Browsing "Crusaders and Revolutionaries"

Millennialism’s Fresh Set of Insoluble Dilemmas

Author M.E. Bradford wrote that in America, “race (at last as far as the Negro is concerned) has proved to be an almost indestructible identity,” and has led to us stepping away from cherished liberties. He goes on that despite its ill-effect upon our original principles, it was predictable “that liberty, as our tradition understands the term, should begin to reassert its original hegemony, that the oldest of liberties honored among us – rights grounded in the fundament of English inheritance” shall return to favor, “though in new disguises.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Millennialism’s Fresh Set of Insoluble Dilemmas

“Jefferson’s fire bell sounded in the legislative darkness, tolling the “knell” of the Union he had so much helped to shape. After Missouri, States achieved full membership in the federal compact only after meeting federally determined prescriptions concerning the status of blacks within their boundaries – conditions not imposed upon the original thirteen and without real precedent in the Northwest Ordinance.

Predictably, Jefferson’s Union did die – in 1861. And in the latter stages of its ruin, the connection between blacks and American millennialism intensified. With Equality (capital E) the new Republic played some verbal and opportunistic games. I leave aside for the moment the merits and demerits of this “second founding.”

For, once completed . . . the Trojan horse of our homegrown Jacobinism was rolled away to some back stall within the stable of received American doctrines. Emancipation appeared to have changed nothing substantial in the basic confederal framework. Neither did it attempt any multiracial miracles.

Most certainly, New England has had its high expectations of a City on a Hill; likewise, even the South owed, from its earliest days, some inertia to a hope of Eden over the sea. Moreover, in company with the frontier States, both regions drew comfort from the idea of a “manifest destiny.” Yet the total nation has, characteristically, despised and rejected who or whatever aspired to dragoon its way to such beatitudes through the instruments of Federal policy.

The only full exception to this rule, I insist, is the “civil rights revolution” of the past thirty years. In connection with the difficult question of the Negro’s place within our social compact, an imperative was discovered, stronger than any ever pressed upon us before: there discovered because the Negro’s lot within that compact was so difficult (and so slow) to improve.

With it we have made fair to force the issue, even if liberty (and its correlatives: law, localism and personalism) loses much of its authority as a term of honor: is diminished especially insofar as it applies to that nondescript but substantial many who captain, man and propel the ship of state.

Of course, as Lenin wrote, the only way to make men equal is to treat them unequally. And Lenin’s advice does not function inside our curious native dialect. The only equality Americans can universally approve is accidental, a corollary of liberty or simple equality before a law with limited scope.

In 1820 . . . we took an initial step away from liberty; in 1861-1877, a few more. And from these examples, from our uneasiness at the – to the millennialist sensibility — greatest of built-in American “scandals,” in the post-World War II era we arrived at converting at least one feature of millennialism into a positive goal. To use the late William Faulkner’s idiom we set out to “abolish” the Negro we knew, both as a presences and a problem. The results begin to speak for themselves, the fresh set of insoluble dilemmas which, with each dawning day, cry out for more potent magic than the cures for yesterday’s injustice which spawned them into existence in the first place.”

(Remembering Who We Are; Observations of a Southern Conservative, M.E. Bradford, UGA Press, 1985, excerpts pp. 47-48; 50-51)

Northern Hostility Toward the Negro

Anthropologist Lewis Henry Morgan of New York wrote Calhoun in 1848 that “The feeling toward [the Negro] in the North is decidedly that of hostility. There is no respect for them. No wish for their elevation; but on the contrary a strong desire to prevent the multiplication of the race as far as it is possible to do so . . .” Former New York Governor (and later Union Major-General] John Adams Dix spoke of the “inferior caste” in free States: “Public opinion at the North – call it prejudice if you will – presents an insuperable barrier against its elevation in the social scale . . . A class thus degraded . . . will not multiply . . .” Pennsylvania Congressman David Wilmot in mid-1846 introduced a bill to ban African slavery from land acquired from Mexico.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Northern Hostility Toward the Negro

“Closely interwoven with the northern fear of [Southern political] dominance was fear of the Negro himself, and the [Wilmot] Proviso, commonly called the “White Man’s Resolution” by the free-soilers, seems to have expressed a northern desire to keep the territories free not only of slaves, but of the black race.

The rhetoric of the free-soil movement is replete with expressions of hostility toward the Negro. One of the most notable instances occurs in James Russell Lowell’s allegorical treatment of the territorial issue in his enormously popular “Bigelow Papers.”

In this poem Lowell represents the Negroes as “long-legged swine” who ruin the territories, making them uninhabitable for the northern farmer. Anti-Negro expressions also found their way into free-soil platforms, albeit in muted form. The Barnburners Utica [New York] Convention called for preserving the western land “for the Caucasian race,” or in the more popular parlance of Thomas Hart Benton “keeping the territory clean of Negroes.”

One free-soiler assured the House of Representatives that he had little concern for “the degraded and degenerate blacks.”

Northern hostility toward the Negro is likewise revealed in the vehement response to a proposal by Governor William Smith of Virginia to export the State’s freedmen to the North. In his speech representing the great dangers involved in rejecting the Wilmot Proviso, [New York Congressman] George Rathbun referred incidentally to Governor Smith’s proposal.

“What do we say [to it]?” asked Rathbun. He gave the answer: “That there is no territory in the free States belonging to them [the Negroes]; that there is no place for them. As far as New York is concerned, should the refuse part of the population of Virginia reach our territory, we will carry them back to Virginia.”

Smith’s proposal caused such consternation in Ohio that the Democratic minority in the State legislature was almost able to force through a law prohibiting Negro immigration altogether. One Democratic congressman from Ohio . . . appealing to the fear and hatred of the Negro in the North, used Smith’s proposal as a justification for bowing to the will of the South on the Proviso question.

In the North, where the Negro population was relatively small, the means of assuring white supremacy was to exclude the Negro, and when he could not be physically excluded, he was excluded from civic life.

The key to the strong emotional commitment in the North to free soil was the overwhelming fear of the extension of an alien race, as well as of an alien institution, to the point where it would directly affect the Northern people. The Wilmot Proviso had such a strong appeal precisely because it expressed the Northern determination to prevent the spread not only of slavery but of the despised Negro as well.”

(Democratic Politics and Sectionalism, the Wilmot Proviso Controversy, Chaplain W. Morrison, UNC Press, 1967, excerpts pp. 70-73)

The Republican’s Stubborn Purpose

The following is excerpted from a postwar letter written by Clement C. Clay of Alabama, to review the facts leading to the withdrawal of the Southern States in 1861, and Jefferson Davis’ efforts to forestall secession, seek conciliation with Northern leaders, and preserve the Union. It clearly identifies those wanting to preserve the Union, and lays the responsibility for disunion at the feet of Lincoln’s party.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Republican’s Stubborn Purpose

“Mr. Davis did not take an active part in planning or hastening secession. I think he only regretfully consented to it, as a political necessity for the preservation of popular and State rights’ which were seriously threatened by the triumph of a sectional party who were pledged to make war on them.

No “plan of secession” or “scheme of revolution” was, to my knowledge, discussed – certainly none matured – at the [Democratic] caucus, 5th of January, 1861 . . . I have never heard that the caucus advised the South “to accumulate munitions of war,” or “to organize and equip an army of one hundred thousand men,” or determined “to hold on as long as possible to the Southern seats [in Congress].”

So far from it, a majority of Southern Senators seemed to think there would be no war; that the dominant party in the North desired separation from the South, and would gladly let their “erring sisters go in peace.” I could multiply proofs of such a disposition.

As to holding on to their seats, no Southern legislature advised it, no Southern Senator who favored secession did so but one, and none others wished to do so, I believe.

The “plan of secession,” if any, and the purpose of secession, unquestionably, originated, not in Washington City, or with the Senators or Representatives of the South, but among the people of the several States, many months before it was attempted. They followed no leaders at Washington or elsewhere, but acted for themselves, with an independence and unanimity unprecedented in any movement of such magnitude.

Before the election of Lincoln, all the Southern States, excepting one or two, had pledged themselves to separate from the Union upon the triumph f a sectional party in the Presidential election, by acts or resolutions of their Legislatures, resolves of both Democratic and Whig State Conventions, and of primary assemblies of the people – in every way in which they could commit themselves to any future act.

Their purpose was proclaimed to the world through the press and telegraph, and criticized in Congress, in the Northern Legislatures, in press and pulpit, and on the hustings, during many months before Congress met in December, 1860.

Over and above all these facts, the reports of the United States Senate show that, prior to the 5th of January 1861, Southern Senators united with Northern Democratic Senators in an effort to effect pacification and prevent secession, and that Jefferson Davis was one of a committee appointed by the Senate to consider and report such a measure; that it failed because the Northern Republicans opposed everything that looked to peace; that Senator [Stephen A.] Douglas arraigned them as trying to precipitate secession, referred to Jefferson Davis as one who sought conciliation, and called upon Republican Senators to tell what they would do, if anything, to restore harmony and prevent disunion. They did not even deign a response.

Thus by their sullen silence, they made confession (without avoidance) of their stubborn purpose to hold up no hand raised to maintain the Union . . .”

(The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, Volume One, Jefferson Davis, D. Appleton and Company, 1881, excerpts, pp. 206-209)

The Dollar Invades and Conquers

Lee was not alone in seeing the masked reasons for the war prosecuted by the North and the opportunity seen in reducing the American South to a politically-weak economic colony. The bounty-enriched foreign mercenaries and displaced slaves used to fight its war of conquest were expendable tools for the task, and later employed to eradicate Indians.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Dollar Invades and Conquers

“Certainly he must have sensed that in the future “those people,” as he called his Northern adversaries, were determined to push aside “his people” with their aristocratic prerogatives and privileges. Despite his determination to stay out of politics both during and after the war, Lee could see the handwriting on the wall as plain as anyone, and plainer than most.

He understood that in addition to the sharp odor of gunpowder, there was the sweet smell of profits in the balmy spring air. Lincoln’s Secretary of the Treasury, visiting New York earlier that spring, had noted that many people there paid more attention to the stock market than to the casualty reports. To this a New York editor added: “Real or professed patriotism may be made to cover a multitude of sins. Gallantry in battle may be regarded as a substitute for all the duties of the Decalogue.”

In the Northern States, the rapid transformation from a conglomeration of farmers to a nation of industrialists had been hastened by the war. The exclusion of Southern planters from the halls of government made the change considerably easier. Astronomical profits on wartime speculation and gouging encouraged rapid expansion. While the brave boys in [blue] shed blood on the battlefields, the crafty made profits back home.

If the drama of collapse and surrender centered in the South, the drama of growth and expansion focused on the West. Hundreds of millions of dollars would go there; the receding frontier would be whittled down by systematic attacks of the Yankee investor. The Federal government would help by showering the railroads and settlers with land and services. Mines, cattle and farming would boom. Where bayonet had never been, the dollar would invade and conquer.”

(Lee After the War, Marshall W. Fishwick, Dodd, Mead & Company, 1963, pp. 39-40)

 

Wilson Confronts Old-Fashioned Imperialism

Despite being one of the most scholarly men to ascend to the presidency, professional historian and political scientist Woodrow Wilson was described as being “surprisingly uninformed about foreign affairs.” After election on the promise that no American boys would die on Europe’s battlefields, he was bullied into the war by steel, munitions and financial lobbies, as well as British propaganda, while dreaming of his part in erecting a world peace that would endure forever. Washington presciently warned of foreign entanglements; Wilson’s secrecy and blunders brought nearly 117,000 American dead by 1918, and as he helped lay the foundation for a German nationalist to replace the Kaiser, another 407,000 American dead in World War Two.  It was far better to leave European intrigues to Europeans.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Wilson Confronts Old-Fashioned Imperialism

“President Wilson apparently at first thought that American participation in the war would be confined primarily to economic and financial contributions, with the navy to help cope with the U-boat menace. As Allied needs became more fully known, however, it became apparent that victory would necessitate the training and transportation to the western front of vast numbers of American troops.

Wilson and Secretary [of State Robert] Lansing, despite subsequent denials to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, were aware prior to the peace conference of the existence of the secret treaties among the [European] Allies which provided for territorial gains after the war. These treaties and agreements, such as the 1915 Treaty of London between the principal Allies and Italy, were not necessarily evil but were in fact the inevitable results of a coalition war.

To Wilson, however, they represented old-fashioned imperialism which would endanger the future stability and peace of the world. During his visit to America, [Britain’s Lord] Balfour had revealed most of the terms of the territorial arrangements whereby Germany’s colonies were to be apportioned among the victors and important territories in Europe and the Near East would be similarly allocated.

The only major agreement of which the major American officials were not then informed was that relating to Japan’s acquisition of the German holdings in Shantung Province, China. There can be little doubt that the president and his secretary of state knew the essential details long before the peace conference convened. The official attitude, however, remained one of indifference and formal ignorance:

“This Government is not now and has not been in the past concerned in any way with secret arrangements or treaties among European powers in regards to war settlements. As to the secret treaties [released in Russia] . . . the Department [of State] has no knowledge of their existence or their terms except through reports emanating from the Bolshevik press.”

Aware of these arrangements to divide the spoils, Wilson wrote [Colonel Edward] House that “England and France have not the same views with regard to peace that we have by any means.” Yet to discuss postwar settlement at that time would only precipitate disagreements and a probable weakening of the war effort, to the benefit of Germany.”

(The Great Departure, The United States and World War One, 1914-1920, David M. Smith, John Wiley and Sons, 1965, excerpts, pp. 85-87)

Opening the Door to Barbarism

In the following study of Francis Lieber’s General Orders No. 100, which claimed to guide the US military in its war upon the South, was the author’s comment that “Perhaps the most significant element of Lieber’s treatise that betrays the lack of attention to US law comes down to this observation: there is no specific reference to the United States Constitution in General Orders No. 100.” Francis (Franz) Lieber was a German revolutionist who fled his home in 1827, settling in Boston. He lost a son in the War Between the States, who fought for the South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Opening the Door to Barbarism

“Two years into the conflict, after countless thousands of soldiers had died . . . the United States announced the rules by which it conducted the fighting. These regulations took the form of a document bearing the nondescript title of General Orders No. 100, instructions for the government of the armies of the United States in the field, which was compiled by a professor at Columbia College. Francis Lieber was a German émigré, a classical liberal forced by political persecution from his native country.

But there is a puzzling side to this document that has gone largely unnoticed by historians and legal scholars. Why was it allowed to be created and adopted?

One could argue that the process by which Lieber’s code of war came into being contradicted constitutional principles and the established practices of the United States. The Constitution states that the power to declare war and, even more pertinently, to “make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces” belongs with the Congress.

When the nation created the Articles of War in 1806, it did so through congressional legislation, not executive fiat. With General Orders No. 100, the executive branch took a bolder step than many have realized, by assuming a right to determine the parameters of war making, especially the meaning of “military necessity,” without these policies originating with Congress.

As early as August 1861, he went on record in a public letter to Attorney General Bates concerning why the government could treat Confederates as belligerents without recognizing their nationhood. He had seized upon the rationale that became commonplace in the administration – and that owed itself to international precedents – that humanitarian reasons dictated exchanging prisoners and operating under the rules of war.

Reactions to [Lieber’s work] were predictable, with Republicans mostly supportive and administration opponents either ambivalent or hostile. The New York Herald . . . found some policy commendable . . . but stated flatly that “the inhabitants of the Southern States are not alien enemies, but citizens of the United States in insurrection, and consequently the alleged law of nations does not apply.”

Meanwhile, Confederate Secretary of War James Seddon and President Jefferson Davis found nothing to praise in the instructions, pointing out how the definition of “military necessity” opened the door to barbarism. Seddon said the order was “the handicraft of one much more familiar with the decrees of the imperial despotisms of the continent of Europe than with Magna Charta, the Petition of Rights, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution of the United States.”

(With Malice Toward Some: Treason and Loyalty in the Civil War Era, William A. Blair, UNC Press, excerpts, pp. 93-96; 98)

Origins of the Conflict: The Tallmadge Amendment

The words “disunion” and “civil war” were heard in the halls of Congress in early 1819 as Representative James Tallmadge of New York introduced his amendment to restrict slavery in the proposed State of Missouri. Though Tallmadge thought the action would help end slavery within a generation, Howell Cobb of Georgia said he had kindled a fire “which only seas of blood could extinguish.” The Missouri Compromise of 1820 did not include the amendment, but did prohibit slavery above the 36-30 parallel of the Louisiana Purchase, the southern boundary of Missouri.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Origins of the Conflict: The Tallmadge Amendment

“In 1812 the Territory of Orleans became the State of Louisiana, but meantime the District of Louisiana had been repeatedly reorganized [and by 1819] . . . the population of Missouri closely approximated sixty thousand which, according to precedents set in the Old Northwest, made a territory eligible for Statehood.

Successive Missouri legislatures petitioned Congress on the subject, and in 1819 the House Committee on Territories reported favorably a bill enabling Missouri . . . to draw up a constitution and make ready for Statehood.

It was at this juncture that Representative James Tallmadge of New York raised the question of setting limits to the expansion of slavery in the Louisiana Purchase. He proposed to amend the bill reported from committee by providing that the further introduction of slavery into Missouri should be forbidden, and that all children born of slave parents after the admission of the State should be free upon reaching the age of twenty-five years.

Until the introduction of the Tallmadge amendment, the slavery question had played little part in national politics. The problem of how slaves should be counted when apportioning representatives in Congress or assessing direct taxes on the States had been satisfactorily settled in the federal convention by the three-fifths compromise. Also, an earlier Congress had exercised its constitutional authority to pass a fugitive slave act, and the administration of this measure had so far provoked little criticism.

Moreover, slavery had long been regarded as a dying institution. The founders of the American nation had almost unanimously so considered it, Southerners no less than Northerners. Many of them were eager to speed the day when slavery should cease to exist throughout the whole country.

Washington emancipated his slaves by his will; Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin were prominent in the work of emancipation societies; Thomas Jefferson’s anti-slavery views were written into the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. Almost by common consent the slave trade was forbidden in 1808, the earliest possible date under the Constitution.

Hostility to slavery during these early days of the republic was firmly grounded on the fact that the institution had ceased to be economically profitable. For this reason, even before the American Revolution, many of the colonies would have taken some anti slavery action had not the British government been so insistent on protecting the profits of British merchants engaged in the slave trade.

As soon as independence became a fact, one State after another took action against slavery . . . [but] the chief obstacle to abolition in the South, where slaves were far more numerous than in the North, was the perplexity felt about what to do with the freed slaves, but Southern emancipation societies were deeply concerned about this problem and were hopeful of finding a solution.

The discovery that cotton could be grown profitably by means of slave labor [with the cotton gin of Massachusetts inventor Eli Whitney, and] served to revive the institution of slavery just at the time when it had seemed destined to disappear.

(The Federal Union, History of the United States to 1865, John D. Hicks, Houghton Mifflin, 1948, excerpts, pp. 354-356)

The South to Receive a Proper Education

After conquering and humiliating the South, the North’s next step was to re-educate the rising generations of Southern youth while herding the freedmen into the Republican Party to ensure political supremacy in the conquered region. The South’s history had to be rewritten; “its history was tainted by slavery and must be abjured,” and Southern children must learn to speak of “our Puritan fathers.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The South to Receive a Proper Education

“For ten years the South, already ruined by the loss of nearly $2 billion invested in its laborers, with its lands worthless, its cattle and stock gone, its houses burned, was turned over to the three millions of slaves, some of whom could still remember the taste of human flesh and the bulk of them hardly three generations removed from cannibalism. These half-savage blacks were armed.

Their passions were roused against their former masters by savage political leaders like Thaddeus Stevens [of Pennsylvania], who advocated the confiscation of all Southern lands for the benefit of the Negroes, and extermination, if need be, of the Southern white population; and like Charles Sumner [of Massachusetts], whose chief regret had been that his skin was not black.”

Not only were the blacks armed, they were upheld and incited by garrisons of Northern soldiers; by Freedmen’s Bureau officials, and by Northern ministers of the gospel, and at length they were given the ballot while their former masters were disarmed and, to a large extent, disenfranchised.

For ten years, ex-slaves, led by carpetbaggers and scalawags, continued the pillages of war, combing the South for anything left by the invading armies, levying taxes, selling empires of plantations under the auction hammer, dragooning the Southern population, and visiting upon them the ultimate humiliations.

After the South had been conquered by war and humiliated and impoverished with peace, there appeared still to remain something which made the South different – something intangible, incomprehensible, in the realm of the spirit.

That too must be invaded and destroyed; So there commenced a second war of conquest, the conquest of the Southern mind, calculated to remake every Southern opinion, to impose the Northern way of life and thought upon the South, write “error” across the pages of Southern history which were out of keeping with the Northern legend, and set the rising and unborn generations upon stools of everlasting repentance.

Francis Wayland, former president of Brown University, regarded the South as “the new missionary ground for the national school-teacher,” and President Hill of Harvard looked forward to the task for the North “of spreading knowledge and culture over the regions that sat in darkness.”

The older generations, the hardened campaigners under Lee and Jackson, were too tough-minded to re-educate. They must be ignored. The North must “treat them as Western farmers do the stumps in their clearings, work around them and let them rot out,” but the rising and future generations were to receive a proper education in Northern tradition.”

(The Irrepressible Conflict, Frank Lawrence Owsley; I’ll Take My Stand, The South and the Agrarian Tradition by Twelve Southerners, LSU Press, 1977 (original 1930), pp. 62-63)

Terms of the Conqueror

Duress accomplished passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution; the people of the South who deeply understood that the States controlled their own domestic institutions were forced to submit to overwhelming military power. The Fourteenth Amendment was unconstitutionally-enacted, not ratified, and considered yet another term of the conqueror.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Terms of the Conqueror

“Who drove the South to these extremities? The very men who accuse her of treason. When she accepted the contest, to which she was thus virtually invited in terms of contumelious threat and reproach, she was threatened with being wiped out and annihilated by the superior forces of her antagonist, with whom it was vain and foolish to contend, so unequal were the strength and resources of the two parties. It is true that the South parted in bitterness, but it was in sadness of spirit also. She did not wish it – certainly, Virginia did not desire it – if she could maintain her rights within the Union.

The South at last fell from physical exhaustion – the want of food, clothes, and the munitions of war; she yielded to no superiority of valor or of skill, but to the mere avoirdupois of numbers. Physically, she was unable to stand up under such a weight of human beings, gathered from whenever they could be called by appeals to their passions or bought by promise to supply their necessities.

It is said that after the battle of the Second Cold Harbor, where Grant so foolishly assailed Lee in his lines, and where his dead was piled in thousands after his unsuccessful attack, the northern leaders were ready to have proposed peace , but were prevented by some favorable news from the southwest.

They did not propose peace except upon terms of unconditional submission. When the South was forced to accept those terms to obtain it, the North was not afraid to avow its purposes and carry them out. Slavery was abolished without compensation, and slaves were awarded equal rights with their masters in government.

It was the fear of these results which drove the South into the war. Experience proved that this fear was reasonable. The war was alleged as the excuse for such proceedings; but can any man doubt that the North would have done the same thing if all constitutional restraints upon the power of the majority had been peaceably removed.

It is sought to be excused, I know, by assuming that these things were done with the assent of the South. That these [Thirteen and Fourteenth] constitutional amendments represent the well-considered opinion of any respectable party in the South, there is none so infatuated as to believe. They were accepted as the terms of the conqueror, and so let them be considered by all who desire to know the true history of their origin.”

(Southern Historical Society Papers, Origin of the Late War, Hon. R.M.T. Hunter, Volume I, excerpts, pp. 11-12)

Uncontrolled Power of the Radicals

While the Northern States held African slaves there was no external anti-slavery agitation that threatened them with slave revolt and race war — those States settled their slavery question peacefully and in their own time. The American South wanted to peacefully resolve the question as well but faced relentless agitation fomenting slave revolt and race war by Northern fanatics. After crushing the South militarily, assuring Northern political control of the country required harnessing the freedmen to the Republican Party, and the notorious Union League was the vehicle to accomplish this. The Ku Klux Klan was the predictable result of the Union League.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Uncontrolled Power of the Radicals

“While [President Jefferson] Davis was suffering . . . in his prison cell . . . like a dark cloud in the sky was the determination of the Northern Radicals to prevent [Andrew Johnson’s] moderate policy [toward the defeated South]. In a letter to Thomas F. Bayard, on 11 November 1865, Benjamin, referring to the grave Negro problem which had remained after the emancipation of the slaves, said:

“If the Southern States are allowed without interference to regulate the transition of the Negro from his former state to that of a freed man they will eventually work out the problem successfully, though with great difficulty and trouble, and I doubt not that the recuperative energy of the people will restore a large share of their former material prosperity much sooner than it is generally believed.”

Yet he added this warning:

“But if [the Southern people] are obstructed and thwarted by the fanatics, and if external influences are brought to bear on the Negro and influence his ignorant fancy with wild dreams of social and political equality, I shudder for the bitter future which is now in store for my unhappy country.”

A year afterwards, in late October 1866, Jefferson Davis was being treated more humanely, but Benjamin wrote [James H.] Mason that he greatly feared “an additional rigorous season, passed in confinement should prove fatal.” And he added bitterly:

“It is the most shameful outrage that such a thing should be even possible, but I have ceased hope anything like justice or humanity demands from the men who seem now to have uncontrolled power over public affairs in the United States. I believe [Andrew] Johnson would willingly release Mr. Davis, but he is apparently cowed by the overbearing violence of the Radicals and dare not act in accordance with his judgment.”

(Judah P. Benjamin, Confederate Statesman, Robert Douthat Meade, Oxford University Press, 1943, excerpts, pp. 340-342)