Browsing "Northern Culture Laid Bare"

H.L. Mencken on the Calamity of Appomattox

After a Northerner complained that unexemplary statesmen represented the American South after the war and into the twentieth century, a Southerner reminded him that the Yankees had killed off the South’s finest leaders during the war and the unexemplary were all that remained. H.L. Mencken was no admirer of the South, but knew that two American countries would have been preferable to one held together by force.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

H.L. Mencken on the Calamity of Appomattox

“No American historian, so far as I know, has ever tried to work out the probable consequences if Grant instead of Lee had been on the hot spot at Appomattox. How long would the victorious Confederacy have endured?

Could it have surmounted the difficulties inherent in the doctrine of States’ Rights, so often inconvenient and even paralyzing to it during the war? Could it have remedied its plain economic deficiencies, and become a self-sustaining nation?

How would it have protected itself against such war heroes as Beauregard and Longstreet, Joe Wheeler and Nathan D. Forrest? And what would have been its relations to the United States, socially, economically, spiritually and politically?

I am inclined, on all these counts, to be optimistic. The chief evils in the Federal victory lay in the fact, from which we still suffer abominably, that it was a victory of what we now call Babbitts’ over what used to be called gentlemen. I am not arguing here, of course, that the whole Confederate army was composed of gentlemen; on the contrary, it was chiefly made up, like the Federal army, of innocent and unwashed peasants, and not a few of them got into its corps of officers.

But the impulse behind it, as everyone knows, was essentially aristocratic, and that aristocratic impulse would have fashioned the Confederacy if the fortunes of war had run the other way. Whatever the defects of the new commonwealth below the Potomac, it would have at least been a commonwealth founded upon a concept of human inequality, and with a superior minority at the helm. It might not have produced any more Washington’s, Madison’s, Jefferson’s, Calhoun’s and Randolph’s of Roanoke, but it would certainly not have yielded itself to the Heflin’s, Caraways, Bilbo’s and Tillman’s.

The rise of such bounders was a natural and inevitable consequence of the military disaster. That disaster left the Southern gentry deflated and almost helpless. Thousands of the best young men among them had been killed, and thousands of those who survived came North. They commonly did well in the North, and were good citizens.

My own native town of Baltimore was greatly enriched by their immigration, both culturally and materially; if it is less corrupt today than most other large American cities, then the credit belongs largely to Virginians, many of whom arrived with no baggage save good manners and empty bellies. Back home they were sorely missed.

First the carpetbaggers ravaged the land, and then it fell into the hands of the native white trash, already so poor that war and Reconstruction could not make them any poorer. When things began to improve they seized whatever was siezable, and their heirs and assigns, now poor no longer, hold it to this day. A raw plutocracy owns and operates the New South, with no challenge save from a proletariat, white and black, that is still three-fourths peasant, and hence too stupid to be dangerous. The aristocracy is almost extinct, at least as a force in government. It may survive in backwaters and on puerile levels, but of the men who run the South today, and represent it at Washington, not 5%, by any Southern standard, are gentlemen.

If the war had gone with the Confederates no such vermin would be in the saddle, nor would there be any sign below the Potomac of their chief contributions to American Kultur—Ku Kluxry, political ecclesiasticism, nigger-baiting, and the more homicidal variety of wowserism.

Such things might have arisen in America, but they would not have arisen in the South. The old aristocracy, however degenerate it might have become, would have at least retained sufficient decency to see to that. New Orleans, today, would still be a highly charming and civilized (if perhaps somewhat zymotic) city, with a touch of Paris and another of Port Said. Charleston, which even now sprouts lady authors, would also sprout political philosophers.

The University of Virginia would be what Jefferson intended it to be, and no shouting Methodist would haunt its campus. Richmond would be, not the dull suburb of nothing that it is now, but a beautiful and consoling second-rate capital, comparable to Budapest, Brussels, Stockholm or The Hague. And all of us, with the Middle West pumping its revolting silo juices into the East and West alike, would be making frequent leaps over the Potomac, to drink the sound red wine there and breathe the free air.

My guess is that the two Republics would be getting on pretty amicably. Perhaps they’d have come to terms as early as 1898, and fought the Spanish-American War together. In 1917 the confiding North might have gone out to save the world for democracy, but the South, vaccinated against both Wall Street and the Liberal whim-wham, would have kept aloof—and maybe rolled up a couple of billions of profit from the holy crusade. It would probably be far richer today, independent, than it is with the clutch of the Yankee mortgage-shark still on its collar.

It would be getting and using his money just the same, but his toll would be less. As things stand, he not only exploits the South economically; he also pollutes and debases it spiritually. It suffers damnably from low wages, but it suffers even more from the Chamber of Commerce metaphysic.

No doubt the Confederates, victorious, would have abolished slavery by the middle of the 80s. They were headed that way before the war, and the more sagacious of them were all in favor of it. But they were in favor of it on sound economic grounds, and not on the brummagem moral grounds which persuaded the North. The difference here is immense. In human history a moral victory is always a disaster, for it debauches and degrades both the victor and the vanquished. The triumph of sin in 1865 would have stimulated and helped to civilize both sides.

Today the way out looks painful and hazardous. Civilization in the United States survives only in the big cities, and many of them—notably Boston and Philadelphia—seem to be sliding down to the cow country level. No doubt this standardization will go on until a few of the more resolute towns, headed by New York, take to open revolt, and try to break out of the Union. Already, indeed, it is talked of.

But it will be hard to accomplish, for the tradition that the Union is indissoluble is now firmly established. If it had been broken in 1865, life would be far pleasanter today for every American of any noticeable decency. There are, to be sure, advantages in Union for everyone, but it must be manifest that they are greatest for the worst kinds of people.

All the benefit that a New Yorker gets out of Kansas is no more than what he might get out of Saskatchewan, the Argentine pampas, or Siberia. But New York to a Kansan is not only a place where he may get drunk, look at dirty shows and buy bogus antiques; it is also a place where he may enforce his dunghill ideas upon his betters.”

(Published in The American Mercury, Sept., 1930, The Vintage Mencken, Gathered by Alistair Cooke, Vintage Books, 1955, pp.197-201)

 

Filling Lincoln's Regiments by Whatever Means Necessary

Canada was a source of many recruits for Lincoln’s army and his military agents used devious means with which to obtain enlistments. Illegally accepting a US Army commission and emoluments, British Col. (and Canadian Parliament member) Arthur Rankin tried to raise a regiment of Canadians by advertising for “farm laborers and stablemen” to go to Detroit with him. A violation of the Neutrality Act, he was arrested and dismissed from service.  Author Adam Mayer’s book “Dixie and the Dominion is highly recommended for further reading.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Filling Lincoln’s Regiments by Whatever Means Necessary

“John Allison was a slightly built, blond-haired boy of 15, whose only mistake was to talk to a stranger. One evening in July 1864, as Allison walked home for supper in the Canadian border town of Niagara Falls, a man stopped him and asked for directions. A shadow flitted across his face, a pungent odor filled his nostrils, and, as he would later tell his rescuer, “I became insensible.”

He regained consciousness to find himself facing an involuntary three-year hitch in the U.S. Navy. The youth had fallen victim to “crimps,” agents who made a living providing recruits to the [Northern] armies and navies. Ella Lonn, who in the 1940s and 1950s published landmark works of foreigners in Confederate and Union military service, called the work of the crimps and their customers “the worst scandal of the war.”

Seven days after the kidnapping, Allison’s name appeared in the Buffalo, New York, newspaper as having been mustered into the U.S. Navy. The British consul in Buffalo, a Mr. Donohue, reported the incident to Lord Richard Lyons, British Ambassador to the United States, calling the case one of the most heartless outrages” of its kind that he had ever seen.

He eventually found the boy in Sandusky, Ohio, some 350 miles from home, swabbing the decks aboard the gunboat USS Michigan. Donohue secured Allison’s release, took custody of him, and saw that he was returned home.

“The question arises whether British youths of less than 16 are to be enticed from their homes and enlisted into the military service of the US by officers who must be well-aware of what they are doing,” Donohue wrote to Lyons after July 25, 1864. “How many of these are drugged and brought over to this side it may be impossible to say. But a regular system is now organized by which men are passed over the frontier and kept stupefied with liquor until they enlist. I have no doubt whatsoever.”

Allison was one of perhaps a thousand victims of a dangerous and illegal cross-border trade in recruits for the Union army and navy. At the time of hi kidnapping in mid-1864, the trade was reaching its peak. Organized teams of crimps were based in Detroit, and in Buffalo and other points in upper New York State. They worked the Canadian side of the border, snatching boys off streets and pulling drunks from local bars. By whatever means necessary – coercion, mugging, alcohol, or potent drugs – the crimps harvested their victims, then bundled them into carriages or waiting boats and moved them across the nearest border.”

The unlawful traffic in human beings kept US-Canadian relations tense . . . and a secret Canadian police force was formed to combat it.”

(Stolen Soldiers, Adam Mayers, Civil War Times Illustrated, May/June 1995, pp. 56-57)

Buchanan Initiates War

Though President James Buchanan disagreed with the political remedy of State secession from the Union, he publicly stated that as President he was powerless to oppose it. But it was Buchanan who later began hostilities when he dispatched the Star of West with armed troops aboard from New York harbor and destined for Charleston.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Buchanan’s Initiates War

“Buchanan had firmly endorsed the war policy since the attack on Fort Sumter, and in September, 1861, sent a letter to a Democratic political meeting in Chester County [Pennsylvania]. He emphasized in this message that the war would have to be loyally sustained until the bitter end and urged the Democrats to stop wasting their time on a futile demand for peace proposals. The minute he saw this letter, [Jeremiah] Black wrote:

“Your endorsement of Lincoln’s policy will be a very serious drawback upon the defense of your own. It is vain to think that the two administrations can be made consistent. The fire upon the Star of the West was as bad as the fire on Fort Sumter; and the taking of Fort Moultrie & Pinckney was worse than either. If this war is right and politic and wise and constitutional, I cannot but think you ought to have made it. I am willing to vindicate the last administration . . . but I can’t do it on the ground which you now occupy.”

“. . . Buchanan would not agree with Black that there was anything but a superficial similarity between the threatening incidents at the end of his Administration and the sustained bombardment of Fort Sumter on April 12.

He also disagreed with Black’s view that the war itself was unconstitutional, that Lincoln started it, and that it ought to be stopped as soon as possible by a negotiated peace. “. . . [As] to my course since the wicked bombardment of Fort Sumter,” he told Black, “it is but a regular consequence of my whole policy towards the seceding States. They had been informed over and over again by me what would be the consequence of an attack upon it. They chose to commence civil war, & Mr. Lincoln had no alternative but to defend the country against dismemberment. I certainly should have done the same thing had they begun the war in my time, & this they well knew.”

(President James Buchanan, A Biography, Philip S. Klein, American Political Biography Press, 1962, pp. 416-417)

 

The North's Path to Bloodshed

President James Buchanan knew precisely the origin of the troubles plaguing the country at mid-nineteenth century. The radical abolitionists and the purely sectional Republican party were threats to the peace of the country as they both fomented race war in the South. Not forthcoming from either were peaceful and practical proposals to end slavery.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The North’s Path to Bloodshed

“In his message of December 3, 1860, President Buchanan said to Congress, and virtually to the people of the North (p. 626 Vol. 5, Richardson):

“The long continued and intemperate interference of the Northern people with the question of slavery in the Southern States has at length produced its natural effects.  I have long foreseen and often forewarned my countrymen of the new impending danger. The immediate peril arises not so much from these causes as from the fact the incessant and violent agitation of the slavery question throughout the North for the last quarter of a century has at length produced its malign influence on the slaves and inspired them with vague notions of freedom.

Hence a sense of security no longer exists around the family altar.  This feeling of peace at home has given place to apprehension of servile insurrections. Many a matron throughout the South retires at night in dread of what may befall herself and children before the morning. Self-preservation is the first law of nature and has been implanted in the heart of man by his Creator for the wisest purpose. But let us take warning in time and remove the cause of danger.”

It cannot be denied that for five and twenty years the agitation of the North against slavery has been incessant.  In 1835 pictorial hand-bills and inflammatory appeals were circulated extensively throughout the South of a character to excite the passions of slaves, and in the language of Genl. Jackson, to stimulate them to insurrection and produce all the horrors of a servile war. At the Presidential election in 1860 the Republican Party was greatly agitated over the Helper Book which instigated massacre.

Lincoln and Seward would not say that they were for massacre, but the Abolitionists had the vision of the X-ray and could see through such false pretenses. The doctrine of both “the irrepressible conflict” of Seward and “a house divided against itself cannot stand” of Lincoln, pointed directly to bloodshed.

The Abolitionists voted for Lincoln, and Wendell Phillips, who rejoiced at his election, said in a speech at Tremont Temple, Boston, a few days later: “There was a great noise at Chicago, much pulling of wires and creaking of wheels, then forth stept Abraham Lincoln.  But John Brown was behind the curtain, and the cannon of March 4 will only echo the rifles at Harper’s Ferry.

The Republican Party have undertaken the problem the solution of which will force them to our position.  Not Mr. Seward’s “Union and Liberty” which he stole from Webster’s “Liberty first” (a long pause) then “Union afterwards” (Phillips, Speeches and Lectures, pp. 294, 314).

(A Southern View of the Invasion of the Southern States and War of 1861-65, Captain S. A. Ashe, Raleigh, NC, 1935)

Britain's Inhumane Slave Trade

The transatlantic slave trade which populated the America’s with Africans was chartered and encouraged by Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of York oversaw the Royal African Company, a slave trading concern. These British slavers were only surpassed in efficiency by the slavers of New England; Providence, Rhode Island became the slaving capital of North America by 1750.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Britain’s Inhumane Slave Trade:

“On the 1st of April, 1772 the [Virginia] House of Burgesses addressed a hot petition to the crown, “imploring his Majesty’s paternal assistance in averting a calamity of a most alarming nature.” It proceeds: “The importation of slaves into the colonies from the coast of Africa hath long been considered as a trade of inhumanity, and under its present encouragement we have too much reason to fear will endanger the very existence of your Majesty’s American dominions. We are sensible that some of your Majesty’s subjects may reap emoluments from this sort of traffic…we most humbly beseech your Majesty to remove all those restraints on your Majesty’s governors of the colony which inhibit their assenting to such House of Burgesses] laws as might check so very pernicious a traffic.

When the vote was taken in the Federal Congress on the resolution to postpone the prohibition of the [slave] trade to the year 1808, Virginia used all her influence to defeat the postponement, and it was carried by New Hampshire, Massachusetts, the Carolinas, and Georgia. The final prohibition of the slave trade by act of Congress was brought about through the influence of President Jefferson and by the active efforts of Virginians.

And greatly to the labors of the representatives from Virginia was due the final extinction of the vile traffic [of England and New England] through the act of Congress declaring it to be piracy, five years before Great Britain took similar action with regard to her subjects. Such is the actual record of the much-vilified South relating to the African slave trade, taken from official records.

The gradual system of emancipation adopted at the North had undoubtedly led to many of the slaves being shipped off to the South and sold. When, therefore, after this “abolition,” the movement, from being confined to the comparatively small band of liberators who were actuated by pure principle, extended to those who had been their persecutors, it aroused suspicion at the South which blinded it to a just judgment of the case.

The statutory laws relating to slavery at the South are held up as proof of the brutality with which they were treated even under the law. But these laws were not more cruel than the laws of England at the period they were enacted…and, at least, Southerners never tolerated wholesale burning at the stake as a legal punishment, as was done in New York as late as 1741, when fourteen Negroes were burnt at the stake on the flimsy testimony of a half-crazed servant girl; and as was done in Massachusetts as late as 1755, when a Negro was burnt for murder.”

(The Old South, Essays Social and Political, Thomas Nelson Page, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1896, pp. 29-32)

Britain Observes the Northern War for Empire

The Northern war against the South was seen in Europe as a strange sequel for a country formed by secession from England, with the South taking the part of the American colonies seeking independence from the mother country. The British saw through the North’s moral outrage over the slavery they were mostly responsible for perpetuating with their cotton mills.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Britain Observes the Northern War for Empire

“The popular verdict in England was that “the struggle between North and South was a contest for political power and ascendancy, and that in reference to slavery the North discarded or ignored all practical measures for emancipation, and confined their operations to oratory, preaching, sentimental poems, fiction and invective.”

The opinions of the responsible statesmen of Great Britain may be stated in the following extract from a speech delivered by Earl Russell at Newcastle on the 14th of October, 1861: –“We now see the two parties (in the United States) contending together, not upon the slavery question, though that I believe was probably the original cause of the quarrel, not contending with respect to free trade and [tariff] protection, but contending, as so many States in the Old World have contended, the one side for empire, and the other for independence.”

The official view expressed in the course of a speech by Earl Russell in the House of Lords, 9th of June 1864. He said : –“It is dreadful to think that hundreds of thousands of men are being slaughtered for the purpose of preventing the Southern States from acting on those very principles of independence which, in 1776, were asserted by the whole of America against this country.

Only a few years ago the Americans were in the habit of celebrating the promulgation of the Declaration of Independence, and some eminent friends of mine never failed to make eloquent and stirring orations on those occasions.

I wish, while they kept up a useless ceremony (for the present generation of Englishmen are not responsible for the War of Independence), they had inculcated on their own minds that they should not go to war with four millions, five millions, or six millions of their countrymen who want to put the principles of 1776 into operation as regards themselves.”

(The Secret Service of the Confederate States in Europe, James D. Bulloch, Sagamore Press, 1959, pp. 311-312, 313-314)

Revolutionary Rule of the Industrialists

With conservative Southern statesmen of the past absent from the halls of the United States Congress, “fraud and trickery were the revolutionary devices resorted to by Northern industrialists to complete the job begun by Grant’s cannon and bayonets.” Presidents became the creation of the wealthy classes, with “a maze of frauds and trickeries . . . [extending] from the Civil War to the end of the century.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Revolutionary Rule of the Industrialists

“Government has been the indispensable handmaiden of private wealth since the origin of society. And far from having embellished history with significant exception, the government of the United States, without the camouflage of custom or tradition, ritual or dogma, Church or Aristocracy, has actually done more to prove the truth of this generalization than have all the governments in Europe.

So perfect, so thorough, has been the collaboration of politics and private fortune since the founding of the American colonies that it is difficult to ascertain from the date of any given period where political intrigue on behalf of specific private interest has terminated.

The Constitution, written in the furtive atmosphere of a coup d’etat during secret deliberations of a convention called merely to regulate commerce, was received with hostility by the populace, which forced the precipitate addition of the first ten amendments. The document provided for a government of ostensible checks and balances, (but really, as a wit has said, of all checks and no balances), and at the same time guaranteed the utmost freedom, unchecked and unbalanced, to propertied interests. “The result . . . is a modern government that is about five times as inflexible, and much less democratic, than the government of Great Britain.”

Through the decades leading to the Civil War, the fuel of political strife was provided by the propertied classes . . . [and] when a series of political defeats at the hands of Northern industrialists and merchants eventually became ominously foreboding, the Southern planter faction did not hesitate to draw the sword. The Civil War began as a counter-revolution, but ended as a revolution.

The triumph of the North in the war, however, forever dislodging the landed gentry from political power, brought sweeping authority to the tariff-minded industrialists – authority that has since been seriously disputed . . . only by the Western agrarians under William Jennings Bryan . . . From 1865 to 1896 the essentially revolutionary rule of the industrialists was unbroken.

Marcus Alonzo Hanna, commissar extraordinary of John D. Rockefeller, became the political architect of the new era, whose unique characteristics have been a tremendous drive into foreign markets, unprecedented industrial consolidation, expansion of the mass-production industries to a staggering degree, and unexampled application of technology to production, and the fateful gravitation of the nation’s producing resources as well as the political apparatus into the hands of bank capitalists.

Before Hanna the unconstitutional control by the industrialists had been furtive, half ashamed, and vehemently denied even in the face of the most damning evidence; under Hanna the control was for the first time brazenly admitted and, cynically or sincerely, justified on the pretense that it was in the national interest.”

(America’s Sixty Families, Ferdinand Lundberg, Halcyon House, 1937, pp. 50-53)

Vandals Sack Jefferson Davis' Brierfield

The Mississippi plantations of Joseph and Jefferson Davis, Brierfield and Hurricane, were models of kind treatment to the Africans in their care. James H. Jones, the colored body-servant of Mr. Davis at the end of the war, requested the honor of driving “the remains of my old master to their last resting place” after Davis’ death in 1889.  He did not want to be “deprived of the last opportunity of showing my lasting appreciation for my best friend.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Vandals Sack Jefferson Davis’ Brierfield

“When Union forces reached Grand Gulf and Davis Bend, a raiding party burned Hurricane on June 24, 1862. Although the raiders also prowled through Brierfield, for some strange reason they refrained from applying the torch to the house.

Grant initiated his thrust for Vicksburg from Memphis early in 1863. Farragut cooperated in this maneuver by renewing his surge upriver from the south. I May 1863, Brierfield was revisited by Federal troops. James W. Garner has written that “when Farragut’s fleet steamed up the river in 1863, it stopped long enough to allow the marines to go ashore and destroy or carry away everything of value.”

On June 1, 1863, a Vicksburg newspaper reported that Yankees had rifled Brierfield, destroyed all farming implements, as well as household and kitchen furniture, and badly defaced the premises. Pictures were probably then taken of “the House Jeff Built.”

These events occurred during the prolonged siege when most Confederate soldiers in the area were bottled up in Vicksburg. After the fall of Vicksburg on July 4, 1863, the Union army took control of Brierfield and Hurricane . . . [consisting of] 1,000 acres, one mansion and ten quarters. It was reserved for the use of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands,” known as the “Freedmen’s Bureau.”

Margaret Mitchell Bigelow has commented that “one of the most interesting experiments was the one of Jefferson Davis’ plantation on Davis Bend. Here some seventy lessees, all Negroes, seemed to have been more successful than the Northern speculators.

The good showing of the Negroes at Davis Bend was due in part to the excellent training given by Joe and Jefferson Davis to their slaves before the war. This colony led by the [former slave Ben] Montgomery’s eventually became the all-Negro colony of Mound Bayou.”

Professor Bigelow also pointed out that in 1864 the “Jeff Davis Mansion” was headquarters for the Cincinnati Contraband Relief Commission of the Freedmen’s Aid Society. On the entire 10,000 acre Davis Bend Colony, the home Farm in Mississippi, there were 1,750 freedmen at one time; and the project cleared $160,000 in 1865. The Brierfield part of the colony produced 234 bales of cotton for a profit of $25,000.”

(Brierfield: Plantation Home of Jefferson Davis, Frank E. Everett, Jr., University and College Press of Mississippi, 1971, pp. 77-78)

The Brahmin Aristocracy Must Save the Union

Frances Parkman was a militant New England war hawk who disliked the black man but considered the Boston aristocracy superior to the Southern leadership, though it must emulate the military expertise exhibited by Southern men. The Brahmin class may have indeed been tested by the battles Parkman lists, but they were no great victories. At Ball’s Bluff, Northern scouts mistook a row of trees as Confederate tents, and the 17th Mississippi delivered the Brahmin’s a severe thrashing when their regiments later assaulted the “encampment.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The Brahmin Aristocracy Must Save the Union

“Parkman had always detested the abolitionists, and he had little concern for the Negro, but he was [Robert Gould] Shaw’s cousin, and he took great pride in later years pointing this out to distant correspondents. One suspects, however, that he was almost ashamed that Shaw led Negroes [of the 54th Massachusetts], since he never mentioned this fact.

[In] two letters [of November 1862], he further developed the odd propaganda line that the best way to whip the South was to emulate certain aspects of its civilization. He went from praising the military education of the Southern aristocrat to praising his political education. Compared to the North, where an “organized scramble of mean men for petty spoils” had driven the better elements from politics, the South had made politics “a battleground” for the well-born, “where passion, self-interest, self-preservation, urge to [the most intense] action every power of their nature.” This explained “the vigor of their development.”

By comparison, the education of Northern gentlemen had been too academic. Now, however, the war was altering the picture. The South, which had identified the North with three classes: the merchants, the politicians and the “abolitionist agitators” and therefore, with “extravagance, fanaticism and obstreperous weakness,” was learning how, “under a surface of froth and scum, the great national heart still beat with the pulsations of patriotic manhood.” In other words, they underestimated the ability of the Northern gentry to adapt to military life.

It was in his letter of July 21, 1863, published only three days after the death of [Col. Robert G.] Shaw, that Parkman revealed most fully what was really on his mind. Repeating his charge that “the culture of the nation” had become a “political nullity,” Parkman referred specifically to the “Brahmin cast”, which had “yielded a progeny of gentlemen and scholars since the days of the Puritans,” but had “long since ceased to play any active part in the dusty arena of political turmoil.”

This class, however, had at last found an outlet for its energies. Brahmins had been tested in battle at places like Ball’s Bluff, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg and removed all doubts about their vigor and character. Pointing to the “necrology” of Harvard University” as an example to the nation, Parkman clearly suggested that the American people had no further excuse for rejecting the political and social authority of what was now a tried and true aristocracy. Perhaps a patrician could finally say that the age of “ultra-democratic fallacies” was coming to an end.

There were very genteel New Englanders who professed to see the war as a vindication of democracy and egalitarianism. Charles Eliot Norton and others claimed that their wavering belief in democracy had been revived by the proofs of obedience and endurance shown by the common people and by the Negroes in the struggle.

It depended on the preservation of the model which had been suggested by the assault on Fort Wagner. If the “inferior elements,” whether Negro or white, consented to be led by “the best culture [of aristocratic New England],” then their rights were assured; if however, they struck out in directions of their own, democracy and equality might again be questioned.”

(The Inner Civil War, Northern Intellectuals and the Crisis of the Union, George M. Frederickson, Harper & Row, 1965, pp. 161-165)

Blackout of Honest Government

Even Northerners saw the ill-effects of a vindictive postwar Reconstruction which reduced a free people to bondage and political despotism. It appears that Northern army commanders also felt remorse at what they had wrought in the destruction of the American South. A minority report of a Congressional committee declared that “History, till now, gives no account of a conqueror so cruel as to place his vanquished foes under the domination of their former slaves. That was reserved for the radical [Republican] rulers in this great Republic.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Blackout of Honest Government

“Psychologically and in every other respect the Negroes were fearfully unprepared to occupy positions of ruler-ship. Race and color came to mean more to them than any other consideration, whether of honest government, of justice to the individual, or even of ultimate protection of their own rights.

Negroes on juries let color blind them, and the rejected the wisest counsel, Northern and Southern, against banding together politically, instead of dividing on issues and policies of government . . . but Negroes proscribed their own race if any voted Democratic — their preachers excommunicating them, their womenfolk bringing all their feminine powers to play against them, and Loyal Leagues intimidating and doing violence to them.

Their idea of the new order was “De bottom rail’s on de top, An we’s gwine to keep it dar.”

Carpetbaggers were as little desirous of promoting Negroes into high office in the South as their Northern colleagues were in their States; and Scalawags, actuated by racial antipathies more than Carpetbaggers, objected to Negroes holding any offices. Both were quite desirous that Negroes vote – but not for Negroes.

A Georgia Negro wrote [Massachusetts Senator] Charles Sumner [in 1869] that there was no other place in the Union where there were so “many miserable hungry unscrupulous politicians . . . and if they could prevent it no colored man would ever occupy any office of profit or trust.” Even so, Negroes frequently held offices far beyond their capacity to administer them.

Radical leaders imposed their views on the Negroes . . . [the Dalton Georgia Citizen wrote on 10 September 1868 that] ”every man knows that the Republican party, under the lead of God, President Lincoln and General Grant, freed the whole colored race from slavery; and every man knows anything, believes that the Democratic party will, if they can, make them slaves again.”

A Carpetbagger characterized Henry M. Turner, preacher, politician and [who] presided at many Negro conventions, as a “licentious robber and counterfeiter, a vulgar blackguard, a sacreligous profaner of God’s name, and a most consummate hypocrite. Yet the Negroes elected him to the Georgia legislature — if he had received his deserts, he would have gone to the penitentiary; he was a thief and a scoundrel, and yet they voted for him.”

“If the colored people have not the elements of morality among them sufficiently to cry down on such shameless characters, they should not expect to command the respect of decent people anywhere.”

General William S. Rosecrans, amidst a [postwar] Confederate atmosphere at White Sulphur Springs, asked General Lee, in writing, whether he thought the South must in reality be ruled by “the poor, simple, uneducated, landless freedmen” under the corrupt leadership of whites still worse. Lee and thirty-one other prominent Southerners signed an answer declaring their opposition, basing it on no enmity toward the freedmen, “but from a deep-seated conviction that at present the Negroes have neither the intelligence nor other qualifications which are necessary to make them depositories of political power.”

As for Federal commanders, Rosecrans, Sherman, George H. Thomas, George G. Meade, Winfield S. Hancock, George B. McClellan, Don Carlos Buell, Henry W. Slocum, John A. McClernand, William S. Franklin and others either were silently ashamed or expressed their abhorrence of what was going on. The editor of Scribner’s Monthly saw Southerners in despair and he blamed the Federal government: “They feel that they were wronged, that they have no future, and they cannot protect themselves, and that nothing but death or voluntary exile will give them relief.”

The editor of The Nation by 1870 had come to view the South with a different light from that of 1865. In the South the people had forgotten “that in free countries men live for more objects than the simple one of keeping robbers’ hands off the earnings of the citizen.” There people were worse off than they were in any South American republic; for in the latter place tyrants could be turned out through the right of revolution, but the South with the army on its back could no longer resort to this ancient remedy.

Southerners must continue to suffer enormities “which the Czar would not venture toward Poland, or the British Empire toward the Sautals of the Indian jungle.” The North with all its charities had done less good than the Carpetbaggers had done harm.

[Carl] Schurz had learned much since his first visit to the South in 1865. He saw fearful acts perpetrated against the South, all in the name of patriotism, and particularly in Louisiana, “a usurpation such as this country has never seen, and probably no citizen of the United States has ever dreamed of.”

(History of the South, Volume VIII: The South During Reconstruction, E. Merton Coulter, LSU Press, 1947, (142-146; 160-161)