Browsing "Northern Culture Laid Bare"

Postwar Gospel of Pecuniary Success

The United States of 1868 was unrecognizable to someone returning to this country after a ten year absence – the Founders’ republic had been replaced by a virtual military dictatorship of one-party rule, government informants and a nouveau-rich class of corporations and congressmen.  The adminstration of Grant — enabled by the military subjugation of the American South, enfranchising illiterates while disenfranchising literates, and fraudulent Republican regimes governing defeated States — became the first such in American history known for rampant corruption, vote-buying and outright incompetency.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Postwar Gospel of Pecuniary Success

“The great omnipresence during this pivotal decade [1860-1870] in American thought was, of course, the Civil War and its aftermath. In that crucible were produced not merely a new South but a new nation. Said Henry Adams, referring to his return to American soil in 1868: “Had they been Tyrian traders of the year B.C. 1000, landing from a galley fresh from Gibraltar, they could hardly have been stranger on the shore of a world, so changed from what it had been ten years before.”

The cataclysm had compressed a profound economic upheaval into a few short years; it had introduced almost overnight the vast complexities of an industrial society; it had bred up a new race of entrepreneurs who acknowledged no morality but pecuniary success. The nation had been brought to a point of ethical exhaustion.

“The old idealism had been burnt away, the hopes of the patriot fathers, the youthful and generous dreams of the early republic. The war, with its fearful tension, draining the national vitality, had left the mind of the people morally flabby.”

The effect of the war . . . was not only to waste away the old democratic values of American life, but to raise up new gods and new ideals in their vacated places. The new capitalism required a gospel of assertion as well as of negation; its position would not be secure if it rested only on moral indifference: it needed discipleship.”

(American Conservatism, In the Age of Enterprise, 1865-1910, Robert Green McCloskey, Harper, 1951, pp. 100-101)

 

Workers of the North's Gilded Age

In 1876, the Republican party and the New York Times were securely on the side of big business rather than labor, and though vocal against slavery stood they silent as young children and women slaved in unhealthy Northern factories fourteen hours a day. The moral spirit and standard of the Gilded Age called for good jails, tenements and factories, but cared little for the human worker. It was not uncommon for antebellum travelers to remark on Southern slaves living better lives than Northern workers.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Workers of the North’s Gilded Age

“Factory Life: For those lucky enough not to be out of work, factory conditions were far from ideal. Skilled workers, who had earned $4.50 to $5 per day in 1873; in 1876 had their wages reduced to between $1.50 and $2. Nevertheless, the New York times chided workers for not accepting wage reductions necessitated by the 1873 Panic; why should skilled laborers who “earned liberal wages . . . sullenly refuse to accept any reduction . . . It seems almost incredible than men should be capable of such blind folly.”

Child Labor: In 1876 Massachusetts passed a child-labor law, but child-labor laws were not enforced and had no effect until years later. Thus in 1876, children worked long, hard days and were often involved in very dangerous work. Harper’s Weekly stated:

“Recent legislation in Massachusetts has introduced new regulations for protecting young children from overwork and neglect in factories and workshops. A law which went into operation last March [1876] forbade, under penalty of from twenty to fifty dollars, the employment in any manufacturing, mechanical, or mercantile establishment of children under ten years of age at all, and of children under fourteen, unless during the preceding year the child has attended school at least ten consecutive weeks.”

John F. Weir, “Forging the Shaft, 1877:

“When a workingman was injured in shop, mine or on the railroad, the claim agent of the employing company would at once present himself with an instrument of agreement for the injured man and his wife, if he had one, to sign,” wrote Terrance Powderly. “By the terms of the instrument the company would be released from all responsibility in consideration of the payment of a few dollars.

Let me tell you of one such case out of the hundreds I witnessed. A coal miner, a neighbor of mine, had his back injured through a fall of rock in the darkness of the mine. The claim agent called to see him; he asked for time to consider and sent for me. He had a wife and children, his means were meager. I advised against signing a release, and here is what he said: “I am buying this house from the company.

If I don’t sign this release, I can never get a day’s work under that company or any other round here, for if I get well I’ll be blacklisted. When my next payment on the house falls due, or the interest not paid we’ll be thrown out on the street. With no work, no money, no friends, what will my wife and babies do? . . . ”

(America in 1876, The Plight of the Poor, Lally Weymouth, Vintage Books, 1976, page 195)

Fruits of the Abolitionist Victory

The passage below is taken from a novel, though one based upon common sense and the historical realities of North and South. Though many like the author claim that “Jim Crow” laws occurred about 1900, they actually have their basis in the North as New York in the 1820s, for example, dealt with the threat of a black swing vote by raising property qualifications for black voters and free blacks had limited access to antebellum northern public transport. The author aptly describes a “lost cause” myth which would have developed in the postwar North to glorify its defeat, and locating a convenient scapegoat.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Fruits of the Abolitionist Victory

“Southerners were appalled, as well as perplexed, at the growing problems of discrimination and segregation in the North. That the North would have fought for the freedom of the black man, then turn around and display animosity at him for moving into the North and expressing his newly-found freedoms, seemed hypocrisy at its worst to the average citizen of the Confederacy.

The turn of the century brought to the United States what became known as the “Jim Crow” laws, named after a traditional song and dance, ironically of the South. Contemporary Southern social analysts have blamed the animosities felt in the North against the former slaves and sons and daughters of formers slaves, on several things.

First, there was the idea in the north that the Civil War had, in essence been a “black man’s war” in which hundreds of thousands of northern boys had sacrificed life and limb for the emancipation of the black man. The immediate woes that beset the United States after the war ended in defeat for the North needed some focal point, and the poor, uneducated former slave – the stranger to Northerners – became the convenient scapegoat.

In addition, the freeing of slaves flooded the job market in the North with workers who were willing to work for “slave wages” – much less than the ex-Union soldiers, also looking for jobs at the end of the war in 1863. Many veterans were fired from jobs and replaced with ex-slaves. The results were riots all over the North over nearly a decade.

The Southerner’s more lenient attitudes toward black people stemmed from generations of living with blacks, growing up with them, working beside them in the fields, and later, in the factories. Most Southerners would have admitted, even during the War between the States that they had always felt an uneasiness – a guilt, even – in seeing blacks held in servitude as slaves.

The stories of mistreatment and whippings had always been regarded in the South as ludicrous, pre-war propaganda by Abolitionists who had never seen a black man or woman. Certainly there were instances of a cruel overseer who applied punishment a little too often, but slaves in the old South had been considered property – and expensive property, as well – and were to be treated like an item of value. As one Southern social historian put it, you wouldn’t take a sledge-hammer to your brand new, expensive horseless carriage the first time it didn’t run; you would find out why it wasn’t working and fix it.

Southerners saw black men and women grow up, fall in love, marry, give birth, laugh, cry, and mourn the deaths of family members. There was something wrong here, many felt. These black people were not really property, like a plow or a horseless carriage. Under the skin, though many a Southerner, we are a very much alike.

It had to be a terrible moral burden, a society-wide, sublimated guilt about slavery that, once the war was over and the name-calling by Abolitionists had ended, could finally be seen in its true light, and was dealt with swiftly by the hurried measures to free the blacks from bondage.

To the average Southerner, blacks were not only property, but people too. To the Northerners, blacks were first a symbol, then a threat.”

If the South Had Won Gettysburg, Mark Nesbitt, Thomas Publications, 1980, pp. 88-89)

Defending Lee and Southern Heritage

A past historian of Lee’s Arlington mansion, Murray Nelligan, understood that Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton determined that the Lee family should never occupy their home again — placing a hospital on the grounds and a village for Negro refugees from the South. Not stopping there, he had a tax levied on the property which required payment by the owner in person. A relative of Mrs. Lee offered to pay the tax, but the authorities decided that such a procedure did not fulfill the letter of the law, so the estate was put up for sale at public auction on January 11, 1864, in Alexandria, Virginia. Congressman Graham Barden lectured Northern women on their continued sectional bitterness.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Defending Lee and Southern Heritage

“Barden’s opportunity to appear as a champion of the South occurred when a delegation of the Women’s Auxiliary of the Grand Army of the Republic appeared before the [House] Library Committee to oppose a resolution to erect a memorial to Robert E. Lee near the mansion in Arlington.

Barden sat quietly and uncomfortably until the ladies attack upon Southern generals and the Confederacy turned into a tirade against the South and all Southerners. Then, as the only Southerner present on the committee, Barden came to the defense of not only Robert E. Lee, but of Southern heritage.

The congressman declared that he had “never heard such sectional bitterness expressed.” Answering the women’s insistence that Arlington National Cemetery was a “Union and not a Confederate graveyard” and that even though a few Confederate dead were buried there, Arlington was not a place to honor Confederates, Barden pointed out that in his home town of New Bern [North Carolina] a thousand Union soldiers were buried with honor in a beautiful cemetery.

He continued: “We of the South do not propose to keep our brains and characters befogged by bitterness and prejudice. The hospitality of the South has never been questioned, not even by a dead Union soldier.” [New Bern Sun-Journal, April 27, 1935]

The effectiveness of Barden’s position was apparent when the committee voted to report the Memorial bill favorably.”

(Graham A. Barden, Conservative Carolina Congressman, Elmer L. Puryear, Campbell University Press, 1979, excerpts, pp. 22-23)

 

War to Exterminate Southerners

After the fall of Fort Fisher and occupation of Wilmington in January 1865, nearly 10,000 Northern prisoners were offered to the invaders for the taking — a humane gesture to reduce their suffering. Anxious to maintain the burden on the retreating Carolinians and force them to feed the prisoners with their own meager rations, the Northern commanders stalled. And it was Grant himself who ended the exchange of prisoners with Lincoln’s approval, thereby increasing the suffering at Andersonville.

George Templeton Strong was a Northern patriot who felt comfortable living behind the lines while his government lured domestic and foreign volunteers with generous bounties to maintain the “republic.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

War to Exterminate Southerners

Diary of the Civil War, George Templeton Strong, 29 March 1865:

“Our supplies sent by Chase reached Wilmington just at the right moment and saved scores of lives. His account of the condition of hundreds of returned prisoners, founded on personal inspection, is fearful. They have been starved into idiocy — do not know their names, or where their home is. Starvation has gangrened them into irrational, atrophied, moribund animals. No Bastille and no Inquisition dungeon has ever come up to the chivalric rebel pen for prisoners of war.

I do not think people quite see, even yet, the unexampled enormity of this crime. It is a new thing in the history of man. It definitely transcends the records of the guillotines and the concomitant nogades and fusillades. The disembowelment and decapitation of all men, women and children of a Chinese city convicted of rebel sympathies is an act of mercy compared with the politic, slow torture Davis and Lee have been inflicting on their prisoners, with the intent of making them unfit for service when exchanged.

I almost hope this war may last till it becomes a war of extermination. Southrons who could endure the knowledge that human creatures were undergoing this torture within their own borders, and who did not actively protest against it, deserve to be killed.

30 March 1865, page 571:

From observation at Wilmington, Agnew thinks the Southern “masses” are effete people, unable to take care of themselves now that their slave-holding lords and magnates are gone. A “local committee” at Wilmington is feeding four thousand Wilmingtonians all rations issued by the government. The white trash of even North Carolina is helpless and imbecile, unable to work or to reorganize the community.”

(Diary of George Templeton Strong, Allan Nevins, editor, MacMillan & Company, 1962)

Grant's Royal Robes

Imprisoned by scalawag Governor William Holden for alleged activities with North Carolina’s postwar Klan as it fought Holden’s Union League, Randolph A. Shotwell spent three hard years in an Albany, NY prison, which he termed the “Radical Bastille.” The prison staff was instructed to use any means to extract confessions of Klan outrages and lists of Klan members in North Carolina. Below, Shotwell criticizes the 1872 victory of Grant’s corrupt administration and the low quality of the Northern electorate.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
Grant’s Royal Robes

“Nov. 6th. All is over! The Great Farce, (the Presidential Election) closed yesterday, as had been foreseen for the past month, with a complete triumph for the Bully Butcher, and National Gift Taker. Grant walked the track. Telegraphic reports from all quarters leave it doubtful whether [Horace] Greeley will get a single vote. Even New York – the Democratic Old Guard – surrenders to the tune of 3500 majority for the “Coming Man.”

Twenty-five other States are in the same column – marching the Despot gaily to his throne! Selah! It is absolutely amazing, the apathy, the blindness, the infatuation of the people!

Is there no longer an patriotism, any conservatism in the land? What do we see this day? A nation yielding its elective franchise to elect a worse than Napoleonic despot! I say the nation yields its franchises because no one believes that Grant is the choice of the people, that he is worthy of the high Authority which is now his for another term and doubtless for life.

Bu corruption, and greed, and avarice, and fear, and Prejudice, and Misrepresentation, every malignant passion, every illegal and dishonorable means have been made to bring about the stupendous result. And now, what next?

Historians tell us that every Republic that has fallen, to shake the faith of man in his own capacity for government, has been, preceding its final fall, the scene of just such transactions as these; sectional prejudices, the majority trampling on the minority, the courts corrupted and used for political ends, open corruption in office, bribery of voters, use of the military to intimidate the opposition, great monopolies supporting the most promising candidates, and finally much unanimity in favor of some popular leader, who quietly took the crown and Royal Robes when a suitable opportunity occurred.

This is the political panorama now unfolding, slowly but surely, in our own country. The end we may almost see. And then bloodshed, insurrections, turbulence and anarchy! I do not predict that all of this is to occur in a year or two; it may be postponed for a score of years. But one thing is certain it will not be half so long, nor a third of it, if the Government continues to usurp power, and hold it, as it has done during the last decade.”

(The Diary, 1871-1873, The Papers of R. A. Shotwell, Volume III, Jos. D.R. Hamilton, editor, NC Historical Commission, 1936, pp. 276-277)

The South Versus the Asylums of Religious Zealots

Author Margaret L. Coit has written that “The Old South was a school for statesmanship” and that Southern men “rode high in the saddle of the USA” from the 1776 Revolution to the 1861 Revolution. It is no exaggeration that the “Virginia Dynasty” was virtually synonymous with the founding of the American experiment, and with the exception of John Quincy Adams and Daniel Webster, nearly every outstanding American political figure was a Southern man.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The South Versus the Asylums of Religious Zealots

“The difference between the Southern civilization and the Northern,” says Thomas Nelson Page, “was the result of the difference between their origins and subsequent surroundings.” Then he tells the familiar story of how the Northern colonies “were the asylums of religious zealots” who came in search of freedom and became themselves “proscriptors of the most tyrannical type.”

To the Southern colonies, on the other hand, came “soldiers of fortune and gentlemen in misfortune . . . In the first ship-load of [Virginia] colonists there were “four carpenters, twelve laborers and fifty-four gentlemen.” The Southern settlers “came with the consent of the crown, the blessings of the Church, and under the auspices and favor of men of high-standing in the kingdom.”

With the best blood of England in their veins and the best of the Old World traditions in their cultural equipment, they produced a civilization “as distinctive as that of Greece, Carthage, Rome or Venice”; one that “made men noble, gentle and brave, and women tender, pure and true . . . It was, I believe, the purest, sweetest life ever lived.”

Page acknowledges, as many other traditionalists do, that the Southern planters were not wholly of Cavalier blood. They represented, he says, “the strongest strains of many stocks – Saxon, Celts, and Teuton; Cavalier and Puritan.”

(The South Looks at its Past, Benjamin Burks Kendrick and Arnett Alex Mathews, UNC Press, 1935, pp. 17-18)

 

Disunionists of the North

The demented John Brown has been described as a political assassin, one who desires “not simply to murder, but also to attract attention – to incite and terrify as many people as possible.” This new type of assassin was praised through skillful propaganda by Northern journalists and hailed by some as a hero of the people. After Southerners learned of the wealthy Northerners who financed and abetted Brown’s terrorism, they realized they were in political Union with an enemy who sought their destruction and took appropriate measures.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Disunionists of the North

“At Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, in the fall of 1859, Herman Melville beheld “the portent,” the murderous raid that proved to be “the meteor of the war.” For the majority of Northern Americans, John Brown was no hero; he was an incendiary abolitionist.

Boston, New York, Philadelphia all held large public rallies, called “Union meetings,” to denounce and disown him. To be for “the Union” in 1859, it should be recalled, was to be against anti-slavery agitation and anti-Southern politics, so much so that the Republicans took to deprecating those who attended or spoke at such meetings as “Union savers,” an epithet denoting someone who spent to much energy worrying about the future of the union and not enough worrying about the electoral success of the Republican party.

Nathaniel Hawthorne famously wrote of Brown’s execution that “no man was more justly hanged.” That was Philadelphia’s sentiment too. Henry M. Fuller rebuked those Northerners who were treating Brown as a hero and martyr. “We have no sympathy with that modern hero-worship which exalts crime and deifies a felon, which sends comfort, counsel and material aid to the cell of a homicide, encouraging treason and justifying murder.”

John C. Bullitt charged that Brown was the bitter fruit of decades of incendiary abolitionism and anti-Southern rhetoric. “The man must be blind indeed who does not see in it the legitimate fruits of seeds that have been sown, and which have been most industriously cultivated, by certain classes of people until they have germinated in this mad attempt.”

Brown “but was working out practically what for years has been promulgated in various parts of the North, in many newspapers, from the pulpit, and the hustings. What has Virginia done to deserve to be attacked by an armed band of zealots? “She has but maintained her institutions as handed down from the men who framed the government.”

Edward King said that the Southern States were asking for nothing except that the Northern States abide by the Constitution and keep their part of the federal compact, which they “entered into after full deliberation and reflection.” Instead of that, they were “repudiating the Constitution and its concessions, denouncing the domestic institutions of our sister States, calumniating their citizens, instigating in their midst domestic insurrection and revolt, organizing political parties on the basis of interfering with their institutions, and denying their equal, unqualified rights in the common territories of the Union.”

Such conduct was “fast sweeping us into the dark abyss of dissolution and consequent civil war.” Charles Ingersoll too warned that “if this antislavery madness goes on, the Union must be dissolved,” and “with the termination of the partnership, comes the same day, civil war.” He fears it will be a ferocious one, “the most tremendous the world has ever seen.”

(Philadelphia Against the War, Arthur Trask, Northern Opposition to Mr. Lincoln’s War, D. Jonathan White, editor, 2014, Abbeville Institute Press, pp. 247-249)

Grand Army Rights as Conquerors

North Carolinian Nathanial Macon opposed the granting of pensions to War of 1812 veterans since the freedom they fought for and retained seemed suffient compensation for military service.  He was aware of the predictable political constituency enabled by a large army, true then as it is today.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Grand Army Rights as Conquerors

“The assumption behind the original pension law of 1862 had been that the Federal government . . . was liable only for injuries . . . sustained while in [service]. Mere service as a Union veteran did not entitle a man to any special consideration, even if he happened to be sick, jobless or destitute. By far the most common rebuttal [to pension reform] involved the declaration of a new principle: that the Union veteran had a prior claim on the nation’s treasury, not as a compensation for illness, not as a gratuity, but as an absolute right.

The Service Pension Association’s Frank Farnham, calling the GAR “the representatives of those who saved the country, by the greatest of sacrifices,” argued that “any reasonable demand” of the veterans should receive the public’s “unqualified support.”

Opposition to the Grand Army, he said, came mostly from the ex-Confederates, ex-Copperheads and Mugwumps. New York supporters of the $8 service pension bill were even more blunt. “The GAR,” they proclaimed in 1886, “own this country by the rights of a conqueror.”

[“Nation” editor Edwin] Godkin . . . found service pensions appalling in principle. As Congress was considering a proposal to pension all veterans over the age of sixty, he wrote:

“A large proportion of the half-million people who are added to the pension roll are persons who have no possible claim to consideration. Some of them were worthless as soldiers during the war; others are now “hard up” simply because they have grown shiftless and dissipated since the war; others are well-to-do and in no possible need of any increase to their income. The simple fact about the matter is that any old “bummer” who can establish the fact that he was connected with the Union Army in any way for ninety days, even if he got no further than the recruiting camp, may now have his name placed on the pension roll and draw $8 a month for the rest of his life.”

(Glorious Contentment The Grand Army of the Republic, Scott McConnell, UNC Press, 1992)

Hoke Smith and the Grand Army Pensions

The first Democrat president after the War, Grover Cleveland went to work immediately on the “Billion Dollar Congress” which notoriously had handed out extravagant war pensions to the Grand Army of the Republic’s (GAR) veterans. In Cleveland’s second term, 1893 to 1897, his Secretary of the Interior, Hoke Smith of Georgia revealed the depth of pension frauds amid the Republican party’s loyal electorate.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Hoke Smith and the Grand Army Pensions

“By 1893 there were almost a million pensioners, receiving over $156 billion annually, or almost a third of the entire expense of operating the government. That inveterate reformer Carl Schurz called the pension system “a biting satire on democratic government. Never has there been anything like it in point of extravagance and barefaced dishonesty.”

The pressure exerted by the GAR and the political dynamite in the pension question had continually precipitated more generous pension legislation. Furthermore, the lax administration of the pension laws allowed applicants with the weakest possible claims, as well as some who were guilty of “wholesale and gigantic frauds,” to be admitted to the rolls.

In May 1893, [Hoke] Smith . . . revoked the notorious “Order No. 164″ [of] 1890 . . . an interpretation [by Republican Commissioner of Pensions Raum] which proved highly advantageous to persons with minor disabilities not of service origin. During the second Cleveland administration, the spiraling cost of the Federal pensions was checked . . . [but] it was in Congress that fundamental pension policy was determined and the Congressmen were in a liberal mood as far as the [Civil War] veterans were concerned.”

(Hoke Smith and the Politics of the New South, Dewey Grantham, Jr., LSU Press, 1958)

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