Browsing "Lincoln Revealed"

Political Devices Keeping the War Spirit Alive

Early is his career, Sherman displayed a careless attitude toward his own casualties, either learned from Grant or his own habits rubbing off on the latter and explaining Grant’s later massed assaults in Virginia and tremendous losses of men. Even bounty-enriched foreign “volunteers” balked at Grant’s orders to advance, believing it futile stepping over the maimed and dead of previous assaults and only to be killed themselves – and lose the balance of their enlistment bounty money.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Political Devices Keeping the War Spirit Alive

“It was the twenty-fifth of May, three days after the assault on Vicksburg. Federal dead between the lines were “swelling to the stature of giants” and were making the air so unbearable that Confederates had sent out the request that they be buried.

Under a white flag soldiers threw dirt on their late comrades, while in their midst Sherman and a Confederate officer, Captain S.H. Lockett, had come out to gather information . . . [and the latter noted that to] all appearance, Sherman was callous toward death. In reality, [Sherman’s] days and nights were full of resentment against the [Lincoln] Administration for what he believed was its indifference towards boys’ lives.

When reinforcements had been sent to the front during the last winter, the regiments had averaged 900 men, now they had been reduced by disease and bullets – principally the former – to around 300 per regiment, and were thinner than veteran organizations that had seen eighteen months more of service.

Sherman knew that if the War Department had used most of these recruits as replacements in older regiments, many youths now dead would be alive. Politics, however, demanded that volunteers be gathered in new regiments so that officers could be appointed by State governors, or elected by the men. Jobs must be made for deserving patriots. Sherman refused to admit that Lincoln was forced to employ many political devices to keep the war spirit alive in faint-hearted sections of the North.

When newspapers announced the passage of a new Conscription Law . . . [which sent the majority to new regiments, Sherman thought this] proved Lincoln unintelligent, and he sent Grant a plea to start work against so reckless a scheme . . . [to wife Ellen he] railed against the scheme:

“If the worst enemy of the United States were to devise a plan to break down our army, a better one cannot be attempted . . . It may be that the whole war will be turned over to the Negroes, and I begin to believe that they will do as well as Lincoln and his advisors.”

(Sherman: Fighting Prophet, Lloyd Lewis, Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1932, excerpts pp. 284-286)

Another Northern General’s View of the Negro

Like many if not most Northern general officers who had not gone over to the Radicals, who saw future Republican votes and political hegemony in the freedmen, Sherman held black field hands in low esteem and predicted their demise if freed. Connecticut native Frederick Law Olmstead, who travelled through much of the South in the early 1850s found the slaves “a very poor and a very bad creature, much worse than I had supposed before. The people thus burthened [with black servants] would have need to provide systematically for the physical wants of these poor creatures, else that the latter would be liable to prey with great waste upon their substance.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Another Northern General’s View of the Negro

“General William T. Sherman, who conducted one of the most disgraceful dragonnades of modern history through the Carolinas and Georgia (January 1864-April 1865) “freeing” every Negro in sight, nevertheless had written his brother, Senator John Sherman, in July 1860: “All the Congresses on Earth cannot make the Negro anything else than what he is; he must be subject to the white man, or he must amalgamate or be destroyed . . . Two such races cannot live in harmony save as master and slave.”

Six months earlier, in December 1859, when the Abolitionists were roaring in high fettle, stamping on the floors and pounding on the desks in both houses of Congress, he had said: “I would not if I could abolish or modify slavery.”

Having stated opposite views on the matter in previous weeks, Lincoln in a different milieu, looking South with apparent sympathy, could say: “I cannot blame the Southerners for not doing what I should not know how to do myself . . . Were all earthly powers given me I would not know what to do as to the existing institution.”

Yet some years later, as if indeed all earthly powers had been given him, he took it upon himself – and wholly outside the Constitution – to declare forever “free” nearly four million uneducated, childlike blacks, not one in a thousand of whom had the least notion of what it was all about. They were suddenly propelled into a highly organized white civilization that moved and existed by the means of money, hired labor, production, consumption, and where sentiment was incongruous if not grotesque.

This was all done by a juvenile moral stature, accomplished by an outrageous ukase that no Czar of . . . [Russia] would have dared to utter.”

(The Constitutions of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis: A Historical and Biographical Study in Contrasts, Russell H. Quynn, Exposition Press, 1959, excerpts pp. 85-86)

“Could Such Men be Defeated?”

Lieutenant-Colonel Garnet J. Wolseley was sent to Canada to reinforce the existing military force after the US Navy seizure of the British mail packet Trent in November, 1861. War was expected to commence and Wolseley, who distinguished himself later in his career in the Second Ashanti War and in an effort to rescue General Charles Gordon, led 10,000 seasoned British troops in Canada. Wolseley was well-aware of the immigrant source of Lincoln’s army.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

“Could Such Men be Defeated?”

Wolseley was aware of the source of many of Lincoln’s soldiers, combed from Ireland and Germany to fight against Americans. As he called for British intervention, he also knew that his country was responsible for populating the US with Africans, over whom the war was allegedly fought by the North.

“The first British officer to visit the Confederacy had at one time expected to be fighting against the North. Lieutenant-Colonel Garnet J. Wolseley, a veteran of several of Queen Victoria’s wars, was part of a British force ordered to Canada in 1861 as a show of strength after the US Navy stopped the British mail packet Trent and seized two Confederate agents who were on board.

The threat of war receded . . . [and taking] two months leave, he travelled . . . to New York City in September 1862 . . . and crossed the Potomac [as] General Robert E. Lee’s army was withdrawing from Maryland at the conclusion of the [Sharpsburg] campaign.

Even as he entered Virginia, Wolseley was favorably disposed toward the Confederacy, ostensibly out of concern for civil liberties in the wartime North. He described residents of Maryland as “stricken . . . with terror” by arrests ordered from Washington [and declined] to describe his route through Maryland, lest he endanger those with whom he had stayed.

Travelling by train from Fredericksburg to Richmond, [the] wounded from Lee’s Maryland invasion . . . impressed even Wolseley, the professional soldier:

“Men with legs and arms amputated, and whose pale, haggard faces assumed an expression of anguish even at the slightest jolting of the railway carriages, lay stretched across the seats – some accompanied . . . by wives or sisters, whose careworn features told a tale of sleepless nights passed in painful uncertainty regarding the fate of those they loved.”

In early October, Wolseley set out for Lee’s headquarters . . . his driver was a convalescent soldier who was still in considerable discomfort. “He said his furlough was up, and he would rather die than overstay it . . . when spoken to about the war, every man in the South, were prepared to die, he said, but never to reunite with the d—d Yankees.”

The British officer was impressed [with Lee]: “He is slightly reserved; but he is a person that, whenever seen, whether in a castle or a hovel, alone or in a crowd, must at once attract attention as being a splendid specimen of an English gentleman.”

Everywhere he was impressed with the tough, dedicate Confederate soldiers. Could such men be defeated, he would ask, “by mobs of Irish and German mercenaries, hired at $15 a month to fight in a cause they know little and care less about?”

[Returning] to Britain, he wrote an article for Blackwood’s Magazine [in which] he urged the British Parliament to intervene on behalf of the South, saying that the time had come “for putting an end to the most inhuman struggle that ever disgraced a great nation.”

(British Observers in Wartime Dixie, John M. Taylor; Military History Quarterly, Winter 2002, excerpts pp. 68-69)

 

A Calming Effect at Sumter

North Carolina’s Jonathan Worth sensed that despite the sectional troubles of the latter 1850s and Lincoln’s election, “Unionist sentiment was ascendant and gaining strength until Lincoln prostrated us.” He added “the President could abandon Sumter and Pickens without any sacrifice of his principles . . .” Worth also felt that Seward’s duplicity did more that all the secessionists to drive North Carolina out the Union, as Lincoln behind the scenes pursued his aggressive policy of war.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

A Calming Effect at Sumter

“The [Confederate] commissioners were impatient to gain a hearing and get on with their negotiations. At first Seward promised to let them know how best to bring the subject of their mission before the President and the cabinet. Then he began to stall them off by saying the administration did not yet have time to deal properly with a matter so important.

The President, he explained, was “besieged” by applicants for office and was “surrounded by all the difficulties and confusion incident to the first days of a new administration.” Seward gave the commissioners to understand, however, that Sumter very soon would be evacuated anyhow.

When they demanded an informal conference with him (at no time had they and he met face to face) he said he would have to consult the President. The answer he later relayed back to them was “No, it would not be in his power to receive the gentlemen.”

The rumors Seward had started, about the early abandonment of Sumter, eventually appeared in the press. They made “great news” in the metropolitan dailies on Monday, March 11, the very day on which Lincoln, in his orders to [Gen. Winfield] Scott, reaffirmed the opposite policy – a fact which the newspapers did not report and did not know.

As the news spread, it had, on the whole, a calming effect in Richmond and elsewhere in the non-Confederate South. “The removal from Sumter,” said George W. Summers, writing on behalf of the Virginia Unionists, and writing as if the removal already were a fact, “acted like a charm – it gave us [Southern Unionists] great strength. A reaction is now going on in the State.”

In Washington, the Confederate commissioners agreed to postpone their demand for an immediate reception. They would wait, but only for a couple of weeks, until about March 28, and only on condition that the existing military status of the Union forts remain absolutely unchanged.

In Charleston, the publishers and the readers of the Charleston Mercury and the Courier rejoiced that Sumter would soon fall without a fight. “The news . . . seems to have caused an almost entire cessation of work on the batteries around us,” one of [Major] Anderson’s officers wrote to the War Department . . .”

In the city of New York, and throughout the . . . North – there was mixed reaction. Some thought the decision unfortunate but unavoidable. Some, especially Buchanan Democrats and also businessmen with Southern connections, heartily approved.”

(Lincoln and the First Shot, Richard N. Current, J.B. Lippincott Company, 1963, excerpts pp. 54-56)

 

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)

 

Lincoln Facilitates Western Virginia Secession

In James Randall’s “Civil War and Reconstruction” of 1937 (DC Heath & Company), he writes that “In tracing the formation of West Virginia, the historian finds it necessary to go behind the printed histories, most of which follow a definite pattern and justify every step of the new-state movement as a triumph of Unionism and a vindication of popular rule . . . [but] the masses of archival and manuscript material that have come down to us reveal irregularities and extra-legal processes of such a nature that traditional conclusions will have to be abandoned.”

Randall writes further that “It is probable that, had war not supplied the impulse, no dismemberment of the State would have occurred,” and that a so-called ordinance from Wheeling on August 20, 1861, “was in reality the work of an active but limited group of seperationists in the counties near Pennsylvania and Maryland.” As the secessionists drew a map of their new “State,” the people within “had no opportunity, county by county, to determine whether they would adhere to Virginia, or join the new commonwealth” (pp. 329-330)

It is worth noting that the United States Constitution which Virginia ratified, stipulates in Article IV, Section 3: “. . . no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State . . . without the Consent of the Legislature of the State concerned . . .”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Lincoln Facilitates Western Virginia Secession

“Lincoln was not opposed to secession if it served his political purposes. This fact is proven when he orchestrated the secession of western Virginia from the rest of the State and set up a puppet government of the new State of West Virginia, in Alexandria, Virginia, right across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

His own attorney General, Edward Bates, believed that this act was unconstitutional, arguing the obvious – that States must first exist before being accepted into the Union. Neither the president or Congress had the constitutional authority to create States, for a truly free State can only be created by its people.

This was another patently undemocratic or dictatorial act that, once again, Lincoln rationalized in the name of “saving democracy.” Lincoln ignored the arguments of his attorney general as well as the words of the Constitution, but benefited in 1864 by additional electoral votes and congressional representation that was completely controlled by the Republican party in Washington, not the people of western Virginia.

Interestingly, the legislation establishing West Virginia allowed for the people of the new State to vote on a gradual emancipation program. This was Stephen Douglas’s position in the Lincoln-Douglas debates – that the new territories should be permitted to vote on whether or not they wanted slavery.”

(The Real Lincoln, A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda and an Unnecessary War, Thomas J. DiLorenzo, Forum, 2002, excerpts pp. 148-149)

Creating Engines for Political Security

The “glittering prize” of political party victory was control of the distribution of political offices, and Lincoln astutely arranged the patronage to control his party as well as keep jealous competitors at bay. The Collectors of Customs posts were most important, and were decisive in Lincoln’s decision for war rather than lose his tariff money and appointing powers.  Count Gurowski, the Polish immigrant and political gadfly mentioned below, believed in the European tradition that “treason” was simple opposition to royalty. In the United States, however, Article III, Section 3, defines treason only as waging war against “them,” the States, or adhering to their enemies.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Creating Engines for Political Security

“The arduous task of cabinet-making was far from completed before Lincoln was beset with a swarm of office-seekers. Indeed, Washington was a veritable mecca for patronage mongers bent upon securing consulships, Indian agencies, postmaster-ships, or anything else in the gift of the appointing power [of the President].

Those who witnessed the rush of job hunters could not easily forget the spectacle. Wrote home a Michigan Congressman: “The City is overwhelmed with a crowd of rabid, persistent office-seekers – the like never was experienced before in the history of the Government.”

An Indiana member reminisced later: “I met at every turn a swarm of miscellaneous people, many of them looking as hungry and fierce as wolves, and ready to pounce upon members [of Congress] as they passed, begging for personal intercessions, letters of recommendations, etc. . . . the scuffle for place was unabated.”

And the eccentric Count Adam Gurowski, viewing the scene, confided to his diary in this same month of March 1861 his impressions:

“What a run, a race for offices. This spectacle likewise new to me. The Cabinet Ministers, or, as they call them here, the Secretaries, have old party debts to pay, old sores to avenge or to heal, and all this by distributing offices, or by what they call it here, the patronage. They, the leaders, hope to create engines for their own political security, but no one seems to look over Mason and Dixon’s line to the terrible and with lightning-like velocity spreading fire of hellish treason.”

Politically and financially, the collectors of customs posts were among the most important at the disposal of the Administration. That at the metropolis of the Empire State was the most lucrative. “There is no situation in the U. States which enables the incumbent to exert such influence . . . as the Collectorship of New York,” one political observer had written in the 1840’s; to another this position was second only in influence to that of Postmaster-General.”

Under the caption “Fat Offices of New York,” Horace Greeley’s Tribune informed its readers in 1860 that ranking first in importance and revenue was the collectorship, with its fixed salary of $6,340, and some $20,000 more in the form of “pickings and fees.” Before Lincoln’s first administration had run its four years, the Surveyor of the Port estimated the number of employees in the New York Custom House at 1,200 and the assessment on their salaries for political party purposes at 2 percent.”

(Lincoln and the Patronage, Harry J. Carman & Reinhard H. Luthin, Peter Smith, 1864, excerpts pp. 53-54; 59-60)

 

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)

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)

A Superior Race of Yankee Employers

The land seized, sold and leased in occupied South Carolina by the North’s Direct Tax Commission was dominated by Northern philanthropists and others who had acquired their wealth by exploiting free labor. They developed Northern support for the “Port Royal Experiment” by convincing manufacturers that successful black farmers would become ravenous purchasers of Yankee goods. In a June 15, 1864 letter to the Edward S. Philbrick mentioned below, Northern General Rufus Saxon wrote: “What chance has [the Negro] to get land out of the clutches of the human vulture, who care for him only as they can gorge themselves upon his flesh? If you had seen the hungry swarms gathered here at the land sales in February . . .”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

A Superior Race of Yankee Employers

“[In the occupied South Carolina’s Sea Islands], the first purchasers were principally the New England wing of the planter-missionaries [who] welcomed more favorable circumstances in which to prove their theory that free labor could grow more cotton, more cheaply, than slave labor. The largest buyer [of land] was Edward S. Philbrick, backed by wealthy Northern philanthropists . . .

Federal authorities were reluctant to lease or sell subdivided plantation tracts to the freedmen [though some] managed to purchase several thousand acres . . . but the acreage they acquired was always well below that purchased by Northern immigrants, and this result was intended by a majority of the tax commissioners.

The truth is, not many of the liberators had boundless faith in the freedmen’s capacity for “self-directed” labor so soon after their emancipation. When in January 1865 General William T. Sherman set aside a strip of land along the southeastern seaboard for the exclusive occupancy of the thousands of slaves who followed his army to the sea, the news was generally greeted in the North with lamentation and deep foreboding.

It was a great mistake in statesmanship, the New York Times said, for what the ex-slaves needed was not isolation and complete independence, but “all the advantages which the neighborhood of a superior race . . . would bring to them. And what they needed even more was the good example and friendly guidance such as Yankee employers could largely provide. Few doubted, after emancipation, that the freedmen had some promise, provided that Yankee paternalism was allowed full scope.

When the old masters talked of free labor, they really meant slave labor, “only hired, not bought.” And how could men whose habits and customs were shaped by the old order readily grasp the requirements of the new order? The case seemed plain to all who had eyes to see. If the freedmen were ever to be transformed into productive free laborers within the South, the New York Times argued with unintended irony, “it must be done by giving them new masters.”

(New Masters: Northern Planters During the Civil War and Reconstruction, Lawrence N. Powell, Yale University Press, 1980, excerpts, pp. 4-5)

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