Browsing "Crusaders and Revolutionaries"

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)

 

Liberal Visions and Missionary Rhetoric

 

With Lincoln’s revolutionary actions in April 1861 — assuming the power to raise armies, suspect habeas corpus at will and arrest Supreme Court justices who defied him — the presidency changed from one of conciliation and compromise to near dictatorship. He and his liberal Northern power base concentrated all power in Washington, and thus ended the formerly decentralized federation of republics. The office of president became an end in itself with powers remaining impaired today, and never-ending crusades.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Liberal Visions and Missionary Rhetoric

“Since the beginning of this century, American liberalism has made little measurable progress toward two of its most important goals: a more equitable distribution of income and an improved level of public services. Confronted by the realities of corporate power and the conservatism of Congress, the reforming zeal of the liberal state has been easily frustrated.

This is mirrored in the stymied hopes of the New Freedom by 1916, the stalemate of the New Deal by 1938, and the dissolution of the Great Society by 1966. What is left by these aborted crusades is not the hard substance of reform but rather the major instrument of change – the powerful central state.

The demands of a strong central government and an aggressive foreign policy were ideologically reinforcing. The liberal search for national unity and an expanding domestic economy could not be separated from the vision of an internationalist order which was “safe from war and revolution and open to the commercial and moral expansion of American liberalism. This was a vision shared by Woodrow Wilson and Cordell Hull.

To Hull and Wilson, and later Dean Rusk, peace required the structuring of diplomacy through an elaborate network of collective security arrangements; prosperity demanded the removal of national trade barriers.

Such a vision . . . could not contain within it the forces of either revolution or reaction and led almost inevitably to a foreign policy marked by conflict and crisis. Each new foreign policy crisis in turn strengthened the state apparatus and made the “National Idea” seem even more appropriate – a development which liberals, especially of the New Deal vintage, could only see as benign.

Peace and prosperity, political themes of the Eisenhower years, were considered indulgences by Kennedy liberals . . . Eisenhower’s cautious leadership was considered without national purpose. To those liberals the American mission could be no less than “the survival and success of liberty.”

The “National Idea,” glorified by such transcendent goals, became a Universal Mission, viz., Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.’s assessment, “The United States has an active and vital interest in the destiny of every nation on the planet.” President’s felt mandated not to complete a mere domestic program but rather, to quote the Kennedy inaugural, “to create a new world of freedom.”

Nevertheless, such missionary rhetoric was eminently compatible with the liberal vision of governmental problem solving and reform emanating from the top. For those who gloried in the legacy of Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, the president was the incarnation of the “National Idea,” or in Richard Neustadt’s phrase, “the sole crown-like symbol of the Union.”

After a generation of such fawning rhetoric, it is little wonder that the modern president’s conception of himself bears closer resemblance to the fascist notion of the state leader than even to a Burkean concept of democratic leadership. As President Nixon described his role, “He (the president) must articulate the nation’s values, define it goals and marshal its will.

Republican presidents replaced Democratic presidents without affecting the slightest diminution of executive power. At the propitious moment of international crisis the Congress is circumvented, the public, then most vulnerable to demagoguery and deception, is confronted with a fireside chat, a special address, or a televised press conference.

The result, as conservative James Burnham has pointed out, is Caesarism – the culmination of the executive state: “The mass of people and the individual Caesar, with the insulation of the intermediary institutions removed, become like two electric poles . . . the vote is reduced to a primitive Yes-No . . . and the assemblies become a sounding board for amplifying Caesar’s voice.”

(The Ideology of the Executive State, Robert J. Bressler; Watershed of Empire, Essays on New Deal Foreign Policy, L. Liggio and J. Martin, editors, excerpts, pp. 2-7)

Liberal Republicans Triumphant

It is said that the war against American conservatism was in high gear by Lyndon Johnson’s administration; it was Johnson who conferred the Medal of Freedom on the socialist A. Philip Randolph in 1964, and Randolph’s closest confidant was admitted communist Bayard Rustin – who organized MLK’s mass demonstrations. The liberal-dominated Republican party in the 1960’s went along with the unprecedented expansion of the federal government, abandoned efforts to abolish affirmative action, did little to restrict illegal immigration, oppose gay rights or gun control. Also, the most dangerous Supreme Court appointees – Warren, Brennan, Blackmun, O’Connor and Kennedy – were advanced by Republican presidents.  The very first Republican president reportedly issued an order for the arrest of the Chief Justice for upholding the United States Constitution.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Liberal Republicans Triumphant

“[The] fifteen years from 1960 to 1975 were a time of unprecedented expansion in government domestic spending. Spurred by the plight of the blacks and Puerto Ricans in Northern cities and the deplorable health and education opportunities available to the poor in the South, the national mood turned toward reform.

A sufficient number of liberals were elected to Congress to wrest control of crucial committees from conservative Southern and Midwestern congressmen and substantially change a longstanding system of Federal priorities.

The country’s underlying prosperity made it all possible. In 1964 [President Lyndon B.] Johnson was able to sign on successive days the Economic Opportunity Act, which created a national War on Poverty, and legislation directing across-the-board tax cuts for almost everyone. Social conscience was free.

As the barriers to change came down, a stream of legislation poured out of Washington – besides the War on Poverty, there were Model Cities, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Medicare and Medicaid, and greatly improved social security benefits.

When concern for civil rights and the poor was generalized to problems of pollution and congestion, the federal government responded with subsidies for urban mass transit, tough new air and water quality standards, and sharply increased levels of funding for sewage treatment and air pollution control.

By 1967 even cataloguing the immense range of new initiatives was a formidable task . . . more than $15 billion in aid available, scattered through four hundred separate grant-in-aid programs – although beleaguered local officials insisted that the programs numbered more than a thousand.

With the rush of programs, federal domestic spending increased sharply, as did the involvement of the federal government in local affairs. Aid for manpower, education, and social service programs jumped from $1.3 billion in 1960 to $10.3 billion in 1970, and to $18.2 billion in 1975.

While the overall federal budget tripled from 1960 to 1975 . . . the federal share in local and State budgets increased by 40 percent. [By] 1975 cash income maintenance programs alone were budgeted for a larger amount than national defense.

In many ways the device hit upon by the lawmakers for increasing federal involvement in local affairs – the categorical grant-in-aid – was as important as the absolute volume of the new federal commitments. Funding was allocated for specific purposes, and usually with detailed operating conditions attached, reflecting a prevailing lack of confidence in State and local administrations. In the South local autonomy too often meant racial discrimination; too many State legislatures in the North and West seemed sleepy, rural-dominated, special-interest societies.

[To change the emphases of State and local governments], a common device was to include generous federal funding in the early stages of a program, with the expectation that local funding would pick up the program later. Community mental health programs, for example, receive 90 percent of their finding in the first year from federal sources, but the federal share is phased out entirely over a seven-year period, leaving the local government with an expensive program, a high standard of service, and an organized set of supporters.

Public employment programs began the same way . . . but local officials were left to face a financing problem or the pain of reducing a popular program as the federal support was reduced in subsequent years.

Programs developed “vertical autocracies” of their own, a chain of officials stretching from the local government through the State and regional federal bureaucracies to Washington and the halls of Congress.

Elected officials rarely could afford the time or trouble to master the complex laws and regulations and were increasingly the captives of their program-oriented bureaucracies, who held the secret to the continued expansion of outside financing.

The powerful expansionist impulse that Nelson Rockefeller brought to [New York] State government was in his family tradition – they had long tried to live down their legendary wealth with a broad range of philanthropic undertakings – and was consistent with his basic personality.

Rockefeller was a perennial presidential candidate, and at least until 1968, his national aspirations rested on his position as spokesman for the Northeastern liberal wing of the Republican party, which was in competition throughout the decade with the hard-line conservatism of the South and West.

Republicans were hopelessly outnumbered nationally, the reasoning went, and the route to victory lay in capturing the center of the national consensus. At least through the first half of the 1960s – or until the bills began to come in – that seemed supportive of the drive toward government initiatives to equalize opportunities between blacks and whites and rich and poor, to put out lifelines for the cities, and to make up for decades of underinvestment in the public sector.”

(The Cost of Good Intentions, New York City and the Liberal Experiment, 1960-1975, Charles R. Morris, McGraw-Hill, 1980, pp. 34-36)

Effecting a Change of Masters

The examples of Jamaica and Haiti were clear to most in the antebellum period, though the abolitionists seemed unconcerned with the predictable result of emancipation in America. With the result of Lincoln’s revolution, the African slave had only changed masters as he became the chattel and ward of the now all-powerful federal government at Washington. The Republican party now needed the freedmen’s vote to ensure their victory at the polls, and worked ruthlessly through its Union League to keep Republican ballots in black hands.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Effecting a Change of Masters

“It is scarcely in the power of human language to describe the enthusiastic delight with which the abolitionists, both in England and in America, were inspired by the spectacle of West India Emancipation. We might easily adduce a hundred illustrations of the almost frantic joy with which it intoxicated their brains [but we might also illustrate] how indignant [the abolitionist] became that others were not equally disposed to part with their sober senses.

In one day, probably seven hundred thousand of human beings were rescued from bondage to full, unqualified freedom. The crowning glory of this day was the fact that the work of emancipation was wholly due to the principles of Christianity. The West Indies were freed, not boy force, or human policy, but by the reverence of a great people for justice and humanity.

[The good people of the free States] did not go into raptures over so fearful an experiment before they had some little time to see how it would work. They did, no doubt, most truly and profoundly love liberty. But then they had some reason to suspect, perhaps, that liberty may be one thing, and abolitionism quite another. Liberty, they knew, was a thing of light and love; but as for abolitionism, it was, for all they knew, a demon of destruction.

We shall begin with Jamaica. The very first year after the complete emancipation of the slaves of this island, its prosperity began to manifest symptoms of decay. The abolitionist not only closed his eyes on every appearance of decline in the prosperity of the West Indies, he also seized with avidity every indication of the successful operation of his [emancipation] scheme, and magnified it to both himself and to the world.

[But] “Shipping has deserted her ports; her magnificent plantations of sugar and coffee are running to weeds; her private dwellings are falling to decay . . .”It is impossible [to not arrive] at the conclusion that the freedom granted to the negro has had little effect except that of enabling him to live at the expense of the planter so long as anything remained. Sixteen years of freedom did not appear to its author to have “advanced the dignity of labor or of the laboring classes one particle,” while it had ruined the land, and this great damage had been done to the one class without benefit of any kind to the other.”

In relation to Jamaica, another witness says: “The marks of decay abound . . . People who have nothing, and can no longer keep up their domestic establishments, take refuge in the abodes of others, where some means of subsistence are still left;. . . the lives of crowded thousands appear to be preserved from day to day by a species of miracle.

We might fill volumes with extracts to the same effect. We might in like manner point to other regions, especially to Guatemala, to the British colony on the southern coast of Africa, and to the island of Hayti, in all of which emancipation was followed by precisely similar events. By the act of emancipation, Great Britain paralyzed the right arm of her colonial industry. The laborer would not work except occasionally, and the planter was ruined. The morals of the Negro disappeared with his industry, and he speedily retraced his steps toward his original barbarism. All this had been clearly foretold.

Precisely the same thing had been foretold by the Calhoun’s and Clays of this country. The calmest, the profoundest, the wisest statesman of Great Britain likewise forewarned the agitators of the desolation and the woes they were about to bring upon the West Indies. But the madness of the day would confide in no wisdom except its own, and listen to no testimony except the clamor of fanatics. Hence the frightful experiment was made . . .

But what is meant by freedom of the emancipated slaves, on which so many exalted eulogies have been pronounced? Its first element, it is plain, is a freedom from labor – freedom from the very first law of nature. In one word, its sum and substance is a power on the part of the freed black to act pretty much as he pleases.”

The magnificent colony of St. Domingo did not quite perish . . . the entire white population soon melted, like successive snowflakes of snow, in a furnace of that freedom that Robespierre had kindled. The atrocities of this awful massacre have had, as the historian has said, no parallel in the annals of human crime. “The Negroes,” says Alison, “marched with spiked infants on their spears instead of colors; they sawed asunder the [white] male prisoners, and violated the females on the dead bodies of their husbands.”

The work of death, thus completed with such outbursts of unutterable brutality, constituted and closed the first act in the grand drama of Haytian freedom. In this frightful chaos, the ambitious mulattoes, whose insatiable desire for equality had first disturbed the peace of the island, perished miserably beneath the vengeance of the very slaves whom they had themselves roused from subjection and elevated into irresistible power. Thus ended the second act of the horrible drama.

[In the new independent Negro state, the lands] were divided out among the officers of the army, while the privates were compelled to cultivate the soil under their former military commanders . . . No better could have been expected except by fools or fanatics. The blacks might preach equality, it is true, but yet, like the more enlightened ruffians of Paris, they would of course take good care not to practice what they had preached.

Hence, by all the horrors of their bloody revolution, they had only effected a change of masters. The white man had disappeared, and the black man, one of their own race and color, had assumed his place and his authority.”

(Liberty and Slavery, Albert Taylor Bledsoe, J.B. Lippincott & Company, 1856, pp. 229-278; reprinted 2000 by www.confederatereprint.com)

Lincoln Revives a Dying Party

It was a commonly held opinion by 1860 that the western territories were not conducive to large plantation and the black labor required to make it economically feasible. It was Lincoln in his “House-Divided” speech who fanned the flames of sectional discord and set the South on its path toward political independence, and the North on its path to war. Washington in his farewell address warned of the dangers of sectionalism – the same that Lincoln and his party created and nourished.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Lincoln Revives a Dying Party

“The defeat of the slave-State constitution in Kansas made it certain that none of the land [Stephen] Douglas had opened to slavery north of 36-30 [latitude] would become slave. In view of the economic circumstances it was becoming more and more evident that unless the Republican party acquired new tenets there was no reason for continuing its organization.

[William] Seward, one of the leading lights of the party, and [Horace] Greeley, the leading editor of the party, were willing at this time to dissolve the party, but Lincoln was unwilling for the Republicans to disband their distinctive anti-slavery [expansion] organization and have nobody to follow but Douglas, who did not care whether slavery was “voted up or voted down.”

Accordingly, in his debate with Douglas, [Lincoln] had to supply additional material for the sustenance of his party’s life; for the time was rapidly approaching when it would become obvious to everybody that the extension of slavery into the territories had been checked permanently by prevailing economic conditions.

In order to win victory at the polls in 1858 it would be necessary for a Republican candidate not only to hold persons already enrolled in the moribund political organization, but also to gain recruits to the cause of prohibition of slavery in the territories by federal law.

The two groups from which new members could be drawn were the bona-fide abolitionists and the Henry Clay “Whigs” who had hitherto refused to enroll themselves in a sectional political party. The abolitionists supplied the soul of the anti-slavery movement of the North, but they had in general refused to vote for anybody who compromised on anything less than a declaration in favor of abolition of slavery in the slave States.

The Henry Clay Whigs of the North opposed further acquisition of territory which could be devoted to slavery but desired ultimate abolition of slavery only under conditions equitable to the South. They had most kindly feelings toward the Southern whites and like Clay they preferred the liberty of their own race to that of any other race, although they were no friends of slavery.

Lincoln so skillfully calculated the wording of his famous House-Divided speech that it won converts to his following from both sides of the above-mentioned groups. It carried water on both shoulders, so to speak, for it was so constructed that it was acceptable to both radicals and moderate conservatives. [The speech] contained bait for abolitionist consumption . . . and [it also] veils the radicalism . . . and makes of the whole what many Henry Clay Whigs even in the South hoped.

The idea presented . . . to the effect that the advocates of slavery intended to push slavery forward into the Northern States unless the system was checked . . . contained a powerful cement for amalgamating the heterogeneous elements of the North into one sectional party opposed to such extension. [Lincoln’s speech] was sufficiently nourishing to the party’s life to have “all free” enshrined as an ultimate ideal and to spread the idea that the South would be satisfied with nothing less than “all slave.”

(The Peaceable Americans of 1860-1861, A Study in Public Opinion, Mary Scrugham, Doctoral Dissertation, Philosophy, Columbia University, 1921, excerpts, pp. 18-21)