Browsing "New England History"

Constitutional Convention on the Battlefield

The war of 1861-1865 seemed a violent replay of the 1800 election between Federalist John Adams and Republican Thomas Jefferson – and settling the question of whether New England or Virginia would dominate and guide the country. Author Russell Kirk observed in 1953 that “The influence of the Virginia mind upon American politics expired in the Civil War,” and that it would take 100 years for the ideas of a limited central government and free market ideas to begin a recovery.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Constitutional Convention on the Battlefield

“Beginning with the modern civil-rights movement in the late 1950s, it became popular and “politically correct” to proclaim that the Civil War was fought for the purpose of abolishing slavery and therefore was a just and great war. This gave the civil-rights movement much of its momentum, but it also served to injure race relations severely, and further, to mask the immense and disastrous costs of the Civil War, which included the deaths of 620,000 soldiers.

The destruction of the South and its Jeffersonian ideals of a free market, a non-interventionist foreign policy, and a limited central government were replaced by the ideals of Hamilton, thereby completely transforming the American government created by its founders.

The Civil War was, in effect, a new constitutional convention held on the battlefield, and the original document was drastically amended by force in order to have a strong centralized federal government, which was closely allied with industry in the North.

Foreign policy would now become heavily influenced by the economic interests of big business rather than by any concern for the freedom of the individual. Domestic policies of regulation, subsidy and tariff would now benefit big business at the expense of small business and the general population.

Beginning with the end of the Civil War, the American mind and policy would become molded into the image of Hamilton rather than Jefferson.”

(The Costs of War: America’s Pyrrhic Victories, John V. Denson, editor, 1999, Transaction Publishers, 1999, excerpts pp. 27-28)

Ben McCulloch’s Visit to New England

Ben McCulloch (1811-1862) of Tennessee was a soldier in the Texas Revolution, a Texas Ranger, major-general in the Texas Militia, a major in the US Army during the Mexican War, a US marshal, and lastly a brigadier-general in the Confederate States Army. He was killed in action by an Illinois sniper at the battle of Pea Ridge in March of 1862. McCulloch’s prewar visit to New England in mid-1856 allowed him to view that region’s notable historic and transatlantic slave trade sites. His younger brother Henry served in both Houses of the Texas Legislature and was also a Confederate brigadier; their father Alexander was a Yale graduate, ancestor of George Washington, and veteran of the Creek War of 1813.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Ben McCulloch’s Visit to New England

“Increasingly contemptuous of the North and its institutions, and set in his belief that an abolitionist conspiracy was in place not only to end slavery but to destroy the South’s political liberties, Ben recommended to Henry, then a member of the Texas legislature, that he introduce a joint resolution appointing commissioners to negotiate with the owners of Mount Vernon for its purchase by the State of Texas. “It would be a proud day for our State when it was proclaimed that she owned the Tomb of Washington. Besides,” he wrote, we may want a campaign ground near the city in the event of the election of a Black Republican candidate.”

During the final weeks of June 1856, with [Franklin] Pierce’s term of office drawing to a close and the great regional controversy over the expansion and perpetuation of slavery reaching a crisis, McCulloch took his first trip into New England. After spending no longer in Boston than required to visit “the monument on Breed’s Hill, Faneuil Hall, the Commons, etc.,” Ben reported to Henry that “the whole population looked as though they were just returning from a funeral. Too puritanical in appearance to be good neighbors or patriotic citizens.”

[In Albany, New York, Whig presidential candidate Millard Fillmore] told the North that the South “would not permit a sectional president of the north to govern them.” McCulloch shared this opinion most earnestly, and he vowed to be “the first to volunteer my services as a soldier to prevent it, and would rather see the streets of this city knee deep in blood than to see a black republican take possession of that chair.”

(Ben McCulloch and the Frontier Military Tradition, Thomas W. Cutrer, UNC Press, 1993, excerpts pp. 140-141)

The Cornerstone of New England Prosperity

The primary reason for the large number of slaves in the Southern colonies, despite their repeated complaints to the Crown, was the British colonial labor system supporting large plantations in the South – all to the benefit of England. Although Massachusetts and Rhode Island abolished slavery, their slave trading on the coast of Africa continued unabated. Jefferson castigated George III for waging a “cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people [Africans] who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The Cornerstone of New England’s Prosperity

“The relation between master and slave had practically continued in every one of the American provinces, until the close of the Revolution in 1783. Immediately after that event, it was decided by the Supreme Court of Massachusetts that slavery had been, in fact, abolished in that State by the operation of the State Constitution, adopted in the year 1790.

In all of the other original thirteen provinces north of Mason and Dixon’s line, except Delaware . . . legislative measures were taken, shortly after the Revolution, for either the immediate or gradual extinction of slavery. The sum total of the slaves in all these Northern States in 1790, was 49,240. The rest of the slaves in the States, amounting to 648,657, were distributed between Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, except 8,887 in Delaware.

[Interestingly, the Northern States, when involved in establishing the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution] did not deem themselves authorized to meddle with [slavery] outside of their several State jurisdictions.

Mr. Jefferson, indeed, gave a reason for this reticence imputing it to the indirect interest of the Northern maritime States, in the transportation of African slaves to the Southern States. In his original draft of the Declaration of Independence he had inserted an article unqualifiedly reprobating the foreign slave trade, and urging the protection afforded to it by the King as one powerful motive for the rebellion.

He finally withdrew this clause from the document, and his reason, recorded by himself, appears in explanation of his conduct. After alluding to the disposition of some of the Southern States to keep up the slave trade, he continues:

“Our Northern brethren, also, I believe, felt a little tender under those censures, for though their people have very few slaves themselves, yet they had been pretty considerable carriers of them to others [Jefferson’s Works, I., p. 15].”

(Origin of the Late War: Traced from the Beginning of the Constitution to the Revolt of the Southern States; George Lunt, Crown Rights Book Company, 2001, (original D. Appleton, 1866), excerpt pp. 10-11)

Fixing Blame for African Slavery

By 1689, few African slaves had been introduced to Virginia and elsewhere by British, Dutch, French slavers, though this changed radically in the next seventy years – by 1760 the black race formed fully two-fifths of the entire Southern population. The increasing supply of Africans certainly fixed the plantation system on the South as part of the British colonial labor system.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Fixing Blame for African Slaves

“So far as the [colonial] Southern tidewater is concerned, the increase in population came largely through the involuntary immigration of African Negroes. During the seventeenth century . . . British merchants and their government were organizing as never before for the exploitation of the slave trade.

The prosperity of the Royal African Company stimulated competition, and before long “separate traders” from England and [New England] broke down the company’s monopoly. In 1713 the British slave-traders gained a great advantage over Dutch and French rivals by the Asiento agreement, giving them the privilege of supplying slaves to the Spanish colonial market.

There are no comprehensive statistics; but in 1734 it was estimated that about 70,000 slaves annually were exported from Africa to the New World.

The responsibility for slavery in the English colonies must be distributed widely. British merchants, the imperial government, which defeated efforts on the part of colonial assemblies to check the trade, [and] New England traders . . . each group must take its share.

Peter Fontaine, an Anglican clergyman of Huguenot stock, spoke of it as the “original sin and curse of the country,” but urged that when the colonists tried to restrict importation, their acts were commonly disapproved in England.

Besides, he argued, the Negroes had been first enslaved in Africa by men of their own color . . . Efforts were made to Christianize and educate the Negroes, and the Anglican missionaries were expected to make this part of their work.”

(The Foundations of American Nationality, Evarts Boutell Greene, American Book Company, 1922, excerpts pp. 316; 322)

Boston and Newport Slave Merchants

By the year 1750, Rhode Island had become the center of the transatlantic slave trade as it surpassed Liverpool — while also angering British shipbuilders as their workmen left for New England and better pay. Boston’s Peter Fanueil made his wealth through slaving, and the famous Redwood Library in Newport was built with land and money from Abraham Redwood, who grew rich in the slave trade. The Brown family of Newport, Nicholas, John, Joseph and Moses, who established Brown University, made their fortune in the slave trade.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Boston and Newport Slave Merchants

“British commercial relations with the northern colonies, though important, were less close than with the South and the West Indies. New England had no staple exports to England at all comparable with West Indian sugar or Virginia tobacco. Her fish and lumber were marketed largely elsewhere, chiefly in the West Indies but also in other colonies, in the Azores, and in southern Europe.

From the American point of view the British government ought to have encouraged the trade with the foreign West Indies instead of trying to check it with the Molasses Act. The English authorities were, however, less impressed by [New England arguments] than by the smuggled European goods which came in through this “back door.”

Before, as well as after, the passage of the Molasses Act, sugar and molasses from the foreign West Indies continued to supply the distilleries of New England, whence rum was sent out for use in the Indian trade and in the purchase of African slaves. In this latter trade, Boston and especially Newport merchants competed with those of the mother country.

In the first half of the eighteenth century, Newport became the chief base in North America for the African slave trade. The round of this trade began with the rum manufactured from West Indies molasses. What followed may be illustrated from the correspondence of some of these Newport merchants.

In 1755, for instance, the firm of Wilkinson and Ayrault sent Captain David Lindsay to the African coast, where he was to exchange his cargo for gold and slaves. With his human freight he was to sail to Barbados or St. Christopher, where the slaves were to be sold, provided he could get an average price of twenty-seven pounds for them all, “great and small.” The captain did this business on commission, getting among other things five slaves for his own share.

The profits of this trade, legal and illegal, were building up at Boston, Newport, Salem, and elsewhere a rich merchant class of decidedly cosmopolitan interests.

“[The] Narragansett planters” of Rhode Island had also a reputation for generous living.  Indentured servants came in from England and Ireland . . . Prosperous families, especially in the larger towns, often had one or more Negro slaves and there was no general feeling against the practice, though a few protests were heard. Rhode Island had the largest proportion of Negroes and the Narragansett planters used slave labor more than any other part of New England.

Generally speaking, the small farmers of New England could not use Negro slaves to much purpose.”

(The Foundations of American Nationality, Evarts Boutell Greene, American Book Company, 1922, excerpts pp. 246-247; 262-263; 266)

Fake News and Collusion

Charles A. Dana is a seldom mentioned figure in wartime incidents, though he became an internal spy for Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and monitored Grant’s early activities in the western theater of war. When Jefferson Davis was placed in irons in Fortress Monroe, it was Dana who wrote the order. In the prewar period, Dana was a member of the utopian Brook Farm commune in Massachusetts, and encouraged Karl Marx to contribute to Horace Greeley’s Tribune. Dana later admitted that the entire power of the War Department was utilized to ensure Lincoln’s reelection in 1864.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Fake News and Collusion

“White-haired and long faced, [Secretary of War Simon] Cameron was turning army procurement into a fish fry for manufacturers of his native Pennsylvania. Not a word of criticism, however, came from the [New York] Tribune, normally freighted to the water’s edge with brickbats for public officials suspected of mischief . . . Part [of editor Horace Greeley’s reason] was due to the fact that Cameron, in an early draft, proposed a favorite Greeley scheme of arming escaped slaves.

Part of it, however, mirrored the touching understanding between the war minister and his favorite news-gatherer [the Tribune’s Samuel Wilkeson]. Wilkeson would send Cameron a clipping of one of his more flattering articles on the existing management of the war, and
Cameron would respond in a way that counted, by dropping a note to the telegraph censor and requesting that Wilkeson’s dispatches be sent through untouched.

[The] New York Herald ferretted out of an investigation of Cameron’s contracts a story which charged the Washington correspondent and two of the Tribune’s commercial and financial writers had secured the charter of a Connecticut gun manufacturer and submitted a bid to supply the government with 25,000 muskets at twenty dollars apiece.

Wilkeson (whose name was twisted by the Herald to Wilkinson) had supposedly used his influence to have the Ordnance Department hurry matters along. The Tribune denied that any of its men had owned any part of the contract in question; Wilkeson admitted to an act of “disinterested kindness” and nothing more, but soon thereafter left Washington for the army.

[Cameron in January 1862 was replaced with Edwin M.] Stanton, [and who] almost as soon as he was installed at his desk, wrote to Charles A. Dana, the managing editor, confiding that his mission tended toward the same end as that of the paper.

In an early entanglement over a censored dispatch Stanton admitted that he and Dana were of “one heart and mind” in the cause of victory. He meant it, apparently, for Dana subsequently left Greeley’s payroll and, under the title of Assistant Secretary of War, ventured afield to keep an eye on various headquarters for Stanton.”

(Reporters for the Union, Bernard A. Weisberger, Little, Brown and Company, 1953, excerpts pp. 175-178)

Sedition and Secession in New England

The first secession sentiment displayed in the US came from New England, a region which saw, in the early 1800s, a growing faith in monarchical Great Britain as “Federalist distrust of the youthful and growing American people increased.” In early 1811 when the bill to admit Louisiana was considered, the New England Federalists “violently resisted it.”

Josiah Quincy declared that “if this bill passes, the bonds of this Union are virtually dissolved; that the States which compose it are free from their moral obligations, and that, as it will be the right of all, so it will be the duty of some, to prepare for a separation – amicably if they can, violently if they must. The first public love of my heart in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. There is my fireside; there are the tombs of my ancestors.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Sedition and Secession in New England

“As soon as Congress convened in November, 1808, New England opened the attack on [President Thomas] Jefferson’s retaliatory measures [in the Embargo against the British]. Senator James Hillhouse of Connecticut offered a resolution for the repeal of the obnoxious statutes. “Great Britain was not to be threatened into compliance by a rod of coercion,” he said.

[Timothy] Pickering made a speech that might have well been delivered in Parliament [Four years earlier, Pickering had plotted the secession of New England and enlisted the support of the British Minister to accompany it].

Before [Chief Justice John] Marshall had written [his friend Pickering], the Legislature of Massachusetts formally declared that the continuance of the Embargo would “endanger . . . the union of these States.” Talk of secession was steadily growing in New England. The National Government feared open rebellion.

On January 9, 1809, Jefferson signed the “Force Act,” . . . Collectors of customs were authorized to seize any vessel or wagon if they suspected the owner of an intention to evade the Embargo laws; ships could be laden only in the presence of National officials, and sailing delayed or prohibited arbitrarily.

Along the New England coasts popular wrath swept like a forest fire. Violent resolutions were passed. The Collector of Boston, Benjamin Lincoln, refused to obey the law and resigned. The Legislature of Massachusetts passed a bill denouncing the “Force Act” as unconstitutional, and declaring any officer entering a house in execution of it to be guilty of a high misdemeanor, punishable by fine and imprisonment.

The Governor of Connecticut declined the request of the Secretary of War to afford military aid and addressed the Legislature on a speech bristling with sedition. The Embargo must go, said the Federalists, or New England would appeal to arms. Riots broke out in many towns. Withdrawal from the Union was openly advocated.”

(Life of John Marshall, Albert J. Beveridge, Volume IV, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1919, excerpts pp. 13-17; 27)

The Problem of Sovereignty

Regarding the location of sovereignty in the American system of government, Jefferson Davis, in his postwar “Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government,” stated: “If any lingering doubt could have existed as to the reservation of their entire sovereignty by the people of the respective States when they organized the federal Union, it would have been removed by the adoption of the tenth amendment to the Constitution, which was not only one of the amendments proposed by various States when ratifying that instrument, but the particular one in which they substantially agreed, and upon which they most urgently insisted.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The Problem of Sovereignty

“The fundamental issue in the writing of the Articles of Confederation was the location of the ultimate political authority, the problem of sovereignty. Should it reside in Congress or the States?

Many conservatives in 1776-1777, as in 1787, believed that Congress should have a “superintending” power over both the States and their individual citizens. They had definite reasons for such a desire.

They feared mob action and democratic rule.

The radicals, on the other hand, were fighting centralization in their attack upon the British Empire and upon the colonial governing classes, whose interests were so closely interwoven with the imperial relationship. Furthermore, the interests of the radicals were essentially local.

To them union was merely a means to their end, the independence of the several States. Hence centralization was to be opposed. Finally, the democratic theory of the time was antagonistic to any government with pretensions toward widespread dominion. Theorists believed that democratic government was impossible except within very limited areas.

Thus the conflict between those who were essentially “nationalists” and those who were forerunners of the “States rights” school.

The real significance of this controversy was obscured during the nineteenth century by historians and politicians who sought to justify the demands of rising industrialism on the central government and the Northern attitude toward the South’s secession in 1860-61.

The Southern contention that the Union was a compact between sovereign States was opposed by the contention that the Union was older than the States. North historians insisted that the first Continental Congress was a sovereign body, and that it represented the people of the United States as a whole, not the people of the several States as represented in their State governments.

To prove their contentions the Northerners cited such documents as the Declaration of Independence and the preamble to the Constitution of 1787 . . . [and italicizing] to place undue emphasis on the portions of the documents which seemed to prove their arguments.

This is essentially the technique of argument used by small boys and would be unworthy of consideration had it not been so effective in shaping certain ideas which have profoundly influenced the interpretation of American history.”

(The Articles of Confederation, an Interpretation of the Social-Constitutional History of the American Revolution, 1774-1781, Merrill Jensen, University of Wisconsin Press, 1940, excerpts pp. 161-163)

 

Bungling and Unprincipled Self-Seeking

As the invading Northern armies moved South, huge quantities of cotton were found and Yankee cotton-hunger “was fierce and insatiable.” Union officers could make a quick fortune seizing bales and shipping them northward to New England mills, the same ones who had themselves perpetuated slavery with dependence on Southern cotton.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Bungling and Unprincipled Self-Seeking

“The opening of the full length of the Mississippi by the capture of Vicksburg and Port Hudson augmented the illicit traffic from all river towns into the Confederacy. General [Stephen A.] Hurlbut, himself probably corrupt and certainly drunken, explained to his superiors [in Washington] the impossibility of imposing controls. “A perpetual flood of fraud, false-swearing, and contraband goods runs through the city,” he wrote. Even the pickets are bribed.

[US] Treasury agents were really no more culpable than Army officers, and old cotton-brokers no worse than Chicago commission-men; Yankees and foreigners could be equally unscrupulous.

Ben Butler, who had held command [at New Orleans] in 1862, believed in generous trade policies, and one recipient of his generosity was his brother, Andrew Jackson Butler. The operations of both the Butlers became highly complicated . . . When military expeditions were sent out ostensibly for the chastisement of guerillas, but with cotton also in view, and shallow-draft steamers began to scour the bayous with the same objectives, the situation became still more tangled.

[Secretary of the Treasury Salmon] Chase’s special agent, George S. Denison . . . found that a great deal of contraband material was being shipped to the Confederates in exchange for cotton, and that [Northern] military men of high rank who lent their cooperation were reaping large harvests.

It was clear, he wrote Chase, that Ben Butler “knows everything, controls everything, and should be held responsible for everything.”

On the Red River in the spring of 1864, the carnival of trade and speculation reached its height for a single campaign. General [Nathanial P.] Banks, who also had to carry the ignominy of defeat, suffered censure . . . Officer after officer, in testimony that runs for pages despite sharp questions put by Congressmen, charged that the Navy seized wagons and mules right and left, ranging far into the interior away from the Red River and branding cotton “C.S.A.” so that they with impunity then add “U.S.N.”

Porter went on to attack the Army, writing: “General Banks had come up in the steamer Black Hawk, loaded with cotton speculators, bagging, roping, champagne, and ice. The whole affair was cotton speculation . . .”

At times, in the aftermath of the Red River campaign, it seems that every participant was misrepresenting everyone else. The only definite certainty is that it was a time of bungling, lying, chicanery, corruption, and unprincipled self-seeking, all to the injury of the [Northern] war effort.”

 

(The War for the Union: the Organized War 1863-1864, Volume III, Allan Nevins, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971, excerpts pp. 355-361)

 

War for Immense Profits

On April 9, 1863, the Greensboro (North Carolina) Patriot wrote that blockade-runners arrived at Wilmington and Charleston every week, “all doing thrifty business with their Yankee friends in Boston and New York through Nassau.” Gen. W.H.C. Whiting wrote President Davis late in the war from Fort Fisher that runners carrying Northern goods seemed to penetrate the enemy blockade easily.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

War for Immense Profits

“The amount of greed and corruption that attended the business of blockade-running was about what might have been anticipated, and involved not only Southerners and Britons, but some grasping Yankees. The contraband commerce had all the attractions of gambling for high stakes . . . the stocks of some blockade-running corporations, Southern or British, rose to mountain heights – even $6,000 a share!

More than half the ships and cargoes tried in the New York prize-court were British, but the British name too often concealed Northern interests. Some Yankees were as ready to evade trading-with-the-enemy laws as their fathers had been in 1812.

Northern goods, their labels altered to flaunt famous British names, passed through Boston or New York on long roundabout trips, Boston-Bermuda-Wilmington, or New York-Nassau-Mobile, and sometimes shipped with bold directness to Charleston or Matamoros.

At its height, the New York trade with Bermuda, Nassau and Havana was scandalously large. A “ring” of dealers, shippers and blockade-runners helped organize the traffic and made arrangements with the Custom House for shipments.

By the autumn of 1862 a brisk traffic, half-furtive, half open, sprung up, not only in occupied areas but where Union troops faced Confederate troops. Scores of [Northern] officers intent upon commercial deals, and a much greater number of merchants anxious to trade in cotton, tobacco and general merchandise flocked down, first to Memphis, then to Little Rock and Helena, and finally to Vicksburg.

Read Admiral [David] Porter said of the [United States] Treasury agents sent down by [Secretary Salmon] Chase to control the situation: “A greater pack of knaves never went unhung.” Yet his own gunboat crews were equally unscrupulous, one Senator later declaring that they had made a hundred millions during the war.

And David Perry of the Fifth Illinois Cavalry, son of a mayor of Bloomington, Illinois, made a yet graver charge: “Many lives have been sacrificed during the past summer and fall,” he informed his father as the year 1862 ended, “that certain high officers might make their fortunes with cotton-trade, and many a poor darkey who had fled to us has been traded off, by officers holding high positions in the army and before the world, for cotton.

The truth is, when an impartial history of this war shall be written, it will expose a greater amount of fraud and corruption than the world has ever before seen. Even your Bloomington general, Hovey, traded Negroes for cotton and sacrificed many lives . . . for the sole purpose of making money.”

(The War for the Union: the Organized War 1863-1864, Volume III, Allan Nevins, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971, excerpts pp. 342-343; 353-354)

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