Browsing "Republican Party Jacobins"

The Postwar Radical Inquisition

To destroy President Andrew Johnson’s postwar program, the Joint Committee on Reconstruction was established by Congress in early December 1865, chaired by the sinister and vindictive Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania who made no secret of his aim to firmly plant Republican political control in the South, which he considered conquered territory. General Robert E. Lee was interrogated for two hours by the Committee on 17 February 1866.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

The Postwar Radical Inquisition:

“[Radical Republican] Senator Jacob M. Howard [of Michigan] resumed his questions . . . “While you were in command at Richmond, did you know of the cruelties practiced toward the union prisoners at Libby Prison and Belle Isle?”

[Lee answered] “I never knew that any cruelty was practiced, and I have no reason to believe that it was practiced. I can believe, and have reasons to believe, that privations may have been experienced among the prisoners. I know that provisions and shelter could not be provided for them.”

[Howard] “Were you not aware that men were dying from cold and starvation?”

Aware? Was I aware? The questions must have bitten like strong acid. In those vivid and unspoken images that crowded through Lee’s mind that moment and on other days, what did he see, what did he feel? The historian cannot rightly draw upon reverie; but to think that the real marrow of the hearing got into the stenographer’s notes is to be more naïve than one might want to be.

When the opportunity arose, Lee said quietly, “I had no control over the prisoners, once they had been sent to Richmond. I never gave an order about it . . . No report was ever made to me about them. There was no call for any to be made to me. Prisoners suffered from the want of ability on the part of the Confederate States to supply their wants. As far as I could, I did everything in my power to relieve them, and urged the formation of a cartel.

Pushed further, Lee told of specific proposals made to Grant, and of the work of his Christian Committee. “Orders were that the whole field should be treated alike . . . We took in Federal wounded as well as ours on every field.”

Weeks later the Joint Report of the Committee would lash out at the South . . . “The Rebels heaped every imaginable insult and injury upon our nation . . . They fought for four years with the most determined and malignant spirit . . . and are today unrepentant and unpardoned.” [The editor of the Lexington, Virginia Gazette wrote that the] “devilish iniquity and malignant wickedness” of the Committee’s report he found “so monstrous that no Southern man can read it without invoking the righteous indignation of heaven.” How long was the South to suffer from such wretched injustice and perfidy?

Signs of rebellion began to crop up again. Confederate flags were peddled openly in a dozen cities and were called “sacred souvenirs” by Alabama Governor Parsons. “Stonewall Jackson” soup” and “Confederate hash” appeared on hotel menus. In Richmond, a magazine called The Land We Love began to glorify the “Lost Cause.”

Open conflicts between racial groups spread. Three days of rioting in Memphis, beginning on April 30, left forty-six Negroes dead and scores of homes, churches and schools burned. Summer riots in New Orleans saw sensational and unsavory actions go unchecked. Murder degenerated into massacre. “The hands of the rebel are again red with loyal blood,” proclaimed the New York Tribune.”

(Lee After the War, The Greatest Period in the Life of a Great American, Marshall W. Fishwick, Dodd, Mead & Company, 1963, excerpts, pp. 122-126)

Abolitionists Drunk on the Fumes of Blood

Abolitionist hatred of Americans in the South seemed boundless with people like Wendell Phillips desiring their near-extermination, and Parson Brownlow preaching that “We will crowd the rebels into the Gulf of Mexico, and drown the entire race, as the devil did the hogs in the Sea of Galilee.” The South was only asking for political independence.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Abolitionists Drunk on the Fumes of Blood

“Wendell Phillips, who, before the blood began to flow, eloquently declared that the South was in the right, that Lincoln had no right to send armed men to coerce her, after battles begun seemed to become drunk on the fumes of blood and mad for more than battlefields afforded. In a speech delivered in [Henry Ward] Beecher’s church, to a large and presumably a Christian congregation, Phillips made the following remarkable declaration:

“I do not believe in battles ending this war. You may plant a fort in every district of the South, you may take possession of her capitals and hold them with your armies, but you have not begun to subdue her people. I know it seems something like absolute barbarian conquest, I allow it, but I do not believe there will be any peace until 347,000 men of the South are either hanged or exiled (Cheers).”

Why the precise number, 347,000, does not appear. If the hanging at one fell swoop of 347,000 men and women seemed to Phillips something like barbarian conquest, it would be interesting to know what would have appeared truly barbarian. History records some crimes of such stupendous magnitude, even to this day men shudder at their mention.”

(Facts and Falsehoods, Concerning the War on the South, George Edmonds, Spence Hall Lamb, 1904, pp. 235-236)

Washington's Remains Removed from Harms Way

Underscoring the sectional nature of the victorious Republican party were fears that relics and heroes of the old Republic would be desecrated or violated.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Washington’s Remains Removed from Harms Way 

“[Diary entry] May 21, 1861:

Removal of the Remains of Washington – A correspondent of the Lynchburg “Republican” says:

“I was told today that a report having reached . . . Virginia that the tomb of Gen. Washington was going to be violated by the Republicans, his remains and those of his family were promptly removed to a more central spot in the State, where they will be out of harm’s way.

If this is true, what a commentary on the North! How strange that coming events should prompt such a move! Surely we live in a singular age.”

(Diary of Ada Amelia Costin, Wilmington, North Carolina, Tuesday, May 21, 1861. Special Collections, Randall Library, UNC-Wilmington)

The Fictitious Status of a Sovereign State

The visiting Frenchman Hauranne, stayed in the North and supported its war against the American South. Yet, he wrote about and admitted the dictatorial and arrogant abuses of power inherent in Lincoln’s regime, often comparing it to the French Directory and Reign of Terror.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

The Fictitious Status of a Sovereign State

“[Diary Entry] December 21, 1864:

You know that senators are elected, not be direct popular vote, but by the State legislatures, with each sending two senators to Congress, whatever the size of the State’s population. But since last July Louisiana has a new State constitution, a semi-military document produced by General [Nathaniel P.] Banks and a Mexican-style junta chosen exclusively by known friends of the Federal Government. Thus Louisiana’s rights of Statehood have been restored, at least on paper; the reorganized State government exercises its full sovereign rights; but officials are elected under the protection of the military authorities, by a twentieth, at most, of its citizens.

That is called “reconstruction” of the State of Louisiana, though it serves only to give an appearance of legality to a state of martial law. Louisiana could have been made a “territory” for the time being; that is, the policies of the Washington government could have been imposed on her without giving representation in Congress. She could have been left for awhile longer under the undisguised rule of a military commandant and this arbitrary exercise of power would at least have had the merit of honesty.

It was thought preferable to give her the fictitious status of a sovereign State in order to wield in her name in the halls of Congress the power of which she has been despoiled. Some Republicans . . . give their unreserved approval to all the dictatorial measures of General Banks. Finally, the dictator of Louisiana has come to Washington in person to support his protégés, and no one doubts that the two senators will be seated.”

(A Frenchman in Lincoln’s America, Volume II, Ernest Duvergier de Hauranne, Donnelly & Sons, pp. 218-219)

Andrew Johnson's Ingenious Sophism

George Herbert’s 1884 history text exemplified what Northerners were led to believe about the war, and what Southern parents sought to exclude from their children’s schools. With a severely distorted understanding of the framers’ Constitution of 1787, including its provisions regarding the writ and presidential powers, Lincoln and his followers interpreted the Constitution as they saw fit. Apparently unknown to Andrew Johnson, the Treaty of Paris recognizing the independence of the thirteen former colonies, each individually as sovereigns, had preceded the new Constitution of 1787. And all thirteen voluntarily ratified the document before joining this new union.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Andrew Johnson’s Ingenious Sophism

“In the Senate Andrew Johnson appeared as the Senator from Tennessee . . . [and] we may take occasion, presently, to quote from his powerful speech in defense of the Union, delivered in the Senate on the 27th of July [1861]:

“It is believed that nothing has been done [by the President since Fort Sumter] beyond the Constitutional competency of Congress. Soon after the first call for militia, it was considered a duty to authorize the commanding general, in proper cases, to suspend the Writ of Habeas Corpus; or, in other words, to arrest and detain, without resort to the ordinary processes and forms of law, such individuals as he might deem dangerous to the public safety. The authority has been exercised but sparingly.

It was decided that we have a case of rebellion, and that the public safety does require the qualified suspension of the writ, which was authorized to be made. Now it is insisted that the Congress, and not the Executive, is vested with this power. But the Constitution is silent as to which or who is to exercise the power; and as the provision is plainly made for a dangerous emergency . . . No more extended argument is now offered, as an opinion at some length will probably be presented by the Attorney General.

It might seem at first thought to be of little difference whether the present movement in the South be called Secession or Rebellion. The movers well understand the difference. At the beginning they knew they could never raise their treason to any respectable magnitude by any name which implies violation of law . . . [but they accordingly] . . . commenced by an insidious debauching of the public mind; they invented an ingenious sophism, which, if conceded, was followed by perfectly logical steps through all the incidents of the complete destruction of the Union. The sophism itself that any State of the Union may, and therefore lawfully and peaceably, withdraw from the Union without the consent of the Union or of any other State.

With little disguise that the supposed right is to be exercised only for just cause, themselves to be the sole judges of its justice, is too thin to merit any notice within the rebellion. Thus sugar-coated they have been dragging the public mind of these sections for more than thirty years, and until at length they have brought many good men to a willingness to take up arms against the Government the day after some assemblage of men have enacted the farcical pretense of taking their State out of the Union, who could have been brought to no such thing the day before.

Our States have neither more nor less power than that reserved to them in the Union by the Constitution, no one of them ever having been a State out of the Union. The original ones passed into the Union before they cast off their British Colonial dependence . . . Having never been States, either in substance or in name, outside of the Union, whence this magical omnipotence of State rights, asserting a claim of power to lawfully destroy the Union itself?”

(The Popular History of the Civil War, Illustrated, George B. Herbert, F.M. Lupton, 1884, pp. 116-119)

Acts of Oppression in the Name of Liberty

From the Russian Embassy at Washington, diplomat Baron Edouard de Stoeckl monitored the Lincoln administration and reported in detail to St. Petersburg. He would conclude as other observers did that Lincoln’s goal was to maintain the territorial union by force, with slavery intact and confined to existing geographic limits; the Republican party Jacobins wanted the South’s political and economic power destroyed and a reign of terror to accomplish the goal.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Acts of Oppression in the Name of Liberty:

“If the reign of the demagogues continues for a long time, General [John C.] Fremont is destined to play an important role. He is already the standard-bearer of the radical [Republican] party, and he will become the head of the party because of his superiority over the other leaders, among whom are only mediocre men and not a single leader of talent and energy.

Continuing his analysis of the “deplorable situation,” Stoeckl discussed in some detail the efforts of the radicals to gain control of affairs.

“General Fremont acted without authorization of [President Lincoln] and even contrary to his instructions, which forbid him to act in regard to the slave States of the west where Unionists are still fairly numerous. So the President was greatly astonished to learn about the [emancipation] proclamation of General Fremont. He regarded is as an act of insubordination.

For awhile there was consideration of dismissal [of Fremont], but after all [Lincoln] did nothing and did not even dare to reprimand him. The radicals, emboldened by this triumph, demand today that the edicts laid down by General Fremont in Missouri shall be applied everywhere. In other words, they demand that the government should convert the present struggle into a war of extermination.

What the radical party fears most is a reaction which would bring its ruin. So it takes advantage of the hold it has on the administration in order to drive it to extreme measures. The government has forbidden postmasters to carry newspapers in the mails which advocate conciliation and compromise. The result has been that the majority of newspapers which were opposed to war have had to suspend publication.

In several towns the extremists have gone even further. They have stirred up the populace, which has smashed the plants of the moderate newspapers. Conditions are such that mere denunciation by a general is sufficient for a person to be arrested and imprisoned. The act of habeas corpus and all the guarantees which the Americans have appeared to prize so much, have vanished and given way to martial law, which . . . is being enforced throughout the North.

We are not far from a reign of terror such as existed during the great French Revolution, and what makes the resemblance more striking is that all these acts of oppression are made in the name of liberty.”

Stoeckl wrote that the people of the North were being misled into believing that these drastic measures would hasten the peaceful restoration of the Union. But he did not believe the deception could persist:

“People will not be duped long by their political leaders. The reaction will necessarily take place. But unfortunately it will come too late to repair the harm that the demagogues have done to the country. It will be necessary finally to revolutionize the political and administrative institutions…which have been weakened upon the first rock against which the nation has been hurled. In the North and in the South they will have to reconstruct the edifice which the founders of the Republic have had so much trouble in building . . . The present war is only the prelude of the political convulsions which this country will have to pass through.”

(Lincoln and the Radicals, Albert A. Woldman, World Publishing Company, 1952, pp. 80-83)