Browsing "Republican Party Jacobins"

Retribution in Pennsylvania

Already a sworn enemy of the South, its people and interests before the war, Thaddeus Stevens of received just retribution when Jubal Early’s men arrived at his Pennsylvania ironworks in mid-1863. A high-tariff industrial protectionist, he publicly denounced Southerners and any Northerners who cooperated with them politically; while condemning slavery he and his fellow abolitionists never advanced any peaceful and practical means to rid the country of that labor system. During the war, he and his fellow Republicans used government and military power to ensure election ballots favored his party.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Retribution in Pennsylvania

“The war was brought home to Stevens very directly that summer. In the third week of June [1863], Stevens was at his Caledonia ironworks. Confederate General A.G. Jenkins sent a foraging party to the forge, [and Stevens] was hurried away to Shippensburg by a byroad. Jenkins took away some horses and mules, but on June 26, Jubal Early arrived, and in spite of [the managers] plea that Steven’s had been losing money at the forge and would benefit by its destruction while the employees would suffer, [Early], remarking that Yankees did not do business that way, burned the ironworks to the ground, confiscated all movable property, and left the place a shambles.

Early, who acted upon his own responsibility, justified his action on the grounds that Union forces had wreaked similar havoc in the South, and in particular had burned the ironworks of John Bell, to say nothing of Stevens’s known advocacy of “vindictive” measures toward the South.

On July 11, he received the first direct news from his manager. He learned that the rebels had taken all his horses, mules and harness; his bacon (about 4,000 pounds), molasses, and other contents of his store; and about $1,000 worth of corn in the mills as well as a like quantity of other grain.

As Stevens put it, “[the Confederates] finally expressed great regret that they were not so fortunate as to meet the owner, who seems to be very popular with the [Southern] chivalry.” In the meantime, he was happy about the outcome of the Battle of Gettysburg, although he was afraid that General Robert E. Lee would try to mass his forces to catch Meade’s forces while dispersed.

Steven’s losses were widely reported, and while others sympathized with him, the [National] Intelligencer editorialized that his chickens had come home to roost. Had he not advocated the burning of every rebel mansion? Now he himself was the victim.

[But now] Stevens was worried about [the fall] elections. He complained [that the people of his local] counties had suffered greatly because of [Lee’s] invasion, but that they were now more aroused against the Union army than against the insurgents. The returning Federals had carried off horses and goods and so tarnished [Lincoln’s] administration’s reputation that a great number of votes would be lost.

To make sure of garnering as many [Republican] votes as possible, he asked the secretary of the treasury to furlough clerks from the Keystone State so that they would be able to take part in the election, and suggested to the State central committee see to it that the army’s vote be counted.”

(Thaddeus Stevens, Nineteenth-Century Egalitarian, Hans L. Trefousse, Stackpole Books, 2001, excerpts pp. 134-136)

The South to be Occupied and Exploited

Early in the war, radical Republicans in Congress exerted great pressure upon Lincoln to wage total war against the South – these were the same ones who refused to enter into compromise with Southern congressmen to avoid war. Austin Blair of Michigan declared that “No property of a rebel ought to be free from confiscation . . . the Union forces should be hurled like a thunderbolt at the rebels: pay the soldiers from the rebel’s property, feed them from his granaries, mount them upon his horses.” The South was to be turned into a devastated wasteland, its people impoverished, and the new colony governed by military law.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The South to be Occupied and Exploited

By the beginning of 1862 the abolitionists had grown disgusted with Lincoln’s cautious Border State policy. Not all the developments of 1861 had been to their liking, and they began the new year with a new determination to destroy slavery, to rid the nation of the dangers of Southern domination, and to control the South.

“The thing we seek,” explained a Massachusetts colonel to Governor [John] Andrew, “is permanent dominion: & what instance is there of a permanent dominion without changing, revolutionizing, absorbing, the institutions, life and manners of the conquered peoples?”

And he added with scorn: “They think we mean to take their slaves. Bah! We must take their ports, their mines, their water power, the very soil they plow, and develop them by the hands of our artisan armies . . . We are to be a regenerating, colonizing power, or we are to be whipped. Schoolmasters with howitzers, must instruct our Southern brethren that they are a set of d—d fools in everything that relates to modern civilization.” The migration and settlement of Yankees on Southern soil, explained the colonel, must follow success in battle.

Thus the lure of loot infused a crusade whose banners bore the words of freedom. On the day after New Year’s, Horace Greeley [proclaimed in Washington that] the real object of the war must be slavery’s destruction. The audience, fully packed with an abolitionist claque, applauded loudly . . . and it gave vehement approval to the orator’s assertion that “rebels have no right to own anything.”

“The world moves and the Yankee is Yankeeized,” added the Chicago Tribune as it urged its readers to write their congressmen.

In Congress, where the radical Committee on the Conduct of the War was preparing to launch its career as director of the abolitionist crusade, men heard repeated talk about reducing the Southern States to territories, appointing Northern governors to rule over them, and maintaining an army of occupation to implement the eventual exploitation of the conquered land.”

(Lincoln and the War Governors, William B. Hesseltine, Alfred A. Knopf, 1955, excerpts pp. 199-233-234)

 

Removing Mr. Lincoln

Following Lincoln’s assassination at Ford’s Theater in April 1865, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton ordered all roads from the city closed except the road south to Port Tobacco, the route Booth would most likely use for his escape. It was not until four hours after the shooting that Stanton released any official news to the newspapers, and without identifying the assassin.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Removing Mr. Lincoln

“None can doubt today that Lincoln was removed to prevent the reconciliation of North and South and the consolidation of the Union. Though the wound did seem later to heal, the events of today show it still to be raw, so that the conspirators’ aims of 1865 cannot yet be said, in 1950, to have failed. Time has yet to show this result, with all others.

Lincoln’s killer, John Wilkes Booth, escaped for awhile. The circumstances of Lincoln’s murder speak for themselves. The door of the box was unlocked, but on the inner side of it someone had placed a wooden bar and a mortice, so that Booth could ensure that none entered it after himself! At the door should have been Lincoln’s armed bodyguard . . . recently enlisted, called John F. Parker. Only his empty chair was there and no word survives in the records to say why he was not in it! Three years later he was . . . charged with dereliction, dismissed, and at that point vanishes from history!

The motive today seems as clear as the organization behind it remained, and remains, obscure. It was to remove Mr. Lincoln because he was an obstacle to the destruction of the South. To the collapsing South, he was the destroyer; to the North, he was the enemy of further destruction.

Today’s traveler may perceive a great flaw in the array of memorials erected to Lincoln in his country. Suggestively, they commemorate him as the slayer of slavery, first and foremost. It is the continuation of a falsehood; that was not his primary aim, as he was against violent demagogic actions, preferring judicial gradualness, and had at heart only the unity of the Union.

Thus his memory is misused today in the further pursuit of ulterior schemes; the false issue, the falsity of which he saw, is raised in his name and his words and monuments are presented [in the same manner].

Among high persons of that time the eye of today’s curiosity falls chiefly on Edwin Stanton. As Secretary of War in a country at war he was almost supremely powerful. All communications were under his personal censorship. All acts tending to deflect Booth’s pursuit, or after Booth’s death to obscure the trail, seem traceable to him and the Leftists around him.

Within a few hours of the murder he wrote to the American minister in London of “evidence obtained” to show that the murder was “deliberately planned and set on foot by rebels, under pretense of avenging the South.” Just so did Goering claim to have proof that the communists fired the Reichstag, while it still burned.”

(Far and Wide, Douglas Reed, CPA Books, 1951, excerpts, pp. 48-53)

Atlanta Compared to Warsaw and Budapest

Author Douglas Reed writes of the South’s defeat and radical Republican rule that “The wonder is that the South ever lifted itself from that prostration, and by its own bootstraps.” And Truslow Adams said of the twelve years of postwar reconstruction that “There is no parallel for the situation in the history of modern civilized nations, and it is almost incredible that it happened in our own country.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Atlanta Compared to Warsaw and Budapest

“So strong is the memory of what the Republicans did after the war that Southerners still automatically vote Democratic. The most their representatives can do, when they reach Congress, is somewhat to retard the new campaign against the South; on the whole they promote the aim of the new immigration to “take over the future of America.”

The clear trail from the Civil War to the present [1951] was the first of my surprises in America. Like most Europeans, probably, I was ignorant of that war and when I studied it felt like an archaeologist who finds the original of the Communist Manifesto in Greek ruins.

What went with that wind was more than the political power of the South; what came with the new one was the enslavement of white men by Soviet methods. Only the particular spirit of the South prevented that condition from becoming permanent.

“That the Southern people were put to the torture is vaguely understood” (wrote Mr. Claude G. Bowers in 1929 in The Tragic Era), “but even historians have shrunk from the unhappy task of showing us the torture chambers . . . It is impossible to grasp the real significance of the revolutionary proceedings of the rugged conspirators working out the policies of Thaddeus Stevens without making many journeys among the Southern people and seeing with our own eyes the indignities to which they were subjected.”

The key-words are “revolutionary” and “conspirators” and they fit today’s situation like a glove. That the North, with its newly-discovered gold, growing industry, command of the sea and increasing population would win that war was plain to clear heads in the South from the start, and did not deter them from a war which, they believed, had to be fought. The way to the South was opened to persons recognizable today as the revolutionary conspirators we know as Communists.

Of the twelve years that followed, the miracle is that the South survived. Mr. John Gunther . . . says, “If you read the history of those days . . . Atlanta on the 1870s must have startingly resembled Warsaw or Budapest under the Nazis in the 1940s . . . Chopping up the South and ruling it by an absolute dictatorship of the military, while every kind of economic and social depredation was not only allowed but encouraged, is so strikingly like what is going on in Germany at present that the imagination staggers.

Slightly different comparisons might be more correct. The sufferings of the South compare more closely with those of Budapest, Warsaw and all of Eastern Europe under the communists after the 1939-1945 war ended than even under the Nazis in 1940.”

(Far and Wide, Douglas Reed, CPA Books, 1951, excerpts pp. 25-26)

 

Another Northern General’s View of the Negro

Like many if not most Northern general officers who had not gone over to the Radicals, who saw future Republican votes and political hegemony in the freedmen, Sherman held black field hands in low esteem and predicted their demise if freed. Connecticut native Frederick Law Olmstead, who travelled through much of the South in the early 1850s found the slaves “a very poor and a very bad creature, much worse than I had supposed before. The people thus burthened [with black servants] would have need to provide systematically for the physical wants of these poor creatures, else that the latter would be liable to prey with great waste upon their substance.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Another Northern General’s View of the Negro

“General William T. Sherman, who conducted one of the most disgraceful dragonnades of modern history through the Carolinas and Georgia (January 1864-April 1865) “freeing” every Negro in sight, nevertheless had written his brother, Senator John Sherman, in July 1860: “All the Congresses on Earth cannot make the Negro anything else than what he is; he must be subject to the white man, or he must amalgamate or be destroyed . . . Two such races cannot live in harmony save as master and slave.”

Six months earlier, in December 1859, when the Abolitionists were roaring in high fettle, stamping on the floors and pounding on the desks in both houses of Congress, he had said: “I would not if I could abolish or modify slavery.”

Having stated opposite views on the matter in previous weeks, Lincoln in a different milieu, looking South with apparent sympathy, could say: “I cannot blame the Southerners for not doing what I should not know how to do myself . . . Were all earthly powers given me I would not know what to do as to the existing institution.”

Yet some years later, as if indeed all earthly powers had been given him, he took it upon himself – and wholly outside the Constitution – to declare forever “free” nearly four million uneducated, childlike blacks, not one in a thousand of whom had the least notion of what it was all about. They were suddenly propelled into a highly organized white civilization that moved and existed by the means of money, hired labor, production, consumption, and where sentiment was incongruous if not grotesque.

This was all done by a juvenile moral stature, accomplished by an outrageous ukase that no Czar of . . . [Russia] would have dared to utter.”

(The Constitutions of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis: A Historical and Biographical Study in Contrasts, Russell H. Quynn, Exposition Press, 1959, excerpts pp. 85-86)

A Calming Effect at Sumter

North Carolina’s Jonathan Worth sensed that despite the sectional troubles of the latter 1850s and Lincoln’s election, “Unionist sentiment was ascendant and gaining strength until Lincoln prostrated us.” He added “the President could abandon Sumter and Pickens without any sacrifice of his principles . . .” Worth also felt that Seward’s duplicity did more that all the secessionists to drive North Carolina out the Union, as Lincoln behind the scenes pursued his aggressive policy of war.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

A Calming Effect at Sumter

“The [Confederate] commissioners were impatient to gain a hearing and get on with their negotiations. At first Seward promised to let them know how best to bring the subject of their mission before the President and the cabinet. Then he began to stall them off by saying the administration did not yet have time to deal properly with a matter so important.

The President, he explained, was “besieged” by applicants for office and was “surrounded by all the difficulties and confusion incident to the first days of a new administration.” Seward gave the commissioners to understand, however, that Sumter very soon would be evacuated anyhow.

When they demanded an informal conference with him (at no time had they and he met face to face) he said he would have to consult the President. The answer he later relayed back to them was “No, it would not be in his power to receive the gentlemen.”

The rumors Seward had started, about the early abandonment of Sumter, eventually appeared in the press. They made “great news” in the metropolitan dailies on Monday, March 11, the very day on which Lincoln, in his orders to [Gen. Winfield] Scott, reaffirmed the opposite policy – a fact which the newspapers did not report and did not know.

As the news spread, it had, on the whole, a calming effect in Richmond and elsewhere in the non-Confederate South. “The removal from Sumter,” said George W. Summers, writing on behalf of the Virginia Unionists, and writing as if the removal already were a fact, “acted like a charm – it gave us [Southern Unionists] great strength. A reaction is now going on in the State.”

In Washington, the Confederate commissioners agreed to postpone their demand for an immediate reception. They would wait, but only for a couple of weeks, until about March 28, and only on condition that the existing military status of the Union forts remain absolutely unchanged.

In Charleston, the publishers and the readers of the Charleston Mercury and the Courier rejoiced that Sumter would soon fall without a fight. “The news . . . seems to have caused an almost entire cessation of work on the batteries around us,” one of [Major] Anderson’s officers wrote to the War Department . . .”

In the city of New York, and throughout the . . . North – there was mixed reaction. Some thought the decision unfortunate but unavoidable. Some, especially Buchanan Democrats and also businessmen with Southern connections, heartily approved.”

(Lincoln and the First Shot, Richard N. Current, J.B. Lippincott Company, 1963, excerpts pp. 54-56)

 

Belligerent Public Enemies in a Territorial War

Lincoln’s unfortunate choice of a mentor on reconstruction, William Whiting of Massachusetts, below refers to the American people in the South peacefully seeking self-government as belligerent public enemies, who, when finally conquered with fire and sword, deserved no more than eternal contempt and suspicion. He further proclaims the North’s “right to hang them as murderers and pirates,” and “whatever rights are left to them besides the rights of war will be such as we choose to allow them.  He believed the Southern States had forfeited their legal status in the Union they departed, only to be dragged back in as conquered territories and a people entitled to no rights.

As far as loyal Union men of the South are concerned, and they were numerous, Lincoln refused their wise counsel to abandon Fort Sumter in early 1861 to allow time and diplomacy for the settlement of sectional differences. They, as well as former President James Buchanan, suggested calling a Constitutional Convention of the States as the proper solution for disputes. These measures would have saved a million lives, and quite possibly the Union.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Belligerent Public Enemies in a Territorial War

“Lincoln’s plan of reconstruction was built on a concept of a wartime President’s powers so extended as to transcend the points of reference of earlier chief executives. It was military reconstruction, and it was the most direct imaginable intervention of the will of the national government into the internal structure of the State’s. In terms of power, Lincoln’s reconstruction plan was radical indeed.

The fact is that Lincoln enjoyed the services as mentor – with respect to the war-swollen power potentials of his office – of a prominent champion of Radical Republicanism, an old-line Boston abolitionist, William Whiting.

Brought into the War Department as its solicitor – primarily in order to prepare briefs that the government employed to fend off suits – in Northern States and in border areas, alleging the unconstitutionality of conscription and internal security measures – Whiting was the most learned lawyer in the United States in matters of the international laws of war.

He became the natural source of legalisms in support of the reconstruction program that the President was gradually evolving out of information he gained primarily from Army and War Department sources.

Here is Whiting’s prophetic essay of July 28, 1863, issued as a letter to the Philadelphia Union League, under the title, “The Return of the Rebellious States to the Union.” Note its harmony with the Lincoln plan as issued the following December, so far as the assumption of national powers is concerned, as well as its expression of concern with respect to the untrustworthiness of a conquered South.

“As the success of the Union cause shall become more certain and apparent to the enemy, in various localities, they will lay down their arms, and cease fighting. Their bitter and deep-rooted hatred of the Government, and of all the Northern men who are not traitors, and of all Southern men who are loyal, will still remain interwoven in every fiber of their hearts, and will be made, if possible, more intense by the humiliation of conquest and subjugation.

The foot of the conqueror planted upon their proud necks will not sweeten their tempers; and their defiant and treacherous nature will seek to revenge itself in murders, assassinations and all other underhand methods of venting a spite which they dare not manifest by open war, and in driving out of their borders all loyal men.

To suppose that a Union sentiment will remain in any considerable number of men, among a people who have strained every nerve and made every sacrifice to destroy the Union, indicates dishonesty, insanity or feebleness of intellect.

Beware of committing yourselves to the fatal doctrine of recognizing the existence, in the Union, of States which have been declared by the President’s proclamation to be in rebellion. For, by this new device of the enemy – this new version of the poisonous State rights doctrine – the Secessionists will be able to get back by fraud what they failed to get by fighting. Do not permit them, without proper safeguards, to resume in your counsels, in the Senate and in the House, the power which their treason has stripped from them.

Do not allow old States, with their Constitutions still unaltered, to resume State powers.

The rebellious districts contain ten times as many traitors as loyal men. The traitors will have a vast majority of the votes. Clothed with State rights under our Constitution, they will crush out every Union man by the irresistible power of their legislation. If you would be true to the Union men of the South, you must not bind them hand and foot, and deliver them to their bitterest enemies.

Having set up a government for themselves . . . they were no longer mere insurgents and rebels, but became a belligerent public enemy. The war was no longer against “certain persons” in the rebellious States. It became a territorial war; that is to say, a war by all persons situated in the belligerent territory against the United States.”

(The Radical Republicans and Reconstruction: 1861-1870, Harold M. Hyman, Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1967, excerpts pp. 91-95)

 

Radical Republicans Consolidate Power

Long unhappy with Lincoln’s lack of severity in punishing the South, Radical Republicans knew that freedmen could not be left in friendly relations with their former owners and jeopardize triumphant Republican war gains. The Union League was the terror-arm of the party which taught the freedmen that their white neighbors would re-enslave them at the first opportunity, and unwavering Republican voting would protect them. As the Radicals no doubt were responsible for Lincoln’s demise, they also found his successor lacking in sufficient hatred for the South and disposed of him as well.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Radical Republicans Consolidate Power

“While a stunned people paid final tribute to Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis fled southward from Richmond. His capture symbolized the end of power of a restraining, agrarian aristocracy in America. Lincoln’s passing removed the last effective check on vindictive Radicals and symbolized the end of power of a restraining, agrarian democracy.

Out of the confusion created from the scars of war and from the demise of hoary agrarian restraints, business-industrial America was to swagger in under the cloak of the [Republican] platform of 1860 and Radical Reconstruction.

Ephemerally, hate and revenge would run rampant, tarnishing reputations, sweeping away moderate men, and pushing to the top many who had not even expected political leadership only a few years before.

For a few fleeting days following Lincoln’s assassination, Radicals had purred contentedly around Andrew Johnson. The new President was one of them: he talked of harsh treatment for rebels. But by . . . late May, Johnson . . . was following Lincoln’s moderate reconstruction policies.

In the [mid-June 1865 Iowa] State convention . . . A rising temper of Radicalism had been revealed . . . Radicals on the floor had pushed through a proposal committing the party to an amendment to the State constitution allowing Negro suffrage.

To grant universal suffrage to the Negro would enable “base politicians” to pander to “ignorance and incapacity”; the race as a whole would be unfit to exercise the voting privilege for a generation.

Thad Stevens, cool, grim and confident, sat ready to “spring the drop” on [new] Southern Congressmen, on President Johnson, and on any moderate Republicans who stood in his way. With malice toward the defeated, and charity toward Negroes, railroad entrepreneurs and industrialists, this cynical old man had some carefully laid plans for the perpetual ascendancy of the Republican party.

[Johnson’s reconstruction plan] would bring Western and Southern men (with certain Eastern allies] into a combination to rule the republic. Such a rule, agrarian in nature, might mean loss of power for Republicans; and it would almost certainly dilute or reverse wartime tariff, railroad and monetary policies so lucrative to the expansive business, financial and industrial interests. [Financiers], ironmasters, and railroad entrepreneurs had as much to lose from an unfavorable economic policy as did Radical politicians from a Reconstruction policy which might bring loss of power and patronage.”

(John A. Kasson, Politics and Diplomacy from Lincoln to McKinley, Edward Younger, State Historical Society of Iowa, 1955, excerpts, pp. 178-179; 181-184; 189-190)

A Superior Race of Yankee Employers

The land seized, sold and leased in occupied South Carolina by the North’s Direct Tax Commission was dominated by Northern philanthropists and others who had acquired their wealth by exploiting free labor. They developed Northern support for the “Port Royal Experiment” by convincing manufacturers that successful black farmers would become ravenous purchasers of Yankee goods. In a June 15, 1864 letter to the Edward S. Philbrick mentioned below, Northern General Rufus Saxon wrote: “What chance has [the Negro] to get land out of the clutches of the human vulture, who care for him only as they can gorge themselves upon his flesh? If you had seen the hungry swarms gathered here at the land sales in February . . .”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

A Superior Race of Yankee Employers

“[In the occupied South Carolina’s Sea Islands], the first purchasers were principally the New England wing of the planter-missionaries [who] welcomed more favorable circumstances in which to prove their theory that free labor could grow more cotton, more cheaply, than slave labor. The largest buyer [of land] was Edward S. Philbrick, backed by wealthy Northern philanthropists . . .

Federal authorities were reluctant to lease or sell subdivided plantation tracts to the freedmen [though some] managed to purchase several thousand acres . . . but the acreage they acquired was always well below that purchased by Northern immigrants, and this result was intended by a majority of the tax commissioners.

The truth is, not many of the liberators had boundless faith in the freedmen’s capacity for “self-directed” labor so soon after their emancipation. When in January 1865 General William T. Sherman set aside a strip of land along the southeastern seaboard for the exclusive occupancy of the thousands of slaves who followed his army to the sea, the news was generally greeted in the North with lamentation and deep foreboding.

It was a great mistake in statesmanship, the New York Times said, for what the ex-slaves needed was not isolation and complete independence, but “all the advantages which the neighborhood of a superior race . . . would bring to them. And what they needed even more was the good example and friendly guidance such as Yankee employers could largely provide. Few doubted, after emancipation, that the freedmen had some promise, provided that Yankee paternalism was allowed full scope.

When the old masters talked of free labor, they really meant slave labor, “only hired, not bought.” And how could men whose habits and customs were shaped by the old order readily grasp the requirements of the new order? The case seemed plain to all who had eyes to see. If the freedmen were ever to be transformed into productive free laborers within the South, the New York Times argued with unintended irony, “it must be done by giving them new masters.”

(New Masters: Northern Planters During the Civil War and Reconstruction, Lawrence N. Powell, Yale University Press, 1980, excerpts, pp. 4-5)

Mission of Peace and Goodwill Comes to Naught

The prime object in establishing the Constitution in 1787 was to insure domestic tranquility, and even the New York Tribune itself editorialized in November and December 1860 that: “We hold with Jefferson to the inalienable right of communities to alter or abolish forms of government that have become oppressive or injurious . . . we insist on letting them go in peace.” New York, in its ratification of the Constitution in 1787, expressly reserved the right to secede should it determine the need. The author below rightly sums up the Southern peace initiatives: “Well might the Southern leaders have adopted for their own the language of the Psalmist, “I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war.” It is then clear the immediate cause of the war was the Republican Party, and its refusal to pursue peaceful solutions.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Mission of Peace and Goodwill Comes to Naught

“Nor did [President Jefferson Davis] content himself with mere words of peace. He acted promptly on the resolution from Congress and appointed three commissioners from our government to the government of the United States. “These commissioners,” says Mr. Stephens, “were clothed with plenary powers to open negotiations for the settlement of all matters of joint property, forts, arsenals, arms, or property of any kind within the limits of the Confederate States, and all joint liabilities with their former associates, upon principles of right, justice, equity and good faith.”

Let me ask, could anything have been fairer?

These commissioners promptly proceeded on their way. A few days after the inauguration of Mr. Lincoln at Washington they formally notified his Secretary of State, Mr. Seward, that “the President, Congress and people of the Confederate States earnestly desire a peaceful solution” of pending questions between the two governments.

Suffice it to say that it was through no fault of these commissioners, or of the people and government they represented, that their mission of peace and goodwill to their late allies of the North came to naught.

Yet another effort for peace was made from a Southern official quarter in those portentous, ominous months following the sectional victory at the polls in November 1860. The Border Southern States were yet within the old union, hoping against hope for continued union, peace and justice. Among these Border States was Virginia, the oldest, most powerful of them all. By unanimous vote of her Legislature all the States of the union were invited to send delegates to a conference, to devise a plan for preserving harmony and constitutional union.

This conference met in Washington, February 4, 1861, the very day on which the Congress of the seceded Cotton States assembled in Montgomery. The demands or suggestions of the South in this Peace Congress were only that constitutional obligations should be observed by all parties; nay, that certain concessions to the North would be agreed to, by means of constitutional amendment, if only the constitution, as thus amended, might be obeyed.

This did not suit commissioners from the Northern States, as was bluntly stated by one of them, then and there. Salmon P. Chase, of Ohio, who was slated for a portfolio in Lincoln’s cabinet, and therefore spoke at least quasi ex cathedra. So the Peace Congress proved of no avail.

We find a similar situation in the Congress of the United States at its regular session that winter. Of the condition there Mr. Pollard says, in his book “The Lost Cause”: “It is remarkable that of all the compromises proposed in this Congress for preserving the peace of the country, none came from the Northern men; they came from the South and were defeated by the North.”

(Living Confederate Principles, Lloyd T. Everett, Southern Historical Society Papers, No. II, Volume XL, September 1915; Broadfoot Publishing Co., 1991, excerpts pp. 26-28)

 

 

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