Browsing "Historical Accuracy"

Slavery and Secession

Though the British discovered a peaceful path to end African slavery in its empire, no practical or peaceful solutions to end slavery in the United States came from New England abolitionists. Rather than look back at their section’s role in the transatlantic slave trade which brought Africans traded for Yankee notions and rum to the West Indies and the South, Massachusetts inventor Eli Whitney’s gin and New England cotton mills which perpetuated slavery, and New England’s threatened secession since 1804, blaming the South for slavery became popular. They would also have found that New England’s financial basis for its industrial revolution was acquired through its African slave trade, which helped Providence, Rhode Island surpass Liverpool as the center of that transatlantic slave trade by 1750.

Slavery and Secessionists

“Soon after the assassination of President Lincoln, the Rev. Daniel C. Eddy of the Baldwin Place Congregational Church in Boston spoke of the fundamental differences he perceived between the South and the North:

“Argue as we may, our Southern people are a different race. Slavery has given them a different idea of religion . . . Slavery has barbarized them, and made them a people with whom we have little in common. We had an idea of Southern civilization when Judge Hoar was driven out of Charleston . . . when Sumner was bleeding in the Federal Senate . . . when ornaments were made for Southern ladies of the bones of the brave soldiers killed at Bull Run . . . in the atrocities perpetrated upon our poor soldiers . . . And now we have another exhibition of it in the base, wanton, assassination of the President.”

In the antebellum years some Northern clergy looked upon the South as a distasteful part of the Union that they advocated the Garrisonian position whereby the South should separate itself from the South. In 1851 Charles G. Finney, coming to the realization that revivalism was not going to bring an end to slavery, suggested “the dismemberment of our hypocritical union.” Finley detested the thought of living in a nation where slavery existed. It was better to separate from such an evil.

In two sermons delivered in 1854, Eden B. Foster, a Congregationalist minister from Lowell, Massachusetts, proposed the secession of the North from the Union as a last resort to check the spread of slavery. Inherent in the slavery system, said Foster, were such evils as cruelty, ignorance immorality and sin. On April 4, 1861, less than two weeks before the cannons at Charleston began to bombard Fort Sumter, [Boston preacher] . . . Eddy urged the North to free itself from the burden of Union with the South so that the North might more fully “develop all those forces of a high-minded Christian civilization.”

Later that month, on April 28, after the surrender of Fort Sumter, Eddy changed his mind and advocated war to save the Union.”

(God Ordained This War: Sermons on the Sectional Crisis, 1830-1865, David B. Chesebrough, University of South Carolina Press, 1991, excerpt pp. 58-59)

Requiem for the States

General Don Piatt, who travelled with Lincoln and knew him perhaps as well as anyone, said “When a leader dies all good men go about lying about him. I hear of him, I read of him in eulogies and biographies, but fail to recognize the man I knew in life . . . Lincoln faced and lived through the awful responsibility of war with a courage that came from indifference.”

Lincoln’s intimate friend Ward Lamon and W.H. Cunningham of the Montgomery [Missouri) Star sat immediately behind Lincoln at Gettysburg, “publicly stating that the speech published was not the one delivered by Lincoln; that both Edward Everett and Seward expressed their disappointment and there was no applause; that Lincoln said: “Lamon, that speech was like a wet blanket on the audience.” (Two Presidents: Abraham Lincoln & Jefferson Davis, C.E. Gilbert, Naylor Company, 1973, pg. 78)

Requiem for the States

“The Gettysburg dedication was planned to emphasize the role of the States in the war. The governors, the State commissioners, and the flags of the States occupied prominent places in the formal plans for the ceremony. But two weeks before the occasion Lincoln accepted an invitation to attend. His sudden and unexpected acceptance forced changes in plans. Massachusetts’ famed Edward Everett was the orator of the day, but the President had perforce to be given a place on the program.

Whether or not the governors had expected the occasion to redound to the glory of the States, Abraham Lincoln rose at Gettysburg to talk of the nation. He failed to mention that four score and seven years before, the fathers had brought forth thirteen independent States. He talked of the nation, “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition to the proposition that all men are created equal,” and of the high resolve “that this nation, under god, shall have a new birth of freedom.”

No one noted, then or later, that at the moment the President was pledging that “government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth,” General Robert Schenck’s soldiers, less than a hundred miles away, were patrolling the polls in Delaware.

But Lincoln knew that they were there, and that they too, were upholding the nation. This was his theme at Gettysburg, and he thanked Everett for making an argument for the national supremacy and for excoriating the idea “of the general government being only an agency, whose principals are the States.” [Pennsylvania] Governor Andrew Curtin had his cemetery, but on that 19th of November, at Gettysburg and in Delaware, Lincoln by word and deed had interred States’ rights.”

(Lincoln and the War Governors, William B. Hesseltine, Alfred Knopf, 1955, excerpts pp. 344-345)

No Indissoluble Union

Before the war, Senator Judah P. Benjamin of Louisiana was insulted by a Boston newspaper which wrote: “We ask whether the Jews, having no country of their own, desire to put other nations in the same unhappy condition.”  He shrugged off anti-Semitic comments of other Northern critics as he did a reference to him as one of the “Israelites with Egyptian principles.”

Senator G.G. Vest of Kentucky quoted Benjamin’s response to a Senate opponent: “It is true that I am a Jew and when my ancestors were receiving their Ten Commandments from the immediate hand of the Deity, amidst the thunderings and lightning of Mount Sinai, the ancestors of the distinguished gentleman who is opposed to me were herding swine in the forest of Scandinavia.”

No Indissoluble Union

“Benjamin’s reasoning, with that of most of the other conservatives who saw no alternative but secession, was that upon the North American continent were two peoples, one building an industrial empire and the other content to remain a race of planters and staple producers.

Each could best work out its own destiny . . . And as long as the two were bound into one country, there would be strife. Since they had so little in common, the sensible solution to the impasse they had reached would be the severance of political ties. Certainly he felt he was not without precedent in holding the federal compact to be terminable at the will of its member States. He saw scarcely any evidence that it was intended by those who wrote it to be anything more.

The simple truth is that he aligned himself against the North at least partly because he felt he could not subscribe to the principle of an indissoluble Union. The North embraced the principle of nationality – the South sought, in Benjamin’s words, divorcement “from a compact all the obligations of which she is expected scrupulously to fulfill, from the benefits of which she is ignominiously excluded.” It was as simple as that to him.”

(Judah Benjamin: Mystery Man of the Confederacy, S.I. Neiman, Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1963, excerpt pp. 92-93)

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

Multicultural Confederates

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

Multicultural Confederates

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

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

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

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

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

Lieber’s Puzzling Code of War

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

Lieber’s Puzzling Code of War

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

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

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

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

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

Mar 6, 2021 - Antebellum Realities, Emancipation, Historical Accuracy, Indians and the West    Comments Off on Seminole Slave Property

Seminole Slave Property

In addition to the Seminole tribe, the Cherokee, Chickasaw and Creeks all held slaves prior to the arrival of Europeans, acquiring African slaves from the latter. The tribes were often brutal toward their slaves, established their own “black codes” and lived in segregated villages.

Though African slaves were emancipated in the postwar South, the sovereign status of the tribes exempted them from US legislation. A treaty of 1866 freed the black slaves of Indians.

Seminole Slave Property

“During our war with the Seminoles in Florida, in 1837 and 1838, a large number of those Indians were emigrated west of the Mississippi river. They carried with them a “considerable number of Negroes, who had been claimed and lawfully held as slaves by Indians of the tribe,” the attorney-general for the United States tells us.  At its expense, the government moved both the Indians and their “property of great intrinsic value,” and settled the tribe in the Western Territory.

There the Negroes continued “in the possession and service of their Indian masters” until 1846. A large number then went into the Federal fort pursuant to an offer of qualified freedom made by an officer in command of Federal troops. In June 1848 J.Y. Mason, former attorney-general and then attorney-general ad interim, having consideration of this case and the case of slaves captured in that [Seminole] war both by our troops and by Indians acting as our allies, said:

“The legal principles applicable to the subject appear to me to be free from difficulty. Regarded as persons, the Negro slaves had no power to contract, and therefore could not enter into any treaty or convention. Regarded as property when captured, they were to be treated as any other moveable property captured from an enemy in a land war . . .”

He then pointed out that our government had restored all captured slaves to their former masters where their “status ante bellum” was established. And in the case of the others he held that they must be returned to their former masters, saying, “I do not perceive on what principles you can interfere or deprive the Seminoles of their property, to give to their slaves any qualified freedom.”

Again in 1855 Negro slave property belonging to Indians outside of the municipal regulations of any State, was recognized and protected by the Federal Government. Look into the adjudications in any of the Northern States and there we find that the slave was property no matter where found, and that the rules of litigation concerning property interests in him differed in no respect from those applied to any other property.”

(The Legal & Historical Status of the Dred Scott Decision, Elbert William R. Ewing, Cobden Publishing Company, 1909, excerpts pp. 176-177; 180)

War for Economic Greatness

Author Philip Leigh below writes that in late March 1860 as Lincoln wrestled with the question of whether to abandon Fort Sumter and preserve peace, or commit to war, he was visited by a group of New York merchants. Their desire for profits prevailed as it was “better to pay for armed conflict now than suffer prolonged economic disaster in a losing trade war.”

War for Mercantile Greatness

“[A] low tariff Southern Confederacy was an economic threat to a truncated Federal Union, particularly considering the North’s growing expectations for economic hegemony as the South lost influence in the Government. About a month before Fort Sumter surrendered, the Boston Transcript concluded on March 18, 1861 that the South did not seceded to protect slavery, but to become the North’s economic competitor:

“Alleged grievances in regard to slavery were originally the causes for the separation of the cotton States, but the mask has been thrown off, and it is apparent that the people of the seceding States are now for commercial independence . . . the merchants of New Orleans, Charleston and Savannah are possessed with the idea that New York, Boston and Philadelphia may be shorn . . . of their mercantile greatness by a revenue system verging upon free trade. If the Southern Confederation is allowed to carry out a policy by which only a nominal duty is laid upon imports, no doubt the businesses of the chief Northern cities will be seriously injured.

The difference is so great between the tariff of the Union and that of the Confederacy that the entire Northwest [present day Midwest] must find it to their advantage to purchase imported goods at New Orleans rather than New York. In addition, Northern manufacturers will suffer from the increased importations resulting from lower duties . . .”

More than a month before South Carolina started the secession trend and about two weeks after the election, outcome was known, the Boston Herald concluded on November 12, 1860: “[Should South Carolina secede] she will immediately form commercial alliances with European countries [that] . . . will help English manufacturing at the expense of New England. The first move the South would make would be to impose a heavy tax upon the manufacturers of the North, and an export tax on the cotton used by Northern manufacturers. In this way she would seek to cripple the North. The carrying trade, which is now done by American [Northern] vessels, would be transferred to British ships.”

(Causes of the Civil War, Philip Leigh, Shotwell Publishing, 2020, excerpt pp. 133-134)

Republicans to Restore the Good Old Days

From its formation from the ashes of the Whig party in 1856, the Republican party in less than 5 years drove the Southern States to secession and engulfed the country in a devastating war which destroyed the American republic of 1789.  This party was formed in violation of Washington’s solemn warning against the formation of geographical political parties which he knew would endanger the very existence of the Union.

Republicans to Restore the Good Old Days

“The Republican leaders sought to convince the Northern voter that there would be no just cause for secession in the event of the election of the sectional president: that the Southern leaders were only bluffing and were trying to intimidate the Northern voter into voting against the dictates of his conscience.

[William] Seward, the author of the “Irrepressible Conflict” oration, explained that “the South would never in a moment of resentment expose themselves to war with the North while they have such a great domestic population ready to embrace any opportunity to assert their freedom and inflict revenge.”

He further explained that the election of Lincoln would terminate the conflict he had prophesied – not begin it. “Vote for us,” he cried, “and you will have peace and harmony and happiness in your future years.” And again he said, “When the Republicans are in office, what may we expect then? . . . I answer, “No dangers, no disasters, no calamities . . . all parties will rejoice in the settlement of the controversy which has agitated the country and disturbed its peace for so long.”

However, the New York Herald openly accused Seward of “pussyfooting.” Seward, it asserted, was a “moderate anti-slavery man at Detroit, a radical abolitionist at Lansing, a filibusterer at St. Paul, and the Brother Seward of John Brown did not hesitate to claim to be a good conservative, Union-loving patriot in New York.”

The election of Lincoln, according to Salmon P. Chase, another of the Republican leaders, would mean a restoration of the good old days of concord and goodwill between the North and the South, Tranquility, liberty and Union under the Constitution.” [Horace] Greeley, the Republican editor whose paper had the largest circulation of any paper in the United States, solemnly assured his readers that the election of Lincoln would be like “oil on troubled waters and would promptly remove all sectional excitement.”

(The Peaceable Americans of 1860-1861: A Study in Public Opinion, Mary Scrugham, Columbia University, 1921, excerpt pp. 45-46)

Dark Forces Unleashed by War

Of the wartime and postwar Congress, shorn of Southern statesmen, author Richard Hofstadter wrote: “Before business learned to buy statesmen at wholesale, it had to buy privileges at retail.” Railroad promoters actively lobbied for land grants and other subsidies at every level of government, while choruses of Northern manufacturers demanded tariff protection from foreign competitors. The American Third Republic ended with war in 1861, waged against a new Southern agrarian republic seeking peace and prosperity for its people. With its war of independence lost, the South became a poor economic colony within a foreign political arrangement dominated by corporate interests allied with an all-powerful central government.

Dark Forces Unleashed by War

“After the Civil War several transcontinental railroads, all but the Great Northern the beneficiaries of federal land grants, were completed. Chastened by scandals connected with the government’s subsidization of these enterprises, Congress made no new land grants after 1871, but in the nostrils of many people the odor of something rotten – corruption and special, unwarranted privilege at the expense of the general public – lingered about the land-grant railroads for decades.

After the 1870s, growing numbers of huge manufacturing corporations, including such still-familiar firms as Standard Oil, Bethlehem, American Tobacco, and Armour, achieved prominence. People accustomed to dealing with small locally-owned firms had difficulty in reconciling themselves to an economy in which such corporate behemoths did much of the nation’s business.

The great corporations, known to contemporaries as “trusts” though only a few were every trusts in the strict legal sense, raised the specter of monopoly power in the market. American public opinion and legal tradition had long been hostile toward monopolies. Conspiracies in restraint of trade were unquestionably illegal under the common law.

Unsuccessful competitors complained bitterly that the “monopolists” were driving them to the wall. Customers frequently objected to real or imagined price discrimination. More than anything else, rate discrimination provoked the outrage of Midwestern shippers against the railroads. Often the criticism of a big corporation’s alleged monopoly power could be deflected by showing that the firm produced better products or services in growing volumes at ever lower prices.

But this defense, even if appropriate, did nothing to allay the charge that the great corporations subverted the democratic political process. “Corruption,” charged the Populists in the preamble to their platform of 1892, “dominates the ballot-box, the Legislatures, the Congress, and touches even the ermine of the bench.”  Henry B. Brown, an associate justice of the US Supreme Court, told the Yale law students in 1895 that “[b]ribery and corruption are as universal as to threaten the very structure of society.”

(Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government, Robert Higgs, Oxford University Press, 1987, excerpts pp. 80-81)

 

An American Chamber of Horrors

In an effort to forestall a Republican “Force Bill” designed to bring reconstruction horrors back to the postwar South, fourteen spokesmen that included Zebulon Vance, Robert Stiles and Bernard J. Sage undertook to explain the Solid South to what may be termed the New North. In April 1890 they published a symposium “Why the Solid South? Or Reconstruction and its Results,” designed to appeal to the self-interest of the North’s business class and a very clear recapitulation of what Reconstruction thus far “had cost in money, public morale and cultural retardation.”

An American Chamber of Horrors

“Hilary Herbert of Alabama, who served as editor, expressed . . . in a preface: “Its object is to show to the public, and more especially to the businessmen of the North, who have made investments in the South, or who have trade relations with their Southern fellow citizens, the consequences which once followed an interference in the domestic affairs of certain States by those, who either did not understand the situation or were reckless of results.”

There followed factual histories of Reconstruction in each of the ex-Confederate States, including West Virginia and Missouri, which also had suffered from the fraud, repression and vicious partisanship of the postwar settlement. All in all, it is one of the most dismal stories ever told, unrelieved by a single ray of light, unless a revelation of how much people can endure and how they will struggle to attain their hopes even in extremis be such.

Governor Vance of North Carolina in a particularly mild and philosophic chapter pointed out that during what was supposed to be a moral and political rebirth “the criminals sat in the law-making chamber, on the bench and in the jury-box, instead of standing in the dock.” It has become the fashion nowadays to regard Reconstruction as a kind of chamber of horrors into which no good American would care to look, but Governor Vance reminded his readers that no portion of our history better deserves study “by every considerate patriot.”

From the comparatively uneventful story of North Carolina’s experience, the chronicle moves on to the wild saturnalia of South Carolina, where amid riotous spending of public funds the State House was turned into a combination of saloon and brothel. Yet the ordeal of South Carolina was matched by that of Louisiana, where in four years’ time the incredible Warmoth regime squandered an amount equal to half the wealth of the State.

“Corruption is the fashion,” Governor Warmoth, an ex-soldier who had been dishonorably discharged from the Federal army, remarked with laudable candor. “I do not pretend to be honest, but only as honest as anybody in politics.”

(The Southern Tradition at Bay: A History of Postbellum Thought, Richard M. Weaver, George Core/M.E. Bradford, editors, Regnery Publishing, 1989, excerpts pp. 330-332)

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