Browsing "Enemies of the Republic"

TR’s American Exceptionalism and Eugenics

“Roosevelt the First,” as Mencken referred to Theodore, accidentally became president upon the assassination of William McKinley. Though his mother was Georgia-born and he proclaimed a Confederate pedigree, this “New York politico proved himself fairly inept a navigating the rocks and shoals of Southern politics.”

Roosevelt was an early believer in eugenics and praised the famous eugenicist, Charles Davenport, a Connecticut-born descendant of abolitionist Puritans. Davenport was a Harvard-trained biologist, and established what would become the Eugenics Record Office at Long Island’s Spring Harbor in 1904.

Further, Davenport was an influential member of the eugenics section of the American Breeders Association, and his second in command, Harry Laughlin of Iowa, advanced forced human sterilization and shaped the 1924 Immigration Act. Davenport “described the best female breeders as women with wide hips, using the same thinking that animal breeders had employed for centuries to describe cows.”

TR’s American Exceptionalism and Eugenics

“Roosevelt, a patrician, had little choice but to joist with his redneck foes. In 1905, during his Southern tour . . . One newspaper joked that the president’s entourage was wise to travel through Mississippi at night, so that [Mississippi Governor James K.] Vardaman wouldn’t have to shoot him.

Roosevelt also ruffled the feathers of the proud white women of the South when he had dared to class Jefferson Davis with Benedict Arnold. When he did that, one incensed Georgia woman declared that the president had dishonored his mother’s blood.

Blood was thicker than water for Roosevelt, but not in the way the testy Georgia woman would have viewed the matter. His understanding of race and class remained rooted in evolutionary thinking, and he believed that blacks were naturally subordinate to the Anglo-Saxon . . . and never abandoned the premise that racial traits were carried in the blood, conditioned by the experiences of one’s ancestors.

As an ardent exponent of “American Exceptionalism,” Roosevelt argued that the nineteenth-century frontier experience had transformed white Americans into superior stock. Roosevelt’s motto can be summed up in three words: “work-fight-breed.” There is clear evidence that he was influenced by the mountaineers’ myth, by which good Saxon stock was separated from the debased Southern poor white. History was written in blood, sweat and “germ protoplasm” – the turn-of-the-century term for what we now refer to as genes.

The ills attending modernity could be corrected . . . A man could return to the wilderness – as Roosevelt did when he hunted big game in Africa . . ; War – the raw fight for survival – was a second means of bringing forth ancestral Saxon traits. Washington, Lincoln and Grant were his heroes, men who lived active, virtuous lives, rejecting comfort and complacency. In the final analysis, the president opined, the Confederate generation and their heirs had contributed “very, very little toward anything of which Americans are now proud.”

He could be confident in the future because Roosevelt was an unabashed eugenicist. He used the bully pulpit of his office to insist that women had a critical civic duty to breed a generation of healthy and disciplined children. He first endorsed eugenics in 1903, and two years later he laid out his beliefs in a speech before the Congress of Mothers. Worried about “race suicide,” as he put it, he recommended that women of Anglo-American stock have four to six children.

In 1913, Roosevelt wrote supportively to the leading eugenicist Charles Davenport that it was the patriotic duty of every good citizen of superior stock to leave his or her “blood behind.” Degenerates, he warned, must not be permitted to reproduce their kind.”

(White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America, Nancy Isenberg, Viking Press, 2016, excerpts pp. 190-193)

“Who Shall Restrain the Will of the People?”

The American Founders foresaw the problem of abuse of power and the rise of a president who would cut the shackles of the Constitution, though they more feared sectionalism and an evil combination of the branches of government.

The abuse of power arose with a president who fomented war upon a State, which is treason under the Constitution, raised an army without the consent of Congress, and threatened to arrest and imprison all who defied him. With the formerly federal government afterward under absolute executive and congressional control, the schools educating young citizens on their fealty to national power.

James Louis Petrigu (1789-1863) was a South Carolina Unionist and served as that State’s attorney-general. His stated faith in education as the bulwark of a republic was unfortunately upset by government control of the schools.

“Who Shall Restrain the Will of the People?”

“As Petigru understood it, the United States Constitution confirmed what the Revolution had aimed to achieve. Reversing the Confederation’s dispersal of power was but a minor part of its accomplishment, for it had by its division of legitimate governmental power between the individual States and the federal union ensured the Revolution’s goals of restricting centralized public authority in the interests of individual liberty.

But individual freedom, as Petigru said in his 1844 Fourth of July oration, required positive government as well as restraints on legitimate power. This too the Constitution had accomplished with its system of checks and balances. Without both the powers allotted and the restraints imposed, “there would be no barrier between a dominant majority and the object they mean to effect.”

Thus, by creating a constitutional union that divided sovereignty between State and nation and checked the evil of concentrated power in any one branch of government, the American people had fulfilled the promise of their revolution.

But the problem of abuse of power was not obviated by the broadly democratic underpinning of the American experiment. Nowhere did Petigru more clearly address that dilemma than in the question he asked that Independence Day audience: “For who shall control where all are equal, or how shall the people restrain the will of the people?”

The best means to control the popular passions implied in his question was education. If a republic was to survive, he thought, its government must provide the schools necessary to cultivate in all its citizens the intellectual independence that was “the bright side of Democracy.”

Without access to knowledge, citizens would lack the ability to challenge their government, and individuals the means to protect their freedom . . . [and] withstand the force of majority opinion. And given Petigru’s opinion that “the Majority are wicked is a truth that passed long ago into a proverb,” republican government could not long survive unless it sponsored that learning, for “what hope is there for the human race when there is no minority?”

(James Louis Petigru: Southern Conservative, Southern Dissenter, William & Jane Pease, University of Georgia Press, 1995, excerpts pp. 149-150)

No Negotiation, No Compromise

Lincoln supported the Corwin Resolution of 1860 which stated that “No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State.”

His Republican party was “antislavery” only in regard to restricting black persons to the borders of the Southern States where they reside, and maintaining the territories of the West to the immigrants who supported his party.

After the secession of Southern States and his war against them begun, he offered protection for African slavery if they would return to his Union before January 1, 1863. When those States continued to fight for their independence, his total war pressed onward and the South’s economic wealth and political liberty was destroyed.

No Negotiation, No Compromise

“In the tumultuous six months between his election in November 1860 and the outbreak of the Civil War in April 1861, Abraham Lincoln rejected all diplomatic efforts to resolve the deepening crisis peacefully.

In the political dispute with the newly-constituted, but militarily weak, Confederate States of America, there would be no meaningful negotiations. No compromise would be offered or accepted. Instead, tensions between the two governments would be heightened, and the passions of the American public inflamed, by Lincoln’s provocative and deceptive rhetoric.

Lincoln’s words were a reflection of his unflagging desire to wage total war upon the South. It was to be a war that would last until the enemy agreed to unconditional surrender and US public officials and private contractors had made a financial killing. In 1878, Henry S. Wolcott, special investigator for the US War and Navy Departments, estimated “at least twenty, if not twenty-five percent of the entire expenditures of the government during the Rebellion, were tainted with fraud.”

Lincoln’s ideological view of politics equated progress and patriotism with support for a high protective tariff, internal improvements, and a national bank. Capturing just 39 percent of the popular vote, Lincoln considered his election a democratic mandate to pursue his agenda. A rejection of his economic program by the political leadership of the South, therefore, would be a rejection of democracy.

Lincoln’s program depended on the tariff, and the tariff depended on the South remaining in the Union, as did the survival of the Republican party. For that reason, Lincoln initially pledged his support for the Corwin Resolution, which had been adopted in the waning days of the Buchanan administration. This was the original Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

It had been passed by the House and the Senate, and signed by President Buchanan, but it was never ratified, because, by then, many Southern States had decided to secede. The fact that the South withdrew from the Union despite the passage of this amendment indicated other issues besides slavery motivated their secession. Foremost was the South’s embrace of free trade, the antithesis of Lincoln’s economic agenda.”

(Lincoln, Diplomacy and War, Joseph E. Fallon, Chronicles, April 2008, excerpts pg. 43)

Worship of the Dynamo

Clement Eaton wrote that the plantation society of the Old South emphasized the family far more than in the North, and family graveyards were a familiar sight south of Mason and Dixon’s line. The family altar was a part of its religious mores, devotion to kin and tradition was essential, and “people were evaluated not so much as individuals but as belonging to a family, a clan.”

Additionally, the old Southern culture was different from our own age in its greater devotion to the classics; Hugh Swinton Legare of Charleston believed that their study “would form in [students] a pure taste, kindle their imaginations “with the most beautiful and glowing passages of Greek and Roman poetry and eloquence” [and] store their minds with “the saying of sages,” and indelibly impress upon their hearts the achievements of the Greek and Roman heroes.

The quest for the Northern conception of progress, unrestrained social change and an embrace of industrial capitalism changed all this.

Worship of the Dynamo

“The United States . . . does not possess many of the conservative advantages enjoyed by most premodern cultures . . . [and is] made up of dozens of peoples and cultures. Some are compatible with the culture of the original, predominantly British settlers; others are not.

We have long since lost our reverence for tradition. If the United States has a national tradition, it is the habit of change and the worship of the dynamo. Our most poignant folk hero is John Henry, the defeated enemy of progress.

The ordinary restraints imposed by community and religion survive most powerfully in the distorted forms of intolerance and superstition – much like the bizarre remnants of ancient paganism that endured for several centuries beyond the official Christianization of the Roman Empire. All that seems to bind us together as a nation is a vague ideology of liberty, equality and progress.

Apart from a certain natural inertia, there are few restraints on social innovation. Far from being unique, the United States has been, much like Athens, the education of the modern world.

Herein lies the special quality and crisis of our civilization. Our original and creative minds seethe with new ideas. A few of them are productive, but in the nature of things, most are not. There is nothing wrong with originality, but what is missing from the modern scene are all the powerful restraints, the governors that control the speed of social change, the filters of experience and tradition that sort out the practical from the merely clever.

What we lack are the divine oracles that thunder against any trespass upon ancient rights and any invasion of the nature of things. We have our prophets, it is true, but most of them insist on being creative men of original genius.

The family and the church have not disappeared . . . But they survive in isolated and individualized forms, which cannot impose much restraint upon the community or the state. In the 1980s . . . American families cannot even be sure of their right to rear their children without government interference.

The churches have seen their actual power reduced even more than the family. Today . . . the tax-exempt status of churches is regarded as a privilege granted by an indulgent government. Church schools are regularly taken to court in efforts to make them conform to the model of public education.

What is unsettling is the idea that community bodies – like local churches – have no part to play in exercising social control, that power is exclusively a function of the government and perhaps, the mass media.”

(The Politics of Human Nature, Thomas Fleming, Transaction Publishers, 1988, excerpts pp. 8-9)

Inheritors of Britain’s Colonial Labor System

After the British themselves, New Englanders were responsible for populating the colonies with slaves purchased from African tribes, and the invention of Massachusetts tinkerer Eli Whitney in 1793 sent demand for slaves and cotton soaring.

With the election of Thomas Jefferson in 1800, New England Federalists unhappy with the new political supremacy of Virginia called upon the North “to combine to protect the commercial interests against the vicious slave-holding democrats of the South.” Thus began the descent into war between the sections.

Inheritors of Britain’s Colonial Labor System

“Slavery was disappearing from the North. The rector of the Swedish churches in America told the American Philosophical Society that the introduction of “mechanism” in the Southern States would eliminate the need of slaves; but the invention of the cotton gin led to the opposite result.

Defenders of slavery declared it was a necessary evil that would eventually cure itself. The slaveholder could not be held guilty of crime because slavery as a very common thing is due to the state of society, for which the slaveholder is not responsible. Slavery in America is preferable to liberty in Africa because the slave gets better care and acquires the Christian religion.

In fact, the underlying reasons for importing slaves is to further the Christian religion. Respectably opponents, generally in New England, questioned the argument that slavery is a curse of society, not of the individual. It is no more valid, they said, than the notion of drunkenness and adultery are not delinquencies of the individual. The greatest evil is that the slaves will eventually outnumber the whites, and this must lead either to the most horrible event, intermarriage, or the destruction of the whites.

For the most part, the critics looked for remedies in the abolition of the slave trade, the growth of voluntary manumission, and even the growth of trade and commerce with Africa in the manner pictured by [economist James] Swan. It was agreed that pecuniary considerations were the most important barrier to voluntary manumission, but the slaveholder was told to trust to the Lord for his recompense.

The general attitude was best expressed by the Baptist clergyman Samuel Jones of Philadelphia. The slave trade is abominable; the possession of slaves is not profitable except in the newly settled regions where the costs of labor are very high. But the slave owners are innocent inheritors of the institution and not obliged to free their slaves, “at least not until they have been fully reimbursed the full amount of their cost on equitable principles.”

(The Economic Mind in American Civilization: 1606-1865, Joseph Dorfman, Viking Press, 1946, excerpts pp. 280-282)

The Emergence of the Radical

John C. Calhoun witnessed the rise of Northern radicalism and his keen political insight saw a problematic future for the American South. He did not live to see the secession crisis fully develop, but his countrymen later anticipated “that Lincoln’s election was only the first step” toward the eventual destruction of their political liberty and the Union of their fathers.

Calhoun accurately predicted that the North would monopolize the new federal territories and acquire a three-fourths majority in Congress to force a restructuring of the Union. Once the South’s freedmen were admitted to the franchise by the North’s radical Congress, Republican political hegemony was virtually uninterrupted until 1913.

The Emergence of the Radical

“In the 1830’s . . . the North had become a prolific seedbed of radical thought. The rural South, on the other hand, showed little tolerance for radicals. The hostility to the proponents of revolutionary ideas seems at first inconsistent with the individualism which Southerners generally displayed. The Southern brand of individualism, however, was of manners and character rather than of the mind.

The Southerner vigorously resisted the pressure of outside government, he was cavalier in the observance of the laws; the planter on his semi-feudal estate was a law unto himself. The yeomen, too, living largely on land that they owned and regarding themselves as “the sovereign people,” were among the freest and most independent of Americans.

[In the 1840s and 1850s], editors, preachers, and politicians launched a vigorous propaganda campaign against Southern youth attending Northern schools and colleges. In the minds of conservative Southerners public education now became associated with the “isms” of the North – abolitionism, feminism, pacifism, Fourierism, Grahamism. Thus Southerners tended to regard the great majority of Northern people as sympathetic to the wilds visions and schemes of reform advocated by the northern extremists.

For many years Yankee professors and teachers had staffed Southern colleges and schools to a large extent, but in the last two decades of the antebellum period a pronounced hostility arose against the employment of educators from the North.

When [University of North Carolina] President David L. Swain defended the appointment [of a Northern teacher, he cited] earlier examples [of] employing foreign professors, the highly influential [Fayetteville News & Observer] editor, E.J. Hale replied: “In [two Southern] institutions, filled with foreigners and Northern men, there have been most deplorable outbreaks & riots and rows. Both have been noted for the prevalence and propagation of infidel notions to religion.”

(The Mind of the Old South, Clement Eaton, LSU Press, 1964, pp. 110; 305-306)

North Carolina’s State Flag

The original North Carolina Republic flag of 1861 was altered in 1885 with only the red and blue colors rearranged, and the lower date announcing the date of secession changed to “May 20th, 1775,” the date of the Halifax Resolutions.

This mattered little as both dates, 1775 and 1861, “places the Old North State in the very front rank, both in point of time and in spirit, among those that demanded unconditional freedom and absolute independence from foreign power. This document stands out as one of the great landmarks in the annals of North Carolina history.”

Militarily invaded and conquered in 1865, North Carolinians were forced to forever renounce political independence, and thus written in a new State constitution imported from Ohio.

North Carolina’s State Flag

“The flag is an emblem of great antiquity and has commanded respect and reverence from practically all nations from earliest times. History traces it to divine origin, the early peoples of the earth attributing to it strange, mysterious, and supernatural powers.

Indeed, our first recorded references to the standard and the banner, of which our present flag is but a modified form, are from sacred rather than from secular sources. We are told that it was around the banner that the prophets of old rallied their armies and under which the hosts of Israel were led to war, believing, as they did, that it carried with it divine favor and protection.

Since that time all nations and all peoples have had their flags and emblems, though the ancient superstition regarding their divine merits and supernatural powers has disappeared from among civilized peoples. The flag now, the world over, possesses the same meaning and has a uniform significance to all nations wherever found.

It stands as a symbol of strength and unity, representing the national spirit and patriotism of the people over whom it floats. In both lord and subject, the ruler and the ruled, it commands respect, inspires patriotism, and instills loyalty both in peace and in war.

[In the United States], each of the different States in the Union has a “State flag” symbolic of its own individuality and domestic ideals. Every State in the American Union has a flag of some kind, each expressive of some particular trait, or commemorative of some historical event, of the people over which it floats.

The constitutional convention of 1861, which declared for [North Carolina’s] secession from the Union, adopted what it termed a State flag. On May 20, 1861, the Convention adopted the resolution of secession which declared the State out of the Union.

This State flag, adopted in 1861, is said to have been issued to the first ten regiments of State troops during the summer of that year and was borne by them throughout the war, being the only flag, except the National and Confederate colors, used by the North Carolina troops during the Civil War. The first date [on the red union and within a gilt scroll in semi-circular form], “May 20th, 1775” refers to the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence . . . The second date appearing on the State flag is that of “May 20th 1861 . . .”

(The North Carolina State Flag, W.R. Edmonds, Edwards & Broughton Company, 1913, excerpts pp. 5-7)

May 2, 2019 - Enemies of the Republic, Historians on History, Historical Accuracy, Newspapers, Propaganda    Comments Off on Journalists Versus Plodders

Journalists Versus Plodders

The eminent historian J.G. Randall writes of journalists masquerading as historians who easily reveal themselves, such as when “one of the best magazines of the country palmed off some forged Lincoln and Ann Rutledge letters whose fraudulent character could have been detected by a beginner in historical method.” Newspaper writers and their insatiable need for sensationalism and “breaking news stories” to sell papers or corner viewers takes precedence over facts and evidence. The piece below was written in 1939 when fake history in newspapers and magazines was not unknown.

Journalists Versus Plodders

“It has been said that in the journalism of our day the reporting function is better performed than the interpretive function. In other words, given the limitations of news gathering in a world of censorship and propaganda, news writers of today are less unsatisfactory than columnists and editorialists.

The historian may easily be tempted to turn commentator or, if you please, columnist. Editorializing or column writing is easy. It usually takes less effort than research. It offers a cue for easy writing. It satisfies a literary impulse. It finds a demand in the minds of many readers. It is popular to spread one’s story on a broad canvas, to deal with generalization or prediction, to deliver over-the-counter a consignment of impressive pronouncements and omniscient finalities.

Such writers get reputations as thinkers; research men are too likely to appear as plodders. Research is tied down; it is the editorialist who soars and sparkles.

Along with this there is another tendency – the inclination to speak slightingly of that individual who is pityingly referred to as the “professional historian.” At times this term seems almost to connote something suspicious or discreditable, as if amateur standing in the historical field constitutes in itself a kind of superiority.

One does not consider amateur standing desirable in chemistry, nor does one often hear the term “professional chemists.” Similarly it might be enough to speak of historians and let it go at that. The competent historian does not need to pay much heed to it, merely making sure that he justify himself at that point where his essential function lies, i.e., in historical investigation, in the discovering and testing of evidence, and the formulating of conclusions that tie up with reliable and adequate proof.”

(The Civil War Restudied, J.G. Randall, Journal of Southern History, University of Louisiana Press, November 1940, Volume VI, Number 4, excerpts pg. 440)

Targeting Key West Civilians

The State of Florida withdrew from the Union on January 10, 1861 – three days afterward a US Army captain moved his troops into the nearly-complete Fort Zachary Taylor at Key West, a fortress built specifically to protect the city and State from invasion.

Though then-President James Buchanan admitted no authority to wage war against a State — which was the very definition of treason in Article III, Section 3 – his actions with regard to reinforcing US forts were viewed as hostile and intended to precipitate a conflict.

The economic reality of an industrial North seeking protectionist tariffs and an agricultural South seeking the opposite would eventually lead to separation. A local newspaper had editorialized its concern over Northern sectionalism in 1832 during the heat of the discussion over the National Tariff Act of that year. It read:

“We have always thought that the value of the union consisted in affording equal rights and equal protection to every citizen; when, therefore, its objects are so perverted as to become a means of impoverishment to one section, whilst it aggrandizes another, when it becomes necessary to sacrifice one portion of the States for the good of the rest, the Union has lost its value to us; and we are bound, by a recurrence to first principles, to maintain our rights and defend our lives and property.”

Targeting Key West Civilians

“Construction of Fort [Zachary] Taylor [at Key West] was nearly complete when Florida seceded from the Union. On the night of January 13, 1861, Capt. [John] Brannan marched his [44] men from the barracks to Fort Taylor – taking possession of the fort while the city slept.

While the majority of the citizenry was for the Confederacy, there were some Union supporters on the island. Throughout the war, pro-Union supporters, white and black, tattled on the doings of their pro-Confederate neighbors, but island life in general remained calm.

One incident in February 1863, however, united all the residents against the Union army. The commander of the fort was ordered to round up “all persons who have husbands, brothers or sons in Rebel employment, and all other persons who have at any time declined to take the oath of allegiance, or who have uttered a single disloyal word, in order that they may all be placed within the Rebel lines.”

Six hundred citizens, including some staunch Union supporters whose sons had joined the Confederate army, fell into these categories. They were ordered to pack up and board ships that would take them to Hilton Head, S.C. According to one citizen:

“. . . The town has been in the utmost state of excitement. Men sacrificing their property, selling off their all, getting ready to be shipped off; women and children crying at the thought of being sent off among the Rebels. It was impossible for any good citizen to remain quiet and unconcerned at such a time.”

At the last moment, orders arrived superseding the operation. The protests of the “good citizens” had been heard.”

(Key West, Images of the Past, Joan & Wright Langley, Belland & Swift Publishers, 1982, excerpts pp. 20-21)

The Enemy the People

Both Generals George B. McClellan and John Pope considered each other incompetent: the former was a Democrat and therefore despised by Lincoln’s Radicals; Pope was a Republican and fawned upon by the same Radicals. Pope was dismissed after Second Manassas and achieved infamy in Minnesota with Sioux uprisings and the mass execution of 38 warriors – at Lincoln’s direction. Lincoln seemed unable to comprehend that those he called “the enemy” in the South were Americans, and tried to instill this in his commanders as they suppressed the American independence movement in the South. John Hay was one of Lincoln’s three personal secretaries. 

The Enemy the People

“Stanton railed against his former friend, McClellan. The man did nothing but send whining dispatches, complaints and excuses while flatly denying General Halleck’s orders to advance. At that point, Hay observed, both Stanton and Lincoln put their faith in General Pope.

Optimism prevailed in the White House at the end of the day [during the battle of Second Manassas], “and we went to bed expecting glad tidings at sunrise.”

But the next morning at eight o’clock, while Hay was dressing, a hollow-eyed, despondent Mr. Lincoln knocked at his bedroom door. “John!” he called . . . “Well John, we are whipped again, I am afraid. The enemy reinforced on Pope and drove back his left wing and he has retired to Centreville where he says he will be able to hold his men.”

As the day wore on, bringing more details of the defeat, Hay observed that Lincoln was just as defiant as he was disappointed. He kept repeating the phrase: “We must hurt this enemy before it gets away.” Church bells tolled over the city – a death knell.

The next morning it was pouring rain. Ambulances slogged through the mud with their burden of wounded and dying men on their way to Armory Square, Judiciary Square, Campbell Hospital, and thirty other military clinics recently set up around the city.

But when Hay acknowledged “the bad look of things,” Lincoln would hear no more of such talk. “Mr. Hay, we must whip these people now. Pope must fight them, if they are too strong for him he can gradually retire to these fortifications . . . if we are really whipped and to be whipped we may as well stop fighting.” Hay credited Lincoln’s “indomitable will, that army movements have been characterized by such energy and clarity for the last few days.” The President would not give in to despair.

[To Hay] it seemed impossible . . . [that McClellan] could write to the president proposing that “Pope be allowed to get out if his own scrape his own way.” A total of 1,724 Federal soldiers had died at the Second [Manassas], and 8,372 had lost arms, legs, eyes or had been otherwise mutilated by bullets or bayonets so as to be of no use to the army or anyone else for some time, if ever.”

(Lincoln’s Men: The President and His Private Secretaries, Daniel Mark Epstein, HarperCollins, 2009, excerpts pp. 119-122)

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