Browsing "Lost Cultures"

Southern Academies and the Spirit of Christianity

Moses Waddel’s school at Lillington, South Carolina “was a simple frontier academy of the period which taught grammar, syntax, antiques of Greece and Rome, geography of the ancients, Greek and Latin. Waddel’s graduates included many governors and future statesmen to include John C. Calhoun, William H. Crawford, Hugh S. Legare, A.B. Longstreet, James L. Petigru, George Crawford, Preston Brooks, Thomas W. Cobb, Pierce M. Butler, and George R. Gilmer. It was later said of Waddel’s reason for taking the presidency of the University of Georgia was first to “raise the University and give it a respectability and usefulness in the State; and second, to communicate to public education the spirit of Christianity.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Southern Academies and the Spirit of Christianity

“In an article printed in the Atlantic Monthly, November, 1929, Count Hermann Keyserling expressed the belief that the South is the only section of America where a real culture can be produced. Only in this region have complete individuals lived. Here and only here can a uniqueness, an individuality which leads to a development of complete souls, flourish.

Writing in a similar vein John Crowe Ransom, a Nashville poet, says, “The South is unique on this continent for having founded and defended a culture which was according to European principles of culture; and the European principles had better look to the South if they are to be perpetuated in this country.”

The same point of view characterizes a symposium entitled “I’ll Take My Stand, by Twelve Southerners,” which has lately been published by Harpers. In the field of education these thinkers criticize our public schools, and desire a return to the ante-bellum system of formal training. Indeed, a great glorification of the academy, which was the most characteristic school of the pre-war South, is presented. With the lapse of the educational system of the Colonial Period . . .

“the South found a means of transmitting to its own people the essential of a good classical education, by the growth of an institution that never, to the same degree, affected the North. This institution was the academy. It was by its means and operation that the older Southern life and culture became what it was, and remained until the catastrophe of 1861-5 . . . The academies solved the problem of the gap between the mere acquisition of mere knowledge and the “acquisition of power for independent work” by putting the pupils into direct contact, not with undisputed masses of information and up-to-date apparatus, but with such teachers as could be found.

Their object was to teach nothing that the teacher himself had not mastered, and could not convey to his pupils. Their training was therefore classical and humanistic, rather than scientific and technical – as most of the available teachers were products of the older European and American schools.”

In America the academy was a “product of the frontier period of national development and the laisse faire theory of government.” Frequently it was motivated by “denominational interest and sectarian pride.” In the South the academies were of two types, the modest local institution which was sometimes called the “old field school,” and the more pretentious, more permanent school with a wider patronage. While fees were commonly charged, the academies were democratic in character, and usually the idea of individual development was dominant. Generally speaking the schools served the educational needs of the entire community.”

(Moses Waddel and the Lillington Academy, Ralph M. Lyon, North Carolina Historical Review, Volume VIII, Number 1, January, 1931, pp. 284-285)

 

America’s Conservative Catastrophe

Ambrose Bierce defined “Conservative” in his Devil’s Dictionary as “A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others . . .” Italian’s of the medieval period gave the title of “conservator” to guardians of the law; English justices of the peace originally “were styled custodus pacis – conservators of the peace.” In the modern sense, the word implies the principles of thought and action which opposed the radicalism and political innovation of the French Revolution.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

America’s Conservative Catastrophe

“[A Tory] party in the old English sense scarcely existed in [British] America. Political debates usually occurred between two factions of Whigs, both attached to the Whig idea of liberty, but differing as to means and the relationship with the Crown. The triumph of the Patriots in the Revolution expelled from the Thirteen Colonies what little Toryism existed there, and along with it many of the moderate Whigs.

For all that, recent scholarship inclines toward the view that the American Revolution was no revolution truly, but simply a War of Independence – a revolution (in Burke’s phrase concerning the Glorious Revolution of 1688) “not made, but prevented.”

The intellectual leaders of the Americans during the troubled period of Confederation, were men, most of them, of a conservative tendency – John Adams, Gouveneur Morris, John Jay, Hamilton. Even Jefferson . . . was no frantic innovator.

Most other Southern leaders, such as Pinckney or Mason, differed more about means than about the ends of society: their view of the state was conservative – viewed that is, from a twentieth century vantage point. Even some eminent radicals of the time, notably Patrick Henry, grew steadily more conservative as responsibility settled upon them.

And the Federalist Papers, written to obtain acceptance of the Constitution, reflect the conservative concepts of moderation, balance, order and prudence – together with those conservative guarantees of prescriptive usage, arrangement of political checks, restrictions upon power, protection of private property, and restraints upon popular [democratic] impulses.

During the early years of the United States, the chief political contests many be regarded as long, acrimonious debate between two powerful conservative interests – the mercantile interests of the North, the agricultural interests of the South – confused by lesser issues and personalities.

The catastrophe of the Civil War dealt a grim blow to reflective conservatism, North or South. In the Gilded Age, little political principle of any kind could be distinguished. As the United States grew into the greatest power in the world . . . conservative concepts were discussed again . . . [though the] Great Depression and ascendancy of Franklin Roosevelt seemed to quash this renewal of conservative thought.

Until the first administration of Franklin Roosevelt, the term “liberal” had not been popular among American politicians; but Rooseveltian liberalism swept everything before it during the 1930s and 1940s. Not until the 1950s did there appear, or reappear, a strong body of conservative thought, expressed in books and periodical literature, to challenge the dominant liberalism . . .

[An] American conservative, at least as the term is employed popularly, is a person who believes strongly that the old pattern of American society ought not to be much altered. Typically, such a person holds by the Constitution, maintaining that it should be strictly interpreted; he endeavors to oppose the drift toward political centralization; he dislikes organizations on a grand scale, in government, in business and industry, in organized labor; he is a defender of private property; he resents the heavy increase of taxation and many of the “transfer payments” of the welfare state; he is unalterably opposed to the Communist ideology . . . and sighs, or perhaps shouts O tempora! O mores! at the decay of private and public morality.”

(The Essential Russell Kirk: Selected Essays; George A. Panichas, editor, ISI Books, 2007, excerpts, pp. 14-16)

The Blood of Young James Taylor

South Carolinian James Hunt Taylor’s great-grandfather fought heroically for independence in the Revolution; his grandfather served as the first mayor of Columbia, governor, and United States congressman. Taylor’s father was a noted physician in Columbia, and the importance of duty to his State and country was instilled in him at an early age. This he carried with him as he joined in the defense of his home and country.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Blood of Young James Taylor

“Among the bravest Confederate soldiers were the colorbearers. As they stepped forward into battle, those young men and boys were bound by duty and honor to keep the Confederate and regimental flags flying at all costs. Virtually defenseless as they marched into the face of death, they proved to be inviting, and often easy, targets for enemy marksmen.

No position in the Confederate army was more revered and honored than the color sergeant. Consequently, despite the extreme dangers, soldiers willingly dropped their weapons to carry forward a flag after it had fallen in battle.

[Soon after the war began, a fifteen-year-old Taylor was with] the First South Carolina Volunteers [who] departed the Palmetto State under the command of Colonel (later General) Maxey Gregg. On their journey to Virginia, the soldiers carried with them a freshly made South Carolina flag. Today, that banner, preserved by the State of South Carolina, bears the damage of shot and shell and the blood of young James Taylor.

Following several months of fighting on the Virginia battlefields, Colonel Gregg entrusted the proud banner to Taylor’s hands . . . “as a reward for meritorious conduct as a soldier.” Taylor proudly and confidently carried the blue and white banner into battle after battle. His captain, Dan Miller, described the teenager as “bold, free and dashing.”

At Cold Harbor [in late June 1862] . . . the South Carolinians were greeted by heavy artillery fire. Taylor was soon hit . . . [and] ignoring his loss of blood and terrible pain, he continued to hurry forward, waving the flag to encourage the regiment to follow. Then he suffered a second wound . . . [and knocked] down by the blast, Taylor mustered enough energy to keep the flag flying from his prone position.

Upon seeing the color sergeant fall, Shubrick Hayne dropped his weapon and took the South Carolina flag . . . Taylor managed to stand up and stagger behind Hayne, who took but a few steps before he was mortally wounded. As the flag dropped from Hayne’s hands, Taylor took hold of it and attempted to inspire the men as he stumbled in the direction of heavy enemy fire.

For a third time he was wounded, a projectile smashing into his chest. The flag fell from his grasp, and he collapsed upon it, blood streaming from his body.

Lieutenant-Colonel Daniel H. Hamilton bent down to attend to his dying warrior. All James Hunt Taylor could manage to say was, “I can’t carry it any further, Colonel.”

(Let Us Die Like Brave Men: Behind the Dying Words of Confederate Warriors; Daniel W. Barefoot, John F. Blair Publishers, 2005, excerpt, pp. 37-39)

 

The Good Life in the South

Author Donald Davidson wrote of the decline of Northern cities committed to progress and the past resistance of Southern cities like Charleston and Savannah to the relentless march of industrial capitalism. But, he observed the ruins all around us as “the ruins of societies no less than the ruins of cities. Over the ruins stream mobs led by creatures no longer really human – creatures who, whether they make shift to pass as educators, planners, editors, commissars, or presidents . . .” lead the way on the path to destruction.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Good Life in the South

“Continuity of family, of family life, and family position – irrespective of economic status – was in fact a great distinction of Charleston among old American cities; for elsewhere that continuity had been generally broken by one cause or another. With this continuity Charleston had a stability that expressed itself in the pattern of its streets and the conservatism of its architecture. The map of Charleston in 1948 was not substantially different from the map of Charleston two centuries before.

If John Stuart, whom George III in 1763 appointed superintendent of Indian affairs in the South, could have returned in 1948 to seek his home, he would have found it at 106 Tradd Street, just where he built it in 1772 – for a brief occupancy, as it happened, since the Revolution ejected him, as a Tory, rather speedily from his new house.

The secret of Charleston’s stability, if it was any secret, was only the old Southern principle that material considerations, however important, are means not ends, and should always be subdued to the ends they are supposed to serve, should never be allowed to dominate, never be mistaken for ends in themselves.

If they are mistaken for ends, they dominate everything, and then you get instability. You get the average modern city, you get New York and Detroit, you get industrial civilization, world wars, Marxist communism, the New Deal.

Historians, noting that the antebellum South was in a sense materialistic, in that it found ways of prospering from the sale of cotton and tobacco, and relied heavily upon slave labor, have had the problem of explaining why that same South developed a chivalrous, courteous, religious, conservative and stable society quite different from that which obtained in the also materialistic, but more industrialized, rational, idealistic, progressive North.

The planters’ “aristocratic” leadership was the result, not the cause, of a general diffusion of standards of judgment that all the South, even the Negro slaves, accepted a basic principle of life. Mr. Francis Butler Simkins, in his book The South Old and New, has taken securer than the average historian when he notes that the South at the outbreak of the Civil War was almost the only true religious society left in the Western world.

That old, religious South set the good life above any material means to life and consistently preferred the kind of material concerns that would least interfere with and best contribute to the good life. Its preferred occupations were agriculture, law, the church and politics – pursuits which develop the whole man rather than the specialist, the free-willed individual rather than the anonymous unit of the organized mass.

[With] reference to material means of existence, such as money, one could clinch the discourse by pointing out the traditional attitude of the Southern Negro toward work and wages. If you paid the Negro twice the normal wage for a day’s work, you did not get more work from him – that is to say, more devotion to work within a given period, with increased production as the result. Not at all.

The Negro simply and ingeniously worked only half as many days or hours as before – and spent the rest of the time in following his conception of the good life: in hunting, dancing, singing, social conversation, eating, religion, and love. This well-known habit of the Negro’s, disconcerting to employers and statisticians, was absolutely correct according to Southern principles.

The Negro, so far as he had not been corrupted into heresy by modern education, was the most traditional of Southerners, the mirror which faithfully and lovingly reflected the traits that Southerners once all but unanimously professed.

That had been the idea in Charleston too. It was what Mr. Simkins in his book, perhaps being misled by his historical predecessors, had called the “country gentleman” idea. But Charleston, which had always been urban, always a town or a city of counting-houses, warehouses, factors, bankers, financial agents, and the like, was not a city of country gentlemen, exactly.

It had agreed with the country gentleman and with others of every sort, including the Negro, on letting the relationship between work, wages and life be determined by the metaphysical judgment indicated above. That was what made Charleston Charleston and not “The Indigo City” or something of the kind.”

(Still Rebels, Still Yankees, and Other Essays, “Some Day in Old Charleston,” Donald Davidson, LSU Press, 1957, excerpt, pp. 221-224)

 

Southern Manners and Personal Integrity

Antebellum Southern concepts of manners and personal honor set a very high standard in education with the logical expectation that this would result in a more enlightened society and government.  Even code duello was seen to have a “decorous influence” on manners, as it made men careful in their conduct toward each other through personal honor and accountability.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Southern Manners and Personal Integrity

“[The official historian of the University of Virginia noted that the bulk of pre-Civil War graduates] . . . were of “the planting class.” Analysis of their post-college careers and modes of life led him to say that they were men who “kept alive in their country homes that loyal devotion to family, that chivalrous respect for womanhood, that considered tenderness for weakness, that high recognition of the claims of hospitality, that reverence for religion, and that quick sensitiveness upon all questions of personal integrity and honor, which they had inherited from their fathers.”

The cult of manners in the Old Dominion was so intertwined with the concepts of personal honor and integrity that all appeared part of a single theme. The diary notes of a young Virginian, attending VMI, contained the following passage, inserted as a kind of conclusion to the entries for the year 1842. It was set off in quotation marks:

“Among the many branches of education, that which tends to make deep impressions of virtue ought to be a fundamental object in a well-regulated government. For depravity of manners will render ineffectual the most salutary laws; and in the midst of opulence, what other means to prevent such depravity, but only a virtuous discipline?”

In this climate of opinion, with its emphasis on manners and personal integrity, the famous “Honor System” of American academic life first appeared. The founders were two professors at the University of Virginia; George Tucker, romantic litterateur before his appointment to the chair of moral philosophy; and his relative, Henry St. George Tucker, distinguished jurist before settling at Charlottesville as a teacher of law.

Judge Tucker submitted the epochal resolution to the faculty in 1842 that, at all future written examinations, the students should certify on their honor the receiving of no improper assistance. Later, this pledge was extended to include the imparting as well as the accepting of aid.

While visiting Richmond in 1853, Frederick Law Olmsted observed the importance of the cult of manners there. He added this observation to his travel diary, “In manners, I notice that between man and man, more ceremony and form is sustained in familiar conversations than well-bred people commonly use at the North.”

(Romanticism in the Old South, Rollin G. Osterweiss, LSU Press, 1971, excerpt, pp. 87-88)

The Southern Lady and the Grand Old Man

The Southern was said to the “the apotheosis of the lowbrow in manners. His speech is wrecked on a false ideal of freedom and ease; his traditions are huddled up under aggression and haste; his manners are sacrificed to a false democracy.” It was also said that it takes three generations to make a gentleman, and that he is trained in the heart as a scholar is trained in the mind. Ellen Glasgow wrote in her “Virginia” in 1913 regarding the vanishing Southern lady that “the less a Southern girl knew about life, the better prepared she was to deal with it.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Southern Lady and the Grand Old Man

“As the shifting social scene swims before my eyes, I realize that two of the most picturesque figures of the past have almost disappeared, the Southern Lady and the Grand Old Man. There are a few survivals of the Southern Lady, but their voices are growing fainter.

The old-time Southern Lady with purring and ceremonious manners was the queen of what has been called the moonshine and magnolia era. The memory of her is like the faint perfume of old roses, a little sweet, a little melancholy, a little suggestive of decay. Her mind ran in deep groves and her manners were brocaded. The worst of it was that she had many spurious imitators who lacked her charm.

The Grand Old Man type has disappeared from village life in the South. He was an institution. He had form, background, and color. He was often a lawyer and politician, in frock coat and high hat. He was sometimes an old-line Whig of the Henry Clay school. An old-line Whig has been described by somebody as a man who wore a ruffled shirt and drank a lot of whiskey. The Grand Old Man’s more remote ancestors fought the Indians and the British; he and his more immediate relatives fought the Yankees.

He will tell over and over the story of his grandfather who was stood up by a group of Tories after King’s Mountain and threatened with death unless he gave certain information; of how his grandfather looked down the gun barrels and told them to “shoot and be damned.”

The Grand Old Man most likely had an old uniform and a sword somewhere in the house, the uniform to be buried in and the sword to hang over the fireplace. If his grandchildren today were asked about the sword, they would probably display indifference and ignorance. To them Gettysburg is little more than a name – a name they have heard too often.

But the history of that sword, lying dormant for years in their brains, will perhaps come to life in their later years and whisper in their ears its story of courage and sacrifice.

The Grand Old Man was undoubtedly a social force in his day. He was ceremonious, courteous, deliberate, positive, and a trifle pompous. If he ever posed, he was not conscious of it. He always knew to a certainty what the government should have done and what it should do. His opinions always hardened his convictions. But this stalwart and picturesque figure has faded out. If there be any of his kind left, they are today little more than museum pieces.

(Son of Carolina, Augustus White Long, Duke University Press, 1939, excerpt, pp. 271-272)

Old World Nationalism of the South

Henry Steele Commager and Richard Morris note below the advantages held by the new American Confederacy in 1861, the most important of which was “that the South did not have to win on the field of battle in order to achieve independence, for it could afford to lose all the battles and all the campaigns and still triumph as long as it was prepared to settle simply for independence with no demands on the Union except the elementary one that it let the Sisters depart in peace.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Old World Nationalism of the South 

“Nationalism has been a perennial theme in American historiography, but surprisingly enough historians have devoted but scant attention to the analysis of Southern nationalism. Yet the brief and tragic experiment of the Confederate States of America with nationalism provides a laboratory scarcely less interesting than that provided by the American States between 1774 and 1789.

Because historians are camp followers of victorious armies, most of them take for granted the triumph of the first American bid for nationalism and the failure of the Southern. Yet on the surface at least, the Old South of the fifties and sixties boasted more and more persuasive ingredients of national unity than had the American States in 1774.

For the South – and the Confederacy – had, among whites at least, far greater ethnic homogeneity than had the United States of the 1770s, for less than one percent of the population of the Confederate States was foreign born. It acknowledged a greater degree of religious unity than could be found in the original States – for outside Maryland and Louisiana the whole of the Southern population was not only Protestant but evangelical.

By modern standards it confessed pronounced class differences, but by its own standards it could boast that it was a classless society, for all whites could claim membership in an upper class: here was a principle of social philosophy which speedily took on the authority of a moral and a religious principle and provided the South with one of the most powerful of all the forces making for national unity – a common ideology.

Nor, for all its inferiority in population and resources, was the Confederacy without military advantages: a territory more extensive than any which had ever been conquered in the whole of modern history; interior lines of communication; a long military tradition and superior military leaders; and a not unreasonable expectation of a foreign intervention which could rescue the South as French and Dutch intervention had rescued the new United States during the Revolutionary war.”

(The Confederate Nation, 1861-1865, Emory M. Thomas, Commager/Morris, editors, Harper & Row, 1979, excerpt, pp. xi-xii)

Losing the South’s Conservative Tradition

When Southern members left Congress in early 1861, nearly all conservative restraints enforced on that body were removed and the seeds of the Gilded Age were sown. The war of 1861-1865 will be forever seen as the unnecessary crime against liberty that it was, and the ending of the second experiment in government undertaken on these shores.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Losing the South’s Conservative Tradition

“To those who fought and suffered during the long and fearful years of the War Between the States a tribute is always due. To the survivors of that momentous conflict – in which the South displayed unequaled bravery and marvelous determination – sincere reverence cannot too often be paid.

The young men and women who lived in the South after 1865 were tragic figures. They were the lost generation of the South, who led hard, bare and bitter lives, when young people of the South before and since were at play and in school.

That Tragic Era from 1865 to 1880 was a period when the Southern people were put to torture – so much so that our historians have shrunk from the unhappy task of telling us the truth. That was a black and bloody period – when brutality and despotism prevailed – a period which no American can point with pride. To the generation of Southerners who struggled in the years after the war in the sixties we owe the redemption of the South and the preservation of its society.

[The War and Reconstruction] cost the South heavily – but they also cost the nation. The South paid for theirs in an economic collapse and carpetbag domination extending over a period of nearly thirty years. But the nation also paid its price – it lost the powerful influence of the conservative Southern tradition.

In antebellum times the South had steadied the nation’s western expansion by its conservatism, but when the South was broken and destroyed, we saw a period of western expansion, of European immigration, of speculation, of graft, and of greed – unknown before in the annals of our history.

The nation after the war – especially the North and West – entered into an era of expansion, of worship for the new, of so-called progress, for which we still pay the price in our periodic overproduction. We should learn that economic wealth may be amassed, yet the fickle turns of business fortune can destroy it in a few years. Witness the economic collapse of our nation in the last few years after a period of unrivaled business growth.

The eternal national values are then those intangible contributions to national life such as the old South gave – not wealth, not progress, but those great qualities of tradition and conservatism and individuality which neither Depression nor hard times can destroy.

May the faith of the old South be ours, so that we can rebuild our State and Nation – and as we do so may we add the South’s contribution to American life not only its heritage of conservatism, of tradition and individuality, but also that spirit of silent strength in the hours of adversity – that spirit shown during the War and Reconstruction.”

(The Tragic Era, Dr. Julian S. Waterman, Dean, University of Arkansas Law School, Memorial Day speech at Fayetteville, Confederate Veteran Magazine, July, 1931, excerpt, pp. 275-277)

Keep Northern Texts Out of Southern Schools

Major-General Samuel Gibbs French, a Confederate officer born in New Jersey, stated shortly after the war that “woman is responsible for [Confederate] Memorial Day,” noting that the annual remembrance of those who died in defense of American liberty was a “pleasing duty” that the Southern woman took upon herself to perform annually. He added: “I am not unmindful, ladies, of the power you possess and can exercise in preserving the true story of the war and the memory of the Confederate soldiers. Tell the true story to your children. If you do not, their nurses will tell them [their version].”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Keep Northern Texts Out of Southern Schools

“The true cause of the War Between the States was the dignified withdrawal of the Southern States from the Union to avoid the continued breaches of that domestic tranquility guaranteed, but not consummated by the Constitution, and not the high moral purpose of the North to destroy slavery, which followed incidentally as a war measure.

As to the war itself and the result thereof, the children of the future would be astonished that a people fought so hard and so long with so little to fight for, judging from what they gather from histories now in use, prepared by writers from the North. They are utterly destitute of information as to events leading to the war. Their accounts of the numbers engaged, courage displayed, sacrifices endured, hardships encountered, and barbarity practiced upon an almost defenseless people, whose arms-bearing population was in the army, are incorrect in every way.

A people, who for four long years, fought over almost every foot of their territory, on over two thousands battlefields, with the odds of 5,864,272 enlisted men against their 600,000 enlisted men, and their coasts blockaded, and rivers filled with gunboats, with 600 vessels of war, manned by some 35,000 sailors, and who protracted the struggle until over one-half of their soldiers were dead from the casualties of war, had something to fight for.

They fought for the great principle of local self-government and the privilege of managing their own affairs, and for the protection of their homes and firesides.

The facts are that while the South has always been prominent in making history, she has left the writing of history to New England historians, whose chief defect is “lack of catholic sympathy for all the sections of the country.”

They especially treat the South as a section, almost as a foreign country, and while omitting the glaring faults of their own ancestors and their own section, they specialize the faults of the early Virginia colonists and the Southern colonists generally.

They speak of slavery as a crime for which the South is solely responsible . . . and ignore the historical fact that England and New England are as much responsible for it as their brothers of the South; that it was forced not only on New England, but on the South, by Great Britain, and in spite of the protests of Virginia and other Southern colonies.

The histories written by Northern historians in the first ten or fifteen years following the close of the war, dictated by prejudice and prompted by the evil passions of that period, (and generally used in the schools), are unfit for use, and lack all the breadth, liberality, and sympathy so essential to true history, and, although some of them have been toned down, they are not yet fair and accurate in the statement of facts.

Until a more liberal tone is indicated by Northern historians, it is best that their books be kept out of Southern schools. It is therefore important that that the Southern people be aroused and take steps to have a correct history written, a history, which will vindicate them from the one-sided indictment found in many of the histories now extant.”

(Report of the Historical Committee (excerpt), United Confederate Veterans, Gen. S.D. Lee of Mississippi, Chairman, presented at the Houston Reunion; Confederate Veteran, June 1895, excerpt, pp. 165-166)

Dec 31, 2016 - Lost Cultures, Recurring Southern Conservatism, Southern Conservatives, Southern Culture Laid Bare    Comments Off on State Government Solutions to Hard Times

State Government Solutions to Hard Times

Prior to federal intervention into State domestic affairs, governors saw their people as mostly self-reliant and able to carry themselves through hard times. Governor Max Gardner of North Carolina used State agencies and church charities to help his citizens through an economic depression and discourage dependency on government subsidies.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

State Government Solutions to Hard Times

“The cries of these suffering people reached the highest government offices in Raleigh, and State leaders planned how to aid them. Governor Gardner and other leaders did not believe that State government should provide relief. They believed that relief was the responsibility of private agencies and local governments because they were closest to the people. Also, State leaders believed that able-bodied people should work for what relief they received. They thought that a dole would destroy character and turn people into beggars.

Governor Gardner did believe that the State should encourage people to help themselves. His first concern was for farmers because the prices of cotton and tobacco dropped sharply in 1929, greatly reducing farmers’ income. In December 1929, Gardner proposed his Live-at-Home program to help the farmers.

This program encouraged farmers to grow part of the $150 million of feed and foodstuffs that they normally imported from out of State for consumption on the farm. Gardner expected the program to improve the State economy and to make the farmers self-sufficient in home food production so that they could ward of starvation.

To start the program, Governor Gardner used existing State agencies. He persuaded President Eugene Clyde Brooks of NC State College to send demonstration agents among farm families to encourage gardens, canning and growing livestock feed. The governor also prevailed upon the State Department of Public Instruction to publicize Live-at-Home among schoolchildren.

For one week each year students learned about the importance of nutrition, of the cow, of the poultry, of the hog, and of the garden. Some 800,000 schoolchildren participated in a Live-at-Home essay contest. The governor presented silver loving cups to the winners, Ophelia Holley, a black girl from Bertie County, and Leroy Sossamon, a white boy from Cabarrus County. Supporting the State efforts, some eastern bankers and merchants refused credit to farmers who would not grow less cotton and tobacco, and more food.

To help establish [county] relief committees, Governor Gardner appointed a Council on Unemployment Relief in November 1930. The council created a separate relief organization for blacks. Lt. Lawrence A. Oxley, a pioneer black social worker in North Carolina provided the leadership to help blacks organize county committees, and a Statewide committee for advising the governor.

The raising of relief funds and dispensing of aid thus fell on public and private local agencies, which cooperated in their work. The most important private organization was the Community Chest, which raised money and distributed it to charitable agencies. The associated charities gave needy families food, clothing, fuel, and medical care.

The Salvation Army mainly gave vagrants hot meals and free lodging in exchange for a few chores, but it also aided needy families. The Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem treated 2650 patients in 1930, 1500 of them as charity cases. In 1932, the new Duke University Hospital reserved 250 of its 406 beds for the needy.”

(Hard Times, Beginnings of the Great Depression in North Carolina, 1929-1933, John L. Bell, NC Dept. of Cultural Resources, 1982, excerpts, pp. 43-45)

 

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