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War was Lincoln’s Choice

President James Buchanan disagreed with secession as the prerogative of a State, but admitted that he as president held no authority to levy war to stop it — and his attorney general concurred. Both were well-aware of Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying was against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” Buchanan could not use military force against a State without committing treason.

War was Lincoln’s Choice

“The States of the deep South dissolved their connection with the voluntary union of the United States with marked legality at the beginning of 1861. For a quarter of a year no one knew that there was to be a war. Then Lincoln (unauthorized by the Constitution) called for troops; and the upper South, led by Virginia, seceded.

The point is, Lincoln could have chosen to let the South go in peace on the grounds that a just government depends on the consent of the governed, and the Southern States had withdrawn that consent.

But, said the North, the majority do consent, since there are more people in the North. Even if most of the people in the South do not consent, we in the North are the majority of the whole nation. Thus, the rights of a minority, although a minority of millions, mean nothing.

This is precisely what [Alexis] de Tocqueville warned against: the tyranny of the majority. And Lord Acton was deeply convinced that the principle of States’ rights was the best limitation upon the tyranny of the majority that had ever been devised.

Thus Lee did represent the cause of freedom, and Lord Acton broke his heart over Lee’s surrender because the principle of States’ rights was finally and forever denied.

The America of today is the America that won that immense triumph in the war – the triumph of unlimited, equalitarian democracy. And its leaders have blurred the distinction between freedom and equality to the point where many people use those words as virtually interchangeable terms.”

(The Glittering Illusion: English Sympathy for the Southern Confederacy, Sheldon Vanauken, Regnery Gateway, 1989, excerpt pg. 142)

Jun 4, 2021 - Antebellum Realities, Democracy, Foreign Viewpoints, Historians on History, Uncategorized    Comments Off on Cultural Mediocrity and Majority Tyranny Sweeping the Globe

Cultural Mediocrity and Majority Tyranny Sweeping the Globe

Two young visitors from the Old World who briefly studied America, Alexis de Tocqueville of France and Russian Alexandr Lakier, were historians, jurisprudents, and both involved in public service careers. It is said that Alexis de Tocqueville was fascinated by the idea of political equality in America and wished to obtain first-hand knowledge of this. While Tocqueville, the philosopher, spoke with the upper classes, Lakier was a better reporter on the typical American. Tocqueville arrived in 1831, Lakier in 1857.

Cultural Mediocrity and Majority Tyranny Sweeping the Globe

“Tocqueville came with overpowering credentials. He was able to see everybody who was anybody – presidents, senators, judges, university presidents, scholars, men of letters. He managed, in the brief time he was here, to interview statesmen like Albert Gallatin, John Quincy Adams and Edward Livingston; jurists like Chancellor Kent and Joseph Story; scholars like Edward Everett, Francis Lieber and Jared Sparks; luminaries like Daniel Webster and William Ellerry Channing, and his thinking was profoundly influenced by what these distinguished men told him.

Lakier came on his own, and depended on fortuity for his interviews. He talked with the most miscellaneous people – shipboard acquaintances, workingmen, petty officials, farmers, fur traders, and newly arrived immigrants – a pretty good cross-section of American society.

There was a pervasive melancholy in much that Tocqueville wrote, a conviction that though democracy was indeed the wave of the future, that wave would drown out much that was precious – that democracy would expose every Old World society to the threat of cultural mediocrity, majority tyranny, and the ultimate subversion of liberty.

Lakier, who was by nature more sanguine and more buoyant, looked with confidence to the future – a future that would see the triumph of equality and a closer friendship between the United States and his own nation.

Lakier saw too, that the example of America could not be confined to the Western Hemisphere, but would sweep around the globe . . . “They will have an influence on Europe, but they will use neither arms nor sword nor fire, nor death and destruction. They will spread their influence by the strength of their inventions, their trade, and their industry. And this influence will be more durable than any conquest.”

(A Russian Looks at America: The Journey of Aleksandr Lakier Borisovich in 1857, University of Chicago Press, 1979, excerpts x-xiii)

A Powerful Force of Militant Democracy

Had England gone to war against the United States in late 1861 over the seizure of two Confederate States diplomats from the RMS Trent, Lincoln’s ports would have been blockaded by the Royal Navy, and Northern shipping destroyed on the high seas in concert with Confederate privateers. Also contemplated was invasion of the undefended American northwest, as well as Canada West — today’s Ontario – thus creating a Northern war front.  Added to this was Maximillian’s French army in Mexico, which may have marched northward to help American’s achieve independence a second time.

A Powerful Force of Militant Democracy

“The prime minister, Viscount Palmerston, was seventy-seven years old in 1861. Born in 1784, just after the American Revolution, he was twenty-eight when Britain went to war again with the United States in 1812. Palmerston had served as foreign secretary in three British governments for a total of about fifteen years.

His involvement with several major US-British disputes had left him with the view that the Americans were pushy, ill-mannered, unyielding in their demands that their rights be respected, and totally lacking in awe of the imperial power of Britain. His continuing fears that the United States would eventually invade and annex Canada ultimately prevented him from supporting a more aggressive British policy toward the American Civil War.

One of Palmerston’s biographers, Jasper Ridley, wrote that “he believed that the British constitution and social system . . . was the best in the world . . . He was a liberal abroad because he wished to see this system replace the absolute monarchies of the Continent.”  But when he looked toward America, Palmerston was no liberal. He was hostile to the idea of a government elected by all of the citizens and, as Ridley noted, was very dubious about militant democracy in America:

“Palmerston had played a very active role in the suppression of the international slave trade . . .  But though Palmerston was delighted when slaves in the intercepted slave ships were liberated by officers and gentlemen of the Royal Navy, he was not pleased at the prospect of the slaves on cotton plantations in the Confederate States being freed by large armies . . . commanded by cigar-chomping generals in ill-fitting uniforms.  And he was as conscious as [John] Bright and the [British] Radicals that the Union armies were the most powerful force of militant democracy since the French revolutionary armies of 1793.”

Oxford professor H.C. Allen wrote that Palmerston “privately . . . hoped for success of the Confederacy because it would weaken a potential rival of Britain’s – and a democratic one . . .”

(One War at a Time: The International Dimensions of the American Civil War, Dean B. Mahin, Brassey’s, 1999, excerpt, pp. 32-33)

The Real Motives of the War

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

The Real Motives of the War

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mar 14, 2021 - Foreign Viewpoints, Historical Accuracy, Southern Culture Laid Bare, Southern Patriots    Comments Off on Multicultural Confederates

Multicultural Confederates

The German citizens of Charleston were quick to form ranks against invasion, organizing the German Riflemen (Schutzen) of Captain J. Small; the Palmetto Schutzen of Captain A. Melchers; the German Fusiliers of Captain Schroder; Captain Theodore Cordes’ German Hussars. But German South Carolinians won their greatest distinction as artillerists in Hampton’s Legion, early on known as Major Johann Wagener’s artillery.

Multicultural Confederates

“In Richmond . . . The old German Rifle Company, which had been organized on March 1, 1850, was attached to the First Infantry Regiment as Company K.  Another company of recent comers, the Marion Rifles, was mustered into service on May 1, 1861, and ordered to the peninsula on the twenty-fourth of that month. Colonel Rains recruited an artillery regiment composed in part of Germans from Richmond.

The First Virginia Regiment was, except for the German Rifle Company, composed of Irishmen, and was termed accordingly the Irish Battalion. It was attached to [Stonewall] Jackson’s division From December 1861, to about December 1862, when it was made provost guard for the Army of Northern Virginia. The Nineteenth Virginia Reserved Forces were chiefly composed of foreigners, Germans, Frenchmen and Italians, recruited for home defense among the artisans in the government workshops.

Even from North Carolina, which boasts of its almost purely Anglo-Saxon population, hail several companies which were constituted of sons from other climes. Wilmington had a goodly number of foreign-born [including the German Volunteers of Captain Christian Cornehlson], a group which became Company A, Eighteenth North Carolina. Every officer and every enlisted man, 102 in all, except 30, had been born in Germany.

It was inevitable that a city, with as large groups of Germans and Irish as Charleston had, should send forth companies comprised in whole or in large part of men born in the Germans states or in Ireland. Most generously and patriotically did the Germans of Charleston uniform and equip the company . . . They came from the superior ranks of the German citizens, merchants, lawyers, teachers, clerks and artisans.”

(Foreigners in the Confederacy, Ella Lonn, UNC Press, 1940, excerpts pp. 117-120)

Lieber’s Puzzling Code of War

Nearly two years into the war, Lincoln’s government announced “General Orders No. 100,” the rules under his armies would conduct their operations. Selected to write the code was Prussian emigre Francis Lieber, a fervent nationalist in Prussia who fled his country while under police investigation in 1825 for plotting to overthrow the government.  After short residence in England, he was recruited to teach at Columbia University, and in the United States “directed the ardent nationalistic emotion with which he had regarded Germany.” Lieber believed he left behind the “bureaucratic ministries and police spies,” though his new employer relied on these as well.

Lieber’s Puzzling Code of War

“But there is a puzzling side to this document that has gone largely unnoticed by historians and legal scholars. Why was it allowed to be created and adopted? One could argue that the process by which Lieber’s code of war came into being contradicted constitutional principles and the established practices of the United States.

The Constitution states that the power to declare war and, even more pertinently, to “make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces” belongs with the Congress. When the [United States] created the Articles of War in 1806, it did so through congressional legislation, not executive fiat. With General Orders No. 100, the executive branch took a bolder step than many have realized, by assuming the right to determine the parameters of war making, especially the meaning of “military necessity,” without these policies originating with Congress.

As the compilation of military law and usages made its way through the bureaucracy, Lieber understood that at least a few paragraphs might benefit from “the assistance of Congress,” but added that it “is now too late.”

[Some] sections gave the executive and his generals broad powers. The instructions allowed for the bombardment of civilians feeling a siege back into towns so their suffering could force surrender more quickly; and for taking most of the property from an enemy based on military necessity.”

(With Malice Toward Some: Treason and Loyalty in the Civil War Era, William A. Blair, UNC Press, 2014, excerpt. pp. 93-94)

Feb 27, 2021 - Antebellum Realities, Black Soldiers, Democracy, Foreign Viewpoints, Jeffersonian America, Patriotism, Southern Statesmen    Comments Off on An Invigorating Spirit of Patriotism

An Invigorating Spirit of Patriotism

Andrew Jackson thought of himself as not an innovator or man of ideas, but that he must revive and continue Jeffersonian principles in the federal government. He was a man hostile to the clamoring abolitionist radicals and in general to the various “isms” of the North, sure to cause strife where none should be. His conception of patriotism included a determination to uphold the national honor and interests, even at the risk of war.

An Invigorating Spirit of Patriotism

“[The] Age of Jackson appears to have been characterized by a high degree of patriotism – the patriotism of a provincial people who were virtually untouched by the internationalism of our own day and who as a whole lived close to nature and therefore perhaps had a child’s love for the homeland.

The Italian Count Francesco Arese, who traveled in the United States in 1837-38, described this invigorating spirit of patriotism, which he witnessed during a Fourth-of-July celebration in Lexington, Virginia.

After the usual fireworks, marching of the militia, and playing by the band of “Hail, Columbia” and “Yankee Doodle,” the townspeople sat down to an elaborate banquet. “There were 160-odd people,” the Count relates in his journal, “and though Americans are accused of being not too sober, I am forced to say that not a soul got drunk. After the dinner, which didn’t last over ½ hour, several toasts were drunk. The first was to “the 4th of July, 1776,” the next to General George Washington, the third to General Lafayette; and many others followed.

Among the banqueters were two old veterans that had served under Washington, one of whom was a Negro who had gone everywhere with the brave general, and for that reason, a half-century later, he was allowed the honor once every year of sitting down to the table with white men!

There was nothing, absolutely nothing in this celebration that suggested in the remotest degree that trumped-up joy, that official gaiety they gratify us with in Europe, quite contrary to our desire. Here the joy, the enthusiasm were real, natural, heartfelt. Each individual was rightly proud to feel himself an American.

Each one believed himself to share the glory of Washington, Jefferson, Marshall and all the other illustrious men whom not only America but the whole world has the right to be proud of. Oh. God, when shall my own beautiful and wretched country be able to celebrate a day like that?”

(The Leaven of Democracy: The Growth of the Democratic Spirit in the Time of Jackson, Clement Eaton, editor, George Braziller Publishers, 1963, excerpt, pp. 10-11)

Who is Encircling Whom?

The following exchange between Senator William J. Fulbright and General James M. Gavin occurred during Foreign Relations Committee hearings in early February 1966.  A scholar as well as a US Senator representing Arkansas, Fulbright’s deep knowledge of history and the political past set an example few have emulated, and to our country’s detriment.  Fulbright no doubt understood Lee’s postwar statement regarding Northern victory, that “the consolidation of the States into one vast republic, sure to be aggressive abroad and despotic at home, will be the certain precursor of the ruin which has overwhelmed all those that have preceded it.”

Who is Encircling Whom?

“Every night for the past week or so, Fulbright had been reading with a growing fascination the classic works on China, its history and culture in anticipation of the forthcoming Committee hearings on China with the top American scholars. Out of this reading was emerging a view somewhat different than the standard clichés.

So he asked General Gavin, “In what respect are [the Chinese] aggressive, contrasting what they say with what they do?”

The General answered him, “I have been exposed to the filmed reports coming out of China of their militancy, of their training their youth and their industrial workers and their people in the use of arms, in the military tactics and so on.”

“Do you consider that aggressive necessarily?” Fulbright insisted. “The training of their troops in China, is that an act of aggression?”

“No, no.”

“Is there evidence that they moved troops into Vietnam?”

“There is not at this time.”

“I understand they have made many threats,” Fulbright said, pursuing this, “Normally we use the word ‘aggression’ very loosely.

The Senator spoke of a “very interesting article” by a New York Times correspondent from Hong Kong. “The whole purport is that the Chinese are alleging they are being encircled,” he remarked.

General Gavin replied, “I would be inclined to agree that the Chinese think they are being pretty well hemmed in” [referring to American military bases and nuclear submarines girding China in an arc from Thailand through South Vietnam, the Philippines, the China Seas, Taiwan, Okinawa, South Korea and Japan].

“Is it a fact, do you think, that relatively speaking they are more encircled today than we are?” Fulbright pressed.

“There is no question about that.”

[Fulbright] asked the leading question, “You know a great deal about both military and political history. Have the Chinese as a nation over the last one hundred or two hundred years been especially aggressive? I use that word to mean military, overt aggression on their neighbors?”

“No. They haven’t been to my knowledge.”

“Who aggressed whom during the last century? Was it China attacking the Western nations or vice versa?”

“The other way around. The Western nations attacking China.”

“Was this to a very great extent?” [asked Fulbright]

“Yes. I remember quite well reading about the moving from Tientsin in the Boxer Rebellion, and reviewing the life of Gordon and the British occupation of major segments of China as well as that of other European nations.”

“As a matter of fact, various Western nations practically occupied and humiliated and decimated China throughout almost a century, did they not?”

“That is absolutely true.”

“Don’t you think that might not be a significant element in our present situation?”

“Indeed, surely.”

(Senator Fulbright: Portrait of a Public Philosopher, Tristam Coffin, E.P. Dutton & Company, 1966, excerpt, pp. 284-285)

His Holiness and the Civil War

Dudley Mann was appointed as one of three Special Commissioners to Europe in 1861, to represent the interests of the Confederate States of America. He met with Pope Pius IX in mid-November 1863 to explain the actions of the Confederate States in seeking independence. When the wisdom of gradual emancipation was suggested, Mann properly advised the Pontiff that the States themselves were the ones to decide this, not the Confederate government. He could have further explained that this is precisely how African slavery had been abolished in the Northern States by the action of individual States, not the federal government. In March 1865, with the agreement of the States, the Confederate Congress authorized the enlistment of 300,000 emancipated black men.

His Holiness and the Civil War

“His Holiness now stated, to use his own language, that Lincoln and Company had endeavored to create an impression abroad that they were fighting for the abolition of slavery, and that it might perhaps be judicious in us to consent to gradual emancipation. I replied that the subject of slavery was one over which the Government of the Confederate States, like that of the old United States, had no control whatever; that all ameliorations with regard to the institution must proceed from the States themselves, which were as sovereigns in their character in this regard as were France, Austria, or any other Continental power . . .

I availed myself of [Lincoln’s emancipation] declaration to inform His Holiness that it was not the armies of Northern birth which the South was encountering in hostile array, but that it was the armies of European creation, occasioned by the Irish and Germans, chiefly by the former, who were influenced to emigrate (by circulars from Lincoln and Company to their numerous agents abroad) ostensibly for the purpose of securing high wages, but in reality to fill up the constantly depleted ranks of our enemy, that those poor unfortunates were tempted by the high bounties amounting to $500, $600 and $700 to enlist and take up arms against us; that once in the service they were invariably placed in the most exposed points of danger in the battlefield; that in consequence thereof an instance had occurred in which almost an entire brigade had been left dead or wounded upon the ground; that but for foreign recruits the North would most likely have broken down months ago in the absurd attempt to overpower the South.

His Holiness expressed his utter astonishment, repeatedly throwing up his hands at the employment of such means against us and the cruelty attendant upon such unscrupulous operations.”

(A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Confederacy, Including the Diplomatic Correspondence 1861-1865, James D. Richardson, editor, US Publishing Company, 1905, excerpt pg. 594)

Two Views of Freedom

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

Two Views of Freedom

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

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

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

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

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