Browsing "Foreign Viewpoints"

European Jacobin Views of a Massachusetts Whig

The visiting Frenchman, Ernst D. de Hauranne, travelled only in the North for his eight months in America and was a strong supporter of the Northern invasion of the American South. Ironically, when confronted by a Radical lieutenant enraged at Americans resisting subjugation, the Frenchman could reel off the specifics of Lincoln’s destruction of liberty, and compared the despotic Northern government to the worst aspects of the French Revolution.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

European Jacobin Views of a Massachusetts Whig

[Diary Entry] June 28, 1864

“Here I found my first expert on American politics, Lieutenant C. He is not only a Republican, he is a Radical, and we have already crossed swords several times. Like all Americans, he pushes adulation of his country well beyond the limits of politeness and acceptability. Democracy is his oracle, his god, and he will never agree that it may not be the same thing as liberty.

If I reply that even the will of the people should have its limits, and that if it exercises in America the absolute reign that he talks about, it is more likely to pave the way to tyranny than to preserve liberty, he answers brusquely that I am French, that I don’t understand anything about freedom and that I have no right to judge his country. “Europeans,” he told me, “are born slaves. They always have been and they always will be. Only America knows what freedom is.”

“Oh,” I replied, “get off your high horse. There are many darks spots on your wonderful picture of American freedom.” Thereupon I ticked off for him the suspension of habeas corpus, the violation of the freedom of the press, the transfer of jurisdiction over many cases from civil to military courts, secret arrests, arbitrary imprisonments and all the other abuses of power that are the sad accompaniments of the Civil War. I asked him if that was what he called freedom.

“It is freedom if we have willed it. Mr. Seward boasts that he needs only ring his little bell to have absolutely anyone put in prison. That is true, but behind him are the American people who direct him. Let him strike down the rebels and traitors . . . We want martial law, do you understand? We want it, and that’s why we are still free.

“[I replied] Revolutionary power is a seed of dictatorship. Watch out that the seed doesn’t take root. You refuse to see the danger; the freedom of your neighbor means little to you! This is the way to lose your own freedom and to rush headlong into despotism one of these days. [Let’s] get to the bottom of it. I know your theories. We practiced them under the [French revolutionary] National Convention. You think you’ve discovered a new idea, but all you do is recite the sophistries of the Committee of Public Safety.”

Are these not strange opinions in the mouth of an American, notions that would fit better with the outlook of a European Jacobin or a Massachusetts Whig? We think the Americans are madly in love with their individual freedom, yet there is a school of thought which springs up to repudiate it in the name of public safety, which views freedom as submission to the multitude. Love of freedom, like all human passions, falls asleep when it is not contested.”

(A Frenchman in Lincoln’s America, Ernst D. de Hauranne, Donnelly & Sons, 1974, Volume I, pp. 67-70)

 

 

The General Sherman Destroyed

French priests increased their efforts to penetrate Korea in the 1830s and were executed for violating Korean law, and Koreans learned that foreign fleets would be sent to enforce the work of the Vatican. More Catholics were executed, and when the French threatened to mount a punitive expedition, Koreans found it incomprehensible: “they told the French that they would understand perfectly the execution of their own nationals in France, should they try to disseminate Korean views there.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The General Sherman Destroyed

“The United States also tried its hand at opening up Korea in 1866, when the merchant schooner General Sherman sailed up the Taedong River toward P’yongyang. A heavily armed ship with a mixed crew of Americans, British and Chinese, it received the message that it was not just Christianity that contravened Korean law but also foreign commerce.

Undaunted, the General Sherman forged ahead. Shortly a hostile crowd gathered on the shore, into which the frightened sailors unloaded their muskets. After that volley the provincial governor, a much respected and temperate official named Pak Kyu-su (who later negotiated the first treaty with Japan), ordered the General Sherman destroyed. The tide obliging receded, grounding the vessel. The Koreans killed all its crew in battle and burned the ship – unwittingly taking revenge for an Atlanta that could not.

It was a dastardly act, the authorities in Washington declared; what an outrageous affront to a peaceable bunch of people who just happened to be sailing a man-o-war up the river to P’yongyang! None other than Secretary of State William Seward, architect of westward expansion, proposed a joint expedition with the French to punish the Koreans . . . But it did not happen until 1871. By then the US government had decided to open Korea’s ports by force . . .

In this famed “Little War with the Heathen,” as the New York Herald called it, the American Asiatic Squadron . . . steamed through the straits near [Kangwha], where it took fire from newly cast Korean cannons. Marines hit the beaches at Kangwha and sought to capture several Korean forts. In the end about 650 Koreans [who battled ferociously] died [but after] some desultory and fruitless negotiations, the Americans withdrew.

The “Little War with the Heathen” was little noted nor long remembered in the United States, but [there exists] the stone monument that marks the spot where the General Sherman burned. It is not far from Kim Il Sung’s birthplace . . . and Koreans of that era thought that their staunch moral virtue had sent the foreigners packing, even if their weapons were technologically backward.”

(Korea’s Place in the Sun, A Modern History, Bruce Cummings, W.W. Norton Company, 1997, pg. 96-97)

The Chinese Slaves of Peru

Nearly forgotten and overlooked in history is the fate of Chinese slaves in Cuba, and Peru. English Captain F. Trench Townsend reported: “Though the fate of the poor African slave in Cuba is horrible, that of the unfortunate Asiatic . . . struck me as more pitiful.”  It was in this era that New England-captained slave ships were being caught off Cuba in 1859 by future Confederate naval officer Capt. John Newland Maffitt.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The Chinese Slaves in Peru

“No words can describe the lot of the Chinese in Peru. The system commenced in 1849, between which year and 1869, it appears that ninety-thousand Chinese have perished in Peru. What are the causes which have produced this fearful mortality?

The truest causes may probably be found in an important paper submitted by Mr. Murrow, to a meeting of the Association for the Promotion of Social Science, in the latter year [1869].

Mr. Murrow states that the rate of mortality on the passage from China to Peru in immigrant ships has certainly been twenty-five per cent. The principal mortality takes place after arrival in Peru. The coolies in guano work are goaded to their labour under the lash.

The taskmasters are tall, African Negroes, “who are armed with a lash of four plaits of cow-hide, five feet in length, and an inch and a half thick, tapering to a point.”

This weapon is little used during the early part of the day, but about four o’clock in the afternoon it is put into constant requisition, for the purpose of compelling the coolies, who, from weakness or other cause, fall short in the completion of their allotted task.

“The slightest resistance is punished by a flogging, little short of murder, the first six or twelve cuts stifling the agonizing cries of which ring through the fleet. There is no tying-up, the nearest Chinaman being compelled, by a cut of the lash, to lay hold of an arm or leg, and stretch the miserable sufferer on his stomach on the guano.

The mere weight alone of the lash makes the bodies shake, blackening their flesh at every blow, besides cutting into it like a sabre, and when a convulsive movement takes place a subordinate places his boots on the shoulders to keep the quivering body down.”

On this subject, in commenting on the able speech of Sir Charles Wingfield, in the House of Commons in 1873, the [London] Times says:

“In Peru the fate of the imported coolies is even more abominable. They are sent to work in the guano pits on the islands which produce that unsavory wealth; they are beaten and chained and passed by bargain and sale from master to master . . . There is a military force to guard them, and to crush any violence to which despair may drive even the most timid of men. Hope of escape, save by death, there is none; and hence suicide is a common practice, regularly estimated in the probable cost of the labour supply . . . “

To recruit free men in China, imprison them in barracoons, guard them with soldiers, induce them to sign contracts, convey them to Peru and on arrival compel them by force to labour in the guano pits, is that which it might have been supposed no man could have been found to defend . . . [but] shows that a man may be blinded with guano [profits] as effectually as with gold.

A new Treaty has just been negotiated between the Empress of China and Peru, providing for the continuance or renewal of Chinese coolie traffic. The British envoy at [Peking] has had a hand in the negotiation . . . [but] it is deeply regretted that if called in at all, he did not enter his emphatic protest against the whole affair.”

(The Lost Continent; or, Slavery and the Slave Trade in Africa, 1875. Joseph Cooper, Longmans, Green & Company, 1875, excerpts, pp. 43-47)

Forrest Captures a Future General

While Nathan Bedford Forrest captured a future American commander in Cuba, Sherman was accompanied by a young Spanish officer who would also serve in Cuba. Military attaché and observer Valeriano Weyler admired Sherman and as a Spanish general 30 years later in Cuba, he adopted scorched-earth tactics to starve rebellious Cubans and established concentration camps for women and children.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Forrest Captures a Future General

“The two other regiments which [Nathan Bedford] Forrest had on the field – Biffle’s Ninth Tennessee and Cox’s Tenth – he had sent on a wide swing to the right. Coming in from that flank, they cut across the turnpike in [Northern Colonel John] Coburn’s rear, deployed, dismounted . . . and drove home the charge which . . . ”decided the fate of the day.”

When the charging line was within twenty feet of the Union troops, Forrest reported, they “threw down their arms and surrendered.”

Among the losses of the day was the death of Captain Montgomery Little . . . [a] planter and Memphis businessman of middle age . . . a Union man in sentiment before the outbreak of the war.

The bag of Union prisoners at Thompson’s Station numbered 1,221, including seventy-eight officers, among them Colonel Coburn himself and Major William R. Shafter, the same who thirty-five years later was to command the American forces before Santiago de Cuba.”

(First With the Most, Forrest, Robert Selph Henry, Mallard Press, 1991, pp. 130-131)

Revisionist Canadian History and Slavery

Few recall that African slavery existed in Canada until 1833 and that between 1787 and 1800 fugitive slaves fled south to New England and the Northwest (Michigan) Territory. Throughout the 1800s Canadians segregated schools and communities, as well as military units.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Revisionist Canadian History and Slavery

“Canadian comments about American racial problems are further colored by the fact that few Canadians are well informed on Canada’s own Negro record. Cowper, in celebrating Justice Mansfield’s decision, thought that “Slaves cannot breathe in England: if their lungs receive our air, that moment they are free.” This was adequate poetry but inaccurate current events, for “Mansfield” decision freed no substantial body of slaves, even in England, and in Imperial Britain they remained enslaved until 1834.

Yet today most Canadians assume that slavery in British North America was struck down unilaterally by colonial assemblies which, in fact, lacked power to move against such Imperial laws. A standard account of Ontario’s history, published in 1898, concluded that because of the passage of Simcoe’s Bill (which prohibited the import of slaves) in 1793, “Canadians can therefore claim the proud distinction for their flag . . . that it has never floated over legalized slavery.”

An extensive guidebook to Canada credits the entire Negro population of Nova Scotia to men “who came north as slaves from the British West Indian colonies . . . ,” ignoring totally the Maroon and Refugee elements. An attempt to plumb the character of Canadians found that the Negroes of the Maritime Provinces – 15,000 in all – were descendants of runaway slaves, when in truth not even half are such.

And one of Canada’s leading students of race relations, in writing specifically of discrimination against the Negro, asserts that slavery did not exist in British North America in the Nineteenth Century, although slavery was in fact legal until 1833. In short, there is no accurate historical memory in Canada of British North America’s own experiences with the Negro, and even a clouded awareness of an earlier Negro presence is slight.

In truth, only Canada West [Ontario] served to any considerable extent as a haven for fugitive slaves, but the whole of the Canadian nation later accepted a mythology arising from but one of its units.”

(The Canadian Negro: A Historical Assessment, Robin Winks, Journal of Negro History, Volume LIII, No. 4., October, 1968, pp. 290-292)

Filling Lincoln's Regiments by Whatever Means Necessary

Canada was a source of many recruits for Lincoln’s army and his military agents used devious means with which to obtain enlistments. Illegally accepting a US Army commission and emoluments, British Col. (and Canadian Parliament member) Arthur Rankin tried to raise a regiment of Canadians by advertising for “farm laborers and stablemen” to go to Detroit with him. A violation of the Neutrality Act, he was arrested and dismissed from service.  Author Adam Mayer’s book “Dixie and the Dominion is highly recommended for further reading.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Filling Lincoln’s Regiments by Whatever Means Necessary

“John Allison was a slightly built, blond-haired boy of 15, whose only mistake was to talk to a stranger. One evening in July 1864, as Allison walked home for supper in the Canadian border town of Niagara Falls, a man stopped him and asked for directions. A shadow flitted across his face, a pungent odor filled his nostrils, and, as he would later tell his rescuer, “I became insensible.”

He regained consciousness to find himself facing an involuntary three-year hitch in the U.S. Navy. The youth had fallen victim to “crimps,” agents who made a living providing recruits to the [Northern] armies and navies. Ella Lonn, who in the 1940s and 1950s published landmark works of foreigners in Confederate and Union military service, called the work of the crimps and their customers “the worst scandal of the war.”

Seven days after the kidnapping, Allison’s name appeared in the Buffalo, New York, newspaper as having been mustered into the U.S. Navy. The British consul in Buffalo, a Mr. Donohue, reported the incident to Lord Richard Lyons, British Ambassador to the United States, calling the case one of the most heartless outrages” of its kind that he had ever seen.

He eventually found the boy in Sandusky, Ohio, some 350 miles from home, swabbing the decks aboard the gunboat USS Michigan. Donohue secured Allison’s release, took custody of him, and saw that he was returned home.

“The question arises whether British youths of less than 16 are to be enticed from their homes and enlisted into the military service of the US by officers who must be well-aware of what they are doing,” Donohue wrote to Lyons after July 25, 1864. “How many of these are drugged and brought over to this side it may be impossible to say. But a regular system is now organized by which men are passed over the frontier and kept stupefied with liquor until they enlist. I have no doubt whatsoever.”

Allison was one of perhaps a thousand victims of a dangerous and illegal cross-border trade in recruits for the Union army and navy. At the time of hi kidnapping in mid-1864, the trade was reaching its peak. Organized teams of crimps were based in Detroit, and in Buffalo and other points in upper New York State. They worked the Canadian side of the border, snatching boys off streets and pulling drunks from local bars. By whatever means necessary – coercion, mugging, alcohol, or potent drugs – the crimps harvested their victims, then bundled them into carriages or waiting boats and moved them across the nearest border.”

The unlawful traffic in human beings kept US-Canadian relations tense . . . and a secret Canadian police force was formed to combat it.”

(Stolen Soldiers, Adam Mayers, Civil War Times Illustrated, May/June 1995, pp. 56-57)

Britain Observes the Northern War for Empire

The Northern war against the South was seen in Europe as a strange sequel for a country formed by secession from England, with the South taking the part of the American colonies seeking independence from the mother country. The British saw through the North’s moral outrage over the slavery they were mostly responsible for perpetuating with their cotton mills.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Britain Observes the Northern War for Empire

“The popular verdict in England was that “the struggle between North and South was a contest for political power and ascendancy, and that in reference to slavery the North discarded or ignored all practical measures for emancipation, and confined their operations to oratory, preaching, sentimental poems, fiction and invective.”

The opinions of the responsible statesmen of Great Britain may be stated in the following extract from a speech delivered by Earl Russell at Newcastle on the 14th of October, 1861: –“We now see the two parties (in the United States) contending together, not upon the slavery question, though that I believe was probably the original cause of the quarrel, not contending with respect to free trade and [tariff] protection, but contending, as so many States in the Old World have contended, the one side for empire, and the other for independence.”

The official view expressed in the course of a speech by Earl Russell in the House of Lords, 9th of June 1864. He said : –“It is dreadful to think that hundreds of thousands of men are being slaughtered for the purpose of preventing the Southern States from acting on those very principles of independence which, in 1776, were asserted by the whole of America against this country.

Only a few years ago the Americans were in the habit of celebrating the promulgation of the Declaration of Independence, and some eminent friends of mine never failed to make eloquent and stirring orations on those occasions.

I wish, while they kept up a useless ceremony (for the present generation of Englishmen are not responsible for the War of Independence), they had inculcated on their own minds that they should not go to war with four millions, five millions, or six millions of their countrymen who want to put the principles of 1776 into operation as regards themselves.”

(The Secret Service of the Confederate States in Europe, James D. Bulloch, Sagamore Press, 1959, pp. 311-312, 313-314)

British and French Mediation Considered

Rarely mentioned as a decisive deterrent to Anglo-French recognition of Southern independence was the presence of Russian fleets in San Francisco and New York from September 1863 through March 1864. The British and French were both stood puzzled as the Czar and Lincoln emancipated serfs and slaves while at the same time crushing independence movements in Poland and the American South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

British and French Mediation Considered

“Ultimately the South’s hopes for independence marched with its armies, and indeed when the Army of Northern Virginia invaded Maryland in the fall of 1862, [British Lords] Palmerston and [John] Russell became convinced of the depth and potential of Southern separation.

On September 14, Palmerston wrote to Russell about Anglo-French mediation and “an arrangement upon the basis of separation.” Russell responded, “I agree with you that the time has come for offering mediation to the United States Government, with a view of the recognition of the Independence of the Confederates – I agree further that in case of failure, we ought ourselves to recognize the Southern States, as an independent State.”

In accord with these convictions, Russell informally approached his counterpart in Paris, Antoine Edouard Trouvenel, and discussed with Palmerston a date for a meeting of the cabinet to approve the mediation scheme. Russell was still firm in this policy on October 4, when he wrote Palmerston, “I think unless some miracle takes place this will be the very time for offering Mediation.”

And on October 7, Chancellor of the Exchequer William Gladstone let the cat out of the bag. Speaking at Newcastle, Gladstone affirmed, 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.”

Then, just a quickly as the mediation enthusiasm had developed in England, it evaporated. [Though as important as the Sharpsburg battle and Lincoln’s abolition proclamation] were, other considerations contributed to England’s return to nonintervention. Mediation was attractive to free-traders who resented the Federal blockade, to liberals who supported self-determination, to conservatives who felt a kinship with landed aristocrats in the South, and to some varieties of nationalists who looked with favor upon the dissolution of the United States.

But these attractions were essentially abstract. In the end British statesmen had to face the hard reality of what might follow an unsuccessful offer of mediation and subsequent recognition of the confederacy: they had to ponder the consequences of a North American war. And if the British should be drawn into an American war, they wanted to support the winning side. In this regard, [Sharpsburg] and abolition] were indecisive; neither event broke the American impasse to reveal a victor.”

(The Confederate Nation, 1861-1865, Emory M. Thomas, Henry Steele Commager & Richard B. Morris, editors, Harper & Row, 1979, pp. 179-180)

Liberty No Longer Sacred to Republicans

As the Southern States departed the old union to form a more perfect one, they took with them the old Constitution of the Founders—leaving the North to its own peculiar political revolution. As Prince Napoleon observed in 1861, the North behaved as a European monarchy would, calling its unhappy subjects “rebels,” and brutally suppressing Americans seeking liberty.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Liberty No Longer Sacred to Republicans

“In Washington, the field was left free to the partisans of the Union and also to the men of the Republican party—the party that led Lincoln to the presidency—because of the departure of most of the Senators and Representatives of the seceded States. Therefore, Congress and the Cabinet are in almost complete agreement as to the necessity of waging war to its bitter end. The Confederates are to be treated as rebels—as if they were the subjects of a monarchy instead of the citizens of a republican confederation. In a word, they have to be vanquished by arms, in the style familiar to old Europe.

This great determination, coinciding with the ascension of the Republican party to power, marks the beginning of a new era for American society. It launches her on a road — from which her founders and older statesmen would certainly have withdrawn –filled with dangers, but which might also lead her to supreme greatness. Mr. Lincoln and his friends seem to have decided to go ahead without worrying too much about the somber predictions of the Democratic party, which lost the last election, and which evokes, at every turn, the memories of the past — Washington, Jefferson, Monroe and Jackson.

“What are you doing?” the Democrats inquire. “You trampled down the fundamental principle, basis of our success and power — the principle which recognizes the freedom of each State within the confederation, just as each citizen is free within each State. By riveting the State to the confederation, with an indestructible chain, by denying the State a right to secede, you prepare the way for the enslavement of citizens by society and for the destruction of individualism. No liberty is sacred to you any longer.

In the name of the public good you are changing the American republic into something similar to what the Convention made of the French Republic (the ideal of political and administrative unity). We will become a pale copy of our elders rather than the precursors of a new humanity. The military element responsible for your triumph will be needed to keep you in power. You are going to travel the same road as the French Revolution, and you will be lucky if you can also find, under the scepter of a soldier of genius, order and glory in obedience instead of the degrading catastrophes illustrated before your eyes by the military regimes in Mexico and the South American Republics.”

All these historical prosopopoeias leave Mr. Lincoln’s friends rather cold. I suspect them of being rather ignorant of what is called philosophy of history. Without worrying too much about general principles, they run to where the house is burning and throw onto the fire all that they can lay their hands to in order to put it out. Their financial inventions to raise money would cause laughter even among the most ignorant in economics.”

(Prince Napoleon in America, 1861, Camille Ferri Pisani, Indiana University Press, 1959, pp. 44-46)

The Confederacy's Open Sea Blockade of the North

The destructive effect of Southern raiders over Northern commerce during the war is seldom recognized as Confederate cruisers drove the Northern merchant marine shipping from the seas, a defeat from which it never recovered in postwar years.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

The Confederacy’s Open Sea Blockade of the North

“The mediation enthusiasm in Great Britain during the autumn of 1862 was the nearest thing to intervention undertaken by the European powers during the Confederate war, although in reality diplomatic circumstances were a bit more volatile afterwards than historians have often assumed. The Powers had not declared irrevocable neutrality; they were determined to watch and wait.

If there should be a significant alteration in the American situation, both Britain and France were prepared to reassess. During the first half of 1863 the Confederates had reason to believe that there were significant alterations in the South’s position, especially vis a vis the British.

By turns that spring the Confederates and then their Northern enemies injected new elements into the international situation on the seas. At long last it seemed that the success of Southern cruisers in what Secretary [Stephen] Mallory termed “commercial warfare” would make the Confederate navy a factor in Atlantic diplomacy. In effect the Confederates established an open-sea blockade; using foreign ships, they roamed the seas in search of Union commercial vessels, whose cargoes they captured or destroyed.

The architect of the Confederate commercial war was James Dunwoody Bulloch, a Georgian who had served in the “old navy.” Bulloch spent the war period, and the rest of his life, in England as a purchasing agent for the Navy Department.

Not only did he contract for ships and oversee their construction, he undertook the more difficult task of running the diplomatic blockade of European neutrality. Bulloch managed to launch the most important of the South’s nineteen commerce raiders. His greatest success was the Alabama. Built at the Laird shipyards, the ship was disguised as the merchant vessel Enrica until its maiden voyage in July 1862.

[Under] the command of Captain Raphael Semmes . . . the Alabama began preying upon United States commerce. Although the Alabama never entered a Confederate port during its extended cruise of twenty-two months, it destroyed or captured more than sixty Northern ships. It and the other Confederate raiders were responsible for the doubling of marine shipping rates in the North.

(The Confederate Nation, 1861-1865, Emory M. Thomas, Harper and Row, 1979, pp. 182-183)