Browsing "New England’s Cultural Imperialism"

The Inscrutable William Seward

It has been said that antebellum Southern politics were for the most part honest and ruled by responsible statesmen, but Reconstruction forced Southern leaders to unfortunately descend into the mud in order to successfully oppose carpetbag regimes and Radicals. The high-toned sense of serving the public good can be seen in Jefferson Davis, who acted from conviction alone; while William Seward was more interested in manipulating public opinion and serving his own twisted ends. The former was an American patriot who struggled to save the Constitution and Union of the Founders.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The Inscrutable William Seward

“It was on one of these visits that Mr. Seward said a most remarkable thing to me. We were speaking of the difficulty men generally had in doing themselves justice, if not cheered on by the attention and sympathy of the audience. Mr. Seward said . . . it is rather a relief to me to speak to empty benches.”

I exclaimed, “Then, whom do you impersonate?” [Seward replied] “The [news]papers . . . I speak to the papers, they have a much larger audience than I, and can repeat a thousand times if need be what I want to impress upon the multitude outside; and then there is the power to pin my antagonists down to my exact words, which might be disputed if received orally.”

Another day he began to talk on the not infrequent topic among us, slavery . . . I said, “Mr. Seward, how can you make, with a grave face, those piteous appeals for the Negro that you did in the Senate; you were too long a schoolteacher in Georgia to believe the things you say?”

He looked at me quizzically, and smilingly answered: “I do not, but these appeals, as you call them, are potent to affect the rank and file of the North.” Mr. Davis said, very much shocked by Mr. Seward’s answer, “But Mr. Seward, do you never speak from conviction alone?”  “Never,” answered he. Mr. Davis raised up his . . . head, and with much heat whispered, “As God is my judge, I never spoke from any other motive.”

After this inscrutable human moral, or immoral, paradox left us, we sat long discussing him with sincere regret, and the hope that he had been making a feigned confidence to amuse us. He [Seward] frankly avowed that truth should be held always subsidiary to an end, and if some other statement could sub serve that end, he made it. He said, again and again, that political strife was a state of war, and in war all stratagems were fair.

About this time Mr. Seward came forward into greater prominence, and became the most notable leader of the Republican party. Mr. [James] Buchanan said: “He was much more of a politician than a statesman, without strong convictions; he understood the art of preparing in his closet and uttering before the public, antithetical sentences, well-calculated to both inflame the ardor of his anti-slavery friends and exasperate his pro-slavery opponents . . . he thus aroused passions, probably without so intending, which it was beyond his power to control.”

(Jefferson Davis, A Memoir By His Wife Varina, N&A Publishing, 1990, excerpts, pp. 580-652)

Inheriting Northern Problems

The South after 1865 not only became an economic colony for Northern interests, but also fell prey to the vices associated with the relentless and unbridled pursuit of profit inherent in the Northern culture.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Inheriting Northern Problems

“During the decade of the twenties, the South surpassed New England in textile manufacturing. A growing percentage of owners of Southern mills were absentee Yankees. In 1929 the region’s first serious labor revolts occurred, and Communist agitators were discovered among the rioters in Gastonia, North Carolina. There could no longer be any doubt that industrialization threatened to bring change. Some Southerners questioned the wisdom of continuing to heed the advocates of the “New South.”

If the South proceeded in remaking herself in the image of the North, would she not fall heir to those Northern problems from which she had fancied herself immune? Chief among the literary expressions of reaction was “I’ll Take My Stand,” published in 1930. A defense of agrarianism and individualism, it was the work of twelve Southern writers, most of them associated with Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. During the 1920’s, four of their number (John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, Robert Penn Warren, Donald Davidson) published “The Fugitive,” a significant magazine of poetry and criticism.

Later in the decade with the nation seemingly committed to materialism and the South in ferment, they began their quest for Southern identity. They found the good life in an agrarian society where ideals meant more than money — in the South before 1880 — and they recommended it to a nation which had lost its balance. Like the Fugitives, Ball found the cherished personal virtues — the code of the upcountryman — secure only in the land. But because his arena was political, he saw the happier life also dependent upon conservative government.

(Damned Upcountryman, William Watts Ball, John D. Starke, Duke Press, 1968, pp. 151-152)

 

Washington Lonely No More in Heaven

In early 1926 a Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Post in Pennsylvania protested placing a statue of General Robert E. Lee in the Capitol near George Washington. Lee surpassed the latter as a military leader as he fought the grand armies whose intentions were destroying the very republic Washington helped create.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Washington Lonely No More in Heaven

“The following, taken from the News & Observer, of Raleigh, NC, disposes of the recent emanations from that GAR Post in Pennsylvania which seemed to feel the need of getting before the public in some vicious way. Doubtless this was soothing:

“Somebody ought to take up a collection and transport to Washington the members of that GAR Camp in Pennsylvania which recently declared that Robert E. Lee was a traitor to his country and the military leader of an armed rebellion against the government of the United States having as its object the destruction of the Union, and if Robert E. Lee had received his just dues he would have been hanged and the scaffold preserved as a monument to his infamy.

Those provincial fire-eaters would find that, with the approval of the Congress of the United States of America, representing forty-eight sovereign States, the statue of Robert E. Lee stands near to that of George Washington — par nobile fratum — in the Capitol in Washington. In all the history of the world there have not been two great men so much alike.

Indeed, as has been said, “Washington was lonesome in heaven until Lee arrived.” Both were rebels against authority; both fought honorably.  If Washington had lost, he still would have been the great figure he is. Lee’s fame rises higher because of failure to attain his objective, because in defeat he had a nobility and grandeur unequaled except by that of Washington in victory.

If Lee was an “arch traitor,” so was George Washington. It is good company, and the superheated Pennsylvanians will live to see the day they will be ashamed of their resolution.”

(Confederate Veteran, May, 1926, page 164)

 

The Northern Record Speaks a Lie

The victor of wars writes the history, inflates his lofty intentions and controls what is set in the record. William Joseph Peele was a simple North Carolinian who is credited with the creation of the Agricultural and Mechanic Arts schools in the State, and support for a State Historical Commission which would set the record straight.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The Northern Record Speaks a Lie

“Mr. Peele could not get away from the idea that the cause of the Civil War was commercial jealousy. Henry Adams and Mill say that in ’61 the people of England entertained the same opinion. Peele did give credit to the North for so shifting the issue that it seemed to be a war for freedom.

“The agitation about the Negro, as a counter-irritant to distract attention from the injustice of Federal revenue laws, was [said Peele] more than a success; for the shallow politicians of both sections forgot the real issue; but the beneficiaries never lost sight of it. I will use a homely illustration:

A and B are doing business on the opposite sides of a street; B begins to undersell A; A becomes angry, but cannot afford to tell his customers the cause; he hears that B once cheated a Negro out of a mule; he makes that charge; they fight; the court record of the trial shows that the fight was about the Negro and the mule; but there is not a business man on the street who does not know that the record speaks a lie.”

(William Joseph Peele, by Robert W. Winston, Proceedings of the North Carolina Historical Commission, November, 1919, page 116)

Confiscating Symbols of American Liberty

The graves of Raleigh’s Southern dead were not safe from Sherman’s army of thieves in 1865; the Northern commander of that city was no better as he ordered the graves removed lest the remains be thrown into the street. Also, anyone possessing symbols of the late Confederate States risked confiscation and arrest.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Confiscating the Symbols of American Liberty

“The Ladies Association of Wake County was formed in 1865, when it was necessary to remove from the grounds of Pettigrew Hospital the remains of the Confederate soldiers buried there. It was but a short while after the Federals took possession of Raleigh before the Mayor was notified that they admired the spot where rested the Confederate dead, and ordered that they be removed at once, or they would be thrown out in the country road.

A town meeting was called, and the association formed, [with] Mrs. L. O’B. Branch being made president . . . A resting-place was selected for the re-interment of the beloved dead, and, with the help of the young men and boys of the town, the work was successfully accomplished. The graves were comparatively few at first, but none were safe from Sherman’s “bummers,” as there were scarcely a new-made grave anywhere but what was opened by these men, in search of treasures; so it was a sacred trust, most religiously kept by the young men and women, to visit these graves almost daily to see that they were kept in order.

The association grew in numbers and the interest increased. Many Confederate dead from the country were moved to this spot, and the grounds were laid off and improved by [Sergeant] Hamilton, a soldier of the Confederate army who lost both eyes from a wound.

After the death of Gen. Jackson the 10th of May was selected as Memorial Day, when the citizens were to repair to the cemetery to participate in the services there. To raise funds to care for the Confederate dead and erect a monument to their memory, every legitimate means was resorted to by the association.

This was not done without risk, as it was reported that contraband articles were for sale, such as Confederate flags, a strand of General Lee’s hair, pictures of President Davis or any Confederate general: so there would be the sudden appearance of a bluecoat with orders to search the room for these contraband articles.”

(Women of North Carolina, Confederate Veteran Magazine, May 1898, page 227)

Machines and Objectivity

The Southern historian’s view of the conflict is not considered objective unless “he accepts and proclaims the Northern (i.e., “national”) interpretation of Southern things.”  A non-Northern viewpoint is considered by court historians as merely perpetuating the “myth of the Lost Cause.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Machines and Objectivity

“Once, years ago, a Southern historian beckoned me aside and led me to a room . . . “Look,” he said. An enormous machine occupied about half the room, and a graduate assistant was feeding punch cards into it. With inhuman noise and precision, the machine was sorting the cards.

The historian closed the door upon the noise and, with a kind of Stonewall Jackson glint in his eye, explained. Documentation, he said – mere documentation – would never convince the North. Mere argument was futile.

But if he could say, in a footnote to his forthcoming publication, that the figures in his statistical tables had been achieved by the assistance of a card-sorting machine (he would carefully cite the machine’s name and model), then the Yankees might hearken to both his documentation and his argument.

The machine, a guarantee of his “objectivity,” would remove his work from the area of suspicion that a study originating in the South would normally occupy.”

(Still Rebels, Still Yankees, and Other Essays, Donald Davidson, LSU Press, 1957, pp. 180-181)

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)

Roosevelt's American Religion of Supremacy

The man who Mencken referred to as “Roosevelt the First,” sent sixteen aging white-painted battleships on an around the world cruise in 1907 for little more than a boost in his administration’s prestige and a reelection ploy. Mark Twain wrote in his essay “The President as Advertiser” that “The excursion will make a great noise and this will satisfy Mr. Roosevelt.” Admiral Robley D. Evans mentioned below was a longtime navy man, and wounded in the Northern attack on Fort Fisher in January 1865.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Roosevelt’s American Religion of Supremacy

“A voyage around the world was Theodore Roosevelt’s own idea. “I determined on the move without consulting the Cabinet precisely as I took Panama without consulting the Cabinet.” The idea had come to him in 1905, when Russia’s long cruise ended in disaster. For two years he shaped his plans secretly . . . By 1907, several excuses were available.

Roosevelt’s standard explanation . . . was that the Navy needed practice in navigation, communication, coal consumption, crew stamina and fleet maneuvering. Navy professionals had trouble hiding their contempt for such reasoning [and obviously] the fleet could practice better in home waters, free from diplomatic diversions. Even Rear Admiral Evans, who was to command the excursion, later admitted that he never understood its purpose.

Roosevelt’s adversaries criticized his “other motives.” The voyage was timed to influence the election of 1908. It was a scheme to make Congress so proud that it might vote a dozen or so new battleships. The President was “in” with steel tycoons who wanted a new boom in shipbuilding. A foreign adventure would take people’s minds off their own troubles in the depression which had begun in 1907.

America’s new apprehension [toward the Japanese after defeating Russia] was noticeable at the Portsmouth Conference in 1905 when Roosevelt blocked Japan’s demands for a cash indemnity from Russia. This inspired anti-American demonstrations in Tokyo, repeated on a larger scale in 1906 after San Francisco announced that Japanese children could no longer attend regular public schools.

Jingoes prodded Roosevelt with hundreds of letter. A Chicagoan wrote: “We must send the fleet and sink them. Show no mercy, teach tm a lesson that will inform them of our power and majesty . . . Seize Korea, Formosa and Manchuria . . . the idea is to overwhelm them with our power suddenly.”

California papers . . . saved their best insults for Japan. They were joined by the yellow press, which mounted an assault upon public sanity just as it had done a decade in the war against Spain. Books about the “Yellow Peril,” “the Japanese menace,” and “the coming struggle” were popular in 1907. In May and June the New York Times and Collier’s Weekly published serials which described the future fighting around the Philippines and Hawaii.

The French press called Roosevelt a demagogue, imperialist and militaristic megalomaniac. The old American of freedom, democracy and peace was no more, having given away to violence, chauvinism, and the religion of supremacy.

Roosevelt muzzled the Navy. On threat of court-martial, officers could not criticize the cruise no matter how they scorned it as a waste of time. They were warned not to belittle the battleships, no matter how many improvements they thought the ships needed. The President also gave careful attention to the selection of the men who would tell the story to the public. Only “acceptable” correspondents were allowed to make the cruise. Everything must be “subject to censorship,” Roosevelt warned Admiral Evans.

All sixteen battleships had entered Hampton Roads by December 12 and anchored in neat rows near the spot where, on a night forty-five years before, a wooden United States Navy had awaited almost certain destruction by a crude iron ancestor known as the [CSS Virginia].

Riding at anchor, the battleships looked powerful as well as beautiful. The fleet was” one huge bluff . . . of little service in battle.” The appearance of such discordant notes brought bursts of indignation from the patriotic majority. A critic was a traitor, a saboteur, planting a kind of bomb that could destroy a quest for glory.”

(The Great White Fleet, Its Voyage Around the World, 1907-1909, Robert A. Hart, Little, Brown and Company, pp. 23-24; 31-32; 40-43; 52)

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)

The South Falls Heir to Northern Problems

The South after 1865 was not only an economic colony for Northern interests, but it would also fell prey to the multitude of vices associated with a relentless pursuit of profit. What was earlier termed “the Southern Yankee” became more common as the drive to emulate the industrialized and profit-obsessed North overwhelmed the Southern people.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The South Falls Heir to Northern Problems

“During the decade of the [nineteen] twenties, the South surpassed New England in textile manufacturing. A growing percentage of owners of Southern mills were absentee Yankees. In 1929 the region’s first serious labor revolts occurred, and Communist agitators were discovered among the rioters in Gastonia, North Carolina. There could no longer be any doubt that industrialization threatened to bring change. Some Southerners questioned the wisdom of continuing to heed the advocates of the “New South.”

If the South proceeded in remaking herself in the image of the North, would she not fall heir to those Northern problems from which she had fancied herself immune? Chief among the literary expressions of reaction was “I’ll Take My Stand,” published in 1930. A defense of agrarianism and individualism, it was the work of twelve Southern writers, most of them associated with Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. During the 1920’s, four of their number (John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, Robert Penn Warren, Donald Davidson) published “The Fugitive,” a significant magazine of poetry and criticism.

Later in the decade with the nation seemingly committed to materialism and the South in ferment, they began their quest for Southern identity. They found the good life in an agrarian society where ideals meant more than money — in the South before 1880 — and they recommended it to a nation which had lost its balance. Like the Fugitives, Ball found the cherished personal virtues — the code of the upcountryman — secure only in the land. But because his arena was political, he saw the happier life also dependent upon conservative government.”

(Damned Upcountryman, William Watts Ball, John D. Starke, Duke Press, 1968, pp. 151-152)