Browsing "Prescient Warnings"

Francis Scott Key and the Endangered Republic

By 1824, Francis Scott Key, writer of the Star-Spangled Banner, sensed the divisions which were undermining the foundation of American government. He surely never imagined that his own grandson, Francis Key Howard, would be imprisoned by Lincoln’s Republicans at the same place in where he penned the historic anthem.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Francis Scott Key and the Endangered Republic

“Key hastily surveyed the political situation in the Nation. Since the election of John Quincy Adams in 1824, party spirit had been blazing with intensity. President Adams named Henry Clay for Secretary of State; and immediately there arose the cry of a corrupt bargain between Adams and Clay. Key’s Virginia friend, John Randolph of Roanoke, added fuel to the flame.

In the Senate this sepulchral figure denounced the friendship of the Puritan President and “Harry of the West” as a dangerous conspiracy. “I was defeated,” shrieked Senator Randolph, “horse, foot and dragoon—cut up and clean broke down by the coalition of Blifil and Black George—by the combination, unheard of till then, of the Puritan with the blackleg.”

All during the year 1826 the opposing political parties were strengthening their organizations. The followers of Adams and Clay united under the banner of the National Republicans. They stood for a protective tariff and internal improvements by the National Government.

It was at this time that many of the Federalists in Maryland joined the anti-Administration forces. Before long Roger Brooke Taney, who had been a Federalist for a quarter of a century, was to become an ardent follower of Andrew Jackson and one of the leading Democrats in Maryland.

The sensitive soul of Francis Scott Key was disturbed. He could hear the call to arms; he could hear the tramp of the armies of the North and the South; he could hear the reverberations of the guns that were to shake the foundations of the Nation. He spoke now as a prophet:

  “We have lived to witness the operation of the political institutions founded by our fathers. Maryland is a member of the American confederacy, united with the other independent States in one general government. It is . . . her concern that the General Government be wisely administered, and with just regard for her peculiar interests. Her duty to the Union requires this; her own preservation demands it. There is a great common interest among these States — a bond of Union, strong enough, we all hope to endure the occasional conflicts of subordinate local interests.

But there are and ever will be these interests, and they will necessarily produce collision and competition. It is essential to her [Maryland], and to every member of the Union, that the agitations excited by these collisions should be kept from endangering the foundations upon which the fabric of our free institutions has been reared . . . It is no reproach to the wisdom of those who framed our Constitution that they have left it exposed to danger from the separate interests and powers of the States. These local interests are powerful excitements to the States to prepare and enrich their public men with the highest possible endowments . . .

If Providence shall preserve us from these dangers, and will give perpetuity to our institutions, Maryland will continue to see an increasing necessity . . . for calling forth and cultivating all her resources. And if this hope fails us, if the Union is dissolved, in the distractions and dangers that will follow, she will . . . still more require the highest aid that the wisdom of her sons can afford, to guide her through that night of darkness.”

As an illustration of the rivalry between the States, Key alluded to the foremost issue — the question of internal improvements. [He] refrained from giving his own opinion on the political aspects of internal improvements He evaded the issue by saying that the most needed improvement was the improvement of the intellect.

“The people,” he explained, “were to form a General Government of limited and defined powers, intended to secure the common interest — the States to be independent republics, in all other respects having exclusive power in whatsoever concerned their separate interests.” Thereupon Key urged that the . . . States be protected from Federal usurpation . . . “As the tendency of power is ever encroaching, the General Government may become a vast consolidated dominion, with immense resources and unlimited patronage, dangerous to the power of the States and the rights of the people.”

(Francis Scott Key, His Life and Times, Edward S. Delaplaine, Biography Press, 1937, pp. 266-306

French Experiment with Equality

The French Revolution’s promise of equality ended with anarchy and Bonaparte in France; the lofty experiment of equality in St. Domingo terminated not in freedom, but military despotism after a fearful destruction of human life. After all the horrors of their bloody revolution, the blacks in Haiti only effected a change of masters. “The white man had disappeared, and the black man , one of their own race and color, had assumed his pace and his authority.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

French Experiment with Equality

“[We shall quote] from the language of Dr. [W.E.] Channing, the scholar-like and the eloquent, though visionary, advocate of British [slave] emancipation. Even as early as 1842, in an address delivered on the anniversary of that event, he burst into the following strain of impassioned eulogy: “Emancipation works well, far better than could have been anticipated . . . Freedom, simple freedom, is in my estimation just, far prized above all price.”

In these high-sounding praises, which hold up personal freedom as “our proper good,” as “our end,” it is assumed that man was made for liberty, and not liberty for man. It is, indeed, one of the fundamental errors of the abolitionist to regard personal freedom as a great substantive good, or as in itself a blessing, and not merely as a relative good.

It may be, and indeed often it is, an unspeakable benefit, but then it is so only as a means to an end. The end of our existence, the proper good, is the improvement of our intellectual and moral powers, the perfection of our rational and immortal natures.

When freedom subserves this end, it is a good; when it defeats this end, it is an evil. Hence there may be a world of evil as well as a world of good in “this one word.”

The wise man adapts the means to the end. It were the very height of folly to sacrifice the end to the means. No man gives personal freedom to his child because he deems it always and in all cases a good. His heart teaches him a better doctrine when the highest good of his child is concerned. Should we not be permitted then, to have something of the same feeling in regard to those who Providence has placed under our care, especially since . . . they stand in utmost need of guidance and direction?

Few of the abolitionists are disposed to offer any substitute for our method. They are satisfied merely to pull down and destroy, without the least thought or care in regard to consequences.

But what is meant by the freedom of the emancipated slaves, on which so many exalted eulogies have been pronounced? Its first element, it is plain, is a freedom from labor – freedom from the very first law of nature. In one word, its sum and substance is a power on the part of the freed black to act pretty much as he pleases. Now . . . would it not be well to see how he would be pleased to act?

This kind of freedom, it should be remembered, was born in France and cradled in the revolution. May it never be forgotten that the “Friends of the Blacks” at Boston had their exact prototypes in “les Amis des Noirs” of Paris. Of this last society Robespierre was the ruling spirit, and Brissot the orator. By the dark machinations of the one, and the fiery eloquence of the other, the French people . . . were induced, in 1791, to proclaim the principle of equality to and for the free blacks of St. Domingo. This beautiful island . . . thus became the first of the West Indies in which the dreadful experiment of a forced equality was tried.

The authors of that experiment were solemnly warned of the horrors into which it would inevitably plunge both the whites and the blacks of the island. Yet firm and unmovable as death, Robespierre sternly replied, then “Perish the colonies rather than sacrifice one iota of our principles.”

The atrocities of this awful massacre have had . . . no parallel in the annals of human crime. “The Negroes,” says Alison, “marched with spiked infants on their spears instead of colors; they sawed asunder the male prisoners, and violated the females on the dead bodies of their husbands.” The work of death, thus completed with such outbursts of unutterable brutality, constituted and closed the first act in the grand drama of Haytian freedom.

But equality was not yet established. Equality had been proclaimed, and anarchy produced. In this frightful chaos, the ambitious mulattoes, whose insatiable desire for equality had first disturbed the peace of the island, perished miserably beneath the vengeance of the very slaves whom they had roused from subjection and elevated into irresistible power. Thus ended the second act of the horrible drama.”

(An Essay on Liberty and Slavery, Albert Taylor Bledsoe, J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1856, pp. 269-278; available from www.confederatereprint.com)

Exalting a Piratical and Murderous Fanatic

John Brown has been described by author Otto Scott (The Secret Six) as a political assassin, one who murders in order to attract attention and who would “incite and terrify as many people as possible.”  Brown was a fanatic who used terror to force a new political pattern of his choosing, cared little of the carnage he was instigating,  and won praise from Northern journalists who declared him a hero of the people.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Exalting a Piratical and Murderous Fanatic

“When the State of Virginia seceded from the Union on the 17th day of April, 1861, most of her citizens, belonging to the United States Navy, resigned their commissions and offered their services to the State of their birth. [I]t was believed by many persons that a large party at the North would oppose the prosecution of a war of subjugation.

It will be remembered . . . how strong had been the party opposed to secession in the Convention then in session at Richmond . . . [but] The call upon Virginia, by President Lincoln for her quota of troops to aid in subjugating the South, had settled the question [and] she became a member of the Confederacy.

I had visited, some months previous to the secession of the State, many of the little villages in New England, where I saw that the population [was] in terrible earnest. “Wide awake,” and other secret societies were organized; and inflammatory harangues aroused the populace. The favorite theme of the orators was the “martyrdom” of John Brown; the piratical and murderous raid of that fanatic into the State of Virginia being exalted into a praiseworthy act of heroism.

When I returned to Virginia and contrasted the apparent apathy and want of preparation there with the state of affairs at the North, I trembled for the result. Volunteers responded with alacrity to the call to defend the State from invasion; and none responded more readily, or served more bravely, than those who had opposed secession in the Convention.

It seems invidious to cite particular examples; but the “noblest Trojan of them all”  will point a moral, and serve as an exemplar for generations to come. Wise in council, eloquent in debate, bravest and coolest among the brave in battle, and faithful to his convictions in adversity, he still lives to denounce falsehood and wrong. Truly the old hero, in all he says and does, “gives the world assurance of a man.” — I allude to General J. A. Early.”

(Narrative of a Blockade Runner, John Wilkinson, Valde Books, 2009, pp. 3-5)

Deep Seated Hostility Toward the South

William Lowndes Yancey of Alabama pointed to the relentless pressure from Northern States for trade advantages at the expense of the rest of the country while resisting any increase of new States friendly toward Southern interests. It should be noted also that Southern States were “free States” like the North though with an African labor system – and Northern States were former slaveholding States with many employing wage-slaves.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Deep-Seated Hostility Toward the South

“Yancey now saw the dangers . . . divined in the combination of tariff increases, repeal of the Gag Rule, and especially the exclusion of Texas. “I can see in this a deeply seated hostility to the South – a disposition to circumscribe it – to surround it with people and institutions hostile to it,” he began. The Missouri Compromise, he reminded New Yorkers, gave the free States the bulk of western territories enough to make twenty-six new States, according to his calculations.

Once the Union admitted Florida as a slave State, Yancey pointed out that slaveholders had nowhere else to turn. And yet, the Texas annexation – with the possibility of dividing that region into five slave States – “frighten[s] Northern men out of their wits about the enormous preponderance which annexation will bring to the South!”

So, he concluded, while Maine pressed her lumber interests in Congress, western States called for federal internal improvements, Pennsylvania and New England sought advantage for their industry and New York for commerce, “the South but urges annexation as a protection against assailants! Do you not see the difference?”

[Yancey] asserted that Northerners would cut their own throats by harming the peculiar institution. It was the produce of slave labor, not free labor, Yancey claimed, that resulted in the commercial prosperity of New York. [And] Yancey correctly noted that the Constitution’s three-fifths provision that many Northerners blamed for increasing Southern political power actually limited representation. If Northerners forced the end of slavery, African Americans in the South would suddenly count as five-fifths . . . for determining representation in Congress.

(William Lowndes Yancey, The Coming of the Civil War, Eric H. Walther, UNC Press, 2006, pp. 81-82)

Davis on Government Border Police

In December 1860, Senator James S. Green of Missouri proposed that the Committee of the Judiciary be instructed to inquire into the propriety of a law to establish an armed police force between North and South, in order to maintain peace between those sections. Below is Senator Jefferson Davis’ reply.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Davis on Government Border Police

“Do we wish to erect a central Colossus, wielding at discretion the military arm, and exercising military force over the people and the States? This is not the Union to which we were invited; and so carefully was this guarded, when our fathers provided for using force to put down insurrection, they required that the fact of the insurrection should be communicated by the authorities of the State before the President could interpose.

When it was proposed to give Congress power to execute the laws against a delinquent State, it was refused on the ground that that would be making war on the States; and, though I know the good purpose of my honorable friend from Missouri is only to give protection to constitutional rights, I fear his proposition is to rear a monster, which will break the feeble chain provided, and destroy rights it was intended to guard.

That military Government which he is about to institute, by passing into hostile hands, becomes a weapon for his destruction, not for his protection. All dangers which may be called upon to confront as independent communities are light, in my estimation, compared with that which would hang over us if this Federal Government had such physical force; if its character was changed from a representative agent of States to a central Government, with a military used at discretion against the States.

To-day it may be the idea that it will be used against some State which nullifies the Constitution and the laws; some State which passes laws to obstruct or repeal the laws of the United States . . . But how long might it be before that same military force would be turned against the minority section which had sought its protection; and that minority thus become mere subjugated provinces under the great military government that it had thus contributed to establish?

The minority, incapable of aggression, is, of necessity, always on the defensive, and often the victim of the desertion of its followers and the faithlessness of its allies. It therefore must maintain, not destroy, barriers.

[To confer on this Federal Government a power to coerce a State, a power it does not possess], . . . then, in the language of Mr. Madison, he is providing, not for a union of States, but for the destruction of States; he is providing, under the name of the union, to carry on a war against States; and I care not whether it be against Massachusetts or Missouri, it is equally objectionable to me; and I will resist it alike in the one case and in the other, as subversive of the great principle on which our Government rests; as a heresy to be confronted at its first presentation, and put down there, lest it grow into proportions which will render us powerless before it.

The theory of our Constitution, Mr. President, is one of peace, of equality of sovereign States. It was made by States and made for States; and for greater assurance they passed an amendment, doing that which was necessarily implied by the nature of the instrument, as it was a mere instrument of grants. But, in the abundance of caution, they declared that everything which had not been delegated was reserved to the States, or to the people – that is, to the State governments as instituted by the people of each State, or to the people in their sovereign capacity.

Upon you of the majority section it depends to restore peace and perpetuate the Union of equal States; upon us of the minority section rests the duty to maintain our equality and community rights; and the means in one case or the other must be such as each can control.”

(The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, Volume I, Jefferson Davis, D. Appleton and Company, 1881, pp. 66-67)

Deception Leads to War

After Buchanan’s failed Star of the West mission to resupply Fort Sumter in early January, 1861, Lincoln attempted the same in early April while promising to maintain the peaceful status quo. Judge John A. Campbell was a respected Supreme Court Justice who tried honestly to facilitate a peaceful settlement between North and South, but was deceived by those leading the war party of the North. Unionists North and South advised Lincoln to abandon Sumter to avoid a conflict between Americans.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Deception Leads to War

“Judge Campbell to the President of the Confederate States.

Montgomery, Alabama, May 7, 1861

Sir:  I submit to you two letters that were addressed by me to the Hon. W. H. Seward, Secretary of State of the United States, that contain an explanation of the nature and result of an intervention by me in the intercourse of the commissioners of the Confederate States with that officer.

I considered that I could perform no duty in which the entire American people, whether of the Federal Union or of the Confederate States, were more interested than that of promoting the counsels and the policy that had for their object the preservation of peace. This motive dictated my intervention.

Besides the interview referred to in these letters, I informed the Assistant Secretary of State of the United States (not being able to see the Secretary) on the 11th April, ultimo, of the existence of a telegram of that date, from General Beauregard to the commissioners, in which he informed the commissioners that he had demanded the evacuation of Sumter, and if refused he would proceed to reduce it.

On the same day, I had been told that President Lincoln had said that none of the vessels sent to Charleston were war vessels, and that force was not to be used in the attempt to resupply the Fort. I had no means of testing the accuracy of this information; but offered that if the information was accurate, I would send a telegram to the authorities at Charleston, and it might prevent the disastrous consequences of a collision at that fort between the opposing forces. It was the last effort that I would make to avert the calamities of war.

The Assistant Secretary promised to give the matter attention, but I had no other intercourse with him or any other person on the subject, nor have I had any reply to the letters submitted to you.

Very respectfully,

John A. Campbell

To: General Davis, President of the Confederate States”

(Messages and Papers of the Confederacy, James D. Richardson, US Publishing Company, 1906, Volume I, pp. 97-98)

 

Looking to the South for Conservative Influence

The little black cloud mentioned below matured into a dark and powerful storm in the first term of FDR’s presidency, by the 1960’s it had become an American cultural revolution with the Democrat political platform differing little from the Communist Party USA platform of 1936.

Bernhard Thuersam, circa1865.org

 

Looking to the South for Conservative Influence

“The time is coming when this [United States] Government may be put to a test more severe than it has hitherto undergone, and when it will need the utmost support of every intelligent and conservative citizen.

A little black cloud already appears above the horizon, scarcely larger than a man’s hand, but what it portends no one living can tell. How soon the crisis may be upon us, or how long delayed, we do not know, but thoughtful men are anxious and the future looks dark and stormy. We can weather the storm, but that we may do so we must, both in the North and the South, put aside all sectionalism, and rising above mere partisan politics, stand shoulder to shoulder and present a united front against the vicious and revolutionary and communistic elements which threaten the public safety.

Whenever the time comes the nation will have to look to the South in great part for the conservative influence and strength that will enable it to overcome.”

(Memorial Day Services, United States District Court Judge G. R. Sage, Address at the National Cemetery, Nashville. Confederate Veteran, June 1894, page 166)

Casting Out Yankeeism

The author below predicted that had the American Confederacy won its independence, “it would have undoubtedly developed more toward a conservative aristocracy” and more like the Founders’ intended republic. The aversion to the mob-rule democracy of the North was a fundamental reason the South left the Union, and with the Founders’ Constitution firmly in hand.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Casting Out Yankeeism

“There was a growing opinion among Southerners that a proper concept of eternal law was the bulwark of all liberty. Universal suffrage would never be able to discover and conserve this law. Universal suffrage in the North was “organized confiscation, legalized violence and corruption . . . a moral disease of the body politic.”

It was mob government, radical democracy, “the willing instrument of consolidation in the hands of an abolition oligarchy,” which had perverted the old Union. It was this the South was fighting against. The individual must be buried in the institution. The mob did not know what it was voting for, except to obtain money for doing it or to get a drink of whiskey. [John C.] Calhoun had recognized the tyranny of majorities and had sought remedies against them.

The South had never believed in democracy; it had worked with the Democrats in the North only to secure a place of power in the government. Most [government] positions should be appointive and not remunerative. Officers would serve without pay, if they were patriots. Now every petty sheriff, whiskey-drinking constable, and justice of the peace must be elected and get a fee. All of this is Yankeeism, which the South should cast out – all this universal suffrage – elective Judges – biennial Legislatures – and many other features of policy – all tending to degrade government and corrupt the people.”

In line with its conservatism, the Confederacy debated much the abolition of the naturalization laws which it had inherited from the old Union and which made possible the infiltration of masses of foreigners with their “dangerous European radical ideas.” Especially they would exclude Yankees. Representative John B. Clark of Missouri declared that he would “as soon admit to citizenship a devil from hell.” He advocated a law banishing any Southerner who should marry a Yankee. “

(A History of the South, Volume VII, The Confederate States of America, 1861-1865, E. Merton Coulter, LSU Press, 1950, pp. 64-67)

 

Revolution and the Law of Necessity

In early 1850 Northern Ultras like Wendell Phillips trumpeted that “we are disunionists,” and Horace Mann admitted that Northern intransigence would produce a Southern rebellion against outrage and oppression. Daniel Webster could only produce useless Union speeches which had little effect upon Northern radicals who wanted revolution.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Revolution and the Law of Necessity

“[Webster] had not been speaking long [on 7 March 1850] before a tall, emaciated figure, with deep, cavernous eyes and a thick mass of snow-white hair advanced with feeble step, and sank into a chair on the other side of the Chamber. Webster, who had not seen him enter . . . soon referred again to Calhoun. The latter nervously grasped the arm of his chair, his black eyes glared, and half-rising, he exclaimed in a feeble, sepulchral voice: “The Senator from South Carolina is in his seat.” Startled, Webster turned, bowed, smiled and continued his excoriation of disunion.

He turned to Calhoun and exclaimed with profound emotion: “Peaceable secession is an utter impossibility.” When Webster sat down the applause could not be stilled . . . But Calhoun checked the congratulatory chorus. In faltering tones he expressed vehement dissent.

“I cannot agree,” he shrilled, “with the Senator from Massachusetts that this Union cannot be dissolved. Am I to understand him that no degree of oppression, no outrage, no broken faith, can produce the destruction of this Union?”

“Why Sir,” he continued, if that becomes a fixed fact, it will itself become the great instrument of producing oppression, outrage and broken faith. No, Sir, the Union can be broken. Great moral causes will break it, if they go on, and it can only be preserved by justice, good faith and an adherence to the Constitution.”

As he took his seat, Webster arose to answer the question. “I know, Sir,” he said, “that this Union can be broken up – every government can be – and I admit that there may be such a degree of oppression as will warrant resistance and forcible severance. That is revolution – that is revolution! Of that ultimate right of revolution I have not been speaking. I know that the law of necessity does exist.”

(The Eve of Conflict, Stephen A. Douglas and the Needless War, George Fort Milton, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1934, pp. 62-63)

Calhoun on the Evils of Government Patronage

Like Jefferson, John C. Calhoun of South Carolina was well-aware of the corrupting and polarizing effect that political parties, patronage and news publications exerted on the American public. He observed that their object was “under form of law to take from others and appropriate to themselves more than would otherwise be so taken and appropriated.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Calhoun on the Evils of Government Patronage

“Were a premium offered for the best means of extending to the utmost the power of patronage, to destroy the love of country, and to substitute a spirit of subserviency and man-worship; to encourage vice and discourage virtue, and, in a word, to prepare for the subversion of liberty and the establishment of despotism, no scheme more perfect could be devised; and such must be the tendency of the practice, with whatever intention adopted, or to whatever extent pursued.

If to this difficulty . . . there be added others of a formidable character . . . .on the part of government, in large communities , to seize on and corrupt all the organs of public opinion, and thus to delude and impose on the people; the greater tendency in such communities to the formation of parties on local and separate interests . . . some conception may be formed of the vast superiority which that organized and central party, consisting of office-holders and office-seekers, with their dependents, forming one compact, disciplined corps, wielded by a single individual, without conflict of opinion within . . . and aiming at the single object of re-taming and perpetuating power in their own ranks, must have, in such country as ours, over the people, a superiority so decisive that it may safely be asserted that, whenever the patronage and influence of the government are sufficiently strong to form such a party, liberty, without a speedy reform, must inevitably be lost.

Every lover of this country, and of its institutions, be his party what it may, must see and deplore the rapid growth of patronage, with all its attendant evils, and the certain catastrophe which awaits its further progress, if not timely arrested.

Among [the patronage interests], the first and most powerful is that active, vigilant and well-trained corps which lives on the government, or expects to live on it, which prospers most when the revenue is the greatest, the treasury the fullest, and expenditures the most profuse, and, of course, is ever the firm and faithful supporter of whatever system shall extract the most from the pockets of the rest of the community, to be emptied into theirs.”

(The Life of John C. Calhoun, Gustavus M. Pinckney, Walker, Evans & Cogswell, 1903, pp. 106-110)