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Gibbon’s Long-Haired Barbarian

Admiral Raphael Semmes (1809- 1877) was a Naval Academy graduate, prewar lawyer and remarkable naval strategist who quite-nearly destroyed the US merchant marine with his devastating commerce raiding tactics. A frequent critic of the New England mind and character, he saw the Yankee as “ambitious, restless, scheming, energetic, and has no inconvenient moral nature to restrain him from the pursuit of his interests, be the path ever so crooked. In the development of material wealth he is unsurpassed.” Below, he describes President Jefferson Davis’ path after departing Richmond in 1865.

Gibbon’s Long-Haired Barbarian

“[President Davis] moved soon to Charlotte, in North Carolina, and in a few weeks afterward he fell into the hands of the enemy. The reader knows the rest of his history; how the enemy gloated over his captivity; how he was reviled, and insulted, by the coarse and brutal men into whose power he had fallen; how lies were invented as to the circumstances of his capture, to please and amuse the Northern multitudes, eager for his blood; and finally, how he was degraded by imprisonment, and the manacles of a felon!

His captors and he were of different races – of different blood. They had nothing in common. He was the “Cavalier,” endowed by nature with the instincts and refinement of the gentleman. They were of the race of Roundheads, to whom all such instincts and refinements were offensive.  God has created men in different moulds, as he has created the animals. It was as natural that the Yankees should hate Jefferson Davis, as that the cat should arch its back, and roughen its fur, upon the approach of the dog.

I have said that the American war had its origins in money, and that it was carried on throughout, “for a consideration.” It ended in the same way.

The “long-haired barbarian” – see Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” – who laid his huge paw on Jefferson Davis, to make him a prisoner, was paid in money for the gallant deed.  A President of the United States had degraded his high office, by falsely charging Mr. Davis with being an accomplice in the murder of President Lincoln, and offered a reward for his apprehension; thus gratifying his malignant nature, by holding him up to the world as a common felon.”

(Memoirs of Service Afloat During the War Between the States, Raphael Semmes, LSU Press, 1996 (Original 1868) excerpt pp. 817-818)

No Indissoluble Union

Before the war, Senator Judah P. Benjamin of Louisiana was insulted by a Boston newspaper which wrote: “We ask whether the Jews, having no country of their own, desire to put other nations in the same unhappy condition.”  He shrugged off anti-Semitic comments of other Northern critics as he did a reference to him as one of the “Israelites with Egyptian principles.”

Senator G.G. Vest of Kentucky quoted Benjamin’s response to a Senate opponent: “It is true that I am a Jew and when my ancestors were receiving their Ten Commandments from the immediate hand of the Deity, amidst the thunderings and lightning of Mount Sinai, the ancestors of the distinguished gentleman who is opposed to me were herding swine in the forest of Scandinavia.”

No Indissoluble Union

“Benjamin’s reasoning, with that of most of the other conservatives who saw no alternative but secession, was that upon the North American continent were two peoples, one building an industrial empire and the other content to remain a race of planters and staple producers.

Each could best work out its own destiny . . . And as long as the two were bound into one country, there would be strife. Since they had so little in common, the sensible solution to the impasse they had reached would be the severance of political ties. Certainly he felt he was not without precedent in holding the federal compact to be terminable at the will of its member States. He saw scarcely any evidence that it was intended by those who wrote it to be anything more.

The simple truth is that he aligned himself against the North at least partly because he felt he could not subscribe to the principle of an indissoluble Union. The North embraced the principle of nationality – the South sought, in Benjamin’s words, divorcement “from a compact all the obligations of which she is expected scrupulously to fulfill, from the benefits of which she is ignominiously excluded.” It was as simple as that to him.”

(Judah Benjamin: Mystery Man of the Confederacy, S.I. Neiman, Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1963, excerpt pp. 92-93)

Britain, France and Abolition

After the loss of her American colonies and intense colonial economic competition with France, the British government became abolition-minded not out of pity for those they had purchased from African tribes to labor in America and the West Indies, but to destroy the successful French colony of San Domingo – as well as the American South’s labor system from which Yankee shipping interests were earning vast fortunes.

This was not lost on John C. Calhoun, who in mid-August 1844 wrote American Minister to France William R. King that “It is too late in the day to contend that humanity or philanthropy is the great object of the policy of England in attempting to abolish slavery on this continent. [In abolishing slavery in her colonies], She acted on the principle that tropical products can be produced cheaper by free African labor and East India labor, than by slave labor.”

Calhoun contended that England “calculated to combine philanthropy with profit and power, as is not unusual with fanaticism,” with the experiment turning out to be a costly one. And in order to regain her superiority, England must destroy her economic competition through emancipation.

Britain, France and Abolition

“The slave-trade and slavery were the economic basis of the French Revolution. “Sad irony of human history,” comments Jaures, “The fortunes created at Bordeaux, at Nantes, by the slave trade, gave to the bourgeoisie that pride which needed liberty and contributed to human emancipation.”

Nantes was the center of the slave-trade. As early as 1666, 108 ships went to the coast of Guinea and took on board 37,430 slaves, a total value of more than 37 millions, giving the Nantes bourgeoisie 15 to 20 percent on their money. In 1700 Nantes was sending 50 ships a year to the West Indies with Irish salt beef, linen for the household and for clothing the slaves, and machinery for the sugar-mills.  Nearly all the industries which developed in France during the eighteenth century had their origin in goods or commodities destined either for the coast of Guinea or for America. The capital from the slave-trade fertilized them; though the bourgeoisie traded in other things than slaves, upon the success or failure of the traffic everything else depended.

The British bourgeois, the most successful of slave-traders, sold thousands of smuggled slaves every year to the French colonists and particularly to San Domingo. But even while they sold the slaves to San Domingo, the British were watching the progress of this colony with alarm and with envy. After the independence of America in 1783, this amazing French colony suddenly made such a leap as almost to double its [sugar] production between 1783 and 1789.

The British bourgeoisie investigated the new situation in the West Indies [and] prepared a bombshell for its rivals. Without slaves San Domingo was doomed. The British colonies had enough slaves for all the trade they were ever likely to do. With tears rolling down their cheeks for the poor suffering blacks, those British bourgeoisie who had no West Indian interests set up a great howl for the abolition of the slave trade.”

(The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Overture and the San Domingo Revolution, Vantage Books, 1963, excerpts pp. 47-48; 50-51)

Mar 6, 2021 - Prescient Warnings, Southern Statesmen, Southern Unionists    Comments Off on Washington’s Warning on Foreign Influence

Washington’s Warning on Foreign Influence

Washington’s Warning on Foreign Influence

“Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake; since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful woes of republican government.

But that jealousy to be useful must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it.  Excessive partiality for one foreign nation, and excessive dislike of another, cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other.

Real patriots, who may resist the intrigues of the favorite, are liable to become suspected and odious; while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their influence.

The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfectly good faith. Here let us stop.

In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting impression I could wish; that they will control the usual current of the passions, or prevent us from running the course which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations . . . that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigues, to guard against the postures of pretended patriotism . . .”

(The Speeches, Addresses and Messages of the Several Presidents of the United States, Robert DeSilver, editor, Thomas Town Printer, 1825, excerpts pp. 1110-112)

Feb 27, 2021 - Antebellum Realities, Black Soldiers, Democracy, Foreign Viewpoints, Jeffersonian America, Patriotism, Southern Statesmen    Comments Off on An Invigorating Spirit of Patriotism

An Invigorating Spirit of Patriotism

Andrew Jackson thought of himself as not an innovator or man of ideas, but that he must revive and continue Jeffersonian principles in the federal government. He was a man hostile to the clamoring abolitionist radicals and in general to the various “isms” of the North, sure to cause strife where none should be. His conception of patriotism included a determination to uphold the national honor and interests, even at the risk of war.

An Invigorating Spirit of Patriotism

“[The] Age of Jackson appears to have been characterized by a high degree of patriotism – the patriotism of a provincial people who were virtually untouched by the internationalism of our own day and who as a whole lived close to nature and therefore perhaps had a child’s love for the homeland.

The Italian Count Francesco Arese, who traveled in the United States in 1837-38, described this invigorating spirit of patriotism, which he witnessed during a Fourth-of-July celebration in Lexington, Virginia.

After the usual fireworks, marching of the militia, and playing by the band of “Hail, Columbia” and “Yankee Doodle,” the townspeople sat down to an elaborate banquet. “There were 160-odd people,” the Count relates in his journal, “and though Americans are accused of being not too sober, I am forced to say that not a soul got drunk. After the dinner, which didn’t last over ½ hour, several toasts were drunk. The first was to “the 4th of July, 1776,” the next to General George Washington, the third to General Lafayette; and many others followed.

Among the banqueters were two old veterans that had served under Washington, one of whom was a Negro who had gone everywhere with the brave general, and for that reason, a half-century later, he was allowed the honor once every year of sitting down to the table with white men!

There was nothing, absolutely nothing in this celebration that suggested in the remotest degree that trumped-up joy, that official gaiety they gratify us with in Europe, quite contrary to our desire. Here the joy, the enthusiasm were real, natural, heartfelt. Each individual was rightly proud to feel himself an American.

Each one believed himself to share the glory of Washington, Jefferson, Marshall and all the other illustrious men whom not only America but the whole world has the right to be proud of. Oh. God, when shall my own beautiful and wretched country be able to celebrate a day like that?”

(The Leaven of Democracy: The Growth of the Democratic Spirit in the Time of Jackson, Clement Eaton, editor, George Braziller Publishers, 1963, excerpt, pp. 10-11)

An American Chamber of Horrors

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

An American Chamber of Horrors

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

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

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

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

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

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

Virginia’s Effort to Abolish the Slave Trade

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

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

Virginia’s Efforts to Abolish the Slave Trade

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Who is Encircling Whom?

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

Who is Encircling Whom?

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

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

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

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

“No, no.”

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

“There is not at this time.”

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

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

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

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

“There is no question about that.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That is absolutely true.”

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

“Indeed, surely.”

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

His Holiness and the Civil War

Dudley Mann was appointed as one of three Special Commissioners to Europe in 1861, to represent the interests of the Confederate States of America. He met with Pope Pius IX in mid-November 1863 to explain the actions of the Confederate States in seeking independence. When the wisdom of gradual emancipation was suggested, Mann properly advised the Pontiff that the States themselves were the ones to decide this, not the Confederate government. He could have further explained that this is precisely how African slavery had been abolished in the Northern States by the action of individual States, not the federal government. In March 1865, with the agreement of the States, the Confederate Congress authorized the enlistment of 300,000 emancipated black men.

His Holiness and the Civil War

“His Holiness now stated, to use his own language, that Lincoln and Company had endeavored to create an impression abroad that they were fighting for the abolition of slavery, and that it might perhaps be judicious in us to consent to gradual emancipation. I replied that the subject of slavery was one over which the Government of the Confederate States, like that of the old United States, had no control whatever; that all ameliorations with regard to the institution must proceed from the States themselves, which were as sovereigns in their character in this regard as were France, Austria, or any other Continental power . . .

I availed myself of [Lincoln’s emancipation] declaration to inform His Holiness that it was not the armies of Northern birth which the South was encountering in hostile array, but that it was the armies of European creation, occasioned by the Irish and Germans, chiefly by the former, who were influenced to emigrate (by circulars from Lincoln and Company to their numerous agents abroad) ostensibly for the purpose of securing high wages, but in reality to fill up the constantly depleted ranks of our enemy, that those poor unfortunates were tempted by the high bounties amounting to $500, $600 and $700 to enlist and take up arms against us; that once in the service they were invariably placed in the most exposed points of danger in the battlefield; that in consequence thereof an instance had occurred in which almost an entire brigade had been left dead or wounded upon the ground; that but for foreign recruits the North would most likely have broken down months ago in the absurd attempt to overpower the South.

His Holiness expressed his utter astonishment, repeatedly throwing up his hands at the employment of such means against us and the cruelty attendant upon such unscrupulous operations.”

(A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Confederacy, Including the Diplomatic Correspondence 1861-1865, James D. Richardson, editor, US Publishing Company, 1905, excerpt pg. 594)

Escorting President Davis

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

Escorting Jefferson Davis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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