Browsing "New England’s Cultural Imperialism"

Stereotyping the South Up North

The 1861-65 war destroyed the American South’s economic, legal, political and social systems, and afterward ruled the region with proconsuls dispatched from Washington. From this aftermath of war came the invented view of the desolated South – a section known in antebellum times for providing the majority of presidents and exemplary political thinkers — as an uncouth and backward region steeped in laziness and illiteracy.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Stereotyping the South Up North

“Strange notions have developed about the South. It is taken for granted that Southerners are a slow and lazy people. The Abolitionists and Radical Reconstructionists conveyed the impression — and fiction has augmented it — that plantation whites lived in idleness and ease while black hands did labor and chores for them.

The white women of the South are still thought to be lazy, pampered, helpless, spoiled creatures. All this comes out in fiction, shows, movies, and in street corner and parlor conversations. A conventional Southerner has evolved. He is tall, lanky, lazy, slow — except with the trigger finger — speaks with a drawl, says “you all” even to one person, and possesses a sort of insolent dignity.

The South is regarded as a backward, ignorant, hot-tempered and violent section, especially in its dealing with Negroes. Extravagant fictional treatments of the extremes of Southern life are quite generally accepted as accurate cross-section views of the South. In one of the most violent scenes of “Tobacco Road,” as played in a New York theater, an intelligent-looking woman remarked to her companion: “That’s just like the South.” Asked what part of the South she was from, she squirmed in her seat and soon left the theater.

Mud on the Stars, a lurid and patently preposterous story about life in Alabama, was well-received by New York critics. One reviewer said that it is from such men as the author of this filthy story, who incidentally is a self-confessed rake that we must look for information about the real South.

When Stars Fell on Alabama, a grotesque portrayal of life in Alabama appeared, it was widely acclaimed in the North, but when the same author wrote a similar book – Genesee Fever – about a certain community in New York State, the reviewers and commentators of New York were quick to point out that it represented a purely local and extreme situation in the State, and that it contained extravagant overtones and distortions for the purpose of literary effect.”

(One Hundred Years of Reconstruction, A.B. Moore, 1943, Southern Historical Society Addresses)

Northern Hostility Toward the Negro

Anthropologist Lewis Henry Morgan of New York wrote Calhoun in 1848 that “The feeling toward [the Negro] in the North is decidedly that of hostility. There is no respect for them. No wish for their elevation; but on the contrary a strong desire to prevent the multiplication of the race as far as it is possible to do so . . .” Former New York Governor (and later Union Major-General] John Adams Dix spoke of the “inferior caste” in free States: “Public opinion at the North – call it prejudice if you will – presents an insuperable barrier against its elevation in the social scale . . . A class thus degraded . . . will not multiply . . .” Pennsylvania Congressman David Wilmot in mid-1846 introduced a bill to ban African slavery from land acquired from Mexico.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Northern Hostility Toward the Negro

“Closely interwoven with the northern fear of [Southern political] dominance was fear of the Negro himself, and the [Wilmot] Proviso, commonly called the “White Man’s Resolution” by the free-soilers, seems to have expressed a northern desire to keep the territories free not only of slaves, but of the black race.

The rhetoric of the free-soil movement is replete with expressions of hostility toward the Negro. One of the most notable instances occurs in James Russell Lowell’s allegorical treatment of the territorial issue in his enormously popular “Bigelow Papers.”

In this poem Lowell represents the Negroes as “long-legged swine” who ruin the territories, making them uninhabitable for the northern farmer. Anti-Negro expressions also found their way into free-soil platforms, albeit in muted form. The Barnburners Utica [New York] Convention called for preserving the western land “for the Caucasian race,” or in the more popular parlance of Thomas Hart Benton “keeping the territory clean of Negroes.”

One free-soiler assured the House of Representatives that he had little concern for “the degraded and degenerate blacks.”

Northern hostility toward the Negro is likewise revealed in the vehement response to a proposal by Governor William Smith of Virginia to export the State’s freedmen to the North. In his speech representing the great dangers involved in rejecting the Wilmot Proviso, [New York Congressman] George Rathbun referred incidentally to Governor Smith’s proposal.

“What do we say [to it]?” asked Rathbun. He gave the answer: “That there is no territory in the free States belonging to them [the Negroes]; that there is no place for them. As far as New York is concerned, should the refuse part of the population of Virginia reach our territory, we will carry them back to Virginia.”

Smith’s proposal caused such consternation in Ohio that the Democratic minority in the State legislature was almost able to force through a law prohibiting Negro immigration altogether. One Democratic congressman from Ohio . . . appealing to the fear and hatred of the Negro in the North, used Smith’s proposal as a justification for bowing to the will of the South on the Proviso question.

In the North, where the Negro population was relatively small, the means of assuring white supremacy was to exclude the Negro, and when he could not be physically excluded, he was excluded from civic life.

The key to the strong emotional commitment in the North to free soil was the overwhelming fear of the extension of an alien race, as well as of an alien institution, to the point where it would directly affect the Northern people. The Wilmot Proviso had such a strong appeal precisely because it expressed the Northern determination to prevent the spread not only of slavery but of the despised Negro as well.”

(Democratic Politics and Sectionalism, the Wilmot Proviso Controversy, Chaplain W. Morrison, UNC Press, 1967, excerpts pp. 70-73)

The Dollar Invades and Conquers

Lee was not alone in seeing the masked reasons for the war prosecuted by the North and the opportunity seen in reducing the American South to a politically-weak economic colony. The bounty-enriched foreign mercenaries and displaced slaves used to fight its war of conquest were expendable tools for the task, and later employed to eradicate Indians.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Dollar Invades and Conquers

“Certainly he must have sensed that in the future “those people,” as he called his Northern adversaries, were determined to push aside “his people” with their aristocratic prerogatives and privileges. Despite his determination to stay out of politics both during and after the war, Lee could see the handwriting on the wall as plain as anyone, and plainer than most.

He understood that in addition to the sharp odor of gunpowder, there was the sweet smell of profits in the balmy spring air. Lincoln’s Secretary of the Treasury, visiting New York earlier that spring, had noted that many people there paid more attention to the stock market than to the casualty reports. To this a New York editor added: “Real or professed patriotism may be made to cover a multitude of sins. Gallantry in battle may be regarded as a substitute for all the duties of the Decalogue.”

In the Northern States, the rapid transformation from a conglomeration of farmers to a nation of industrialists had been hastened by the war. The exclusion of Southern planters from the halls of government made the change considerably easier. Astronomical profits on wartime speculation and gouging encouraged rapid expansion. While the brave boys in [blue] shed blood on the battlefields, the crafty made profits back home.

If the drama of collapse and surrender centered in the South, the drama of growth and expansion focused on the West. Hundreds of millions of dollars would go there; the receding frontier would be whittled down by systematic attacks of the Yankee investor. The Federal government would help by showering the railroads and settlers with land and services. Mines, cattle and farming would boom. Where bayonet had never been, the dollar would invade and conquer.”

(Lee After the War, Marshall W. Fishwick, Dodd, Mead & Company, 1963, pp. 39-40)

 

Lincoln’s Northern Opposition

Lincoln’s Northern Opposition

After Sharpsburg in mid-1862, and especially Fredericksburg in late December 1862, the tremendous casualties all but stopped volunteering in the North and Lincoln considered conscription – in reality a whip to encourage enlistments. Northern governors feared electoral defeat at the hands of their constituents, which Lincoln solved by allowing paid substitutes, generous enlistment bounties and captured Southern blacks to meet State quotas.

Horatio Seymour, himself elected governor of New York during the tidal wave of Democratic Party victories in the fall of 1862, rightly felt that a majority of Northerners did not support Lincoln in his prosecution of the war. To combat Northern Democrats who questioned his war, Lincoln, his Republican governors and political generals tarred them with treasonous activities and threats of imprisonment.  Northern newspapermen who editorialized against the war found the latter a reality.

In an early October 1864 speech in Philadelphia, Seymour told his audience that the Northern armies crushing the South would imperil their own liberties, stating that “only then would the deluded people of the North see the full extent of Lincoln’s dictatorial administration – the price of the South’s conquest would be a government by bayonets.

“These victories will only establish military governments at the South, to be upheld at the expense of Northern lives and treasure. They will bring no real peace if they only introduce a system of wild theories, which will waste as war wastes; theories which will bring us to bankruptcy and ruin. The [Lincoln] administration cannot give us union or peace after victories.”

Calling attention to the fact that Senator Charles Sumner would “reduce the Southern States to the condition of colonies” – whereas the President planned to receive them back into the Union whenever one-tenth of the population should declare itself loyal – Seymour foresaw the stubborn conflict which followed the murder of one President and provoked a brazen plan to remove another.

Pointing to the words and acts of members of Congress like Thaddeus Stevens, he declared that “neither Mr. Lincoln nor his Cabinet” now had “control over National affairs.” They were powerless to induce Congress to undo all it had done; the President’s hands were now manacled.”

If the voters returned the Republicans to power, they would learn two bitter lessons: first, that it “is dangerous for a government to have more power than it can exercise wisely and well,” and second, that they could not “trample upon the rights of the people of another state without trampling on [their] own as well.”

Seymour was the Democratic candidate for president in 1868, opposing Grant.  The latter won a close victory by a majority of 300,000 votes out of 5,700,000 cast; historians credit Republican regimes in the South with disenfranchising whites while delivering the 500,000 freedmen votes which lifted Grant to victory.

(See: Horatio Seymour of New York, Harvard University Press, 1938, pp. 374-375)

The South to Receive a Proper Education

After conquering and humiliating the South, the North’s next step was to re-educate the rising generations of Southern youth while herding the freedmen into the Republican Party to ensure political supremacy in the conquered region. The South’s history had to be rewritten; “its history was tainted by slavery and must be abjured,” and Southern children must learn to speak of “our Puritan fathers.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The South to Receive a Proper Education

“For ten years the South, already ruined by the loss of nearly $2 billion invested in its laborers, with its lands worthless, its cattle and stock gone, its houses burned, was turned over to the three millions of slaves, some of whom could still remember the taste of human flesh and the bulk of them hardly three generations removed from cannibalism. These half-savage blacks were armed.

Their passions were roused against their former masters by savage political leaders like Thaddeus Stevens [of Pennsylvania], who advocated the confiscation of all Southern lands for the benefit of the Negroes, and extermination, if need be, of the Southern white population; and like Charles Sumner [of Massachusetts], whose chief regret had been that his skin was not black.”

Not only were the blacks armed, they were upheld and incited by garrisons of Northern soldiers; by Freedmen’s Bureau officials, and by Northern ministers of the gospel, and at length they were given the ballot while their former masters were disarmed and, to a large extent, disenfranchised.

For ten years, ex-slaves, led by carpetbaggers and scalawags, continued the pillages of war, combing the South for anything left by the invading armies, levying taxes, selling empires of plantations under the auction hammer, dragooning the Southern population, and visiting upon them the ultimate humiliations.

After the South had been conquered by war and humiliated and impoverished with peace, there appeared still to remain something which made the South different – something intangible, incomprehensible, in the realm of the spirit.

That too must be invaded and destroyed; So there commenced a second war of conquest, the conquest of the Southern mind, calculated to remake every Southern opinion, to impose the Northern way of life and thought upon the South, write “error” across the pages of Southern history which were out of keeping with the Northern legend, and set the rising and unborn generations upon stools of everlasting repentance.

Francis Wayland, former president of Brown University, regarded the South as “the new missionary ground for the national school-teacher,” and President Hill of Harvard looked forward to the task for the North “of spreading knowledge and culture over the regions that sat in darkness.”

The older generations, the hardened campaigners under Lee and Jackson, were too tough-minded to re-educate. They must be ignored. The North must “treat them as Western farmers do the stumps in their clearings, work around them and let them rot out,” but the rising and future generations were to receive a proper education in Northern tradition.”

(The Irrepressible Conflict, Frank Lawrence Owsley; I’ll Take My Stand, The South and the Agrarian Tradition by Twelve Southerners, LSU Press, 1977 (original 1930), pp. 62-63)

North and South Before the Alien Tide

The colonies North and South before the Revolution had little in common other than being transplanted Britons; Southern troops were there to help the North in the war it initiated over trade and taxes. The model of American statesmanship was the Southern planter-aristocrat until the arrival of Andrew Jackson – seen as the product of the ragged edges of British civilization. Such a product, also, was Abraham Lincoln.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

North and South Before the Alien Tide

“New Englanders at all stages in the history of the country have busied themselves so actively with advertising in print their part in the making of America; the compact circle of New England authors before the war managed so effectively to enhance each other’s reputations by piling criticism on authorship and authorship on criticism again; that most foreigners and many busty Americans have absorbed the notion that American character is a New England product, and “culture” a plant nourished solely in that region.

This idea has been reinforced by the assiduity of New Englanders since the war, in working over their material, in composing voluminous biographies, appreciations, memoirs, poems, critiques, histories, about every New Englander whoever wrote a book, or, indeed, did anything out of the ordinary.

As a matter of fact, what is called the Puritan influence, what is fathered on the New England conscience, is not essentially Puritan at all; it is British seriousness, aggravated by a hand-to-hand conflict with a new country, and th4e responsibility for it is shared about equally by Massachusetts and Virginia.

The truth is, that so long as America was distinctly a nation of transplanted Britons, the New England conscience, so-called, was a common heritage of all. It is only since the flood of alien blood has swamped the country and diluted the original strain that this conscience has ceased to be the common standard, however modified as to particular judgments by differences in the conditions to be faced.

In New England proper at one time, for instance, it approved capital punishment for witches, promoted piracy and drew sustenance from the [transatlantic] slave traffic.

In the South, at another period, it sanctioned the duel and the holding of the involuntary black man in bondage. At the present time, because the white population of the South is still is of predominantly British descent, because the alien has not swarmed over the land and diluted the original stock, the last stronghold of New England conscience is actually below Mason and Dixon’s line, with its citadel in Richmond, Va.

The thing survives, in spots, in New England also, but only in little pools and back waters not yet reached by the tide. Even the presence of the Negro, with his stone-age morals, has not sufficed to destroy it in the South – though it has, of course, modified it – for the Negro stands outside the stream.

In the first place, then, the Briton in the South, even if he were not descended from the landed gentry, a special breed of masters of other men in the old country, presently developed for himself a special breed of masters of men by reason of his training on the plantation where he ruled over many. At the same time he gained a boldness, and initiative, an adaptability quite foreign to the stay-at-home Briton. For he had to rule over an alien and barbaric people in a new and unformed country strange to him and to them.”

(Contributions of the South to the Character and Culture of the North, H.I. Brock; History of the Literary and Intellectual Life of the Southern States, Volume VII, Samuel Chiles Mitchell, editor, Southern Publication Society, 1909, pp. 269-271)

The Changed North

Well before 1860 the American experiment in government was severely fractured and the territorial Union split ideologically into two warring camps. The first shots of the coming war between them could be said to have been threatened over nullification in 1832, but open warfare was a reality by 1854 in Kansas. The North had changed greatly as it achieved a huge numerical advantage over the South, and its ascent to national power in 1860 with a mere 39% plurality gave it the political, military and financial control it craved. The North could have allowed the peaceful departure of the South, had it wanted.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Changed North

“An Anti-Slavery man per se cannot be elected; but a [protective] Tariff, River-and-Harbor [improvements], Pacific Railroad [subsidies]. Free Homestead [for immigrants] man, may succeed although he is Anti-Slavery.” Horace Greeley on the 1860 Republican Convention.

Ask any trendy student of history today and he will tell you that without question the cause of the great American bloodletting of 1861-1865 was slavery. Slavery and nothing but slavery. The unstated and usually unconscious assumption being that only people warped by a vicious institution could possibly fight against being part of “the greatest nation on earth.”

There is an even deeper and less conscious assumption here: malicious, unprovoked hatred of Southern people that is endemic in many American elements. Thus, according to the wisdom of current “scholars” no credit is to be given to anything that Southerners might say about their own reasoning and motives. They are all merely repeating “Lost Cause myths” to cover up their evil deeds.

One of Lincoln’s many deceptions was the claim that the Founders had intended to abolish slavery but had not quite got around to it. The Southerners of his time, thus, were rebelling against the true Founding by insisting on non-interference, while he and his party were upholding the settled understanding of the Founders.

James McPherson, perhaps the “leading” historian of today in regard to the Great Unpleasantness and no Southern apologist, along with many others, points out that it was the North that had changed by 1860. Now one may be glad, as McPherson is, that the North changed and triumphed with a new version of America, but to deny which side was revolutionary is merely dishonest.

Historians have devoted vast attention to the South, feeling it was necessary to explain where the South went wrong, find the source if the perversion that led it to a doomed attempt to escape the greatest country on earth. For, after all, “American” is the norm of the universe and any divergence is a pathology. But if it was the North that changed, ought our primary focus in understanding American history to be on why and how the north changed during the pre-war period?”

(The Yankee Problem, an American Dilemma, Clyde N. Wilson, Shotwell Publishing, 2016, excerpts, pp. 52-53)

 

Liberal Republicans Triumphant

It is said that the war against American conservatism was in high gear by Lyndon Johnson’s administration; it was Johnson who conferred the Medal of Freedom on the socialist A. Philip Randolph in 1964, and Randolph’s closest confidant was admitted communist Bayard Rustin – who organized MLK’s mass demonstrations. The liberal-dominated Republican party in the 1960’s went along with the unprecedented expansion of the federal government, abandoned efforts to abolish affirmative action, did little to restrict illegal immigration, oppose gay rights or gun control. Also, the most dangerous Supreme Court appointees – Warren, Brennan, Blackmun, O’Connor and Kennedy – were advanced by Republican presidents.  The very first Republican president reportedly issued an order for the arrest of the Chief Justice for upholding the United States Constitution.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Liberal Republicans Triumphant

“[The] fifteen years from 1960 to 1975 were a time of unprecedented expansion in government domestic spending. Spurred by the plight of the blacks and Puerto Ricans in Northern cities and the deplorable health and education opportunities available to the poor in the South, the national mood turned toward reform.

A sufficient number of liberals were elected to Congress to wrest control of crucial committees from conservative Southern and Midwestern congressmen and substantially change a longstanding system of Federal priorities.

The country’s underlying prosperity made it all possible. In 1964 [President Lyndon B.] Johnson was able to sign on successive days the Economic Opportunity Act, which created a national War on Poverty, and legislation directing across-the-board tax cuts for almost everyone. Social conscience was free.

As the barriers to change came down, a stream of legislation poured out of Washington – besides the War on Poverty, there were Model Cities, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Medicare and Medicaid, and greatly improved social security benefits.

When concern for civil rights and the poor was generalized to problems of pollution and congestion, the federal government responded with subsidies for urban mass transit, tough new air and water quality standards, and sharply increased levels of funding for sewage treatment and air pollution control.

By 1967 even cataloguing the immense range of new initiatives was a formidable task . . . more than $15 billion in aid available, scattered through four hundred separate grant-in-aid programs – although beleaguered local officials insisted that the programs numbered more than a thousand.

With the rush of programs, federal domestic spending increased sharply, as did the involvement of the federal government in local affairs. Aid for manpower, education, and social service programs jumped from $1.3 billion in 1960 to $10.3 billion in 1970, and to $18.2 billion in 1975.

While the overall federal budget tripled from 1960 to 1975 . . . the federal share in local and State budgets increased by 40 percent. [By] 1975 cash income maintenance programs alone were budgeted for a larger amount than national defense.

In many ways the device hit upon by the lawmakers for increasing federal involvement in local affairs – the categorical grant-in-aid – was as important as the absolute volume of the new federal commitments. Funding was allocated for specific purposes, and usually with detailed operating conditions attached, reflecting a prevailing lack of confidence in State and local administrations. In the South local autonomy too often meant racial discrimination; too many State legislatures in the North and West seemed sleepy, rural-dominated, special-interest societies.

[To change the emphases of State and local governments], a common device was to include generous federal funding in the early stages of a program, with the expectation that local funding would pick up the program later. Community mental health programs, for example, receive 90 percent of their finding in the first year from federal sources, but the federal share is phased out entirely over a seven-year period, leaving the local government with an expensive program, a high standard of service, and an organized set of supporters.

Public employment programs began the same way . . . but local officials were left to face a financing problem or the pain of reducing a popular program as the federal support was reduced in subsequent years.

Programs developed “vertical autocracies” of their own, a chain of officials stretching from the local government through the State and regional federal bureaucracies to Washington and the halls of Congress.

Elected officials rarely could afford the time or trouble to master the complex laws and regulations and were increasingly the captives of their program-oriented bureaucracies, who held the secret to the continued expansion of outside financing.

The powerful expansionist impulse that Nelson Rockefeller brought to [New York] State government was in his family tradition – they had long tried to live down their legendary wealth with a broad range of philanthropic undertakings – and was consistent with his basic personality.

Rockefeller was a perennial presidential candidate, and at least until 1968, his national aspirations rested on his position as spokesman for the Northeastern liberal wing of the Republican party, which was in competition throughout the decade with the hard-line conservatism of the South and West.

Republicans were hopelessly outnumbered nationally, the reasoning went, and the route to victory lay in capturing the center of the national consensus. At least through the first half of the 1960s – or until the bills began to come in – that seemed supportive of the drive toward government initiatives to equalize opportunities between blacks and whites and rich and poor, to put out lifelines for the cities, and to make up for decades of underinvestment in the public sector.”

(The Cost of Good Intentions, New York City and the Liberal Experiment, 1960-1975, Charles R. Morris, McGraw-Hill, 1980, pp. 34-36)

Lincoln Revives a Dying Party

It was a commonly held opinion by 1860 that the western territories were not conducive to large plantation and the black labor required to make it economically feasible. It was Lincoln in his “House-Divided” speech who fanned the flames of sectional discord and set the South on its path toward political independence, and the North on its path to war. Washington in his farewell address warned of the dangers of sectionalism – the same that Lincoln and his party created and nourished.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Lincoln Revives a Dying Party

“The defeat of the slave-State constitution in Kansas made it certain that none of the land [Stephen] Douglas had opened to slavery north of 36-30 [latitude] would become slave. In view of the economic circumstances it was becoming more and more evident that unless the Republican party acquired new tenets there was no reason for continuing its organization.

[William] Seward, one of the leading lights of the party, and [Horace] Greeley, the leading editor of the party, were willing at this time to dissolve the party, but Lincoln was unwilling for the Republicans to disband their distinctive anti-slavery [expansion] organization and have nobody to follow but Douglas, who did not care whether slavery was “voted up or voted down.”

Accordingly, in his debate with Douglas, [Lincoln] had to supply additional material for the sustenance of his party’s life; for the time was rapidly approaching when it would become obvious to everybody that the extension of slavery into the territories had been checked permanently by prevailing economic conditions.

In order to win victory at the polls in 1858 it would be necessary for a Republican candidate not only to hold persons already enrolled in the moribund political organization, but also to gain recruits to the cause of prohibition of slavery in the territories by federal law.

The two groups from which new members could be drawn were the bona-fide abolitionists and the Henry Clay “Whigs” who had hitherto refused to enroll themselves in a sectional political party. The abolitionists supplied the soul of the anti-slavery movement of the North, but they had in general refused to vote for anybody who compromised on anything less than a declaration in favor of abolition of slavery in the slave States.

The Henry Clay Whigs of the North opposed further acquisition of territory which could be devoted to slavery but desired ultimate abolition of slavery only under conditions equitable to the South. They had most kindly feelings toward the Southern whites and like Clay they preferred the liberty of their own race to that of any other race, although they were no friends of slavery.

Lincoln so skillfully calculated the wording of his famous House-Divided speech that it won converts to his following from both sides of the above-mentioned groups. It carried water on both shoulders, so to speak, for it was so constructed that it was acceptable to both radicals and moderate conservatives. [The speech] contained bait for abolitionist consumption . . . and [it also] veils the radicalism . . . and makes of the whole what many Henry Clay Whigs even in the South hoped.

The idea presented . . . to the effect that the advocates of slavery intended to push slavery forward into the Northern States unless the system was checked . . . contained a powerful cement for amalgamating the heterogeneous elements of the North into one sectional party opposed to such extension. [Lincoln’s speech] was sufficiently nourishing to the party’s life to have “all free” enshrined as an ultimate ideal and to spread the idea that the South would be satisfied with nothing less than “all slave.”

(The Peaceable Americans of 1860-1861, A Study in Public Opinion, Mary Scrugham, Doctoral Dissertation, Philosophy, Columbia University, 1921, excerpts, pp. 18-21)

Confirmed Prejudices and Opinions Up North

The emancipation issue promoted by Lincoln’s Republican Party caused a predictable rupture within its ranks, and revealed the true extent of party concern for the African race. The Massachusetts governor mentioned below wanted no black men in his “strange land and climate,” but accepted them as military substitutes for the white men of his State. The great fear persisted in the North that freed black men would migrate there in search if work and compete with white men.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Confirmed Prejudices and Opinions Up North

“The threat of a black “invasion” (or “Africanization”) of the North was a dominant theme in anti-emancipationist rhetoric. Politicians and editors predicted that three hundred thousand freedmen would “invade” Ohio alone, competing with white labor, filling up the poor houses and jails, and generally degrading society. In a June 1862 referendum, by a majority of more than two to one, Illinois voters endorsed a clause in a proposed State constitution that would exclude blacks from moving into the State.

This issue cut across party lines. Senator Lyman Trumbull of Illinois, a former Democrat, now a Unionist, explained “there is a very great aversion in the West – I know it is so in my State – against having free Negroes come among us. Our people want nothing to do with the Negroes.”

One Unionist editor told [Secretary of the Treasury] Salmon P. Chase that the best strategy was to declare that blacks “don’t want to come north and we don’t want them unless their coming will promote the conclusion of the war . . .” Chase himself, while a fervent advocate of emancipation, shared the common assumption that blacks were inherently unsuited to the colder northern climate.

“Let, therefore, the South be open to Negro emigration by emancipation along the Gulf,” he suggested, “and it is easy to see that the blacks of the North will slide southward, and leave no question to quarrel about as far as they are concerned.”

Chase was not the only radical in the Republican party who worried about the political consequences of the “Africanization” issue in the run-up to the fall 1862 elections. Even Governor John A. Andrew of Massachusetts, whose antislavery credentials had been amply demonstrated three years earlier when he had given tacit support of John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry, became embroiled in the issue.

In September 1862, Major General John A. Dix wrote to the governors of three New England States asking them to accept into their States a group of two thousand ex-slaves who had sought refuge with the Union army. Governor Andrew responded with a strongly argued letter, soon leaked to the public, in which he explained that Massachusetts was, for blacks, “a strange land and climate” in which the newcomers would “be incapable of self-help – a course certain to demoralize them and endanger others.’ Such an event would be a handle to all traitors and to all persons evilly disposed.”

With timing that was appalling for the [Lincoln] administration, the black migration issue became a crisis in Illinois at about the same time the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation was issued. The army had been sending refugee slaves to the military headquarters at Cairo – the southernmost town in Illinois. Secretary of War Stanton issued an order allowing these freedmen to be dispersed throughout the State.

This appeared to violate the State’s “Negro Exclusion” law and which was certainly anathema to mainstream public opinion. One Republican wrote to Governor Richard Yates that “the scattering of those black throngs should not be allowed if it can be avoided. The view . . . here is that if the country should become full of them they may never be removed and with the confirmed prejudices and opinions of our people against the mingling of blacks among us we shall always have trouble.”

(No Party Now, Politics in the Civil War North, Adam I.P. Smith, Oxford University Press, 2006, pp. 54-56)