Browsing "Lincoln’s Patriots"

They Have Made a Nation

Lincoln appointed no one to his cabinet who were familiar with Southern sentiment or sensitivities – an act which might have avoided a collision and perhaps have truly “saved the Union.” The Republican Party won the contest and would not be denied the fruits of victory no matter the cost. Charles Francis Adams was appointed minister at London by Lincoln, somewhat appropriate as Adam’s grandfather himself viewed the presidency as monarchical. More important, Adams was a Republican politician with little regard for the American South or its concerns within the Union.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

They Have Made a Nation

“For the post at London Lincoln had made one of his best appointments. As a boy [Charles Francis Adams] had witnessed stirring events in Europe; in the company of his mother he had taken the long and arduous winter journey by carriage from St. Petersburg to Paris to join his father John Quincy Adams. Passing through the Allied lines, he reached Paris after Napoleon’s return from Elba.

By 1861 he had served as legislator in Massachusetts, had become prominent as a leader of the “conscience” Whigs and the Free-Soilers, and had achieved the position of an influential leader of the national House of Representatives where his main contribution was as a moderate Republican earnestly engaged in the work of avoiding war.

Though depressed at the nomination of Lincoln, whom he never fully admired, he accepted appointment as minister to England and gave of his best as a loyal servant of the Lincoln administration.

Through all the diplomatic maneuvers there ran the central question of recognition of the Confederacy and the related questions of mediation, intervention and the demand for an armistice. Had the South won on any of these points, victory would have been well-nigh assured. By September of 1862 [Lord] Palmerston and Russell’s deliberations had reached the point where, in view of the failures of McClellan and Pope and the prospects of Lee’s offensive, Palmerston suggested “an arrangement upon the basis of separation” (i.e., Southern victory); while Russell, the foreign minister, wrote in answer that his opinion the time had come “for offering mediation . . . with a view to the recognition of the independence of the Confederates.”

[Just] at this juncture there came a bombshell in the speech of the chancellor of the exchequer, W.E. Gladstone, at Newcastle (October 7) in which he said:

“Jefferson Davis and other leaders of the South have made an army; they are making, it appears, a navy; and they have made what is more important than either, — they have made a nation . . . We may anticipate with certainty the success of the Southern States so far as regards their separation from the North.”

(The Civil War and Reconstruction, James G. Randall, D.C. Heath & Company, 1937, pp. 461-462; 468-469)

Sherman’s Progressive Soldiers at Smithfield

It is said the path Sherman’s “bummers” cut through North Carolina left a trail devoid of roosters, which no longer crowed in the morning because they didn’t exist. One Northern general wrote that his foragers were in truth “highwaymen, with all of their cruelty and ferocity and none of their courage; their victims are usually old men, women and children, and Negroes whom they rob and maltreat without mercy, firing dwellings and outbuildings filled with grain . . . These men are a disgrace to the name of soldier and country.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Sherman’s Progressive Soldiers at Smithfield

[Northern Chaplain John J. Hight’s Diary] Wednesday, April 12 [1865]:

“This has been a morning of most wonderful excitement and enthusiasm. A dispatch has been read to each Regiment, from General Sherman, announcing the capture of [Gen. Robert E.] Lee’s entire army by General Grant. Such a serenade of bands Smithfield [North Carolina] has never had before, and will never have again. The troops move rapidly across the Neuse [River] . . . the design is to push on towards Raleigh and bring [Gen. Joseph E.] Johnston to an engagement, if possible.

We yesterday passed a house where there had been skirmishing. The woman declared that the shooting almost scared her to death. “Was it infantry or cavalry?” inquired someone.

I took a walk about the town. The Masonic and Odd Fellows’ Halls have been rifled. In the latter there is a skeleton, in a coffin. Saw an old dismounted gun lying near the riverbank. It must date back to as early as the Revolution.

At the court house I noticed the shelves, in the offices, are emptied of their contents on the floor. The archives of [Johnston] county lie in confusion amongst the dirt. Many of the documents date back to old colonial times, when legal proceedings were done in the King’s name.

The churches are [broken] open, and the books scattered about the pews. At the graveyard I noticed the graves of a number of rebels, bearing ominous dates – about the time of the Bentonville fight. In the same yard there is blood, seemingly where one of our soldiers was killed yesterday.

[Sherman’s] aide-de-camp, Major Henry Hitchcock provides more details: “At Smithfield, on the morning of the 12th [of April] . . . Even in Smithfield the public stocks “went up” – visibly; for some of “the boys” set fire to them.” I refer to the wooden stocks, near the jail, a comfortable institution for the improvement of criminals which the “conservative Old North State has retained from colonial times.

Another Sherman aide-de-camp, Major Nichols, adds . . . “The court house and jail stand in the public square, and that relic of the past, the public stocks, stood by the side of the jail until our progressive soldiers cut down the machine and burned it.”

(Smithfield, As Seen by Sherman’s Soldiers, Don Wharton, 1977, Smithfield Herald Publishing Company, excerpts, pp. 8-11)

Sep 25, 2016 - America Transformed, Lincoln's Grand Army, Lincoln's Patriots, Myth of Saving the Union, New England History, No Compromise    Comments Off on Hammering Lee on the Anvil of Richmond

Hammering Lee on the Anvil of Richmond

Lee and Grant were career polar opposites: Lee graduated from West Point with high honors in 1829 and in his long, distinguished record personified the ideals of the Corps of Cadets and the army; Grant excelled only in horsemanship and washed out of the army amid charges of alcoholism. Lee became known as the greatest general of the American military; Grant won his war of attrition with an endless supply of raw cannon fodder provided by Lincoln.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Hammering Lee on the Anvil of Richmond

“Impelled by the relentless policy of total subjugation of the secessionist States, [Grant’s] movements took the form of four major attacks that gradually gathered headway along the front of Federal deployment from the Mississippi River to Chesapeake Bay. Poorly coordinated in their incipiency and pressed without guidance of objectives stating in military terms the long range plans of political policy . . . while slowly strangling the economic life of the South in the tightening grip of the blockade . . .

The Federal striking force aggregated in round numbers 300,000 effectives. The Confederates mustered some 145,000 troops for defense of threatened areas. The aggregate strength of the United States armies as estimated on the basis of returns during April 1864 . . . was 745,000. A similar computation gives a Confederate total of 303,367.

[Meade’s army] (a total of 120,000) were to advance under personal direction of the supreme commander [Grant] . . . and destroy Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia (63,000) . . . [and] the Army of the James [33,000 under Butler] occupying the Confederate capital, if possible, or containing enemy troops that might otherwise move toward Lee.

Commanding a field force of 23,000 in the Shenandoah Valley, Major-General Franz Sigel was to act as a sort of flank guard on the right of the [Meade’s army] by advancing toward the Confederate rail center at Lynchburg. [The center] column under Sherman (100,000) would push from Chattanooga down the mountain corridor, destroying Joseph E. Johnston’s army (64,000) and breaking up the enemy’s war resources in Georgia.

On the right, [Gen. Nathaniel P.] Banks would disengage his column operating on the Red River, for assembly at New Orleans [and] deliver the rear attack through Mobile so insistently urged by Grant during the past year.

Grant was deprived of the dislocating effects of a rear attack through Mobile by Banks’ mismanagement of the Red River campaign, and was denied the assistance that should have been given by the supporting movements of Butler and Sigel, both of whom bungled their assignments within two weeks after his own crossing of the Rapidan [River].

Grant then had no other alternative but to hammer Lee on the anvil of Richmond while Sherman’s devouring host swept through the heartland of the South.”

(The Wilderness Campaign, The Meeting of Grant and Lee, Edward Steere, Stackpole Books, excerpts, pp. 14-18)

Confirmed Prejudices and Opinions Up North

The emancipation issue promoted by Lincoln’s Republican Party caused a predictable rupture within its ranks, and revealed the true extent of party concern for the African race. The Massachusetts governor mentioned below wanted no black men in his “strange land and climate,” but accepted them as military substitutes for the white men of his State. The great fear persisted in the North that freed black men would migrate there in search if work and compete with white men.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Confirmed Prejudices and Opinions Up North

“The threat of a black “invasion” (or “Africanization”) of the North was a dominant theme in anti-emancipationist rhetoric. Politicians and editors predicted that three hundred thousand freedmen would “invade” Ohio alone, competing with white labor, filling up the poor houses and jails, and generally degrading society. In a June 1862 referendum, by a majority of more than two to one, Illinois voters endorsed a clause in a proposed State constitution that would exclude blacks from moving into the State.

This issue cut across party lines. Senator Lyman Trumbull of Illinois, a former Democrat, now a Unionist, explained “there is a very great aversion in the West – I know it is so in my State – against having free Negroes come among us. Our people want nothing to do with the Negroes.”

One Unionist editor told [Secretary of the Treasury] Salmon P. Chase that the best strategy was to declare that blacks “don’t want to come north and we don’t want them unless their coming will promote the conclusion of the war . . .” Chase himself, while a fervent advocate of emancipation, shared the common assumption that blacks were inherently unsuited to the colder northern climate.

“Let, therefore, the South be open to Negro emigration by emancipation along the Gulf,” he suggested, “and it is easy to see that the blacks of the North will slide southward, and leave no question to quarrel about as far as they are concerned.”

Chase was not the only radical in the Republican party who worried about the political consequences of the “Africanization” issue in the run-up to the fall 1862 elections. Even Governor John A. Andrew of Massachusetts, whose antislavery credentials had been amply demonstrated three years earlier when he had given tacit support of John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry, became embroiled in the issue.

In September 1862, Major General John A. Dix wrote to the governors of three New England States asking them to accept into their States a group of two thousand ex-slaves who had sought refuge with the Union army. Governor Andrew responded with a strongly argued letter, soon leaked to the public, in which he explained that Massachusetts was, for blacks, “a strange land and climate” in which the newcomers would “be incapable of self-help – a course certain to demoralize them and endanger others.’ Such an event would be a handle to all traitors and to all persons evilly disposed.”

With timing that was appalling for the [Lincoln] administration, the black migration issue became a crisis in Illinois at about the same time the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation was issued. The army had been sending refugee slaves to the military headquarters at Cairo – the southernmost town in Illinois. Secretary of War Stanton issued an order allowing these freedmen to be dispersed throughout the State.

This appeared to violate the State’s “Negro Exclusion” law and which was certainly anathema to mainstream public opinion. One Republican wrote to Governor Richard Yates that “the scattering of those black throngs should not be allowed if it can be avoided. The view . . . here is that if the country should become full of them they may never be removed and with the confirmed prejudices and opinions of our people against the mingling of blacks among us we shall always have trouble.”

(No Party Now, Politics in the Civil War North, Adam I.P. Smith, Oxford University Press, 2006, pp. 54-56)

The North’s Extended Payday

Beyond eliminating Negro slavery in the South, the war “hastened the transformation of the North from a country of farmers and small manufacturers to a highly organized industrial region.” The North had no shortage of those who saw no need to carry a rifle, as great profit awaited those supplying war materiel.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The North’s Extended Payday

“With the war, too, came what moral philosophers have said was moral decay in wholesale volume, an apparently illimitable increase in man’s cupidity. Scandals uncorked during and right after the fighting showed that [Northern] soldiers had been given clothing and blankets made of shoddy, technically a material of reclaimed wool, such as old rags, which gave a new term to our language.

Soldiers also got boots made largely of paper; they were fed meat that had come from diseased cattle and hogs; they rode hags that had been doctored to make a sale to the cavalry. Only too often the very guns put into their hands would not shoot. One big order for such weapons, refused by ordnance offices in the East, was sold and shipped to General [John] Fremont in the West.

Likely the moral condition of the country was lower than usual. Perhaps the moral philosophers should take into account the possibility that man’s inherent cupidity fluctuates, like a thermometer, with the number and quality of opportunities to commit theft, legal or otherwise; that the honesty of too few men is constant.

The decade after 1865 in the United States appears in retrospect to be an extended payday for the vast military exploit just concluded. Somebody observed it was as if Booth’s bullet had released all the chicanery and cupidity of thirty-five million people. Pastor’s warned that God’s hand would smite the Republic. And yet, the more numerous and grosser sort continued to admire the “smart” man.

The most notoriously smart figures of the postwar period in the United States were three characters who without too much exaggeration were also known as the men of disaster. They were Daniel Drew, Jay Gould, and Jim Fisk. Many called them wreckers, “Foul hyenas,” said an editorial writer of the time, “who when their prey was full rotten came to sink their slavering jaws into the carrion.”

As a big herd of anywhere from six hundred to a thousand head of Ohio beef approached New York City, Drew had his drovers salt them well, then, just before reaching the market place, let them drink their fill. Cattle were sold live-weight. Drew’s processing with salt and water added many tons to the average herd [and] “Watered stock” soon became a term in Wall Street.

Jim Fisk was a genial, handsome fellow . . . Both men and women liked him. He could sell them stuff they did not want before they realized they had bought it. When New Orleans fell into federal hands, Fisk took off to buy cotton for a Boston syndicate, which made a mint of money quickly.

(The Age of the Moguls, Stewart H. Holbrook, Doubleday and Company, 1953, excerpts, pp. 20-24)

Highwaymen in North Carolina

Though it is claimed that Sherman did not sack and burn North Carolina as he did South Carolina, there is scant evidence that the former did not suffer as did the latter. In the bummer’s path were helpless women, children and old men – whose scarce food supplies, valuables and farm animals were made off with by soldiers in blue.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Highwaymen in North Carolina

“[T]he “corn-crib” and “fodder-stack” commandoes could look back upon a plentiful harvest between Fayetteville and Goldsboro. Meat and meal had been found in abundance. So skillfully had [Sherman’s] “bummers” covered this region that the rooster no longer crowed in the morning because he no longer existed. Had the rooster escaped with his life, there would have been no fence rail for him to stand on.

[General J.D. Morgan said] “I have some men in my command . . . who have mistaken the name and meaning of the term foragers, and have become under that name highwaymen, with all of their cruelty and ferocity and none of their courage; their victims are usually old men, women and children, and Negroes whom the rob and maltreat without mercy, firing dwelling and outhouses even when filled with grain . . . These men are a disgrace to the name of soldier and the country . . . ”

Elizabeth Collier, an eighteen year-old girl of Everittsville, [North Carolina] entered in her diary:

“On Monday morning, the 20th [March], the first foraging party made their appearance at Everittsville. They asked for flour and seeing we were disposed not to give it, made a rush in the house and took it himself—the cowardly creature even pointed his gun at us – helpless women. Looking out, we soon saw that poor little Everittsville was filled with Yankees and they were plundering the houses . . . everything outside was destroyed – all provisions taken – fences knocked down – horse, cows, carriages, and buggies stolen, and everything else the witches could lay their hands on – even to the servants clothes.”

(The Civil War in North Carolina, John G. Barrett, UNC Press, 1963, pp. 346-347)

Experimenting on the Reunion of the United States

The following passage from a mid-1862 Harper’s Weekly reveals the impetus behind the war, and the intense industrialism and consumerism that drove the Northern war effort. And if the South could not be brought into the orbit of this new order, they would have to be exiled or exterminated once their land was confiscated.  Lincoln’s Secretary of State, William Seward, stated in England in 1863 that the Southern people were free to leave and form their own government, and their land left behind would belong to the Northern government.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Experimenting on the Reunion of the United States

“Under the vigorous administration of Major-General [Benjamin] Butler, New Orleans is steadily returning into shape. General Butler has been more energetic and less conciliatory than General Dix or Governor Johnson: his iron hand has not been covered with a silken glove. We venture the prediction that his success will be all the more thorough and speedy. The good people of Louisiana are already complaining that they have been victimized by the rebels.

And no wonder. What could be more outrageous than the destruction of cotton and sugar, while hundreds of thousands of human beings are starving to death for want of the food which could only be purchased with this cotton and sugar?

To bring the people of Louisiana entirely to their senses, nothing more is needed than a plain statement of this, and we are glad to see that General Butler has stated it.  When one reads of the heart-rending sufferings of the people of the Gulf States of whole families starving, and every rich man reduced to poverty – one is tempted to regret that the civilization of the age forbids the infliction of the tortures of the Inquisition upon the miscreant authors of these atrocities.

Strict Justice would require that Davis, Beauregard, and Lovell should expiate their crimes on the rack, or at the stake. Mean while, the revival of trade, and the exemplary punishment of traitors by General Butler, is gradually developing a Union sentiment in New Orleans as the like policy did at Baltimore. The argumentum ad ventrem is doing the work. Baltimore, Nashville, and New Orleans, are the points where the forces of the United States are experimenting on the reunion of the United States.

If we restore the Union feeling there, we can do it throughout the South. If we cannot succeed there, the bulk of the white people of the South will have to be exiled, or got rid of in some way, in order to reconstruct the Union and secure the safety of the North. In order to create a Union sentiment at the South, we must satisfy the people of that section that we are stronger than they, and that we are thoroughly earnest in our purpose of preserving the soil of the United States undivided.

We must then show them that if they persevere in rebellion they cannot escape hunger and misery, that they will be outcasts without property or rights of any kind; that it is a mere question of time how soon they will be hunted down; that it is simply due to our forbearance that the negroes have not been armed for insurrection; whereas, on the other hand, if they return to their loyalty, they will be received into the Union with the same rights as the people of the North, and will be assisted by a generous government to emancipate their slaves and start afresh in a new and wholesome career of industry. When this is done, the work of reconstruction will be more than half achieved.”

(The Work of Reconstruction, Harper’s Weekly June 14th 1862, excerpts, many thanks to Electra Briggs)

 

 

Weakening the Forces of the Rebellion

Lincoln’s followers emulated Virginia’s Royal Governor Dunmore’s rationale for emancipating slaves in 1775, that is, to fight against an independence movement by colonists and deprive them of agricultural labor. Northern radical Republicans such as Henry Wilson of Massachusetts, wanted to liberate slaves in Southern States where they could not reach them, but did not free the property of slave holders loyal to Lincoln.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Weakening the Forces of the Rebellion

“When the Rebellion culminated in active hostilities, it was seen that thousands of slaves were used for military purposes by the rebel forces. To weaken the forces of the Rebellion, the Thirty-seventh Congress decreed that such slaves should be free forever.

As the Union armies advanced into the rebel States, slaves, inspired by the hope of personal freedom, flocked to their encampments, claiming protection against rebel masters, and offering to work and fight for the flag whose stars for the first time gleamed upon their vision with the radiance of liberty.

To weaken the power of the insurgents, to strengthen the loyal forces, and assert the claims of humanity, the Thirty-seventh Congress enacted an article of war, dismissing from the service officers guilty of surrendering these fugitives [to rebel masters].

The hoe and spade of the rebel slave were hardly less potent for the Rebellion than the rifle and bayonet of the rebel soldier. Slaves sowed and reaped for the rebels, enabling the rebel leaders to fill the wasting ranks of their armies, and feed them.

To weaken the military forces and power of the Rebellion, the Thirty-seventh Congress decreed that all slaves of persons giving aid and comfort to the Rebellion, escaping from such persons, or deserted by them; all slaves of such persons, being within any place occupied by the forces of the United States, — shall be captives of war, and shall be forever free of their servitude, and not again held as slaves.

The progress of the Rebellion demonstrated its power, and the needs of the imperiled nation. To strengthen the physical forces of the United States, the Thirty-seventh Congress authorized the president to receive into military service persons of African descent; and every such person mustered into the service, his mother, his wife and children, owing service or labor to any person who should give aid and comfort to the Rebellion, was made forever free.

The African slave trade had been carried on by slave pirates under the protection of the flag of the United States. To extirpate from the seas that inhuman traffic, and to vindicate the sullied honor of the nation . . . the administration entered early into treaty stipulations with the British Government . . .”

(Life and Public Services of Henry Wilson, Rev. Elias Nason and Thomas Russell, B.B. Russell, 1876, pp. 346-349)

Aug 28, 2016 - America Transformed, Bounties for Patriots, Conscription, Lincoln's Grand Army, Lincoln's Patriots, Northern Culture Laid Bare    Comments Off on Enlisting Burglars, House-Burners and Thieves

Enlisting Burglars, House-Burners and Thieves

By mid-1862, General Henry Halleck informed Lincoln that volunteering had all but ceased, and other means of filling the ranks had to be found. Lincoln then used the threat of conscription as a whip to stimulate enlistment, with Northern towns, cities, counties and State’s raising immense amounts to purchase substitutes for their drafted men. Also, State agents were sent to the occupied South to scour the area for potential recruits, especially slaves, who would count against a Northern State’s quota of troops.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Enlisting Burglars, House-Burners and Thieves

“Complaints having come across the ocean that Northern recruiting agents were in Europe plying their trade, the Senate of the United States passed a resolution on the 24th of June 1864, requesting President Lincoln to inform that body “if any authority has been given any one, either in this country or elsewhere, to obtain recruits in Ireland or Canada,” &.

On July 13, 1864, Gov. [John] Andrew, of Massachusetts, informed Secretary Stanton that citizens of Massachusetts were recruiting a large number of aliens. On July 14, 1864, the US Congress passed an act authorizing the Governor of each State in the Union to send recruiting agents into any Confederate States, except Arkansas, Tennessee and Louisiana; and declaring any volunteers these agents might enlist should be “credited to the State, and to the respective subdivisions thereof which might procure the enlistment.”

Thereupon agents were sent from all the New England States, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois . . . into all the accessible parts of the Confederacy. New Hampshire’s agents, for an example, to receive $20 for each one-year man enlisted, $25 for each two-years’ enlistment, and $40 for each three years’ man; and these recruits to receive, respectively, $100, $200, and $300, a proviso being added to her law that the Governor might, if he found it advisable, pay a bounty of $500 for each three-years’ man enlisted in “the insurgent States.”

But, the “commercial spirit” not having yet taken possession of the South, Secretary Stanton said this in a report to President Lincoln, March 1, 1865: “The results of the recruitments under the act of July 4, 1864, for recruiting in the rebel States, were reported as unfavorable.”

On August 28, 1864, Prov. Mar.-Gen. Fry telegraphed to his assistant in Boston: “Hon. J.D. Baldwin writes me from Worcester that towns in his district enlist their own citizens, provide bounties for them, and send them to camp or rendezvous to be mustered in and credited. That after reaching rendezvous they are beset by recruiting agents for other places, especially Boston. These agents, offering higher local bounties, succeed in getting the men credited to other towns, etc.”

“[A] Colonel of one of the negro regiments at Natchez “stated that in consequence of the presence of recruiting agents from Northern States offering large bounties for recruits his men were deserting, procuring citizens’ clothing, and secreting themselves until an opportunity offered of escaping from the place for purpose of enlisting. The same state of things,” he continued, “exists in the other colored regiments . . . ”

On January 19, 1865, the Actg. Asst. Prov. Mar.-Gen., Concord, N.H., wrote to Prov. Mar. Gen. Fry, Washington, saying among other things: “I would respectfully call your attention to the fact that burglars, house-burners, and thieves, felons of all classes and kinds, are daily taken from jails and prisons with the consent of the judges, both high and low, and enlisted under false names and false pretenses in the service of the U.S.”

(The South’s Burden, the Curse of Sectionalism, Benjamin Franklin Grady, Nash Brothers, 1906, pp. 116-118)

Abolitionists Growing More Warlike

The crisis of the Union in the 1850s was caused by an increasing willingness of radicalized Northerners to use force, especially fomenting slave insurrection in the South, to end the African slavery inherited from the British. Rather than seek a practical and peaceful means of ending the institution — from which their own section had profited greatly through the slave trade and cotton milling — abolitionists preached fire, sword and anarchy. On the latter, anarchist Ralph Waldo Emerson admitted “I own I have little esteem for governments.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Abolitionists Growing More Warlike

“Emerson welcomed the fact of anarchy as a confirmation of his belief that men could live without institutions. “I am glad,” he said, “to see that the terror at disunion and anarchy is disappearing.” John Brown’s raid raised even more extravagant hopes for the triumph of transcendental anarchism. “ . . . John Brown was an idealist. He believed in his ideas to that extent that he existed to put them all into action . . .” said Emerson at a John Brown meeting . . . The example of Brown was just what the country needed [and Henry David] Thoreau’s sentiments were almost identical.

Emersonian transcendentalism [had] . . . changed from a contemplative philosophy into an activist creed. The “American Scholar” was no longer a withdrawn and harmless figure, reading the eternal truths of “Nature.” He was John Brown, an idealist whose inner voice commanded him to shed blood. Emerson had always hoped that he would one day see “the transformation of genius into practical power.”

During the Kansas conflict, [William Lloyd] Garrison remained true to his [pacifist] principles by having no truck with those who were enlisting in the free-State forces or sending arms to help them. Yet a curious note crept into his 1856 criticisms of the Kansas effort. If someone had to be armed, he protested, it should be the slaves in the South rather than the northern whites in the territories. If the resort to force had to be made, he seemed to be saying, it should be on such a scale as to bring down the whole slaveholding structure.

Wendell Phillips compromised himself more directly by donating money to a Kansas rifle fund in 1855 [and the] nonviolent [abolitionist] ranks were thinning. By 1858, Garrison was bemoaning the fact that abolitionists were “growing more and more warlike, and more disposed to repudiate the principles of peace, more and more disposed to talk about “finding a joint in the neck of the tyrant, and breaking that neck, “cleaving tyrants down from the crown to the groin,” with a sword which is carnal, and so inflaming one another with the spirit of violence and for a bloody work.” He feared that this thirst for violence would destroy “the moral power” of the abolitionists.

At a meeting for the observance of Brown’s martyrdom, Garrison endorsed Brown in a way that seemed amazingly inconsistent: “As a peace man – an “ultra” peace man – I am prepared to say” “Success to every slave insurrection at the South.” God, it seems, had decided that slavery must come to a violent end. A slave rebellion was not something Garrison was advocating, it was simply “God’s method of dealing retribution upon the head of the tyrant.” The implication was that although John Brown had violated holy commandments, he was nevertheless an instrument of divine judgment – like fire or pestilence. No responsibility rested with the abolitionists; it was the slaveholders themselves who had invited the wrath of God by refusing to heed the moral appeals of thirty years of antislavery agitation.”

(The Inner Civil War, Northern Intellectuals and the Crisis of the Union, George M. Frederickson, Harper & Row, 1965, pp. 39-42)