States.

The tariff, unequal distributions of appropriations, and attacks on slavery, were only manifestations of a broken faith and a constitution destroyed through construction for Northern aggrandizement at the expense of a weaker South.

The sections had grown apart; all identity of feeling, interest, and institutions were gone; they were divided between slaveholding and non-slaveholding, between agricultural and manufacturing and commercial States; their institutions and industrial pursuits had made them totally different peoples. The South was unsafe under a government controlled by a sectional anti-slavery party . . .”

Many South Carolinians, in the military service of the United States when war came, proved themselves Unionists by refusing to resign to enter the service of the State. Feeling against such men was violent. The [Charleston] Mercury thought that such refusal constituted “hideous moral delinquency, ingratitude, dishonor and treachery.”

The well-nigh complete unity after secession is no more striking than the universal belief that the cause was just . . . [and belief] that the future of republican government was involved in the struggle . . . Secession was endorsed by the synod of the Presbyterian church and by the annual conference of the Methodists. One need not question the sincerity of the legislature for appointing on the eve of secession a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer.”

(South Carolina Goes to War, 1860-1865, Charles Edward Cauthen, UNC Press, 1950, excerpts, pp. 72-78)

 

South Carolina Injected with a Foreign Poison

Newspaper editor William Watts Ball of South Carolina could painted a vivid picture of life in the postwar South, and railed at the “foreign poison of democracy” injected into his State by Northern radicals. The Founders’ erected barriers to democracy in their Constitution; historian Charles Beard tells us that “When the Constitution was framed, no respectable person called himself or herself a democrat.” John C. Calhoun’s greatest fear was that democracy in the United States would evolve into a class warfare system with taxpayers perpetually looted by the tax consuming class. Alexis de Tocqueville also noted the evil powers of this “strange new democratic monster with its tyranny of public opinion and numerical majority dwelling in perpetual self-applause.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

South Carolina Injected with a Foreign Poison

“The State That Forgot” is a historical sketch of South Carolina from colonial days to the turn of the twentieth century, generously adorned with “local color” and autobiographical anecdotes. But the heart is [W.W.] Ball’s political philosophy; everything else is embellishment. South Carolina had surrendered to democracy, he said, and as surrender implies defeat, so had she induced her own decline when rule by the aristocracy gave way to rule by the masses. Ball traced the democratic curse back to Reconstruction:

“My political thesis is that the Federal Government, by means of armed forces, placed South Carolina on the operating table in 1867, that in 1868 the Carpetbaggers made an incision in its body, and, by the constitution they adopted, injected into it the deadly and foreign poison of democracy, which, after causing the loathsome ulcers of Reconstruction, subtly spread through the bloodstream of the white people and killed for ever in it the inherited corpuscles of political and social health.”

“The new constitution,” said Ball, was a long step but not a plunge in democracy.” The State had not spurned the colonial constitution fashioned along semi-feudal lines by John Locke. “A more “numerous democracy” had been made but a “too numerous democracy” had been avoided.

South Carolina, however, was forced to scrap that constitution and devise another which would better satisfy the [Northern Republican] Radicals who had taken control of the federal Reconstruction program. Accordingly, a convention composed almost entirely of carpetbaggers, scalawags, and Negroes fashioned the constitution of 1868. Ball appraised the new constitution with these words:

“The finished product of the convention was a document copied from constitutions of Northern States . . . [T]hus at last the rash of democracy was spread by law, backed by bayonets, over the body of South Carolina . . .”

(Damned Upcountryman: William Watts Ball, John D. Stark, Duke University Press, 1968, pp. 144-146)

“{Words of Mass Destruction”

“Words of Mass Destruction”

“How many changes have been rung on this one phrase: Weapons of Mass Destruction. We are told we must eliminate the threat of, degrade his capacity to employ, send a clear signal that we w2ill not tolerate the existence of Saddam Hussein’s Weapons of Mass Destruction. Secretaries Cohen and Albright both inserted the key phrase into every possible sentence, sometimes more than once, and as journalists picked up the rhythmic chant, most of the American people goose-stepped their way to the same beat.

The technique of indoctrination is not new. There are two essential ingredients: first, the selection of a vacuous phrase, which — because it is meaningless – cannot be challenged; then the repetition of the mantra in every conceivable context until the words acquire a hypnotic force to quell both rational argument and moral scruples.

What do journalists have in mind when they obediently repeat “Weapons of Mass Destruction (WOMD).” Our immediate thought is of nuclear weapons, even though Saddam’s nuclear capacity was eliminated first by the Israelis and then by the US Air Force. Well, if not nuclear, then biological and chemical weapons. But in all three categories of WOMD, the United States is the unchallenged leader, followed by Russia, Britain, France, India, Pakistan, Israel and South Africa.

“But,” honk the gaggle of goslings trailing after Madeleine Mother of All Battles, “Saddam is the only leader who has actually used his WOMD.” Oh? And we are to believe that the US did not use chemical weapons in Vietnam?

“But what if some madman like Saddam got his hands on nuclear weapons, and what if he were to use them?” It is not an Iraqi, though, but an American secretary of state who says that the high civilian death rate in Iraq – higher than at Hiroshima – is an acceptable price to pay for the United States undefined political and military objectives in Iraq.

Weaponsofmassdestructionweaponsofmassdestruction. Keep on saying it long enough, and you will hear between the spaces, similar phrases like “running dogs of Yankee imperialism,” “un-American activities,” and “Arbeit Macht Frei.” The revolution changes its name and picks up new gangsters to run the operation under rewritten mission statements, but the project never changes, and the method never changes.

But why take Humpty’s word for it, when you can read the words of the master: “Die breite Masse eines Voles einer grossen Luge leichter zum Opfer fallt al seiner kleinen.” Big weapons, big lies. If we cannot reclaim our language from the demagogues, we are not fit to be a free people. Humpty Dumpty”

(Words of Mass Destruction; Chronicles, March 1999, pg. 12)

 

America’s Conservative Catastrophe

Ambrose Bierce defined “Conservative” in his Devil’s Dictionary as “A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others . . .” Italian’s of the medieval period gave the title of “conservator” to guardians of the law; English justices of the peace originally “were styled custodus pacis – conservators of the peace.” In the modern sense, the word implies the principles of thought and action which opposed the radicalism and political innovation of the French Revolution.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

America’s Conservative Catastrophe

“[A Tory] party in the old English sense scarcely existed in [British] America. Political debates usually occurred between two factions of Whigs, both attached to the Whig idea of liberty, but differing as to means and the relationship with the Crown. The triumph of the Patriots in the Revolution expelled from the Thirteen Colonies what little Toryism existed there, and along with it many of the moderate Whigs.

For all that, recent scholarship inclines toward the view that the American Revolution was no revolution truly, but simply a War of Independence – a revolution (in Burke’s phrase concerning the Glorious Revolution of 1688) “not made, but prevented.”

The intellectual leaders of the Americans during the troubled period of Confederation, were men, most of them, of a conservative tendency – John Adams, Gouveneur Morris, John Jay, Hamilton. Even Jefferson . . . was no frantic innovator.

Most other Southern leaders, such as Pinckney or Mason, differed more about means than about the ends of society: their view of the state was conservative – viewed that is, from a twentieth century vantage point. Even some eminent radicals of the time, notably Patrick Henry, grew steadily more conservative as responsibility settled upon them.

And the Federalist Papers, written to obtain acceptance of the Constitution, reflect the conservative concepts of moderation, balance, order and prudence – together with those conservative guarantees of prescriptive usage, arrangement of political checks, restrictions upon power, protection of private property, and restraints upon popular [democratic] impulses.

During the early years of the United States, the chief political contests many be regarded as long, acrimonious debate between two powerful conservative interests – the mercantile interests of the North, the agricultural interests of the South – confused by lesser issues and personalities.

The catastrophe of the Civil War dealt a grim blow to reflective conservatism, North or South. In the Gilded Age, little political principle of any kind could be distinguished. As the United States grew into the greatest power in the world . . . conservative concepts were discussed again . . . [though the] Great Depression and ascendancy of Franklin Roosevelt seemed to quash this renewal of conservative thought.

Until the first administration of Franklin Roosevelt, the term “liberal” had not been popular among American politicians; but Rooseveltian liberalism swept everything before it during the 1930s and 1940s. Not until the 1950s did there appear, or reappear, a strong body of conservative thought, expressed in books and periodical literature, to challenge the dominant liberalism . . .

[An] American conservative, at least as the term is employed popularly, is a person who believes strongly that the old pattern of American society ought not to be much altered. Typically, such a person holds by the Constitution, maintaining that it should be strictly interpreted; he endeavors to oppose the drift toward political centralization; he dislikes organizations on a grand scale, in government, in business and industry, in organized labor; he is a defender of private property; he resents the heavy increase of taxation and many of the “transfer payments” of the welfare state; he is unalterably opposed to the Communist ideology . . . and sighs, or perhaps shouts O tempora! O mores! at the decay of private and public morality.”

(The Essential Russell Kirk: Selected Essays; George A. Panichas, editor, ISI Books, 2007, excerpts, pp. 14-16)

Wilson Lacked Burke’s Prudence

Woodrow Wilson’s liberal arguments for a European peace after the First World War came “not from prudence, not from principle as [Edmund] Burke had described principle, but from abstraction; and the states upon which he bestowed his blessing collapsed in less than two decades, because they were constructed in defiance of history, of real interests, and of the hard facts of power.” Hitler rose from the ashes of that war and Wilson’s ideal design for Europe.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Wilson Lacked Edmund Burke’s Prudence

“Wilson did what he could to establish a better order among nations. His principles were confused, the times moved too fast for him (particularly in the ruins of the Austro-Hungarian system), and he proved far too thoroughly convinced of his own wisdom, too unyielding, to achieve anything which might endure.

Yet the errors into which he fell were not the errors of conservative policy; they were the errors of liberalism; they were the sort of errors which Gladstone made in diplomacy. The climate of 1918 and 1919 was liberal, and it is hard to say who might have done better in Wilson’s place. His failure was the failure of the nation’s political imagination in those years, a normative failure.

Certain liberal abstractions concerning the nature of political order and the nature of man lay behind Wilson’s doctrine of self-determination, behind his assumption that leagues of nations and paper constitutions and treaties might of themselves bring peace and contentment, behind his insistence upon fitting the map of Europe into his ideal design.

He had learned much from the Federalists and Burke; but he had not learned prudence, which Burke considered the highest virtue in a statesman. That aspect of Burke’s thought which defends prescription and prejudice, which perceives how dangerous it is to disturb anything that is at rest, which is prepared to tolerate an old evil lest the cure prove worse than the disease, he understood imperfectly.

Burke . . . never would have thought of approving a doctrinaire and wholesale shifting of boundaries, a vast abolition of governments and substitution of new ones, an overthrow of historical and natural groupings in favor of simple language-affinity. Burke would have perceived at once the consequence of abolishing the power which held together the heart of Europe and checked German and Russian ambition, the Austrian system.

To the conservative of Burke’s school, the world is at best a tolerable place, kept in order chiefly through respect for custom and precedent. It may be patched and pruned here and there; but the nature of man remains flawed, ambition always aspires to domination, and states are kept at peace only by a balancing of power, a recognition of the traditions of civility, and a concern for real interests. Parchment and declarations of the rights of man cannot restrain private or national concupiscence.

To the liberal, on the other hand, the world is infinitely improvable, and so is man himself; experiment and emancipation will lead to peace; and what ought to be, shall be. So Wilson thought and acted through the War and the making of the Peace.

The idea that power may be checked only by countervailing power always has been distasteful to the liberal. Wilson’s concept of self-determination, his championship of the League, and much of the rest of his program reflected that distaste. A vague confidence in Progress, Equality and the People overcame the cautionary precepts of Burke and the Federalists.

“You are a Liberal,” the Duke of Omnium says to Phineas Finn, in one of Trollope’s parliamentary novels, “because you know that it is not all as it ought to be; and because you would still march on to some nearer approach to equality; though the thing itself is so great, so glorious, so god-like, — nay, so absolutely divine, — that you have been disgusted by the very promise of it, because its perfection is unattainable.”

Trollope knew his Liberals. This yearning to march on toward some future universal condition of democracy and equality got the better of Wilson, when authority was his. Despite his earlier declarations that the American Republic – though a model for other states – could not be transplanted, he called upon America to make the world safe for democracy; and this same liberal universalism marked his arguments in the shaping of the evanescent Peace.”

(The Essential Russell Kirk: Selected Essays; George A. Panichas, editor, ISI Books, 2007, excerpts, pp. 507-509)

The Old Lady of Broad Street Versus FDR

By 1936, Franklin Roosevelt’s Democrat Party had become a virtual duplicate of the Communist Party USA with a near-identical platform, and supported by communist labor and black voting blocs. The old Southern Democratic traditions were thrust aside and the seeds of the “Dixiecrat” party were sown as FDR used his power to unseat opponents. Charleston editor William Watts Ball rose to the occasion.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Old Lady of Broad Street Versus FDR

“[South Carolinian James] Byrnes found further cause for disagreement with [President] Roosevelt during the Congressional elections of 1938; he did not approve of Roosevelt’s attempt to unseat conservative Southern Democrats who had not supported New Deal legislation in the Senate. Some of the President’s closest advisors thought it unwise for him to dare intervene in Southern politics.

But Roosevelt would not be deterred; he undertook a “purge” trip through the South . . . [and] visited South Carolina. Since Olin Johnston had been invited to ride on the presidential train, it was obvious that Roosevelt favored Johnston for the [Senate] seat held by “Cotton Ed” Smith, presently running for reelection. Roosevelt had picked

Johnston and [News and Courier editor] Ball observed, “If the president can elect Mr. Johnston US Senator from South Carolina he can elect anybody . . . Northern Negro leaders were the masters of the national Democratic party. A vote against Smith was a victory for Walter White and the NAACP.”

Ball observed [that there] was a need for an independent Jeffersonian Democratic party in national affairs . . . to that end, on August 1 [1940] more than two hundred delegates convened at the South Carolina Society Hall in Charleston to organize the State Jeffersonian Democratic party. Almost simultaneously, “Time” magazine printed a picture of the “New Deal-hating” Ball and reported his support of [Republican Wendell] Wilkie as indicative of anti-Roosevelt rumblings in the normally Democratic Southern press.

[Ball wrote to his sister that] Election returns are coming in . . . the election of Wilkie would give me a surprise. I have no faith in “democracy” (little “d”) and the government of the United States has placed the balance of power in the hands of mendicants. I suppose the inmates of any county alms house would vote to retain in office a superintendent who fed them well and gave them beer. As for South Carolina, the South, it is decadent, spiritless; it is not even a beggar of the first class.

And in good health and bad, Ball maintained his unfaltering crusade against the New Deal. “Never was deeper disgrace for a country, in its management, than the disgrace of waste and corruption the last eight and a half years. I would not say there has been stealing, not great stealing, but the buying of the whole people with gifts and offices has been the colossal form of corruption . . . the American symbols are the night clubs of New York, the playboys and playgirls of Hollywood and the White House family with its divorces and capitalization of the presidential office to stuff money into its pockets.”

[Ball’s] News and Courier adhered steadfastly to its traditional policies: States rights; tariff for revenue only; strict construction of the Constitution; a federal government whose duties were confined to defending the republic against attack and to preserving peace and free commerce among the States. Fazed neither by depression nor by war, the “Old Lady of Broad Street” persisted in her jealousy and suspicion of all governments that set up welfare, do-good and handout agencies.

Ball claimed not to dislike [Roosevelt aide Harry] Hopkins, but [regarded] him as the embodiment of the fantastic in government: a man who “on his own initiative never produced a dollar,” a welfare worker who now was the greatest spender of the taxpayers’ money.”

(Damned Upcountryman, William Watts Ball, John D. Starke, Duke University Press, 1968, excerpts, pp. 151-201)

 

Santa Anna Popular Up North

The Mexican War saw the sectional divide widen further as abolitionists and their allies in the North asserted that this was “simply a Southern plot to bring more slave States into the Union.” As New England sided with the enemy during the War of 1812 by selling them supplies and threatened to secede and form a separate republic, they would side with the enemy in 1846. The contingent of Americans fighting with the Mexicans noted below were the “San Patricios,” Irish Catholic immigrants in the US Army who refused to fight against Mexican Catholics. Those captured were executed for treason.  Ohio Senator “Black Tom” Corwin denounced the war in Congress and was summarily hung in effigy near Buena Vista by Ohio troops. They first dressed his likeness in a Mexican uniform.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Santa Anna Popular Up North

“Daniel Webster flung his oratory into caustic criticism of the war and he was abetted by fanatics like [Charles] Sumner. Soon, drinking of this heady fire water, Northern newspapers were fulminating against [President James] Polk and the continuance of the war. This was one of the few wars waged by the United States in which the enemy was popular.

Black Tom Corwin said that American soldiers in Mexico should be welcomed by “hospitable graves,” and a whole nightmare school of literature sprang up. Some papers called for European intervention. One said editorially: “If there is in the United States a heart worthy of American liberty, its impulse is to join the Mexicans.” Another said: “It would be a sad and woeful joy, but a joy nevertheless, to hear that the hordes of Scott and Taylor were every man of them swept into the next world.”

Santa Anna, the rascally Mexican commander, became a hero in Boston and New York, and there was even a contingent of Americans who fought with the Mexican army.”

(Merchants of Death, A Study of the International Armament Industry, H.C. Engelbrecht & F.C. Hanighen, Dodd, Mead & Company, 1934, excerpt, pp. 28-29)

Power, Plunder and Extended Rule

Lincoln’s continued military defeats caused Radical Republicans to oppose his reelection, until Gen. George B. McClellan became the Democratic presidential nominee in 1864. As Charles Sumner put it privately, “Lincoln’s reelection would be a disaster, but McClellan’s damnation.” After winning their war against the South, Republicans extended their rule over the new empire beyond the turn of the century, except for the two terms of Democrat Grover Cleveland. For further reading on Lincoln’s opponents within his party see: Ward Hill Lamon’s “Recollections of Abraham Lincoln, 1847-1865,” published in 1895.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Power, Plunder and Extended Rule

“Surgeon [Francis Marion] Robertson equates the Union logic of war with that which was being espoused by a set of Union opponents of President Abraham Lincoln’s conduct of the war.

Following the long series of Federal military disasters leading up to and including their defeats in the battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville in 1863, there arose a movement within the Army and Federal Congress that reached a fever pitch in its call to displace President Lincoln, in effect, by the appointment of a dictator to direct the war effort.

Members of Congress called for appointing a vigilant “committee on the conduct of the war” to watch and supervise Lincoln’s movements and decisions. Supporters of this cabal included (a), political activists who sought increased military victories and preservation of their personal and party power, (b), commercial zealots who desired spoliation and plunder of the South, and (c), religious abolitionists whose sympathy for the slave had degenerated into envenomed hostility toward his owner.

These aggressive enemies of Lincoln in the North and within his own party summed up the logic of war in the comprehensive formula, “Power, plunder and extended rule.”

This phrase summarized the vindictive motivation that the seceding Southerners both expected and feared from the Union, if they should lose the war. The collection of attitudes has later been described by historians as the Radical Republican philosophies.

So Lincoln, faced with fire in both his front and rear, finally concluded that he must assert himself. Lincoln exclaimed, “This state of things shall continue no longer. I will show them at the other end of the Avenue whether I am President or not!” From soon after this moment, “his opponents and would-be masters were now, for the most part, silenced; but they hated him all the more cordially.”

In the end, after the Southern surrender and Lincoln’s assassination, the worst apprehensions of white Southerners about “power, plunder and extended rule” at the hands of the Republican North and the carpetbaggers would largely come true.”

(Resisting Sherman, A Confederate Surgeon’s Journal and the Civil War in the Carolinas, 1865, Thomas Heard Robertson, Jr., editor, Savas-Beatie, 2015, pg. 64)

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