Browsing "Reconstruction"

Controlling Elections in a Businesslike Manner

The political campaign of 1872 saw Grant win the presidency again though the corruption and scandals of his administration like Credit Mobilier would not surface until after his reelection. His opponent, Northern newspaperman Horace Greeley, was outspoken against the black vote being manipulated by Grant’s party, stating that “they are an easy, worthless race, taking no thought of the morrow.” He thought the freedmen no longer deserved government support, his harsh injunction being “root, hog, or die.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Controlling Elections in a Businesslike Manner

“In the summer of 1872 . . . my immediate recreation was the heated political campaign which was then in full swing . . . the Republicans had put forward their contention along the most radical lines. A black Negro man had practically dictated the platform, claiming complete civil and social rights; endorsing [scalawag Governor W.W.] Holden, who had been removed by impeachment from his governorship; and injecting various “isms” which had been imported by the carpet-bag elements.

The most distinguished of the deserters from Democracy, Samuel L. Phillips, had begun the campaign with the opening sentence, “Hitherto, I have not been a Republican.”

The Democrats . . . had named for governor Judge Merrimon, from the mountain country and a life-long rival of Governor [Zebulon] Vance, a representative of the Union and war sentiment. In those days there was no place for a Democrat on the Democratic ticket.

Judge Merrimon was a ponderous person, addicted to the Websterian style of garment and the Websterian habit of four-hour speeches. Vance had declined the nomination.

The national features of this election were historically and dramatically set. As North Carolina voted in August, it led the procession . . . The Negroes voted for the first time for a president and were drilled [by Republicans] to vote early and often. The presidential contest was between the regular Republican party, supporting Grant, and the Liberal Republicans, whose candidate, Horace Greeley, had been endorsed by the Democrats.

Fred Douglas, the Negro orator, was sent into the denser populations of colored people in the eastern counties. He spoke before a multitude in Warrenton. His racial instinct to magnify himself and display his superiority made him speak along lines that were so much metaphysics to the audience. They had come to hear paeans of praise for [Republican] officeholders and denunciation of the old masters, with jests broad enough to get over the platform.

John Hyman, a colored barkeeper and later successful candidate for Congress, had placed on the speaker’s table a glass of sherry for Fred Douglas’s refreshment. Douglas sipped it between perorations, explaining it to his audience that it was not liquor, but sherry wine; and that while it might have been worse, it puzzled him to see how.

This gave great offense. His hearers did not believe him; and John Hyman, who had donated the wine, remarked that “Mr. Douglas’s manners – what he has – may be good enough for his northern friends but they don’t set well with folks who know what manners is.”

The regular Republicans followed the military tactics of Grant, their leader, and they sat down to the task of carrying the State in a thoroughly businesslike manner. The Federal courts were prostituted to their purpose and issues thousands of orders for arrest for Democrats who were accused of belonging to the Ku Klux.

A quarter of a million dollars was spent on tipstaffs and underlings connected with the courts. Every branch of the Government was called upon to furnish its quota of force. The Congress had passed bills promising social equality to the black; every State had a garrison of [Northern] troops placed conveniently to suppress any outbreak which should be kindled by political provocation.

The idea of allowing the possession of the Government to pass out of the [Grant Republican] party’s hands was not tolerated [and] . . . The result of the election was foregone.”

(Southern Exposure, Peter Mitchel Wilson, UNC Press, 1927, pp. 83-87)

 

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)

 

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)

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)

Scarcity of Black Democrats in North Carolina

New York’s Tammany Hall was notorious for herding recent immigrants to the polls to vote for selected candidates and the selected party. Northern Republicans saw the future of their political hegemony in the South in the freedmen, who were informed that their white neighbors would re-enslave them should blacks vote Democratic. The Klan was formed to counter the infamous Union League of the Republicans, whish taught Southern blacks to hate Sothern whites.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Scarcity of Black Democrats in North Carolina

“Very few whites voted the Republican ticket [in North Carolina]. The notable exception was the Lewellen connection, a large clan of Welsh extraction, substantial farmers dwelling to the east of town. On election day they were apt to steal the show from the Negroes. They were not so loud and “biggetty,” but they were dangerous as fighters, especially when they had liquor aboard. They were known as clannish; anyone who got into a fight with one of them soon found the whole pack on his back.

In this election my father was defeated for justice of the peace, the only office he ever consented to run for, by a coal-black Negro shoemaker; let it be added, however, that this Negro had intelligence and character. I knew him in later years and always respected him. I was sorry for him when his thieving brother was convicted of burning our smokehouse, sent to the chain-gang, and later shot to death by a guard when he tried to escape.

There were only three Negro Democrats in this voting district. Any Negro who was for any reason inclined to vote the Democratic ticket was looked down upon by his race and often threatened with bodily harm. Henry Ward was one of these. In his pocket he carried an ugly knife, threatening to cut to pieces anybody who interfered with his voting. He belonged to the unterrified Democracy. Later he was hanged for burglary.

Another Negro Democrat was Lewis Merritt, a rather handsome buck who worked as a farm hand during the week and dressed up in good taste on Saturday and came to town. He did not drink. He was quiet, poised, and had an air about him. It was whispered around that he carried a revolver. The other Negroes talked darkly about him behind his back but never to his face.

The third man, Candy Parton, voted the Democratic ticket by suggestion. Tall, lanky, old and fragile, he was the body servant of Dr. Frank Smith, a colorful survivor of what the historical writers of today call the slaveholding aristocracy. When he appeared on election day, he was always dressed for the part: high hat, frock coat, flowered waistcoat, and gold-headed cane, chin whiskers like Uncle Sam’s.

He planted himself before the voting window, legs wide apart….”Candy, go up to that window and vote,” he said with emphasis, as he scowled at a group of Negroes who seemed inclined to crowd in on Candy. The old darkey shuffled up to the polls and voted, looking as if he were not quite sure he could go through with it, but Dr. Smith never had a doubt. There stood the Old South.”

(Son of Carolina, Augustus White Long, Duke University Press, 1939, pp. 30-32)

Bitter Road to Forced Reunion

A very popular book in the North, Sherman’s (1875) Memoirs went far to further exacerbate sectional hatred as he condemned the South and “took an almost lustful pride in describing the tremendous power his hand had wielded in spreading terror and destruction.”

Bernhard Thuersam, wwwcirca1865.org

 

Bitter Road to Forced Reunion

“If the [Southern] prisons constituted a Northern grievance the South likewise had its hurtful memories [of the war]. While Northerners blamed the evil genius of slavery for the war, Southerners [like Major T.G. Barker speaking in Charleston in 1870:] pointed the finger of responsibility to “those men who preached the irrepressible conflict to the Northern people” and “helped to bring on that unlawful and unholy invasion of the South.”

The South felt that it had been betrayed. [The Southern Review in 1867 said:] “Assuredly the subjected portions of this imperial republic (so called), with the bitter experience they have of outraged honour, justice, and humanity, on the part of those once their associates and friends, can never again by any possibility trust that vast engine of tyranny, a consolidated popular Union, nor derive from it one ray of hope for their own welfare, or for the happiness of mankind.”

It was to this “deep spirit of hate and oppression toward the Southern people,” and not to the necessities of war, that the South attributed the vast destruction of its property.

The ineradicable sense of injury felt by the South took concrete form in condemning the ravages committed by General Sherman’s army in Georgia and South Carolina. “No tongue will ever tell, no pen can record the horrors of that march,” wrote an intimate associate of General Joseph E. Johnston whose surrender to Sherman is sometimes pictured as a love feast.

“Ten generations of women will transmit, in whispers to their daughters, traditions of unspeakable things.” The hurt was accentuated by Northern pride in the achievement. The South resented the arrogant and jeering tone of the song, “Marching Through Georgia,” and bridled when Northern orators described Sherman’s army going through the conquered land “lie a plow of God.” Sherman personified all that the South had suffered.

The most contentious bone . . . was the destruction of Columbia. Sherman’s own defense was to blame General Wade Hampton . . . [and] the charge was made deliberately in Sherman’s official report. “I did it,” he later wrote, “to shake the faith of his people in him, for he was, in my opinion, a braggart, and professed to be the special champion of South Carolina.”

[The South] cherished a hateful image of the martyred Lincoln . . . who carried out in action his prophesy of war and destruction. He and his Cabinet, wrote the Southern Review, had a “perfect comprehension of the passions, prejudices, susceptibilities, vices and virtues . . . of the people upon whom they had to practice. They knew every quiver of the popular pulse . . . They were masters of every artifice that could mystify and mislead, and of every trick that could excite hope, or confidence, or rage . . . They filled their armies, established their financial system, controlled the press, and silenced opposition, by the same ingenious and bold imposture.”

The South sneered at a North which observed the Fourth of July and “at the same time denounced as damnable heresy the doctrines of the Declaration of Independence.” When Chicago was destroyed by fire in 1871 it was considered . . . [a] demonstration of Divine vengeance,” because it had been in Chicago that “the rowdy Lincoln, the prime agent of our woes, was nominated.” [After the death of] General Custer in the massacre of 1876, it was remembered in Virginia that the gallant martyr of the Little Big Horn was also the Custer who had executed seven captured Confederates of Mosby’s command without treating them as prisoners of war.”

(The Road to Reunion, Paul Buck, Little, Brown and Company, 1937, pp. 48-49; 52-55)

Emancipation the Work of a Monarch

Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation was not original and copied Lord Dunmore’s edict freeing slaves in 1775 Virginia for the purpose of arming slaves and inciting the murder of colonial Americans. British Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane did the same on April 2, 1814, proclaiming all slaves freed in order to cripple the American colonists war effort.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Emancipation the Work of a Monarch

“The Emancipation Proclamation, an incredible act, must be laid wholly to Lincoln and the small group of fanatical Abolitionists and radicals whose hatred of the South and of Southern people seems to have known no bounds. It disgusted the majority of Northern citizens and was out of favor even with the troops who were fighting Lincoln’s war at the hearthstones of the South.

It was characterized in Northern thought as the act of “an absolute, irresponsible monarch.” Justice Curtis of the United States Supreme Court, who had dissented in the Dred Scott case, publicly called it an unconstitutional act issued without legal right by the President. North and West it was denounced. In a speech against conscription and arbitrary arrests, Governor Horatio Seymour of New York declared it a “proposal for the butchery of women and children, for arson and murder, for lust and rapine.”

Truly it could not have emanated from a “great” man. Governor Seymour reminded Lincoln that the war was supposedly being fought solely to suppress “rebellion,” not to change the social system of the United States. [President] Jefferson Davis thought: “Our own detestation of those who have attempted the most execrable measure recorded in the history of guilty man, is tempered by profound contempt for the impotent rage it discloses.”

What Abraham Lincoln stood for, what Jefferson Davis stood for, culminated in a terrible civil war, an Emancipation, a “Reconstruction,” and three unconstitutional so-called amendments forced upon the Constitution and upon the American people along with an exasperating race problem – all be perversion of the form of government; by dictatorship and armed might, lawless and utterly ruthless, bringing ruin and desolation to half the country of that day, initiated by “reformers” and intermeddlers. These are blunt facts, some never before openly stated and faced, in our history.”

(The Constitutions of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, A Historical and Biographical Study in Contrasts, Russell Hoover Quynn, Exposition Press, 1959, page 21)

Civil Rights and States' Rights

Regarding the unfortunate 1954 Brown vs. BOE decision by the activist Supreme Court, Barry Goldwater saw the Court guided not by the ideas of the men who wrote the Constitution, “but engrafted its own views onto the established law of the land.” By legislating from the bench, they usurped the power of the Legislative branch and should have been impeached.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Civil Rights and States’ Rights

“An attempt has been made in recent years to disparage the principle of State’ Rights by equating it with defense of the South’s position on racial integration. I have already indicated that the reach of States’ Rights is much broader than that – that it affects Northerners as well as Southerners, and concerns many matters that have nothing to do with the race question.

[The] country is now in the grips of a spirited and sometimes ugly controversy over an imagined conflict between States’ Rights, on the one hand, and what are called “civil rights” on the other.

I say an imagined conflict because I deny that there can be a conflict between States’ Rights, properly defined – and civil rights, properly defined. If States’ “Rights” are so asserted as to encroach upon individual rights that are protected by valid federal laws, then the exercise of State power is a nullity. Conversely, if individual “rights” are so asserted as to infringe upon valid State power, then the assertion of those “rights” is a nullity.

The rights themselves do not clash. The conflict arises from a failure to define the two categories of rights correctly, and to assert them lawfully.

States’ Rights are easy enough to define. The Tenth Amendment does it succinctly: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution nor prohibited by it to the States are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Civil rights should be no harder. In fact, however – thanks to extravagant and shameless misuse by people who ought to know better – it is one of the most badly understood concepts in modern political usage. Civil rights is frequently used synonymously with “human rights” – or with “natural rights.”

As often as not, it is simply a name for describing an activity that someone deems politically or socially desirable. A sociologist writes a paper proposing to abolish some inequity, or a politician makes a speech about it – and, behold, a new “civil right” is born! The Supreme Court has displayed the same creative powers.

A civil right is a right that is asserted and is therefore protected by some valid law. It may be asserted by the common law, or by local or federal statutes, or by the Constitution; but unless a right is incorporated in the law, it is not a civil right and is not enforceable by the instruments of the civil law.

There may be some rights – “natural,” “human,” or otherwise – that should also by civil rights. But if we desire to give such rights the protection of the law, our recourse is to a legislature or to the amendment procedures of the Constitution. We must not look to politicians, or sociologists – or the courts – to correct the deficiency.

[The] federal Constitution does not require the States to maintain racially mixed schools. Despite the recent holding of the Supreme Court, I am firmly convinced – not only that integrated schools are not required – but that the Constitution does not permit any interference whatsoever by the federal government in the field of education.

It may be wise or expedient for Negro children to attend the same schools as white children, but they do not have a civil right to do so which is protected by the federal Constitution, or which is enforceable by the federal government. The intentions of the founding fathers in this matter are beyond any doubt: no powers regarding education were given to the federal government.”

(The Conscience of a Conservative, Barry Goldwater, Victor Publishing Company, 1960, pp. 31-34)

Better to Die in the Last Ditch

Of the war and its end in the submission and occupation of the American South, those enduring the degradation vowed that “These things will not stay forgotten . . . daughters and Veterans can not afford to be silent about the painful past. Let our descendants have a truthful account of that awful time as far as written words can give it.” The source below can be obtained from Orders@Xlibris.com.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Better to Die in the Last Ditch

“Twenty years after Appomattox in a survey to determine “how the war had most significantly changed” the lives of Confederate women, “all said that doing their own work or adjusting to hired Negro domestics was their major postwar problem.” Sallie Southall Cotton wrote to General William G. LeDue in 1909 about Reconstruction:

“Defeated, oppressed, humiliated, poverty-stricken, disenfranchised, taxed to pay the war debt, while too poor to support ourselves, deprived of opportunity politically, and handicapped by pride and the bitterness of rebellion against our condition, the South was a pitiable spectacle – and her rise from that condition to the splendid attainments of today is a crown of honor she deserves because she has won it by overcoming obstacles which at first seemed insurmountable.”

Dr. Henry Bahnson, in his speech to Confederate veterans, had this to say about Confederate women:

“We can speak in unstilted praise of the best and greatest glory of the South – the women of the war. Their soft voices inspired us, their prayers followed us and shielded us from temptation and harm. We witnessed their Spartan courage and self-sacrifice in every stage of the war. We saw them send their husbands and their fathers, their brothers and their sons and their sweethearts, to the front, tempering their joy in the hour of triumph, cheering and comforting them in the days of despair and disaster.

Freely they gave of their abundance, and gladly endured privation and direct poverty that the men in the field might be clothed and fed. Their days of unaccustomed toil were saddened with anxious suspense, and the lonely, prayerful vigils of the night afforded no rest.

They nursed the sick and wounded; they soothed the dying; and in the last stages of the war when all was lost but honor, were made to marvel at their saintly spirit of martyrdom standing as it were almost neck deep in the desolation around tem, bravely facing their fate, while the light of heaven illuminated their divinely beautiful countenances.”

Catherine DeRosset Meares [of Wilmington] remarked: “The sense of captivity, of subjugation . . . [was] so galling that I cannot see how a manly spirit could submit to it . . . Oh, it is such degradation to see [our] young men yield voluntary submission to these rascally Yankees. Better to stand on the last plank and die in the last ditch.”

(Blood and War at My Doorstep, North Carolina Civilians in the War Between the States, Brenda Chambers McKean, Volume II, Xlibris, 2011, pp. 1082-1083)

Rebel Yelling Solid South Democrats

Bernard M. Baruch, born in Camden, South Carolina in 1870, grew up shooting muzzle loaders and picking cotton. His father Simon was born in East Prussia in 1840 and came to Camden in 1855 – later to attend South Carolina Medical College at Charleston and the Medical College of Virginia. Surgeon Baruch served in the Third South Carolina Battalion from Second Manassas through Gettysburg, and the Thirteenth Mississippi in July 1864 through the end of the war. In the postwar Dr. Baruch was known to emit loud rebel yells when “Dixie” was played or if a theatrical performance he was attending was deserving of such.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Rebel Yelling Solid South Democrats

“[Bernard] Baruch was not a Democrat on specific issues. On the contrary, he had made a fortune at least once because the Republican view on the tariff had prevailed. [But] He was a Democrat and would contribute generously to a Democratic Party campaign regardless of what he thought the issues or, for that matter, about the candidates. And he would vote the Democratic ticket – straight.

The party regularity dated back to his childhood. He had been raised on Confederate war stories and his whole family was devoted to the Confederate cause. Years after the Baruch [family] had moved to New York [his father] Dr. Baruch embarrassed [mother Miss Belle] frightfully by giving the rebel yell in the crowded Metropolitan Opera House.

But it was not the war or even his mother’s story of how her home had been burnt by Sherman’s men so much as it was Reconstruction that turned Baruch and thousands of other Southerners into such fervid partisan Democrats that the “solid South” has been at once a conundrum and problem to most residents of other parts of the country since. {Reconstruction] . . . with all its terrible connotations, bred hatred for the Republican party.

The terrors of Reconstruction lasted from shortly after the close of the war until 1877, when Baruch was seven years old. In that year Federal troops were withdrawn from the South. Then came the struggle to turn the rascals out, now that they were no longer protected by Federal bayonets – followed by the long uphill battle to work order out of the chaos they had left. Not much of this progress was made by the time the Baruch family moved to New York.

In those first eleven years of his life Baruch heard constantly of Republican misrule of his town and county and State, misrule seemingly directed and certainly protected by soldiers sent by a Republican administration in Washington. The stories told of how the Republican carpetbaggers looted the State and local treasuries, of how they prevented Confederate veterans from voting, while the Negroes, directed by Republicans from the North and local scalawags who had turned Republican for the easy graft involved, elected officials whose only thought was to line their pockets.

Money was extorted from the helpless local whites, and more was obtained by the sale of bonds, some of which were later repudiated, to innocent investors, not only in the north, but abroad! All this left the South not only in unspeakable poverty and want, but under a mountain of debt [and impairing the future credit worthiness of the South]. This last phase was impressed on Baruch in his financial dealings on Wall Street.

March 4, 1913, was a great day for the Democrats. The troops marched into Washington from far and near, but particularly from the South, for the inauguration of their second president since “the War.” Baruch trooped with them. Bands in the inauguration parade played “Dixie” and “Bonnie Blue Flag” and “My Maryland.” Southerners cheered the West Point cadets not only because they marched so true, but because they wore the Confederate gray.

The crowds nearly went crazy over the gray-clad Fifth Maryland Infantry, the Richmond Light Blues and dozens of other historic Southern military organizations. The Taft inauguration, 4 years before, had been held in a blizzard. Now the sun was shining. The South was in the saddle. Woodrow Wilson had been born in Virginia!

(Bernard Baruch, Park Bench Statesman, Carter Field, McGraw Hill, 1944, excerpts, pp. 89-98)