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Lincoln's Muscovite Friends

Lincoln’s Muscovite Friends

The lack of foreign recognition, especially from England and France, during the War Between the States is often cited as a primary reason for the fall of the Southern Confederacy. It is commonly related by historians that those two countries and others would not support the South after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of January 1863 as anti-slavery sentiment was ascendant internationally.

Though Radical Republicans viewed the proclamation as a diplomatic trump card which assured no European recognition for the American South, it was seen abroad for what it was – incitement to race warfare and virtually identical to England’s two previous emancipation proclamations. The first was issued by Virginia’s Royal Governor, Lord Dunmore, in November 1775; the second proclamation was made by Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane in 1814. Both had freed slaves who flocked to His Majesties banners and were intended to bring colonists to their knees as their slaves reverted to massacre as occurred in Santo Domingo.

Lincoln was aware that he held no authority as president to interfere with a State’s labor force and policies, but his proclamation was simply a war strategy designed to strike at the agricultural strength of the South. This is why invading Northern forces seized African workers and carried them off – thus denying the South of the ability to plant and harvest crops.

The Russian minister at Washington, Baron de Stoeckl, expressed dismay over Lincoln’s proclamation to Secretary of State William Seward, and referred to it “as but a futile menace” because “it would set up a further barrier to the reconciliation of the North South – always the hope of Russia.” Writing to his government, Stoeckl charged the radical Republicans with forcing Lincoln to issue the decree out of desperation, and with plans to inaugurate a reign of terror to silence critics of their regime.

Stoeckl questioned the Emancipation Proclamation’s intent as it offered the protection of Lincoln’s government as a premium to slave owners who remained loyal to his regime, and was simply a military weapon rather than an important document proclaiming human liberty.

It is worth pointing out here that Lincoln could have played a more humane trump card by encouraging a convention of the States to settle the problems of the Union in 1861 – much the same as was done in 1787 to revise the Articles of Confederation that some said were not effective – and the new federated arrangement agreed upon in 1789. The convention would have found a peaceful solution to a more perfect union, or unions.

A more plausible explanation for the reluctance of the British and French to intervene on behalf of the South is not well known, but very well-documented in several important volumes. The most revealing is James Morton Callahan’s “Russo-American Relations during the American Civil War” published in January, 1908 in West Virginia Studies in American History, Series 1, Number 1. In this paper Callahan begins: “After the grand and sudden emancipation of [twenty million] serfs by the Czar” on March 3, 1861, “the admiration for Russia was assiduously cultivated in the North for intimate political reasons.”

Foremost among the reasons behind this Northern interest in Russia was the neutral attitude of England and France in 1861, as well as later British shipbuilding aid to the Confederacy and the offer of French mediation – not to mention French intervention in Mexico for unpaid debts.

The Czar applauded Lincoln’s efforts to suppress an internal rebellion which he equated with the independence-minded Poles resisting Russian troops. Ironically, both the Czar and Lincoln were emancipating serfs and slaves respectively while crushing independence movements with an iron hand.

It should be kept in mind that despite Russian serfdom being somewhat different than the African slavery inherited from British colonialism, Czar Alexander II was well-aware of the numerous serf uprisings that had caused his father, Nicholas I, such anguish, especially after the 1848 socialist revolts in Europe. Alexander saw more revolts inevitable and used an autocratic decree to hasten the act after his nobles could not agree upon a gradual solution. Perhaps Lincoln was influenced by the Czar’s actions and concluded that slavery could only be abolished if the Union was saved – even by fire, sword and a million perishing in the act.

Though many heralded the Czar’s humanitarianism toward the lowly serf, former Cornell President Andrew Dickson White, who served for a time in St. Petersburg in 1855 and 1892-94 wrote that “I do not deny the greatness and nobleness of Alexander II . . . [but] feel obliged to testify that thus far . . . there is, as yet, little, if any, practical difference between the condition of the Russian peasant before and since obtaining his freedom.”

As Lincoln’s minister at St. Petersburg, Cassius M. Clay, began his diplomatic duties in June 1861 and soon reported to Secretary of State Seward that the Czar was earnest in “the hope of the perpetuity of friendship between the two nations” which was “increased by the common sympathy in the cause of emancipation.” Clay suggested to Seward the potential alliance of Russia, Mexico and the United States in an effort to discourage European recognition of the Confederacy. He reasoned that if France or England dared recognition, they would have to face the Russian fleets in addition to Lincoln’s ever-increasing war machine.

Clay added in his message to Seward that the United States “could not trust England with our national life,” and that in “Union with Russia land and army at no distant day to settle accounts with her in China and the Indies.”

General Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania was selected to succeed Clay in St. Petersburg in January 1862, and according to a published statement by Senator James Harlan of Iowa, Cameron was secretly charged by Lincoln to interview Czar Alexander II. Lincoln was troubled by “the possibility of interference by England or France in behalf of the Confederacy” and subsequently received the Czar’s assurance that in the event of intervention, the friendship of Russia for the United States will be known in a decisive manner, which no other nation will be able to mistake.” The Crimean defeat administered by England and France was not forgotten.

After Northern defeats and reverses mounted by October 1862 and France sought British and Russian aid in mediating the American conflict, Lincoln wrote the Czar in search of an alliance should European recognition of the South become reality. He was assured that Russia would not be a party to any mediation, and that Lincoln could rely upon Russian support.

In May 1863 Clay returned as minister at St. Petersburg and found that England, Austria and France were desirous of mediating the Polish-Russian conflict on behalf of the Poles, and with hopes that the United States would join. Clay was instructed by Seward to refuse any and all intervention into Russian affairs which of course pleased the Czar, and the United States was rewarded with a grant of a charter for a telegraph line through Russian territory

In his “Lincoln and the Russians” Albert A. Woldman notes that years before in Springfield, Illinois, Lincoln took a leading part in protesting against “the foreign despot” Russia who “in violation of the most sacred principles of the laws of nature and of nations” had conquered Hungary with an unwarranted armed intervention when she was fighting to break free of Austrian tyranny.

Lincoln may have held some sympathy with the rebellious Poles, but the need for a strong Russian ally to help defeat his own “rebellion” modified previous views. He and Seward issued an official statement that “Polish grievances would be righted by the liberalism, sagacity and magnanimity of Czar Alexander II.”

Lincoln’s refusal to help mediate the Polish uprising drew sharp criticism from the Missouri Republic, charging in an editorial that “the pale corpse of Poland’s murdered liberty” would continue to haunt Lincoln for years to come. Britain’s Punch magazine characterized Lincoln as collaborating with the Russian bear, and the French depicted Lincoln shaking the bloody hand of the Czar.

The French newspaper La Patrie of January 12, 1864 wrote “is it right that fifty million Muscovites should unite to retain ten or twelve million Poles under a detested yoke? Is it right that twenty million Northern Germans and Irishmen [the North’s immigrant population] should unite to impose on eight million Southerners an association they spurn?”

The strong international denunciations of his ruthless Polish campaign caused the Czar concern regarding the possibility of war and reminded him of his fleets bottled up in the Baltic and Mediterranean by the British and French navies in the Crimean War ten years earlier. He made secret arrangements to send his fleets to the open sea and friendly ports of the United States, which would then be in “a favorable position for cruising against British commerce in the Atlantic and Pacific, should war suddenly break out over the tempestuous Polish question.”

Those fleets were ordered to remain in American ports and await the outcome of negotiations regarding Poland. Though nothing in the fleet admirals’ orders referred to assisting Lincoln in his war upon the American South, the inference was clear that Britain and France should not interfere with the conquest of the South lest they hasten war with Russia.

At the same time it was clear to Lincoln, Seward and Clay that an alliance with Russia against England and France would be beneficial in thwarting French designs on Mexico. Clay wrote Seward in September 1863 that “the time had come for all America to unite in a defensive alliance to sustain the Monroe Doctrine.”

Callahan writes that “While rumors of contemplated Franco-English intervention in favor of the Confederacy were still afloat, Russia sent a fleet under Admiral [Andrei Alexandrovich] Popov to San Francisco, and soon thereafter (September 11 and 24) sent another under Admiral S.S. Lessoffsky to New York.

Americans in both cities and across the North interpreted this show of naval force as evidence “of sympathy and encouragement for the Union,” and both San Francisco and New York held endless “receptions, processions and various festivities” which “finally ended in a great Russian ball in honor of the guest.” Harper’s Weekly opined that the United States had outgrown Washington’s policy against entangling alliances and that diplomatic relations and an alliance with Russia would prevent European interference in US affairs and “mark an important epoch.”

In a further gesture of friendship with his new ally, Seward provided navigation charts for the American coast to the Russian fleets. Additionally, the governor of Rhode Island invited Admiral Lessoffsky to visit that State with his fleet; on December 5, 1863 Seward welcomed the same fleet after it had ascended the Potomac to Washington.

The Continental Monthly of February 1864 commented upon Northern enthusiasm for their new friends and especially New York City, which “had gone mad over the Muscovites, forgetting the woes of Poland while they kissed the hands of the knout-bearers of the Czar, and agitated for alliance between what they called the twin sister empires of the future . . . “

Admiral Lessoffsky and his officers were given a grand banquet at Boston in June 1864 with an oration by the renowned New Englander, Edward Everett.

Some questioned the true purpose of the Russian visit with Charles Sumner of Massachusetts writing a friend in October 1863 that “foreign intervention will introduce a new, vast and incalculable element . . . You will observe the hob-nobbing at New York with the Russian admiral. Why is that fleet gathered there?”

Callahan tells us that “it was believed that Lessoffsky had secret orders to place his fleet at the disposal of the President in case the United States should be attacked by France and England. There is no doubt the appearance of the fleets in American harbors caused apprehension in the European courts as they saw the Russians posturing for war. In his memoirs, Cassius Clay wrote of the Russian fleets: “Whatsoever may have been the ultimate purpose – Russia thus made a masterly exhibition which broke up the Mexican invasion [by France] and prevented a foreign invasion of the United States.”

New York banker Henry Clews related (Literary Digest, March 5, 1904) that Seward had informed him that when Confederate armies threatening Washington, he had requested a Russian fleet be sent to New York as a shrewd manner of demonstrating to Europe a Russo-American alliance.

There is no doubt that both Lincoln and Seward were well aware of Russian intentions and that their “action toward us . . . were but moves made by her upon the chessboard of European diplomacy,” though both “took full advantage of the fortuitous circumstance and used it astutely for the best interest of the Union cause.”

An interesting commentary on Lincoln’s wartime leadership came from another foreign observer, Rudolf M. Schleiden, Minister to the United States from the Bremen Republic. In February 1864 he mentioned in a dispatch “that Lincoln said to a Judge Thomas, of Massachusetts, that he would be satisfied if his successor was elected from the Republican Party. If that did not take place [Lincoln] feared that he would spend the rest of his life in jail for repeated violations of the Constitution.” (Rudolf Schleiden and the Visit to Richmond, April 25, 1861, Ralph Haswell Lutz, American Historical Association Annual Report, 1915, Washington, 1917, pp. 212-216)

The appearance of Russian friendship at that time was described by the Odessa-born American historian Frank A. Golder in 1915: “It was a most extraordinary situation, Russia had not in its mind to help us but did render us distinct service; the United States was not conscious that it was contributing in any way to Russia’s welfare and yet seems to have saved her from humiliation and perhaps war [with England and France]. There is probably nothing to compare with it in diplomatic history.”

As a postscript to the Russo-American friendship, Callahan notes the 1867 treaty whereby Russia transferred Alaska to United States control which few understood the logic of. Given the anticipation of war, those like Charles Sumner saw Russia “stripping for the contest with England,” providing North Pacific ports for the American navy and setting the stage for American absorption of Canada.

Intimately informed of Russian motives, Clay wrote from St. Petersburg that “the Russians hoped the cession might ultimately lead to the expulsion of England from the Pacific.” Secretary Seward, interviewed shortly after the Alaska purchase explained that it was an effort “to limit England’s coast line on the Pacific, strengthen American influence in British Columbia,” and to hasten the destiny of Canada into political union with the United States.

For the same purpose of hostility toward England, Northern politicians suggested the acquisition of Greenland and Iceland from Denmark as a further step toward “hemming in” Great Britain. The Alaska cession was viewed by many in the North as the beginning of a new national policy which would continue with annexation of British Columbia and Canada, the Sandwich Islands and naval stations for the US Navy on the coasts of China, Japan, West Indies and Caribbean. Seward’s nationalist energies had now broadened as he envisioned the United States joining the major powers of the world and pursuing even grander opportunities.

Keeping in mind that the 1867 Act of Confederation [strongly influenced by former Confederate Secretary of State Judah Benjamin] was prompted by fears of a two million-man Northern war machine marching northward after 1865, and Russia’s hatred for England, Canadian motivations seem clear.

Though it seemed the United States was doing Russia a favor by purchasing Alaska, American consul to France John Bigelow said in 1867 that “I doubt if there was any member of either house of Congress who supposed the government then had any other motive in the purchase of Alaska than to recognize its obligations to the Czar.”

Jay Cooke's War Hustle

Lincoln could not have waged war upon the American South without troops and the immense amount of money needed to pay for them, their equipage and assorted public relations campaigns to justify war.  For this he turned to banker Jay Cooke and his creation of war bond drives which labeled non-buyers as traitors.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Jay Cooke’s War Hustle

“The Credit Mobilier scandal . . . brought on, or at least hastened, the panic of 1873 and turned the greatest American financier of the era into a bankrupt. This was Jay Cooke. At the time of the crash he was engaged in financing the second transcontinental railroad, the Northern Pacific.

[In the past Cooke] showed fine judgment in his promotion of canals, then of railroads. He did well with loans to the government during the Mexican War. Then the Civil War gave him his big chance and he took it famously. In 1861, the State of Pennsylvania wanted to sell a large bond issue to finance its war effort. No banker but Jay Cooke would touch it. He sold the issue quickly, with a rousing appeal to patriotism. It was the first bond issue ever sold in that manner in the United States.

Noting his success, the federal government asked Cooke for his help. Moving his office to Washington . . . Cooke organized a spectacular country-wide campaign to sell federal war bonds to the public. He engaged brass bands. He hired spread-eagle speakers. He caused hundreds of thousands of flags to be displayed at bond rallies.

His salesmen worked on commission and were not turned loose until they had been thoroughly indoctrinated with the equivalent of pep talks and had learned at least ten ways of making non-buyers look and feel like traitors. Jay Cooke, in short, set the American, or rather the Union, eagle to screaming for money. He disposed of the bond issue of 1861, and of many more that followed. They amounted in four years to nearly three billion dollars.

What Cooke had done was to invent and bring to the management of national finance a wholly new technique – the drive. With little modification it has been used ever since. The boys in blue must be supported by fighting dollars.

From his immense commissions on bond sales and his many other activities, Cooke emerged at war’s end as the greatest banker in the country. “On the day Richmond fell, Cooke marked out the lines of a pretentious country house that was to cost one million dollars [with] an Italian garden facing a wall built to resemble “the ruined castle of some ancient nobleman.” This was the fifty-two room palace named Ogontz. Here he entertained, among others, President Grant, on whom he showered fine cigars and a plentitude of whiskey and wine.

Cooke dazzled Grant as he dazzled most contemporary Americans. He exemplified, said a critic, all of the substantial upper middle-class virtues of a people “newly given to the worship of a sterile money economy.”

One might call him also a vulgarian of money; placed in his own era, being a rich vulgarian merely made him a genuine great man. More than once, editorial writers and speakers coupled Cooke’s name with Lincoln and Grant.”

(The Age of the Moguls, Stewart H. Holbrook, Doubleday & Company, 1953, pp. 51-52)

Despicable and Malevolent Old Thad Stevens

Lincoln’s devastating warfare upon the American South was followed by the brutal military-occupation regimes of Pennsylvanian Thaddeus Stevens and his Radical Republicans.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Despicable and Malevolent Old Thad Stevens

“[M]y first recollections of the social and political life of our little village of five hundred inhabitants are all set in a sense of mystery and uncanny terror. A dreaded name was on every man’s lips—“Old Thad Stevens.”

Lest it be thought that I am giving a prejudiced Southern record of this strange old man and his character, I quote a sentence from The Epic of America by James Truslow Adams, the greatest historian our nation has yet produced, a scholar of Northern birth and training. On page 275 Mr. Adams says:

“Unfortunately, on Lee’s dash into Pennsylvania, the iron-works of a man whose one idea had been to get rich quickly were destroyed. They belonged to Thaddeus Stevens, perhaps the most despicable, malevolent and morally deformed character who has ever risen to high power in America.”

A man from our county went to Washington to ask of President Johnson the pardon of a friend who was still a political prisoner. Johnson had declined to interfere. He learned that the President had been stripped of all power by the Radical bloc in Congress headed by Thaddeus Stevens. He must see Stevens and present his petition to the Dictator, the real ruler of America . . . And on the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, whom he loathed, this malevolent outcast had suddenly become master of the nation, determined to destroy Lincoln’s plan of Reconstruction and enforce one of his own, inspired by his black mistress.

Steven’s plan was as simple as Lincoln’s but as different as night from day. He declared the Southern States conquered territory and subject only to the will of the conqueror. He proposed to stamp out the white race of the South from the face of the earth and make their States into [Negro] territories. To this end, two years after the close of the war, he destroyed the Union, wiped out the Southern states, established five military districts instead of the eleven old commonwealths, took the ballot from the white leaders of the South, enfranchised the whole Negro race and set them to rule over their former masters. And this at a time when the people were in a life and death struggle to prevent famine.

Mr. Stevens thus paralyzed every industry of the South, turned every Negro from the field to the political hustings and transformed eleven peaceful States into hells of anarchy. His fanatical followers, blinded by passion, deliberately armed a million ignorant Negroes and thrust them into conflict with the proud half-starved white men of the South. Such a deed can never be undone. It fixed the status of these two races in America for a thousand years.”

(Southern Horizons, The Autobiography of Thomas Dixon, IWV Publishing, 1984, pp. 20-23)

 

European Jacobin Views of a Massachusetts Whig

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

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

European Jacobin Views of a Massachusetts Whig

[Diary Entry] June 28, 1864

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Reconstruction's Hungry Locusts

The wife of the president H.L. Mencken referred to as “Roosevelt the Second” provided much of the impetus for the communizing of the Democratic party in the mid-1930s, and could be readily found supporting and speaking before openly Marxist groups like the American Youth Congress, Communist National Student League, Young Communist League, and anti-Franco communists.

In a news column she wrote that “signs of poverty and unhappiness . . . will have to disappear if [the South] is going to prosper and keep pace with the rest [of the country].” Author W.E. Debnam noted that Mrs. Roosevelt need not travel South to discover “poverty and unhappiness” as she could easily find it looking out her hotel apartment window in New York City. Debnam referred her to the root cause of the South’s unhappy condition.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Reconstruction’s Hungry Locusts

“May we tell you something about Reconstruction, Mrs. Roosevelt? Apparently somebody needs to tell you for only your abysmal ignorance of Southern history could possibly explain your continued carping criticism of just about everything south of the Mason-Dixon line . . . your complete failure to understand certain social and economic problems and conditions about which you pose so frequently as an authority.

Some of our modern Southern scalawags need to be reminded too . . . and that great horde of Northern editors and reporters so prone to pillory the South on every occasion while they ignore even worse conditions in their own backyard.

When the War ended, Mrs. Roosevelt, the South was licked and no one knew it better than the men who had followed Lee. The South was defeated, but it was not penitent. It had lost the War but not its pride. There was no sense of guilt but the South was resigned to the verdict of the battlefield. There was no love for the Yankee, it’s true, but also there was – speaking generally – no hate.

Most Southerners still insisted, and laughed about it, that “damnyankee” was one word, but, while they were not prepared to forget, they were ready, given a little time, to forgive their conquerors.

But [the war] wasn’t over, Mrs. Roosevelt. The South’s Gethsemane had just begun. War, as your Yankee friend General Sherman said, is hell . . . but it’s a hell that about it a certain dignity. There was nothing of dignity about Reconstruction.

There was only the studied, deliberate debasement of a proud and defenseless people. Old Thaddeus Stevens and his gang of Radical Republicans set out to murder the South in the first degree. Their murderous assault, prompted by greed and revenge, was cold-blooded and premeditated. They worked night and day at the job of killing the South twelve long years.

They almost succeeded. Only the vitality of a civilization that simply refused to die kept the South alive.

Lee’s surrender . . . came on April 9, 1865. Have you been able to stand the heart-breaking ordeal of visiting the South in April, Mrs. Roosevelt? If you have, you must have observed – if you could bear to keep your eyes open – that by the middle of April the plowing has long since ended and the planting, for the most part, is over. Already in some areas the new crop is far advanced.

But there was little plowed land in the South in that black April of 1865 and almost no planting.

On the great plantations, and on the little farms of the small land owner, the land to a large degree lay fallow and grown up in weeds. The returning soldiers made the best they could of bad situation. They had almost no livestock – few cows, few pigs, few sheep, and even fewer horses and mules. Those that hadn’t died on the battlefield had been killed or stolen by the invading soldiers.

And labor! Well, Mrs. Roosevelt, you know what happened to the farm hands of the South. Five million Negro slaves had been set free. They did little work in the fields that spring and summer . . . and one can hardly blame them. The taste of freedom lay sweet upon their tongue. Why labor in the fields? The Yankees were going to take care of them and, come Christmas – so the story went – every black man was to be the proud owner of forty acres and a mule! More than that, he was to run the government! The government of the Southern States, that is.

Only a few Northern States allowed the Negroes to vote then, and in not one instance during the tragic era did a single Negro, no matter how intelligent, hold even the lowest elective or appointive office north of the Mason-Dixon line; not even Fred Douglass of New York, who was the idol of Northern abolitionists. But in the South, Mrs. Roosevelt, it was a different story.

The Southern white man was almost completely disenfranchised while for 12 long years the newly-liberated slavers and the carpetbaggers and the scalawags ran every Southern State government and a Negro Senator from Mississippi sat in the seat in Congress that had been held by Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy. Our Reconstruction lawmakers, of course, had some help.

They were backed by Federal troops – thousands of them Negroes in brand new Federal uniforms. They had the guidance of Thaddeus Stevens and his Radical Republican murderers and the help of the Union League. They had also the kindly assistance of self-appointed authorities on Southern problems from New York and other Northern States who came down on short visits to give out criticism and advice. You know, we imagine, the type to which we refer.

There is no need, Mrs. Roosevelt, to review in detail that saturnalia of official corruption and waste during which the new rulers, strutting like peacocks, set out deliberately to turn to their own profit every cent of taxes that could be wrung from a prostrate land.

[And our] Northern conquerors had no intention of letting [Southern cotton] serve those who had attempted to exercise their constitutional right and withdraw from the Union. The “cotton agents” descended upon the South like a swarm of hungry locusts. First they seized 3,000,000 bales outright, claiming they had been sold to the Confederate government and were, therefore, contraband of war.

What was left – or most of it – was taxed heavily, or what was more often the case, stolen by the cotton agents in one of the greatest swindles in the history of our country. The South, screamed the Radical Republicans, had caused the war . . . and the South should pay for it.”

(Weep No More My Lady, A Southerner Answers Mrs. Roosevelt’s Report on the “Poor and Unhappy South,” W.E. Debnam, Graphic Press, 1950, pp 27-37)

 

Emerson the Northern Secessionist

Wanting to depart Boston should New England ever “surrender to the slave trade,” the idealistic abolitionist Ralph Waldo Emerson must have forgotten that Massachusetts was the linchpin in the transatlantic slave trade and that Lowell Mills was amassing a fortune processing slave-produced raw cotton. Emerson was ready for the secession of New England from the Union if Buchanan won election in 1856 instead of Fremont.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Emerson the Northern Secessionist              

“The events of the fifties confirmed Emerson’s fears of Southern political power. It was “the ascendancy of Southern manners” that drew public men into the support of the South. At the same time, his attitude toward the North grew more sentimental and less critical. He drew more sharply the line between the slave states and the free states. Expressions such as “party of darkness” versus “party of light,” “aristocracy” versus “plebian strength” began to appear in his journals and addresses. Like his fellow-abolitionists, he assumed that the goodness of the individual was simply lost in the badness of the slavery system.

Emerson maintained that no slaveholder could be free. He fell into the abolitionist assumption that nobility and sincerity were inevitable concomitants to the Negro’s ignorance and simplicity. Those who ran away were fleeing from plantation whips and hiding from hounds.

Those who cooperated with the South were stigmatized. Any judge who obeyed the Fugitive Slave Law by returning a runaway slave to the South made of his bench an extension of the planter’s whipping post. Emerson’s anger over [Preston] Brooks assault on [Charles] Sumner led him to exaggerate uncritically his account of both Northern and Southern values:

“Life has not parity of value in the free state and in the slave state. In one, it is adorned with education, with skillful labor, with arts, with long prospective interests, with sacred family ties, with honor and justice. In the other, life is a fever; man is an animal, given to pleasure, frivolous, irritable, spending his days in hunting and practicing with deadly weapons to defend himself against his slaves and against his companions brought up in the same idle and dangerous way. Such people live for the moment, they have properly no future, and readily risk on every passion a life which is of small value to themselves or others.”

Emerson’s letter to his brother William in June of 1856 revealed the extent of his pessimism. He stated that he was looking at the map to find a place to go with his children when Boston and Massachusetts should surrender to the slave trade. “If the Free States do not obtain the government next fall, which our experience does not entitle us to hope, nothing seems left, but to form a Northern Union, & break the old.”

(The South in Northern Eyes, 1831-1861, Howard R. Floan, McGraw-Hill, 1958, pp. 57-59)

 

Grant Abandons His Suffering Prisoners

Northern authorities reported in May 1864 that Grant had 141,160 effective troops and a reserve of 137,672 men arrayed against General Robert E. Lee’s ragged force of 50,000 with little or no reserve. Though speaking of humanity regarding prisoners, Grant revealed no moral dilemma in hurling his limitless supply of recruits in suicidal charges – losing the equivalent of Lee’s full strength at the Wilderness.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Grant Abandons His Suffering Prisoners

“Jefferson Davis made several proposals for the exchange of prisoners, but his plea met deaf ears in the North. Grant, who had paroled 29,000 Confederate prisoners at Vicksburg on their word alone, did a turnabout on Davis’ question and was heartily opposed. During the mid-summer of 1864 Grant wrote an indirect reply to Davis:

“On the subject of exchange of prisoners, however, I differ from General [E.A.] Hitchcock. It is hard on our men held in Southern prisons not to exchange them, but it is humanity to those left in the ranks to fight our battles. Every man released on parole, or otherwise, becomes an active soldier against us at once either directly or indirectly. If we commence a system of exchange, which liberates all prisoners taken, we will have to fight on until the whole South is exterminated. If we hold on to those caught, they amount to no more than dead men. At this particular time to release all rebel prisoners North would insure Sherman’s defeat, and would compromise our safety here.”

As it appeared to Davis, able-bodied prisoners need not be exchanged. To relieve the Confederacy of the responsibility of taking care of the sick and wounded prisoners, Davis offered to return without equivalents, 15,000 sick and badly wounded prisoners at an arranged meeting place at . . . the Savannah River. This offer would stand if transportation were supplied by the North.

In the meantime pictures by the Confederate photographers of the conditions at Andersonville were sent to the Northern government to stimulate action on Davis’ proposal. An eyewitness to the taking of these photographs was a soldier of the North . . . [who] wrote: “I was a prisoner of war in that place during the summer of 1864 and I well remember seeing a photographer with his camera in one of the sentinel boxes near the south gate during July or August . . . I have often wondered in later years what success this photographer had and why the [Northern] public never had the opportunity of seeing a genuine photograph of Andersonville.”

The pictures were sent to Washington. Who received them, or for what purpose they were to be used, was never made public. There is no record of them in Northern journals. But that they were used is indicated by Jefferson Davis who in writing about the incident states:

“The photographs were terrible indeed, but the misery they portrayed was surpassed by some of those we received in exchange in Savannah. Why was this delay between summer and November in sending vessels for sick and wounded, for whom no equivalents were asked? Were the Federal prisoners left to suffer, and afterward photographed to aid in firing the popular heart of the North?”

(Mr. Lincoln’s Camera Man: Matthew B. Brady, Roy Meredith, Dover Publications, 1974, pp. 187-188)

Exalting a Piratical and Murderous Fanatic

John Brown has been described by author Otto Scott (The Secret Six) as a political assassin, one who murders in order to attract attention and who would “incite and terrify as many people as possible.”  Brown was a fanatic who used terror to force a new political pattern of his choosing, cared little of the carnage he was instigating,  and won praise from Northern journalists who declared him a hero of the people.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Exalting a Piratical and Murderous Fanatic

“When the State of Virginia seceded from the Union on the 17th day of April, 1861, most of her citizens, belonging to the United States Navy, resigned their commissions and offered their services to the State of their birth. [I]t was believed by many persons that a large party at the North would oppose the prosecution of a war of subjugation.

It will be remembered . . . how strong had been the party opposed to secession in the Convention then in session at Richmond . . . [but] The call upon Virginia, by President Lincoln for her quota of troops to aid in subjugating the South, had settled the question [and] she became a member of the Confederacy.

I had visited, some months previous to the secession of the State, many of the little villages in New England, where I saw that the population [was] in terrible earnest. “Wide awake,” and other secret societies were organized; and inflammatory harangues aroused the populace. The favorite theme of the orators was the “martyrdom” of John Brown; the piratical and murderous raid of that fanatic into the State of Virginia being exalted into a praiseworthy act of heroism.

When I returned to Virginia and contrasted the apparent apathy and want of preparation there with the state of affairs at the North, I trembled for the result. Volunteers responded with alacrity to the call to defend the State from invasion; and none responded more readily, or served more bravely, than those who had opposed secession in the Convention.

It seems invidious to cite particular examples; but the “noblest Trojan of them all”  will point a moral, and serve as an exemplar for generations to come. Wise in council, eloquent in debate, bravest and coolest among the brave in battle, and faithful to his convictions in adversity, he still lives to denounce falsehood and wrong. Truly the old hero, in all he says and does, “gives the world assurance of a man.” — I allude to General J. A. Early.”

(Narrative of a Blockade Runner, John Wilkinson, Valde Books, 2009, pp. 3-5)

Charles A. Dana, Carefree Socialist

Charles A. Dana, who might be termed a hippie of the 1840’s, lived for a period at George Ripley’s Transcendentalist “Brook Farm” commune in Massachusetts. New York Tribune publisher Horace Greeley later employed Dana as an editor in the 1850’s who gladly published the radical articles of Karl Marx, then exiled in London. Lincoln-appointed Dana Assistant Secretary of War and had him spy on generals to ascertain their political leanings — in 1865 Dana ordered manacles placed on state prisoner Jefferson Davis’s wrists.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Charles A. Dana, Carefree Socialist

“[Charles A.] Dana, though poor, had no such hardening time of it [growing up]; he had no “riding to plough,” no tree chopping, no printer’s apprentice job. He clerked in Buffalo to save money for a term at Harvard. Opinions formed during such a youth gave way easily before the experience of later years. In their boyhood the one thing that he and [Horace] Greeley had in common was an intense fondness for reading — Greeley for the country weeklies and for any book he could borrow. Dana plumbed deeper; he was absorbed in the ancient philosophies and languages.

Both resented the oppressions of capital. The breeding ground of Dana’s socialism was Harvard — “where I learned the art of living without means” — and the lectures of Emerson. “They make me think,” he wrote to his sister.

Dana’s father dreaded what Emerson, Carlyle and particularly Harvard might do to his boy. “I know Harvard ranks high as a literary institution,” he wrote to him, “but the influence it exerts in a religious way is most terrible — even worse than Universalism . . . Ponder well the paths of thy feet lest they lead down to the depths of Hell.”

From his sister’s home at Guildhall, Vermont, Dana on April 12, 1840, told of his carefree life . . . ”here I study 8 hours daily. I am fed, warmed, lighted and otherwise cared for, for about nothing — perhaps a dollar a week — taken unwillingly.” Because of poor eyes, poor health and a poorer purse Dana did not return to Harvard for the fall term of 1841 . . . ”So genial Harvard is, and where but for the term bills and washerwomen one would never guess that there were such things as money and money-getting  in the world. Indeed I hold it an evidence of human depravity that there are such things . . . ”

The Brook Farm [commune] atmosphere therefore precisely fitted his mood. Contentedly he wrote his sister from there on September 17, 1841: “I am living with some friends who have associated themselves together for the purpose of living purely and of acting from higher motives than the world generally recognizes . . . ”

(Horace Greeley, Henry Luther Stoddard, G.P. Putnam & Sons, 1946, pp. 101-102)

 

Case for an Educated Postwar Black Debated

Radical Republican political hegemony in the postwar South depended upon the freedmen casting votes, despite their illiteracy and lack of education and experience in a republican form of government. These Republicans formed Union and Loyal Leagues in the South that would teach the freedmen to hate their white neighbors, vote against their interests, and cause irreparable racial wounds which remain today.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Case for an Educated Postwar Black Electorate Debated:

“Chaplain Noble, who conducted literacy classes for the enlisted men of the 128th United States Colored Troops in Beaufort (an infantry of ex-slaves), related the outcome of a debate he arranged to “enliven” the class. The question was whether Negroes should be given immediate suffrage or whether they should learn to read first, with “the more intelligent” of the class clearly favoring the latter position “on the ground that you ought never to undertake a job unless you know how to do it.”

But those who learned less easily were in favor of immediate suffrage. One of the speakers — a black thick-lipped orator — commenced his speech as follows:

“de chaplain say we can learn to read in short time. Now dat may de with dem who are mo’ ready. God hasn’t made all of us alike. P’rhaps some will get an eddication in a little while. I knows de next generation will. We hasn’t had no chance at all. De most of us are slow and dull. Dere fo’ Mr. Chaplain, I tink we better not wait for eddication.”

Whether because of the potential logic of universal suffrage for the illiterate black majority, or because the difficulties of the chaplain’s lessons made suffrage based on literacy seem rather remote for some of the slow learners, the speaker’s sagacity brought decisive nods of approval from the majority of the audience.”

(Black Over White, Negro Political Leadership in South Carolina During Reconstruction, Thomas Holt, University of Illinois Press, 1977, pg. 34)