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Lincoln’s New America

Lincoln’s New America

“The Civil War ennobled no one, except perhaps its central figure, but it brought enormous and probably inevitable changes in the north. Those States actually gained wealth, population and power between 1861 and 1865, during the concurrent destruction of the American Confederacy. War manufactures exploded industrial production, made agriculture prosper, and a flood of immigration from Europe more than replaced the blood and bone buried in the South.

Until 1861, the full effect of the Industrial Revolution had been held in check by the powerful agronomists from Virginia to Texas. With this check removed, the industrial States consolidated their gains swiftly.

While the war itself was moving political power irresistibly toward the federal capital in Washington, money power was centralized in New York through the wartime Currency Acts. And an enormous centralization, through economic expansion, was going on [with] Businesses and enterprises formed that soon transcended the States themselves.

The removal of real power to a national capital was the first necessity for an expanded transportation and industrial complex that lay across many States. The concentration of fiscal power in New York broke the monetary freedom of State legislatures. As business enterprise became more and more national and spread on rails, old boundaries were, and had to be, meaningless. All this would, in quick time, forge a new society.

The old American of a huge farming, small holder class with a tiny mercantile and professional elite was not gone; vast islands of it remained. But it was submerged in flooding money and roaring steam.

If the men and interests behind the rise of the new industrial America did not realize fully where they were going, they understood their basic imperatives well enough. They needed certain things from government: high tariffs on industrial products; business subsidies and the diversion of public finances to railroads; centralized money control; continued massive immigration to curb native workers and create a labor pool; and a hard money policy, without which a solid financial-industrial complex was difficult to build.

The political instrument of this new force was the new Republican party . . . [where] refugees from Whiggery found a home. As virtually all foreign observers have seen, the erection of the immense American politico-industrial-financial machine in 1861 was not pure destiny; it took a certain kind of genius.

[But] the new wealth was more monstrously maldistributed than it had ever been. Millions of northern workers were little better off, in grimy tenements and working long, tedious days, than Texas slaves; many, in fact, were cared for worse. Native-born workers, who had enjoyed decades of scarcity and demand, begged for a limit to flooding immigration as they were drowned.  In the 19th century they were hardly sustained by the 20th century illusion that they rose on each succeeding wave.”

(Lone Star: A History of Texas and the Texans. T.R. Fehrenbach. Collier Books, pp. 403-405)

Pondering “Juneteenth” in Texas

In mid-June 1865 a northern general and his brigade landed at Galveston to officially proclaim the war at an end; Texas was now under the rule of his government in Washington. He also reminded the colored people in Texas of their ability to work for whom and where they wished. Both white and colored people in Texas were already aware of Lincoln’s 1863 emancipation edict, and that any Texas slave desiring emancipation from their condition could have, before and during the war, simply crossed the Mexican border to freedom.

Pondering “Juneteenth” in Texas

“In the 1850s there existed fears of slave revolt, with one uprising in Colorado county in 1856, perhaps motivated by John Brown’s influence and example. It was reported that a number of Negroes had acquired and secreted arms for the revolt, with a goal of killing white persons and fighting their way to Mexico “and legal freedom.” The plot was discovered, a number of Negroes killed and about 200 severely punished, with a claim that it was instigated by area Mexcians.

Some runaway slaves were reported who faced a bleak country to live off of, as well as hostile Indians who may also enslave them. The record shows that most runaways returned home after a harrowing life in the wilds of Texas.

[But] there is ample evidence that owners had a genuine interest in the material welfare and contentment of their black workers. This was especially true of plantations south of the Guadalupe or Colorado Rivers where the border with Mexico was not far off. It was true that plantation slaves more often led better lives, materially, than the poor whites of Texas. The diet of slaves, referred to as “hands” on the plantation, was equal to that of the average white farmer. They were given their own plots to garden for their own supply of greens. The most important consideration was the valuable medical care provided to the hands, and they fared far better than the average white people on the frontier. As was common in the pre-Civil War South, no planter could afford a sick slave, and he could afford doctors.

One horror of the war waged upon the South, including Texas, was the disappearance of medical supplies, especially anesthetics, due to the northerner blockade. This caused Southern hospitals, both military and civilian to become tragic and hideous places late in the war.

But one remarkable aspect of the war years in Texas was the behavior of the Negro slaves. Thousands of able-bodied men were left in charge of women, old men and boys on the river bottoms. A region that had long been haunted by the specter of slave revolt – it was only months since the hysteria of John Brown in 1859 – did not record a single incident. As the chief justice of Texas stated: “It was a subject of general remark that the Negroes were most docile and manageable during the war than at any other period, and for this they deserve the lasting gratitude of their owners in the army.”

The fact that slaves labored mightily and peaceably through the war has never adequately been explained. But certainly, more humane treatment helped, and many slaves seemed to have been genuinely caught up in a feeling for the plantation, land and society in which they had no stake. There were dozens of instances where a white mistress directed the efforts of dozens of slaves, in isolate places. No white woman or child was ever molested, and even more remarkably, fewer slaves tried to run away than in previous years.

But in the immediate postwar, thousands of the occupation troops in Texas were composed of Negro regiments. In every locality where they were stationed, there was trouble, without exception. At Victoria, the Negro garrison terrorized the town. At Brenham, Negro troops burned down the town and no solider or officer was ever brought to trial for this act. Men who were known Southern veterans, which included 90 percent of the population, were frequently publicly humiliated.

In Texas, this outside rule was not to last a few months, but for nine long years.”

(Lone Star: A History of Texas and the Texans. T.R. Fehrenbach. Collier Books. pp. 316-319; 357-358; 395)

 

The Key to a Successful Post-Civil War Peace

Colonel Benjamin Harrison’s “boys in blue” were the 70th Indiana Regiment and part of Sherman’s army which waged war upon defenseless women, children and old men in Georgia. Sent to Tennessee to temporarily command a brigade of northerners in 1864, he found them “quite unfit for duty in the field” – some hardly recovered from wounds, others just back from sick leave, and a large number of raw recruits, including many European immigrants unable to speak English.”

The mortal fear of New Yorker Horatio Seymour as president in 1868 and Democrat opposition to generous Union soldier benefits and pensions, Republicans quickly enfranchised 500,000 black men. This would give Grant his slim 300,000 margin of victory and thus assured “truly loyal governments in the South.”

Key to a Successful Post-Civil War Peace

“Harrison and . . . other northerners were determined that at the war’s such carnage had bought not merely a surcease from fighting but a true and lasting peace. Southern rebels, they believed, should willingly accept the new political and social order that emancipation and defeat had wrought.

White Southerners were determined to salvage as much of their old order as possible. As early as August 1865, Harrison warned an audience of returning soldiers in Indianapolis that their Southern foes were “just as wily, mean, impudent and devilish as they ever were . . . Beaten by the sword, they will now fall back on ‘the resources of statesmanship,’”

Politics would now be the new battleground where ex-rebels and their sympathizers in the northern Democratic party would strive to undo what Lincoln, Grant and Sherman, as well as Harrison and the Hoosier boys in blue, had accomplished.

Harrison did not advocate the immediate enfranchisement of the former slaves, but if white Southerners remained recalcitrant, he thought that the adoption of black suffrage offered the only way to produce truly loyal governments in the South. The key to a successful peace was to keep the rebels and “their northern allies out of power. If you don’t,” Harrison warned, “they will steal away, in the halls of Congress, the fruits won from them at the point of a glistening bayonet.”

To prevent that loss of the peace became the cardinal purpose of Harrison and most other Republicans in the immediate postwar years.”

(Benjamin Harrison. Charles W. Calhoun. Henry Holt and Company, 2005, pp. 26-27)

Clarifying 19th Century American History

Americans were certainly “Confederates” before the 1789 constitution was ratified as their governing document were the Articles of Confederation. When ratifying the new 1789 constitution, 11 States decided to “secede” from the Articles and voluntarily “accede” to the new federation; North Carolina and Rhode Island held out for the Bill of Rights before they acceded. In the latter document, Article III, Section 3 fixed treason as only waging war against “Them,” the States, or adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.” This does raise the question of who waged war against the States forming a more perfect union to the South Below, the author clarifies misconceptions regarding Lincoln’s war.

Clarifying 19th Century American History

“Certainly, there are those of goodwill, and let us call it “invincible ignorance, who have been educated to think the primary issue in 1861 was slavery, and Abraham Lincoln was simply reacting to those “rebels” who wished to destroy “the sacred bonds” of Union, while advancing the great humanitarian cause of “freedom.” So much for the caliber and character of our contemporary educational system, not to mention Hollywood’s ideological tendentious (and mostly successful) attempts to influence us. Yet, that mythology surrounding the Southern Iliad of 1861-1865 will not stand serious cross-examination. Consider these popular myths and shibboleths:

“The War was about slavery!” Not really accurate: the war aims cited repeatedly by Lincoln and northern publicists consistently during the years 1861-1863, even afterwards, were that the war was to “preserve the Union.” Indeed, if the abolition of slavery had been declared a war aim in 1861, most likely a great majority of Union political leaders, not to mention Union soldiers, would have recoiled, and the northern war effort would most likely have collapsed.  It was difficult enough to gain wide support in the north, as it was. Remember, Lincoln was elected with less than 40 percent of the vote in 1860, and barely gained pluralities in most northern States.

“Lincoln freed the slaves.” No so; Lincoln freed not one slave. His proclamation, issued first on September 22, 1862, and formally on January 1, 1863, supposedly “freeing the slaves,” only applied to those areas not under Union military control or occupation, that is, territory of the independent Southern States. Lincoln’s proclamation “freed” slaves where his action had no effect.

And most recently this charge: “Robert E. Lee and other Confederate military leaders who were in the US Army committed treason by violating their oaths to defend the Union, and Confederate leaders were in rebellion against the legitimately elected government of the United States.” Somehow, critics seem to forget to mention that Lee and the other Confederate leaders resigned their commissions in the US Army, and from Congress prior to enlisting in the defense of their home States and in the ranks of the Confederate States army, or assuming positions in the new Confederate government. They did not violate their oaths; their States had formally left the union, and, thus, the claims of the federal government in Washington had ceased to have authority over them.”

(The Land We Love: The South and Its Heritage. Boyd D. Cathey. Scuppernong Press, 2018, pp. 60-61)

May 26, 2024 - Aftermath: Despotism, America Transformed, Enemies of the Republic, Lincoln Revealed, Myth of Saving the Union, Newspapers, Prisons for Americans    Comments Off on Francis Key Howard’s “Middle Passage”

Francis Key Howard’s “Middle Passage”

By 1863, Congress had sanctioned Lincoln’s illegal suspension of the writ of habeas corpus and absolved him of the northern Democrats charge of “usurpation.” The latter charged that his “suspension of the writ justifies arrests without warrant, without oath, and even without suspicion of treason or other crime.” Howard, below, was editor of Baltimore’s Daily Exchange which was supportive of the South’s decision for political independence.

Francis Key Howard’s “Middle Passage”

“Frances Key Howard, grandson of Francis Scott Key, author of the Star-Spangled Banner, had been among the Baltimoreans arrested in September of 1861. By December 1862, he had finished a manuscript about his prison experiences, and the little book made its appearance in print early in 1863.

Like others in this genre of protest writing, Howard’s work made a special point “to show . . . how men, who were guiltless . . ., were treated in this age, and in this country” and stressed the crowded conditions and spartan hardships of prison life.

In a protest letter written to President Lincoln and reprinted in Howard’s book, he and other prisoners of state likened the conditions at Fort Lafayette to those on “a slave ship, on the middle passage.”

(The Fate of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties. Mark E. Neely, Jr. Oxford University Press. 1991, p195)

Lincoln & Seward’s Military Coup

In 1863 Republican Senator John Sherman recalled that it was William H. Seward rather than Lincoln who ordered the seizure of Maryland’s legislators in 1861, that “the high-handed proceeding was the work of Mr. Seward, of his own mere motion, without the knowledge of Lincoln.” Seward later told a British official that the arrests had been made to influence coming Maryland elections as well. Frederick (below) was Seward’s son.

Lincoln & Seward’s Military Coup

“The Lincoln administration believed, according to Frederick Seward, that “a disunion majority” in the Maryland State house would pass an ordinance to withdraw from the Union in September 1861. Lincoln had resolved to keep that from happening. Seward recalled: “[The military was] instructed to carefully watch the movements of members of the [Maryland] Legislature . . . Loyal Union members would not be interfered with . . . but “disunion” members would be turned back toward their homes and would not reach Frederick City at all. The views of each member were well-known . . . so there would be little difficulty, as Mr. Lincoln remarked, in “separating the sheep from the goats.”

[Seward continued]: “When the time arrived . . . it was found that not only was no secession ordinance likely to be adopted, but that there seemed to be no Secessionists to present one. The two generals had carried out their instructions faithfully, and with tact and discretion . . . No ordinance was adopted, Baltimore remained quiet, and Maryland stayed in the Union.”

Many arrests of northerners at that time involved freedom of speech and freedom of the press with Seward’s State Department records citing “treasonable language, “Southern sympathizer,” secessionist” and “disloyalty” as standard reasons for arrest and confinement. Additionally, even more serious-sounding arrest reasons were vague and sometimes denoted offensive words rather than deeds: “aiding and abetting the enemy,” threatening Unionists,” or “inducing desertion,” for example. A man in Cincinnati was arrested for selling envelopes and stationery with Confederate mottoes printed on them.

When an old associate of Seward came to Washington to plead for the release of a political prisoner from Kentucky held in Fort Lafayette, the secretary of state readily admitted that no charges were on file against the prisoner. When asked whether he intended to keep citizens imprisoned against whom no charge had been made, Seward apparently answered: “I don’t care a d—n whether they are guilty or innocent. I saved Maryland by similar arrests, and so I mean to hold Kentucky.”

(The Fate of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties. Mark E. Neely, Jr. Oxford University Press. 1991, pp. 15-16; 27-30)

The North’s War Against Free Trade

The unbridled pursuit of financial gain in America was no surprise to Englishmen and simply “a distasteful feature of democracy.” The British noted the widespread corruption in American political life and the rise of low men to power, while those better educated and unwilling to play the demagogue were not sought out. The British saw, especially in Northern States, an unwholesome tyranny of the democratic mob which eventually would break apart and replaced with an aristocracy or monarchy of better men.

The North’s War Against Free Trade

“The United States Senate, after fourteen Southern members had withdrawn (as their States had withdrawn from the United States), passed with a majority of eleven votes the almost prohibitive Morrill Tariff; the Confederate States adopted a constitution forbidding any tariff except for revenue – a denial, that is, of the principle of protection (for select industries).

From the economic point of view, which to some students of history is the only point of view, a major issue became perfectly clear. The North stood for protection, the South for free trade.

And for Englishmen . . . certain conclusions were obvious. “This [tariff] was the first use the North made of its victory [in the Senate]”, said one Englishman in a pamphlet . . .” The contrast between North and South was real and unambiguous, and so too were England’s free-trade convictions.

With those convictions and after these events, it was natural that many Englishmen . . . should readily embrace the theory of the South’s seceding because of economic oppression – since there had to be a reason for secession and both sides agreed that slavery was not the reason. As one of the ablest of the “Southern” Englishmen, James Spence, said, the South had long been convinced “that the Union was worked to the profit of the North and their own loss. [And] consider that the immediate cause of the revolt of those 13 colonies from this country was a duty of 3d. per pound on tea . . .”

The Confederate States were well aware of the appeal of economic facts. Their Secretary of State instructed James Mason on his mission to England to stress the free trade commitment of his government, as well as the British people’s “deep political and commercial interest in the establishment of the independence of the Confederate States.”

(The Glittering Illusion: English Sympathy for the Southern Confederacy. Sheldon Vanauken. Regnery Gateway, 1989. pp. 48-49)

Lincoln’s Dark Days

Many European observers saw Lincoln’s early proclamation of September 1862 as simply imitating the actions of Virginia’s Royal Governor Lord Dunmore eighty-six years earlier. In the face of “insurrection,” Dunmore demanded loyalty oaths from colonists while proclaiming African slaves “free.” A desperate Lincoln did the same.

Lincoln’s Dark Days

“The war had indeed approached a crisis in late July [1861]. There had been little encouraging news from the Western theater since April, when the victory at Shiloh had been followed by the occupation of New Orleans. These victories were disappointing in that they seemed to be leading nowhere. The high hopes accompanying McClellan’s advance up the peninsula below Richmond had been cruelly dashed.

Waiting for victories, [Lincoln’s] Cabinet received news in late August of the most humiliating defeat of the entire war. General John Pope allowed his army to be trapped at Manassas, Virginia, practically on the doorstep of the Capitol, between the armies of Longstreet and Jackson; it was hurled back toward Washington in a retreat that was actually a rout.

When the full impact of this latest disaster was at last known in the North, a real desperation gripped the public. “That we are in serious danger of being whipped cannot be denied” wrote Edward Atkinson, “and there is scarce a man now in Boston, who would not thank God to hear of a serious insurrection among the slaves, such a change has this disaster wrought.”

Dr. Milton Hawks, perhaps the most fanatical missionary at Port Royal [South Carolina], repeated his belief that, unless emancipation were the goal of the war, the South would establish her independence. “The greatest kindness that a man could do this government today,” he wrote furiously, “would be to assassinate Pres. Lincoln – He stands directly in the way.”

Lincoln’s course was mysterious to the general public [but after the dubious victory at Antietam], the President seized the slim occasion for his [preliminary emancipation] Proclamation . . .”

(Rehearsal for Reconstruction: The Port Royal Experiment. Willie Lee Rose. Oxford University Press, 1964, pp. 184-185)

Martial Law is the Absence of Law

Martial Law is the Absence of Law

A review of the martial law imposed upon the island of Key West 1861-1865 was recently presented by a local college history teacher, and as a part of the North’s comprehensive military strategy during the Civil War. The audience was a local Civil War Roundtable (CWRT) group.

The lecturer noted the military takeover of the civilian government on the island in mid-January 1861 as the local commander, Capt. James Brannan surreptitiously barricaded his 44 men in the nearly completed Fort Zachary Taylor and turned its guns on the town. Overnight, the US military’s local friends and neighbors became an enemy to be treated with suspicion and contempt. Now fearing bombardment of their homes from the nearby fort, the residents became prisoners in their homes.

The reason cited for Brannan’s warlike action was overhearing “secession” talk among the residents as well as Florida’s recent decision to formally withdraw from the United States federation and become an independent State. Florida was to remain independent until it formally voted to join the Confederate States of America on April 22, 1861.

The arrival in March 1861 of more Northern troops increased armed patrols roaming the town and surveilling citizens. Arbitrary arrests were common, and Fort Taylor became an American bastille to hold prisoners of conscience. Locals, especially merchants with inventories to sell, sought favor with the military as willing informants, reporting on anyone complaining of military rule. Elected officials who disagreed with the military faced arrest and confinement, and new elections of approved candidates were held under armed supervision. Those considered “dangerous secessionists” were deported to the mainland.

What Capt. Brannan accomplished with his unilateral action, and unfortunately not pointed out by the lecturer, was to wage war against a State which is the very definition of treason in the US Constitution – Article III, Section 3. Though Brannan was applauded by his fellow officers and eventually promoted for his act, this does not absolve him of treason.

It was highly likely that Brannan was emulating Major Robert Anderson at Charleston as news of the Fort Sumter seizure could have reached him at Key West in early January. As Anderson suffered no adverse consequences for his fort seizure, Brannan perhaps saw a green light to do the same but should have been more circumspect as he certainly was aware that John Brown was hung in 1858 for waging war against Virginia – the crime being treason. Noteworthy is that Brown was tried and convicted in Virginia, where he committed his crime.

Though this speaker outlined how the island was placed under military rule, no adequate or honest discussion was provided regarding how or why military rule had suddenly materialized, how it was justified under American law, or who specifically ordered it. Martial law is generally considered to be the absence of law with arrests and detentions made at the discretion of the military commander, or those commanded by him. Missing was any explanation of how easily Northern commanders could ignore habeas corpus which was so deeply rooted in Anglo-American jurisprudence. But importantly, as Lincoln ignored the Constitution and approved the repressive actions of those like Brannan, it only encouraged more violations of the law.

The seizure of Fort Taylor came at the whim of a local military commander who was sworn to uphold the United States Constitution – and who should have clearly understood the definition of treason. Though simplistically following orders to protect the fort he was charged with commanding, the withdrawal of the State of Florida and its relationship with the United States government at Washington took precedence. After being officially advised of Florida’s decision to formally declare independence, and lacking any reason to remain on the island, which was no longer part of the United States, Capt. Brannan should have sought Florida officials to provide him with receipts for all equipment left behind before departing with his command. Though he likely would have been court-martialed for doing this, he would have been true to his oath to support the United States Constitution.

The above indicates that there is more than one viewpoint regarding this particular topic, and a more well-versed history teacher should have been able to present all credible perspectives beyond their own. In this particular case, the audience deserved a far better explanation of how military rule quickly overwhelmed a peaceful American town. The listeners were unfortunately left with a partial and limited view of this important and most revealing topic.

(For more information on this topic, see: “Key West’s Civil War: Rather Unsafe for a Southern Man to Live Here.” John Bernhard Thuersam – Shotwell Publishing and available on Amazon)

Conquest, Not Union

On April 12, 1864, Fort Pillow, located north of Memphis on the Mississippi River, was surrounded by some 1,500 troops under Gen’s. Nathan Bedford Forrest and James Chalmers. After sending an ultimatum to surrender or suffer “no quarter” and the enemy rejecting capitulation, Forrest’s men attacked and caused most of the enemy’s 600 soldiers to flee into the river. As northern colored troops were half of the fort’s garrison, they suffered great loss along with their white counterparts, and the usual cries of “massacre” were heard from northern reporters anxious to sell newspapers to a gullible public. The Radical Republicans were also quick to establish a congressional committee to investigate Fort Pillow for political purposes.

This pattern was repeated late in the war as the northern public was fed atrocity stories of Georgia’s Andersonville prison stockade. Missing from the stories were the pleas of President Davis and other Southern leaders for prisoner exchanges, including safe passage for medical supplies and food to sustain the inmates. These were all refused by Grant, with Lincoln’s approval.

Conquest, Not Union

“What exactly did the [Committee on the Conduct of the War] uncover and how objective was its investigation? Critics have assumed that the committee deliberately exaggerated Southern atrocities to smear Forrest’s reputation, inflame public sentiments, and serve its own narrow partisan agenda.

The committee’s most thorough historian, T. Harry Williams, for instance, argues that Benjamin Wade used this investigation, as well as previous atrocity reports, as a means to create a consensus for an even more radical reconstruction. By deliberately exaggerating Rebel brutalities, he would cause the public to support a reconstruction policy that would treat the South as a conquered territory.

There is little doubt that the issue of reconstruction was on the minds of committee members and other Republicans during the Fort Pillow investigation. George Julian, chairman of the House Committee on Public Lands, was already busy sponsoring legislation to confiscate the large holdings of Rebel planters and redistribute them to veterans of the Union armies, both white and black.

In remarks to the House of Representatives shortly after Fort Pillow, Julian castigated the Confederates as “devils” and argued that the [alleged] massacre provided additional reasons to support the program of confiscating [Southern property].

Even before the war, there were many in the North who viewed the South as backward and in need of radical reordering along the outline of Northern free labor institutions. The war accelerated such beliefs. “The war is quickly drawing to an end,” the Continental Monthly predicted in the summer of 1862, “but a greater and nobler task lies before the soldiers and free men of America – the extending of civilization into the South.”

In formulating its Fort Pillow findings, the committee reflected Northern opinion as much as it sought to shape it.”

(“These Devils Are Not Fit to Live on God’s Earth”: War Crimes and the Committee on the Conduct of the War, 1864-1865”. Bruce Tap. Civil War History – A Journal of the Middle Period, John Hubbell, ed. Kent State University Press, June 1996, Vol. XLII, No. 2, pp. 121-122)

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