Browsing "Lincoln’s Revolutionary Legacy"

The Emergence of the Radical

John C. Calhoun witnessed the rise of Northern radicalism and his keen political insight saw a problematic future for the American South. He did not live to see the secession crisis fully develop, but his countrymen later anticipated “that Lincoln’s election was only the first step” toward the eventual destruction of their political liberty and the Union of their fathers.

Calhoun accurately predicted that the North would monopolize the new federal territories and acquire a three-fourths majority in Congress to force a restructuring of the Union. Once the South’s freedmen were admitted to the franchise by the North’s radical Congress, Republican political hegemony was virtually uninterrupted until 1913.

The Emergence of the Radical

“In the 1830’s . . . the North had become a prolific seedbed of radical thought. The rural South, on the other hand, showed little tolerance for radicals. The hostility to the proponents of revolutionary ideas seems at first inconsistent with the individualism which Southerners generally displayed. The Southern brand of individualism, however, was of manners and character rather than of the mind.

The Southerner vigorously resisted the pressure of outside government, he was cavalier in the observance of the laws; the planter on his semi-feudal estate was a law unto himself. The yeomen, too, living largely on land that they owned and regarding themselves as “the sovereign people,” were among the freest and most independent of Americans.

[In the 1840s and 1850s], editors, preachers, and politicians launched a vigorous propaganda campaign against Southern youth attending Northern schools and colleges. In the minds of conservative Southerners public education now became associated with the “isms” of the North – abolitionism, feminism, pacifism, Fourierism, Grahamism. Thus Southerners tended to regard the great majority of Northern people as sympathetic to the wilds visions and schemes of reform advocated by the northern extremists.

For many years Yankee professors and teachers had staffed Southern colleges and schools to a large extent, but in the last two decades of the antebellum period a pronounced hostility arose against the employment of educators from the North.

When [University of North Carolina] President David L. Swain defended the appointment [of a Northern teacher, he cited] earlier examples [of] employing foreign professors, the highly influential [Fayetteville News & Observer] editor, E.J. Hale replied: “In [two Southern] institutions, filled with foreigners and Northern men, there have been most deplorable outbreaks & riots and rows. Both have been noted for the prevalence and propagation of infidel notions to religion.”

(The Mind of the Old South, Clement Eaton, LSU Press, 1964, pp. 110; 305-306)

North Carolina’s State Flag

The original North Carolina Republic flag of 1861 was altered in 1885 with only the red and blue colors rearranged, and the lower date announcing the date of secession changed to “May 20th, 1775,” the date of the Halifax Resolutions.

This mattered little as both dates, 1775 and 1861, “places the Old North State in the very front rank, both in point of time and in spirit, among those that demanded unconditional freedom and absolute independence from foreign power. This document stands out as one of the great landmarks in the annals of North Carolina history.”

Militarily invaded and conquered in 1865, North Carolinians were forced to forever renounce political independence, and thus written in a new State constitution imported from Ohio.

North Carolina’s State Flag

“The flag is an emblem of great antiquity and has commanded respect and reverence from practically all nations from earliest times. History traces it to divine origin, the early peoples of the earth attributing to it strange, mysterious, and supernatural powers.

Indeed, our first recorded references to the standard and the banner, of which our present flag is but a modified form, are from sacred rather than from secular sources. We are told that it was around the banner that the prophets of old rallied their armies and under which the hosts of Israel were led to war, believing, as they did, that it carried with it divine favor and protection.

Since that time all nations and all peoples have had their flags and emblems, though the ancient superstition regarding their divine merits and supernatural powers has disappeared from among civilized peoples. The flag now, the world over, possesses the same meaning and has a uniform significance to all nations wherever found.

It stands as a symbol of strength and unity, representing the national spirit and patriotism of the people over whom it floats. In both lord and subject, the ruler and the ruled, it commands respect, inspires patriotism, and instills loyalty both in peace and in war.

[In the United States], each of the different States in the Union has a “State flag” symbolic of its own individuality and domestic ideals. Every State in the American Union has a flag of some kind, each expressive of some particular trait, or commemorative of some historical event, of the people over which it floats.

The constitutional convention of 1861, which declared for [North Carolina’s] secession from the Union, adopted what it termed a State flag. On May 20, 1861, the Convention adopted the resolution of secession which declared the State out of the Union.

This State flag, adopted in 1861, is said to have been issued to the first ten regiments of State troops during the summer of that year and was borne by them throughout the war, being the only flag, except the National and Confederate colors, used by the North Carolina troops during the Civil War. The first date [on the red union and within a gilt scroll in semi-circular form], “May 20th, 1775” refers to the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence . . . The second date appearing on the State flag is that of “May 20th 1861 . . .”

(The North Carolina State Flag, W.R. Edmonds, Edwards & Broughton Company, 1913, excerpts pp. 5-7)

The Enemy the People

Both Generals George B. McClellan and John Pope considered each other incompetent: the former was a Democrat and therefore despised by Lincoln’s Radicals; Pope was a Republican and fawned upon by the same Radicals. Pope was dismissed after Second Manassas and achieved infamy in Minnesota with Sioux uprisings and the mass execution of 38 warriors – at Lincoln’s direction. Lincoln seemed unable to comprehend that those he called “the enemy” in the South were Americans, and tried to instill this in his commanders as they suppressed the American independence movement in the South. John Hay was one of Lincoln’s three personal secretaries. 

The Enemy the People

“Stanton railed against his former friend, McClellan. The man did nothing but send whining dispatches, complaints and excuses while flatly denying General Halleck’s orders to advance. At that point, Hay observed, both Stanton and Lincoln put their faith in General Pope.

Optimism prevailed in the White House at the end of the day [during the battle of Second Manassas], “and we went to bed expecting glad tidings at sunrise.”

But the next morning at eight o’clock, while Hay was dressing, a hollow-eyed, despondent Mr. Lincoln knocked at his bedroom door. “John!” he called . . . “Well John, we are whipped again, I am afraid. The enemy reinforced on Pope and drove back his left wing and he has retired to Centreville where he says he will be able to hold his men.”

As the day wore on, bringing more details of the defeat, Hay observed that Lincoln was just as defiant as he was disappointed. He kept repeating the phrase: “We must hurt this enemy before it gets away.” Church bells tolled over the city – a death knell.

The next morning it was pouring rain. Ambulances slogged through the mud with their burden of wounded and dying men on their way to Armory Square, Judiciary Square, Campbell Hospital, and thirty other military clinics recently set up around the city.

But when Hay acknowledged “the bad look of things,” Lincoln would hear no more of such talk. “Mr. Hay, we must whip these people now. Pope must fight them, if they are too strong for him he can gradually retire to these fortifications . . . if we are really whipped and to be whipped we may as well stop fighting.” Hay credited Lincoln’s “indomitable will, that army movements have been characterized by such energy and clarity for the last few days.” The President would not give in to despair.

[To Hay] it seemed impossible . . . [that McClellan] could write to the president proposing that “Pope be allowed to get out if his own scrape his own way.” A total of 1,724 Federal soldiers had died at the Second [Manassas], and 8,372 had lost arms, legs, eyes or had been otherwise mutilated by bullets or bayonets so as to be of no use to the army or anyone else for some time, if ever.”

(Lincoln’s Men: The President and His Private Secretaries, Daniel Mark Epstein, HarperCollins, 2009, excerpts pp. 119-122)

Northern Ideology Victorious

In the early postwar and before the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments were enacted, “many political, financial and religious leaders in the North had accepted the theory of rugged individualism as applied to the Negro” – Lincoln’s doctrine of “root hog or die.”

The freed slave was now a Northern-styled hired worker who could be worked long hours for meager pay and no medical or retirement benefits — plus had to survive on his own overnight before returning to work.

The value of the black man to the North was this: he who wandered into Northern lines after his plantation and crops were burned was put to hard labor on fortifications or used in forlorn assaults on impregnable Southern positions to save the lives of Northern soldiers; in the postwar he was taught to hate his white Southern neighbor for the purpose electing Republican candidates, no matter how corrupt, to maintain party hegemony both State and national.

It is noted below that the South had “ratified” the Fourteenth Amendment – the Southern States were under duress and the amendment unconstitutionally enacted without the requisite number of States ratifying.

Northern Ideology Victorious

“The American Civil War, as in the case of most wars, had been a conflict of ideologies as well as a trial at arms. The ideological conflict had revolved chiefly around the function of government, the nature of the union, the innate capacities of mankind, the structure of society, and the economic laws which control it. The triumph of the federal government automatically established the de facto status of that cluster of ideologies which shall be referred to as representing the point of view of the North and the de facto destruction of those ideologies typical of the South.

The history of Reconstruction amply bears out the fact that neither the North nor the South was consolidated in a united front on any of the great questions which had been the subject of controversy. The passage of the Fourteenth Amendment, for example, made it necessary for a number of Northern States to hastily change their laws in order to permit an equality of civil rights to Negroes, and it wasn’t until the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment that Negroes won the ballot throughout the North.

The act of writing into the Constitution the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments was in itself an ideological revolution.

The South, with a ballot purged of the old slaveholding regime, had ratified the [Amendments], but it was not until 1876 that the South made its peace with Congress . . . After eleven years of attempting to bring the South into conformity . . . the federal government had retired from active participation in the experiment of the social revolution, leaving behind a Negro political machine protected by a legal equality and rewarded with federal patronage.

In the North the reaction had set in soon after the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment. The strong equalitarian sentiment of the Negrophiles and the general feeling that the Southern [freedmen] had become the wards of the nation had given rise to a profound sympathy for the Negro in the abstract, but the actual status of the northern Negro was little changed for the better.

As the rumor of misgovernment and fraud under Negro domination circulated in the North, the doctrine of the immediate fitness of the Negro for all the rights of citizenship came more and more to be questioned, and the way was rapidly being prepared for laissez faire in the South.

It came to be said in the North that the equality of man could be achieved only through the slow process of time and that the Negro offered a flat denial to the American assumption that all who came to this country’s shores would first be assimilated and then absorbed.”

(The Ideology of White Supremacy, Guion Griffis Johnson; The South and the Sectional Image, Dewey W. Grantham, editor, Harper & Row, Publishers, 1967, excerpts pp. 56-58)

Revolutionary Jacobins: French and American

“In 1793, the Jacobins, surfing the wave of Parisian mob violence, intimidated their less resolute colleagues into eliminating both the principle of monarchy and the existence of its politically superfluous incarnation, Louis XVI. Not content with killing a living king, and pronouncing a death sentence in absentia on all princes of the blood who had escaped with their lives, the revolutionaries were determined to rewrite the past by abolishing the enduring symbols of the French nation. Walter Scott, in his Life of Napoleon Bonaparte observes:

“The name of king being pronounced detestable, all the remembrances of royalty were to be destroyed . . . the royal sepulchers . . . were not only defaced on the outside, but utterly broken down, the bodies exposed, the bones dispersed . . .”

Notre Dame’s “gallery of Judean kings” [was] destroyed (the mob supposedly mistook the 28 statues for portraits of French kings).

The revolutionaries wanted to make the past, even more than the future, a tabula rasa on which they can scrawl their puerile obscenities. Even the calendar had to be reinvented. The Jacobins . . . took only a few months before adopting a system that was as “rational” (i.e., inhuman) as it was stupid . . . All over Paris and throughout France, the churches’ precious art treasures were vandalized, and gold and silver communion vessels were stolen and used in mock ceremonies that travestied the Mass.

We must always remind ourselves that the entirely sordid activities of the French Republicans were the fulfillment of the Enlightenment project, whose objects were freedom of thought (that is, the freedom to be a servile follower of the Encyclopedists), social and political equality (the destruction of all authority), and a society based solely upon reason (the destruction of Christian civilization).

And what of Americans, so eager to escape the shackles of their history that they, too, have rewritten both calendar and curriculum?

America, where Martin Luther King, Jr. and his civil-rights “revolution” takes precedent in the calendar over Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and even Lincoln; where Christian symbols are removed from schools and public squares and “Happy Holidays” has replaced “Merry Christmas”. . . where some State legislatures have removed the fine old flag under which brave Americans from the South fought in what they and many non-Southern Americans regarded as the noble cause of constitutional liberty . . .”

What can be said of this America, if not that, over the course of 150 years, we have gradually achieved the revolution which Rousseau imagined and for which Jacobins and Marxists fought and slaughtered?

The way back – if there is to be a way back – will not begin with a counter-revolution that will commemorate its own set of uprisings, heroes, and martyrs but with a quiet determination to restore the Christian calendar in our own lives; to display Christian symbols in our homes, shops and offices; and to teach our children and friends the stories and traditions that the Jacobins have done their best to destroy.”

(Living the Jacobin Dream, Thomas Fleming, Chronicles, March 2003, excerpts pp. 10-11 – www.chroniclesmagazine.org)

Morality and Community

The 1861-1865 war was essentially one of the defense of traditional, decentralized American communities, as established after the Revolution, against a centralizing liberalism which sought to establish hegemony in Washington. The latter was victorious.

Morality and Community

“Morality, as traditionally conceived, supposes, first of all, a metaphysical vision of the nature of man and the sort of life that is good for man. Virtues are cultivated dispositions of character that enable the soul to live out the life that is good for man. A virtuous soul, with much training over a long period of time, may come to love those things that are truly good as opposed to those that merely appear as such.

Second, morality presupposes community. A man cannot know what good is independent of a concrete way of life, lived in community with others, in which the good is exemplified. A man becomes good through emulation and by apprenticing himself to a master craftsman in the art of human excellence.

The marks of a genuine community are the temple, the graveyard, and the wedding celebration. The favorable connotations that attach to this essential structure of human life are inappropriately applied to associations that are not communities at all – for instance, the “business community,” the “entertainment community,” “gated communities,” or the “homosexual community.” IBM does not have a burial ground; homosexuals do not marry and beget children; and “gated communities” are often places where affluent strangers move to escape the aftermath of social disintegration. These associations have value, but they are not communities.

This is how Greeks, Romans, Hebrews, Christians and Muslims traditionally understood morality. These traditions had different understandings of what the human good is, what the virtues are, and how they should be ranked, but they never questioned the metaphysical postulate that there is such a thing as the human good and that morality is the adventure of critically exploring it on a concrete form of life.

Liberalism rejects this fundamental assumption, arguing that a metaphysical vision of the human good is not something human beings can agree on. Since compromise over questions of the ultimate good is not possible, liberals argue that constant and implacable conflict is inevitable.

Liberalism gradually began to shape American public policy after the Civil War and kicked into high gear after World War II. The Bill of Rights, designed to protect the States – distinct political societies capable of pursuing radically different forms of social life – from the central government, was turned upside down to protect the autonomy of the individual from the States.

The regulation of morals, law enforcement, and religion, which gave legal protection to distinct ways of life, was transferred by judicial social engineers to the central government. The education of children, which had been the province of local schools financed by real estate taxes, was now regulated by the federal courts.

By the 1980s, the earlier philosophical rejection of the Western conception of morality was cashed out in the colleges of many of the institutions necessary to sustain it. The United States was becoming a spiritual desert, and the signs of moral decay were ubiquitous: a spectacular increase in crime, divorce, falling educational standards, promiscuous abortion, illegitimacy, anomie, and a society with little desire to reproduce itself. If we wish to make the world safe for substantial moral communities, we must consider serious political alternatives to the master creation of liberalism, namely, the large-scale centralized state.”

If we wish to make the world safe for substantial moral communities, we must consider serious political alternatives to the master creation of liberalism, namely, the large-scale centralized state.”

(Communitarians, Liberals, and Other Enemies of Community and Liberty: Scaling Back the Enlightenment, Donald W. Livingston, Chronicles, July 2002, excerpts pp. 23-25)

Tolerating the Past

Historian Charles P. Roland wrote in the forward to Francis Butler Simkins “The Everlasting South” that “probably the great majority of historians today disagree with Professor Simkins’ logic, but probably the great majority of the common folk, wittingly or unwittingly, agree with the gist of it.” As a historian, Simkins was aware that by the late 1950s and early 1960s, major publishing houses in the US were forcing authors to modify their manuscripts to suit liberal values. Speaking honestly about American history was unwanted.

In a letter to a Northerner offended by his writing, he wrote: “You may not understand that I am attempting to give what actually the ordinary Southerner thinks [and] our press – liberal and reactionary – and our politicians will not give publicly to what is actually happening; they want to be overly tactful so as to attract Northern industry . . .” His students reverently referred to Dr. Simkins as “Doc”– and he warned them that they might be making a mistake in following his example.

Tolerating the Past

“What distinguished Doc from so many of his contemporaries was that he refused to truckle to current historical fads, indeed, to use his phrase, he believed that historians ought to “tolerate the South’s past.”

Simkin’s was unashamed of being a Southerner; he was proud of his origins and ancestry. This alone, he knew, was reason enough for most Yankees and Yankeefied Southerners to object to his views.

“I do not attempt to emphasize here the contributions of the South to the history of the United States,” Doc explained in his Southern history textbook. “I propose instead to stress those political and social traits that make the region between the Potomac and Rio Grande a cultural province conscious of its identity.” To him the changes that occurred over time in the South were not nearly as significant as the presence of cultural continuity in the region.

“The militant nationalism of the Southern people supplemented rather than diminished their provincialism; devotion to State and region went along with devotion to the United States,” Doc observed. “Gloating pride in growing cities and imported industries went along with retention of growing habits. The interest of the youth of the region in rifles, dogs and wildlife, like that of the Virginia gentlemen of the eighteenth century, was often greater than their interest in classroom studies.”

Doc often provoked conventional historians by saying or writing things that they did not want to hear. Invited to become a visiting professor at the University of British Columbia, he willingly admitted to the administrators that he was something probably no Canadian university had ever had on its faculty – the grandson of a Confederate field officer. Doc even delighted in revealing the full name and regiment of his ancestor – Lieutenant-Colonel John Calhoun Simkins of the 3rd South Carolina Artillery.

In the Southern Historical Association presidential address, “Tolerating the South’s Past,” he denounced the tendency of modern historians to judge the South and its people by today rather than those of the past.

“Chroniclers of Southern history,” he charged, “often do not grasp the most elementary concept of sound historiography: the ability to appraise the past by standards other than those of the present. They accept a fanatical nationalism which leaves little room for static contentment, and a faith in the American dream of human equality which leaves little room for one person to get ahead of another except in making money.”

(The Legacy of Francis Butler Simkins, Grady McWhiney, Southern Partisan, 2nd Quarter 1995, excerpts pg. 23-24)

Barbarian Vandals in Louisiana

Gen. Richard Taylor was the son of General and President Zachary Taylor, and an 1845 graduate of Yale. In 1847 his father viewed the struggle over slavery had been “brought about by the intemperate zeal” of Northern fanatics, and told him that if the North ever exceeded its ”right and proper” constitutional power, “let the South act promptly, boldly and decisively with arms in their hand if necessary, as the Union in that case will be blown to atoms, or will no longer be worth preserving . . .”

Barbarian Vandals in Louisiana

“[Taylor] personally refused to abandon the dream of [liberating] New Orleans. Even with little or no help from other quarters of the Confederacy, he would work constantly toward the day when he could gather enough strength to deliver the city into the hands of his fellow Louisianans.

With an attack on New Orleans now impossible, Taylor’s [desired] to press southeastward . . . to relieve nearby parishes of the oppressive federal presence. “We are prisoners in every sense of the term,” wrote a local militia commander . . . Were we to attempt exercising any military authority, we would be arrested and our families harassed. Where is our protection to come from?”

Taylor answered the plea by sending Major Edward Waller’s unit of mounted Texas riflemen . . . On September 4 [1862], a detachment of the Texans, along with the militia unit, struck the federal outpost at Des Allemands and forced its garrison back toward New Orleans.

Capturing enough Yankee rifles to replace many of their outdated flintlocks and shotguns, Waller’s men also recovered piles of booty the federals had stolen during a recent raid upon nearby plantations. “Books, pictures, household furniture, finger rings, breast pins, and other articles of feminine adornment and wear, attested [to] the catholic taste and temper of these patriots,” observed Taylor.

The enemy had in fact swept through Taylor’s home parish, St. Charles. His plantation, Fashion, left in the care of an overseer during his family absence, had suffered some of the worst desecration and looting. “It is one of the most splendid plantations that I ever saw,” wrote a Vermont private in a letter . . . “I wish you could have seen the soldiers plunder this plantation.” Not only did they confiscate all of the stock animals, but they also forced Taylor’s slaves to help them ransack the house and barns.

The spoils included “hundreds of bottles of wine, eggs, preserved figs and peaches, turkeys, chickens, and honey in any quantity . . . the camp is loaded down with plunder – all kinds of clothing, rings, watches, guns, pistols, swords, and some of General [Zachary] Taylor’s old hats, coats, belt-swords — and, in fact, every old relic he had worn is worn about the camp . . . nothing is respected.”

Robert Butler . . . [one of the Des Allemands militiamen described the aftermath of federal destruction]: “It was one continual scene of desolation and sadness – nearly every place on the route had been despoiled and plundered – even to the huts of the poorest creoles.”

When they reached Fashion . . . “it was a complete wreck, the furniture smashed, the walls torn down, pictures cut out of their frames, while . . . scattered over the floor, lay the correspondence and official documents of the old General while President of the U.S. – the barbarians had respected nothing but the portrait of General [Winfield] Scott upstairs.”

(Richard Taylor, Soldier Prince of Dixie, T. Michael Parrish, UNC Press, 1992, excerpts pp. 252-255)

The War to Resist Centralization

Lincoln, in his war of 1861-1865, was victorious where King George III had failed in his attempt to prevent the political independence of the thirteen American colonies. It was not just the South that was subjugated by 1865, but the North as well with most State governments securely under Radical Republican control. No longer was the consent of the governed in the national conscience – the threat of invasion, violence and conquest of recalcitrant States replaced it.

The War to Resist Centralization

“If centralism is ultimately to prevail, if our entire system of free institutions as established by our common ancestors is to be subverted, and an Empire to be established in their stead; if that is to be the last scene of the tragic drama now being enacted: then, be assured, that we of the South will be acquitted, not only in our own consciences, but in the judgment of mankind of all responsibility for so terrible a catastrophe, and from all guilt of so great a crime against humanity.” Alexander H. Stephens

If the Civil War had merely been a power struggle between the Northern and Southern States, with the winning of the war leaving the Northern States with political power over the Southern States, the likely long-term effects would have inflicted much less damage to all the States.

No, this was a war between the Southern States and the federal government in Washington. It was a war to resist the centralization of economic, cultural, political, and military power. It was a war to uphold the most revolutionary principle ever asserted by man. That principle, the “consent of the governed,” was the basis upon which the Thirteen Colonies seceded from England.

As expressed by Jefferson [in the Declaration of Independence] and unanimously adopted by the Founding Fathers, the sole purpose of government is to secure the right of its citizens – nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. The concept of consent of the governed is the ultimate revolution, which throws off the shackles of tyranny from whichever direction it comes on the political spectrum.

The Lincoln scholars attribute the freeing of the slaves and the preserving of the Union to the federal government’s winning of the war, as if no other course of events could possibly have accomplished the same result. Their belief system about history is quite nearly predestination . . . [that] war was the only way slavery could have ended. Finally, since the war was inevitable [between North and South], the federal government is absolved from all violence, carnage and crimes against the States, the Constitution and civilians.

The idea that the Civil War was fought to “preserve” the Union is one of the most ridiculous ideas foisted on history. The only thing preserved was the federal government’s authority over the Southern [and Northern] States. Lincoln certainly fought to keep the Southern States under Union control as conquered provinces, not States.”

(Lincoln Uber Alles: Dictatorship Comes to America, John Avery Emison, Pelican Publishing Company, 2009, excerpts pp. 255-257; 259)

Immigrants, Riots and Cannon Fodder

For five bloody days in mid-July 1863, armed mobs of draft resisters, mostly immigrants, fought on New York City streets against enforcement of Lincoln’s conscription law – what began as a simple demonstration on July 13 devolved into wholesale destruction of property and life – 120 black people were killed and many fled the city in fear of their lives. This carnage was the result of Lincoln’s insatiable need for troops, as volunteers were coming to the end of their enlistments, horrifying news came from the front, and the State drafts of 1862 met with widespread evasion. Also unpopular was Lincoln’s new war aim of freeing slaves. 

To combat the rioters, nearly ten thousand Northern troops and artillery units were brought in from Gettysburg to patrol the streets.

Immigrants, Riots and Cannon Fodder

“[The] film [Gangs of New York] gives a glimpse of the rather nasty nativism among Northerners, a great many of whom hated Catholics and immigrants as much or more than they hated Southerners. None of the above fit into the Yankee ideal of true Americanism. Nativist gangs burnt down convents in Philadelphia and Boston when such things were never dreamt of in the South.

The film can open the door to another dirty little secret. We have heard a lot about immigrant criminal gangs. The fact that vigilante law prevailed over much of the North during the War has been conveniently forgotten. Besides the thousands of his critics Lincoln jailed without due process, thousands more were killed, injured, intimidated, and run out of town by proto-fascist gangs of Republican bully boys called “Wide Awakes.” They played a major role in making sure Northern elections turned out right, i.e., Republicans won.

The “riots” did not start out as race pogroms, though they degenerated into that. They started out as organized civic resistance to the draft, encouraged by the Democratic State government. Everyone knew that the Lincolnites enforced the draft at a much higher rate in areas that opposed them than they did in friendly areas – according to forthcoming studies by the New York playwright and historian John Chodes, the draft was imposed at four times the rate for Massachusetts. And the conscripts were well aware that they stood a good chance of being used up as cannon-fodder by Republicans who knew if they lost four men for every Southerner killed they would still end up on top, as long as the immigrant flow kept up.

About a fourth of the total enrollment of Lincoln’s armies were immigrants, many of whom were brought over and paid bounties for enlisting. The situation was so bad that the Pope sent one of his most persuasive priestly orators to Ireland to warn the people about being used up for Union cannon fodder.

Perhaps we can begin to recognize the historical fact that millions of Northern citizens did not willingly go along with Lincoln’s War. And the opponents were not limited to the New York City draft rioters.

The truth is that Lincoln’s party did not save the Union and the Constitution. It was a Jacobin party that seized power and revolutionized the North as well as conquering the South. The Gangs of New York can perhaps open a window that will encourage further historical discovery along these lines.”

(Scorcese’s Gangs of New York; Defending Dixie: Essays in Southern History and Culture, Clyde N. Wilson, Foundation for American Education, 2006, excerpts pp. 220-221)

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