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A Postwar Conversation with Mr. Davis

A Postwar Conversation with Mr. Davis

“Mr. Davis once talked to me long and earnestly on the [postwar] condition of the South. Among other things he said:

“There is no question that the white people of the South are better off for the abolition of slavery. It is an equally patent fact that the colored people are not. If the colored people shall develop a proper degree of thrift, and get a degree of education to keep pace with any advancement they may make, they may become a tenantry which will enable the South to rebuild the waste places and become immensely wealthy.

The colored people have many good traits, and many of them are religious. Indeed, the 4,000,000 in the South when the War began were Christianized from barbarism. In that respect the South has been a greater practical missionary than all the society missionaries in the world.”

War was not necessary to the abolition of slavery, continued Mr. Davis. “Years before the agitation began at the North and the menacing acts to the institution, there was a growing feeling all over the South for its abolition.

But the Abolitionists of the North, both by publications and speech, cemented the South and crushed the feeling in favor of emancipation. Slavery could have been blotted out without the sacrifice of brave men and without the strain which revolution always makes upon established forms of government.

I see it stated that I uttered the sentiment, or indorsed it, that, “slavery is the cornerstone of the Confederacy.” That is not my utterance.”

(Life and Death of Jefferson Davis, A.C. Bancroft, editor, Crown Rights Books, 1999 (original 1889), excerpts pp. 152-154)

 

Imagine a Different Result at Gettysburg

 

It is early July, 1863 and Lee’s barefoot and ragged Army of Northern Virginia has moved northward into Pennsylvania to acquire needed supplies, food and fodder, plus allow the countryside of Virginia time to heal from two years of unrelenting warfare upon her soil. With Lee is “Stonewall” Jackson, who earlier enveloped the enemy flank at Chancellorsville and drove them in disarray and confusion from the field.

Lee meets the newest savior of the North, Gen. George Meade, at Gettysburg.  While Lee feints with a massed frontal attack, Jackson has penetrated the enemy left flank with full force after which Meade’s invincible army flees in headlong retreat, and then total surrender. The entire North is now seized with mortal fear of invasion, defeat and occupation by Southern armies.

At the same time in the Western Theater, Vicksburg has held valiantly against enemy assault despite its civilian population reduced to eating rats and dogs for survival. General Joseph E. Johnston successfully repulsed costly enemy assaults while Southern cavalry harassed and destroyed Northern supply lines to the South.

Poised to move northward at President Jefferson Davis’s command, Johnston eyes the railroad junction of Chicago after liberating Tennessee and Kentucky from enemy rule, releasing Confederate prisoners, and enlisting many of the Midwest Copperhead faction into his growing force. In the East, Lee threatens the northern capital of Washington and will move toward New York City next.

Lee dispatches Jackson with 35,000 men to capture Harrisburg while he encircles and captures Washington; General JEB Stuart’s cavalry has destroyed enemy communications and supply trains, and Lee intends to split their army in classic Napoleonic style — defeating them in detail.

Washington is soon overwhelmed and occupied – Stuart has captured and imprisoned numerous Northern leaders to include Thaddeus Stevens, Charles Sumner, William Seward, Benjamin Wade, Simon Cameron, Salmon Chase, Stanton, Halleck and Lincoln. Lee himself had to intervene lest his soldiers summarily hang Lincoln and his conspirators for the crime of igniting the conflict and warring upon Southern civilians.

Fear of the scaffold has sent the radical abolitionists fleeing to Europe for asylum.

With the Northern government imprisoned, President Davis has commanded the armies in blue to immediately lay down their weapons, return to their homes to lead peaceful lives, and take an ironclad oath to never again take up arms against the Confederate States of America.

The Confederate Congress creates several military districts overseen by Southern general officers, who preside over State governments writing new constitutions. These will prohibit anyone who had taken up arms against the Confederate States of America, or was an officer in the United States Army 1861-1865, or was a member of the Republican Party, from voting and holding political office.

The Confederate Congress has determined that it will consider the former United States as a conquered territory, with former individual Northern States, which had committed suicide, admitted to the Confederate States of America at the pleasure of Congress.

Congress directs that each Northern State which contributed troops to the Lincoln regime are required to pay financial reparations to those Southern States suffering depredations and destruction by those troops.

Further, all former officers of the Northern military who engaged in terror and atrocities against civilians during the war will be tried for war crimes along with Lincoln. Lincoln and his conspirators will be tried for treason as they waged war against the States, in violation of Article 3, Section 3, of the United States Constitution.

To set a proper example to follow, the Confederate Congress requires all Northern mill and factory owners to provide adequate food, medical and old age care for their employees, who previously were turned out to starve when unable to work. They and other Northern industries are directed to hire black freedmen who emigrate northward in search of employment, which will spur emancipation in the South.

And finally, Southern authors will write the history of the war against the South, and the causes of it.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Another Casualty of the War

It is written that “despite the changes which the catastrophe of 1865 made inevitable, the distinctive culture of the region was never destroyed.” Both races had to return to living together in the same land, but social relations deteriorated with the political machinations of the carpetbaggers and the Republican Party’s Union League. For simple political opportunism and lasting hegemony over the defeated South, the latter taught the black man to hate his lifelong white neighbor and vote for the Northern party which impoverished the South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Another Casualty of the War

“Since the Civil War, there has been a decline in what the ante-bellum traveler Frederick Law Olmsted called “the close habitation and association between black and white.” Immediately after the war the two races separated in churches, and for the cultural give and take of the plantation was substituted a dual school system which sealed off the children of one race from another.

Gradually it became impossible for a white person to teach in a Negro school without losing caste. When the courts forced the attendance of Negroes in white schools, no genuine interracial fraternity developed. No longer did the two races have what William Faulkner calls “the same parties: the identical music from identical instruments, crude fiddles and guitars, now in the big house with candles and silk dresses and champagne, now in the dirt-floored cabins with smoking pine knots and calico and water sweetened with molasses.”

The whites have been able to implement a growing aversion to intimate contact with the blacks through the use of labor-saving devices and through the spread of progressive notions concerning the dignity of labor. Despite Supreme Court decisions, immutable social custom makes for increased residential segregation, especially in the newer sections of the cities.

One of the most persistent beliefs about the South is that the Negro is in a constant state of revolt against the social pattern of the section. Despite a vast literature to the contrary, the facts of history refute this assumption.

As a slave the black man never attempted general insurrection and did not run away often. “The slaves,” says a historian of the Confederacy, Robert Cotterill, “supported the Confederacy (albeit somewhat involuntarily).” It is now proved that outside compulsions rather than inner ambitions prompted the political insubordinations of Reconstruction. Their artificial character is proved by the fact that they were not accompanied by much social insubordinations and by the fact that they disappeared as soon as the outside compulsions were removed.

Indicative of the willingness of the rank and file blacks to accept the status quo are the words of a conservative demagogue who knew the Negro well. “If the election of the governor of South Carolina were left “entirely to the Negro vote,” declared Cole L. Blease in 1913, “I would receive without trouble 75 to 90 percent.”

(The Everlasting South, Francis Butler Simkins, LSU Press, 1963, excerpts pp. 48-49)

A Legendary American Sea Captain

There is a particular irony in a famed Confederate sea captain, who, in the immediate prewar times, was celebrated as a liberator of Africans taken from their home aboard New England slave ships, captained by New Englanders. In late 1865, John Newland Maffitt’s daughter Florie married Wilmingtonian and Lieutenant Joshua Grainger Wright of the First North Carolina Infantry, a veteran of Boonsboro, Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville before being seriously wounded. Wright was a postwar member of the United Confederate Veterans as well as the historic Cape Fear Club; he was buried on the last day of the nineteenth century, with Colonels John Lucas Cantwell and John Douglas Taylor among his pallbearers.

Lt. Joshua Grainger Wright was also one of the University of North Carolina’s “Class of ’61,” and who are honored by the “Silent Sam” monument on the Chapel Hill campus for their patriotism and service to the Old North State.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

A Legendary American Sea Captain

“In 1858, Maffitt took command of the [USS] Dolphin and received orders from President [James] Buchanan to capture slave ships in the Bahama Channel, the Straits of Florida, the northwest coast of Cuba, and the Gulf of Mexico.

During his command of the Dolphin and, later, the Crusader, Captain Maffitt captured four slave ships. From one ship alone, he freed 500 naked blacks and treated in such a way that he won praise in the islands and in the States.

“The courtesy and commiseration of Captain Maffitt and the officers of the Crusader toward the captured Africans were a theme of particular commendation at Key West and Havana. In the course of this [antislavery] crusade, he had captured more slave ships and set free more enslaved Africans than any other officer of the United States Navy, or of any Navy.”

In 1861, after resigning from the United States Navy, he joined the Confederate forces as a lieutenant. His initial duty was as Engineering Officer to General Robert E. Lee [and by] 1862, Maffitt was running the blockade. He pierced the blockade many times with ships like the Florida, the Owl, the Lillian and the Florie, which was named for his “beautiful daughter,” Florence Maffitt.

Captain Maffitt . . . was promoted to Commander on April 29, 1863 “for gallant and meritorious conduct in running the blockade in and out of Mobile against an overwhelming force of the enemy and under his fire, and since in actively cruising against and destroying the enemy’s commerce.”

On the night Fort Fisher fell [January 15, 1865], Captain Maffitt was close to shore when fireworks began to go off all around him. Maffitt, seeing that the parties were aboard Union ships, quickly began to steal back unnoticed through the celebrating blockade; out to sea and then to the islands.”

(The Wrights of Wilmington, Susan Taylor Block, Wilmington Printing Company, 1992, excerpts pp. 96-100)

Lincoln and Peace in 1864

As the year 1864 wore on, and despite increased Southern territory being overrun by Northern armies, the Northern people were war-weary and appalled at Lincoln and Grant’s mounting casualty numbers. Lincoln’s re-election platform called for the unconditional surrender of the South, and an unpopular constitutional amendment to abolish slavery – referred to as Lincoln’s “rescript” of war aims. Lincoln’s narrow election victory was attributed not only to mass army furloughs of men sent home to police the polls, but also that Assistant Secretary of War “Charles A. Dana testifies that the whole power of the War Department was used to secure Lincoln’s reelection in 1864.” Clement C. Clay, Jr., below, was one of three Confederate Commissioners sent to Canada in April 1864 to find a means to spark a Northern front, draw enemy troops from the South, and nurture the growing peace movement in the North.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Lincoln and Peace in 1864

Saint Catherine’s, Canada West, September 12, 1864.

To: Hon. J.P. Benjamin, Secretary of State, Richmond Virginia, C.S.A.

“Sir – I addressed you on the 11th August last in explanation of the circumstance inducing, attending and following the correspondence of Mr. [James P.] Holcombe and myself with Hon. Horace Greeley. Subsequent events have confirmed my opinion that we lost nothing and gained much by that correspondence. It has, at least, formed an issue between Lincoln and the South, in which all her people should join with all their might and means.

All of the many intelligent men from the United States with whom I have conversed, agreed in declaring that it had given a stronger impetus to the peace party of the North than all other causes combined, and had greatly reduced the strength of the war party.

Indeed, Judge [Jeremiah] Black [of Pennsylvania], stated to us that [Secretary of War Edwin] Stanton admitted to him that it was a grave blunder, and would defeat Lincoln [in 1864] unless he could . . . [demonstrate his] willingness to accept other terms – in other words, to restore the Union as it was.

Judge Black wished to know if Mr. [Jacob] Thompson would go to Washington to discuss the terms of peace, and proceed thence to Richmond; saying that Stanton desired him to do so, and would send him safe conduct for that purpose. I doubt not that Judge Black came at the instance of Mr. Stanton.

You may have remarked that the New York Times maintains, as by authority, that the rescript declares one mode of making peace, but not the only one. The abler organs of the Administration seize this suggestion and hold it up in vindication of Lincoln from the charge that he is waging war to abolish slavery, and will not agree to peace until that end is achieved.

Mr. [William] Seward, too, in his late speech at Auburn [New York], intimates that slavery is no longer an issue of the war, and that it will not be interfered with after peace is declared. These and other facts indicate that Lincoln is dissatisfied with the issue he has made with the South and fears its decision.

I am told that [Lincoln’s] purpose is to try to show that the Confederate Government will not entertain a proposition for peace that does not embrace a distinct recognition of the Confederate States, thereby expecting to change the issue from war for abolition to war for the Union.

It is well enough to let the North and European nations believe that reconstruction is not impossible. It will inflame the spirit of peace in the North and will encourage the disposition of England and France to recognize and treat with us.

At all events, [Lincoln’s opponent, Democrat George McClellan] is committed by the platform to cease hostilities and to try negotiations. An armistice will inevitably result in peace – the war cannot be renewed if once stopped, even for a short time. The North is satisfied that war cannot restore the Union, and will destroy their own liberties and independence if prosecuted much longer.

The Republican papers now urge Lincoln to employ all of his navy, if necessary, to seal up the port of Wilmington, which they say will cut us off from all foreign supplies and soon exhaust our means for carrying on the war . . . I do not doubt, whether we could support an army for six months after the port of Wilmington was sealed.

[The North] will not consent to peace without reunion while they believe they can subjugate us. Lincoln will exert his utmost power to sustain Sherman and Grant in their present positions, in order to insure his reelection. He knows that a great disaster to either of them would defeat him.

I have the honor to be, &c., &c.,

C. C. Clay, Jr.”

(Correspondence, Confederate State Department; Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume VII, Rev. J. W. Jones, Broadfoot Publishing Company, 1990, excerpts pp. 338-340; 342)

The Republicans Bloody Shirt

Thomas Wentworth Higginson was a Unitarian minister in Massachusetts who identified with disunion and militant abolitionism during the 1840s and 1850s. He was deeply involved with the funding and arming of John Brown, was jubilant when Lincoln invaded the South, and became colonel of a black regiment of slaves taken from Southern plantations overrun and burned by Northern troops. In the postwar, Higginson came to realize what his prewar revolutionary zeal had unleashed, and to the chagrin of the Radical Republicans whose power then depended primarily on the freedmen’s ballot.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Republicans Bloody Shirt

“During the [1884] Massachusetts campaign Republicans frequently denounced the [Southern] Bourbons. [Senator George F.] Hoar stressed that his party was the true friends of the South. Republicans had sponsored bills to educate the section’s illiterates, had passed tariffs to protect its infant industries, and had adopted the war amendments to free all Southerners from the shackles of slavery . . . In a like tone Henry Cabot Lodge argued that the highest Republican duty was to preserve “the freedom and purity of the ballot box.”

In an open letter on “The Suppressed Negro Vote,” Higginson explained that he and other abolitionists . . . had studied “the Southern question apart from the bias of politics” and had come to the conclusion that colored men neither needed nor desired Northern aid.

After having corresponded with and talked to many of the South Carolina, Georgia and Florida Negroes who had served in his Civil War regiment . . . most of them admitted that they did not vote simply because they were uninformed and not interested in politics.

Higginson even condoned the enactment of complicated Southern election laws designed to confuse illiterate Negroes, such as the Eight-Box act requiring separate ballots and receptacles for each office being voted upon. Since only educated men could comprehend involved methods, these measure amounted to a literacy test and achieved what many Northern States decreed directly.

“The Massachusetts way,” Higginson went on, “is more honorable, no doubt; but suppose an attempt were made to import our system into South Carolina, it would at once be denounced as an outrage almost worthy of Mississippi.”

To Republicans, this reasoning was detestable. Former Governor John D. Long of Massachusetts had little use for “Col. Higginson and the Boston Advertiser [who] say “education should be on top.”

Asked why it so vigorously opposed the use of the war issues [to denounce the South], the New York Evening Post answered it was because Northern politicians had “never discoursed upon the suppression of the suffrage at the South, except as an argument for keeping themselves in power, and as a reason why the country should not be disgusted by the gross abuses in administration which the Republican party practiced, permitted and connived at.”

In the 1870’s [Republican party] Stalwarts had employed the theme “to reconcile us to the whiskey thieves and the knavish Cabinet officers of the Grant administration, and to the general corruption of the party in power.”

Under [Rutherford B.] Hayes, they had invoked it “to reconcile us next . . . to the abandonment by that statesman of even the slightest attempt to reform the civil service with which he began his Administration.”

Though last not least, [John] Blaine had stressed sectionalism during his 1884 campaign. “In short,” the Post announced, “during a period of fully fifteen years, whenever the Republican party was called to account for any shortcoming,” its sole answer was the bloody shirt.”

(Farewell to the Bloody Shirt: Northern Republicans and the Southern Negro, 1877-1912, Stanley P. Hirschson, Indiana University Press, 1962, excerpts pp. 132-134)

A Constitution Inadequate to the Conduct of the War

As General Samuel G. French suggests below, presidential expedients not found in the United States Constitution were invented for initiating war against the South, and for the prosecution of that war. French believed that the New England-armed men in Kansas were responsible for firing the first shot of the war; others have postulated that the war began when the Star of the West left its New York moorings in early January 1861, carrying armed men below decks to South Carolina – when Fort Sumter’s guns were turned against the Americans it was built to protect.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

A Constitution Inadequate to the Conduct of the War

“Sherman — the fell destroyer — had burned the city of Jackson, Mississippi, and the ruins reminded me of Pompeii. In walking one of the streets I passed a canvas shanty, from which I was hailed by an Israelite with “Good morning General; come in.” He had been in the army and knew me; he had some goods and groceries for sale. When I was leaving, he asked: “General, cant I do something for you? Here are fifty dollars, just take them; maybe you can pay me back sometime.”

I thought the angel of mercy was smiling down on us . . . I thanked him kindly, and the day came when I had the pleasure of repaying the debt. The servants I had in Columbus had been nominally “confiscated” and set free; so they came to me, almost daily, begging me to take them back to the plantation in Mississippi. As I was not able to do this, I applied to some “bureau,” that had charge of the “refugees,” for transportation of these Negroes, and to my surprise it was granted. As soon as possible they were put on the cars and started for the plantation.

When we reached home we found most of the old servants there awaiting our arrival. To feed and clothe about a hundred of these people, and to plant a crop of cotton in the spring, clothing, provisions, mules, wagons, implements, harness, etc., had to be procured. To obtain funds to purchase the articles enumerated — to commence again — I went to Philadelphia and New York (by special permission of the government) in November.

. . . War is the most uncertain of all undertakings of a nation, and, like the tempest, cannot be controlled, and seldom or never ends as predicted. The North proclaimed that this “little rebellion” would end in sixty days!

It lasted four years, and ended as no one had foreseen. It had to suppress rebellions caused by people who entertained Southern opinions in New York, Chicago, Cincinnati and other cities; muzzle the press, prohibit free speech, banish prominent individuals, arrest men without warrant, and imprison them without charges made known to them; and violated nearly every resolution and pledge made in the beginning relating to the South; they cast aside constitutional law, and substituted martial law, under which the South became a scene of desolation and starvation.

My own opinion is that the first gun was fired, at the instigation of a number of prominent men North, by John Brown at Harper’s Ferry, and for which he was apotheosized and numbered among the saints.

Mr. Lincoln said: “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. Our case is new. We must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save the country.”

These words indicate that the powers of the Constitution were inadequate to the conduct of the war, and henceforth the war must be conducted as occasion deemed expedient. In other words, the executive must be declared greater than the power that made it, or the creature greater than the Creator, and with dictatorial methods the war was conducted. Avaunt, Constitution, avaunt! We are fighting for the Union, for dominion over the Southern territory again, and so the Constitution was folded up, etc.”

(Two Wars, Samuel G. French, Confederate Veteran Press, 1901, excerpts, pp. 320-327)

 

Republicans and the Freedmen’s Role

The North’s Republican Party was solely responsible for the postwar Solid South which opposed their Reconstruction efforts, and the former utilized the newly-enfranchised freedmen to establish a Southern wing to maintain their national hegemony. To hold Northern votes the Republicans waved “the bloody shirt”; at the same time they swayed the black voter with warnings of newly-elected Democrats re-enslaving them.  Below, the home State of Carl Schurz was not Missouri, he was a socialist revolutionary from Erftstadt, Germany, and elevated by Lincoln to attract German immigrant support for his war.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Republicans and the Freedmen’s Role

“One of the first [Northerners] to change his mind about the freedmen was Carl Schurz. In 1865, after a Southern tour, he had recommended that the Negro be enfranchised, disregarding the fact that “the [white] masses are strongly opposed to colored suffrage.” But in 1870, when he realized that uneducated Negroes were an easy prey for spoilsmen, Schurz admitted that he had erred.

To his disgust the [Republican] machine politicians in Missouri, his home State, dominated the scene by manipulating ignorant, but enfranchised, Negroes. Henceforth, Schurz steadfastly opposed all legislation designed to aid the colored man. And he assumed that anyone who tried to stir up sectional passions had yielded to the worst elements in the Republican organization.

Although the transition in the thinking of George William Curtis, the editor of Harper’s Weekly, was far different, he eventually reached the same conclusion. Like Schurz, Curtis after the war favored Negro suffrage. He argued that the freedmen had proven their loyalty and deserved the ballot. Admittedly, many of them were ignorant, but so were “great masses of Northern voters. Education,” he wrote, “is a good thing; but it appears some of the staunchest patriots in the land cannot read, and that some of the basest traitors are highly educated.”

During the 1880 campaign Harper’s Weekly vigorously denounced the Solid South. He then said that the Southern question was dead. The federal government could do nothing more to help the Negro. After that, Curtis joined Schurz in resisting all attempts to stir up the race issue.

A third distinct case was Edwin L. Godkin of the Nation. Although he begrudgingly advocated the enfranchisement of the Negro after the Civil War, he never abandoned the conviction that white Anglo-Saxons were inherently superior to “ignorant foreigners” and atavistic colored men. “I do not oppose the admission [to suffrage] of such Negroes as shall prove their fitness,” Godkin wrote in 1865. “. . . What I ask, and meant to ask, was not that the blacks shall be excluded as blacks, but simply that they shall not be admitted to the franchise simply because they are blacks and have been badly treated.”

Godkin recommended the disenfranchisement of all Negroes who could not learn to read or write within two years. Only by developing his intelligence could the colored man distinguish between “statesman and demagogue; between honest public men and knavish public men; between his own real friends and his real enemies.”

Although Godkin originally supported the Radical plan of Reconstruction, which provided for military enforcement of Negro suffrage, he was convinced by 1871 that this adventure had failed.

“We owe it to human nature to say that worse governments have seldom been seen in a civilized country,” the editor admitted. “They have been composed of trashy whites and ignorant blacks.” Control of Southern affairs should be returned to those “who have most influence and knowledge.” The simple truth was that the freedmen were unfit for the role the Republicans desired them to play: “Any party in which the Negro is in the majority, cannot help having its policy, if not shaped, greatly influenced by their political ignorance and incapacity.”

(Farwell to the Bloody Shirt, Northern Republicans and the Southern Negro, 1877-1912, Stanley P. Hirshson, Indiana University Press, 1962; excerpts pp. 126-128)

Preaching Racial Hatred in the South

Descending upon the prostrate South were the “Carpetbaggers” – Northern adventurers settling in the South and bent upon aiding the Republican Party through organizing the freedmen politically. Many were “astute demagogues who through vague speeches and tricks of mass organization won the confidence of the naïve Negro.” Northern newspaperman Horace Greeley described them as “stealing and plundering, many of them with both arms around Negroes, and their hands in their rear pockets, seeing if they cannot pick a paltry dollar out of them.” The infamous Union League was the destructive instrument of the Republican Party which drove a political wedge between Southern blacks and whites.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Preaching Racial Hatred in the South

“Scalawags were Southerners willing to espouse Republicanism for reasons of opportunism. When the pro-Negro policies of the carpetbaggers caused the scalawags to desert Republicanism, Northern leaders, conscious of the power of numbers, to an ever greater degree relied upon pure Negro support.

The principal agency of the carpetbaggers was the Union or Loyal League. Initially it was composed almost entirely of white unionists with patriotic rather than political aims. As the [radical] plans of Congress unfolded in 1867, its main purpose became the organization of Negro voters [as Republicans]. In every Southern community trusting Negroes were organized into secret lodges of the order which indulged in mummery and high-sounding platitudes. In its heyday the Union League was said to have more than 200,000 members.

Ceremony, talk about freedom and equal rights, sententious references to the Declaration of Independence, accompanied by the clanging of chains, the burning of weird lights, and prayers and songs – all had their compelling effect upon the Negroes’ emotions and thoughts. They were repeatedly reminded that their interests were eternally at war with those of Southern whites, and that their freedom demanded the continued supremacy of the Republican party.

As a consequence of these teachings, the Union League “voted the Negroes like “herds of senseless cattle.” One member described it as the ‘place we learn the law.” When asked why he voted Republican, another member replied “I can’t read, and I can’t write . . . We go by instructions. We don’t’ know nothing much.”

During the presidential campaign of 1868, the Union League of North Carolina declared that if Grant were not elected, the Negroes would be remanded to slavery; if elected, they would have farms, mules, and hold public office.

One fact is of fundamental importance in understanding the course of radical Reconstruction: the Negroes were aroused to political consciousness not of their own accord but by outside forces. This revolution in Southern behavior, unlike the more lasting political revolutions of history, was not a reflection of accomplishments in other fields.

Attainment of political equality by the Negroes, in other words, was not attended by social and economic gains, possibly not even signifying a general demand for these advantages.

Such a lack of support not only meant that the radical political experiment could be destroyed almost as easily as it was created, but that participation of the Negro in politics would be erratic and irresponsible. Even if it had not been that way, it would have been so regarded, because the Negroes did not preface their attempt to win political equality with the attainment of respect in other fields of social endeavor.”

(A History of the South, Francis Butler Simkins, Alfred A. Knopf, 1953, excerpts, pp. 272-273)

The Un-Progressive South

By 1850, the American South had had enough of Northern agitation regarding the slavery in their midst and saw abolitionists as unreasoned, ideological fanatics who could produce no practical or peaceful means to do away with that residue of British colonialism. The former slave States of New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island emancipated their slaves earlier, and the South wished for time to do the same.  The passage below is excerpted from the Fall 2017 newsletter of the acclaimed Abbeville Institute, see: www.abbevilleinstitute.org.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Un-Progressive South

“The union of classical and Christian culture gave Southerners an immunity – even before the War – to the modern virus of progressive ideology which had seized the North by the 1830s.

Criticism of Northern society by the likes of Robert Dabney, William Gilmore Simms and Edgar Allen Poe brought into stark relief the difference between the classical Aristotelian understanding of rational criticism favored by the South and the hubristic ideological critiques of Henry Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman.

Lincoln made the ideological style of politics popular with the Gettysburg Address, where he defines America not as a historic federation of States, each cultivating, in its own terms, political and legal institutions inherited from Europe (and especially from Britain), but as a polity with a mission to shape society in accord with an abstract “idea” of equality.

By the 1950s, the ideological style of politics had become so popular that Richard Hofstadter could say approvingly, “it has been our fate not to have an ideology, but to be one.” Rather than see as a pathological condition of the intellect, it is celebrated as a great achievement and as an instance of American “Exceptionalism.”

As Al Gore and countless other pundits have put it, America is a country that constantly “reinvents itself.” Arthur Schlesinger defined American identity in this way: “The American character is bottomed upon the profound conviction that nothing in the world is beyond its power to accomplish.” And the “conservative” Ronald Reagan was fond of repeating Thomas Paine’s remark that we have it in our power to begin the world anew.

Southerners know we have no such power, and should resist the temptation to use it if we had it. The Yankee critic responds that Southerners have an intolerably relaxed tolerance of evil. But Southerners do not have a high tolerance for evil. Rather, they recognize the reality of original sin. They know how hard it is to eradicate sin from their own conduct much less reconstruct society as a whole with all the unintended consequences that generates.

Balanced “reform” is one thing, but belief in “progress” whether of the liberal or Marxist kind, is not only the pursuit of an ever-receding goal of “equality,” it is also a self-imposed innocence that protects the progressive from having to recognize his failures and the destruction caused by beginning the world anew or event totally rebuilding a part of it. Anti-slavery agitation in the antebellum North was almost entirely ideological and sentimental.

Nowhere in this agitation do we find an acknowledgement that the slaves were brought over by the North and that Northern wealth as of 1860 was founded on the slave trade and on servicing slave economies for over two centuries.

Morality demanded a national program to emancipate slaves, compensate slave holders and integrate slaves into American (including Northern) society. Northern anti-slavery agitators were not within a million miles of supporting such a proposal. What they demanded was immediate and uncompensated emancipation.”

(Abbeville, the Newsletter of the Abbeville Institute, Fall 2017, excerpt pp. 4-6)

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