Browsing "Myth of Saving the Union"

Northern Destruction and Rebel Trophies

Anyone who scratches the surface of the Northern war upon the South cannot avoid the obvious question of why those Americans who sought a more perfect union with the consent of the governed, and in full compliance with Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, were to suffer wanton destruction, defeat and virtual enslavement for the very same act initiated by their forefathers in 1776.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Northern Destruction and Rebel Trophies

“The Civil War was not worth its cost. It freed the slaves, upset a social and an economic order, strengthened the powers of the national government, and riveted tighter upon the South a colonial status under which it had long suffered. What good the war produced would have come with time in an orderly way; the bad would not have come at all.

Its immediate effects on the South were glaring and poignant; those more fundamental were less evident and long-drawn out. The war generation bore the brunt, and it was they who had to grapple hardest with the new problems.

As the war had been fought almost entirely in the South, here its destructions were wrought. What invasion feeds upon is the same everywhere – towns and cities, lines of railways, bridges and fences, forests and fields, factories and homes, livestock and granaries, and personal belongings.

Of all the Federal officers General Sherman was most proficient in carrying the rigors of war to the people, and for this Southerners set him upon a permanent pinnacle dedicated to Civil War ruthlessness, and often gave him credit for the destructions of other commanders. The lone chimneys – Sherman’s sentinels – reared themselves as conspicuous landmarks along the sixty-mile wide swath he cut across Georgia and up through South Carolina . . .

A Northerner who had travelled through the South declared that Sherman had not left a building on the railway from Macon to Savannah, and two years after the war Sherman . . . recalled to his veterans what had happened:

“Look to the South, and you who went with me through that land can best say if they too have not been fearfully punished.  Mourning in every household, desolation written in broad characters across the whole face of their country, cities in ashes and fields laid waste, their commerce gone, their system of labor annihilated and destroyed. Ruin, poverty and distress everywhere, and now pestilence adding to the very cap sheaf to their stack of misery; her proud men begging for pardon and appealing for permission to raise food for their children; her five million slaves free, and their value lost to their former masters forever.”

[Sherman] did his worst in South Carolina and left conditions there which a loyal Northern witness averred no pen could describe. Fearing he would be thought to be sentimentalizing, he added, “Yet that treatment was what the haughty little State needed.” Philip H. Sheridan’s ravages of the Shenandoah Valley and four years of other warfare in Virginia made the Old Dominion a fearful sufferer. Tennessee and Mississippi lay in ruins wherever armies had marched. Alabama claimed destructions amounting to $300,000,000 and the cane planters alone in Louisiana suffered losses set at $100,000,000. Total material destruction throughout the South has been estimated in billions of dollars [William W. Davis, The Civil War and Reconstruction in Florida, 1913, pg. 319].

Later, plundered belongings turned up in Northern pawnshops, and Southerners long charged that “the houses of volunteer officers, and chaplains especially, in almost every New England and Northern village” were filled “with stolen plate, pictures, books and even wearing apparel, and, in fact, everything from a piano to a pap-spoon, which, . . . [were] proudly displayed as “rebel trophies,” or “confiscated property.”

A group signing themselves “Many Southern Ladies” published in Northern papers a plea asking for the return of their property and directed it to “the families of lawyers, ministers, captains, colonels, generals, professors in colleges . . . [and to] thousands of privates in the army, and chaplains and governors of States.”

The Last Resort of Yankees as Kings

In viewing the country as a great life insurance company and reaping the profit of lasting the longest, the North perhaps accelerated the demise of the South to attain its goal in less time. The war itself was a profitable enterprise for the North as “life insurance in force tripled during the Civil War, and one company, Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., targeted military men in particular. In 1865, the Connecticut General Life Insurance Co. began writing policies for those who did not qualify medically.” Northern business found vast profits even in the lives of their own soldiers.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The Last Resort of Yankees as Kings

“Notorious as [Yankees] are for the matter-of-course way in which they are wont to put off the ties of nature, they could yet grow eloquent when descanting on the brotherhood of all citizens, or the sisterhood of States. When first secession “reared its awful form” they called us “erring brethren” and “wayward sisters,” “rebellious brethren” and “estranged sisters,” “a little more than kin and less than kind,” and so on ran the gamut of appropriate epithets to their unfraternal relatives of the South.

Then they became still more affectionate as we became less fond, and next assumed the paternal type; Uncle Sam found out that his nieces were his own children; and imported citizens in Wisconsin and Minnesota mourned in High Dutch, and wept in lager beer, over the unfilial conduct of South Carolina and Georgia.

But the climax of sentimentality for the North and of insult to the South, was attained when the Yankee worked himself up to the amatory pitch and represented the union of States under the symbol of wedlock – the Northern States the bridegroom and the Southern the bride. We all remember how the fit idol of these modern Egyptians, their god Anubis, their chosen chief, Abraham Lincoln aired this comparison on his way to Washington, and how he enlivened the parallel by ribald allusions to Free Love and Elective Affinities.

[The] true standard bearers of the South – her statesmen and her thinkers – were never so much given to bursts of sympathy as the declamatory champions of the North; and now that the fiery trial of actual warfare has brought out the stamp of each nationality in clear outlines, no one should wonder that the Yankees have the monopoly of the sentimentality department; for sentiment is always idle, always selfish; real feeling alone is active and self-sacrificing.

Still we have too high an estimate of Yankee shrewdness to suppose that these displays of rhetoric are meant for any other ears than those of the groundlings; and the initiated have, no doubt, a far different idea of the real nature of the Union. They are not imposed on “by brotherhoods and sisterhoods, by the bonds of a common descent, a common language and a common history.” They too, take a business view of the connexion, and look upon the Union as a great Life Insurance Bubble. And how well they understand the workings of such institutions, our Southern policy-holders know to their cost.

The peculiar form of insurance company after which the Union, as they have it, was framed, is technically called a Tontine, and the brief exposition of the system is conveyed in the familiar regulation: “the longest liver takes all.” The Southern States, according to them, had so many inherent elements of weakness that they were to die out, and the North was to succeed by virtue of survivorship, to the rents of their less vigorous neighbours, and, meanwhile, by dexterous management in the board of directors, to cheat them out of any annuities which might be due. But the process of dying out was very slow. In short, it soon became evident that the “course of ultimate extinction” was very tardy, and it was deemed expedient to aid nature a little.

Wholesale murder – the last resort of Yankees as kings – is their present experiment . . . [but] the butcher’s business, as conducted by the Federal armies, does not pay. Our throats are not easily cut, and so far from letting them have the whole body of the Confederacy as the fee of their exertions we begrudge them even the “fifth quarter.”

(Soldier and Scholar, Basil L. Gildersleeve and the Civil War, Ward W. Briggs, Jr., editor, pp. 128-131)

Tormenting the Defeated South

Though the South laid down its arms to rejoin the Union without slavery or secession, it would not be allowed the dignity of self-government by the victorious Radicals. Some tormenters “hoped to goad them into violent action or language by forcing them to salute the United States flag or walk under it.”  The radical German immigrant Carl Schurz visited the South after the surrender and declared that the South was “not impressed with any sense of its criminality” as if the Americans there committed a crime by forming a more perfect union according to Jefferson’s precepts.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Tormenting the Defeated South

“One of the foremost characteristics of a civilized people is its need and desire for government. It was a fearful sight to see law and order disintegrate with the collapse of the Confederate armies . . . Incoming Federal troops prevented the legislators from meeting except in Mississippi, where the legislators were speedily dispersed.

To prevent anarchy the army of occupation marched in [and comprised departments] under a major general. Even if the soldiers had been forbearing it would have had difficulty in preserving order everywhere; but with soldiers singing “John Brown’s Body” and exciting the Negroes . . . for a short interim there was little law and order in some parts of the South.

At the end of the war the tendency was for the best element in the Federal army to get mustered out first, leaving a less reliable soldiery to police the South. Many of these troops remaining were Negroes, the number in October 1865 amounting to 85,000. Many of them were scattered widely over the South where they became almost without exception a vicious influence.

Elated over their high station, their uniforms and guns, they took special delight in insulting white people and in instilling dangerous notions into the heads of the freedmen. Occasionally they had bloody clashes with the whites and ravished white women. In Nashville they collided with the police and were disarmed and turned over to the provost marshal; in Beaufort, North Carolina, a Negro soldier raped a white girl and was arrested . . . [the Negro troops in nearby Fort Macon] threatened to turn the guns of the fort on the city; and near Augusta, Georgia, marauding [black] troops demolished the home and threatened the lives of a family who objected to the Negroes drinking out of the well bucket instead of the proffered gourd dipper.

In Newberry, South Carolina, a Confederate soldier returning after the war to his Texas home was beset by Negro troops and murdered because he attempted to protect two white girls from their insults.

Southerners felt especially aggrieved that they should be thus humiliated by their former slaves and by self-obtruding blacks from the North. Was it to show the Southern people that a fundamental revolution was in the making for them?

Even Northerners felt the shame of it. Said one, “I am at a loss to see what good [the black soldiers’] presence here is now. If to humble the Southern pride, that end has been fully accomplished. I have heard black soldiers make the most insulting remarks to Southerners, who are too glad to get by with only that to take notice of them.” General Grant, seeing no good purpose served in having Negro troops in the South, advised their removal. Before the end of 1866 practically all had been withdrawn.”

(A History of the South, Volume VIII, The South During Reconstruction, 1865-1877, E. Merton Coulter, LSU Press, 1947, pp. 29-30)

The Abolitionists Mad and Fatal Course

Henry Clay, the “great compromiser,” pleaded with abolitionists to cease their incendiary activities which threatened to disrupt the Union in a speech before the United States Senate in February 1839. The States he labels as “free” were former slave and slave trading States which were offering no peaceful and practical solutions to the African slavery they greatly helped nurture and perpetuate.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The Abolitionists Mad and Fatal Course

“ . . . Abolition should no longer be regarded as an imaginary danger. The abolitionists, let me suppose, succeed in their present aim of uniting the inhabitants of the free States, as one man, against the inhabitants of the slave States. Union on one side will beget union on the other.

And this process of reciprocal consolidation will be attended with all the violent prejudices, embittered passions, and implacable animosities, which ever degraded or deformed human nature. A virtual dissolution of the Union will have taken place, while the forms of its existence remain.

The most valuable element of union, mutual kindness, the feelings of sympathy, the fraternal bonds, which now happily unite us, will have been extinguished for ever.

One section will stand in menacing and hostile array against the other. The collision of opinion will be quickly followed by the clash of arms. I will not attempt to describe scenes which now happily lie concealed from our view. Abolitionists themselves would shrink back in dismay and horror at the contemplation of desolated fields, conflagrated cities, murdered inhabitants, and the overthrow of the fairest fabric of human government that ever rose to animate the hopes of civilized man.

Nor should these abolitionists flatter themselves that, if they can succeed in uniting the people of the free States, they will enter the contest with a numerical superiority that must insure victory. All history and experience proves the hazard and uncertainty of war. And we are admonished by Holy Writ, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. But if they were to conquer, whom would they conquer?

A foreign foe – one who had insulted our flag, invaded our shores, and laid our country waste? No, sir; no, sir. It would be a contest without laurels, without glory; a self, a suicidal conquest; a conquest of brothers over brothers, achieved by one over another portion of the descendants of common ancestors, who, nobly pledging their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, had fought and bled, side by side, in many a hard battle on land and ocean, severed our country from the British crown, and established our original independence.

The inhabitants of the slave States are sometimes accused by their Northern brethren with displaying rashness and sensibility to the operations and proceedings of the abolitionists.

[But] Let me suppose that the people of the slave States were to form societies, subsidize presses, make large pecuniary contributions, send forth numerous missionaries throughout all their borders, and enter into machinations to burn the beautiful capitals, destroy the productive manufactories, and sink in the ocean the gallant ships of the Northern States. Would these incendiary proceedings be regarded as neighborly and friendly, and consistent with the fraternal sentiments which should ever by cherished by one portion of the Union toward the another?

Would they excite no emotion? Occasion no manifestations of dissatisfaction? Nor lead to any acts of retaliatory violence?

I beseech the abolitionists themselves, solemnly to pause in their mad and fatal course . . . let them select some one more harmless, that does not threaten to deluge our country in blood. I entreat that portion of my countrywomen, who have given their countenance to abolition, to . . . reflect that the ink which they shed in subscribing with their fair hands abolition petitions, may prove but the prelude to the shedding of the blood of their brethren.

I adjure all the inhabitants of the free States to rebuke and discountenance, by their opinion and their example, measures which must inevitably lead to the most calamitous consequences.”

(The South, A Documentary History, Ina Woestemeyer Van Noppen, D. Van Nostrand Company, 1958, pp. 258-260)

The Legacy of the War

Author Robert Penn Warren writes below of “The Treasury of Virtue,” the psychological heritage left to the North by the War and the irrefutable basis of its long-serving Myth of Saving the Union. With his armies victorious the Northerner was free “to write history to suit his own deep needs . . . and knows, as everybody knows, that the war saved the Union.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The Legacy of the War 

“When one is happy in forgetfulness, facts get forgotten. In the happy contemplation of the Treasury of Virtue it is forgotten that the Republican platform of 1860 pledged protection to the institution of slavery where it existed, and that the Republicans were ready, in 1861, to guarantee slavery in the South, as bait for a return to the Union.

It is forgotten that in July, 1861, both houses of Congress, by an almost unanimous vote, affirmed that the War was waged not to interfere with the institutions of any State but only to maintain the Union.

The War, in the words of the House resolution, should cease “as soon as these objects are accomplished.” It is forgotten that the Emancipation Proclamation, issued on September 23, 1862, was limited and provisional: slavery was to be abolished only in the seceded States and only if they did not return to the Union before the first of the next January.

It is forgotten that the Proclamation was widely disapproved [in the North] and even contributed to the serious setbacks to Republican candidates for office in the subsequent election.

It is forgotten that, as Lincoln himself freely admitted, the Proclamation itself was of doubtful constitutional warrant and was forced by circumstances; that only after a bitter and prolonged struggle in Congress was the Thirteenth Amendment sent, as late as January, 1865, to the States for ratification; and that all of Lincoln’s genius as a horse trader (here the deal was Federal patronage swapped for Democratic votes) was needed to get Nevada admitted to Statehood, with its guaranteed support of the Amendment.

It is forgotten that even after the Fourteenth Amendment, not only Southern States, but Northern ones, refused to adopt Negro suffrage, and that Connecticut had formally rejected it a late as July, 1865.

It is forgotten that Sherman, and not only Sherman, was violently opposed to arming Negroes against white troops. It is forgotten that . . . racism was all too common in the liberating army. It is forgotten that only the failure of Northern volunteering overcame the powerful prejudice against accepting Negro troops, and allowed “Sambo’s Right to be Kilt,” — as the title of a contemporary song had it.

It is forgotten that racism and Abolitionism might, and often did, go hand in hand. This was true even in the most instructed circles [as James T. Ayers, clergyman, committed abolitionist and Northern recruiting officer for Negro troops confided to his diary] that freed Negroes would push North and “soon they will be in every whole and Corner, and the Bucks will be wanting to gallant our Daughters Round.” It is forgotten, in fact, that history is history.

Despite all this, the war appears, according to the doctrine of the Treasury of Virtue, as a consciously undertaken crusade so full of righteousness that there is enough oversurplus stored in Heaven, like the deeds of the saints, to take care of all small failings and oversights of the descendants of the crusaders, certainly unto the present generation. The crusaders themselves, back from the wars, seemed to feel that they had finished the work of virtue.

[Brooks Adams pronounced] “Can we look over the United States and honestly tell ourselves that all things are well within us?” [Adams] with his critical, unoptimistic mind, could not conceal it from himself, but many could; and a price was paid for the self delusion.

As Kenneth Stampp, an eminent Northern historian and the author of a corrosive interpretation of slavery, puts it: “The Yankees went to war animated by the highest ideals of the nineteenth-century middle classes . . . But what the Yankees achieved – for their generation at least – was a triumph not of middle class ideals but of middle class vices. The most striking products of their crusade were the shoddy aristocracy of the North and the ragged children of the South. Among the masses of Americans there were no victors, only the vanquished.”

(The Legacy of the Civil War, Robert Penn Warren, University of Nebraska Press, 1998, pp. 60-65)

Lincoln Follows Dunmore's Proclamation

Though standard histories leave Lord Dunmore’s 1775 emancipation proclamation out of the story of that conflict, it is indeed true as related below that the slaves of Patrick Henry, Jefferson and George Washington would have been emancipated had the revolution failed. Yet that war is viewed as a political and economic war, not a moral war.  Lincoln’s intent to encourage race war in the South was identical to Lord Dunmore’s intent to defeat the South. In 1814, Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane did the same to wreak havoc in the South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Lincoln Follows Dunmore’s Proclamation

“The author [John Wilkes Booth, Francis Wilson] thinks in common with so many of his fellow countrymen, North and South, that the point at issue between the sections was a moral one rather than political and economic. The idea vitiates the value of his historical contribution. This almost universal misconception would be absurd or pathetic if it were not also tragic in its partisan representation of a great people. Would that history be were taught correctly, or the facts were set forth in proper proportion!

But alas for the story when he leans on others! For example, “The President [Johnson] now [1865] gave his attention to the Negro, for whose freedom, unquestionably, the war was fought.” Thus an incidental outcome of the conflict is herewith made the primary cause of strife!

It is to weep! Not merely because the admirable [author] says this, but because it is the pathetic delusion of millions of people.

If, in 1776, the British had won, the slaves of Washington, Mason, Henry and Jefferson would have been set free by virtue of Lord Dunmore’s proclamation of emancipation. But the Revolutionary struggle was not begun or waged on the issue of slavery, not to anybody’s present understanding. [Royal] Governor Dunmore was not concerned, primarily, with the freedom of the Negroes; he hoped that the promised freedom would handicap the rebellion against British authority.

President Lincoln freely admitted that his proclamation was “a war measure”; and he had been in favor of perpetuating, by Constitutional amendment, if need be, the “bonds of slavery” wherever it existed within the bounds of the United States. Such was the form of the Thirteenth Amendment as passed by a Northern Congress in 1861.

Why not believe Lincoln when he specifically said he was not waging the war to free the slave? Why not believe the testimony (now wholly lost sight of in the pathetic fallacy of the “moral” issue) of contemporary witnesses that the Northern armies would have melted away had any such idea been understood in 1861?”

General Grant held slaves. Lee was an emancipationist. A.W. Bradford was the Union Governor of Maryland in 1862-1864. He was a large slaveholder, while his neighbor, Bradley T. Johnson, a distinguished Confederate general, owned no slaves. Lincoln’s proclamation did not affect slavery in Maryland because slavery in Maryland was protected under the Union.”

(John Wilkes Booth, Francis Wilson, Houghton-Mifflin. Reviewed by Matthew Page Andrews, Confederate Veteran, April 1929, page 129)

For Lincoln and the Fatherland

By 1864 a full 25% of Northern military machine was composed of German immigrants, many attracted by land and enlistment bounty monies with the Irish not far behind.  Some German newspaper editors argued that large units of foreigners was “a means of winning recognition for their nationality”  — as they marched against Americans in the South fighting for political independence and a more perfect union.  The diary entry below reveals immigrant views toward the black man.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

For Lincoln and the Fatherland

“On the 18th of June 1864 we arrived at the line of entrenchment in front of Petersburg. Here we had to stay in the trenches 48 hours and then be back in the rear 48 hours. This was nearly ½ mile back of the front. But there was a trench cut out from here to the front, for it was not safe to show yourself above the ground unless a man was drunk (While we lay there we drew a good dram of whiskey every morning).

A drunken man went outside the trench all the way to the front. The bullets flew all around him but none touched him. We stayed at this place till July 30th, during which time we lost a good many men, mostly by sharp shooters and some by mortar shells. One of our men was sitting by a tree with his plate on his lap eating when a sharpshooter shot him through the head. He fell over and was dead.

We had dug holes where we slept in and sat most of the time. When we were back in the rear, one fellow was lying in his hole when a mortar shell fell in the hole and exploded (My hole was about 100 feet away from his). It tore all the flesh off his leg below the knee and I guess he lost his leg.

We had port holes in the breastworks where we could shoot through without being seen by the enemy in front of us. That morning these two fellows were watching through a port hole and whenever a Johnny would show his head above their breastworks they would shoot at him. But they had not done that very long when a sharpshooter shot Elias Iran through the head and killed him. We carried him back to the rear and buried him. But before we got through they brought out the other fellow, Fred Ziehl, shot this same way.

We had a big fort on our left. It was built of pine logs and dirt. In this fort was a big gun, which threw a shell of over 62 pounds. They shot three or four of them into Petersburg every morning. We called it the Petersburg Express.

Opposite this fort the Rebs had a fort which was undermined by the 48th Pennsylvania Regiment. This fort was to be blown up on the 30th of July. Just as the sun was rising I felt the ground shaking under me. I jumped up and saw pieces of the Reb’s fort coming down in the air. Then the cannonading commenced. Then our Major (Mapes) said, “Forward boys! Every darn one of you!”

There was a regiment of Nigger troops to our left. The Rebs drove them back. They had brought up artillery in front of us and were shooting grape and canister at us. We got orders to fall back so they would not cut us off from our line. I said, “Boys, it is no use getting out of here for we will never get back to our line,” as the bullets were coming like hail. But they all started back and I was the last man in the ditch, so I concluded I would risk it too. As I went back I saw men in front of me falling and I expected any minute I’d get hit, but I got back to our line without a scratch.

When I got back to our trenches they were jammed full of Niggers, mostly bare headed and nearly scared to death and crowding for the rear. But the officers finally got them stopped and drove them back to the front.

[On the third day after the battle] There was a white flag put up on each side, and there was no shooting allowed. What I saw on the battlefield I will not forget as long as I live. The weather was hot and the dead were all black. The only way to tell a white man from a Nigger was by their hair and features. They were so badly decayed. We white soldiers were ordered to dig a ditch six or seven feet wide and four feet deep and the niggers were ordered to carry the bodies together and wrap them in a blanket and lay them side by side in the ditch and then we would cover them. They told us afterward our side lost 3000 in that battle.

After our 30 days, that we had agreed to serve as infantry, were up, we were asked to serve 30 days more. Some of the boys refused and deserted and we never heard of them afterwards. The next day when I got to the regiment they had lost 90 men, taken prisoner by some Rebel cavalry.”

(Gustave Milleville’s Civil War Diary, Part 2, Der Brief, Historical Society of North German Settlements in Western New York, July/August 2011, pp. 7-8)

Angela Grimke's Cornerstone of the Republic

Poor Alexander H. Stephens!

The Vice President of the American Confederacy’s informal speech to a Savannah audience in March 1861 is used to verify that the defense of slavery is all the new experiment in American government was about — and despite the fact that Stephen’s remarks were simply imperfect reporter’s notes and we are not even sure if he uttered those exact words.

If Stephen’s indeed mentioned “cornerstone and African slavery” in the same sentence in Savannah, he most likely was referring to Charleston abolitionist Angelina Grimke’ who some 25 years before said this about the United States.

Angelina’s speech in 1836 was entitled “An Appeal to the Christian Women of the South” and its topic anti-slavery. Both she and her sister were born into wealth in Charleston, SC — and later moved to the former center of the transatlantic slave trade, New England, to become Quakers and join William Lloyd Garrison’s abolition movement. There the Grimke’ sisters perhaps not only engaged in serious abolitionist discourse but also discovered that the slavery they abhorred was a mostly New England enterprise, and supported by its notorious rum trade with Africa.

Grimke stated in her appeal that “The interests of the North . . . are very closely combined with those of the South. The Northern merchants and manufacturers are making their fortunes out of the produce of slave labor . . . [and] the North is most dreadfully afraid of Amalgamation. She is alarmed at the very idea of a thing so monstrous, as she thinks. And lest this consequence might flow from emancipation, she is determined to resist all efforts at emancipation without expatriation. It is not because she [the North] approves of slavery, or believes it to be “the cornerstone of our republic,” for she is as much anti-slavery as we are; but amalgamation is too horrible to think of.” (see “Against Slavery, An Abolitionist Reader,” Angelina & Sarah Moore Grimke’, Penguin Books, 2000).

Stephen’s wrote in his Recollection’s that he spoke extemporaneously in his Savannah speech, and the reporter’s notes he reviewed afterward “were imperfect” contained “glaring errors.” He goes on to explain the contents of his speech with “The relation of the black to the white race, or the proper status of the colored population amongst us, was a question now of vastly more importance than when the Constitution was formed. The order of subordination is nature’s great law; philosophy taught that order as the normal condition of the African amongst European races. Upon this recognized principle of a proper subordination, let it be called slavery or what not, our State institutions were formed and rested. The principle of the subordination of the inferior to the superior was the “cornerstone” on which it was formed. I used this metaphor merely to illustrate the firm convictions of the framers of the new Constitution that this relation of the black to the white race, which existed in 1787 . . . The status of the African race in the new Constitution was left just where it was in the old; I affirmed and meant to affirm nothing else in this Savannah speech” (Recollections of  Alexander H. Stephens, 1910/1998, LSU Press).

Thus Stephens viewed African slavery in the same way as the abolitionists who sought secession from the United States by New England, to separate themselves from what they saw as the evil cornerstone of the United States. And the Confederacy incorporated nothing more than what the United States already had recognized as a domestic institution of the States, to be accepted or eradicated in time by each State.  This raises the obvious question: If the abolitionists were opposed to slavery, why did they not advance a peaceful and practical emancipation proposal as did England in the 1840s with compensated emancipation?

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

One American Ruler to Enforce Obedience

The peaceful political separation desired by the American South in early 1861 was best summarized by President Jefferson Davis’ in his inaugural address: “We seek no conquest, no aggrandizement, no concession of any kind from the States with which we were lately confederated. All we ask is to be let alone; that those who never held power over us shall not now attempt our subjugation by arms.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

One American Ruler to Enforce Obedience

“From Mr. [Robert] Toombs, Secretary of State, Message No. 5, Department of State, Montgomery, Alabama, May 18, 1861.

To: Hon Wm. L. Yancey, Hon. Pierre A. Rost, Hon. A. Dudley Mann, Commissioners of the Confederate States, etc.

Gentlemen: My dispatch of the 24th ultimo contained an accurate summary of the important events which had transpired up to that date, and informed you that the Executive of the United States had commenced a war of aggression against the Confederate States.

On the 20th instant the convention of the people of North Carolina will assemble at Raleigh, and there is no doubt that, immediately thereafter, ordinances of secession from the United States, and union with the Confederate States, will be adopted.

Although ten independent and sovereign States have thus deliberately severed the bonds which bound them in political union with the United States, and have formed a separate and independent Government for themselves, the President of the United States affects to consider that the Federal Union is still legally and constitutionally unbroken . . . He claims to be our ruler, and insists that he has the right to enforce our obedience.

From the newspaper press, the rostrum, and the pulpit, the partisans of Mr. Lincoln, while they clamorously assert their devotion to the Union and Constitution of the United States, daily preach a relentless war between the sections, to be prosecuted not only in violation of all constitutional authority, but in disregard of the simplest law of humanity.

The authorized exponents of the sentiments of [Lincoln’s party] . . . avow that it is the purpose of the war to subjugate the Confederate States, spoliate the property of our citizens, sack and burn our cities and villages, and exterminate our citizens . . .

[The] real motive which actuates Mr. Lincoln and those who now sustain his acts is to accomplish by force of arms that which the masses of the Northern people have long sought to effect – namely, the overthrow of our domestic institutions, the devastation and destruction of our social interests, and the reduction of the Southern States to the condition of subject provinces.

It is not astonishing that a people educated in that school which always taught the maintenance of the rights of the few against the might of the many, which ceaselessly regarded the stipulation to protect and preserve the liberties and vested rights of every member of the Confederacy as the condition precedent upon which each State delegated certain powers necessary for self-protection to the General Government, should refuse to submit dishonorably to the destruction of their constitutional liberty, the insolent denial of their right to govern themselves and to hold and enjoy their property in peace.

In the exercise of that greatest of the rights reserved to the several States by the late Federal Constitution – namely, the right for each State to be judge for itself, as well of the infractions of the compact of the Union, as of the mode and measure of redress – the sovereignties composing the Confederate States resolved to sever their political connection with the United States and form a Government of their own, willing to effect this purpose peacefully at any sacrifice save that of honor and liberty, but determined even at the cost of war to assert their right to independence and self-government.”

(A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Confederacy 1861-1865, James D. Richardson, Volume II, US Publishing Company, 1905, excerpt, pp. 26-31)

John Brown and His Greater Villains

The violent attack of John Brown at Harper’s Ferry “and his apotheosis by Northern abolitionists had struck fear and rage into the hearts of Southerners and had revived talk of secession that had all but died out in 1859.” This sad event all but confirmed the suspicion of many Southerners that the North wished to destroy the South, and the Union.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

John Brown and His Greater Villains

“On Wednesday morning, October 19, John Brown and [Aaron Dwight] Stevens were placed in a wagon and driven to the railway station under a strong guard of Marines to protect them from the possibility of a merciful lynching.

But when they reached the waiting train and the shouts of “Lynch them, lynch them!” rose, the Governor was there to call back, “Oh, it would be cowardly to do so now!”  The Sheriff of Jefferson County and the United States Marshal for the Western District of Virginia committed their four prisoners to the jail at Charlestown to await trial.

There was no apparent reason why the prisoners should not be brought to justice as soon as possible, for the evidence was clear, the law demanded immediate trial, and the State of Virginia recognized no advantage in submitting the case to the Federal courts. The Federal government was directly [affected] by the attack on the arsenal and indirectly by the whole nature of the conspiracy, but Virginia was insisting on a primary principle in retaining jurisdiction.

In the case of John Brown himself there was little hesitation; in that of his companions more debate occurred, for the temptation was strong to embody in fact a subsidiary principle concerning the slave problem by turning Stevens over to the Federal Government for prosecution . . . the great advantage the Federal court possessed [was] being able to summon “the greater villains” who resided beyond the jurisdiction of the State of Virginia; and meanwhile some of these villains had made haste to reside beyond the jurisdiction of the United States.

The immediate trial and the wounds of two of the prisoners provided unexpected capital for the “liberal” newspapers in the North. At first the Republican press hurried to repudiate John Brown and all his works, for it was felt that this sort of thing might prove disastrous in the Presidential contest of the next year, but it was not long before editors and politicians alike recognized an opportunity in the situation.

The Chicago Convention which nominated Abraham Lincoln in 1860 unanimously resolved that the attempt of John Brown was criminal . . . But in the autumn of 1859 the “liberal” press . . . deplored the conditions which made [Brown’s attack] necessary; it deplored the misguided effort in a holy cause, but abhorred the barbarous conduct in Virginia in suppressing that effort. [William Lloyd] Garrison wrote in the Liberator:

“In recording the expressions of sympathy and admiration which are so widely felt for John Brown, whose doom is now swiftly approaching . . . that, judging him by the code of Bunker hill, we think he is deserving of high-wrought eulogy as any who ever wielded sword or battle-axe in the cause of liberty . . . ”

(John Brown, The Making of a Martyr, Robert Penn Warren, J.S. Sanders and Company, 1929, pp. 393-395)