Browsing "Lincoln’s Revolutionary Legacy"

Northern Prosperity at the South’s Expense

By 1860, the immigrant floods which spread westward in the 1840s and 1850s had changed the United States into two distinct cultures and political views. The South maintained its ties to the 1776 generation and its republican political character; the North had become a conglomerate of immigrant ethnic groups controlled by machine politicians eager for power and beholden to industrialists eager for cheap labor. Immigrant voters, wholly unfamiliar with American political concepts and traditions, were easily led by demagogues and money.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Northern Prosperity at the South’s Expense

“The festering corruptions of the post-war period sprang up in every part of America and in almost every department of national life. Other loose and scandalous times – in [James] Buchanan’s day, in [Mark] Hanna’s, in [Warren] Harding’s – have been repellent enough; but the Grant era stands unique in the comprehensiveness of its rascality.

The cities, half of which had their counterparts in [New York’s Boss] Tweed; the legislatures, with their rings, lobbyists and bribe-takers; the South, prey of unscrupulous Carpetbaggers and Scalawags; the West, sacked by railway and mining corporations; Congress with its Credit Moblier’ [scandal], its salary-grab, its tools pf predatory business; the executive departments, honeycombed with thievery; private finance and trade, with greedy figures like Jay Cooke and Collis P. Huntington honored and typical – everywhere the scene was the same. Why?

The war explained much: its terrible strain upon all Ten Commandments; the moral exhaustion it produced; the waste and jobbery which it bred; its creation of vast new Federal responsibilities. Washington became an irresistible lodestone for crooked men.

The fecund war contracts, the tariffs, the subsidies, and [enlistment] bounties, huge appropriations for speculators and [pension] claim-agents, the opportunities for theft in both collecting and spending the swollen Federal revenues, drew them as honey draws flies.

The South was ruined, and the fine principles and traditions of its aristocracy were engulfed. The industrial revolution in the North wrought the roughest, most aggressive business elements to the front. As the West was settled with amazing rapidity, a more extensive and influential frontier than ever before gave manners a cruder cast.

Cities were filling up with immigrant communities, subservient to machine politicians. Everywhere tested standards, restraints of public opinion, the cake of custom, were broken down. Co0nditions of the day produced a new and flashier political leadership. They brought demagogues and pushing brigadiers into office; generals like Ben Butler and “Black Jack” Logan, vote getters like Oliver P. Morton and Zach Chandler, speculators like Oakes Ames.

But one fact must be emphasized. Contemporaneous with this corruption, geared to it as a motor is geared to the conglomerate machinery of a factory, was the tremendous industrial boom which followed the war. For eight years Northern business rollicked amid a flush prosperity.

With money easy, with fortunes rising on every hand, with the temptation to speculate irresistible, the whole tendency of American life conduced to greed.”

(Hamilton Fish, the Inner History of the Grant Administration, Allan Nevins, Dodd, Mead & Company, 1937, excerpts pp. 638-639)

Postwar Despair and Flight

It is estimated that as many as 20,000 Southerners emigrated to Brazil after 1865 to avoid the oppressive Northern domination of their homeland. They carried their antebellum cultural traditions with them, and notably, an anthropological study of the effects of television on Brazilians (Prime time Society, Kottak, 1990), found that the American “Confederados” tradition of literacy and reading created a hostility toward television.” Another reference (Diplomatic Relations Between the US and Brazil, Hill, 1932), raised the question as to why these Southerners moved “to a nation that had large numbers of black freedmen of full citizenship if one of their reasons for flight was repugnance at abolition in the South.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Postwar Despair and Flight

“Returning soldiers and war refugees expected to find their houses burned, family and friends missing, property stolen or confiscated, and plantations destroyed. One Southerner expressed his reservations about going back in this way: “It will be a sad homecoming, without a home to go to. The family circle is broken by the death of our boys, and many dear old friends will be missing. Then we are uncertain as to whether we shall be able to save enough from the wreck of our fortune to enable us to live in a very modest way.”

Describing South Carolina, J.S. Pike wrote:

“The banks were ruined. The railroads were destroyed. Their few manufacturies were desolated. Their vessels had been swept from the seas and rivers. The livestock was consumed. Notes, bonds, mortgages, all the money in circulation, debts, became alike worthless. The community were without clothes and without food . . . vast estates had crumbled like paper in a fire. While the shape was not wholly destroyed, the substance had turned to ashes. Never was there greater nakedness and desolation in a civilized community.”

Given the situation in the South at the end of the war, it is not surprising that many desired to leave and go elsewhere. The largest number relocated within the United States . . . But as many at 10,000 went into exile in foreign lands – most often to Latin America.

They despaired of the South’s ability to control its own destiny; they feared imprisonment and reprisals; and they hated the Yankees.

Premonitions of reconstruction horrors were common. Northern merchants and speculators moved into the Southern States after the war, taking away economic opportunities from Southerners.

“[On one postwar voyage to Brazil, our] . . . Captain was an Americanized Spaniard. We learned afterward that he had been bribed by the Yankees to wreck the vessel somewhere on the coast, and that is why he never sailed out to sea. Soon after the storm began, he tied up the helm and retired to his cabin leaving the whole crowd to the mercy of the waves and storm.”

(The Confederados: Old South Immigrants in Brazil, Cyrus B. & James M. Dawsey, editors, University of Alabama Press, 1995, excerpts pp. 13-14; 29)

“Casus Belli”

As the majority of the South, and Northern men trained at West Point in the years prior to the war, were educated to believe withdrawing from the Union was a proper remedy to which a State might peaceably resort to if its people determined in was in their best interest to do so. The war’s result determined that secession was not improper as a redress, but that superior military power could conquer and subjugate any State or States who resort to such obvious constitutional measures for redress. Excerpts from a mid-August 1879 address regarding secession by General J.R. Chalmers follows.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

“Casus Belli”

“All we ask is an impartial statement in history of our cause, as we understood it; and it devolves on the survivors of the struggle to correct whatever we believe to be erroneous statements in regard to it, whenever and wherever they are made.

“The right to judge of infractions of the Constitution and the mode and measure of redress,” were no new questions in our politics. They were discussed in the conventions which formed the Constitution, and subsequently whenever the General Government was supposed, by usurpation of power, to infringe on rights reserved to the people of the States united.

Massachusetts threatened secession in the War of 1812, when her commerce was crippled; South Carolina threatened nullification in 1832, when a high protective tariff discriminated heavily against her interest.

Every State of the North practiced nullification against the fugitive slave laws as fast as they came under the control of the Republican party.

Eleven States of the South attempted to practice secession when the General Government fell into the hands of the Republican party, whose leaders had denounced the Constitution as “a covenant with the devil,” and the Union as a “league with hell.”

No honorable man can read the last speech of Jefferson Davis, in the United States Senate, or the letters of Sidney Johnston and Robert E. Lee, when about to resign their commissions in the United States army, and say that the Confederate leaders left the Union “from choice or on light occasion.”

They loved the Union formed of States united by the Constitution; they feared a Union consolidated in the hands of men who denounced the Constitution.

Mr. Lincoln and two-thirds of his party in Congress then denied any purpose to destroy slavery, but every Republican leader now shamelessly boast that this was the great object of the war.

The very fact that there was a war growing out of a question of constitutional rights, should be a source of pride, as evidence that no large body of our people will ignobly submit to what they believe to be a violation of their rights.”

(Forrest and his Campaigns, Gen. J.R. Chalmers, Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume VII, Broadfoot Publishing, 1990, excerpts pp. 451-452)

The Republicans Bloody Shirt

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

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Republicans Bloody Shirt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Constitution Inadequate to the Conduct of the War

As General Samuel G. French suggests below, presidential expedients not found in the United States Constitution were invented for initiating war against the South, and for the prosecution of that war. French believed that the New England-armed men in Kansas were responsible for firing the first shot of the war; others have postulated that the war began when the Star of the West left its New York moorings in early January 1861, carrying armed men below decks to South Carolina – when Fort Sumter’s guns were turned against the Americans it was built to protect.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

A Constitution Inadequate to the Conduct of the War

“Sherman — the fell destroyer — had burned the city of Jackson, Mississippi, and the ruins reminded me of Pompeii. In walking one of the streets I passed a canvas shanty, from which I was hailed by an Israelite with “Good morning General; come in.” He had been in the army and knew me; he had some goods and groceries for sale. When I was leaving, he asked: “General, cant I do something for you? Here are fifty dollars, just take them; maybe you can pay me back sometime.”

I thought the angel of mercy was smiling down on us . . . I thanked him kindly, and the day came when I had the pleasure of repaying the debt. The servants I had in Columbus had been nominally “confiscated” and set free; so they came to me, almost daily, begging me to take them back to the plantation in Mississippi. As I was not able to do this, I applied to some “bureau,” that had charge of the “refugees,” for transportation of these Negroes, and to my surprise it was granted. As soon as possible they were put on the cars and started for the plantation.

When we reached home we found most of the old servants there awaiting our arrival. To feed and clothe about a hundred of these people, and to plant a crop of cotton in the spring, clothing, provisions, mules, wagons, implements, harness, etc., had to be procured. To obtain funds to purchase the articles enumerated — to commence again — I went to Philadelphia and New York (by special permission of the government) in November.

. . . War is the most uncertain of all undertakings of a nation, and, like the tempest, cannot be controlled, and seldom or never ends as predicted. The North proclaimed that this “little rebellion” would end in sixty days!

It lasted four years, and ended as no one had foreseen. It had to suppress rebellions caused by people who entertained Southern opinions in New York, Chicago, Cincinnati and other cities; muzzle the press, prohibit free speech, banish prominent individuals, arrest men without warrant, and imprison them without charges made known to them; and violated nearly every resolution and pledge made in the beginning relating to the South; they cast aside constitutional law, and substituted martial law, under which the South became a scene of desolation and starvation.

My own opinion is that the first gun was fired, at the instigation of a number of prominent men North, by John Brown at Harper’s Ferry, and for which he was apotheosized and numbered among the saints.

Mr. Lincoln said: “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. Our case is new. We must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save the country.”

These words indicate that the powers of the Constitution were inadequate to the conduct of the war, and henceforth the war must be conducted as occasion deemed expedient. In other words, the executive must be declared greater than the power that made it, or the creature greater than the Creator, and with dictatorial methods the war was conducted. Avaunt, Constitution, avaunt! We are fighting for the Union, for dominion over the Southern territory again, and so the Constitution was folded up, etc.”

(Two Wars, Samuel G. French, Confederate Veteran Press, 1901, excerpts, pp. 320-327)

 

The South and Northern Finance Imperialism

One of the outcomes of the devastation and destruction was a need for Southern men to find employment and rebuild their impoverished section, and this most often meant working under the direction of the conqueror. Though Lee refused “to accept a sinecure from a Northern business concern,” many former Confederate officers became the agents or attorneys of the invading capitalists and “took action that had all the earmarks of scalawagism”, in the words of the author below.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The South and Northern Finance Imperialism

“One of the prices the South pays for its progressive industrialization is increasing servitude to Northern capital. New York has grown into the most autocratic city-state of modern times, with the Southern province of the United States as one of its important colonies.

The great financial houses of that and kindred cities control most of the region’s strategic industries, having sent out a second and third generation of carpetbaggers to found factories or to purchase those already existing. The Southern industries owned and controlled by outsiders include the region’s railroads, its coal fields, its iron reserves, its electric power, and its gas, Sulphur, and oil sources.

The existence of Northern patent monopolies and the absence of local machine manufacturing permit outside direction even of industries locally owned. The South manufactures its own cast-iron pipes, steel rails and bridges, and oils, but not its hardware, locomotives, automobiles, clocks, radios, dynamos, drugs, and many other finished products requiring the highest skill to produce and bringing in the highest profits.

Retail profits are siphoned out of the section by Northern-owned chain stores. The Southern businessman usually is a mere factor or agent of Northern principals, who control both production and distribution. His function is to sell [Northern articles] endeared to the Southern public through advertising. Some of these articles are as worthless as the wooden nutmegs the Yankee peddler is said to have imposed upon the public in ante-bellum times.

In 1937, economist David Coyle estimated that the South was paying out a billion dollars annually in excess of its income. It balanced its credit by selling property to investors from other sections of the country, by borrowing, by going bankrupt, and by destroying forests and lands to secure immediate incomes.

The possibility of the South revolting against its debtor status, in the manner of the Revolutionary planters against their British creditors, is ruled out by the outcome of the Civil War. That Southern leaders are able to reconcile the sons and grandsons of those who followed Robert E. Lee and William Jennings Bryan to the economic domination of the North caused Benjamin Kendrick to cry out bitterly in 1942:

“We are confronted by a paradox more amazing and ironical than any ever conjured by the imagination of Gilbert and Sullivan. The people of the South, who all their lives have suffered deprivation, want, and humiliation from an outside finance imperialism, followed with hardly a murmur of protest, leaders who, if indirectly, were nonetheless agents and attorneys of the imperialists.” What was true in 1942 is truer thirty years later.”

(The Everlasting South, Francis Butler Simkins, LSU Press, 1963, excerpt pp. 55-57)

The British Version of Sherman

With respect to the initiation of modern total war against a civilian population, the author below argues that after a century or two of civilized warfare between European combatants, “total war did in fact appear, beginning with the American Civil War, and has been the form of war in the twentieth century.” Lincoln’s general, Sherman, seems to have absorbed Allan Ramsey’s view of war against civilians, and was driven by his belief that Americans in the South could in no manner oppose the will of his government — to do so meant fire and sword used to bring them to subjection – after which his fury would cease. Sherman continued his total war against the Plains Indians; a young Spanish officer named Valeriano Weyler visited the North during the War, observed Sherman’s art of warfare, and used this to devastating effect against Cuban civilians in the mid-1890s.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The British Version of Sherman

“Although [David] Hume presented the specter of total war against the civilian population as a reduction to absurdity of British policy on both moral and practical grounds, his good friend Allan Ramsey embraced it as the only way to win the war. But what is most important about Ramsey’s proposal in the moral justification he offered for it.

Allan Ramsey was a court [portrait] painter to George III . . . [and] also a political theorist of some merit and wrote a number of pamphlets on political topics . . . [arguing in 1778] that the war is being lost because the British have not followed a proper strategy. The war must be turned against the civilian population.

Ramsey proposes that a garrison be established in New York . . . to serve as a rendezvous point for all British operations. Ten thousand troops are then to embark on transports to any province that is vulnerable and important . . . [and] to carry away all “that may be useful to the public service” and then “burn and destroy the houses, magazines, and plantations . . . sparing the lives of all the persons who do not attempt by arms to prevent them.” The troops are then to embark for some other province “where the like may be repeated.”

Washington’s army could not match the mobility of the British navy, and one could expect the colonial army to melt away as men returned to their devastated provinces to assist their families. Should the people remain obstinate, their scorched and impoverished land could be occupied by loyal immigrants.

Ramsey recognized that “such a scheme . . .” would be rejected as barbarous by “the more human, and more respectable part of the community.” But to this he had an ingenious reply.

[As] the American people claim to be sovereign; thus the people themselves are in a state of war with the King’s forces. “[The] inhabitants of America . . . with the express purpose of making war upon England, have formed themselves into a Government . . . where every man may be said, in his own individual person, to have bid defiance to the King of Great Britain; so that he must thank his own folly and temerity, if, at any time, he should come off short from so unequal a contest.”

We have here the germ of the twentieth-century rationale for total war: war aimed at the people of a nation, scorched-earth strategy, the bombing of civilian populations, massive deportations of peoples, and the enslavement of the vanquished.

Total war is not unique to the twentieth century, nor is it due to “technology,” which has merely made its implementation more practicable and terrible. Modern total war is possible only among “civilized” nations. It is shaped and legitimated by an act of reflection, a way of thinking about the world whereby an entire people become the enemy.

Happily the rules [of civilized warfare] were still in force for Lord North and George III, who did not follow Ramsay’s advice to wage total war against the colonists. The complete domination of reflection over moral sentiment, which is the mark of the barbarism of refinement, had not yet occurred.”

(Philosophical Melancholy and Delirium, Hume’s Pathology of Philosophy, Donald W. Livingston, University of Chicago Press, 1998, excerpts pp. 296-301)

Pillaging and Flattening American towns

Referring to his prewar employment and residence in Louisiana, the Macon [Georgia] Telegraph called the destructive Sherman “Judas Iscariot, a betrayer, a creature of depravity, a demon of a thousand fiends.” As for Sherman’s misunderstanding of treason, it is clearly defined in Article III, Section 3 of the United States Constitution as “levying War against them [the united States], or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” Sherman, by order of his commander, Lincoln, waged war against the united States.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Pillaging and Flattening American Towns

“Officially, Sherman’s orders to his officers were against capricious violence and destruction on his army’s sweep through South Carolina. But the true desires of their leader filtered back to Sherman’s men as they slogged through the swamps under the dripping moss of the live oaks in South Carolina Low Country. Sherman issued few, if any, restraining orders to the troops.

South Carolina is where treason began, and there, Sherman swore, was where it would end. And so, to Sherman’s implied commands, the troops responded with a greater vengeance than they had in Georgia.

Villages in Sherman’s path through the Low Country were virtually obliterated: Hardeeville, Purysburg, Robertville, Lawtonville, Allendale. At least one brigade – often two or more a day – marched through, pillaging and flattening the towns and the lands between mid-January and early February 1865.

The forces commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Edward S. Solomon of the 82nd Illinois Infantry of Operations seem to have been particularly effective in razing the hometowns of the Willingham and Lawton families.

In a postscript to a report that Colonel H. Case of the 129th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, First Brigade, Third Division, Twentieth Corps, had made . . . reported that a forage party near Camden “has captured at last a portion of the assets of the Bank of South Carolina and the Bank of Camden and also a quantity of jewelry and silver plate” and that “the safes were delivered to the Provost Marshal of the Twentieth Corps.”

Shortly after Lee’s surrender, a correspondent of the New York Times wrote, “I hazard nothing in saying that three-fifths [in value] of the personal property we passed through were taken by Sherman’s Army.”

(Kith and Kin, a Portrait of a Southern Family, Carolyn L. Harrell, Mercer University Press, 1984, excerpts pp. 135-138)

 

Questions Solved Only by War

Sherman was unable to understand that the South was fighting a defensive war to maintain its independence, and had no desire to alter the governance of the Northern States. Sherman wrote the following in late 1863 to his superior, noting that he saw no need for civil compromises to soften the war against the women and children in his path, and that “the South has done her worst [in its struggle for independence], and now is the time for us to pile on blows thick and fast.” Sherman could not see the humanity suffering in his midst, only faceless enemies obstructing his employer’s will.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Questions Only Solved by War

“For such a people, [Sherman wrote], “a civil government now . . . would be simply ridiculous.” The interests of the United States “demand the continuance of the simple military rule after all the organized armies of the South are dispersed, conquered and subjugated.” The only real issue, he wrote, was, “Can we whip the South?”

[Sherman continued] “Another great and important natural truth is still in contest, and can only be solved by war. Numerical majorities by vote have always been our great arbiter. The South, though numerically inferior, contend they can whip the Northern superiority of numbers, and therefore by natural law contend that they are not bound to submit.

This issue is the only real one . . . War alone can decide it.

I would banish all minor questions, assert the broad doctrine that a nation has the right, and also the physical power to penetrate every part of our national domain, and that we will do it – that we will do in our own time and in our own way . . . that we will remove and destroy every obstacle, if need be, take every life, every acre of land . . . that we will not cease till this end is attained . . . I would not coax them or even meet them halfway but make them so sick of war that generations would pass away before they would again appeal to it . . .”

(Sherman, Fighting Prophet, Lloyd Lewis, Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1932, excerpts pp. 307-308)

Preaching Racial Hatred in the South

Descending upon the prostrate South were the “Carpetbaggers” – Northern adventurers settling in the South and bent upon aiding the Republican Party through organizing the freedmen politically. Many were “astute demagogues who through vague speeches and tricks of mass organization won the confidence of the naïve Negro.” Northern newspaperman Horace Greeley described them as “stealing and plundering, many of them with both arms around Negroes, and their hands in their rear pockets, seeing if they cannot pick a paltry dollar out of them.” The infamous Union League was the destructive instrument of the Republican Party which drove a political wedge between Southern blacks and whites.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Preaching Racial Hatred in the South

“Scalawags were Southerners willing to espouse Republicanism for reasons of opportunism. When the pro-Negro policies of the carpetbaggers caused the scalawags to desert Republicanism, Northern leaders, conscious of the power of numbers, to an ever greater degree relied upon pure Negro support.

The principal agency of the carpetbaggers was the Union or Loyal League. Initially it was composed almost entirely of white unionists with patriotic rather than political aims. As the [radical] plans of Congress unfolded in 1867, its main purpose became the organization of Negro voters [as Republicans]. In every Southern community trusting Negroes were organized into secret lodges of the order which indulged in mummery and high-sounding platitudes. In its heyday the Union League was said to have more than 200,000 members.

Ceremony, talk about freedom and equal rights, sententious references to the Declaration of Independence, accompanied by the clanging of chains, the burning of weird lights, and prayers and songs – all had their compelling effect upon the Negroes’ emotions and thoughts. They were repeatedly reminded that their interests were eternally at war with those of Southern whites, and that their freedom demanded the continued supremacy of the Republican party.

As a consequence of these teachings, the Union League “voted the Negroes like “herds of senseless cattle.” One member described it as the ‘place we learn the law.” When asked why he voted Republican, another member replied “I can’t read, and I can’t write . . . We go by instructions. We don’t’ know nothing much.”

During the presidential campaign of 1868, the Union League of North Carolina declared that if Grant were not elected, the Negroes would be remanded to slavery; if elected, they would have farms, mules, and hold public office.

One fact is of fundamental importance in understanding the course of radical Reconstruction: the Negroes were aroused to political consciousness not of their own accord but by outside forces. This revolution in Southern behavior, unlike the more lasting political revolutions of history, was not a reflection of accomplishments in other fields.

Attainment of political equality by the Negroes, in other words, was not attended by social and economic gains, possibly not even signifying a general demand for these advantages.

Such a lack of support not only meant that the radical political experiment could be destroyed almost as easily as it was created, but that participation of the Negro in politics would be erratic and irresponsible. Even if it had not been that way, it would have been so regarded, because the Negroes did not preface their attempt to win political equality with the attainment of respect in other fields of social endeavor.”

(A History of the South, Francis Butler Simkins, Alfred A. Knopf, 1953, excerpts, pp. 272-273)

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