Browsing "Myth of Saving the Union"

Dark Forces Unleashed by War

Of the wartime and postwar Congress, shorn of Southern statesmen, author Richard Hofstadter wrote: “Before business learned to buy statesmen at wholesale, it had to buy privileges at retail.” Railroad promoters actively lobbied for land grants and other subsidies at every level of government, while choruses of Northern manufacturers demanded tariff protection from foreign competitors. The American Third Republic ended with war in 1861, waged against a new Southern agrarian republic seeking peace and prosperity for its people. With its war of independence lost, the South became a poor economic colony within a foreign political arrangement dominated by corporate interests allied with an all-powerful central government.

Dark Forces Unleashed by War

“After the Civil War several transcontinental railroads, all but the Great Northern the beneficiaries of federal land grants, were completed. Chastened by scandals connected with the government’s subsidization of these enterprises, Congress made no new land grants after 1871, but in the nostrils of many people the odor of something rotten – corruption and special, unwarranted privilege at the expense of the general public – lingered about the land-grant railroads for decades.

After the 1870s, growing numbers of huge manufacturing corporations, including such still-familiar firms as Standard Oil, Bethlehem, American Tobacco, and Armour, achieved prominence. People accustomed to dealing with small locally-owned firms had difficulty in reconciling themselves to an economy in which such corporate behemoths did much of the nation’s business.

The great corporations, known to contemporaries as “trusts” though only a few were every trusts in the strict legal sense, raised the specter of monopoly power in the market. American public opinion and legal tradition had long been hostile toward monopolies. Conspiracies in restraint of trade were unquestionably illegal under the common law.

Unsuccessful competitors complained bitterly that the “monopolists” were driving them to the wall. Customers frequently objected to real or imagined price discrimination. More than anything else, rate discrimination provoked the outrage of Midwestern shippers against the railroads. Often the criticism of a big corporation’s alleged monopoly power could be deflected by showing that the firm produced better products or services in growing volumes at ever lower prices.

But this defense, even if appropriate, did nothing to allay the charge that the great corporations subverted the democratic political process. “Corruption,” charged the Populists in the preamble to their platform of 1892, “dominates the ballot-box, the Legislatures, the Congress, and touches even the ermine of the bench.”  Henry B. Brown, an associate justice of the US Supreme Court, told the Yale law students in 1895 that “[b]ribery and corruption are as universal as to threaten the very structure of society.”

(Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government, Robert Higgs, Oxford University Press, 1987, excerpts pp. 80-81)

 

An American Chamber of Horrors

In an effort to forestall a Republican “Force Bill” designed to bring reconstruction horrors back to the postwar South, fourteen spokesmen that included Zebulon Vance, Robert Stiles and Bernard J. Sage undertook to explain the Solid South to what may be termed the New North. In April 1890 they published a symposium “Why the Solid South? Or Reconstruction and its Results,” designed to appeal to the self-interest of the North’s business class and a very clear recapitulation of what Reconstruction thus far “had cost in money, public morale and cultural retardation.”

An American Chamber of Horrors

“Hilary Herbert of Alabama, who served as editor, expressed . . . in a preface: “Its object is to show to the public, and more especially to the businessmen of the North, who have made investments in the South, or who have trade relations with their Southern fellow citizens, the consequences which once followed an interference in the domestic affairs of certain States by those, who either did not understand the situation or were reckless of results.”

There followed factual histories of Reconstruction in each of the ex-Confederate States, including West Virginia and Missouri, which also had suffered from the fraud, repression and vicious partisanship of the postwar settlement. All in all, it is one of the most dismal stories ever told, unrelieved by a single ray of light, unless a revelation of how much people can endure and how they will struggle to attain their hopes even in extremis be such.

Governor Vance of North Carolina in a particularly mild and philosophic chapter pointed out that during what was supposed to be a moral and political rebirth “the criminals sat in the law-making chamber, on the bench and in the jury-box, instead of standing in the dock.” It has become the fashion nowadays to regard Reconstruction as a kind of chamber of horrors into which no good American would care to look, but Governor Vance reminded his readers that no portion of our history better deserves study “by every considerate patriot.”

From the comparatively uneventful story of North Carolina’s experience, the chronicle moves on to the wild saturnalia of South Carolina, where amid riotous spending of public funds the State House was turned into a combination of saloon and brothel. Yet the ordeal of South Carolina was matched by that of Louisiana, where in four years’ time the incredible Warmoth regime squandered an amount equal to half the wealth of the State.

“Corruption is the fashion,” Governor Warmoth, an ex-soldier who had been dishonorably discharged from the Federal army, remarked with laudable candor. “I do not pretend to be honest, but only as honest as anybody in politics.”

(The Southern Tradition at Bay: A History of Postbellum Thought, Richard M. Weaver, George Core/M.E. Bradford, editors, Regnery Publishing, 1989, excerpts pp. 330-332)

Paying Tribute to the North

The prewar national dominance of the North eventually gave rise to those who thought that economic and political measures were not sufficient to put the South on a par with the North. They saw that the only way the South could rid itself of subservience to the North was to leave the Union, and do so with the Founders’ Constitution.  The South’s attempts to reduce tariffs had been increased in 1842, and in 1846 with the help of a Southern president and secretary of the treasury, forced through Congress the Walker Tariff which was so low as to be practically revenue only.  Additionally, President John Tyler’s vetoes of a national bank were upheld by Southern votes in Congress.

Northern commercial interests were determined to reclaim their government subsidies and establish national banking, with Lincoln and his new party a convenient vehicle to permanent national dominance.

Paying Tribute to the North

“There were other methods by which the profits from the cotton crop found their way into Northern pockets. Since two-thirds of the cotton crop went to England, the freight charges on its transportation across the sea amounted to a large sum.  Although the river boats of the South were generally Southern-owned and Southern- built, the South never engaged in the building or operating of ocean-going ships, principally because capital could more profitably employed in agriculture.

Most of the cotton sold was carried on coastwise ships to New York, and the great part transshipped from that place to England. All the coastwise ships and most of the ocean-going shipping was Northern-owned and consequently the freight charges went into Northern pockets. In 1843 this amounted to nearly a million dollars. In addition the insurance costs while the cotton was in transit were generally paid to Northern firms.

Not only did the cotton growers pay “tribute” to the North through their exports, but through their imports as well. The imports to the South came through Northern ports; the exports of the South amounted to two-thirds the total of the United States but her direct imports were less than one-tenth. The freight charges to New York and Boston, the tariff duties, and the cost of transportation on coastwise vessels to the South all added to the cost of merchandise.

In the hard times of the forties, Southern economists were prone to find the explanation for their distress in the “tribute” paid to the North. They came to believe that the economic progress of the North depended on this “tribute,” and epitomized their opinion in the phrase “Southern wealth and Northern profits.”

By the phrase “operation of the federal government” the South meant bounties to New England fisheries, internal improvements in the North such as harbors, roads, canals, and public buildings, tariff duties, and deposits of government funds.”

(The Old South: The Geographic, Economic, Social, Political and Cultural Expansion, Institutions and Nationalism of the Antebellum South, R.S. Cotterill, Arthur H. Clark Company, 1939, excerpts pp. 192-199)

“Going South”

The US Marine Corps in 1861 had a total strength of 1,775, including 63 officers. Nineteen of these went South in 1861 to join the newly established Confederate States Marine Corps, and all were very well-informed on the Constitution they had sworn an oath to defend against enemies both foreign and domestic, especially the latter. The following are taken from the resignation letters of three officers: one Marine and two Navy.

“Going South”

After reading Lincoln’s inaugural address, Captain Robert Tansill, USMC explained his resignation from the US Marine Corps:

“In entering the public service, I took an oath to support the Constitution, which necessarily gives me the right to interpret it. Our institutions, according to my understanding, are founded upon the principle and right of self-government. The States, in forming the Confederacy [in 1789] did not relinquish that right, and I believe each State has a clear and unquestionable right to secede whenever the people thereof think proper, and the Federal Government has no legal or moral authority to use physical force to keep them in the Union. Entertaining these views, I cannot conscientiously join in a war against any of the States which have already seceded or may hereafter secede, either North or South, for the purpose of coercing them back into the Union . . .”

Officers of the highest rank were also dismissed summarily, particularly if they, like Captain Isaac Mayo, took the trouble to attack the Lincoln administration. Writing from his Maryland estate on May 1, he asserted:

“It was the hope of my old age that I might die, as I had lived, an officer in the Navy of a free Government. This hope has been taken from me. In adopting the policy of coercion, you have denied to millions of freemen the rights of the Constitution and in its stead you have placed the will of a sectional Party. What a spectacle to intelligent minds . . . I cannot fight against the Constitution while pretending to fight for it. You will therefore oblige me by accepting my resignation.”

Less high-minded and more sentimental was the resignation letter sent by Lieutenant James J. Waddell who was serving aboard the USS John Adams and who wrote from the island of St. Helena the following lines:

“The people of the State of North Carolina having withdrawn their allegiance to the Government of the late Confederacy of the United States . . . I return to ‘His Excellency the President of the United States,’ the Commission which appointed me a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy . . . In thus separating myself from association which I have cherished for twenty years, I wish it to be known that no doctrine of the rights of secession, nor wish for disunion of the States impel me, but simply because my home is the home of my people in the South, and I could not bear arms against them.”

(Going South: US Navy Officer Resignations & Dismissals On the Eve of the Civil War, Naval Historical Foundation Publications, Series II, Number 27, Fall 1981, pp. 21-22)

Victory Seals Union Theft and Destruction

The author below writes of the “well-dressed malingerer, the best educated, the most cunning, the most creative of the [Vietnam] generation, they live with their little secret: their citizenship came of age on a note of avoidance . . . which in turn bred a profound cynicism toward their responsibilities in a free society.”

This may be compared to the “well-dressed malingerers” of Northern society in the early 1860s who remained home, a few after tasting 90 days service, and realizing the resolve of their opponent seeking independence; then they avoided the draft with substitutes and paying for exemptions from physicians seeking extra income. They dug deep into their pockets as well for town, county, State and federal bounty money to pay the poor and recently-released criminals to take their place. They then applauded Lincoln for seizing dispossessed black Southern farmhands, and taught them to loot and burn Southern farms and towns, for “the Union.”

Victory Seals Union Theft and Destruction

“General Sherman had done the dirty work for the Union. To him had fallen the duty to break the spirit of the rebellion, to punish the rebels, whatever their sex or station. His unsparing, relentless hand had given the Union victory.

The dirty work of the Vietnam War was consigned to a small percentage of the Vietnam generation; the poor, the uneducated, and the youth who fought who were wounded, who died. Most of those who went to Vietnam, the studies show, saw moderate to heavy combat. It is only the glories of modern medical science and the speed of the helicopter that prevented the names on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington from being etched in much smaller print.

If the cruel charge of substitution is valid against any group, it is valid for the sixteen million who avoided Vietnam illegally. By their avoidance, the country had, de facto, reverted to the practice of the Civil War, where a man could buy a substitute. Had it not been for this overall turpitude, a Lt. William Calley could never have been an officer in the US Army.

Sherman’s dirty work ended in victory, and the victory swept away in the North any preoccupation with the manner of victory. Victory sealed over for the Union veteran his memory of theft or wanton destruction in Dixie.

In Vietnam, defeat and atrocity are fused. The wanton violence of Sherman’s bummer and Westmoreland’s grunt differs as looting differs from stealing, but neither time nor morals are static. The patterns of behavior in both armies were encouraged by the official policy and extended the rules of permissible conduct in the same degree.

The burning of Columbia and the slaughter at My Lai were exceptional only in their dimensions. The formal order for civilized behavior contrasted with the informal message toward atrocity in precisely the same way.”

(Sherman’s March and Vietnam, James Reston, Jr., MacMillan Publishing Company, 1984, excerpt pp. 167-168; 170)

Fiends in Federal Uniform

Sherman demonstrated control over his troops when it suited him, and could also allow subordinates to wink at soldier outrages. At Sandersville, Georgia alone, residents were left with no food or water for days while Union soldiers shot all the hogs, cows and chickens they could not take with them, the ground strewn with food, and carpets drenched with syrup and then covered with meal.  The roads along Sherman’s route were lined with the carcasses of horses, hogs and cattle, wantonly shot down to starve out the people and prevent them from making crops.

Fiends in Federal Uniform

“[During Sherman’s march through Georgia] a German-born private enthused to his family, “we live like God in France.” A good deal of looting also took place, especially by the foraging parties who operated with little supervision. “If money, watches or jewelry was found it was inevitably confiscated, recalled a New York veteran after the war, adding that the rampant thievery had “a very demoralizing effect on the men.” Even men of good reputation began to steal. There were men in prisons all over the country, the old veteran believed, “who took their first lessons in thieving while acting as one of Sherman’s foragers.”

Plenty of men regretted the hardship they and their comrades visited on civilians. During the destruction of railroads preceding the march, an Ohio soldier, drafted into the army only weeks before, scrawled in his diary: “There is great destruction of property about here. Much of it unnecessary. It is a pity to see homes of comfort destroyed thus. I think of my own house and wife and I can estimate the feelings of the enemy when I think how I would feel if served thus.”

Colonel Orlando M. Poe . . . complained to his own diary of the damage wrought by vandals, to the great scandal of our Army, and marked detriment to its discipline.” As the army neared to coast, a captain came upon four houses set afire “by some dirty rascal from our army . . .”

Eight days into the Savannah campaign, Major Thomas Taylor of the 47th Ohio . . . came upon a family who had been abused by a renegade party of [Union] foragers. After stripping them of everything edible, the “bummers” had smashed jars and dishes, vandalized furniture, scattered clothing, cut open mattresses, and threatened to burn the house down around their ears if they did not leave.”

“Such an act of barbarity,” Taylor wrote, “I have never witnessed in the service, yet these fiends wore the Federal uniform.”

(The Hard Hand of War: Union Military Policy Toward Southern Civilians 1861-1865, Mark Grimsley, Cambridge University Press, 1995, excerpt pg. 197)

 

A Progressive Empire, Left and Right

It can be argued that the end of American republican government ended in 1861 with the industrialized state warring upon the Constitution and the agricultural South. The triumphant North launched its Gilded Age combine of government, corporations, millionaires and financial manipulation, as well as foreign imperialism, which brought the country to European military intervention. Then came the Depression. The first European military intervention set the stage for another even more costly; an American president then warned of a military-industrial complex that had emerged.

Progressive Empire, Left and Right

“If the American Republic is defunct, and if most Americans no longer subscribe to the classical republicanism that defined the Republic as its public orthodoxy, what is the principal issue of American politics?

Ever since the Progressive Era, the issue that has divided Americans into the two political and ideological camps of “Right” and “Left” has been whether or not to preserve the Republic.

The Progressives (at least their dominant wing) argued that the small-scale government, entrepreneurial business economy, and localized and private social and cultural fabric that made a republic possible was obsolete at best and at worst repressive and exploitive.

They and their descendants in New Deal/Great Society liberalism pushed for an enlarged state fused with corporations and unions into the economy with massive, bureaucratized cultural and educational organizations. In contrast, the “Right” pulled in the opposite direction, defending the Republic and the social and economic structure that enabled republicanism to flourish, but with less success and with ever-diminishing understanding of what they were doing.

Today the conflict over that issue is finished. The Progressive Empire has replaced the old American Republic, and even on the self-proclaimed “Right” today, virtually no one other than the beleaguered “paleo-conservatives” defends republicanism in anything like its pristine form.

The collapse of the conflict over republicanism is the main reason why the labels “Left” and “Right” no longer make much sense and also why – much more than the end of the Reagan administration and the Cold War – the “conservative coalition” of the Reagan era is falling apart.

Mr. Reagan’s main legacy was to show his followers, who for decades griped against “Big Government,” that they too could climb aboard the Big Government hayride and nibble crumbs at its picnic. With such “conservatism” now centered mainly in Washington and its exponents happily dependent on the federal mega-state, the historic raison d’etre of the American “Right” has ceased to exist.

Such conservatives no longer even pretend to want to preserve or restore the old Republic, and it now turns out that even when the said they did, it was all pretty much a charade anyway.”

(Revolution from the Middle, Samuel T. Francis, Middle American Press, 1997, excerpts pp. 90-91)

A War of Conquest, Not Philanthropy

Fearing slave rebellion from its highly concentrated black population, the South wanted free access to the Territories to lessen this; the North wanted to restrict black people to the South and open the Territories to white-only immigration. A great irony of history is the blame the American South receives for African slavery: the South did not bring the black man to America, British and New England slave ships did after purchasing their human cargoes from African chieftains.

A War of Conquest, Not Philanthropy

“The initial sympathy of the British people for the North because of the belief that the South had seceded to set up a slave state and that the North stood for freedom of the slave was soon to be destroyed, and a strong conviction arose that the freedom of the slave was not an issue in the war. One can hardly escape the logic of events which forced this conclusion upon the English mind.

During the winter of [early] 1861, it will be recalled, numerous compromises of the American troubles were discussed, the most important of which was the Crittenden compromises conceding a permanent share of the territories to slavery. The Economist upon hearing of such proposals spoke of the measures as iniquitous, and was not willing to believe that Lincoln would yield to them.

But the final disillusionment came when in his inaugural address Lincoln said: “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where is exists . . . I believe I have no lawful right to do so and I have no intention to do so. “

This was, in truth, the death knell of British sympathy based upon the moral righteousness of the Northern cause. If freedom was not the cause, then what was it?

The Economist late in the summer of 1861 pronounced a little stronger upon the issue of the war: It was not for freeing the slave on the part of the North or preserving slavery on the part of the South, but was for dominion and power on the part of the one and the right of self-government on the part of the other.

After Lincoln’s message to Congress, which was as tender of the rights of slavery as had been in his inaugural, the Economist was completely convinced, if there had been any doubts, that Lincoln and the North would be more than glad to continue or restore the old Federal union on the basis of slavery and all its abuses if the South would only return.

The inevitable conclusion was that the war was “a war of conquest and not of philanthropy.”

(King Cotton Diplomacy: Foreign Relations of the Confederate States of America, Frank L. Owsley, University of Chicago Press, 1931, pp. 187-188)

His Holiness and the Civil War

Dudley Mann was appointed as one of three Special Commissioners to Europe in 1861, to represent the interests of the Confederate States of America. He met with Pope Pius IX in mid-November 1863 to explain the actions of the Confederate States in seeking independence. When the wisdom of gradual emancipation was suggested, Mann properly advised the Pontiff that the States themselves were the ones to decide this, not the Confederate government. He could have further explained that this is precisely how African slavery had been abolished in the Northern States by the action of individual States, not the federal government. In March 1865, with the agreement of the States, the Confederate Congress authorized the enlistment of 300,000 emancipated black men.

His Holiness and the Civil War

“His Holiness now stated, to use his own language, that Lincoln and Company had endeavored to create an impression abroad that they were fighting for the abolition of slavery, and that it might perhaps be judicious in us to consent to gradual emancipation. I replied that the subject of slavery was one over which the Government of the Confederate States, like that of the old United States, had no control whatever; that all ameliorations with regard to the institution must proceed from the States themselves, which were as sovereigns in their character in this regard as were France, Austria, or any other Continental power . . .

I availed myself of [Lincoln’s emancipation] declaration to inform His Holiness that it was not the armies of Northern birth which the South was encountering in hostile array, but that it was the armies of European creation, occasioned by the Irish and Germans, chiefly by the former, who were influenced to emigrate (by circulars from Lincoln and Company to their numerous agents abroad) ostensibly for the purpose of securing high wages, but in reality to fill up the constantly depleted ranks of our enemy, that those poor unfortunates were tempted by the high bounties amounting to $500, $600 and $700 to enlist and take up arms against us; that once in the service they were invariably placed in the most exposed points of danger in the battlefield; that in consequence thereof an instance had occurred in which almost an entire brigade had been left dead or wounded upon the ground; that but for foreign recruits the North would most likely have broken down months ago in the absurd attempt to overpower the South.

His Holiness expressed his utter astonishment, repeatedly throwing up his hands at the employment of such means against us and the cruelty attendant upon such unscrupulous operations.”

(A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Confederacy, Including the Diplomatic Correspondence 1861-1865, James D. Richardson, editor, US Publishing Company, 1905, excerpt pg. 594)

Letter from Gardner’s Corner, South Carolina

Col. Joseph Newton Brown led the Fourteenth South Carolina Volunteers in the Gregg-McGowan Brigade at Gettysburg, and later at Spotsylvania. At Gettysburg’s Seminary battle his regiment lost heavily from enemy artillery, losing over 200 in killed and wounded out of 475 carried into action.  After the war Col. Brown became Anderson, South Carolina’s first millionaire, who built an imposing home on three acres of land on North Main Street in 1890. It was demolished in August, 1953.

Letter from Gardner’s Corner, South Carolina, Nov. 11, 1861

“Dear Mother, We marched from Pocotaligo yesterday and arrived at dark. This place is a junction of two roads which the enemy must pass in going to Charleston if they land anywhere east of the Salt River Ferry. We are ordered to retreat from this point in case of an attack by an overwhelming force. We passed [some] poor fellows yesterday evening . . . [who] barely escaped from being taken prisoners and had to leave all their baggage, tents and provisions and in fact brought nothing but their muskets with them.

But the worst remains to be told. The terror stricken inhabitants have left their homes and property in the possession of the enemy. We met them all the way and with tears in their eyes they encouraged us to strike for their homes and fireside. The ladies would talk to the meanest looking private and tell him the enemy was in his front and to meet them as became Carolinians.  The richest and finest dressed lady would ask the soldier if he was willing to fight for her.

You cannot imagine the dreadful state of things existing here. Plantations are deserted and Negroes by hundreds wandering through the country without a master or anyone to tell them what to do or where to go. The railroad trains are all crowded with women and children and the men have shouldered their guns, leaving all things else to take care of themselves.

Beaufort is deserted by the inhabitants and the enemy occupies it at his pleasure. The Negroes were left in the town and as soon as the whites had departed they broke open the stores and groceries and are now reveling in drunkenness and disorder. One man left his little children and went to hunt a place for their safety and on his return found a drunken Negro beating one of them nearly to death. The promise of freedom will ruin many a one which the master has depended on as faithful.

Direct [your letters] to Pocotaligo, Beaufort District, S.C. My love to all. Trusting that the God of Sumter and Manassas will be with South Carolina’s sons in the conflict before us, we will put our reliance in Him. I will write as often as circumstances will permit.

Your affectionate son, Joseph N. Brown

(A Colonel at Gettysburg and Spotsylvania, Varina D. Brown, The State Company, 1931, pp. 39-40)

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