Browsing "Lincoln’s Revolutionary Legacy"

Grant’s New Kind of War

At Vicksburg, Grant initiated a concept of total war and annihilation against Americans in the South which caused Sherman to worship him. The endless streams of paid substitutes and immigrant recruits sent by Lincoln to fill his constantly depleted ranks far surpassed the small citizen armies of the South who fought with their homes behind them.  Grant may have learned this from British Col. Banastre Tarelton, and saw sheer brutality against soldier and civilian alike as an effective manner in which to subjugate the South. Monitoring both Grant, Sherman and Sheridan destructive campaigns was a young Spanish attache, Captain Varleriano Weyler, who in the mid-1890s became known as “Butcher” Weyler for herding Cuban women and children into concentration camps and burning the countryside.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Grant’s New Kind of War

“What Sherman could not see was that Grant had, in those silent months before Vicksburg, evolved a new psychology for the Federal armies. At [Fort] Donelson the seed of the new idea had started to grow when he had noted that if two fighters were exhausted the first to revive would be the victor.

Lying at the foot of Vicksburg’s cliffs, Grant had come to the irrevocable belief that, in the end, triumph would come to that army which never counted its dead, never licked its wounds, never gave its adversary breathing space, never remembered the past nor shrank from the future – the army which dismissed old rules and ignored rebuffs – the army which held implicit faith in a simple and eternal offensive.

As he prodded his men . . . , Sherman’s eyes began to open, [and] the old military world of West Point [seemed] to spin around beneath him and disappear. This was a new kind of war – and Grant was making his own rules as he went along. Here was an army caring not a whipstitch for a base of supplies. From field, barn, smokehouse, and cellar they were extracting epicurean meals.

When they squatted on their haunches at noon, they fried ham, bacon, pork chops, beefsteak . . . they rolled blankets around bottles of wine and whiskey lifted from baronial sideboards. What was a base of supplies to them? They were not professional soldiers. They were western pioneers – a new generation of pioneers loose in a new country with rifles and axes.  Had their fathers or grandfathers given a damn about a base of supplies when they had crossed the Ohio long ago to enter the wilderness?

While his men built a new bridge over the Big Black River, he lay down in a Negro’s cabin to snatch a few moments of sleep. It was midnight . . . [and] Grant had just ridden up. Twenty-five years later Sherman recalled the scene in detail:

“I rushed out bareheaded and taking him by the hand said, “General Grant, I want to congratulate you on the success of your plan. And it’s your plan, too, by heaven, and nobody else’s. For nobody else believe in it.”

It was as near to hero-worship as Sherman would come in a lifetime that held no heroes.”

(Sherman, Fighting Prophet, Lloyd Lewis, Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1932, excerpts pp. 273-274)

Representing the Powers at Washington in South Carolina

South Carolina’s first reconstruction governor was former Northern General Robert K. Scott, a Pennsylvania native who accomplished a tripling of the State debt through corruption and fraudulent bonds; his legislature voted itself a full-time saloon and restaurant at taxpayer expense. Scott’s successor, former Northern army officer Daniel H. Chamberlain was determined “to make his elected position pay,” though feeble attempts were made toward reform and Republican patronage which enraged black Republicans expecting favors for votes delivered.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Representing the Powers at Washington in South Carolina

“There is ample evidence of both black domination and the exercise of controls over black leadership by the white [Republican] leadership. South Carolina was unique among the reconstructed States in that blacks constituted about 60 percent of the population. This population advantage was converted into a substantial numerical advantage in the legislature, where Negroes held a two-to-one majority in the lower house and a clear majority on joint ballot of House and Senate throughout the nine-year period of Reconstruction.

During this same period [black South Carolinians] held the office of secretary of state (from 1868 to 1877), lieutenant-governor and adjutant-general (after 1870), secretary of treasury, Speaker of the House, and president pro tem of the Senate (after 1872).

On the other hand, Negroes never held the governorship, the office of US senator, any of the eight circuit judgeships, the offices of comptroller general, attorney general, superintendent of education, or more than one of the three positions on the State supreme court.

Furthermore, there were recorded instances of black officeholders serving as mere pawns of shrewder white [Republican] colleagues. The northern-born county treasurer of Colleton County boasted to Governor Scott that he “could control every colored man’s vote in St. Paul’s Parish and St. Bartholomew Parish.” The Negro treasurer of Orangeburg County found himself in jail charged with malfeasance in office, while the white mentor who had gotten him the appointment and directed his peculations went free.

On another occasion it was alleged that the white [Republican] political boss of Colleton County engineered the removal from the county auditor’s position of a well-educated Negro political enemy, replacing him with another Negro who was illiterate. The latter was expected to be auditor in name only, while another white crony performed the duties of office.

[The] reactions of historians to [traditional images of racial relationships often betray] more emotion than analysis [and] . . . [WEB] DuBois, for example, accepted the idea of the essential powerlessness of blacks in South Carolina’s Reconstruction government in order to minimize the culpability of blacks for the corruption of that government, even though [this actually] contradicts his thesis of black labor’s control of the government.

However, the key advantage of the white Republicans probably lay in their presumed or real contacts in the North which enabled them to promise and sometimes deliver funds, patronage or protection. White Northerners often passed themselves off as representing the “powers at Washington” in order to secure the political obedience of the Negroes, according to [carpetbagger] ex-Governor [Daniel H.] Chamberlain.

Just after the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment, a committee of South Carolina’s Negro political leaders made a secret trip to Washington to confer with Thaddeus Stevens and Charles Sumner about the formation of a political organization.

But many white Republicans continued to advocate efforts to attract native whites into the Republican party and the appointment of northern whites to sensitive positions. This policy reflected their lack of confidence in black officeholders . . . “There is not enough virtue and intelligence among the Blacks to conduct the government in such a way as will promote peace and prosperity” [wrote one Republican].

In other instances, white Republican officeholders urged the governor to replace with whites those black colleagues whom they considered “un-businesslike” or incompetent.”

(Black Over White, Negro Political Leadership in South Carolina during Reconstruction, Thomas Holt, University of Illinois Press, 1977, excerpts, pp. 96-104)

The Seductive Promises of Demagogues

The late M.E. Bradford understood that the centrality of freedom was the core of Southerners’ insistence on their right to govern their private and local affairs in their own way, and was the same for citizens of all other States. He held that “the only equality Americans can universally approve is accidental, a corollary of liberty or simple equality before the law with limited scope.” Bradford made his readers painfully aware of Lenin’s belief that the only way to make men equal is to treat them unequally.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Seductive Promises of Demagogues

“The wrath [Bradford] directed against Lincoln, like the wrath he directed against Julia Ward Howe, the authors of the Reconstruction amendments, Lyndon Baines Johnson, and all those who had imposed the teleological will of an instrumental government and judiciary upon an unsuspecting nation, had little to do with personal animosity.

It stemmed from his indignation against people he viewed as so intellectually blind as to be incapable of understanding the enormity they had wrought or so morally blind as not to care, provided only that they accomplished their immediate ends. Such attitudes, for Bradford, embodied the reverse – indeed the repudiation – of the obligations of stewardship and amounted to the despoiling of the children as well as the desecration of the fathers.

Bradford refused to apologize for the severity of his message – that the Northern victory had extracted a terrible cost from the country and its culture. Rejecting the cult of equality as the opiate of the intellectuals, Bradford rejected the fashionable identification of the Declaration of Independence with the Constitution, referring to “the Great Divide of the War Between the States.”

He explained: “it has been more and more the habit of our historians, jurists, and political scientists to read the Continental Enlightenment, and the Age of Revolution that was its political consequence, back into the beginnings of our national beginnings by way of an anachronistic gloss upon the Declaration of Independence.”

He constantly reminds his readers that the Constitution, not the Declaration, embodies the country’s law, which it exists to articulate and protect. Thus, he argues in an uncharacteristically optimistic vein, the “Constitution makes it difficult or even impossible for us to alter our political identity on whim or when momentarily carried away by the adjuration of demagogues.”

By the time Bradford died [in 1993], he had reason to know that the American political identity he cherished was under formidable assault, primarily at the hands of the Supreme Court justices – those supposed custodians and interpreters of the Constitution itself.

Experience and history taught Bradford, as he believed they had taught the Framers, that in politics one must conjoin the “caution of David Hume and the pessimism of Saint Paul,” especially with respect to the seductive promises of demagogues. In the time of the Framers, as in our own, he insisted, caution and pessimism should lead to a deep mistrust of the myths of equality with which demagogues love to seduce the more gullible of the citizenry, and he approvingly quoted Rufus King of Massachusetts, “the unnatural Genius of Equality [is] the arch Enemy of the moral world.”

(M.E. Bradford’s Historical Vision, EF & ED Genovese; A Defender of Southern Conservatism, M.E. Bradford and His Achievements, Clyde N. Wilson, editor, University of Missouri Press, 1999, pp. 79-82)

Obsessed with World Power and Democracy

With the Philippine islands in American hands after the Spanish War, the natives imagined their islands free of foreign rule as a gift from America. The liberator determined that the natives “were ill-suited to the concept of representative democratic government” and decided to stay until such was the norm, no matter how many Filipinos lives it cost and years it took.  It will be recalled that the war against Spain began with bellicose headlines from the newspapers of Hearst and Pulitzer.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Obsessed with World Power and Democracy

“On July 4, 1901, William Howard Taft took the oath of office as the first Governor-General of the Philippines, and control of the islands passed from the military arm of the government. Not all the problems [of converting the islands] had been solved. Philippine society remained ill-suited to the concept of representative democratic government, primarily because it is not one culture, but several.

An election in Zamboanga was decided by which Filipino shot the other candidates first.

The Filipinos in the northern islands were Tagalog Christians, those in the south were Moro’s (meaning “Mohammedan”) who had long resisted Tagalog encroachment. A tribal people, they were fiercely jealous of their semi-savage freedom. Wisely, the Spaniards had left them to their own devices; but the Americans wanted to clean up and educate everybody.

So the [American] army established a garrison at Balangiga, on Samar, in the south where Magellan had sighted the Philippines and where he was to die at the hands of natives.

On September 1, 1901, the natives from the surrounding hills of Balangiga fell on the American garrison, and in a devastating surprise littered the street with the heads, brains and intestines of the soldiery. This was the beginning of a religious war with the Moros, one that took longer to settle than the war against Aguinaldo’s insurrectos.

The fight became a struggle to win the minds and hearts of the villagers, who supplied the guerrilla bands and offered them bases and sanctuaries. What was called for [to control the Moros], [General John J.] Pershing decided, was to disarm the entire Moro Province, to confiscate or buy every rifle, pistol, campilan, bolo and krise on the islands.

It was not an original idea. General Leonard Wood, who left the Philippines in 1910 to become Chief of Staff advised Pershing: “You cannot disarm the people. It means they will bury their best arms and turn in a few poor ones, especially some who want to make a show of obedience.” Moros who surrendered their arms were victimized by those who had not . . . it is as hard to disarm a people as it is to make them give up a religious belief.

In a letter to Avery D. Andrews, Pershing put succinctly the apostolic creed to which he himself subscribed:

“It has been urged by some people at home that the Filipinos should be given their independence. Such a thing would result in anarchy. To whom should we over the government? Tagalog, Viscayan, Igorrote, Macabebe or Moro?No one can answer that any of these tribes represents the people in any sense, any more than the Sioux represents all the Indians in America. There is no national spirit, and except for the few agitators, these people do not want to try independence.  They will have to be educated up to it and to self-government as we understand it, and their education will take some time and patience. It is a grand work cut out for us from which there should be no shirking.”

The Americans stayed on, Pershing said, because “the American people being obsessed with the idea of maintaining their new position as a world power, insisted on keeping the flag flying over a territory once it was in our possession.

In the long run, the only advantage the United States or the Philippines realized from the occupation was the military mission. The archipelago was never destined to become a great way station to exploit trade with the Orient. America and the world economy were finding uses for Philippine products, especially hemp, sugar, timber and minerals.

But as the world was discovering these products, the Filipinos were discovering corruption. By 1920, Wall Street learned that the directors of the [Wall Street-capitalized Philippine National] bank had dealt out so many unsecured loans that $24 million had simply evaporated. The bank’s reserves, which should have been retained in New York, had also vanished in alarming fashion. Similarly, American rail industries had capitalized the Manila Railroad Company, which piled up astronomical losses in only eight years. By 1921, the islands were insolvent.

Democracy and equal opportunity have always been problematic for the people of this archipelago. William Howard Taft warned the American electorate in 1912 that only 3 percent of the Filipinos voted and only 5 percent read the public press; to confer democracy on such a society was to subject the great mass to the dominance of an oligarchical and exploiting minority.

“The idea that public office is a public trust,” Taft said, “has not been planted in the Filipino mind by experience . . .”

(Pipe Clay and Drill; John J. Pershing: The Classical American Soldier”, Readers Digest Press, 1977, excerpts, pp 100-153)

 

Two Views on the Destruction of Historic Monuments

 

Noted speaker and author of “Stonewall Jackson at Cedar Mountain, Robert K. Krick:

“We live in an age riven by shrill and intemperate voices, from all perspectives and on most topics. No sane person today would embrace, endorse, or tolerate slavery.

A casual observer, readily able to convince himself that he would have behaved similarly in the 1860s, can vault to the high ground with the greatest of ease. Doing that gratifies the powerful self-righteousness strain that runs through all of us, for better or worse.

In fact, it leaps far ahead of the Federal politicians (Lincoln among them) who said emphatically that slavery was not the issue, and millions of Northern soldiers who fought, bled and died in windrows to save the Union – but were noisily offended by mid-war emancipation.

It is impossible to imagine a United States in the current atmosphere that does not include zealots eager to obliterate any culture not precisely their own, destroying monuments in the fashion of Soviets after a purge, and antiquities in the manner of ISIS.

The trend is redolent of the misery that inundated the planet during the aptly-named Dark Ages, arising from savages who believed, as a matter of religion in that instance, that anyone with opinions different than their own was not just wrong, but craven and evil, and must be brutalized into conformity.

On the other hand, a generous proportion of the country now, and always, eschews extremism, and embraces tolerance of others’ cultures and inheritances and beliefs. Such folk will always be society’s salvation.”

 

Thos. V. Strain, Jr., Commander-in-Chief, Sons of Confederate Veterans:

“. . . It is my opinion, and that of many others, that these [monument] removals are an attempt to erase history. If you take some time to read the comments on social media and on the websites of the news organizations reporting these removals, it is obvious that only a few people support the removals. What it boils down to is that the politicians are telling those that elect them that their wishes mean absolutely nothing to them.

Just this week one of these politicians that voted to remove a statue in Virginia lost in the primary for reelection, and he noted that his stance on the removal more than likely cost him the election.

In the end, what we really have, in my humble opinion, is a group of people who are following their own personal agendas and saying, “to hell with the people” and moving forward with these removals. It isn’t what we want, it is all about them.”

(Civil War Times, October 2017, excerpts, pp. 32; 37)

Financing the War with Inflation

As Lincoln was unable to finance his war with the traditional tax and customs revenue sources, he turned to paper fiat money to be printed as needed, though the Constitution permits only gold and silver as legal tender. The predictable speculation in the value of greenbacks versus gold prices caused murky markets to emerge. In New York’s “Gold Room,” decisions were guided not so much by patriotic motives as the desire for profit. It was said that “Sectional feeling often entered largely into bull and bear contests in the Gold Room, and Union men and rebel sympathizers fought their battles sometimes, as much to gratify this as to make money.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Financing the War with Inflation

“To help finance the Civil War, the federal government began issuing “demand notes” in July 1861. These government obligations were not a legal tender currency and were freely convertible into gold upon presentation to a federal depository. During the course of 1861, the Union’s financial condition deteriorated, and in December the Treasury issues a very bleak report on the budgetary situation.

In the face of such news, bankers concluded that investors would lose confidence in the demand notes and the banks would soon experience a massive outflow of gold. On December 30, the banks suspended specie payments of gold [for greenbacks]. The government followed suit almost immediately.

Soon thereafter, in February 1862, Congress passed the first of the Legal Tender Acts. These acts authorized the government to issue “greenbacks” – a currency that was to be legal tender for both public and private debts. Of course, since demand notes were no longer convertible into gold, neither were greenbacks . . . [though] all available evidence indicates that the public believed that at some future date convertibility would be reinstated and all greenbacks would be redeemed in gold.

[Because Lincoln] was unable to finance the war with the available tax revenues . . . Greenbacks were a way of using inflation to pay for the war. Speculators knew that the degree to which the Union would have to rely on future greenback issues depended on just how much the war would ultimately cost. A long, expensive war would require more greenback issues and make it less likely that greenbacks would ever be exchanged for gold dollars on a one-for-one basis.

Not surprisingly, a formal market for buyers and sellers to trade gold came into existence within two weeks of the suspension of convertibility. The first organized dealings took place at the New York Stock Exchange on January 13, 1862. At about the same time a second market formed . . . in New York City . . . known as the Gold Room.

An important question for our purposes is how the gold market used the [political and war] information coming to it. Did the financial market react quickly to news that was available, or did it take several days to digest it? A closely related question is whether news of battles . . . reached all participants at the same time.

In a report on the burning of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, on July 31, 1864, the New York Herald explicitly noted that the government frequently withheld information from the public to minimize alarm and protect intelligence and sources.

The daily registry of the Gold Room was a quicker messenger of successes and defeats than the tardier telegrams of the Associated Press. A private secretary of a high official, with no capital at all to save his position, which gave him authentic information of every shaping of the chess game of war a full twenty hours in advance of the public, simply flashed to the words “sell, buy” across the wires, and trusted the honor of his broker for the rest.

If there was a sufficiently large number of “insiders” competing with each other, then the market would quickly transform war news into changes in the price of greenbacks, despite the fact that the news was not coming through published sources.

The observation of [New York Herald writer] Kinahan Cornwallis are consistent with this notion: “Almost every individual speculator in the Gold Room, whose transactions were large enough to make it of consequence, had a correspondent in the national capital, who sent him a telegraphic dispatch as occasion required . . .”

(Greenback Prices as Commentary on the Union Prospects, Guinnane, Rosen and Willard, Civil War History, The Journal of the Middle Period, Kent State University Press, December 1995, Volume XLI, No. 4, excerpts, pp. 315-318)

 

Exhortative Liberalism

The term “virtue signaling” is defined as “an act of affirmation of some liberal value or shibboleth, intended to establish or reaffirm the sender’s reputation as a socialized, politically correct, and tolerant person.” In the not-too-distant-past, Christian morality dominated American culture and one had no need to signal the virtue one already had in his or her heart.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Exhortative Liberalism

“Even the strongest political conservatives – people who believe in the free market and resist statism, support a strong military defense, and go to church every Sunday – participate in virtue signaling to display their generous intentions, maintain social harmony, and compensate for their illiberal opinions regarding fundamental political, economic and social issues.

Virtue signaling is one aspect of the urgent exhortative tone characteristic of modern liberal society – the “OK guys – let’s all go out today and do the ethical thing!” society.

The spirit behind exhortative liberalism is purely liberal-bourgeois, yet its pedigree traces from the civic boosterism of the conservative bourgeoisie of the 1920’s to whom Sinclair Lewis’s fictional character of the decade gave the name “Babbittry.” In fact there has always been an intimate connection between liberalism and social and intellectual vulgarity . . . Liberalism as an idea is ideally suited to the moral, aesthetic, and political vulgarity of modern commercial-democratic society.

The [Laramie, Wyoming] newspaper [the Boomerang] was founded in 1881 . . . What hard news there is at hand to report daily is buried under alerts, announcements, feature stories and photographs promoting a variety of “awarenesses,” “sensitivities,” and other liberal totems: Big Brother-Big Sister, Violence Against Women Week, Run for the Cure races, rallies to save the climate and fight discrimination against the “LGBT community,” Latina seminars, safe-sex crusades, and Special Olympics weekends.

In the Boomerang’s world, everyone “cares,” “gives back,” “supports,” and “tolerates” from morn to set of sun, and – no doubt – in his dreams as well.

It’s not “nice” to mock, let alone object to, false sentimentality, moralistic self-satisfaction, and virtue signaling, assuming even that people are aware of these things, now as natural a part of the municipal atmosphere as . . . the overflowing bars downtown on Saturday nights, and the ubiquitous message T-shirts advertising (in about equal numbers) commercial products, liberal causes and organizations, and sports teams.

(Message T-shirts are another ubiquitous message from the Exhortative Society, delivered by bipedal human billboards who imagine their fellow bipeds care a tinker’s damn what products they buy, what left-wing causes they support, or what teams the root for.)”

(The Easiness of Being Liberal, Chilton Williamson, Jr., Chronicles, December 2016, excerpts, pp. 9-10)

Readmission a Legal Impossibility

In the following mid-1864 letter to Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, General E.W. Gantt of Arkansas questions the revolutionary logic of the radical Republicans in Congress who claimed sovereign States had become mere territories after unsuccessfully seeking political independence — he expected the North to live up to its alleged aim of preserving the Union as it was. Gantt was a Confederate brigadier who decided by 1863 that Arkansas could not achieve independence and should return to the Union — he became the only Southern general to commit treason.  Historian Bruce S. Allardice suggests that Gantt’s behavior was the result of insobriety, cowardice, opportunism or immorality.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Readmission a Legal Impossibility

Secession and Readmission; Letter to Hon. Charles Sumner from Gen. E. W. Gantt, of Arkansas.

FIFTH-AVENUE HOTEL, June 1, 1864.

Hon. Chas. Sumner:

SIR: But for your resolution and action in reference to Arkansas politics, I feel sure that I should not have appeared before the public again. The subject which calls forth this letter being entirely of a public character, induces me to address you through the columns of the New-York TIMES.

Upon the application of the State of Arkansas to resume her relations — temporarily disturbed — with the National Government, by sending her constitutionally-chosen representatives for that purpose, you have seen fit to introduce the following resolution, to wit:

Resolved, That a State pretending to secede from the Union, and battling against the National Government to maintain their position, must be regarded as a rebel State, subject to military occupation, and without representation on this floor, until it has been readmitted by a vote of both Houses of Congress; and the Senate will decline to entertain any application from any such rebel State until after such a vote of both Houses.

From this I infer that you intend to oppose our peace offering, and to break up, if possible, our loyal State organization, effected as it has been at immense personal hazard, and wonderful exertions and determination upon the part of our loyal people.

When you say that a “State pretending to secede” must be “readmitted” by a vote of both Houses of Congress, what are we to understand you to mean? Do you mean that the State really did secede? That is, that it got out of the “compact?” If that be so does it not occur to you that it went out as a State and became a separate sovereignty? If this be so, “readmission,” it strikes me, is a legal impossibility. The Sovereign Government of Arkansas should apply for “annexation” and not “readmission.” But do you mean that it only pretended it was out, while in point of fact it was in the Union? Then how could you “readmit” that which never was out? It would place the Government in the awkward attitude, it seems to me, of fighting against the people of a State because they “pretended to secede,” and yet had not, and at the same time declaring that they did go out and must be “readmitted.”

But do you mean that the secession ordinances passed by certain legislatures and conventions reduced the States in which the same were passed to Territories? If so, how? If the ordinances referred to put the States out, why they went out as States. It won’t do to say they had just enough sovereignty to scramble out of the Government, and that then they rumbled into Territories.

The sovereignty reserved that could take them out, could hold them up as States. As such, they could form compacts with other Governments, or new combinations of their own. They could not possibly work their way out of the Government, and being out, fall back to the Government as a part of its territory — no more than they could merge into the Russian possessions. A doctrine so dangerous might destroy the Government in a month. Secession ordinances passed by twenty States, reducing them to Territories, would stop the wheels of Government.

But you may intend this as a punishment because our State “pretended to secede.” If so, we are already punished enough. But why discriminate? Missouri pretended to secede, and so did Kentucky. There was no question raised over them. And Mr. BOULINEY, of Louisiana, remained in the Congress of the United States more than one year after Louisiana pretended to secede.

But, then, your opposition may arise from want of regularity in the reorganization. That it was without precedent I admit. That the people, groaning under anarchy, oppression and despair, wrought out a government from the wreck around them, with no beaten path to follow, is true.”

(New York Times, June 3, 1864)

 

Southern Scholarly Conversation

Alabamian Clarence Cason (1896-1935) as a writer experienced the continuing sectional bias of Northerners toward the South as he sought to describe and explain the culture of his native region. His well-known book “90 Degrees in the Shade” made it known that the slow pace of life and work in the South was the result of the sultry climate, and helped create the region’s unique culture, cuisine, and outdoors lifestyle coveted by Northerners.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Southern, Scholarly Conversation

“Wishing to be complimentary, a forthright city editor of a Manhattan newspaper once proclaimed that young men from the South make excellent reporters provided they can rid themselves of malaria and gentility. This characterization may be accepted as a fair statement of the reputation of Southerners abroad in the land. By malaria the city editor meant not so much the pathological state induced by the mosquito’s sting, as that dreamy and miasmic attitude of mind usually associated with the disease.

And by gentility the editor intended to imply a false assumption of gentlemanly graces and immunities, especially an immunity from a conscience which holds steady work to be a duty.

From his own point of view the Manhattan journalist of course spoke with accuracy. But from the point of view of the indigenous Southerner he was altogether wrong. For the terrestrial aims of the Southerner are not the same as those of the New Yorker or New Englander. To be properly appreciated for his native qualities, the honest Southern person should stay at home.

When I went north to college, a dean, after learning the region of my nativity, asked in a tone of slight facetiousness what I considered the aim of Southern scholarship. Did I also think Southern scholars had to do nothing but sit pleasantly on a vine-covered back porch and drink lemonade?

I shall always feel that one of the tragic failures of my experience was that I did not, to our common astonishment, say, “Yes — provided the scholarly conversation is graceful, well-mannered, and leisurely enough.”

(Culture in the South, Middle Class and Bourbon, Clarence Cason, UNC Press, 1934, excerpt, pp. 478-481)

 

Propping Strongmen and Juntas in Vietnam

Dwight Eisenhower announced his domino theory and resistance to communism in 1954, despite leading the massive effort ten years earlier against Germany with the welcome assistance of Stalin’s communist Russia – the latter armed to the teeth by the United States.  Robert E. Lee’s postwar comment to Lord Acton was clear about the new American empire becoming “aggressive abroad.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Propping Strongmen and Juntas in Vietnam

“By 1952, the United States was financing one-third of the French military effort in Vietnam. Despite American logistical support, the French lost the pivotal battle of Dien Bien Phu [in mid-March 1954] to communist forces. Ike offered a rationale for committing the United States to fighting communism in Vietnam. “You have a row of dominoes set up,” he explained, “you knock over the first one, and what will happen to the last one is the certainty that it will go over very quickly.”

On October 24, 1954, President Eisenhower pledged support to [Vietnamese prime minister] Ngo Dinh Diem, and even pondered sending direct American military aid to prop him up. The fall of Dien Bien Phu was followed by additional Viet Minh victories, which convinced the French to conclude with the Viet Minh and Geneva Accord . . . dividing Vietnam along the seventeenth parallel . . .

While Ho Chi Minh set up a communist government in the North, the United States worked with French and South Vietnamese authorities to build an ostensibly “democratic” South Vietnamese government as well as a military to defend it.

[After the French withdrew completely], Eisenhower and Diem, now president of South Vietnam, proclaimed their support for Vietnamese democracy [and] the Geneva Accord mandated . . . a plebiscite – a popular referendum reflecting the will of the majority – to decide the future of the nation.

Yet both Ike and Diem feared that such a popular vote would reunify Vietnam under the popular and dynamic Ho Chi Minh rather than Diem, a man incapable of commanding much popular support. Diem turned his back on the Geneva Accords and simply refused to hold the mandated vote in the South. Eisenhower voiced no objection to this abridgement of democracy.

On July 8, 1959, two US servicemen became the first Americans killed in action in Vietnam. Two months later Diem’s continued refusal to allow a plebiscite prompted the Viet Cong – a communist guerilla group that succeeded and absorbed elements of the Viet Minh – to begin concreted warfare against the South.

[After increased military assistance in 1960], popular support for the Diem government continued to decline and Eisenhower’s successor, John F. Kennedy, decided to prop up the government by authorizing increased numbers of military advisors . . . and by June 30, 1962, there were 6,419 American soldiers and airmen in South Vietnam.

[By the fall of 1963] President Kennedy acquiesced in a CIA-backed ARVN military coup d’etat that removed Diem and resulted in his assassination on November 2, 1963. The overthrow . . . served only to make the country even less stable. The incoming military junta was politically inexperienced and generally inept . . . Coups and counter coups followed, so that seven South Vietnamese rose and fell in 1964 alone, with a succession of four more to follow in 1965. [Each new leader] was compliant with US direction, yet each was incapable of commanding the loyalty of a majority of the South Vietnamese.

[After Lyndon Johnson’s ascent to the presidency, in August 1964, two US Navy ships were reportedly attacked in Vietnamese waters, though] current military historians and even some who were present on the scene have concluded that the radar signals were false targets and that no attack was taking place.

Both the president and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara characterized the reported North Vietnamese attacks as unprovoked, even though the mission . . . had been to provide intelligence in direct support of South Vietnamese attacks against the North . . .

McNamara and Secretary of State Dean Rusk both admitted that the attacks [against the North] had occurred, yet, with tortured logic, insisted that they were strictly South Vietnamese operations that did not justify North Vietnamese retaliation against the United States.”

(Profiles in Folly, History’s Worst Decisions and Why They Went Wrong, Alan Axelrod, Sterling, 2008, excerpts, pp. 325-329)

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