Browsing "Hatred of the American South"

Belligerent Public Enemies in a Territorial War

Lincoln’s unfortunate choice of a mentor on reconstruction, William Whiting of Massachusetts, below refers to the American people in the South peacefully seeking self-government as belligerent public enemies, who, when finally conquered with fire and sword, deserved no more than eternal contempt and suspicion. He further proclaims the North’s “right to hang them as murderers and pirates,” and “whatever rights are left to them besides the rights of war will be such as we choose to allow them.  He believed the Southern States had forfeited their legal status in the Union they departed, only to be dragged back in as conquered territories and a people entitled to no rights.

As far as loyal Union men of the South are concerned, and they were numerous, Lincoln refused their wise counsel to abandon Fort Sumter in early 1861 to allow time and diplomacy for the settlement of sectional differences. They, as well as former President James Buchanan, suggested calling a Constitutional Convention of the States as the proper solution for disputes. These measures would have saved a million lives, and quite possibly the Union.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Belligerent Public Enemies in a Territorial War

“Lincoln’s plan of reconstruction was built on a concept of a wartime President’s powers so extended as to transcend the points of reference of earlier chief executives. It was military reconstruction, and it was the most direct imaginable intervention of the will of the national government into the internal structure of the State’s. In terms of power, Lincoln’s reconstruction plan was radical indeed.

The fact is that Lincoln enjoyed the services as mentor – with respect to the war-swollen power potentials of his office – of a prominent champion of Radical Republicanism, an old-line Boston abolitionist, William Whiting.

Brought into the War Department as its solicitor – primarily in order to prepare briefs that the government employed to fend off suits – in Northern States and in border areas, alleging the unconstitutionality of conscription and internal security measures – Whiting was the most learned lawyer in the United States in matters of the international laws of war.

He became the natural source of legalisms in support of the reconstruction program that the President was gradually evolving out of information he gained primarily from Army and War Department sources.

Here is Whiting’s prophetic essay of July 28, 1863, issued as a letter to the Philadelphia Union League, under the title, “The Return of the Rebellious States to the Union.” Note its harmony with the Lincoln plan as issued the following December, so far as the assumption of national powers is concerned, as well as its expression of concern with respect to the untrustworthiness of a conquered South.

“As the success of the Union cause shall become more certain and apparent to the enemy, in various localities, they will lay down their arms, and cease fighting. Their bitter and deep-rooted hatred of the Government, and of all the Northern men who are not traitors, and of all Southern men who are loyal, will still remain interwoven in every fiber of their hearts, and will be made, if possible, more intense by the humiliation of conquest and subjugation.

The foot of the conqueror planted upon their proud necks will not sweeten their tempers; and their defiant and treacherous nature will seek to revenge itself in murders, assassinations and all other underhand methods of venting a spite which they dare not manifest by open war, and in driving out of their borders all loyal men.

To suppose that a Union sentiment will remain in any considerable number of men, among a people who have strained every nerve and made every sacrifice to destroy the Union, indicates dishonesty, insanity or feebleness of intellect.

Beware of committing yourselves to the fatal doctrine of recognizing the existence, in the Union, of States which have been declared by the President’s proclamation to be in rebellion. For, by this new device of the enemy – this new version of the poisonous State rights doctrine – the Secessionists will be able to get back by fraud what they failed to get by fighting. Do not permit them, without proper safeguards, to resume in your counsels, in the Senate and in the House, the power which their treason has stripped from them.

Do not allow old States, with their Constitutions still unaltered, to resume State powers.

The rebellious districts contain ten times as many traitors as loyal men. The traitors will have a vast majority of the votes. Clothed with State rights under our Constitution, they will crush out every Union man by the irresistible power of their legislation. If you would be true to the Union men of the South, you must not bind them hand and foot, and deliver them to their bitterest enemies.

Having set up a government for themselves . . . they were no longer mere insurgents and rebels, but became a belligerent public enemy. The war was no longer against “certain persons” in the rebellious States. It became a territorial war; that is to say, a war by all persons situated in the belligerent territory against the United States.”

(The Radical Republicans and Reconstruction: 1861-1870, Harold M. Hyman, Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1967, excerpts pp. 91-95)

 

A Shoddy Aristocracy Rules Conquered Provinces

Other than humiliating the American South and its people after military defeat and utter desolation, Radical Republicans led by the vindictive Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania had little plan for restoring the Union they claimed to have saved. Stevens was a Gettysburg iron furnace owner who benefited from high protective tariffs promoted by his party. His abolitionist credentials were tarnished by successfully arguing a case to return a fugitive slave to their owner; and being accused of murdering a pregnant black woman in the late 1820s.

The war can be said to have been waged by Lincoln’s party as retribution for the Confederacy’s virtual free tariff importation rates established in early 1861 — Northern ports faced desolation as the Northern-majority U.S. Congress passed Vermont Senator Justin Morrill’s 47 percent tariff.  With the Radical Republican firmly in power in 1865, nothing could restrain them from even higher tariffs to protect their party’s industrialist supporters.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

A Shoddy Aristocracy Rules Conquered Provinces

“Throughout the North, as in Iowa, Radicals won smashing [electoral] victories. Congressional propaganda, campaign smears, claptrap discussions, and the evasion of fundamental issues had won over presidential patronage and blundering.

Neither the Congress nor the President nor the South had been wise. In the North the people had been deceived into believing that the Radicals had a plan for orderly restoration and the competence to put it into operation. But in reality they had a plan which, burdened with the spirit of vengeance, was designed to achieve little more than their own temporary supremacy.

They had no program designed to achieve reasonable and enduring solutions. The Union had been saved, but in the wake of the war the rising leaders were showing the lack of foresight and wisdom to grapple with the problems of the new order. The end result for a generation was to be a “shoddy aristocracy” in the North, destitution in the South, and a low level of political morality in the nation.

Old Thad [Stevens of Pennsylvania] and his satellites on the Joint Committee were grinding out measures to deprive [President] Johnson of the federal patronage and control of the army, and to vest these functions in the hands of Congress. And at the first party caucus Stevens rebuked Republicans who . . . assured constituents that the Fourteenth Amendment alone was an adequate condition for the restoration of the “conquered provinces.”

In this session, revisions of wartime economic legislation had been pushed into the background by Reconstruction matters. However, when, through Morrill, industrialists quietly slipped in a bill to revise the tariff upward by 20 percent . . .”

(John A. Kasson, Politics and Diplomacy from Lincoln to McKinley, Edward Younger, State Historical Society of Iowa, 1955, excerpts, pp. 217- 219)

 

Radical Republicans Consolidate Power

Long unhappy with Lincoln’s lack of severity in punishing the South, Radical Republicans knew that freedmen could not be left in friendly relations with their former owners and jeopardize triumphant Republican war gains. The Union League was the terror-arm of the party which taught the freedmen that their white neighbors would re-enslave them at the first opportunity, and unwavering Republican voting would protect them. As the Radicals no doubt were responsible for Lincoln’s demise, they also found his successor lacking in sufficient hatred for the South and disposed of him as well.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Radical Republicans Consolidate Power

“While a stunned people paid final tribute to Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis fled southward from Richmond. His capture symbolized the end of power of a restraining, agrarian aristocracy in America. Lincoln’s passing removed the last effective check on vindictive Radicals and symbolized the end of power of a restraining, agrarian democracy.

Out of the confusion created from the scars of war and from the demise of hoary agrarian restraints, business-industrial America was to swagger in under the cloak of the [Republican] platform of 1860 and Radical Reconstruction.

Ephemerally, hate and revenge would run rampant, tarnishing reputations, sweeping away moderate men, and pushing to the top many who had not even expected political leadership only a few years before.

For a few fleeting days following Lincoln’s assassination, Radicals had purred contentedly around Andrew Johnson. The new President was one of them: he talked of harsh treatment for rebels. But by . . . late May, Johnson . . . was following Lincoln’s moderate reconstruction policies.

In the [mid-June 1865 Iowa] State convention . . . A rising temper of Radicalism had been revealed . . . Radicals on the floor had pushed through a proposal committing the party to an amendment to the State constitution allowing Negro suffrage.

To grant universal suffrage to the Negro would enable “base politicians” to pander to “ignorance and incapacity”; the race as a whole would be unfit to exercise the voting privilege for a generation.

Thad Stevens, cool, grim and confident, sat ready to “spring the drop” on [new] Southern Congressmen, on President Johnson, and on any moderate Republicans who stood in his way. With malice toward the defeated, and charity toward Negroes, railroad entrepreneurs and industrialists, this cynical old man had some carefully laid plans for the perpetual ascendancy of the Republican party.

[Johnson’s reconstruction plan] would bring Western and Southern men (with certain Eastern allies] into a combination to rule the republic. Such a rule, agrarian in nature, might mean loss of power for Republicans; and it would almost certainly dilute or reverse wartime tariff, railroad and monetary policies so lucrative to the expansive business, financial and industrial interests. [Financiers], ironmasters, and railroad entrepreneurs had as much to lose from an unfavorable economic policy as did Radical politicians from a Reconstruction policy which might bring loss of power and patronage.”

(John A. Kasson, Politics and Diplomacy from Lincoln to McKinley, Edward Younger, State Historical Society of Iowa, 1955, excerpts, pp. 178-179; 181-184; 189-190)

Postwar Corruption and Thievery in Washington

The war waged against the American South was more about destroying it’s political and economic power in the Union, so that Northern political and economic interests could prevail nationally. The resulting carnival of political vice and scandal is best summarized with: “The festering corruptions of the post-war period sprang up in every part of America and in almost every department of national life. Other loose and scandalous times . . . had been repellent enough; but the Grant era stands unique in the comprehensiveness of its rascality.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Postwar Corruption and Thievery in Washington

“The Civil War had severed the Southern checks on the exploitation of natural resources, had supplanted an old, experienced ruling class for a new, inexperienced one, had released the dynamic energies of the nation, and had ushered in the Era of Manipulation.

Under President Grant, pliant and politically naïve, the government had fallen into the hands of dishonest and incapable men . . . politics under the cloak of Radicalism more and more had become identified with manipulation for economic favor. Hordes of lobbyists had swarmed over the land, seeking railroad subsidies, mining concessions, and thousands of other government handouts.

The West was being plundered by railroad and mining corporations, the South by Carpetbaggers and Scalawags. The cities and the State legislatures, in North and South alike, were infested with rings, lobbyists, bribe-givers, and bribe-takers. Even the national Congress had become a tool of predatory business interests. Machine politics, firmly founded on patronage, economic privilege, the bloody shirt, and the soldier vote, prevailed everywhere.

The new ruling classes, flushed with prosperity, had lost their sense of responsibility, and corruption had kept pace with the upward swing of the business cycle. Political morality had sunk to its lowest level in American history.

In the closing days of the last Congress, [Grant’s self-styled House floor leader] Ben Butler and a few others had slipped through a measure increasing the salaries of the President, members of Congress, and other high officials. Tacked onto the unpopular measure was a retroactive feature which in effect gave each member a $500 bonus for his service the last two years.”

(John A. Kasson, Politics and Diplomacy from Lincoln to McKinley; Edward Younger, State Historical Society of Iowa, 1855, excerpts pp. 250-252)

Smallpox Hand Grenades Feared in Virginia

The Twenty-first Regiment of New York Volunteers was initially enlisted for a three-month tour of duty after Fort Sumter. On August 20, 1861, as the unit neared the end of their sworn term, it was reported that “attempted revolt” in the ranks arose as Lincoln requisitioned the short-term volunteers for his lengthy war. Generous enlistment bounties, furloughs, new immigrants impressed and captured Southern black men counted toward State quotas would solve the issue.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Smallpox Hand Grenades Feared in Virginia

“On June 5th [1861], the Elmira correspondent of the [New York World] writes as follows: “The Cayuga, Buffalo and Hillhouse regiments are the only ones that have received their arms, and indeed, the only ones that are uniformed. The Buffalo men were uniformed by their fellow citizens, and present a fine appearance.”

In Mr. Faxon’s correspondence with the [Buffalo] Courier, we find the following:

“Yesterday and today were given almost entirely to the preventive service. Small-pox having been announced as one of the warlike weapons in use by our rebellious friend in Virginia, to scatter among our troops as a soldier would throw hand grenades, our Surgeon . . . [introduced] into the entire human economy of the regiment a little vaccine matter.

The Rev. Mr. Robie had become at once a general favorite. He has donned the theological uniform . . . and looks as though he was ready, at a moment’s notice, to engage the rebels of the South or the foe of all mankind.

Says a member of the regiment in a letter to the Buffalo Courier: “I consider it the duty of someone to tender our grateful acknowledgments to the ladies . . . Ladies of Buffalo, we will bear you in everlasting remembrance, and try to do our duty as soldiers, — to the killing of Jeff. Davis, if possible.”

[July 8th]: Last Thursday being the eighty-fifth anniversary of American Freedom, was fitly celebrated with us by a review of the troops in Washington and vicinity.

[Near Falls Church, Virginia], We learned this morning [29 September] that a scouting party returning from the front last night were fired upon by a California regiment, and several men killed, the result of carelessness in not having the countersign. Some of the men have been foraging among the deserted rebel mansions in the neighborhood. The house of Major Nutt, which its gallant owner hastily evacuated the day of our advance, stands, or did stand, about a mile north of the hill.

A party of [General Ludwig] Blenker’s [German regiment], probably carrying out the precepts of old world warfare, have completely demolished it, together with that portion of the contents which they did not choose to carry away. The remains of a fine piano and other heavy furniture litter the grounds; the garden and outbuildings are sacked and destroyed, and the [livestock] appropriated by the ravagers.”

(Chronicles of the Twenty-first Regiment, New York Volunteers, J. Harrison Mills, Twenty-first Regiment Veteran Association, 1887, excerpts pp. 50-52; 121)

Hollywood Censorship and Denatured History

The William Dieterle-directed film “Tennessee Johnson” released in January 1943, originally written to depict the epic post-Civil War political battle between Andrew Johnson and Thaddeus Stevens, is not available on video though according to the author “pops up now and then on Turner Classic Movies.” This was the same era when South Carolinian Jimmy Byrnes was told that despite his stellar career in the Democratic Party, a Southerner could not be added to FDR’s ticket as vice president in 1940 – but the Soviet-friendly Henry Wallace was.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Hollywood Censors and Denatured History

“Tennessee Johnson, an MGM biography of President Andrew Johnson . . . starred Van Heflin as the cussed tailor of Greenville and Lionel Barrymore (one of Hollywood’s great New Deal-haters) as Thaddeus Stevens, Johnson’s radical nemesis. The movie received the sort of respectful notices often given to earnest historical films. It was also one of Hollywood’s most craven moments.

The film was originally titled The Man on America’s Conscience.  The script . . . took the traditional Claude Bowers view of Reconstruction and Johnson’s impeachment: that is, that “Johnson fought the bravest battle for constitutional liberty and for the preservation of our institutions ever waged by an executive” against Pennsylvania congressman Stevens, the brilliant but hateful clubfoot who wished to mistreat the conquered Southerners like a vast peonage.”

Enter Walter White, secretary of the NAACP. When he learned that MGM was producing an anti-Reconstruction film, White complained to Lowell Mellett, director of the Bureau of Motion Pictures of the Office of War Information. The OWI, a propaganda agency created by one of FDR’s executive orders, requested a copy of the screenplay . . . [and] when Mellett and White previewed the unedited film, they hit the roof.

Mellett demanded that key scenes be reshot or removed. Thad Stevens, the screenplay’s villain, was humanized; one new scene had him kissing and petting Andrew Johnson’s grandkids. A scene in which Stevens plied Johnson with drink before his legendary incoherent vice presidential Inaugural Address was left on the cutting room floor. Rewritten dialogue assured us that Stevens was “sincere” if a mite vengeful.

The essential character of Lydia Smith, Steven’s mulatto housekeeper and probable mistress, disappeared. Despite the changes, a gang of Hollywood liberals – Ben Hecht, Zero Mostel, Vincent Price – petitioned the OWI to destroy the picture, in best fascist fashion, in the cause of national unity.

Tennessee Johnson – the OWI demanded a conscience-less title – was released in its denatured form. It’s a fairly standard biopic: Johnson, nicely played by Heflin, is the runaway tailor’s apprentice and self-styled champion of “poor white trash” who is only trying to act on his predecessor’s wise policy of malice toward none and charity toward all. With the exception of Jefferson Davis, secessionists are depicted as huffy churls and hotheads.

One consequence of Walter White’s protest was the omission of Lydia Smith, a meaty role for a black actress. The part was recast as the corpulent “laws a mercy!” black maid of stereotype. The excision of Lydia Smith not only warred upon the truth, it also made Steven’s Negrophilia less comprehensible. Love, after all, is always a higher afflatus than political principle.

Walter White’s autobiography makes no mention of his role in altering Tennessee Johnson. The title is absent from a full shelf of books on censorship and the movies; censorship, it seems, only worked one way in Hollywood.”

(The Hollywood Ten(nessean), Bill Kaufmann; Chronicles, October, 1998, excerpt, pp. 39-40. www.chroniclesmagazine.org)

Un-American Union of Force

The party of Seward and Lincoln fielded its first presidential candidate in 1854; in the space of another seven years this party succeeded in alienating nearly half the country, waged bloody war in Kansas, forced a State to peacefully withdraw from the Union, and plunged the country into a bloody and destructive war that led to the deaths of a million people.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Un-American Union of Force

“Finally, a new party was formed, with its primary object, as professed, the exclusion of the South from the common territories that had been acquired by the common blood and the common treasure of the South and the North.

And, significantly, early in its history, or as soon (1860) as it had acquired material growth and substantial prestige, this new political party, already thus avowedly sectional in its principles, made a sectional “protective” tariff one of its demands.

And when it had elected a president (by a sectional and a minority popular vote, be it remembered), and so caused a disruption of the union of States, “protection” was a primary means employed to support the war that followed – a war of aggression and conquest waged by this party to secure both its own continued supremacy and the new consolidated and un-American union of force in place of the pristine confederated union of choice which itself had had done so much to destroy; a war in which Negro emancipation “in parts of the Southern States” was incidentally proclaimed as a “military measure,” the thirteenth amendment coming later to extend and validate this unconstitutional proceeding.

“Un-American union of force,” I said; we must remember that widespread opposition to the war of conquest against the South manifested itself in the North, and that the myriads of immigrants from centralist, “blood and iron” Germany had much to do with turning the scale in the North in support of Lincoln’s and Seward’s war.

In these aliens there had arisen “a new king which knew not Joseph,” who had no inconvenient recollections of ’76 to hold him in check.”

(Living Confederate Principles, Lloyd T. Everett, Southern Historical Society Papers, No. II, Volume XL, September 1915; Broadfoot Publishing Co., 1991, excerpts pp. 22-23)

American Attilla

On the 18th of December1864 Lincoln’s general-in-chief Henry Halleck wrote Sherman: “Should you capture Charleston, I hope that by some accident the place may be destroyed; and if a little salt should be sown upon its site, it may prevent the growth of future crops of nullification and secession.” Ironically, secession was first threatened by New England at the time of the Louisiana Purchase and in its 1814 Hartford convention; nullification of federal law was the very basis of the North’s prewar Personal Liberty Laws. In late 1864 and early 1865, Sherman’s 65,000 man army triumphantly plundered and destroyed Georgia and South Carolina with virtually no opponents except old men, women and children. General Joe Wheeler had 5,000 cavalry to merely harass Sherman with. The following was reprinted from a May 1873 article in Southern Magazine.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

American Attilla

“To [Halleck’s letter] General Sherman replies, December 24: “This war differs from European wars in this particular – we are not only fighting hostile armies, but a hostile people; and must make old and young, rich and poor, feel the hard hand of war, as well as their organized armies.

I will bear in mind your hint as to Charleston, and don’t think “salt” will be necessary. The truth is, the whole army is burning with an insatiable desire to wreak vengeance on South Carolina. I almost tremble for her fate, but feel that she deserves all that seems to be in store for her.”

On the 23rd he writes to General Kilpatrick: “Let the whole people know the war is now against them, because their armies flee before us and do not defend their country or frontier as they should. It is pretty nonsense for Wheeler and Beauregard and such vain heroes to talk of our warring against women and children. If they claim to be men, they should defend their women and children and prevent us reaching their homes.”

If, therefore, an army defending their country can prevent invaders from reaching their homes and families, the latter have a right to that protection; but if the invaders can break through and reach these homes, [they] are justified in destroying women and children. Certainly this is a great advance on the doctrine and practice of the Dark Ages.

Is it any wonder that after reading [this] we fervently echo General Sherman’s devout aspiration: “I do wish the fine race of men that people our Northern States should rule and determine the future destiny of America?”

(Gleanings from General Sherman’s Dispatches, Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume XIII, William Jones, editor, 1885, Broadfoot Publishing Co., 1990, excerpts pp. 446-448)

Republicans Frustrate Compromise Efforts

Well-aware of his meager claim to electoral victory with only 39% of the popular vote, Lincoln told Republican Congressman James Hale of Pennsylvania that supporting the compromise plan of Kentucky’s John J. Crittenden would mean the end of the Republican Party and of his new government. During several compromise efforts between December 1860 and March, 1861, Lincoln wrote important Republican leaders in Congress to oppose any settlement with the South, which of course ensured secession and his war upon the South. Again, it is clear that the cause of secession and war was the Republican Party, and Lincoln placing party survival over saving the Founders’ Union.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Republicans Frustrate Compromise Efforts

“[Crittenden desperately] was trying to halt what he called the “madness” possessing the South and begged northerners in Congress to make the “cheap sacrifice” and “little concessions of opinions” that his pan required in order to save the country.

Crittenden directed his plea primarily to Republicans. They held the balance of power in Congress, and their reaction would decide the fate of the Crittenden program. Northern Democrats who had been traditionally more conciliatory toward the South . . . could be expected to give the program substantial support.

Some Republicans agreed with Crittenden that a few concessions to the South to preserve the union might be worthwhile, if the price was not too high. From the beginning, [Republican] antagonism doomed Crittenden’s high hopes [though] Unionists in both houses of Congress, however, fought for legislation that encompassed Crittenden’s plan.

In the lower house, on December 5 [1860], Alexander Boteler of Virginia successfully moved that a committee of one member from each State (the Committee of Thirty Three) be established to work out a plan to save the Union. Republicans cast every negative vote on the resolution, giving an early indication that they were opposed to compromise. Republicans blocked every other compromise measure suggested in the Committee of Thirteen.

Crittenden’s followers still refused to admit defeat. The Virginia legislature invited all the States to send representatives to a “Peace Conference” in Washington in February. Although none of the States that had already seceded sent delegates, twenty-one States did join the conference. Once again Republican leaders opposed compromise plans, claiming they did not want to cripple Lincoln’s freedom to deal with secession by committing him to a program before his inauguration.

An Indiana Republican delegate wrote to his governor from the conference: “We have thus done all in our power to procrastinate, and shall continue to do so, in order to remain in session until after [Lincoln’s inauguration on] the 4th of March.” The Senate voted on the original Crittenden plan and defeated it by a 20 to 19 vote. Not one Republican supported the plan.

The Republican decision to frustrate compromise efforts was one of the most significant political decisions in American history. Although it would be unreasonable to assert that had Republicans supported compromise they would definitely have ended the secession movement and prevented the Civil War, such a result was quite possible given the wide support that Crittenden’s plan attracted.

All the pro-Southern aspects of the compromise disturbed the Republicans; but their ire was raised in particular by the territorial provisions. The Republican party’s strength was contained in its antislavery wing, which was held together by opposition to any expansion of slavery [into the territories].

Had Republicans abandoned their opposition to slave expansion in 1860, they would have committed political suicide. Such a concession to the South would have constituted a repudiation of their own platform, “an admission that Southern complaints were valid,” and a confession that Lincoln’s election as president warranted secession.

Republican voters by the thousands cautioned their congressmen and leaders not to compromise with the South and agitated at home against conciliation, as when Pittsburgh Republicans broke up a unionist meeting by turning off the gas, smashing seats, and yelling “God d —-n John J. Crittenden and his compromise.”

(The Southern Dream of a Caribbean Empire: 1854-1861, Robert E. May, LSU Press, 1973, excerpts pp. 210-212; 214-217)

Sumter: The Republican Party’s Salvation

Clearly, the immediate cause of war in 1861 was the Republican Party. Rather than pursue compromise in the Peace Conference led by former President John Tyler, or follow former President James Buchanan’s [and Kentucky’s] suggestion of solving the issues in a National Convention of the States, the turbulent party of Lincoln chose “party over country” and plunged the country into a destructive war which claimed the lives of a million people, and sacrificed the Constitution to a military dictatorship.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Sumter: the Republican Party’s Salvation

“After the failure of the Crittenden Compromise, Kentuckians refused to call it an ultimatum. They seemed to have felt that if an earthquake should swallow up the State it would not be more disastrous to them than disunion and civil war. They, therefore, responded with alacrity to the Virginia summons for a Peace Conference.

Unfortunately, the delegations from the northern States were made up of carefully picked “not-an-inch” Republicans, and the Peace Conference made no headway toward conciliation.

In the meantime, the Kentucky Legislature suggested the calling of a great national convention freshly elected by the American people, to deal with the subjects in controversy as became a free, intelligent and enlightened people. Kentucky did not want the Union to be broken in the “mortar of secession to be strung together on a rope of sand”, but neither did she want a higher law than the Constitution of the United States interpreted by the Supreme Court to be set up by a Republican minority.

However, the reinforcement of Fort Sumter directly brought on a so-called disturbance of the public peace and a call for 75,000 troops was thus substituted for the call of a National Convention. Of course, it was obvious after the spring elections that the non-compromising Republicans could secure only a minority of the delegates to such a Convention freshly elected by the people.

Moreover, the calling of such a convention would have been a substantial admission on the part of the Republican leaders that they, themselves, were not representative of the nation and that their argument in favor of a sectional control of the national government was invalid.

In other words, the calling of a National Convention would have amounted to an admission that the Republican party leaders were wrong in the premises – not on the slavery question, but on their advocacy of a sectional control of the national presidency. Lincoln’s statement that if [Major Robert] Anderson came out of Sumter, he, himself, would have to come out of the White House, was doubtless a correct estimate of the effect a withdrawal of troops from Sumter and the calling of a National Convention would have had on the political fortunes of the sectional Republican party.

It can be readily understood just why Republican party politicians would prefer the reinforcing of Sumter to the calling of a National Convention. An appeal to the brain of the nation meant the party’s annihilation, while an appeal to the brawn of the north meant the party’s salvation.”

(The Peaceable Americans of 1860-1861: A Study in Public Opinion, Mary Scrugham, Columbia University Press, 1921, excerpts pp. 111-113)

 

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