Browsing "Foreign Viewpoints"

The Lincoln-Stowe Propaganda

That England did not officially recognize the American Confederacy had less to do with cotton but more to do with fears of a Northern invasion of Canada, and the two Russian fleets in San Francisco’s and New York’s harbors in 1863-64. France feared the latter as well. While both Lincoln and Alexander I of Russia allegedly emancipated slaves and serfs respectively, both at the same time were ruthlessly crushing independence movements in the South and Poland. Lincoln and Seward always had their eyes on the tariffs coming from Southern ports, and re-establishing Northern control over them; Stowe’s book was a novel from a person who had not visited the South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Lincoln-Stowe Propaganda

“In 1859 the South provided nearly 90 percent of the cotton reaching the European market. England alone took over a billion pounds a year; one-fifth of her population was said to be dependent upon cotton manufacture. By January 1861 Southern exports had all but stopped. Production that year reached an all-time high of 4.5 million bales, but only ten thousand bales were exported – down from 3.5 million in 1859 and 0.6 million in 1860.

Realistic Southern diplomats made petitions to Napoleon III in Paris. In return for French help in breaking the blockade, the Confederacy was prepared to give France not less than one hundred thousand bales of American cotton . . . the Emperor [suggested enlisting] the cooperation of the British in the undertaking.

There are Southerners who insist to this day that Anglo-French aid would have materialized except for a personal appeal by Mr. Lincoln “To the Workingmen of Manchester” on the issue of slavery, coupled with the great emotional appeal of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, [a novel] which seems to have become required reading for every spinner and weaver in England after 1860.

So effective was the Lincoln-Stowe propaganda that the London Index was moved to say: “The emancipation of the Negro from the slavery of Mrs. Beecher Stowe’s heroes – has become the one idea of millions of British who know no better and do not care to know.”

Nonetheless, British shipyards were constructing two ironclad men-of-war for the Confederacy. To counteract their potential, [Lincoln’s government] sent strong military and naval expeditions to occupy Southern ports and seize cotton which then be doled out to the British in sufficient quantity to “hold them out of the war.”

So when Port Royal [South Carolina] was taken by the Federals [early in the war], the planters burned their entire harvest rather than let it fall into enemy hands. How much cotton was actually destroyed in this way will probably never be known. However, about this time (July, 1862) US Secretary Seward reported to his Minister [Charles Francis Adams] in London that as many as 3.5 million bales remained in the South, though large quantities of it are yet unginned.”

(King Cotton, George Herbert Aul; This is the South, Hodding Carter, Rand McNally, 1959, pp. 143-144)

Exporting Revolution and the Rights of Man

The French Revolution unleashed the idea of the Rights of Man and Nations, an unstoppable force which led to the 1848 socialist revolutions in Europe. The latter sent radical German revolutionaries, the “Forty-eighters,” who controlled the powerful German-American press which Lincoln did not ignore in 1860. The Federal host invading the American South included divisions of Germans, Irish, the Red Shirts of Garibaldi, some who had followed the Hungarian revolutionary, Kossuth, and all served Lincoln’s revolution.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Exporting Revolution and the Rights of Man

“The French Revolution was different [than previous revolutions] because it brought into the world and Europe in particular, a new idea, the Rights of Man, and with the Rights of Man went the Rights of Nations. Where previously states had been based on dynastic power they were now based on national existence. In the old days, right up to 1789, the state was simply the property of the ruler . . . Then suddenly there appeared the French people who said, “We are France.”

This was a challenge to all the dynasties of Europe and there was a competition of propaganda and of assertion, with, as the [revolution] developed, first the liberal and then the radical, and then the revolutionary leaders staking out more aggressively the claims of the people of France and in time the claims of others. After all, if France had the right to be a nation . . . this applied to others.

One of the factors which produced the revolutionary war was the provocative declaration which the French legislative assembly made on 19 November 1792, promising help and fraternity to every nation seeking to recover its liberty.

The word recover is curious. Most of the nations had never had their liberty, but it was already a myth that there had been a distant time when peoples had all been free and had then been enslaved by their kings.

Something else was curious about it. Although two great forces, the one of monarchy, of tradition, of conservatism, the other of liberalism and nationalism, were moving against each other, neither of them looked at it in practical terms [and action beyond issuing threats].

Strangely enough, though France was the one threatened [by the other monarchies seeking a restoration of Louis XVI], it was the French revolutionary government which finally plunged into war, declared war – threatened Austria in April 1792, and then actually went to war, though unable to do very much.

Why? Because as one of them said: “The time has come to start a new crusade, a crusade for universal liberty.” When the French revolutionary armies encountered the armies of the old [French] regime and were defeated, the cry arose, as it does in a war, of “Treason.” “We are betrayed.” The very same cry that the French raised in 1940 when they were again defeated.

[As the French revolutionary armies] began to achieve victories, [they] certainly brought liberation from the traditional institutions, liberation from the kings and princes, liberation from the Christian religion. At the same time, they brought demands . . .”After all,” the French said, “We have done the fighting, we have liberated you, we have presented you with the Rights of Man, we not only had to pay the money for these armies, we had actually to do the fighting for you as well. Therefore you must pay us.”

Wherever the armies of liberty went in Europe, they imposed indemnities. They collected so much that there was a time when the French revolutionary wars were practically paying for themselves. Moreover, as the armies grew greater and more powerful, the apprehensions of the civilian politicians in Paris grew greater also.

What they wanted was that these revolutionary armies . . . devoted as they were to liberty and equality and fraternity, should not exert power in Paris itself. As one of the revolutionaries said “We must get these scoundrels to march as far away from France as possible.” Revolution had become something for export.”

(How Wars Begin, A.J.P. Taylor, Atheneum Press, 1979, excerpts pp. 20-33)

Heroes and Idols of the North

Grant learned quickly who his masters were and who would ensure his government position and pension after the cheering stopped. A man most unsuited to the presidency, he was merely the front-man for corporate interests which rode his popularity into unchecked power. The Captain Winslow mentioned below, ironically was born in Wilmington, North Carolina and fought against his native State; his family ties with the old New England Winslow family caused him to join the revolutionaries of the North.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Heroes and Idols of the North

“General Grant, in spite of all that is said about his modesty, his integrity and his respect for civil authority, is already beginning to put on princely airs. For a long time he has been very firmly slamming his door in the face of Cabinet members who have tried to look too closely into the affairs of his army. Today he sent Mr. Lincoln a message expressing his satisfaction with his performance and conveying kind congratulations in the tone the Tsar of Russia might use when writing to his dear cousin the Emperor of Austria.

America is at present honoring one of those ephemeral heroes who change from week to week. Grant has a rival for the applause of the masses in the person of Captain [John A.] Winslow. This naval officer, who defeated the privateer Alabama, has been literally borne in triumph from one end of the United States to the other. Boston has just given him a splendid welcome, New York is clamoring for him and the national propensity for imitation — which reminds one of Panurge’s sheep — will surely bring him many more ovations. Prominent men like Mr. [Edward] Everett do not hesitate to harness themselves to his triumphal chariot.

You would almost think that the fight between the Alabama and the Kearsarge was the most glorious feat of arms in this century. The hero, puffed up by his unexpected fame, goes from banquet to banquet telling the tale of his great deeds. If you believe all he says, you would think that all by himself on his little boat he held the envious powers of Europe at bay, paralyzed with terror, that he thumbed his nose at the French navy, slapped a British admiral in the face and defied Lord Russell by sailing right up the Thames — indeed, that he has made the name of America shine like a fiery sword in the eyes of a terrified Europe.

The American public soon gets enough of its idols. Clever men never let themselves be exploited in this way; they prefer to be the impresario who sponsors one of these seven-day wonders; in this way they avoid inflating for themselves the dangerous balloon of popularity that rises so high and so swiftly, but will just as suddenly let fall those it has lifted up.”

(A Frenchman in Lincoln’s America, Ernst D. de Hauranne, Donnelly & Sons, 1974, Volume II, pp. 92-94 )

Revolutionary Indemnity Deja Vu

The French Revolution unleashed the idea of the Rights of Man and Nations, an unstoppable force which led to the 1848 socialist revolutions in Europe. The latter sent radical German revolutionaries, the “Forty-eighters,” who controlled the powerful German-American press which Lincoln did not ignore in 1860. The Federal host invading the American South included divisions of Germans, Irish, the Red Shirts of Garibaldi, and some who had followed the Hungarian revolutionary, Kossuth.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Revolutionary Indemnity Deja Vu

“The French Revolution was different [than previous revolutions] because it brought into the world and Europe in particular, a new idea, the Rights of Man, and with the Rights of Man went the Rights of Nations. Where previously states had been based on dynastic power they were now based on national existence. In the old days, right up to 1789, the state was simply the property of the ruler . . . Then suddenly there appeared the French people who said, “We are France.”

This was a challenge to all the dynasties of Europe and there was a competition of propaganda and of assertion, with, as the [revolution] developed, first the liberal and then the radical, and then the revolutionary leaders staking out more aggressively the claims of the people of France and in time the claims of others. After all, if France had the right to be a nation . . . this applied to others.

One of the factors which produced the revolutionary war was the provocative declaration which the French legislative assembly made on 19 November 1792, promising help and fraternity to every nation seeking to recover its liberty.

The word recover is curious. Most of the nations had never had their liberty, but it was already a myth that there had been a distant time when peoples had all been free and had then been enslaved by their kings.

Something else was curious about it. Although two great forces, the one of monarchy, of tradition, of conservatism, the other of liberalism and nationalism, were moving against each other, neither of them looked at it in practical terms [and action beyond issuing threats].

Strangely enough, though France was the one threatened [by the other monarchies seeking a restoration of Louis XVI], it was the French revolutionary government which finally plunged into war, declared war – threatened Austria in April 1792, and then actually went to war, though unable to do very much.

Why? Because as one of them said: “The time has come to start a new crusade, a crusade for universal liberty.” When the French revolutionary armies encountered the armies of the old [French] regime and were defeated, the cry arose, as it does in a war, of “Treason.” “We are betrayed.” The very same cry that the French raised in 1940 when they were again defeated.

[As the French revolutionary armies] began to achieve victories, [they] certainly brought liberation from the traditional institutions, liberation from the kings and princes, liberation from the Christian religion. At the same time, they brought demands . . .”After all,” the French said, “We have done the fighting, we have liberated you, we have presented you with the Rights of Man, we not only had to pay the money for these armies, we had actually to do the fighting for you as well. Therefore you must pay us.”

Wherever the armies of liberty went in Europe, they imposed indemnities. They collected so much that there was a time when the French revolutionary wars were practically paying for themselves. Moreover, as the armies grew greater and more powerful, the apprehensions of the civilian politicians in Paris grew greater also.

What they wanted was that these revolutionary armies . . . devoted as they were to liberty and equality and fraternity, should not exert power in Paris itself. As one of the revolutionaries said “We must get these scoundrels to march as far away from France as possible.” Revolution had become something for export.”

(How Wars Begin, A.J.P. Taylor, Atheneum Press, 1979, excerpts pp. 20-33)

They Have Made a Nation

The Radical Republicans in Washington “were annoyed and offended because Europe ventured to pronounce the condition of affairs in North America to be a state of war, which they affirmed to be only an insurrection.” The South, as the Radicals and some War Democrats saw it, was engaged in domestic insurrection inflamed by insurgents rather than forming a more perfect union with the consent of the governed.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

They Have Made a Nation

[Earl Russell said at Newcastle], “But I cannot help asking myself frequently, as I trace the progress of the contest, to what good end can it tend? Supposing the contest to end in the reunion of the different States; supposing that the South should agree to enter again the Federal Union with all the rights guaranteed to her by the Constitution, should we not then have debated over again the fatal question of slavery?

But, on the other hand, supposing that the Federal Government completely conquer and subdue the Southern States – supposing that be the result after a long, military conflict and some years of Civil War – would not the national prosperity of that country be destroyed?

If such are the unhappy results which alone can be looked forward to from the reunion of these different parts of the North American States, is it not then our duty…is it not the duty of men who wish to preserve to perpetuity the sacred inheritance of liberty, to endeavour to see whether this sanguinary conflict cannot be put to an end?

In a speech delivered in the House of Lords, February 5th, 1863, Earl Russell said: — “There is one thing, however, which I think may be the result of the struggle, and which, to my mind, would be a great calamity – that is, the subjugation of the South by the North . . . ”

Mr. W.E. Gladstone, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, said in a public speech at Newcastle, October 7, 1862: — “We may have our own opinions about slavery; we may be for or against the South; but there is no doubt that Jefferson Davis and other leaders of the South have made an army. They are making, it appears, a navy, and they have made what is more than either – they have made a nation. (Loud cheers.) . . . We may anticipate with certainty the success of the Southern States so far as regards their separation from the North. (Hear, hear.) . . . ”

[Mr. Gladstone stated in the House of Commons on 30 June 1863] . . . Why, sir, we must desire a cessation of the war . . . We do not believe that the restoration of the American Union by force is attainable. I believe that the opinion of this country is unanimous upon that subject . . . .[and] believe that the public opinion of this country bears very strongly on another matter . . . whether the emancipation of the negro race is an object that can be legitimately pursued by means of coercion and bloodshed . . . I do not believe that a more fatal error was ever committed than when men – of high intelligence I grant . . . came to the conclusion that the emancipation of the negro was to be sought, although they could only travel to it by a sea of blood. I do not think there is any real or serious ground for doubt as to the issue of this contest.”

(The Secret Service of the Confederate States in Europe, James D. Bulloch, Volume II, Sagamore Press, 1959, pp. 359-361)

Stonewall's Noble and High Mission on Earth

The early victories of Southern armies were cause for much celebration across the Atlantic, and this was reported home by Confederate diplomats. The London Times, Morning Herald and Evening Standard reported the elation with which Jackson’s victory at Chancellorsville was received, and later the widespread grief over his death.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Stonewall’s Noble and High Mission on Earth

Diplomatic Correspondence, 1863

From: A. Dudley Mann, No. 48, 3 Rue D’Arlon, Brussels, May 28, 1863

To: Hon. J.P. Benjamin, Secretary of State, Confederate States of America, Richmond, Va.

“Sir: The excessive joy occasioned on this side of the Atlantic by our dazzling victory at Chancellorsville has been tinged by inordinate sorrow. [General Stonewall Jackson’s death causes] civilization to mourn, as it has rarely ever mourned, for the loss of a public man.

The London Times of yesterday no more than reflects the general opinion of Europe upon the subject in the following paragraph contained in its leader: “The Confederate laurels won on the field of Chancellorsville must be twined with the cypress. Probably no disaster of the war will have carried such grief to Southern hearts as the death of General Jackson . . . Even on this side of the ocean the gallant soldier’s fate will everywhere be heard of with pity and sympathy not only as a brave man fighting for his country’s independence, but as one of the most consummate generals that this century has produced.

The blows he struck at the enemy were as terrible and decisive as Bonaparte himself. But perhaps the crowning glory of his life was the great battle in which he fell.

When the Federal commander, by crossing the river twelve miles above his camp and pressing on as he thought to the rear of the Confederates, had placed them between two bodies of his army, he was so confident of success as to boast that the enemy was the property of the Army of the Potomac. It was reserved to Jackson, by a swift and secret march, to fall upon his right wing, crush it, and by an attack unsurpassed in fierceness and pertinacity to drive his [enemy’s] very superior forces back into a position from which he could not extricate himself except by flight across the river.

[That evening], Jackson received two wounds, one in the left arm, the other in the right hand. Amputation of the arm was necessary, and the Southern hero sank under the effects of it. He was only thirty-eight years old, and was known before the war as a man of simple and noble character and of strong religious faith.”

The conservative organ, the Morning Herald, also in its leader says: “No end can be more honorable to any man [than] to die at his post of duty. To die of his wounds in battle, with the shout of victory still ringing in his ears, is a glory reserved to the soldier.

The sympathy that is felt in Europe for their grief at this immeasurable loss will add to the warmth of popular feeling for the men who have striven so long in a just cause and acquitted themselves so well. A soldier of remarkable ability, he fought with the advantage of an earnest faith in his cause; and, controlled in all he did by a strong religious feeling, he fought the better still for believing that God was on his side.

He was animated by the spirit which rendered the soldiers of the Commonwealth irresistible in fight, which carried Havelock through incredible dangers to the gates of Lucknow in triumph. The Christian and patriotic soldier achieved the last and greatest of his successes in dying for his country. He perished doubly a martyr, and in his last breath attested the righteousness of the cause which he sealed with his blood.”

The Paris correspondent for the Evening Standard . . . remarks: “I cannot forbear noticing the universal feeling of regret created among the English colony in Paris by the sad tidings . . . He was a hero after our own heart . . . I can safely say deeper and more unanimous sorrow has not been experienced by our countrymen here.

The Northerners in Paris often express wonder at the universal sympathy for the South felt by Englishmen. They may learn a useful lesson from the tribute paid by our countrymen to Stonewall Jackson. Independently of the justice of the cause, independently of the disgust excited by the arrogance and boasting of the North, it is the presence in the Southern ranks of such men as Davis, Lee, Longstreet, Jackson, Stuart, Beauregard, and Semmes that conciliate the esteem of the world, as well as its admiration. Stonewall Jackson was one of the most heroic figures that have been thrown into relief in the course of this gigantic struggle.

Look at the North, and we may ask: Quando et quo invenient parem? Low speculators, dishonest politicians, pettifogging tyrants, unhanged murderers, and strong-minded women, for whose conduct insanity is the only possible excuse – these are the worthies of the North. The loss of Jackson has brought home this contrast to many minds, and, if possible, added strength to the general conviction in the ultimate triumph of the cause supported by such as he.”

General Jackson has lived long enough for the creation of world-wide, exalted fame; but alas! not sufficiently long for the interest of his struggling country. Nobly, most nobly, did he complete his high mission on earth. In his separation from us let us console ourselves with the belief that his illustrious example will exercise as salutary an influence upon our citizen soldiers in the hour of battle as did his presence, and that his pure spirit will linger around his beloved associates whenever they may be engaged and guide to their accustomed achievements.

I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant, A. Dudley Mann”

(A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Confederacy 1861-1865, James D. Richardson, Volume II, US Publishing Company, 1905, excerpt, pp. 489-492)

 

Southerners a Conquered and Foreign People

With the South under military rule despite the fiction of the Union being saved, the Republican party enlisted the manipulated vote of the freedmen in 1868 to ensure that the election of Grant was assured – lest their military victory be lost with the election of New York Democrat Horatio Seymour.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Southerners a Conquered and Foreign People

“Not everything was settled on the day the Federal flag was raised once again over the capitol building in Richmond. The nation had to go forward resolutely to complete the revolution begun by the Civil War . . . It was needful not only to impose obedience on the conquered inhabitants but also to raise them up again after having subjugated them, to bring them back into the bosom of the Union; to rebuild the devastated countryside and enlist the people’s sincere acceptance of the great reform about to be inaugurated.

They must be made to feel the firm hand of a determined government that would not, however, be a threat to their liberties. Armed repression must give way to politics . . .

[In dealing with the Southern States, they] might be considered conquered territory and be told that when they left the Union they gave up all their rights under the Federal Constitution that they had ceased to be sovereign States.

In that case they must be treated as a conquered foreign people; their State and local governments must be destroyed or allowed to collapse and then reorganized as territories . . . Then someday, when the memory of the Civil War had been completely erased, they would be readmitted to the Union.

This procedure, the Radicals argued, would be merely the literal application of the United States Constitution, the sole method of ensuring respect for national authority. It would be the only way to restore the former Union on a solid foundation, having levelled the ground beforehand by stamping out all tendencies to rebellion . . .

It would be a good thing for the Southern States to be subjected for a time to the rigors of military rule and arbitrary power, or at least for them to be kept for a number of years under the guardianship of Congress, that is to say, under the domination of the North.

Their delegates might come, like those from the territories, and present their grievances or defend their interests; but they would only have a consultative voice in Congress and would have no share in the government. Great care must be taken not to give back to the South the preponderant influence it had exercised for so long.

The rebellion is not yet dead, the Radical orators declared; it has only been knocked down and it may get back on its feet if we are not vigilant. Never has the Union been in such danger as in this moment of victory when peace seems to prevail, but when the future depends on the decisions the people and the government now adopt.

If the [Democratic party] is once again allowed to reorganize, if the Southerners renew their alliance with the Northern Democrats, it will be all up for national greatness and liberty. The same arrogant claims and the same quarrels will reappear . . . all this will someday or another lead to another civil war which will encompass the total destruction of America.”

(A Frenchman in Lincoln’s America, 1864-1865, Ernest Duvergier de Hauranne, Volume II, R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company, 1975 (original 1866), pp. 543-545

 

Heroes and Idols of the North

Grant learned quickly who his masters were and who would ensure his government position and pension after the cheering stopped. A man most unsuited to the presidency, he was merely the front-man for corporate interests which rode his popularity into unchecked power. The Captain Winslow mentioned below, ironically was born in Wilmington, North Carolina and fought against his native State; his family ties with the old New England Winslow family caused him to join the revolutionaries of the North.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Heroes and Idols of the North

“General Grant, in spite of all that is said about his modesty, his integrity and his respect for civil authority, is already beginning to put on princely airs. For a long time he has been very firmly slamming his door in the face of Cabinet members who have tried to look too closely into the affairs of his army. Today he sent Mr. Lincoln a message expressing his satisfaction with his performance and conveying kind congratulations in the tone the Tsar of Russia might use when writing to his dear cousin the Emperor of Austria.

America is at present honoring one of those ephemeral heroes who change from week to week. Grant has a rival for the applause of the masses in the person of Captain [John A.] Winslow. This naval officer, who defeated the privateer Alabama, has been literally borne in triumph from one end of the United States to the other. Boston has just given him a splendid welcome, New York is clamoring for him and the national propensity for imitation—which reminds one of Panurge’s sheep — will surely bring him many more ovations. Prominent men like Mr. [Edward] Everett do not hesitate to harness themselves to his triumphal chariot.

You would almost think that the fight between the Alabama and the Kearsarge was the most glorious feat of arms in this century. The hero, puffed up by his unexpected fame, goes from banquet to banquet telling the tale of his great deeds. If you believe all he says, you would think that all by himself on his little boat he held the envious powers of Europe at bay, paralyzed with terror, that he thumbed his nose at the French navy, slapped a British admiral in the face and defied Lord Russell by sailing right up the Thames — indeed, that he has made the name of America shine like a fiery sword in the eyes of a terrified Europe.

The American public soon gets enough of its idols. Clever men never let themselves be exploited in this way; they prefer to be the impresario who sponsors one of these seven-day wonders; in this way they avoid inflating for themselves the dangerous balloon of popularity that rises so high and so swiftly, but will just as suddenly let fall those it has lifted up.”

(A Frenchman in Lincoln’s America, Ernst D. de Hauranne, Donnelly & Sons, 1974, Volume II, pp. 92-94 )

 

Postwar Gospel of Pecuniary Success

The United States of 1868 was unrecognizable to someone returning to this country after a ten year absence – the Founders’ republic had been replaced by a virtual military dictatorship of one-party rule, government informants and a nouveau-rich class of corporations and congressmen.  The adminstration of Grant — enabled by the military subjugation of the American South, enfranchising illiterates while disenfranchising literates, and fraudulent Republican regimes governing defeated States — became the first such in American history known for rampant corruption, vote-buying and outright incompetency.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Postwar Gospel of Pecuniary Success

“The great omnipresence during this pivotal decade [1860-1870] in American thought was, of course, the Civil War and its aftermath. In that crucible were produced not merely a new South but a new nation. Said Henry Adams, referring to his return to American soil in 1868: “Had they been Tyrian traders of the year B.C. 1000, landing from a galley fresh from Gibraltar, they could hardly have been stranger on the shore of a world, so changed from what it had been ten years before.”

The cataclysm had compressed a profound economic upheaval into a few short years; it had introduced almost overnight the vast complexities of an industrial society; it had bred up a new race of entrepreneurs who acknowledged no morality but pecuniary success. The nation had been brought to a point of ethical exhaustion.

“The old idealism had been burnt away, the hopes of the patriot fathers, the youthful and generous dreams of the early republic. The war, with its fearful tension, draining the national vitality, had left the mind of the people morally flabby.”

The effect of the war . . . was not only to waste away the old democratic values of American life, but to raise up new gods and new ideals in their vacated places. The new capitalism required a gospel of assertion as well as of negation; its position would not be secure if it rested only on moral indifference: it needed discipleship.”

(American Conservatism, In the Age of Enterprise, 1865-1910, Robert Green McCloskey, Harper, 1951, pp. 100-101)

 

Serfs, Slaves and Irishmen

The emancipation of Russian serfs in 1861 followed the unrest fomented by the 1848 socialist revolutions in Europe, but it should not be too closely compared to Lincoln’s act in 1863. Then, the impetus was purely military and followed the pervious examples set by the British in 1775 and 1814 which promised freedom for those who rose up against their owners and contributed to British victory. Contrary to Lincoln’s writ of fire and sword, the Russian act of emancipation was peaceful and serfs were not enfranchised to rule over the Russian nobility.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Serfs, Slaves and Irishmen

“The rationale of serfdom, that is, the tying of the peasant to the land he tilled, was that it ensured labor (and hence income) to the landowning noble, enabling the latter to devote himself to serving the state. The enserfment of the peasants had been gradual, but by the middle of the seventeenth century the peasant and his descendants were legally obliged to remain on the land of their master. When the state granted land to new or old nobles for services rendered, the peasants on that land were transferred from state peasants into serfs.

[When Tsar Peter III released the nobility from state service] the peasants [expected reforms and] became resentful. Hitherto, peasant revolts had been localized though frequent, but in the reign of Catherine the Great the intensified discontent expressed itself in Pugachov’s rebellion, which lasted two years and threw official Russia and the nobility into a panic.

Serfs cultivated the land allotted to them, and in recompense for the use of this land they were required to work also on the land reserved for the use of the landowner. Three days a week was probably the average requirement but in the worst cases, and in busy weeks, this might be doubled . . .

The landowner could increase his serfs dues and duties, he could seize their property, he could forbid them from buying from, selling to, or working with persons outside the estate, he could make them into domestic servants, sell them either separately or with their families, force them to marry so as to breed more serfs, or forbid them to marry disapproved partners. Except in case of murder or banditry, the landowner administered rural justice and could send troublesome serfs to Siberia or into the army. Whipping was commonplace.

Although there were many landowners who were kindly, educating and sometimes liberating favoured serfs, there were others who were brutal; social isolation and almost absolute power led some landowners to excesses which in other circumstances they would have found revolting.

Englishmen travelling through Russia often compared Russian peasant life, not always unfavourably, with the condition of the Irish. Bu many foreigners were shocked by the condition of the poorer peasants.

An American wrote that the village poor “generally wanting the comforts which are supplied to the Negro on our best-ordered plantations, appeared to me not less degraded in intellect, character and personal bearing. Indeed, the marks of physical and personal degradation were so strong, that I was irresistibly compelled to abandon certain theories not uncommon among my countrymen at home, in regard to the intrinsic superiority of the white race over the others.”

(Endurance and Endeavor, Russian History 1812-1986, J.N. Westwood, Oxford University Press, 1987, pp. 74-76)