Browsing "Recurring Southern Conservatism"

An Isolated But Self-Reliant People

Necessity being the mother of invention, the war and naval blockade thrust upon the American South forced its citizenry to rely on their ingenuity to not only survive, but fight tenaciously for independence against vast and overwhelming odds for four grueling years.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

An Isolated But Self-Reliant People

“One lasting a beneficial result of this situation somewhat compensates for the temporary inconveniences and sufferings. It stimulated the inventive genius of the Southern people and revealed to them a mechanical capacity which they did not know they possessed. Speaking to a New England audience in 1886 on “The Political and Social South During the War,” [former North Carolina governor and United States Senator Zebulon] Vance said:

“You can scarcely imagine the feeling which comes to a people when isolated as we were, and shut out from communication with all the world. A nation in prison we were, in the midst of civilized society, and forced to rely exclusively upon ourselves for everything. When the war began, with the exception of a few cotton and woolen mills and the crude establishments common to all plantations and villages, we were utterly without manufactures of any kind . . . But the land was full of resources, and the raw material for the manufacture of all that we needed.

And strange as it may appear to you, it was full of mechanical capacity to deal with this material . . . Cotton and woolen mills quickly sprang up and the capacity of existing ones enlarged. Foundries for casting cannon, shops for making fire arms, swords and bayonets, and mills for making powder were set up in abundance. Shoes and blankets were made by the hundred thousand, and transportation wagons and camp equipages of all kind soon supplied the demand.

The situation called into active use all the mechanical talent of our people. The village or cross-road blacksmith refurnished his shop and made tools and agricultural implements for his neighbors; the shoemaker, the cooper, the wheelwright, and the tanner, all sprang into sudden importance. Even the druggist who compounded from the wondrous flora of the country substitutes for nearly all the drugs of commerce, which if not so efficacious were at least more harmless than the genuine article.

The devices and expedients adopted in all the industries, the social and domestic departments of our daily life, were most ingenious, though sometimes ludicrous.”

((North Carolina, Rebuilding an Ancient Commonwealth, Vol. II, R.D.W. Conner, American Historical Society, 1929, pp. 195-196)

Introducing the Slaves to Jesus

In the small plantation communities where African slaves lived and labored it was Southern men like Presbyterian Rev. Charles Colcock Jones who brought them from heathenism to Christianity.  The elder Roswell King mentioned below was a Connecticut native who came South to manage the large antebellum estates of Pierce Butler in Glynn County, Georgia. The son, also named Roswell King, later moved to northern Georgia to establish cotton and woolen mills and the town of Roswell, Georgia still bears his name.  It was Northerner Eli Whitney who made large scale cotton production profitable — which supplied slave-produced material to hungry New England mills.  Manhattan bankers provided easy credit to enable land acquisition for more cotton production.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Introducing the Slaves to Jesus

“My experience with these people [African slaves] was very large, having been for long years the contract physician on the river plantations where religious opportunities were very limited. In many cases, the Negro preacher or watchman (as they were called) was the only teacher and leader they had. Though on a few of the larger estates, salaried chaplains were employed.

I recollect many years ago being engaged in correspondence on the subject. The Reverend Jones spent many years of his useful life, and liberally of his private resources, in endeavoring to do good to these ignorant and dependent people by religious teaching and preaching.

To reassure him in the self-sacrifice of time and means, he addressed a letter of inquiry to Mr. Roswell King of Butler’s Island, where there were nearly a thousand slaves, [asking] whether those professing religion were more orderly and faithful than the others.

I commended the pious work in which he was engaged, but it being often at night and involving a long ride, and his health not being strong, I begged him to assign his labors to some lesser light in the church who was more physically able.

There were wider and more congenial fields waiting for him where his education, talents, eminent piety, and zeal in his Master’s service made him an honored and distinguished name to his life’s end.”

(Dr. Bullie’s Notes, Reminiscences of Early Georgia, James Holmes, Cherokee Publishing Company, 1976, pp. 161-163)

Foreign Aid and Santa Claus

North Carolina’s Senator Sam Ervin was a conservative Democrat of the old stripe, and stern advocate of a balanced federal budget. He wisely counseled that Congress had two simple fiscal choices: either to levy taxes sufficient to cover its appropriations, or, reduce appropriations to match federal income.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Foreign Aid and Santa Claus

“The foreign aid program had a benign beginning in the Marshall Plan, which merits the highest praise because it rehabilitated Western Europe in large measure from the economic devastation of the Second World War. As the programs implementing this Plan were nearing final consummation, President [Harry] Truman appointed a Commission headed by Secretary of Commerce Charles P. Sawyer to study foreign aid and make recommendations concerning its future. [This Commission] made a thoughtful report pointing out infirmities inherent in indiscriminate programs of this nature, and suggested the wisdom of terminating foreign aid with the consummation of the Marshall Plan.

Unfortunately, the report was made about the time Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected President, and has been ignored in subsequent times. The United States could have had intelligent and productive foreign aid programs with much less expenditures since that time if it had restricted its aid to truly needy nations, and to the financially insufficient nations . . .

Instead of doing this, the United States has converted itself in large measure into an international Santa Claus, who scatters untold billions of dollars of the patrimony of our people among multitudes of foreign nations, some needy and some otherwise, in the pious hope that American can thereby purchase friends and peace in the international world, and induce some foreign nations to reform their internal affairs in ways pleasing to the dispensers of our largess.

On one occasion, the Administrator of Foreign Aid confessed to a House subcommittee, which had oversight of the matter, that he was unable to inform it at the time the names and numbers of the foreign nations then receiving foreign aid from the United States.

I voted for foreign aid during my first year in the Senate on the theory that it was 51 percent wise and 49 percent foolish. Afterwards, I opposed all foreign aid bills . . . [and] I reminded Senators that every cent our country had expended in financing the foreign aid programs had been obtained by deficit financing. I added:

“If an individual were to borrow money to give it away, his family would institute a lunacy proceeding against him and have a guardian named to manage his affairs on the ground he lacked the mental capacity to perform the task himself. But if an American politician advocates that the United States borrow money by deficit financing and scatter it abroad among potential friends and foes alike, he is likely to be elected President or Senator or Representative, or to be appointed Secretary of State of Administrator of Foreign Aid.”

(Preserving the Constitution, The Autobiography of Sam Ervin, The Michie Company, 1984, pp. 80-81)

The Immutable Political Philosophy of the South

The Union of 1787 was simply the second experiment in self-government embarked upon by the founding generation, men who who feared the pitfalls of democracy and believed votes should only be cast by property-holders. The Articles of Confederation ably restrained the federal agent from mischief; the Union of 1787 authorized more federal authority though strictly enumerated. The third experiment in self-government and a more perfect union was the Confederate Constitution of 1861.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The Immutable Political Philosophy of the South

“If the plan now proposed should be adopted, nothing less than ruin to some Colonies will be the consequence of it. The idea of destroying all Provincial Distinctions and making everything of the most minute kind bend to what they call the good of the whole, is in other terms to say that these Colonies must be subject to the Government of the Eastern Provinces . . . I am resolved to vest the Congress with no more Power than that is absolutely necessary, and, to use a familiar expression to keep the Staff in our own Hands; for I am confident if surrendered into the Hands of others a most pernicious use will be made of it.”     Edward Rutledge of South Carolina, letter to John Jay, June 29, 1776

Here then at the very outset is sounded the key-note of what for a hundred and sixty years — has been the immutable political philosophy of the South. It is not of course to be assumed that Southern Statesmen alone in those early days of our national upbringing took their stand firmly against any and every encroachment of the central power upon the God-given rights of the States.

What had stirred these grave fears in the breast of Edward Rutledge was an exceptional rather than prevailing sentiment. Now and then, it is true, some speaker, chiefly in the North, less frequently of the South, would permit himself to be torn loose from his customary anchorage and let fall sentiments that seemed to point toward a shriveling of State and a fattening of central power; but Northern as well as Southern statesmen, then and long afterward were wont to cling to the doctrine of State sovereignty and independence as tenaciously as grim death in the fable clung to the deceased African.

As we listen to the chatter, the bickering, the declamation behind the Congressional curtain . . . one note rises above the din: every State, whether North or South, would beware the pitfalls and the snares that might light lurk in the path of a centralized government. They would approach such a government with extreme caution. The good of the whole was a noble sentiment — and there were no lips from which it did not fall — but would that whole be merely the sum of all its parts — or something more? It were well to make sure.

[In the Winter and Spring of 1777, Thomas Burke of North Carolina] sought to draw Congress back to solid ground [on the proposed Confederation] and to first principles. Burke made several speeches in the course of these discussions . . . and much of what he said and wrote is good gospel for the cause of State’s rights even to this day.

In a letter to Governor Caswell . . . Burke wrote: “The more experience I acquire, the stronger is my Conviction, that unlimited Power can not be safely Trusted to any man or set of men on Earth”; and he went on to speak at some length of “the Delusive Intoxication which Power naturally imposes on the human Mind . . . [and noted that] the same persons who on one day endeavor to carry through some Resolutions, whose Tendency is to increase the Power of Congress, are often on another day very strenuous advocates to restrain it.”

In conclusion he declares, “Power will sometime or another be abused unless men are well watched, and checked by something which they cannot remove when they please.”

“[In Burke’s summary of the Confederation debate in April 1777 we] have agreed to three articles,” he wrote, “one containing the name; the second a declaration of the sovereignty of the States, and an express provision that they be considered as retaining every power not expressly delegated; and the third an agreement mutually to assist each other against every enemy.”

(Southern Statesmen and the Confederation, Edmund Cody Burnett, NC Historical Review, October 1937, excerpts, pp. 349-354)

 

Betting on Dixie As Long as I Got a Dollar

Charles Henry Smith (1826-1903) was a Georgian, graduate of the State University and practiced law afterward. He mingled the occupations of the lawyer with the activities of the politician and of the farmer. Thus he had varied opportunities for careful and critical observation of Georgia life.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Betting on Dixie As Long As I’ve Got a Dollar

“Smith began his letters of mixed wisdom and humor, wit and sarcasm, scorn and defiance in 1861. The first publication of these in book form appeared in 1866 with the title, “Bill Arp, So-Called; A Side Show of the Southern Side of the War.” Its motto was “I’m a good Union man, so-called; but I’ll bet on Dixie as long as I’ve got a dollar.”

In the preface of his book, explaining his pen name “Bill Arp,” Smith said: “When I began writing under the signature of Bill Arp I was honestly idealizing the language and humor of an unlettered countryman who bears that name. His earnest, honest wit attracted my attention, and he declares to this day that I have faithfully expressed his sentiments.”

Smith’s first letter is addressed to Abraham Lincoln in April, 1861. In view of the latter’s proclamation calling for troops, “Bill Arp” thought “Abe Linkhorn” ought to be informed of how the Georgian regarded it. He intimated that things were getting too hot for him, and he would like “to slope out of it.”

Speaking of the boys about Rome, Georgia he says: “Most of them are so hot that they fairly siz when you pour water on them, and that’s the way they make up their military companies here now—when a man applies to join the volunteers they sprinkle him, and if he sizzes they take him, and if he dont they dont.”

(History of the Literary and Intellectual Life of the Southern States (Vol. VII), George F. Mellen, Southern Historical Publication Society, 1909, pp. 85-86)

 

 

Idle Talk of Preserving a Republic

John Tyler joined his father, Governor John Tyler of Virginia, in entertaining Thomas Jefferson at the executive mansion in October 1809. His connection with the Founding generation gave him a clear and deep understanding of the strictly delegated constitutional limitations on the federal agent in Washington.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Idle Talk of Preserving a Republic

“Shortly after the election of 1832 [John] Tyler broke with the [Jackson] Administration. The occasion of the breach was the nullification crisis. But up to this time he was regarded as a Democrat in good if not regular standing. Jackson’s policy toward South Carolina was so objectionable to him that he aligned himself with the anti-Administration forces, and finally left the Democratic party. To support or even acquiesce in the President’s measures would be, as he considered, to sacrifice his State’ rights principles — a sacrifice which at no time during his entire career was he willing to make.

In writing to Governor John Floyd, of Virginia [January 16, 1833], he declared that “if South Carolina be put down, then may each of the States yield all pretensions to sovereignty. We have a consolidated government, and a master will soon arise. This is inevitable. How idle to talk of preserving a republic for any length of time with an uncontrolled power over the military, exercised at pleasure by the President.”

(John Tyler, Champion of the Old South, American Political Biography Press, 2006 (original 1939), pp. 112-113)

Hurrying Down to Swift Destruction

Southerners replied to abolitionist tirades with examples of the civilizing aspects of African slavery, as well as reminding them that their own fathers had shipped the Africans in chains to the West Indies and North America. The invention of Massachusetts inventor Eli Whitney along with the hungry cotton mills of that State, perpetuated slavery, and new plantation expansion into the Louisiana territory was fueled by Manhattan lenders – all of whom could have helped end African slavery in North America. The following is excerpted from the introduction of “Cotton is King,” E.N. Elliott, editor (1860), and from “Liberty and Slavery,” Albert Taylor Bledsoe.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Hurrying Down to Swift Destruction

“Geographical partisan government and legislation . . . had its origin in the Missouri [Compromise] contest, and is now beginning to produce its legitimate fruits: witness the growing distrust with which the people of the North and South begin to regard each other; the diminution of Southern travel, either for business or pleasure, in the Northern States; the efforts of each section to develop its own resources, so as to render it independent of the other; the enactment of “unfriendly legislation,” in several of the States, toward other States of the Union, or their citizens; the contest for the exclusive possession of the territories, the common property of the States; the anarchy and bloodshed in Kansas; the exasperation of parties throughout the Union; the attempt to nullify, by popular clamor, the decision of the supreme tribunal of our country; the existence of . . . a party in the North organized for the express purpose of robbing the citizens of the Southern States of their property; . . . the flooding of the whole country with the most false and malicious misrepresentations of the state of society in the [Southern] States; the attempt to produce division among us, and to array one portion of our citizens in deadly array to the other; and finally, the recent attempt to incite, at Harper’s Ferry, and throughout the South, an insurrection, and a civil and servile war, with all its attendant horrors.

All these facts go to prove that there is a great wrong somewhere, and that a part, or the whole, of the American people are demented, and hurrying down to swift destruction.

The present slave States had little or no agency in the first introduction of Africans into this country; this was achieved by the Northern commercial States and by Great Britain. Wherever the climate suited the Negro constitution, slavery was profitable and flourished; where the climate was unsuitable, slavery was unprofitable, and died out. Most of the slaves in the Northern States were sent southward to a more congenial clime.

Upon the introduction into Congress of the first abolition discussions, by John Quincy Adams, and Joshua Giddings, Southern men altogether refused to engage in debate, or even to receive petitions on the subject. They averred that no good could grow out of it, but only unmitigated evil.”

(The South: A Documentary History, Ina Woestemeyer Van Noppen, D. Van Nostrand Company, 1958, pp. 265-266)

The South Against a Seceding North

Though South Carolina had been threatened with invasion over nullifying federal law in the early 1830s, no such threats were made to Northern States in the 1850s as they instituted personal liberty laws which nullified federal law and obstructed federal officers. Had Lincoln not won his plurality in 1860, the secession of the North might have been the case.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The South Against a Seceding North

“There was strong opposition to secession, not only in the Upper South, but also in some parts of the Lower South, the very heart land of the future Confederacy. In every convention except South Carolina’s there were votes against secession, and in Alabama and Georgia the opposition was considerable. In Georgia, Alexander H. Stephens, Herschel V. Johnson, and Benjamin H. Hill gave up their fight for the Union only after their State had seceded and threatened to leave them behind.

In their campaign to save the nation, the [Southern] Unionists resorted both to argument and to delaying tactics. They played on national sentiments; the Revolution and its heroes . . . the Constitution, which largely Southerners had made and was sufficient for all needs if properly interpreted and enforced. Up to this time the South had generally dominated the government, either through Southern-born presidents or . . . Northern men with Southern principles. Most of the Supreme Court had been Southerners, and the court at this time was dominated by the South.

In fact, the whole idea of secession was illogical and wrong, it was argued. The process should be reversed. The North should do the seceding, for the South represented more truly the nation which the forefathers had set up in 1789. Therefore the South should not allow itself to be driven out of its own home.

Henry A. Wise of Virginia was especially vigorous in arguing this point of view. “Logically the Union belongs to those who have kept, not those who have broken, its covenants,” he declared. If he ever had to fight he hoped it would be against a seceding North, “with the star-spangled banner still in one hand and my musket in the other.”

(A History of the South, Volume VII, The Confederate States of America, 1861-1865, E. Merton Coulter, LSU Press, 1950, pp. 3-5)

Hoke Reveals a Kinship of Lee's Spirit

Major-General Robert F. Hoke of Lincolnton, North Carolina was said to be Lee’s personal choice for command of the Army of Northern Virginia should he be incapacitated. A brilliant division commander, Hoke was not a West Pointer and after the war declined any reminiscences of his participation.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Hoke Reveals a Kinship of Lee’s Spirit

“I once saw General Hoke eating ham and eggs and buckwheat cakes in a hotel in Greensboro. A massive man with broad smooth brow and well-trimmed gray beard, he resembled the pictures of General Lee. Later in the day when I was introduced to him at a railway station, the talk fell on the war with Spain, which had just ended and he told me President McKinley had offered him by telegraph a brigadier’s commission in the army preparing to go to Cuba.

He thanked the President but declined. “I have seen enough of war in my time,” he said. He spoke as casually as if he had said,” “I had all the buckwheat cakes for breakfast I wanted.”

We were then only four miles from the spot where he as the commander of a division in [General Joseph E.] Johnston’s army had surrendered to Sherman. I tried to draw him out on the subject, but he was politely uninterested.

General Hoke engaged in mining and railroading after 1865. He resolutely refused to enter politics, unlike many of his brother officers who were only too ready to capitalize their war records. In this General Hoke revealed a kinship of the spirit of General Lee.”

(Son of Carolina, Augustus White Long, Duke University Press, 1939, pp. 36-37)

Protesting British and New England Slave Trading

During the colonial period it was common for North Carolina planters needing labor to trade cargoes of tar and pitch to New Englanders for the slaves they imported. On the eve of the Revolution the North Carolina Provincial Congress resolved that “We will not import any slave or slaves, nor purchase any slave or slaves imported or brought into this province by others from any part of the world after the first day of November next [1774].”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Protesting British and New England Slave Trading

“So far as can be determined, no tax was levied on the importation of slaves into North Carolina prior to the Revolution. On the other hand, the Virginia Assembly made numerous attempts to discourage the importation of slaves by imposing from time to time a tax on all slaves brought in from Maryland, North Carolina, the West Indies, and Africa.

The first impressive protest for any considerable body of citizens of the colony against the African slave trade was registered by the freeholders of Rowan County [North Carolina] in 1774. They placed themselves on record against the African slave trade in the following resolution:

“Resolved that the African slave trade is injurious to this colony, obstructs the population of it, prevents manufacturers and other useful emigrants from Europe from settling among us, and occasions an annual increase of the balance of trade against the colonies.”

Due in part to the dearth of labor occasioned by the Revolution, there was a resumption of the slave trade after the war. It was not, in fact, until 1787 that the General Assembly took the initial step in taxing the traffic, basing its action on the general ground that the importation of slaves “into this State is productive of evil consequences and highly impolitic.”

Whatever the motive, a duty of 5 [pounds] was levied on all slaves brought in by water. Slaves between the ages of thirty and forty were made subject to the same duty, while those between the ages of twelve and thirty were subject to a duty of 10 [pounds]. In addition, a general head tax of five pounds was imposed on all slaves imported from the coast of Africa. The act of 1787 did not prohibit, but no doubt discouraged, the slave trade.

Due presumably to the ratification of the Federal Constitution by North Carolina in 1789, the act of 1787 was repealed in 1790, and there was no restriction on the importation of slaves until 1794 . . . and in that year a heavy fine was imposed on the importation of slaves. [Its] passage might have been further delayed had not a terrifying Negro insurrection occurred in San Domingo in 1791. This insurrection thoroughly aroused the people of the State to a realization of the potential danger of a large Negro population.

[In] 1795 the legislature placed a further restriction on the importation of slaves by making it unlawful for any person removing to the State, “with intent to settle or otherwise,” from any of the West Indian or Bahama Islands to bring with him any Negroes or people of color above the age of fifteen years, under penalty of 100 [pounds] for each and every slave or person of color brought in.

To many public men of the time the danger from this source seemed imminent; so much so that, in 1798, Governor Samuel Ashe issued a proclamation calling on the people of the State to prevent the landing of slaves or free persons of color. He stated in his proclamation that several shiploads of San Domingan Negroes had set sail, and that one shipload had arrived in Charleston.

Despite precautions, West Indian Negroes found their way into the State. The landing of a number of emancipated Negroes from the island of Guadaloupe at Wilmington in 1803 so alarmed the inhabitants of the town that they memorialized Congress to take action to prevent the introduction into the United States of any persons of that class.”

(Slaveholding in North Carolina, An Economic View, Rosser Howard Taylor, Negro Universities Press, 1969 (original UNC Press, 1926), pp. 23-26)