Browsing "Recurring Southern Conservatism"

An American Chamber of Horrors

In an effort to forestall a Republican “Force Bill” designed to bring reconstruction horrors back to the postwar South, fourteen spokesmen that included Zebulon Vance, Robert Stiles and Bernard J. Sage undertook to explain the Solid South to what may be termed the New North. In April 1890 they published a symposium “Why the Solid South? Or Reconstruction and its Results,” designed to appeal to the self-interest of the North’s business class and a very clear recapitulation of what Reconstruction thus far “had cost in money, public morale and cultural retardation.”

An American Chamber of Horrors

“Hilary Herbert of Alabama, who served as editor, expressed . . . in a preface: “Its object is to show to the public, and more especially to the businessmen of the North, who have made investments in the South, or who have trade relations with their Southern fellow citizens, the consequences which once followed an interference in the domestic affairs of certain States by those, who either did not understand the situation or were reckless of results.”

There followed factual histories of Reconstruction in each of the ex-Confederate States, including West Virginia and Missouri, which also had suffered from the fraud, repression and vicious partisanship of the postwar settlement. All in all, it is one of the most dismal stories ever told, unrelieved by a single ray of light, unless a revelation of how much people can endure and how they will struggle to attain their hopes even in extremis be such.

Governor Vance of North Carolina in a particularly mild and philosophic chapter pointed out that during what was supposed to be a moral and political rebirth “the criminals sat in the law-making chamber, on the bench and in the jury-box, instead of standing in the dock.” It has become the fashion nowadays to regard Reconstruction as a kind of chamber of horrors into which no good American would care to look, but Governor Vance reminded his readers that no portion of our history better deserves study “by every considerate patriot.”

From the comparatively uneventful story of North Carolina’s experience, the chronicle moves on to the wild saturnalia of South Carolina, where amid riotous spending of public funds the State House was turned into a combination of saloon and brothel. Yet the ordeal of South Carolina was matched by that of Louisiana, where in four years’ time the incredible Warmoth regime squandered an amount equal to half the wealth of the State.

“Corruption is the fashion,” Governor Warmoth, an ex-soldier who had been dishonorably discharged from the Federal army, remarked with laudable candor. “I do not pretend to be honest, but only as honest as anybody in politics.”

(The Southern Tradition at Bay: A History of Postbellum Thought, Richard M. Weaver, George Core/M.E. Bradford, editors, Regnery Publishing, 1989, excerpts pp. 330-332)

Paying Tribute to the North

The prewar national dominance of the North eventually gave rise to those who thought that economic and political measures were not sufficient to put the South on a par with the North. They saw that the only way the South could rid itself of subservience to the North was to leave the Union, and do so with the Founders’ Constitution.  The South’s attempts to reduce tariffs had been increased in 1842, and in 1846 with the help of a Southern president and secretary of the treasury, forced through Congress the Walker Tariff which was so low as to be practically revenue only.  Additionally, President John Tyler’s vetoes of a national bank were upheld by Southern votes in Congress.

Northern commercial interests were determined to reclaim their government subsidies and establish national banking, with Lincoln and his new party a convenient vehicle to permanent national dominance.

Paying Tribute to the North

“There were other methods by which the profits from the cotton crop found their way into Northern pockets. Since two-thirds of the cotton crop went to England, the freight charges on its transportation across the sea amounted to a large sum.  Although the river boats of the South were generally Southern-owned and Southern- built, the South never engaged in the building or operating of ocean-going ships, principally because capital could more profitably employed in agriculture.

Most of the cotton sold was carried on coastwise ships to New York, and the great part transshipped from that place to England. All the coastwise ships and most of the ocean-going shipping was Northern-owned and consequently the freight charges went into Northern pockets. In 1843 this amounted to nearly a million dollars. In addition the insurance costs while the cotton was in transit were generally paid to Northern firms.

Not only did the cotton growers pay “tribute” to the North through their exports, but through their imports as well. The imports to the South came through Northern ports; the exports of the South amounted to two-thirds the total of the United States but her direct imports were less than one-tenth. The freight charges to New York and Boston, the tariff duties, and the cost of transportation on coastwise vessels to the South all added to the cost of merchandise.

In the hard times of the forties, Southern economists were prone to find the explanation for their distress in the “tribute” paid to the North. They came to believe that the economic progress of the North depended on this “tribute,” and epitomized their opinion in the phrase “Southern wealth and Northern profits.”

By the phrase “operation of the federal government” the South meant bounties to New England fisheries, internal improvements in the North such as harbors, roads, canals, and public buildings, tariff duties, and deposits of government funds.”

(The Old South: The Geographic, Economic, Social, Political and Cultural Expansion, Institutions and Nationalism of the Antebellum South, R.S. Cotterill, Arthur H. Clark Company, 1939, excerpts pp. 192-199)

Virginia’s Effort to Abolish the Slave Trade

In the first Congress under the United States  Constitution, Josiah Parker of Virginia attempted to insert a clause in the Tariff Bill to levy a ten dollar tax on every slave brought into this country on foreign ships, and especially those of New England.  Parker was supported in this by two other Virginians, Theodoric Bland and James Madison.  In a March 1790 Virginia petition to Congress, the slave trade was denounced as “an outrageous violation of one of the most essential rights of human nature.”

In an unclean bargain to extend the slave trade until 1808, the commercial interests of New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut allied with South Carolina and Georgia rice planters – while Virginia strenuously protested. The slave traders of New England continued their nefarious traffic until the eve of the Civil War.

Virginia’s Efforts to Abolish the Slave Trade

“Despite Virginia’s failure to secure the immediate suppression of the foreign slave trade, her sons were active in their efforts to restrict its growth and at the earliest possible moment to drive the slave ships from the seas.

“ . . . James Madison [declared] . . . By expressing a national disapprobation of that trade it is hoped we may destroy it, and so save ourselves from reproaches and our posterity from the imbecility ever attendant on a country filled with slaves.”

In his message to Congress, at its session 1806-07, Mr. Jefferson, then President, brought to the attention of that body the fact that under the Constitution the time was at hand when the African slave trade could be abolished, and urged a speedy enactment of such a law. He said:

I congratulate you, fellow-citizens, on the approach of a period at which you may interpose your authority constitutionally to withdraw the citizens of the United States from all further participation in those violations of human rights which have so long been continued on the unoffending inhabitants of Africa, and which the morality, the reputation and the best interests of our country have long been eager to proscribe.”

[Later], In his message to Congress, December 5, 1810, President [James] Madison declares: “Among the commercial abuses still committed under the American flag . . . it appears that American citizens are instrumental in carrying on the traffic in enslaved Africans, equally in violation of the laws of humanity and in defiance of those of their own country.”

(Virginia’s Attitude Toward Slavery and Secession, Beverly Munford, L.H. Jenkins, 1909, excerpts pp. 33-35)

 

“Going South”

The US Marine Corps in 1861 had a total strength of 1,775, including 63 officers. Nineteen of these went South in 1861 to join the newly established Confederate States Marine Corps, and all were very well-informed on the Constitution they had sworn an oath to defend against enemies both foreign and domestic, especially the latter. The following are taken from the resignation letters of three officers: one Marine and two Navy.

“Going South”

After reading Lincoln’s inaugural address, Captain Robert Tansill, USMC explained his resignation from the US Marine Corps:

“In entering the public service, I took an oath to support the Constitution, which necessarily gives me the right to interpret it. Our institutions, according to my understanding, are founded upon the principle and right of self-government. The States, in forming the Confederacy [in 1789] did not relinquish that right, and I believe each State has a clear and unquestionable right to secede whenever the people thereof think proper, and the Federal Government has no legal or moral authority to use physical force to keep them in the Union. Entertaining these views, I cannot conscientiously join in a war against any of the States which have already seceded or may hereafter secede, either North or South, for the purpose of coercing them back into the Union . . .”

Officers of the highest rank were also dismissed summarily, particularly if they, like Captain Isaac Mayo, took the trouble to attack the Lincoln administration. Writing from his Maryland estate on May 1, he asserted:

“It was the hope of my old age that I might die, as I had lived, an officer in the Navy of a free Government. This hope has been taken from me. In adopting the policy of coercion, you have denied to millions of freemen the rights of the Constitution and in its stead you have placed the will of a sectional Party. What a spectacle to intelligent minds . . . I cannot fight against the Constitution while pretending to fight for it. You will therefore oblige me by accepting my resignation.”

Less high-minded and more sentimental was the resignation letter sent by Lieutenant James J. Waddell who was serving aboard the USS John Adams and who wrote from the island of St. Helena the following lines:

“The people of the State of North Carolina having withdrawn their allegiance to the Government of the late Confederacy of the United States . . . I return to ‘His Excellency the President of the United States,’ the Commission which appointed me a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy . . . In thus separating myself from association which I have cherished for twenty years, I wish it to be known that no doctrine of the rights of secession, nor wish for disunion of the States impel me, but simply because my home is the home of my people in the South, and I could not bear arms against them.”

(Going South: US Navy Officer Resignations & Dismissals On the Eve of the Civil War, Naval Historical Foundation Publications, Series II, Number 27, Fall 1981, pp. 21-22)

Who is Encircling Whom?

The following exchange between Senator William J. Fulbright and General James M. Gavin occurred during Foreign Relations Committee hearings in early February 1966.  A scholar as well as a US Senator representing Arkansas, Fulbright’s deep knowledge of history and the political past set an example few have emulated, and to our country’s detriment.  Fulbright no doubt understood Lee’s postwar statement regarding Northern victory, that “the consolidation of the States into one vast republic, sure to be aggressive abroad and despotic at home, will be the certain precursor of the ruin which has overwhelmed all those that have preceded it.”

Who is Encircling Whom?

“Every night for the past week or so, Fulbright had been reading with a growing fascination the classic works on China, its history and culture in anticipation of the forthcoming Committee hearings on China with the top American scholars. Out of this reading was emerging a view somewhat different than the standard clichés.

So he asked General Gavin, “In what respect are [the Chinese] aggressive, contrasting what they say with what they do?”

The General answered him, “I have been exposed to the filmed reports coming out of China of their militancy, of their training their youth and their industrial workers and their people in the use of arms, in the military tactics and so on.”

“Do you consider that aggressive necessarily?” Fulbright insisted. “The training of their troops in China, is that an act of aggression?”

“No, no.”

“Is there evidence that they moved troops into Vietnam?”

“There is not at this time.”

“I understand they have made many threats,” Fulbright said, pursuing this, “Normally we use the word ‘aggression’ very loosely.

The Senator spoke of a “very interesting article” by a New York Times correspondent from Hong Kong. “The whole purport is that the Chinese are alleging they are being encircled,” he remarked.

General Gavin replied, “I would be inclined to agree that the Chinese think they are being pretty well hemmed in” [referring to American military bases and nuclear submarines girding China in an arc from Thailand through South Vietnam, the Philippines, the China Seas, Taiwan, Okinawa, South Korea and Japan].

“Is it a fact, do you think, that relatively speaking they are more encircled today than we are?” Fulbright pressed.

“There is no question about that.”

[Fulbright] asked the leading question, “You know a great deal about both military and political history. Have the Chinese as a nation over the last one hundred or two hundred years been especially aggressive? I use that word to mean military, overt aggression on their neighbors?”

“No. They haven’t been to my knowledge.”

“Who aggressed whom during the last century? Was it China attacking the Western nations or vice versa?”

“The other way around. The Western nations attacking China.”

“Was this to a very great extent?” [asked Fulbright]

“Yes. I remember quite well reading about the moving from Tientsin in the Boxer Rebellion, and reviewing the life of Gordon and the British occupation of major segments of China as well as that of other European nations.”

“As a matter of fact, various Western nations practically occupied and humiliated and decimated China throughout almost a century, did they not?”

“That is absolutely true.”

“Don’t you think that might not be a significant element in our present situation?”

“Indeed, surely.”

(Senator Fulbright: Portrait of a Public Philosopher, Tristam Coffin, E.P. Dutton & Company, 1966, excerpt, pp. 284-285)

Escorting President Davis

Thomas Goode Jones (1844-1914), was a boy of fifteen when he enrolled in Virginia Military Institute in 1860, and served under then-Major Thomas J. Jackson as drillmaster of troops in Richmond. Jones was wounded in battle, complimented for bravery, and with the rank of Major, led his men in the last charge at Appomattox. On April 9, 1865, he physically carried the flag of truce on his sword to enemy lines for General Lee. Major Jones’ ancestors were of Welsh extraction, the most famous being Pocahontas and John Jones of the Virginia Militia during the first War of Independence. He was elected Governor of Alabama in 1890.

Escorting Jefferson Davis

“As a conservative, Thomas Goode Jones seems to have accepted institutions as they existed. Growing up in a slave-holding family amid a slave-holding society, he never seems to have questioned the institution of slavery while he was growing up or while he served the Confederacy. And yet . . . his family treated their slaves well.

While Jones was serving as reporter for the Alabama Supreme Court at the time when it was dominated by Reconstruction Republicans, the Justices agreed to march in a 4th of July procession of “carpetbaggers” and blacks, and Jones agreed to ride with them. Twenty years later, this was used against him in his race for Governor.

[At] the 1901 [Alabama Constitutional] Convention, the issue of race relations arose several times, and on each occasion [Governor] Jones emerged as the spokesman for moderation. [He argued for the militia to be comprised of both white and black men, stating] “I remember well, Mr. President, in the dark days, when the sun of the Confederacy was setting around us . . . that the Confederate Congress, under the inspiration of Robert E. Lee, passed an act authorizing the employment of Negroes in the Confederate army.”

[Jones continues] “Mr. President, on one occasion I had the honor to command the escort for President Jefferson Davis in his last tour through Alabama and Georgia. We came to the little town of Albany in Georgia. While we were there, a Negro captain of a Negro company came up and asked to have the privilege of escorting the carriage of Mr. Davis.

I said to him that I would refer his request to Mr. Davis, and I did so. Mr. Davis said he would be glad to have him, “he was glad to see that spirit exhibited on their part towards him and the whites, and he wanted to encourage it.”

If Jefferson Davis could take that position, surely it is not a matter of reproach to myself or [former Governor] William C. Oates that we are of the same opinion.”

(Warrior, Statesman, Jurist for the South: The Life, Legacy and Law of Thomas Goode Jones, John A. Eidsmoe, Sprinkle Publications, 2003, excerpts pp. 189; 196)

The Mainspring of Human Conduct

Address of Judge John A. Campbell, Decoration of Confederate Graves, May 1, 1874

“It is well for us to recur to the principle underlying the Confederate movement. Never was a cause apparently less understood or more maligned. The history of the world furnishes many instances of revolutions, rebellions and wars for insufficient causes. The maintenance of the claims of an individual or family to supreme authority, trivial complaints, trifling affronts, desire for aggrandizement, pride and ambition, have been prolific causes of popular uprisings or national contests. But none of these actuated our movement.

It sprang from a spirit of independence, which is hereditary and part of our being; a belief in the right and a sublime determination to maintain it. If successful, it would have been pronounced right. Failure don’t make it wrong.

The impelling cause was far greater and more justifiable than led to the American Revolution, and the different result can’t change the dictates of justice and the decision of right reason. The spirit which has ever animated and will ever inspire the resisters of oppression, impelled the Southern people. To judge fairly and determine justly, their action must be estimated from their standpoint.

This is the rule applied to individuals and applicable to masses. We must transport ourselves to their situation, circumstances and surroundings, see as they saw it, believe as they believed, feel as they felt, and consider the justice and reasonableness of their apprehensions from what they saw and felt.

Doing this, it is discovered that the movement sprang from the principle of self-preservation – the mainspring of human conduct, innate in the soul. For many years a bitter contest of words had been waged between North and South, originating in conscience and sentiment, gathering force as it progressed, and quickened into a fervid zeal by union and party efforts, until it culminated in party triumph in the election of a president on a platform of hostility to an overshadowing interest of Southern society.

The determination was to seek safety by withdrawing from a union, which it was thought was about to be made an engine for the destruction of our rights. There was nothing unnatural or unprecedented in this; there was no hostility to the people of the North; there was no dissatisfaction with the Constitution; war was not desired nor sought by us, but was deprecated, and tried by every means to be averted.

War resulted; a long, a fierce and terrible war, waged by the United States for subjugation and by the Confederate States for existence.

[The] Confederate flag was furled, and in its folds were enclosed the hopes of millions who had proudly gazed upon its stars and bars and fondly hoped that it would wave forever, an emblem of the right of self-government – the banner of a free people.

No national standard was ever raised more justly nor rallied to by a nobler band of brave hearts; no contest was ever maintained more gallantly; choicer spirits were never sacrificed at any shrine; fairer hands never toiled for any object; sweeter voices never were heard in prayer for any effort; purer hearts were never enlisted in any cause. But it still failed.

It devolves on the survivors of the Confederate period to preserve the truth of their history, and hand down, from generation to generation, a correct account of the impelling cause of the unfortunate struggle, in order that the cruelty of injustice to our motives shall not be added to the pangs of defeat.”

(The Lost Cause, Address by Judge J. A. P. Campbell, Delivered at Canton, May 1, 1874, on the Occasion of the Decoration of the Graves of Confederate Soldiers; Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume XVI, January-December, 1888, pp. 232-236)

 

Assuming Puritanical Attitudes

Born at sea while his family sailed from Ireland to America, John Newland Mafffitt was destined for a life on the water. Having just relinquished command of the USS Crusader at New York on March 1, 1861, after several years capturing New England-captained and financed slavers off Cuba, the country he had left had become something different.

Soon to become one of the most famed of blockade runners and privateers, he had, by his account, in the first three of his four captures of slavers, rescued 789 Africans from their cramped holds.

The Wilmington Daily Journal of 25 September 1863 remarked, “It is a curious fact, for those who maintain the civil war in America is founded upon the slave question, that [Maffitt] should be the very man who has distinguished himself actively against the slave trade.”  

Though describing himself as a “slave holder” due to a modest interest in land he had inherited from his wife’s family, Maffitt found the newly-rediscovered morality of New Englanders disingenuous.

Assuming Puritanical Attitudes

“The news of Fort Sumter reached Washington in the early evening of April 13, causing intense excitement within the city. Maffitt now faced his terrible decision of allegiance. He could hear the tramp of soldiers and the roll of artillery wagons day and night outside his house. Southern families departed daily; resignations were announced “in language of gall and bitterness.” Maffitt’s relatives were in the South. His property was partly in the North – his Washington home with its valuable furnishings and fine library; and partly in the South interest in land he inherited . . .

He recoiled against a people who sold slaves to Southerners and then became puritanical in their attitudes:

‘I fancied that New England, with her well-developed secession proclivities, would offer no material objection to the course of the South. In truth it was natural to presume that fanatical abolitionism would hail with joy the departure of the un-Godly, slaveholding section of the country from her unwelcome participation in the Union. But material interest gave zest to patriotism, and her war course would lead the world to suppose that she never contemplated a severance from the Union and forming a Northern Confederation.”

(High Seas Confederate: The Life and Times of John Newland Maffitt, Royce Shingleton, University of South Carolina Press, 1994, excerpts pp. 30; 32-33)  

Defenders of Their Once Peaceful Homes

Bethel, Virginia is located about ten miles from Yorktown where Cornwallis surrendered and virtually ended the Revolutionary War, with French assistance. Oddly enough, the War to conquer the South began near the same place, Little Bethel Church and a little further north, Big Bethel Church.

In command of forces invading Virginia was Massachusetts lawyer and General, Benjamin Butler.  His plan of battle was described as “the official plan for the first battle for the maintenance of the Republic.” The object of Butler’s expedition “was stated in these unconventional words: “If we bag the Little Bethel men, push on to Great Bethel, and simultaneously bag them.  Burn both Bethels or blow up if brick.” Most of the work, it was further directed, was to be done with the bayonet.

Colonel John B. Magruder was commander of three Southern regiments, one of which was the First North Carolina Volunteers under Col. D. H. Hill.

Defenders of Their Once Peaceful Homes

“Yorktown, Virginia July 3, 1861

To: Mrs. Hugh McCormick, Bladen County, NC

As I am not well today I am not at work. I cannot pass off my time in a more satisfactory way than writing to one of my most highly esteemed cousins. I hope when this letter is received by you that Cousin Hugh, you and the babe will be well and enjoying the richest blessings of life.

 Cousin Bettie, I am now faring worse than I ever have. I try to take it in good faith, since I do not consider myself better than those who are sharing the same fate. I will stand firmly under all the hardships and temptations I’m exposed to here.

The Cause that I’m engaged in is a glorious one. Please do not understand me to say that Civil War is a glorious thing – it is not. On the other hand it is the greatest curse that ever befell a nation. But we did not introduce war into our peaceful land. We are only defenders of our once peaceful homes. We have taken up arms to drive back the invading foe and the hirelings of the North. Our commanders are much stronger than Lincoln or Scott. I believe our great Benefactor is interceding for us and will continue to do so as long as we are engaged in the right Cause.

Tell Cousin Hugh that I was in the battle at Bethel. Our company was in the most exposed position of any of them . . . We could only dodge the balls the best way we could. The shells came so thick it gave the appearance of a hailstorm. A shell burst about twenty or thirty feet from me in the air.

Cousin Bettie, I must close by saying I hope to see you all one more time.

Yours until death, N.G. King”

(Our John of Argyll and Cumberland, An Informal Narrative of John MacCormick and His Descendants, 1762-1976, Luola MacCormick Love, Publisher, 1976, pp. 55-56)

Protecting North Carolina’s Unique Culture

The author below wrote of the “the hypocrisy that Northerners long-harbored with respect to the South” as they decried Southern race relations while themselves violently resisting school integration in Pontiac, Denver, Chicago and Boston.  He added, that in 1955, Champaign, Illinois segregated their grade schools and the university’s star football player, being black, could not get a haircut in a local barbershop.

Protecting North Carolina’s Unique Culture

In August and September, 1981, Greensboro Daily News columnist Jerry Bledsoe wrote of “Some Yankee tourists . . . torturing a ghost crab” at a North Carolina beach. When a reader, a former New Yorker, responded that these tourists may have been North Carolinians, “Bledsoe replied, quite irrelevantly:”

“I could try to squirm out of this and say I used Yankee merely as a descriptive term and intended no derogatory meaning. I won’t do that. For many native Southerners, prejudice against Northerners is more deeply ingrained than prejudice against blacks ever was (although not as deep as Northerners prejudice against Southerners). Many Southerners who completely overcame prejudice against blacks still harbor dark thoughts about Yankees.

Despite my best intentions, I haven’t quite been able to conquer this in myself. Every time I see someone from New Jersey doing something atrocious, especially in North Carolina, this prejudice bubbles up. I need only see somebody with a Northern accent being pushy, strident and generally uncivilized to have the Yankee stereotype reinforced. I know, of course, that many Northerners don’t fit this stereotype, and I wrestle with this bigotry, but every time I think I’ve got it pinned, it jumps back up again.”

These remarks aroused so much interest that Bledsoe devoted another column to the “Yankee problem.” He asserted that Yankees had “so fouled Yankeeland that it was no longer habitable,” and therefore they were fleeing southward. “The trouble with so many of these immigrants is that they tend to remain Yankees after they get here,” Bledsoe explained. “They look down their noses at local fashions and customs and have no desire to be assimilated. Instead, they want to remake North Carolina into New Jersey or Ohio or whatever.”

Bledsoe went on to propose measures “to protect what is left of our unique culture.” These measures included “immigration quotas for Yankees,” the requirement of an “affidavit agreeing to the nobility of grits” and of other Southernisms, and “assimilation schools” that would teach newcomers such “essential things” as “how to talk right.”

(Northernizing the South, Richard N. Current, UGA Press, 1983, excerpts, pp. 6-9)

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