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A Foreigner’s Observations of America’s War

 

The Russian diplomat to Washington during the war was Baron Edouard de Stoeckl, who wrote detailed letters of American politics to his government in St. Petersburg.  A born aristocrat, Stoeckl blamed America’s plight and tragedy on its “ultra-democratic system.” He pointed out that “only a handful of demagogues were able to accomplish this work of destruction.” He never ceased deploring the rule of the mob and warned that this tragic result of democracy should be a warning to Europe.  It should be noted that he never overlooked an opportunity to offer his services as a conciliator between North and South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

A Foreigner’s Observations of America’s War

“This revolution has undermined the foundation of pure democracy as it existed in the United States. The Constitution is now an empty shell. Step by step the President has assumed more and more discretionary powers. Universal suffrage is practiced here today more or less as it exists in certain parts of Europe. The writ of habeas corpus has been suspended [and] the rights of States have been almost annulled, and military authority is absolute in every part of the country. In Europe the revolutionists, the Utopians and the other restless spirits are agitating to upset the whole order of things and to substitute for them democratic institutions. In America, these same institutions seem to have run their course. The military regime is taking root more and more, not only in governmental affairs, but even in the day to day activities of the American people.”

Regarding Lincoln’s Re-election in 1864, he noted that the election campaign continued in an atmosphere of military excitement.

“In spite of all the efforts which the administration is making to conceal the true state of affairs from the public, these last [Union] defeats have not produced an unfavorable impression about the party in power. However, Mr. Lincoln and his adherents are sure of winning the forthcoming presidential election.”

Democrats denounced the War Department for turning its power into the service of Lincoln’s re-election. They rightly claimed that thousands of Republican soldiers were furloughed to return to doubtful districts and vote, while few Democrats were granted leaves.

This caused the Russian minister to write: “If the vote were free, the chances would certainly be in favor of General [George B.] McClellan, but with the powers which the government possesses, it will find the means of controlling the election. Universal voting is as easily managed here as anywhere else.”

Of Radical Republicans Stoeckl wrote:

“The Republicans demand the subjugation of the South without realizing the obstacles which two years of fighting have demonstrated so clearly. The Democrats contend that a compromise based on the federal compact is today more possible than the conquest of the South. So, the Americans seem to be rushing blindly into a state of anarchy which will be the inevitable consequence of the war if it continues much longer.”

“Peace, no matter what the terms, is the only way of resolving this situation. But leaders in charge of affairs do not want it. Their [radical Republican] slogan is all-out war. Any compromise would endanger their political existence. They are politicians of low caliber — men without conscience, ready to do anything for money, individuals who have achieved rank in the army and others who still have hopes of obtaining high commissions.

They constitute the swarm of speculators, suppliers of material, war profiteers through whose hands pass a large portion of the millions of dollars spent daily by the federal government. Aside from these and some fanatics, practically everybody desires the cessation of hostilities. But unfortunately, few dare to protest, and those who have the courage and patriotism to express their opinions, are too few in number to make their influence felt.”

“The conservatives want peace. They say now that Northern honor is saved, the time is at hand to start negotiations with the Confederates for their re-entry into the Union on an equal footing with Northern States. On the other hand the radical Republicans are demanding that the government should continue the vigorous prosecution of the war and that it should not lay downs arms until the South is completely subjugated. Unfortunately the administration is completely dominated by the radicals.”

(Lincoln and the Russians, Albert A. Woldman, World Publishing Company, 1952, excerpts)
 

 

“This Savage and Cold-Blooded Idea”

The Confederate States held nearly 261,000 Northern soldiers in their prisons of which 22,526 died in captivity; Northern prisons held 200,000 Southerners of which 26,500 died – the higher percentage is the latter. Southern authorities provided food to prisoners equal to the meager rations for soldiers while Northern prisons were surrounded by bountiful fields and harvests.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

“This Savage and Cold-Blooded Idea”

“John M. Daniel, from the Richmond Examiner, 25 November 1863:

“The Yankee policy with respect to the exchange of prisoners has been clearly exposed. It is based upon the simple principle that our men are intrinsically worth more than theirs, and that if they continue to hold our prisoners and to allow their own to remain in our hands they will be the gainers. Such, in fact, is the whole scheme of the war. If, by dint of superior numbers and a lavish expenditure of blood, they can inflict such losses upon the South as to render it incapable of further resistance, their point, I think, is gained . . . “

While this savage and cold-blooded idea is at the bottom of their reasoning, they are aware that it is necessary to cloak their purposes under as decent a veil as they can find. It will not do to tell their soldiers, or the classes from which they expect to recruit their armies, that they regard them merely as fighting animals, to be used sparingly, or sacrificed wantonly, according to the varying necessities of the case.

It would be ruinous, frankly, to avow that they are delighted to retain a certain number of Confederates in prison at the expense of an equal or even greater number of their own men. An excuse must be found which will throw the odium of refusing exchange upon the Confederacy. Yankee ingenuity, unhampered by the restraints of an adherence to truth, can easily accomplish this . . .

We have sought to carry out the cartel of exchange in good faith. Let us not allow the Yankees to take advantage of their own wrong, and, while they avoid the odium attaching to the desertion of their own prisoners, retain the advantage of neutralizing thousands of our soldiers.

Gladly would the Yankee Government, in order to deprive us of their services, agree to lodge [our soldiers] at the Fifth Avenue or the Metropolitan, and to feed them upon turtle soup and champagne. It would be a vastly cheaper way of disposing of them than maintaining armies of hirelings to oppose them in the field . . . “

(Empire of the Owls, Reflections on the North’s War Against Southern Secession, H.V. Traywick, Jr., Dementi Milestone Publishing, 2013, pp. 253-254)

Oct 8, 2017 - America Transformed, Future Political Conundrums, Immigration, New England History, Northern Culture Laid Bare, Republican Party    Comments Off on Republican Party Supports Immigration Restrictions

Republican Party Supports Immigration Restrictions

Turn of the century Republican Senator from Vermont, William P. Dillingham (1843-1923) did not serve in the Civil War, citing “ill-health” and may well have purchased a substitute to serve as many northern men had done. Though Republican Party views toward immigration had been very liberal during the war as it needed a never-ending supply of recruits for its war against the American South, by 1911 Dillingham’s congressional commission issued a report supporting more severe immigration restrictions.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Republican Party Supports Immigration Restrictions

“The xenophobia of the 1880s and 1890s pointed inevitably in one direction: immigration restriction. Although the Chinese were banned in 1882 and the first general federal immigration law of that year had excluded certain classes of immigrants, these laws did not greatly affect the flow of immigration traffic. The time had come [many insisted], to decide whether the nation was “to be peopled by British, German and Scandinavian stock, historically free, energetic, progressive, or by Slav, Latin and Asiatic races, historically downtrodden, atavistic, and stagnant.”

The most popular scheme for stemming the tide was the Literacy test, Led by the Immigration Restriction League, founded in Boston in 1894 and led by Boston blue bloods, agitation for federal action grew. The literacy test, which required immigrants over 16 to be literate in some language, made no distinction among nationalities or races, but the intent of the proposal was clear.

The literacy test, supported by the Republican Party, finally did pass in 1896, only to be vetoed by President Grover Cleveland . . . it quickly reappeared and by 1901 President Theodore Roosevelt . . . called for a comprehensive immigration act to keep out “not only all persons who are known to be believers in anarchistic principles or members of anarchist societies, but also all persons who are of a low moral tendency or of unsavory reputation” and “all persons . . . who are below a certain standard of economic fitness to enter our industrial field as competitors with American labor.”

The President also wanted a careful educational test to ascertain the capacity to “appreciate American institutions and act sanely as American citizens. Roosevelt insisted that his proposals would decrease the “sum of ignorance” in America and “stop the influx of cheap labor, and the resulting competition which gives rise to so much of the bitterness in American industrial life, and it would dry up the springs of the pestilential social conditions in our great cities, where anarchist organizations have their greatest possibility for growth.”

Congress responded in part to the President’s request by excluding anarchists in 1903 and “imbeciles, feeble-minded [persons] and persons with physical or mental defects which might affect their ability to earn a living” four years later.

[Senator Dillingham’s 1911 report’s main] assumption was that the newer immigrants from southern and eastern Europe were more ignorant, more unskilled, more prone to crime, and more willing to accept a lower standard of living than the older immigrants from northern and western Europe. The newcomers, [Dillingham’s] commission announced, were “content to accept wages and conditions which the native American and immigrants of the older class had come to regard as unsatisfactory.”

(Ethnic Americans, a History of Immigration and Assimilation, Leonard Dinnerstein and David Reimers, Dodd, Mead & Company, 1975, excerpts, pp. 66-67)

 

Saving the South for Southerners

The States’ Rights Democratic Party of the mid-1940s had no stronger advocate than Charleston News & Courier editor William Watts Ball.  Also known as the “Dixiecrats,” its platform in 1948 called for strict interpretation of the Constitution, opposed the usurpation of legislative functions by the executive and judicial departments, and condemned “the effort to establish in the United States a police nation that would destroy the last vestige of liberty enjoyed by a citizen.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Saving the South for Southerners

“A full year before the end of Roosevelt’s third term, Ball was again active in attempts to organize a Southern Democratic party. It was the spring of 1944, however, before the movement was underway in earnest. Through public contributions (Ball gave one hundred dollars) the anti-Roosevelt faction hoped to finance an advertising campaign in newspapers and on radio. The independent white Democrats would not present candidates in the primaries, but offer only a ticket of presidential electors pledged not to vote for Roosevelt.

They might back a favorite son for president, or they might better co-operate with the similarly-minded in other States in support of someone like Senator Harry Byrd of Virginia . . . in May anti-Roosevelt Democrats had held their first meeting in Columbia, with nineteen counties represented, and made plans for a State convention. The Southern Democratic Party had been reborn.

[Ball’s] News and Courier continued to urge the election of independent Democratic electors. If eleven to sixteen Southern States withheld their electoral votes, they could assure respect for their political policies.

But in spite of the untiring efforts of The News and Courier, aided principally by the Greenwood Index-Journal, the anti-Roosevelt movement did not develop. Very few people made financial contributions; the Southern Democratic Party could not wage an effective campaign. Once again South Carolina gave solid support to Roosevelt and the Democratic Party.  All the State schools except the Citadel, he charged, were part of the State political machine . . .”

But at that moment, the “second Reconstruction” was already underway . . . [and] emerging forces combined to force open the entire [racial] issue. The Negro migration northward had begun in earnest with World War I. By 1940, a small Negro professional and white-collar class resided in a number of northern cities and it used its growing political power to win greater equality of treatment there.

Because New Deal programs were designed to advance employment security, including that of Negroes, most northern Negroes abandoned their historic allegiance to the Republican Party. In cities like New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Cleveland, the Democratic political machine depended heavily upon the Negro vote.

But already an earnest and vital independent political movement was underway [in 1948], in protest against the civil rights program of the Truman administration and the attitudes of the liberal court. Of 531 electoral votes, 140 were in the South; yet the North, East and West treated the South as a slave province. Other papers joined Ball in the demand for action; the [Columbia] State, like the News and Courier, called for a Southern third party.

On January 19th, in the State Democratic Party’s biennial convention, Governor Strom Thurmond was nominated for the office of president of the United States. The State’s national convention votes were to be withheld from Harry S. Truman. If Truman were nominated, South Carolina would not support the national party in the electoral college.

The State had not spoken so sharply since 1860; it would bolt rather than accept Truman. At the same time Governor Fielding L. Wright of Mississippi issued the call to revolt at the western end of the Deep South. The Southern governors’ conference . . . named its own political action committee, headed by Thurmond, which was to go to Washington . . . to demand concessions . . . from President Truman.

About two weeks later a delegation of governors met with Howard McGrath, National Chairman of the Democratic Party. When McGrath gave a flat “No” to their request that Truman’s anti-discrimination proposals be withdrawn, the governors of South Carolina, North Carolina, Texas, and Arkansas called on Democrats to join a revolt against Truman. The South, they announced, was not “in the bag” anymore.

If the South united behind Thurmond, Truman would lose all its electoral votes and the election might be thrown to the House of Representatives, where with the votes of the South and the West, a man such as Thurmond would have a real chance. Whatever the outcome, the national parties would learn a lesson they would not soon forget — the “Solid South” would no longer be a dependable political factor.

“In the electoral college,” Ball advised, “lies the only chance to save the South for Southerners.”

(Damned Upcountryman, William Watts Ball, John D. Starke, Duke Press, 1968, excerpts, pp. 201-233)

 

Generals Hasten to Join the Radical Fold

Radical Republicans favored the abolition of slavery not so much for their concern regarding the black race, but because it would devastate the South’s economic system and political status in the country. After the sack of McClellan, senior and aspiring commanders were swayed to either join the Radical Republican fold or to at least support Lincoln’s administration and Radical political goals. One Northern general complained that “commissions became political patronage and promotions the reward of partisan zeal.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Generals Hasten to the Radical Fold

“[With General George McClellan sacked,] Republicans rejoiced that the way was now open to gain political control of the army. Radicals were at first disappointed over the appointment of Ambrose Burnside, a friend of McClellan’s, to the command of the Army of the Potomac. But they took him under their protective wing when Burnside, fearing the wrath of the Committee on the Conduct of the War after the Fredericksburg disaster, assured committee members that he favored the abolition of slavery. Moreover, he announced, he was seeking to “inspire his fellow officers with a cordial hatred of the [South’s economic] system.”

But the task of winning over the army to Republican principles was no easy one; the men were sincerely fond of their dismissed commander. Republicans had to face a growing public desire for peace as well as McClellan’s highly successful presidential-boom tour of New England early in 1863. Struggling against the all-but-overwhelming circumstances, Republicans turned the full force of their propaganda upon the civilian public and redoubled their efforts to win control of the army.

[Secretary of War Edwin] Stanton and the Committee on the Conduct of the War waged unremitting war on McClellan sympathizers among the commanders. As part of this campaign the committee court-martialed Fitz-John Porter, ruined Charles P. Stone, discipline Irvin McDowell, and caused Buell’s dismissal. Constantly they worked to prejudice Lincoln against his Democratic commanders.

Others; alarmed by the committee’s success with McClellan and others, hastened to join the Radical fold. “Fightin’ Joe” Hooker was one of these; [Ben] Butler had already been converted. Ulysses S. Grant, savagely attacked for Democratic convictions, turned the assault aside by urging employment of Negro soldiers.

Warned first of the Radicals’ plans by his brother [John Sherman] and later informed by Halleck that the Radicals were working against him in regard to the “inevitable Sambo,” Sherman was scornfully indifferent. In 1864, he announced his unequivocal opposition to that pet project of the Radicals, the recruiting of colored regiments. “The Negro is in a transitional state, and is not equal to the white man” he wrote, “I prefer Negroes for pioneers, teamsters, clerks and servants, others gradually to experiment in the art of the soldier . . .”

The fact that this conclusion was based upon practical experience rendered it all the more distasteful to Radicals. Yet they dared not attack him openly; he was too successful.”

(Veterans in Politics, the Story of the G.A.R.; Mary R. Dearing, LSU Press, 1952, excerpts, pp. 10-12)

Blue Not Marching with the Gray

Formed in 1866, the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was allegedly the creation of a Dr. B.F. Stephenson who “undoubtedly envisioned his new veterans’ group as a tool to further the political ambitions of two Illinois Republicans, General John A. Logan and Governor Richard Oglesby.” They considered the GAR as a postwar voting machine to be lubricated with generous army pensions, political appointments and favors, to help ensure political control of the South after the war. Southerners despised the GAR as much as the infamous Union League, and Gen. Nathan B. Forrest told a Cincinnati Enquirer newspaper correspondent that the Ku Klux Klan had developed in Tennessee as a “protection against Loyal [Union] Leagues and the Grand Army of the Republic.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Blue Not Marching with the Gray

“To the close of the century Grand Army men, spurred to continued hostility by their [anti-South] textbook campaign, gave little evidence of friendliness for the South. The veterans’ press stimulated this enmity by angrily publicizing every aggressive rationalization of the Lost Cause, and other journals sometimes joined the attack.

On one occasion the Chicago Tribune, irritated because military institute cadets had paraded in Atlanta behind a Confederate flag, remarked that the city needed “the Grand Army to go there and show it the only flag behind which the cadets ever should march.”

These sentiments were reflected at GAR gatherings; former President [Rutherford B.] Hayes recorded with regret a disposition at the 1891 encampment “to scold the South – to discuss irritating topics in an ill-tempered way.” This was the encampment that objected to the federal purchase of Chickamauga battlefield and condemned the growing Southern penchant for erecting “Rebel” monuments. The National Tribune supported these objections with the complaint that the [Chicago monument to Confederate dead] would confuse the rising generation as to “plain matters of right and wrong.”

The Southern press replied to these attacks with charges that the Grand Army’s emphasis upon “patriotism” was merely a cloak for mercenary motives. The Memphis Commercial Appeal declared: . . . “the organization as a whole is one of the worst and most harmful that has ever existed in this country . . . [the GAR has prostituted] the noblest of emotions . . . to the basest ends. It has made a merchandise of patriotism and a commodity of valor . . .”

A plan formulated early in 1896 to hold a “blue and gray” parade in New York City as a July 4 demonstration of national unity clearly indicated the Grand Army’s attitude toward its former enemies. The New York press urged the project as a friendly gesture not only to the city’s ten thousand Confederate-veteran inhabitants but also to its Southern customers.

[When GAR commander in chief, Ivan N. Walker was asked for his endorsement of the parade, he] consented to permit the [GAR] members’ participation provided no Confederate flag appeared. [When Walker was informed] that the former Confederates would march in their gray uniforms . . . [he] declared the Confederate uniform as objectionable as the flag and announced, “We cannot, as an organization, join in any public demonstration and march with those who fought against the Union clad in a uniform which was shot to death by the Grand Army of the Republic, thirty years ago.”

(Veterans in Politics, the Story of the G.A.R.; Mary R. Dearing, LSU Press, 1952, excerpts, pp. 448-450)

Corruption and Protective Tariffs in Postwar Washington

The shipping interests of New England, dealing in slaves and goods, sparked the initial war with England, and later New England manufacturer’s hunger for protectionist tariffs drove the South to create a more perfect Union among themselves. After Southern Representatives and Senators left Congress in 1861, the Northern Congress immediately voted high tariffs, land grants, and subsidies to its numerous wealthy patrons who spent lavishly in Washington. The Collis Huntington mentioned below is cast by historians as the consummate villain, and came to symbolize the greed and corruption of the Gilded Age. Much of his money came from defrauding the American taxpayer in Western railroad schemes. His stepson, Archer Milton Huntington, used his inheritance to purchase Gov. Joseph Allston’s plantation and several others just south of Murrell’s Inlet, SC in 1930 — and renamed Brookgreen Gardens.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Corruption and Protective Tariffs in Postwar Washington

“The descriptive powers of Washington correspondents had so captured the imagination of the American that some Republican journalists after the Panic of 1873 and the scandals later revealed considered it advisable to play down the brilliance of social life in the capital.

The lobbyists as a class, male and female, flourished [in Washington] as never before. The railroad magnates, hungry for public land grants and subsidies, bid against each other for the favors of politicians. Collis P. Huntington, promoter of the Central Pacific, came to Washington with $200,000 in a trunk for “legal expenses” to obtain a Federal charter. General [Richard] Franchot, his agent, spent $1,000,000 for “general legal expenses” over and above his salary of $30,000.

[Lincoln’s financier] Jay Cooke undertook almost singlehanded to underwrite the expenses of the Republican presidential campaign. The rewards, however, were commensurate.

In 1871 Thomas A. Scott received a 13-million acre grant for the Texas Pacific Railroad, and Jay Cooke obtained a grant of 47 million acres for the Northern Pacific in 1868. By 1870, four Western [railroads] had received as much public land as the combined States of Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan.

Even Speaker [of the House James G.] Blaine was heavily involved in the Fort Smith and Little Rock Railroad, shares of which he tried to sell to his fellow members of Congress.

The venality of Congressmen had become a by-word. “A Congressional appropriation costs money,” said Colonel Sellers in The Gilded Age. “A majority of the House Committee . . . was $40,000. A majority of the Senate Committee . . . say $40,000, a little extra for one or two Committee Chairman . . . say $10,000 . . . Then seven male lobbyists at $3,000 each, one femal lobbyist at $10,000 – a high moral Congressman or Senator here or there – the high moral ones cost more because they give a certain tone to a measure – say ten of these at $3,000 each. Then a lot of small fry country members who wouldn’t vote for anything whatever without pay. Say twenty at $500 apiece.”

Neither were the manufacturers of New England neglecting their special interests. John L. Hayes was lobbying among the members of Congress seeking for the continuation of the tariff on [imported] textiles to protect the mills of the North. The wool interests in the Middle West were endeavoring to increase the tariff on imported cloth, and the steel and iron magnates of Pennsylvania, headed by Representative “Pig iron” Kelley kept an anxious eye on the importation of steel rails from England; several of the charters granted to railroads specified that the rails laid down must be of American manufacture.

The tariff issue was, indeed, beginning to overshadow the “Southern question” as the fundamental concern of the Republican party.”

(The Uncivil War, Washington During Reconstruction, 1865-1878; James H. Whyte, Twayne Publishers, 1958, excerpts, pp. 183;194-195)

Speaking the Language of Monuments

Historians record Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) leader General John Logan of Illinois as a creative political opportunist: a prewar Stephen Douglas Democrat who favored conciliatory measures toward the South to prevent war — but correctly sensing Radical Republican power he allied with them to keep his political star ascendant. Feeling slighted as West Point-educated commanders refused him promotions he developed an aversion to that institution; in the postwar he was known for his “bloody-shirt” oratory and catering to the pension desires of GAR veterans, serving as their commander for three terms. Logan’s postwar writings underscore the Republican Party ideology of containing slaves, and later freedmen, in the South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Speaking the Language of Monuments

“In short, the Grand Army [of the Republic] memory of the war represented the persistence into peacetime of the millennial, republican vision prevalent in the North before 1860 . . . [and this] older ideology of republicanism lived blissfully on in the campfires of the GAR until at least 1900.

In that view, the virtuous nation, saved until [Fort] Sumter from the ordinary travails of history, had come through the war purified of the blot of slavery and ready to lead the rest of the world into the sunshine of universal democracy. Despite the painfully obvious failure of Gilded Age America to live up to that vision, the Grand Army of the Republic (the name of the order itself is highly significant) strained to see the nation in those terms.

The past was the past, With the Republic secure, the saviors could return to lives as simple citizens. “There is not in human history, a case cited except ours, in which a million soldiers were, in a day, removed from belligerent to peaceful life,” Logan told the 1869 national encampment. “Probably, there is no government on earth, except our own, that would have dared try the experiment. I am confident there is no other in which such trial would be safe.”

These were not the words of realists trying to come to grips with a bloody and divisive war, nor those of militarists with a present-day political agenda. The members of the Grand Army had no such words in their vocabulary. Instead, the spoke the language of monuments.

[Logan announced] that “that the late war between the American States was the legitimate climax of several cooperating forces.” The North American continent, he wrote, was reserved for European civilization through “a marvelous ordering of events.” The Revolution, though it “arrested the attention of the world,” was actually the product of trends dating back “forty centuries.”

The Civil War, by removing the blot of slavery, had rendered the Declaration of Independence “the Magna Carta of all mankind, destined to last while the human race endures.” The main threat to [Logan’s] yeoman’s paradise was “class distinction,” both in the slaveholding South and at “aristocratic” West Point . . . [and] argued that the Southern slave system had been the legitimate child of monarchy.” Once cured, the country presumably could return to its pristine state, provided that “class distinction” did not come back to ravage it.” To avoid that fate, Logan wrote, the “restrictive, inadequate, and wholly un-American” military academies need to be overhauled in the interests of democracy.”

(Glorious Contentment, the Grand Army of the Republic, 1865-1900; Stuart McConnell, UNC Press, 1992, excerpts, pp. 192-198)

 

Monuments to Timeless Virtue and Infamy

The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) formed after the war and quickly became a powerful organization whose political might led historians to see it as a pension lobby or “bloody-shirt” Republican club. The membership sustained the postwar Republican Party and Glided Age political corruption that followed the war, and no Northern politician’s campaign was complete unless he received the blessing of the GAR. The organization maintained the view that they saved the Union and that the South was guilty of treason, though the Constitution clearly states in Article III, Section 1: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only of levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” “Them” means the States comprising the United States.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Monuments to Timeless Virtue and Infamy

“A . . . theme that emerged from GAR memorializations of the 1880s was that the war had broad meaning, not to say a moral, that transcended individual combat experiences. With occasional exceptions . . . the authors of the personal war experiences left the moral unstated. But in campfire speeches and war lectures, the repeated lesson was one of national salvation: the war had maintained the Union.

Prewar social and economic differences between the sections, issues of free labor and political power in the West, and especially the questions of blacks and slavery received scant mention in celebrations of the war’s outcome. Instead, the grand achievement of the Northern armies had been to rescue the indivisible nation as it had existed before . . . The war was a mission accomplished; the nation, something maintained intact rather than something greatly changed. It was a rhetoric pf preservation.

Both Civil War armies invoked republican traditions; both pointed to the same Revolutionary symbols. The other great influence on popular historical thinking during the antebellum years was evangelicalism . . . in the North, evangelical crusades against sin, culminating in the antislavery movement, drew on images of battles and the Apocalypse.

Yankee reformers pictured it as the crossroads of history. Armageddon, a climatic struggle from which the nation would emerge redeemed. Hymns urged patriots to march; ministers spoke of millennial change. No longer was the Republic seen as an entity formed at the beginning; it needed to be actively saved, not passively preserved. History was to be shaped, not studied, for examples of virtue.

At the same time, the overwhelming importance of the Republic’s preservation required permanent and public commemoration. Veterans proclaimed the message of national preservation in Congress, where on pension questions they drew pointed inferences regarding the duty of the nation to its saviors. And in city after city, new monuments refuted in stone any notion of the Civil War’s “pastness.”

As long as ex-Confederates did not question the moral lesson of the war, they were treated cordially – in fact, they were sometimes contrasted favorably with “loyal” noncombatants. Especially after 1880, [GAR] posts and encampments occasionally socialized with veterans from the other side.

[In 1894], white Northerners and white Southerners were engaged in a veritable love feast of reconciliation, complete with Blue-Grey reunions, Lost Cause nostalgia, and Confederate war monuments (including the first to be permitted at Gettysburg).

When it came to drumming the lessons of the war into the next generation, however, the ex-Confederates were doomed forever to play the heavy, always on the side of error, always vanquished by the hosts of the righteous. In the words of GAR commander William Warner, “we were eternally right and . . . they were eternally wrong.”

The line dividing cordiality from hostility ran between those actions (such as lecture invitations) that implied only sociability between former foes and those (such as the erection of Confederate monuments and waving the Confederate flag) that seemed to be aimed at subverting the message of national salvation.

Union veterans commonly expressed the division by saying that while the former rebels might be fine fellows, their principles were, and always would be, wrong. In 1874 [a Massachusetts veteran] . . . objected to the decoration of Confederate graves on Memorial Day by saying “he had nothing but the kindest feelings toward those who fought against us . . . but . . . let it be understood that we distinguish between loyalty and disloyalty; the latter is the treason against which we fought, and the former we pay respect and tribute to.”

In 1891, [GAR CIC] John Palmer allowed that the Confederates had been gallant and said the GAR was willing to accept them as fellows “on the broad grounds of American citizenship and unconditional loyalty.” But he went on to denounce several GAR men who had marched in Atlanta parade that included the Confederate flag. In New York a GAR member was dishonorably discharged for toasting Jefferson Davis at a Southern banquet.

In general, Grand Army posts objected most strenuously to those behaviors or symbols that implied honor to the Confederate cause – a flag, a monument, a toast to a president, flowers on a grave. Nor was it with the proper exegesis of battles, for those conflicts were by definition one-time only events. The worry was not so much about the lauding of individual Confederates (unless they were symbolic individuals such as Davis), for they would die eventually.

Instead, GAR posts worried about transmitting the moral of the war to the next generation intact. If monuments were to call forth “public valor and virtue in all coming time,” the lessons of war could not be subject to historical change. And if the virtue of the Union was to be timeless, so must be the infamy of the Confederacy.”

(Glorious Contentment, the Grand Army of the Republic, 1865-1900; Stuart McConnell, UNC Press, 1992, excerpts, pp. 181; 186-188-190-192)

Republicans and Panamanian Secession

The postwar Republican party in 1903 was not unfamiliar with exporting revolution for commercial and party purposes as it had supported revolts in Hawaii in 1887, which ended in the overthrow of Hawaiian sovereignty in 1898. The Columbian government would not move fast enough for Roosevelt the First, and the machinery of regime change was put into motion.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Republicans and Panamanian Secession

“On November 3, 1903, a group of revolutionaries led by Manuel Amador staged a bloodless uprising in Panama City and succeeded in severing the province of Panama from the Republic of Columbia of which it had been an integral part. Under normal circumstances such political upheavals in Latin America would have caused little comment in the United States, but the Panama revolution was in no sense a normal affair.

An agreement had already been made with the New Panama Canal Company to purchase the rights of a defunct French corporation that earlier had attempted to construct a canal through the isthmian jungles; but all efforts to obtain a new grant of authority from the Columbian government proved to be unsuccessful, so unsuccessful, in fact, that there seemed to be little immediate hope that the United States would able to accomplish its self-appointed task of joining the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Guided by motives of self-interest, the independent Republic of Panama would offer no impediment to the work of American engineers . . . In sum, the Panama uprising was, to all outward appearances, a most satisfactory revolution.

Viewed in the light of other developments, however, the whole Panama affair carried suspicious markings of American imperialism.

In the first place, the Roosevelt administration, in its anxiety to obtain Columbian approval of a suitable canal treaty, had exerted the most obvious sort of pressure on that government. During the spring and summer of 1903 Roosevelt had personally referred to Columbian officials as “inefficient bandits,” “contemptible little creatures,” and “homicidal corruptionists.”

He even threatened that country with action that “every friend of Columbia will regret” in the event some favorable solution was not soon reached.

In the second place, key figures in the Roosevelt administration had been exceedingly intimate with some of the leading figures in the Panamanian revolution. William Nelson Cromwell, an attorney for the New Panama Canal Company, for example, had contributed $60,000 to the Republican national committee in 1900 and through it gained an entry to the highest circles of that party.

Finally, the course of the United States government prior to and during the . . . revolution was open to suspicion of the gravest sort. An official of the State Department had sent an unfortunate inquiry to the American consul at Panama City asking about the uprising several hours before it occurred. Did this mean that the United States government had known in advance about the outbreak and had assisted the revolutionary party in planning it?

By like token, how did it happen that the USS Nashville arrived in Colon on the evening of November 2 and, on the day following the revolution, landed United States Marines there to prevent Columbian troops from seizing the Panama Railroad?

Above all, why did President Roosevelt recognize the new republic on November 6, receive [the new] minister from Panama on November 13, and authorize the signing of a canal treaty on November 17? Had Roosevelt personally engineered the revolt?

Certainly there was plenty of circumstantial evidence pointing towards the complicity of the American government; and although the Panama incident was still shrouded in secrecy, if the Democrats could uncover a few of the real facts underlying it both President Roosevelt and the Republican party would, in all likelihood, be faced with a scandal so infamous that political disaster must inevitably follow.”

(Arthur Pue Gorman, John R. Lambert, Louisiana State University Press, 1953, excerpts, pp. 297-300)

 

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