Browsing "Lincoln’s Revolutionary Legacy"

Republican Political Bosses and Layers of Graft

Accidental presidents like Chester Alan Arthur were the result of the war, the marriage of government and big business, the predictable Gilded Age, and rampant political corruption in the North. Conservative Southern statesmen in prewar Congresses were an impediment to the Republican revolutionaries bent on power.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Republican Political Bosses and Layers of Graft

“Chester [Alan] Arthur was an accidental president at an inopportune time, but he is part of the tapestry of who we are more than most ever have been or most of us will ever be. He was president in an un-ideological era. The Senate would shortly be dubbed the “Millionaires’ Club,” and the House of Representatives was an unruly place of loose coalitions and influence trading.   State and local politics were controlled by party machines that prized loyalty. Politicians genuflected to the concept of the public good, and they occasionally spoke of public service. But they didn’t seem to hold either very dear.

The politicians of the Gilded Age, perhaps mirroring the mood of the public, turned away from troubling intractable like freedom, democracy, equality, and attended instead to order, stability and prosperity.

Though the Republican party continued to “wave the bloody shirt” at each presidential convention, hoping to dredge up Civil War passions and eke out an advantage against the better-organized though less popular Democrats, that yielded diminishing returns. In a Gilded Age version of what-have-you-done-for-me-lately, the voting public demanded more than nostalgia for the glorious battles of Gettysburg and Antietam.

Cities were kept together by political machines, which were tight-knit organizations that corralled votes, collected a percentage of profits, and kept the peace. The machine was epitomized by Tammany Hall in New York City and its majordomo, William Marcy Tweed, a Democrat boos surrounded by a sea of Republicans. More than any mayor, “Boss” Tweed ran New York.

His men greeted immigrants as they stepped ashore in lower Manhattan, offered them money and liquor, found them work, and in return demanded their allegiance and a tithe. Supported by Irish Catholics, who made up nearly a quarter of New York’s population, Tweed held multiple offices, controlled lucrative public works projects (including early plans for Central Park), chose aldermen, and herded voters to the polls, where they drunkenly anointed the Boss’s candidates.

Tweed was gone by 1872, forced out and prosecuted, but the system kept going. Every [Northern] city had its machine, and counties did as well. National politics was simply the apex of the pyramid that rested on local bosses and layers of graft.”

(Chester Alan Arthur, Zachary Karabell, Henry holt and Company, 2004, pp. 5-6)

Lincoln's Party of White Supremacy

The freedmen did not receive the franchise because of their political maturity and judgment as the clear intent was to simply keep the Republican party in power. The Republican party’s Union League organization taught the Southern black man to hate his white neighbor, and to vote for Northern men whose own States had initiated Jim Crow laws. An excellent source for Northern antebellum racial views is “North of Slavery: The Negro in the Free States, 1790-1860,” Leon Litwack, Chicago, 1961.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Lincoln’s Party of White Supremacy

“The Republican leaders were quite aware in 1865 that the issue of Negro status and rights was closely connected with the two other great issues of Reconstruction – who should reconstruct the South and who should govern the country. They were increasingly conscious that in order to reconstruct the South along the lines they planned they would require the support and the votes of the freedmen.

And it was apparent to some that once the reconstructed States were restored to the Union the Republicans would need the votes of the freedmen to retain control over the national government. While they could agree on this much, they were far from agreeing on the status, the rights, the equality, or the future of the Negro.

The fact was that the constituency on which the Republican congressmen relied in the North lived in a race-conscious, segregated society devoted to the doctrine on white supremacy and Negro inferiority.

“In virtually every phase of existence,” writes Leon Litwack with regard to the North in 1860, “Negroes found themselves systematically separated from whites. They were either excluded from railway cars, omnibuses, stagecoaches, and steamboats and assigned to special “Jim Crow” sections; they sat, when permitted, in secluded and remote corners of theaters and lecture halls; they could not enter most hotels, restaurants and resorts, except as servants; they prayed in “Negro pews” in the white churches . . . Moreover, they were often educated in segregated schools, punished in segregated prisons, nursed in segregated hospitals, and buried in segregated cemeteries.”

Ninety-three per cent of the 225,000 Northern Negroes in 1860 lived in States that denied them the ballot, and 7 per cent lived in the five New England States that permitted them to vote. Ohio and New York had discriminatory qualifications that practically eliminated Negro voting.

Ohio denied them poor relief, and most States of the old Northwest had laws carrying penalties against Negroes settling in those States. Everywhere in the free States the Negro met with barriers to job opportunities, and in most places he encountered severe limitations to the protection of his life, liberty and property.

[Many Republican leaders], like Senator Lyman Trumbull of Illinois, the close friend of Lincoln, found no difficulty in reconciling antislavery with anti-Negro views. “We, the Republican party,” said Senator Trumbull in 1858,” are the white man’s party. We are for free white men, and for making white labor respectable and honorable, which it can never be when negro slave labor is brought into competition with it.” [And] William H. Seward, who in 1860 described the American Negro as “a foreign and feeble element like the Indians, incapable of assimilation”; [and], Senator Henry Wilson of Massachusetts, who firmly disavowed any belief “in the mental or intellectual equality of the African race with this proud and domineering race of ours.”

(Seeds of Failure in Radical Race Policy, C. Vann Woodward, New Frontiers of the American Reconstruction, Harold M. Hyman, editor, pp. 125-12”

 

American Democrats and the CPUSA Platform

Confronted with a Democratic party platform nearly identical to theirs, the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) in early 1944 formally dissolved as a political party and perennial CPUSA presidential candidate Earl Browder announced his support of President Roosevelt for a fourth term. Browder’s vice-presidential running mate in 1936 and 1940 was James W. Ford, the first black man on a presidential ticket.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

American Democrats and the CPUSA Platform

“[The] historic Democratic party is no more, that it has been transformed into a labor party so completely that there is nothing left of it but the name. The process by which [the] transformation . . . was brought about had its beginnings during the period of “crisis government” established by Franklin D. Roosevelt and his “brain trust” in 1933. Measures having far-reaching application and effect were drafted by the President’s “advisors” and were jammed through Congress, frequently without most of the members having an opportunity to read them.

Mr. Roosevelt had been elected in 1932 by an electoral majority of eight to one . . . In such circumstances, Congress practically abdicated. It became literally a “rubber stamp” Congress. And Republican Senators and Representatives, with the majority of their constituents supporting President Roosevelt, were careful not to show too much opposition to measures which he favored. That’s why is was so easy to junk the Democratic platform of 1932 and to enact so many measures that violated the most fundamental principles of the historic Democratic party without protest from Southern Democrats, and even with their support.

One sequence [of the transformation] began during the period from 1935 to 1937, or at the very height of what Eugene Lyons has called “The Red Decade,” when it was fashionable in certain circles in New York, Los Angeles and Washington to glorify all things Russian and to affect a “revolutionary” attitude toward all existing institutions in the United States. It was a time when literally dozens of organizations with high-sounding names were set up in this country by the Communists to attract innocent “fellow travelers” and when The Daily Worker undertook to popularize the slogan “Communism is the Americanism of the Twentieth Century.”

In February, 1935, Joseph Stalin announced that the Russian Constitution would be democratized; in June, 1936, the first draft of the new Soviet Constitution was completed and published, [and adopted December 5, 1936]. It was promptly translated into English and by February, 1937, copies of it in the form of a five-cent pamphlet were available throughout this country. It immediately became the leading topic of discussion among the so-called “liberals” in the United States.

[The] Soviet Bill of Rights . . . guarantees every citizen a job . . . the right to material security in old age and also in case of illness and loss of capacity to toil . . . [and] “The equal rights of citizens of the USSR, independent of their nationality and race, in all fields of economic, state, cultural and public-political life is unalterable law. Any direct or indirect limitation of rights, or conversely, any establishment of direct or indirect preferences of citizens dependent on their racial and national membership, as well as all preaching of national exclusiveness, or hate and contempt, is punishable by law.”

[In late January, 1944] President Roosevelt revealed that the [New Deal] was being replaced by a streamlined post-war program. Here is what President Roosevelt said:

“As our nation had grown in size and stature, however – as our industrial economy expanded – [our previous life and liberty] political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness. We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident.

We have accepted, so to speak, a second bill of rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all – regardless of station, race or creed. Among these are: The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or mines of the nation; The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation; The right of every business man, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad; The right of every family to a decent home; The right of adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health; The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident and unemployment; The right to a good education.”

The striking resemblance which this whole passage bears to the . . . Soviet Bill of Rights need not be dwelt upon.

In his message to Congress on September 6, 1945, President Truman said: “The objectives for our domestic economy which we seek in long-range plans were summarized by the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt over a year and a half ago in the form of an Economic Bill of rights. Let us make the attainment of those rights the essence of post-war American economic life.”

Notably, he issued a “salute to labor” on Labor Day, 1946, and more recently on June 28, 1947 . . . he discussed the subject in an address to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People at Lincoln Memorial in Washington. In his “salute to labor,” President Truman said:

“Labor, perhaps more than any other group, has consistently supported [FDR’s] “Economic Bill of Rights.” We must now move forward to full achievement of these objectives: useful and remunerative jobs for all; income high enough to provide adequate food, clothing and recreation; freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopoly; adequate health protection; more effective social security measures, and educational opportunities for all.”

In his more recent address to the [NAACP], by coupling these “economic” rights with other civil rights, he stated clearly . . . that it is the responsibility of the federal government to guarantee and to enforce these new rights. “The extension of civil rights today means not protection of the people AGAINST the government, but protection of the people BY the government.”

(The South’s Political Plight, Peter Molyneaux, Calhoun Clubs of the South, Inc., 1948, pp. 56-57, 67-70, 75-77, 81-84,)