Browsing "Enemies of the Republic"

Human Fungi Confronting Gen. Johnston

“The greatest pleasure is to vanquish your enemies and chase them before you, to rob them of their wealth and see those dear to them bathed in tears, to ride their horses and clasp to your bosom their wives and daughters.” Genghis Khan (1162-1227)

Human Fungi Confronting Gen. Johnston

“[At Savannah, Sherman wrote his wife, there] are some elegant people whom I knew in better days, who do not seem ashamed to call on “the vandal in chief.” They regard us just as the Romans did the Goths, and the parallel is not unjust.”

[Terror], as he later admitted, was to be Sherman’s ally in the new campaign. “My aim then was to whip the rebels, to humble their pride, to follow them to their inner recesses, and make them fear and dread us. “Fear is the beginning of wisdom” . . .

From the start, the campaign was called the Smokey March. In spite of wet weather, fires licked at railroad cars, depots, ties, at bales of cotton and bins of cottonseed, at acres of pine trees, at barrels of resin, at factories, at public buildings – sometimes at whole towns. Rail fences smoldered when not too deep in water. Barns blazed after foragers had emptied them, and houses that farmers had deserted glowed on the horizon where bummers explored.”

“[The Richmond Examiner of March 29, 1865 wrote] of 487 Yankee captives, shoeless, hatless, blackened by pine smoke . . . sent by Wade Hampton to prison in the Confederate capital. The prisoners were:

“scabs, scavengers and scum of creation. Never since the war began has such a crew of hell-born men, accursed and God-forsaken wretches polluted the air and defiled the highways of Richmond with the concentrated essence of all that is lecherous, hateful and despised. All these are part and parcel of that human fungi Johnston’s noble army are confronting . . . If he cannot successfully resist them, God help Richmond and her citizens.”

(Sherman: Fighting Prophet, Lloyd Lewis, Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1932, excerpts pp. 474; 488; 493; 512)

The Biggest Untold Story in US History

The author below views “Northern History” as a highly fertile and under-explored frontier for historians. The early concerns of Republican politicians regarding Northern support for their war is underscored by Congressman Elihu Washburne of Illinois, advised by a constituent in June 1862: “The minds of our friends are filled with forebodings and gloomy apprehensions . . . all confidence is lost in the Administration, and a disaster to our Armies now at Vicksburg, in Tennessee, or on the Potomac, will disintegrate this whole Country . . . if we cannot speedily secure victories by our [Northern] arms, peace must be made to secure us anything!”

The Biggest Untold Story in US History

“[Steven] Spielberg’s cinema offering [Lincoln] is balanced by the good news that Ron Maxwell, creator of Gettysburg and Gods and Generals, will soon release a film called Copperhead with a screenplay by sometime Chronicles contributor Bill Kauffman.

It is based on Harold Frederic’s 1893 novel The Copperhead, about a New York State family persecuted for its opposition to Lincoln’s war. Such opposition was far more reasoned and prevalent than has ever been admitted. And rampaging Republican mobs punishing dissent in parts of the North were common. Indeed, Northern opposition to the war and its suppression is the biggest untold story in U.S. history.

Ron Maxwell’s films are stupendous achievements unmatched by anything in American cinema in the last half century. But even if he falls for a little of the Treasury of Virtue. In Gods and Generals a Virginia family has a slave pretend to be the owner of their house on the idea that Union soldiers will not ransack and burn the property of black people.

Anyone who has studied the actual behavior of Union soldiers in that war knows that a black person’s property would be more likely, not less likely, to be stolen or destroyed, because in that case the victims were less able to complain or retaliate and less likely to evoke the sympathy of Northern soldiers.

In fact, some Northern soldiers pretended or had been told that black people, even free, could not own property, and thus their possessions were really those of white Southerners and therefore fair game. Instances of such oppression are countless.

Advance reports on Copperhead bill it as a story about opposition in wartime. I hope the film does not miss that the story is about opposition to the war in particular, and why.”

(Civil War Cinema, Clyde N. Wilson, Chronicles, May 2013, excerpts pp. 46-47; www.chroniclesmagazine.org)

A Part of the Southern Family

The fidelity of black people is attested by many reports during the war, such as when Northern soldiers seized plantation hands to help them locate buried valuables. In front of Hopewell Associated Reformed Presbyterian Church in Chester, South Carolina, is a memorial stone to Robert Hemphill, the slave of Robert Hemphill — both were church members. The stone commemorates the fact that Burwell was hung by Northern soldiers who wanted the location of buried valuables on the plantation. They hung him briefly several times before killing him for refusing to answer, and died rather than be unfaithful to those he loved and served.

Part of the Southern Family

“As the tension between the two races who live side by side in our land seems to be increasing, I am glad to remember my colored friends with sincere appreciation of their merits, their keen sense of humor, and their loyalty. Should these words ever reach the rising generation, I hope it will give them a pleasant picture of the friendly relations between those who served and those who expected service.

The present-day movies and comics present our Negroes as “step-and-fetch-it” or a caricature of a would-be heavy sport. Gone is the real affection that made a white child cling with both arms around his nurse’s neck, or that prompted a gentleman to sit in open court beside an ex-slave being tried for his life.

In a friend’s house stands a gun, an old muzzle-loading gun long enough to reach from here to yonder. During the Civil War a raiding party from the Northern Army carried off a young Negro and the long gun. The boy patiently followed his captors, and then escaped one night to come safely back home to tell his master where the gun had been sold for $1.00. It was quickly rescued and is today a priceless antique in [a residence in] Brevard, North Carolina.

There was little black Liza . . . who sang me to sleep in my infancy, and lived to launder my wedding lingerie and to welcome my son when he entered the University of North Carolina. She and her husband, John Evans, were respected and useful citizens of Chapel Hill all their lives.

My children’s “Mammy” was “Aunt” Rilla McDonald. As a nurse of babies and sick people, her patience and fidelity were beyond praise; the touch of her hands brought comfort and peace. Only a few moments did she need to subdue the most rebellious infant; the very sound of her voice was soothing, and her presence in a sick room brought comfort and security.

Sixty years ago Southern people had not forgotten to call elderly Negroes “Aunt” or “Uncle” and to treat them with the courtesy their innate dignity demanded.

I do not know how many years “Aunt” Bina Ledbetter served Mr. Thomas Leak’s family, but I do know she was as much a part of the family as the mistress she served with unswerving fidelity. “Aunt” Bina was a large, black woman with a mien of commanding dignity and always extremely neat in her dress. “Aunt” Bina once got into a controversy with a tan-colored member of her church, being taunted with the words: “Ef I was as black as you I would keep my mouth shet.” She replied: “Tain’t so much the color that makes the difference between people – it’s the blood!”

(A Rare Pattern, Lucy Phillips Russell, UNC Press, 1957, excerpts pp. 165-167)

Immigration and the Demise of America

The waves of European immigration into the United States, 1830-1860, added a different strain to the original English, Scot and Irish population, especially in the North and emerging West. The South maintained its ethnic heritage from Revolutionary times and its deep understanding of the Founders America. The North quickly became a far different country by 1850, with a new electorate easily misled by Northern demagogues. To attain national power and dominance, the demagogues destroyed the South’s political power in the country through a destructive war, instilled hatred between Southerners and their former laborers, and finally molded the new black electorate into dependable Republicans.

Immigration and the Demise of America

“The founding fathers were rare men and wise, men who had “come to themselves,” men who measured their words. They knew history; they knew law and government; they knew the ancient classics; they knew the ancient failures; they knew the Bible. But theirs was a wisdom which, as always, can be misunderstood by lesser mortals.

It can be misinterpreted; it can be misapplied through ignorance; it can be misused and perverted through ambition, interest, even plain human cussedness. Liberty was never to be license.

But as growth occurred, the influx of millions of immigrants from the Old World, from different backgrounds, settled north and west in established communities and crowded the cities. They knew little of a constitution, and cared less. This was the land of liberty; men were “free and equal”; the majority ruled – the “American” way, their Carl Schurz-like leaders told them while ordering their votes, urging war upon the South, and anathematizing slavery. They knew nothing of the South’s acute problems.

This was the beginning of a false premise, wholly without foundation in the Constitution, of “an aggregate people,” of unrestricted democracy, of the absolute right of a popular majority – even a “simple” majority – whenever it exists and however ascertained, to rule without check or restraint, independent of constitutional limitations or of State interposition.

This absurd proposition that the will of a mere majority for the time being becomes vox Dei was held by numerous leaders of the North and the West, not the least among them Abraham Lincoln. The Southerners opposed, opposed strenuously, and fought it to the end.

[John C.] Calhoun attempted ameliorations by such proposals as vetoes, nullifications, interposition, and “concurrent” majorities, all of which at one time or another were rejected, leaving the South, as he said in 1850, helpless to retain equality in the Union and relegated to a position hardly different from that which the Revolutionary fathers rejected in 1776.

In answer to these efforts to obtain justice, Northern leaders undertook an attack on the domestic institutions of the South. “At first harmless and scattered movements” of small, so-called humanitarian groups in the North were seized upon by those who saw political possibilities in them, and the agitations spread from isolated spots to the halls of Congress.

Abolitionists began to attack the South at every opportunity and demanded an end to the labor arrangements of the region and the emancipation of the African Negro “slaves” who worked mostly upon the great plantations.

Abolitionist fathers and grandfathers had brought those poor black creatures – often savages, sometimes cannibals – from the Guinea coasts of West Africa and had sold them to the planters, much of whose capital was invested in them. We still teach . . . falsehoods to children by slanted history textbooks that parrot the clichés, though it is surely time to make some changes and tell the truth.”

(The Constitutions of Abraham Lincoln & Jefferson Davis: A Historical and Biographical Study in Contrasts, Russell Hoover Quynn, Exposition Press, 1959, excerpts pp. 55-56)

Feb 19, 2019 - America Transformed, Bringing on the War, Conscription, Costs of War, Enemies of the Republic    Comments Off on Merchants of War

Merchants of War

From the fearsome arquebuse of the Middle Ages to the modern jets carrying atomic weapons, the arms industry provided governments with the means to wage war. Without the arms industry Lincoln would have been unable to arm 2 million men to subdue the South, and with his war came the scandals of enormous commissions paid to men who merely obtained contracts for arms and munitions. The Northern government became a source of easy money for arms merchants selling $14.50 pistols at $25, and $117 for diseased horses worth no more than $60. Dupont was a reliable Northerner who refused to sell his gunpowder to the South for political reasons, thus helping ensure the subjugation of those Americans. Perhaps if Dupont had refused to produce powder for Lincoln’s armies for use against fellow Americans . . .

Merchants of War

“Who – to be specific – has the power to declare war? All constitutions of the world (except the Spanish) vest the war-making power in the government or in the representatives of the people. They further grant the power to conscript man-power to carry on such conflicts. Why is there no ethical revolt against these constitutions?

Governments also harbor and foster forces like nationalism and chauvinism, economic rivalry and exploiting capitalism, territorial imperialism and militarism. Which is the most potent for war, these elements or the arms industry? The arms industry is undeniably a menace to peace, but it is an industry to which our present civilization clings and for which it is responsible.

It is an evidence of the superficiality of many peace advocates that they should denounce the arms industry and accept the present state of civilization which fosters it. Governments today [1934] spend approximately four and a half billion dollars every year to maintain their war machines. This colossal sum is voted every year by representatives of the people.

There are, of course, some protests . . . but by and large it is believed that “national security” demands these huge appropriations. The root of the trouble, therefore, goes far deeper than the arms industry. It lies in the prevailing temper of peoples toward nationalism, militarism and war, in the civilization which forms this temper and prevents drastic or radical change. Only when this underlying basis of the war system is altered, will war and its concomitant, the arms industry, pass out of existence.

The fact is that the armament maker is the right-hand man of all war and navy departments, and, as such, he is a supremely important political figure. His sales to the home government are political acts, as much as, perhaps even more so, the tax collector. His international trade is an act of international politics . . . [and his] international sale of arms, even in wartime, is merely business.

The world at present apparently wants both the war system and peace; it believes that “national safety” lies in preparedness, and it denounces the arms industry. This is not merely confused thinking, but a striking reflection of the contradictory forces at work in our social and political life.

Thus it happens that so-called friends of peace frequently uphold the institutions of armies and navies to preserve “national security,” support “defensive wars,” and advocate military training in colleges.

Out of this background of conflicting forces the arms maker has risen and grown powerful, until today he is one of the most dangerous factors in the world – a hindrance to peace, a promoter of war. He has reached this position not through any deliberate planning of his own, but simply as a result of the historic forces of the nineteenth century. Granting the nineteenth century [was one of] amazing development of science and invention . . . the modern armament maker with all his evils was inevitable.”

(Merchants of Death, H.C. Engelbrecht & F.C. Hanighen, Dodd, Mead & Company, 1934, excerpts pp. 7-10)

Incurring Great Evils for the Greater Good

Faced with military defeats, setbacks, dwindling enlistments and unable to conquer the American South as quickly as expected, Lincoln and his party Radicals converted the war from that of restoring the Union to one of emancipation and subjugation.

The North had become a despotism of taxes, conscription, political surveillance and arbitrary arrest, with paupers and immigrants filling the ranks for bounty money. Captured slaves from areas overrun by Northern troops netted black soldiers for heavy labor, guard and occupation duties —  who would be counted against State troop quotas – thus relieving white Northern men from fighting the unpopular war.

Four of the “great evils incurred” below were the loss of the United States Constitution, one million deaths, the subjugation of Southern Americans, and inciting racial antagonisms which remain with us today.

Incurring Great Evils for the Greater Good

“What Lincoln’s Proclamation Will Do: (from the New York Round Table, Republican)

Not only the overthrow of the rebellion as a military power, but the complete subjugation of the Southern people, until they are so utterly crushed and humbled as to be willing to accept life on any terms, is the essential condition of the President’s scheme. It may therefore prolong the war, and after the war is substantially ended, it may defer reunion . . .

It cannot be doubted that the President contemplates all this, and that in his mind, the removal of slavery being considered the most essential condition of the most desirable and permanent peace, he felt justified in incurring great evils for the sake of a greater ultimate good.

In plain English, we are informed that in order to abolish slavery the war is to be prolonged, and the day of the restoration of the Union deferred.”

(What Lincoln’s Proclamation Will Do: From the Republican New York Round Table, 1863; Logic of History: Five Hundred Political Texts, Being Concentrated Extracts of Abolitionism; Also, Results of Slavery Agitation and Emancipation; Together with Sundry Chapters on Despotism, Usurpations and Frauds. Stephen D. Carpenter, S.D. Carpenter, Publisher, 1864, excerpts pg. 304)

An Army of Plunderers

Lincoln was well-aware of the atrocities committed against Americans in Georgia and South Carolina by his military, and this would neither diminish or end in North Carolina. The war against civilians in no way contributed to “saving the Union” or healing the political divisions of 1861. Americans, North and South, now saw vividly the destructive results of seeking political independence from the new imperial regime in Washington.

An Army of Plunderers

“Foraging was still necessary to sustain the great number of troops until the Federal Army reached Goldsboro. Vandalism, stealing, and burning continued along their path. Neighbors recalled that “Mrs. Mary Corbett of Ivanhoe [Sampson County, NC] had just delivered a baby when the marauders came into her home. In order to make her reveal where the valuables were hidden, they started a fire at her bedroom window. Petrified with terror, Mrs. Corbett gave them up.”

In Johnston County, the bummers were especially harsh. They locked Mrs. Henry Finch in her home and set it afire. She jumped out the window.

Archibald Buchanan, similarly plundered like his neighbors of everything edible, found himself reduced to eating kernels of corn scattered by [enemy] cavalry “feeding their horses, and washing and grinding these handfuls for meal.”

Mrs. Rachel Pearson, of Duplin County, witnessed her aged, very ill aunt tossed from the bed onto the floor by the bummers looking for treasure. The Federals also killed Dr. Hicks by hanging him. Apparently they wanted to know the whereabouts of his hidden valuables, and he died before confessing.

As he resisted the plundering of his plantation east of Fayetteville, John Waddell was shot. [Enemy] Negro soldiers hung an old Negro man three times because he would not reveal where the owner’s valuables lay hidden. Older men and young boys suffered the same fate.

In Wayne County, Mrs. Cobb was in bed very ill when Sherman’s troops came to pillage. They destroyed every useful thing in her house except for articles in the room she lay in.

As the last few months of the war lowered its curtain, the US Army in the East began its march toward Goldsboro . . . The land between New Bern and Kinston was described as a wasteland. Homes had been burned, stock stolen or driven off, and gardens untended.

Sherman was quoted in December, 1864: “We are not fighting armies, but a hostile people.” He further stated: “The simple fact that a man’s home has been visited by an enemy makes a soldier very, very, anxious to get home to look after his family and property.”

This apparently was his reason to permit his soldiers to pillage, burn and terrorize North Carolina’s citizens.”

(Blood and War at My Doorstep, Volume II, Brenda Chambers McKean, Xlibris, 2011, excerpts pp. 1011-1012; 1016; 1019)

An Army of Plunderers “Foraging was still necessary to sustain the great number of troops until the Federal Army reached Goldsboro. Vandalism, stealing, and burning continued along their path. Neighbors recalled that “Mrs. Mary Corbett of Ivanhoe [Sampson County, NC] had just delivered a baby when the marauders came into her home. In order to make her reveal where the valuables were hidden, they started a fire at her bedroom window. Petrified with terror, Mrs. Corbett gave them up.” In Johnston County, the bummers were especially harsh. They locked Mrs. Henry Finch in her home and set it afire. She jumped out the window. Archibald Buchanan, similarly plundered like his neighbors of everything edible, found himself reduced to eating kernels of corn scattered by [enemy] cavalry “feeding their horses, and washing and grinding these handfuls for meal.” Mrs. Rachel Pearson, of Duplin County, witnessed her aged, very ill aunt tossed from the bed onto the floor by the bummers looking for treasure. The Federals also killed Dr. Hicks by hanging him. Apparently they wanted to know the whereabouts of his hidden valuables, and he died before confessing. As he resisted the plundering of his plantation east of Fayetteville, John Waddell was shot. [Enemy] Negro soldiers hung an old Negro man three times because he would not reveal where the owner’s valuables lay hidden. Older men and young boys suffered the same fate. In Wayne County, Mrs. Cobb was in bed very ill when Sherman’s troops came to pillage. They destroyed every useful thing in her house except for articles in the room she lay in. As the last few months of the war lowered its curtain, the US Army in the East began its march toward Goldsboro . . . The land between New Bern and Kinston was described as a wasteland. Homes had been burned, stock stolen or driven off, and gardens untended. Sherman was quoted in December, 1864: “We are not fighting armies, but a hostile people.” He further stated: “The simple fact that a man’s home has been visited by an enemy makes a soldier very, very, anxious to get home to look after his family and property.” This apparently was his reason to permit his soldiers to pillage, burn and terrorize North Carolina’s citizens.” (Blood and War at My Doorstep, Volume II, Brenda Chambers McKean, Xlibris, 2011, excerpts pp. 1011-1012; 1016; 1019)

The Radical Cause Uber Alles

By the time of the July-August 1861 special session of Congress, Lincoln had already raised an army, as well as money, without congressional approval – and defied the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. After the disasters of First Manassas and Ball’s Bluff, the Republican Radicals, or, “Jacobins” of Lincoln’s party, began their ruthless investigations into generals who were deemed lacking in sufficient zeal in destroying Southern resistance.

This was the Republican Committee on the Conduct of the War, whose targets were not permitted to know the charges against them, so-called evidence was kept secret, and prejudgment of the unfortunate general was common. Usually the officer under investigation was held in confinement without charges; “the defamation of character, however, could not be outdone; petty persecution continued to plague him; and at last, finding his usefulness to the army destroyed, he resigned” (Civil War and Reconstruction, Randall, pg. 370).

The Radical Cause Uber Alles

“In Washington [in January 1862], [Gen. William S.] Rosecrans was summoned to appear before the Committee on the Conduct of the War. This joint committee of the Congress, called by T. Harry Williams the “unnatural child of lustful radicalism and a confused conservatism,” grew out of Northern differences regarding war aims.

Conservatives, Lincoln the foremost, declared themselves for restoration of the Union, even with slavery. The Radicals considered Lincoln’s war policy mild; they shuddered to think that Democratic generals might convert battlefield victories into election victories; and they seized upon the minor disaster at Ball’s Bluff to set up machinery to investigate the whole conduct of the war.

[Major] John C. Fremont, the “Pathfinder” and Republican presidential candidate in 1856 . . . [in the West] had won no victories, but had declared martial law, confiscated property, disregarded Washington, become involved in procurement scandals, allowed his accounts to become muddled, declared emancipated the slaves of Missourians convicted of bearing arms against the United States, and finally had been removed [by Lincoln].

The Radicals proclaimed him a martyr, and determined to restore him to command. Lincoln yielded to their pressures.

Behind Lincoln’s hesitancy [of directing McClellan’s movements in Virginia] lay complex pressures, obscure and sometimes contradictory forces. T. Harry Williams comments: “Plots and counterplots boiled beneath the troubled surface. [Secretary of War Edwin] Stanton hatched innumerable schemes to destroy his enemies. McClellan twisted and turned as the Radicals struck. And behind all was the implacable Committee. It seems possible that a meeting between Stanton and the Committee on the Conduct of the War was worked out to cause McClellan to fail in his campaign.

The Radicals apparently wanted a quick victory, but not at the expense of abolition; a great victory, but not one that would make Democrat McClellan a national hero and hurt them personally or the Radical cause.”

(The Edge of Glory: A Biography of General William S. Rosecrans, William M. Lamers, LSU Press, 1961, excerpts pp. 66-69)

Lincoln’s Army of Emancipation

Northern Colonel [later brevet Major General] Charles E. Hovey was born in Vermont, graduated from Dartmouth and studied law in Massachusetts. He moved to Illinois where he became superintendent of schools in Peoria, and helped in the organization of Illinois State University where a building is named in his honor. Hovey was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. Hovey’s early exposure to New England abolitionism did not dissuade him from trading the black men within his lines back to their owners for cotton bales for personal profit.

Lincoln’s Army of Emancipation

“For years the Abolitionist politicians have been rocking the cradle of liberty, and singing the lullaby of freedom, and the idea of buying and selling of “human flesh” as “chattels” was most terribly shocking to them. The following, from a publication during the summer of 1863, will speak for itself.

The matter was hushed up because Gen. [Samuel R.] Curtis was a political General, but “when this cruel war is over” many facts blacker than the following will appear in the great record book of recorded facts:

“A commission is now in session at the West with Maj. Gen. [Irvin] McDowell at its head, investigating the conduct of Maj. Gen. Curtis and other Republican officials, in conducting their military operations so as to secure the largest amount of cotton possible for their own private benefit.

One of the richest revelations is in reference to the trading off of Negroes for cotton. The specification alleges that Negro slaves had been taken from the plantations upon the pretense of giving them freedom under the President’s “emancipation edict,” and thus used as a substitute for coin. It has been fully proven before the investigation court.

The officer charged with this lucrative speculation was Col. Hovey of Illinois, formerly the principal of the State Normal School at Bloomington. The following is the testimony upon the subject, “Brice Suffield being called and sworn, testified as follows:

“In due time [was brought] twenty-six bales of cotton [with the plantation overseer, and] After the cotton was delivered, the boatmen, by order of the captain, put on shore fifteen Negroes that had been used as [our] boat hands. After getting them ashore, they tied them after considerable struggling on the part of the Negroes . . . this was about the 24th of September [1863].

Q: After these fifteen Negroes were put ashore, did any other Negroes come back with you as deck hands in the service of the [US] boat?

A: No sir. These Negroes were taken on an expedition to the same place some weeks before from the same place.

Q: Under whose charge was that expedition?

A: Col. Hovey.”

It would crowd the dimensions of our volume to unreasonable proportions to continue this chapter to the full . . .”

(Logic of History: Five Hundred Political Texts, Being Concentrated Extracts of Abolitionism; Also, Results of Slavery Agitation and Emancipation; Together with Sundry Chapters on Despotism, Usurpations and Frauds. Stephen D. Carpenter, S.D. Carpenter, Publisher, 1864, excerpts pg. 263)

Lincoln’s Broad Economic Revolution

In the four prewar years 1856-1860, total federal expenditures were a mere $274 million, and financed by tariffs (disproportionately paid by the South), and the sale of public lands. The direct costs of the Northern war effort 1861-1865 is estimated at $2.3 billion; when indirect costs such as outright destruction and soldier pensions are included the estimate rises to $8 billion. “[The] Union’s expenditures on the war were equivalent to more than 70% of the North’s share of the 1859 gross domestic product. Lincoln’s war economy enabled Philip Amour to make $2 million selling pork to the Northern army; Clement Studebaker amassed a fortune providing wagons to Northern forces, and Andrew Carnegie grew rich as an iron merchant.

Lincoln’s Broad Economic Revolution

“First . . . the [Northern] citizenry remained passionately resistant to any form of federal income tax. A second option was to turn to borrowing. The great advantage of this choice was that it would pass some of the cost of the war on to future generations (in the form of interest and debt). A final choice was to print money and declare it legal tender – a policy not without cost. The printing of currency not backed by specie would raise prices, thus financing the war through inflation.

As soon as the war began, President Lincoln ordered Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase to begin taking steps to fund the war. Chase faced an economy that had barely recovered from the Panic of 1857 before being thrown into recession by the secession crisis. Chase initially turned to increase import fees, excise taxes and the sale of government land, but he soon shifted his attention to the sale of [war] bonds [hoping] to fund its war effort through a form of borrowing.

Congress [passed] the revolutionary Legal Tender Act [in] February 1862 [which] provided for the issuance of $150 million in non-interest bearing notes. Although not backed by gold or silver, these “greenbacks” were legal tender for all debts except import duties and interest on government loans. By issuing notes without the backing of specie, the government risked serious inflation.

In August 1861 Congress passed a 3 percent tax on incomes of more than eight hundred dollars, but it was a year before those funds were collects. The following July a new revenue measure expanded income taxes and added an assortment of other levies.

In late summer 1862 bond sales had dwindled [and] Secretary Chase turned to Philadelphia broker Jay Cooke to orchestrate a massive campaign to stimulate them. This strategy [of 2500 agents nationwide] anticipated the patriotic war bond drives of World Wars I and II. [Roughly] one in four Northern families [purchased them,] Yet it appears most war bonds ended up in the hands of banks and wealthy investors.

The final piece of Chase’s financial program did not fall into place until midway through the war. The National Banking Act of February 1863 (and legislation of June 1864) established a new system of banks. Finally, in March 1865, Congress passed a 10 percent tax on all notes issued by State banks [which was sufficient to] drive most State banks into the new banking system.

When all was said and done bond sales funded two-thirds of the North’s military expenses. Various forms of wartime taxation funded 21 percent of the war’s cost, and the remaining costs were financed through inflation. By printing greenbacks the federal government caused an increase in prices, which had a measurable impact on the Northern economy. At their peak, prices rose to 80 percent above antebellum levels.

The funding legislation passed by the war Congress raises a broader issue. How did wartime measures reshape the American economy?

One long-standing interpretation is that the war was a triumph of industrial capitalism. With for decades the intellectual heirs of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton had battled over the constitutionality of federal measures to assist economic development.

With the [Southern] congressmen safely out of the way [in 1861] – so the interpretation goes – Republicans were free to pursue an agenda which features protective tariffs and strong banking legislation. The Civil War provide the perfect excuse for imposing a broad economic revolution.”

(The North Fights the Civil War: The Homefront, J. Matthew Gallman, Ivan R. Dee, 1993, excerpts pp. 96-99)

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