Browsing "Lincoln’s Patriots"

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)

Jefferson Davis Placed in Irons

Massachusetts-born General Nelson A. Miles rose from a lowly lieutenant of volunteers to major-general by the end of the war. He was specifically chosen by Lincoln’s Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and Gen. Ulysses Grant to command President Jefferson Davis’ guard detachment “because he was not from the line of West Point-trained professionals who might treat the former officer with military courtesy.” (Leonard Wood, Jack McCallum, 2006). It was Assistant Secretary of War Charles Dana, manipulator of the soldier vote to help ensure Lincoln’s reelection in 1864, who ordered Davis to be placed in irons.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Jefferson Davis Placed in Irons

“On the morning of the 23rd of May [1865], Captain Jerome E. Titlow of the Third Pennsylvania Artillery, entered the prisoner’s cell. “I have an unpleasant duty to perform, Sir”; and as he spoke, the senior blacksmith took the shackles from his assistant.

Davis leaped instantly from his recumbent attitude, a flush passing over his face for a moment, and then his countenance growing livid and rigid as death.

“My God! You cannot have been sent to iron me?” “Such are my orders Sir,” replied the officer, beckoning the blacksmith to approach . . . These fetters were of heavy iron, probably five-eights of an inch in thickness, and connected together by a chain of like weight.

“This is too monstrous,” groaned the prisoner, glaring hurriedly around the room, as if for some weapon, or means of self-destruction. “I demand, Captain, that you let me see the commanding officer. Can he pretend that such shackles are required to secure the safe custody of a weak old man, so guarded and in such a fort as this?”

“I tell you the world will ring with this disgrace. The war is over; the South is conquered; I have no longer any country but America, and it is for the honor of America, as for my own honor and life that I plead against this degradation. Kill me! Kill me!” he cried, passionately, throwing his arms wide open and exposing his breast, “rather than inflict on me, and my People through me, this insult worse than death.”

“I am a prisoner of war” . . . “I have been a soldier in the armies of America, and know how to die. Only kill me, and my last breath shall be a blessing on your head. But while I have life and strength to resist, for myself and my people, this thing shall never be done.”

[The sergeant] advanced to seize the prisoner . . . Immediately Mr. Davis flew on him, seized his musket and attempted to wrench it from his grasp. There was a short passionate scuffle. In a moment Davis was flung upon his bed [by four powerful assailants].”

(The Prison Life of Jefferson Davis, John D. Craven, Geo. D. Carleton Publisher, 1866, excerpts pp. 35-36)

 

Bounties Fill Lincoln’s Armies with Patriots

In mid-1862 volunteering in the North had all but stopped after the carnage and high casualty numbers to date, though Lincoln desperately needed more troops to continue his war. He threatened conscription as a whip to encourage governors to fill the “troop quotas” he demanded, and the governors rightly feared retaliation from their constituents who had little interest in the war. Bounties were used to buy the services of paupers, indigents, immigrants and recently-released criminals to fill the ranks and keep Northern working men at home. Massachusetts Governor John Andrew found a workable solution in sending State agents to the occupied South to enlist captured black men who would be counted toward his State quota – and approved by Lincoln.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Bounties Fill Lincoln’s Armies with Patriots

“After the first flush of patriotism had passed, one of the strong inducements to enlistment was a financial one – a bounty, and, at a later date, the advance of the first month’s pay. During the Civil War, bounties came from three sources – the federal government, local governmental units, and private subscription. (In Ohio there was no bounty offered directly from State funds.)

The federal government, at the beginning of hostilities, offered a bounty of $100, payable upon honorable discharge . . . [but] by action of Congress in July 1862, one-fourth of this sum was to be paid upon muster and the balance at the expiration of the term of enlistment.

By later acts of Congress the bounty was increased to as much as $400 in some cases, payable in installments at certain periods during the soldier’s service as well as upon his being mustered in and mustered out. By 1863, the volunteer could expect $75 from the federal government at the time he was mustered in, $13 of the amount being his first month’s pay.

To the federal bounty there came to be added bounties provided by local governmental units and private subscription. Indeed, as [Provost Marshal General James Fry] wrote, the federal bounty paled into “comparative insignificance” when compared with the “exorbitant bounties paid in advance by local authorities.”

These, he believed, were the most mischievous in encouraging desertion, bounty-jumping, and other evils connected with the system. So great was the stigma of the draft that local authorities were highly competitive in the amounts offered to volunteers. Furthermore, they paid all the sum in advance. The primary objective of these payments, as General Fry put it, came to be “to obtain men to fill quotas.”

Localities began by offering moderate bounties. In 1862 the average local bounty was estimated at $25; in 1863 it advanced to $100; in 1864 it bounded to $400; and in 1865 the average bounty was $500, although in some localities it was as high as $800. The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners levied a tax of two mills in 1863 to take care of local bounty payments. On a tax duplicate of $128,432,065 this levy yielded about $256,864. The next year the city of Cincinnati began to borrow in order to offer city bounty payments, and during that year 1,811 volunteers were paid bounties of $100 each.

After the war the adjutant-general of Ohio estimated that $54,457,575. Had been paid in local bounties throughout the State, of which amount cities and counties had paid about $14,000,000 and private subscribers, $40,457,575.

The private subscriptions represented ward or township bounties, offered to encourage volunteering to avoid the draft in a city ward or township. [Political] Ward military committees were very active in securing private contributions for this purpose, as well as in securing volunteers.”

(Relief for Soldiers’ Families, Joseph E. Holliday; Ohio History, Vol. 71, Number 2, July 1962, James H. Rodabaugh, editor, excerpts pp. 98-100)

Immigrant Politics and Recruits Up North

An 1845 congressional committee investigating naturalization frauds in New York and Philadelphia found it was common practice on the eve of elections for immigrants, many not yet qualified by residency, to be naturalized in droves by political machines like Tammany Hall. This immigrant influx had created two Americas by the late 1850s: An immigrant-dominated North versus a South still consisting of English and Scots-Irish who originally settled the region. The former knew little of American institutions; the latter revered limited government, self-reliance and independence.

In 1860, the South contained some 233,000 people born under a foreign flag, while the North held nearly 4 million foreign-born inhabitants. While running for president in mid-1860, Lincoln purchased Springfield (Illinois) Zeitung to gather immigrant votes; by 1864, fully 25% of Lincoln’s war machine consisted of Germans.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Immigrant Politics and Recruits Up North

“In 1835, it was reported that more than one-half of the paupers in the almshouses of New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Baltimore were foreign-born, and in later years the proportion was even higher. Crime statistics, too, revealed a disproportionate number of foreign-born offenders; in 1850 there were three times as many foreign-born inmates of the New York State prisons as there were natives.

To many nativists an equally grave and more immediate threat to republican freedom stemmed from the political role of the foreign-born. In places the proportion of foreign-born voters had so increased as to hold the balance of electoral power; this of itself was a source of alarm, for most immigrants remained ignorant of American institutions.

In addition, the electoral violence and voting frauds, which had come to characterize immigrant voting in politics, we believed to be sapping the very foundations of the American political system. There were numerous complaints of native voters being kept from the polls by organized mobs of foreign laborers, of immigrants voting on the very day of their arrival in America, and of hired witnesses and false testimony as the commonplaces of naturalization proceedings.

[Native resentment] of German arrogance gave way to excited warnings against the machinations of a disaffected and turbulent element to whom America had unwisely given asylum. [An example of this were] the demands of Communist Forty-Eighters like Wilhelm Weitling, who advocated complete social revolution and the establishment of an American “republic of the workers.”

In Missouri in the spring of 1861, the bulk of Union forces consisted of German militiamen [who] thwarted secessionist attempts to take the State out of the Union. What led many to enlist was the offer of a bounty greater than an unskilled laborer’s annual earnings. Large numbers, too, joined the army because the trade depression at the beginning of the war, and its consequent unemployment, left them no choice save starvation or military service.

Such cases were common, for example, in New York where Horace Greeley, struck in April 1861 by the high proportion of foreigners among the recruits, wondered whether “the applicants were actuated by the desire of preserving the Union of the States or the union of their own bodies and souls.”

(American Immigration, Maldwyn Allen Jones, University of Chicago Press, 1960, excerpts pp. 152-154; 171-172)

Recruiting Lincoln’s Sable Arm

Alongside the North’s notorious bounty system for attracting recruits and substitutes to its armies, was Lincoln’s authorization to count Southern black men toward his State troop quotas. The latter allowed Northern men a way to avoid military service and Northern governors a means to avoid being voted out of office. State agents seeking recruits immediately swarmed into Northern-occupied areas of the South beat others to the new source of manpower with which to subjugate the South. One Northern general who held little regard for black people was Sherman, whose adversaries in the North charged him with “an almost criminal dislike of colored people and with frustrating the Negroes cruelly in their attempts to follow the army from the interior.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Recruiting Lincoln’s Sable Arm

“The abuse of the freedmen that had always occurred whenever new troops came into the [Sea] island district was vigorously reenacted [when Sherman’s western troops arrived]. Some soldiers cheated the Negroes by selling them horses they did not own, and others behaved “like barbarians, shooting pigs, chickens and destroying other property.”

The brotherhood of the Western army stopped abruptly . . . at the color line. “Sherman and his men, explained Arthur Sumner to a Northern friend, “are impatient of darkies, and annoyed to see them so pampered, petted, and spoiled, as they have been here.”

Sherman was thought “foolish in his political opinions” by a [Northern] teacher who resented his crusty remark that “Massachusetts and South Carolina had brought on the war, and that he should like to see them cut off from the rest of the continent, and hauled out to sea together.”

On January 12, 1864, [Secretary of War Edwin M.] Stanton . . . met twenty Negro leaders at Sherman’s headquarters [in Savanna] and asked their opinion on a dozen problems involving their welfare. They advised Stanton that the State recruiters should be promptly withdrawn from the district, sagely pointing out that Negro soldiers recruited in this system merely served to replace Northern white men who would otherwise be drafted to fill State quotas.

They said they well knew, that their ministers could do a better job of persuading young men to enlist than could mercenary bounty agents.

Coming up to Beaufort on a steamer with Stanton, [General Rufus Saxton] asked most particularly whether the freedmen would be maintained in possession [of property], and the Secretary had most heartily reassured him.

On December 30, 1864, he had written a bitter letter to Stanton, reviewing the long series of frustrations he had endured in his Sea Island work. Over and over he had been the unwitting agent of the erection of false hopes among the freedmen.

In the matter of recruiting he had assured the people that no man would be taken against his will, but he had been undone by General [David] Hunter in the first place, by General Quincy Gillmore in the second place, and at last by General John G. Foster, who in 1864 resumed wholesale recruiting “of every able-bodied [black] male in the department.”

The atrocious impressment of boys of fourteen and responsible men with large dependent families, and the shooting down of Negroes who resisted, were all common occurrences.

The Negroes who were enlisted were promised the same pay as other soldiers. They had received it for a time, “but at length it was reduced, and they received but little more than one-half what was promised.”

(Rehearsal for Reconstruction, the Port Royal Experiment, Willie Lee Rose, Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1964, excerpts pp. 322-329)

Jun 22, 2018 - Bounties for Patriots, Lincoln's Grand Army, Lincoln's Patriots, Newspapers, Northern Culture Laid Bare    Comments Off on Grover Finds a Substitute

Grover Finds a Substitute

Grover Cleveland at age twenty-five had been elected to Buffalo’s Second Ward; at twenty-seven he was appointed assistant district attorney of Erie County (Buffalo) and prepped for a long career in New York machine politics. As Lincoln targeted Democrats in New York with his conscription act of March 1, 1863, Cleveland was swept up in it — but already had a substitute to serve in his stead.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Grover Finds a Substitute

“[Said an editorial in the Buffalo Courier]: “Mr. Cleveland is one of the most promising young members of the bar, is a thoroughly read lawyer, and possesses talent of a high order.”

[Cleveland’s job of district attorney] paid half what he earned in private practice . . . should Grover be conscripted was an unthinkable prospect and unanswerable question – until Abraham Lincoln took up a pen to sign into law the Conscription Act of March 3, 1863.

Its provisions allowed draft eligible men to buy their way out of serving by paying $300 for “commutation,” or by furnishing a substitute. When the conscription procedure began with the drawings of names in May, Grover’s was chosen on the first day.

But he was ready: He had found a substitute in the person of a Great Lakes seaman named George Brinske, also known as Benninsky. Had Grover wished, as assistant district attorney he could have found an almost limitless roster of substitutes among discharged convicts or friendless men accused of a crime who would have gladly chosen army life over imprisonment.

Satisfied with the financial arrangement offered him ($150), Benninsky was sworn into the army at Fort Porter on July 6, 1863. Serving with the Seventy-sixth New York Regiment on the Rappahannock River in Virginia, he injured his back (not in combat) and served as an orderly in a military hospital in Washington, DC, for the remainder of the war.

When another local election loomed in 1865, [Grover] offered himself to Buffalo voters as the Democratic candidate for Erie County district attorney. His declaration has promptly hailed by the [Buffalo] Courier . . . “he is a young man . . . who, by his unaided exertions, has gained a high position at the bar, and whose character is above reproach.”

(An Honest President: the Life and Presidencies of Grover Cleveland, H. Paul Jeffers, HarperCollins, 2000, excerpts pp. 28- 31)

Fake News and Collusion

Charles A. Dana is a seldom mentioned figure in wartime incidents, though he became an internal spy for Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and monitored Grant’s early activities in the western theater of war. When Jefferson Davis was placed in irons in Fortress Monroe, it was Dana who wrote the order. In the prewar period, Dana was a member of the utopian Brook Farm commune in Massachusetts, and encouraged Karl Marx to contribute to Horace Greeley’s Tribune. Dana later admitted that the entire power of the War Department was utilized to ensure Lincoln’s reelection in 1864.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Fake News and Collusion

“White-haired and long faced, [Secretary of War Simon] Cameron was turning army procurement into a fish fry for manufacturers of his native Pennsylvania. Not a word of criticism, however, came from the [New York] Tribune, normally freighted to the water’s edge with brickbats for public officials suspected of mischief . . . Part [of editor Horace Greeley’s reason] was due to the fact that Cameron, in an early draft, proposed a favorite Greeley scheme of arming escaped slaves.

Part of it, however, mirrored the touching understanding between the war minister and his favorite news-gatherer [the Tribune’s Samuel Wilkeson]. Wilkeson would send Cameron a clipping of one of his more flattering articles on the existing management of the war, and
Cameron would respond in a way that counted, by dropping a note to the telegraph censor and requesting that Wilkeson’s dispatches be sent through untouched.

[The] New York Herald ferretted out of an investigation of Cameron’s contracts a story which charged the Washington correspondent and two of the Tribune’s commercial and financial writers had secured the charter of a Connecticut gun manufacturer and submitted a bid to supply the government with 25,000 muskets at twenty dollars apiece.

Wilkeson (whose name was twisted by the Herald to Wilkinson) had supposedly used his influence to have the Ordnance Department hurry matters along. The Tribune denied that any of its men had owned any part of the contract in question; Wilkeson admitted to an act of “disinterested kindness” and nothing more, but soon thereafter left Washington for the army.

[Cameron in January 1862 was replaced with Edwin M.] Stanton, [and who] almost as soon as he was installed at his desk, wrote to Charles A. Dana, the managing editor, confiding that his mission tended toward the same end as that of the paper.

In an early entanglement over a censored dispatch Stanton admitted that he and Dana were of “one heart and mind” in the cause of victory. He meant it, apparently, for Dana subsequently left Greeley’s payroll and, under the title of Assistant Secretary of War, ventured afield to keep an eye on various headquarters for Stanton.”

(Reporters for the Union, Bernard A. Weisberger, Little, Brown and Company, 1953, excerpts pp. 175-178)

The Last Election Held Under the Union

Hamilton Fish (1808-1893) was a prewar governor and senator from New York and served as secretary of state under Grant, 1869-1877. A wealthy man before the war, Fish was pragmatic and foresaw the destructive nature of the new Republican Party forming in the mid-1850s. He saw it as the duty of every man, North and South, to discourage unnecessary discussion of the slavery question which would only lead to the end of the Union. Fish, like other prominent Whigs who feared sectional parties, refused to join the Republicans and agreed with the view of Charles Sumner as vulgar, arrogant and deserving of caning. In 1860, only four years after fielding its first presidential candidate, the Republican Party had driven the first Southern State out of the Union.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Last Election Held Under the Union

“[In] 1855, the Republican Party advanced with rapid strides to the destruction of [the Whig Party]. News of violence was beginning to come from Kansas; fresh incidents were proving the Fugitive Slave Act unenforceable; in New York [Thurlow] Weed and [William] Seward were gravitating to the new organization.

Disunion was coming, D.D. Barnard sadly wrote Fish in July. The Fugitive Slave Law did something, and the Nebraska Bill has done everything, to stir up the anti-slavery sentiment of the North to a fever-heat. Fanaticism, meanwhile, makes a jubilee of the occasion, and demagogues, great and little, rush in to swell the commotion and make the most of the dreadful mischief. It is Massachusetts now, not South Carolina, which enters on a career of nullification . . .

A Northern party is loudly called for, with no principle to stand on but the eternal hatred and eternal war against the South on account of slavery. A Presidential election conducted by sectional parties, with nothing but slave issues between them – if such a thing were practicable—would be the last election held under the Union.

But Fish watched with grave disquiet. To Edward Ketchum he wrote that the Whig organization had ever been a national body, and he deplored its obliteration by sectional party. He also disliked the fanaticism, the intolerance of everything Southern, which stamped the prominent men among the Republicans.

At a recent meeting one [Republican] speaker had declared, “You are here to dethrone American slavery” . . . did [the speaker] know that such talk inflamed the South and placed the Union in peril?

To James Hamilton he wrote still more emphatically. The Republican State platform “has not an element of nationality”; it is “covered all over with the wildest sectional agitation.” His love of peace and the Union would not permit him to accept it.

[Fish] concluded:

“For myself I cannot consent to be made an Abolitionist, or to become an “Agitator” of the slavery question. I cannot close my eyes to the fact that history shews, that every physical revolution (of governments) is preceded by a moral revolution; that the discussion of questions on which the sections are united among themselves but differ the one from the other, leads to estrangement first, and next to hostility and hatred which end inevitably in separation. The separation of this country from Great Britain was not the result of the War of the Revolution, or even the Declaration of Independence. The discussions and controversies which had preceded the latter event caused and effected the separation which was only formally proclaimed by the Declaration, and forcibly maintained by the war.”

(Hamilton Fish, the Inner History of the Grant Administration, Allan Nevins, Dodd, Mead & Company, 1937, excerpts pp. 54-56)

The Republicans Bloody Shirt

Thomas Wentworth Higginson was a Unitarian minister in Massachusetts who identified with disunion and militant abolitionism during the 1840s and 1850s. He was deeply involved with the funding and arming of John Brown, was jubilant when Lincoln invaded the South, and became colonel of a black regiment of slaves taken from Southern plantations overrun and burned by Northern troops. In the postwar, Higginson came to realize what his prewar revolutionary zeal had unleashed, and to the chagrin of the Radical Republicans whose power then depended primarily on the freedmen’s ballot.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Republicans Bloody Shirt

“During the [1884] Massachusetts campaign Republicans frequently denounced the [Southern] Bourbons. [Senator George F.] Hoar stressed that his party was the true friends of the South. Republicans had sponsored bills to educate the section’s illiterates, had passed tariffs to protect its infant industries, and had adopted the war amendments to free all Southerners from the shackles of slavery . . . In a like tone Henry Cabot Lodge argued that the highest Republican duty was to preserve “the freedom and purity of the ballot box.”

In an open letter on “The Suppressed Negro Vote,” Higginson explained that he and other abolitionists . . . had studied “the Southern question apart from the bias of politics” and had come to the conclusion that colored men neither needed nor desired Northern aid.

After having corresponded with and talked to many of the South Carolina, Georgia and Florida Negroes who had served in his Civil War regiment . . . most of them admitted that they did not vote simply because they were uninformed and not interested in politics.

Higginson even condoned the enactment of complicated Southern election laws designed to confuse illiterate Negroes, such as the Eight-Box act requiring separate ballots and receptacles for each office being voted upon. Since only educated men could comprehend involved methods, these measure amounted to a literacy test and achieved what many Northern States decreed directly.

“The Massachusetts way,” Higginson went on, “is more honorable, no doubt; but suppose an attempt were made to import our system into South Carolina, it would at once be denounced as an outrage almost worthy of Mississippi.”

To Republicans, this reasoning was detestable. Former Governor John D. Long of Massachusetts had little use for “Col. Higginson and the Boston Advertiser [who] say “education should be on top.”

Asked why it so vigorously opposed the use of the war issues [to denounce the South], the New York Evening Post answered it was because Northern politicians had “never discoursed upon the suppression of the suffrage at the South, except as an argument for keeping themselves in power, and as a reason why the country should not be disgusted by the gross abuses in administration which the Republican party practiced, permitted and connived at.”

In the 1870’s [Republican party] Stalwarts had employed the theme “to reconcile us to the whiskey thieves and the knavish Cabinet officers of the Grant administration, and to the general corruption of the party in power.”

Under [Rutherford B.] Hayes, they had invoked it “to reconcile us next . . . to the abandonment by that statesman of even the slightest attempt to reform the civil service with which he began his Administration.”

Though last not least, [John] Blaine had stressed sectionalism during his 1884 campaign. “In short,” the Post announced, “during a period of fully fifteen years, whenever the Republican party was called to account for any shortcoming,” its sole answer was the bloody shirt.”

(Farewell to the Bloody Shirt: Northern Republicans and the Southern Negro, 1877-1912, Stanley P. Hirschson, Indiana University Press, 1962, excerpts pp. 132-134)

Republicans and the Freedmen’s Role

The North’s Republican Party was solely responsible for the postwar Solid South which opposed their Reconstruction efforts, and the former utilized the newly-enfranchised freedmen to establish a Southern wing to maintain their national hegemony. To hold Northern votes the Republicans waved “the bloody shirt”; at the same time they swayed the black voter with warnings of newly-elected Democrats re-enslaving them.  Below, the home State of Carl Schurz was not Missouri, he was a socialist revolutionary from Erftstadt, Germany, and elevated by Lincoln to attract German immigrant support for his war.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Republicans and the Freedmen’s Role

“One of the first [Northerners] to change his mind about the freedmen was Carl Schurz. In 1865, after a Southern tour, he had recommended that the Negro be enfranchised, disregarding the fact that “the [white] masses are strongly opposed to colored suffrage.” But in 1870, when he realized that uneducated Negroes were an easy prey for spoilsmen, Schurz admitted that he had erred.

To his disgust the [Republican] machine politicians in Missouri, his home State, dominated the scene by manipulating ignorant, but enfranchised, Negroes. Henceforth, Schurz steadfastly opposed all legislation designed to aid the colored man. And he assumed that anyone who tried to stir up sectional passions had yielded to the worst elements in the Republican organization.

Although the transition in the thinking of George William Curtis, the editor of Harper’s Weekly, was far different, he eventually reached the same conclusion. Like Schurz, Curtis after the war favored Negro suffrage. He argued that the freedmen had proven their loyalty and deserved the ballot. Admittedly, many of them were ignorant, but so were “great masses of Northern voters. Education,” he wrote, “is a good thing; but it appears some of the staunchest patriots in the land cannot read, and that some of the basest traitors are highly educated.”

During the 1880 campaign Harper’s Weekly vigorously denounced the Solid South. He then said that the Southern question was dead. The federal government could do nothing more to help the Negro. After that, Curtis joined Schurz in resisting all attempts to stir up the race issue.

A third distinct case was Edwin L. Godkin of the Nation. Although he begrudgingly advocated the enfranchisement of the Negro after the Civil War, he never abandoned the conviction that white Anglo-Saxons were inherently superior to “ignorant foreigners” and atavistic colored men. “I do not oppose the admission [to suffrage] of such Negroes as shall prove their fitness,” Godkin wrote in 1865. “. . . What I ask, and meant to ask, was not that the blacks shall be excluded as blacks, but simply that they shall not be admitted to the franchise simply because they are blacks and have been badly treated.”

Godkin recommended the disenfranchisement of all Negroes who could not learn to read or write within two years. Only by developing his intelligence could the colored man distinguish between “statesman and demagogue; between honest public men and knavish public men; between his own real friends and his real enemies.”

Although Godkin originally supported the Radical plan of Reconstruction, which provided for military enforcement of Negro suffrage, he was convinced by 1871 that this adventure had failed.

“We owe it to human nature to say that worse governments have seldom been seen in a civilized country,” the editor admitted. “They have been composed of trashy whites and ignorant blacks.” Control of Southern affairs should be returned to those “who have most influence and knowledge.” The simple truth was that the freedmen were unfit for the role the Republicans desired them to play: “Any party in which the Negro is in the majority, cannot help having its policy, if not shaped, greatly influenced by their political ignorance and incapacity.”

(Farwell to the Bloody Shirt, Northern Republicans and the Southern Negro, 1877-1912, Stanley P. Hirshson, Indiana University Press, 1962; excerpts pp. 126-128)

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