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Helot Rhett Butlers

It is said that one of the most distinguishing achievements of the American Confederacy was the ingenuity of Southern authorities and businessmen meeting the challenge of a naval blockade of its coasts. They answered the challenge with swift, light draft blockade runners fueled with quick-burning Welsh coal while utilizing two Southern-friendly islands, Bermuda and the Bahamas, for supply transshipments.

Gen. U.S. Grant, III, stated in 1961 that “if the Cambridge Modern History is correct in its allegation that between October 26, 1864 and January 1865 it was still possible for 8,632,000 lbs. of meat, 1,507,000 lbs. of lead, 1,933,000 lbs. of saltpeter, 546,000 pairs of shoes, 316,000 blankets, half a million pounds of coffee, 69,000 rifles and 43 cannons to run the blockade into the port of Wilmington alone, while cotton sufficient to pay for these purchases was exported, it is evident that the blockade runners made an important contribution to the Confederacy’s ability to carry on.” (New York History Quarterly, Vol. XLII, No. 1, January 1961, pp. 49-50).

Helot Rhett Butlers

“There were, of course, precedents for blockade evasion in the history of warfare. One striking parallel to the Southern problem occurred in 425 B.C., during the Peloponnesian War. The Athenians had succeeded in trapping a portion of the Spartan land forces on the island of Sphacteria, off the coast of Pylos, and thus, by maintaining a blockade, learned what the federal navy and government would in time come to understand: a blockade immobilized, perhaps, some of the enemy’s forces, restricted his strategy, and imposed attrition, but it did not of itself bring him to capitulation.

Thucydides records that much time was consumed in the blockade of the island because the Spartans had not stood idly by while the cream of their land forces was being starved to death.

“The fact was,” he wrote, “that the Lacedaemonians had made the advertisement for volunteers to carry into the island ground corn, wine, cheese, and any other food useful in a siege; high prices being offered, and freedom promised to any of the Helots who should succeed in doing so . . . In short, both sides tried every possible contrivance, the one to throw in provisions, the other to prevent their introduction.”

Thucydides reasoned well in considering the material inducement offered the Helots to undertake running the blockade. Those men of the Confederacy who were interested in bringing in supplies from abroad, and who were not involved in the trade officially, had rich material benefits in mind.”

(Ploughshares into Swords: Josiah Gorgas and Confederate Ordnance, Frank E. Vandiver, Texas A&M Press, 1994, excerpt pg. 85)

Seward on God’s Poor

It is erroneous that the Republican party of Lincoln was an “anti-slavery” party and hostile to slavery. The party depended greatly upon new and recent immigrant votes, those who wanted cheap or free land and no labor competition from black people. The western territories were to be reserved for immigrant whites, the South was not to be allowed to bring their workers to the west.  The war of course destroyed the South’s economy and political strength, forced Southerners to accept Northern decrees, and to keep its black people in the South where they could not take jobs from white Northerners.

Lincoln’s Secretary of State, William Seward, viewed black people as did Lincoln, who, when asked of their postwar future stated that they must “root-hog or die.” And he meant that they had to do this in the South and nowhere else in the country. This would quickly change with Radical Republican control of the party and the imperative that Grant be elected president in 1868. To effect this they enfranchised 500,000 illiterate men to vote against New York’s Horatio Seymour, who lost that election by some 300,000 votes.

Seward on God’s Poor

“But Seward viewed the Black Codes as an issue of secondary importance. He was now concerned more with reconciliation between the white majorities, North and South, than he was with the fate of the blacks, for whom the war had already brought freedom. In April, 1866 he gave an interview to Charles Eliot Norton and Edwin Godkin, publishers of the influential magazine Nation.

According to Seward there should be no question about re-admitting the South to full representation in Congress; it had as much right to representation as did the North. He then responded to a question about the blacks:

“The North has nothing to do with the Negroes. I have no more concern for them than I have for the Hottentots. They are God’s poor; they always have been and always will be so everywhere . . . the laws of political economy will determine their position and the relations of the two races.”

(William Henry Seward: Lincoln’s Right Hand, John M. Taylor, Harper Collins, 1991, excerpt pg. 260)

The Real Motives of the War

The British were comfortable with a near-aristocratic political system in the American South and feared the popular democracy of the North. They clearly saw the division since the early 1840s of the United States into two distinct peoples splitting into two independent countries.

The Real Motives of the War

“The ruling classes in Britain were inclined to accept the Confederacy’s leaders’ portrayals of themselves as defenders of liberty and independence and their portrayals of Northern leaders as tyrants seeking to impose their will on the South. The Liberal Party in England stood for the kind of political and economic liberalism that stressed limits on the powers of government.

A British scholar, Martin Crawford, described the newspaper’s persistent belief that the North could not win the war and that continued separation of North and South was inevitable:

“The longer the conflict lasted, the more convinced The Times became that Lincoln’s government should accept disunion for what it was, a sad and irrevocable fact . . . The critique of the American conflict which The Times fashioned in the late summer and autumn of 1861 would remain virtually unchanged for the duration of the war . . . Britain’s leading newspaper had established itself as a committed opponent of the federal cause, with the result that its capacity for independent judgment of American affairs was substantially impaired.”

The Times had no monopoly on anti-Northern prejudices. The conservative London Dispatch compressed into a single sentence most of the upper class prejudices against the North:

“The real motives of the civil war are the continuance of the power of the North to tax the industry of the South and the consolidation of the huge confederation to sweep every other power from the American continent, to enter into the politics of Europe with a Republican propaganda, and to bully the world.”

(One War at a Time: The International Dimensions of the American Civil War, Dean B. Mahin, Brassey’s, 1999, excerpt, pp. 27-30)

War for Economic Greatness

Author Philip Leigh below writes that in late March 1860 as Lincoln wrestled with the question of whether to abandon Fort Sumter and preserve peace, or commit to war, he was visited by a group of New York merchants. Their desire for profits prevailed as it was “better to pay for armed conflict now than suffer prolonged economic disaster in a losing trade war.”

War for Mercantile Greatness

“[A] low tariff Southern Confederacy was an economic threat to a truncated Federal Union, particularly considering the North’s growing expectations for economic hegemony as the South lost influence in the Government. About a month before Fort Sumter surrendered, the Boston Transcript concluded on March 18, 1861 that the South did not seceded to protect slavery, but to become the North’s economic competitor:

“Alleged grievances in regard to slavery were originally the causes for the separation of the cotton States, but the mask has been thrown off, and it is apparent that the people of the seceding States are now for commercial independence . . . the merchants of New Orleans, Charleston and Savannah are possessed with the idea that New York, Boston and Philadelphia may be shorn . . . of their mercantile greatness by a revenue system verging upon free trade. If the Southern Confederation is allowed to carry out a policy by which only a nominal duty is laid upon imports, no doubt the businesses of the chief Northern cities will be seriously injured.

The difference is so great between the tariff of the Union and that of the Confederacy that the entire Northwest [present day Midwest] must find it to their advantage to purchase imported goods at New Orleans rather than New York. In addition, Northern manufacturers will suffer from the increased importations resulting from lower duties . . .”

More than a month before South Carolina started the secession trend and about two weeks after the election, outcome was known, the Boston Herald concluded on November 12, 1860: “[Should South Carolina secede] she will immediately form commercial alliances with European countries [that] . . . will help English manufacturing at the expense of New England. The first move the South would make would be to impose a heavy tax upon the manufacturers of the North, and an export tax on the cotton used by Northern manufacturers. In this way she would seek to cripple the North. The carrying trade, which is now done by American [Northern] vessels, would be transferred to British ships.”

(Causes of the Civil War, Philip Leigh, Shotwell Publishing, 2020, excerpt pp. 133-134)

Dark Forces Unleashed by War

Of the wartime and postwar Congress, shorn of Southern statesmen, author Richard Hofstadter wrote: “Before business learned to buy statesmen at wholesale, it had to buy privileges at retail.” Railroad promoters actively lobbied for land grants and other subsidies at every level of government, while choruses of Northern manufacturers demanded tariff protection from foreign competitors. The American Third Republic ended with war in 1861, waged against a new Southern agrarian republic seeking peace and prosperity for its people. With its war of independence lost, the South became a poor economic colony within a foreign political arrangement dominated by corporate interests allied with an all-powerful central government.

Dark Forces Unleashed by War

“After the Civil War several transcontinental railroads, all but the Great Northern the beneficiaries of federal land grants, were completed. Chastened by scandals connected with the government’s subsidization of these enterprises, Congress made no new land grants after 1871, but in the nostrils of many people the odor of something rotten – corruption and special, unwarranted privilege at the expense of the general public – lingered about the land-grant railroads for decades.

After the 1870s, growing numbers of huge manufacturing corporations, including such still-familiar firms as Standard Oil, Bethlehem, American Tobacco, and Armour, achieved prominence. People accustomed to dealing with small locally-owned firms had difficulty in reconciling themselves to an economy in which such corporate behemoths did much of the nation’s business.

The great corporations, known to contemporaries as “trusts” though only a few were every trusts in the strict legal sense, raised the specter of monopoly power in the market. American public opinion and legal tradition had long been hostile toward monopolies. Conspiracies in restraint of trade were unquestionably illegal under the common law.

Unsuccessful competitors complained bitterly that the “monopolists” were driving them to the wall. Customers frequently objected to real or imagined price discrimination. More than anything else, rate discrimination provoked the outrage of Midwestern shippers against the railroads. Often the criticism of a big corporation’s alleged monopoly power could be deflected by showing that the firm produced better products or services in growing volumes at ever lower prices.

But this defense, even if appropriate, did nothing to allay the charge that the great corporations subverted the democratic political process. “Corruption,” charged the Populists in the preamble to their platform of 1892, “dominates the ballot-box, the Legislatures, the Congress, and touches even the ermine of the bench.”  Henry B. Brown, an associate justice of the US Supreme Court, told the Yale law students in 1895 that “[b]ribery and corruption are as universal as to threaten the very structure of society.”

(Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government, Robert Higgs, Oxford University Press, 1987, excerpts pp. 80-81)

 

An American Chamber of Horrors

In an effort to forestall a Republican “Force Bill” designed to bring reconstruction horrors back to the postwar South, fourteen spokesmen that included Zebulon Vance, Robert Stiles and Bernard J. Sage undertook to explain the Solid South to what may be termed the New North. In April 1890 they published a symposium “Why the Solid South? Or Reconstruction and its Results,” designed to appeal to the self-interest of the North’s business class and a very clear recapitulation of what Reconstruction thus far “had cost in money, public morale and cultural retardation.”

An American Chamber of Horrors

“Hilary Herbert of Alabama, who served as editor, expressed . . . in a preface: “Its object is to show to the public, and more especially to the businessmen of the North, who have made investments in the South, or who have trade relations with their Southern fellow citizens, the consequences which once followed an interference in the domestic affairs of certain States by those, who either did not understand the situation or were reckless of results.”

There followed factual histories of Reconstruction in each of the ex-Confederate States, including West Virginia and Missouri, which also had suffered from the fraud, repression and vicious partisanship of the postwar settlement. All in all, it is one of the most dismal stories ever told, unrelieved by a single ray of light, unless a revelation of how much people can endure and how they will struggle to attain their hopes even in extremis be such.

Governor Vance of North Carolina in a particularly mild and philosophic chapter pointed out that during what was supposed to be a moral and political rebirth “the criminals sat in the law-making chamber, on the bench and in the jury-box, instead of standing in the dock.” It has become the fashion nowadays to regard Reconstruction as a kind of chamber of horrors into which no good American would care to look, but Governor Vance reminded his readers that no portion of our history better deserves study “by every considerate patriot.”

From the comparatively uneventful story of North Carolina’s experience, the chronicle moves on to the wild saturnalia of South Carolina, where amid riotous spending of public funds the State House was turned into a combination of saloon and brothel. Yet the ordeal of South Carolina was matched by that of Louisiana, where in four years’ time the incredible Warmoth regime squandered an amount equal to half the wealth of the State.

“Corruption is the fashion,” Governor Warmoth, an ex-soldier who had been dishonorably discharged from the Federal army, remarked with laudable candor. “I do not pretend to be honest, but only as honest as anybody in politics.”

(The Southern Tradition at Bay: A History of Postbellum Thought, Richard M. Weaver, George Core/M.E. Bradford, editors, Regnery Publishing, 1989, excerpts pp. 330-332)

Paying Tribute to the North

The prewar national dominance of the North eventually gave rise to those who thought that economic and political measures were not sufficient to put the South on a par with the North. They saw that the only way the South could rid itself of subservience to the North was to leave the Union, and do so with the Founders’ Constitution.  The South’s attempts to reduce tariffs had been increased in 1842, and in 1846 with the help of a Southern president and secretary of the treasury, forced through Congress the Walker Tariff which was so low as to be practically revenue only.  Additionally, President John Tyler’s vetoes of a national bank were upheld by Southern votes in Congress.

Northern commercial interests were determined to reclaim their government subsidies and establish national banking, with Lincoln and his new party a convenient vehicle to permanent national dominance.

Paying Tribute to the North

“There were other methods by which the profits from the cotton crop found their way into Northern pockets. Since two-thirds of the cotton crop went to England, the freight charges on its transportation across the sea amounted to a large sum.  Although the river boats of the South were generally Southern-owned and Southern- built, the South never engaged in the building or operating of ocean-going ships, principally because capital could more profitably employed in agriculture.

Most of the cotton sold was carried on coastwise ships to New York, and the great part transshipped from that place to England. All the coastwise ships and most of the ocean-going shipping was Northern-owned and consequently the freight charges went into Northern pockets. In 1843 this amounted to nearly a million dollars. In addition the insurance costs while the cotton was in transit were generally paid to Northern firms.

Not only did the cotton growers pay “tribute” to the North through their exports, but through their imports as well. The imports to the South came through Northern ports; the exports of the South amounted to two-thirds the total of the United States but her direct imports were less than one-tenth. The freight charges to New York and Boston, the tariff duties, and the cost of transportation on coastwise vessels to the South all added to the cost of merchandise.

In the hard times of the forties, Southern economists were prone to find the explanation for their distress in the “tribute” paid to the North. They came to believe that the economic progress of the North depended on this “tribute,” and epitomized their opinion in the phrase “Southern wealth and Northern profits.”

By the phrase “operation of the federal government” the South meant bounties to New England fisheries, internal improvements in the North such as harbors, roads, canals, and public buildings, tariff duties, and deposits of government funds.”

(The Old South: The Geographic, Economic, Social, Political and Cultural Expansion, Institutions and Nationalism of the Antebellum South, R.S. Cotterill, Arthur H. Clark Company, 1939, excerpts pp. 192-199)

A Progressive Empire, Left and Right

It can be argued that the end of American republican government ended in 1861 with the industrialized state warring upon the Constitution and the agricultural South. The triumphant North launched its Gilded Age combine of government, corporations, millionaires and financial manipulation, as well as foreign imperialism, which brought the country to European military intervention. Then came the Depression. The first European military intervention set the stage for another even more costly; an American president then warned of a military-industrial complex that had emerged.

Progressive Empire, Left and Right

“If the American Republic is defunct, and if most Americans no longer subscribe to the classical republicanism that defined the Republic as its public orthodoxy, what is the principal issue of American politics?

Ever since the Progressive Era, the issue that has divided Americans into the two political and ideological camps of “Right” and “Left” has been whether or not to preserve the Republic.

The Progressives (at least their dominant wing) argued that the small-scale government, entrepreneurial business economy, and localized and private social and cultural fabric that made a republic possible was obsolete at best and at worst repressive and exploitive.

They and their descendants in New Deal/Great Society liberalism pushed for an enlarged state fused with corporations and unions into the economy with massive, bureaucratized cultural and educational organizations. In contrast, the “Right” pulled in the opposite direction, defending the Republic and the social and economic structure that enabled republicanism to flourish, but with less success and with ever-diminishing understanding of what they were doing.

Today the conflict over that issue is finished. The Progressive Empire has replaced the old American Republic, and even on the self-proclaimed “Right” today, virtually no one other than the beleaguered “paleo-conservatives” defends republicanism in anything like its pristine form.

The collapse of the conflict over republicanism is the main reason why the labels “Left” and “Right” no longer make much sense and also why – much more than the end of the Reagan administration and the Cold War – the “conservative coalition” of the Reagan era is falling apart.

Mr. Reagan’s main legacy was to show his followers, who for decades griped against “Big Government,” that they too could climb aboard the Big Government hayride and nibble crumbs at its picnic. With such “conservatism” now centered mainly in Washington and its exponents happily dependent on the federal mega-state, the historic raison d’etre of the American “Right” has ceased to exist.

Such conservatives no longer even pretend to want to preserve or restore the old Republic, and it now turns out that even when the said they did, it was all pretty much a charade anyway.”

(Revolution from the Middle, Samuel T. Francis, Middle American Press, 1997, excerpts pp. 90-91)

Two Views of Freedom

The following excerpt is from Senator Hubert Humphrey’s account of his interview with Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev in 1959. Though claiming to be staunchly anti-communist, Humphrey in 1944 endorsed and promoted the fusion of the Farmer-Labor party with Democrats, as well accepting the support of “Stalinists and other assorted radicals who dominated the CIO [Congress of Industrial Organizations] in Minneapolis at this time.” Humphrey was also admired by Roosevelt’s pro-Soviet vice president, Henry Wallace.

Two Views of Freedom

“I told [Krushchev] that a lot of young and vigorous Democrats . . . were coming up and that things would be very different after the 1960 elections. “Mr. Premier,” I said, “you and your system have been living on borrowed time. You have just had it easy with the Republicans. Just wait until the Democrats come in. You want economic competition? We’ll run you right out of Gorki Park.”

[Then] Krushchev made the most interesting statement of the whole interview. “They are old-fashioned, they are reactionary,” he said of the communes. “We tried that right after the revolution. It just doesn’t work. That system is not nearly so good as the state farms and the collective farms. You know Senator, what those communes are based on? They are based on that principle, “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.” You know that won’t work. You can’t get production without incentive.”

[We] got into a debate about over the nature of capitalism and “socialism” (meaning Soviet Communism). I told him that he was sadly misinformed about as to how American capitalism really works and he told me Americans “just plain don’t understand us.” His remarks included a remarkable statement of the Communist idea of freedom:

“In the USSR there is freedom.” Krushchev said, “In the capitalist world there is freedom of enterprise, freedom just to take care of yourself. In the USSR freedom means every member taking care of all the others. The citizen of the USSR regards the country’s welfare as his own welfare.  This needs to be understood. As a religious man believes in God, so does a citizen of a socialist country depend on the welfare of the country as a whole. You believe in God and you believe that your welfare is in the hands of God. We believe the individual’s welfare is the welfare of the state and is in the hands of the state.”

(My Marathon Talk with Russia’s Boss, Hubert Humphrey, LIFE, January 12, 1959, pg. 86)

Dec 6, 2020 - Economics, Patriotism    Comments Off on Venus in Distress

Venus in Distress

In “The Story the Soldiers Wouldn’t Tell,” author Thomas P. Lowry writes that the Victorian age indulged in euphemism, usually referring to prostitutes as soiled doves or Cyprians. He notes that to solve a serious problem in his command at Nashville in July 1863, Lt. Col. George Spaulding of the Eighteenth Michigan Regiment chartered a steamer to remove “all [white] women of known to be of vile character.” Within a month they were all back in Nashville, though their places had been quickly “filled by their black colleagues.” Camp Washington below, was a rendezvous point for Philadelphia companies in 1861, located near Easton, Pennsylvania.

Venus in Distress

“It was discovered in Camp Washington this morning, that a certain young lady of easy virtue and strong Union proclivities, had testified her loyalty to the Federal cause by establishing her headquarters at camp, where she had passed a restless night in exhorting the military to patriotic deeds of daring when they should be brought face to face with the Southern foe, etc.

The commanding officer being apprised of the fact and being unwilling that her health should fall victim to her zeal, ordered a military escort to conduct her beyond the boundaries of the camp. Accordingly, our Amazon was marched off with military honors, but terrible to relate, so thoroughly had she ingratiated herself into the good graces of the soldiery, that they refused to leave her without some substantial token by way of a . . . [remembrance].”

(Civil War History of the 47th Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers, Lewis G. Schmidt, self-published, 1986, pg. 21)