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Radical Republican Motivation

Lincoln’s predecessor, James Buchanan, admitted that he had no authority to wage war against States and understood that action as treason.

As “treason” is mentioned often in Radical literature, it is important to understand the constitutional definition of this as defined in Article III, Section 3 of the United States Constitution:

“Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” And “secession” is what is celebrated in the United States every Fourth of July.

Having militarily destroyed the American South’s political and economic strength as well as causing a million deaths in the process, the Republican party was determined to maintain political hegemony and turn the South into an economic colony.

Once the South was defeated and occupied, Republicans created a solid bloc of black voters to politically dominate the South.

Radical Republican Motivation

“Although the South lost the war, the “slave power” did not give up but continued the struggle in a different form. Recognizing the continuing and persistent menace, Michigan’s Governor Henry Crapo, warned in 1866: “It is not slavery, but the spirit which seeks to make slavery the corner stone of the empire, that we now have to guard against – that element of hatred to freedom and equality that instituted the conflict . . . That spirit is neither dead nor sleeping . . . Having failed so utterly in the resort to force, it will but recuperate its energies for a more insidious attack in a different method of warfare. “

However incomplete or inaccurate they might be, such views were to constitute the bases of the Radical Republican program for a decade after the Civil War. The identification of the Republican party with the promotion of freedom and democracy against “slave power” and “aristocracy” gave the Republicans a messianic sense of destiny.

Republican identification of the Democratic party with slavery and treason made Republican control of the national government a patriotic necessity. Further, Republicans viewed the struggle as occurring between ageless, eternal principles – “slave power” and “aristocracy” were resilient, crafty, and powerful.

Far reaching and drastic measures were necessary to extirpate their roots. The Republicans willingly accepted the appellation of “Radical” . . . [and] had developed much of their program long before Lee’s surrender at Appomattox.

The Southerners, stated [Michigan Congressman] John Longyear should be treated as subjugated enemies.

[US] Senator Jacob Howard [of Michigan] . . . wanted a genuine loyalty in the South as the basis for readmission to the Union. “The people of the North,” he prophesied, “are not such fools as to fight through such a war as this, to spend so vast an amount of treasure, as they must necessarily spend in bringing it to a successful termination – that they are not such fools as to sacrifice a hundred and fifty or two hundred thousand lives in putting down this rebellion, and then turn around and say to the traitors, “All you have to do is to come back into the councils of the nation and take an oath that henceforth you will be true to the Government.” Sir, it would be simple imbecility, folly . . .”

Until a majority became loyal [to the North], Howard advocated keeping [the South] out of the Union and in “tutelage” up to twenty years. Howard reasoned that a hostile and belligerent community could not claim the right to elect members of Congress.

“Are public enemies,” he asked, “entitled to be represented in the Legislature of the United States?” “A secession traitor,” Senator [Zachariah] Chandler growled, “is beneath a loyal Negro. I would let a loyal Negro vote. I would let him testify; I would let him fight; I would let him do any other good thing, and I would exclude a secession traitor.”

(Radical Republican Motivation, George M. Blackburn, Journal of Negro History, Volume LIV, Number 2, April 1969, Carter G. Woodson, editor, excerpts pp. 110-112)

Exercising All the War Powers of Congress

The Founders were wary of a standing army and gave only to Congress the power to raise troops and declare war. Should a sitting president venture to call for troops at his whim, as did Lincoln, the republic of those Founders was at an end.

Lincoln and the governors of Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New York who supplied him with troops for the purpose of waging war against other States and adhering to their enemies, were all were guilty of treason according to Article III, Section 3 of the United States Constitution.

There was a peaceful alternative which was not pursued by Lincoln and his party, and Southern Unionists pleas for peaceful diplomacy and compromise were ignored in favor of intentional duplicity at Charleston.

Exercising All the War Powers of Congress

“The day after Fort Sumter surrendered President Lincoln called on the several States for seventy-five thousand militia for ninety days service. The troops were to suppress “combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, or by the powers vested in the Marshals by law, a curiously legalistic phraseology probably adopted in an attempt to bring the proclamation under the Acts of 1795 and 1807 governing the calling out of the posse comitatus.

Amid immense enthusiasm, the established militia regiments in the eastern cities moved at once. Pennsylvania troops, a few companies, reached Washington the next day; Massachusetts troops came within four days, in spite of the violent resistance to the transfer of the regiment across Baltimore between the railroad stations; New York’s first regiment was but a day behind Massachusetts.

The Governors of Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas and Missouri sharply declined to honor the President’s requisition for troops to be used against the seven States of the Confederacy. The Governor of Delaware reported that he had no authority for raising troops.

Neither, for that matter, had President Lincoln, under strict construction of the laws. In his first proclamation he called Congress into special session, but not to meet until the Fourth of July, more than two and a half months later.

In the meanwhile, free from interference, he drove ahead to organize his war, making laws or breaking them as he had need to, creating armies, enlarging the Navy, declaring blockades, exercising all the war powers of Congress.

Before the guns spoke at Sumter and the President answered with his call for troops, there was everywhere, in the North, in the Border States unhappily torn between loyalties, and even in those States which had seceded, a strong party for peace. The fire of Sumter swept away all that in the North; the call of Lincoln for troops, in the South.

The New Orleans True Delta, which had opposed secession and sought peace, “spurned the compact with them who would enforce its free conditions with blood” — an attitude that was general among those who were not original secessionists.”

(The Story of the Confederacy, Robert Selph Henry, Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1931, excerpts pp. 34-35)

Saddled with Another Absolutist Regime

Alexander Hamilton was no friend of the Articles of Confederation and the decentralized republic it represented, but he did know the limits of newly-created federal power within the new constitution. His view was that States retained any authority not specifically delegated, and that State troops, as in 1861-1865, would constitutionally resist any invasion to preserve their independence and sovereignty.

James Madison wrote of this as well, stating that more than one State might band together, as in the later Confederate States of America, to resist any and all encroachments on State sovereignty by the federal agent created by the States.

Alexis de Toqueville, the French traveler in the America of 1831-32, saw firsthand the powers of “this strange new democratic monster” that would within thirty years gain control of the federal government and consolidate all, by force, into one common mass.

Saddled with Another Absolutist Regime

“In Toqueville’s opinion, the many levels of responsibility acted as buffers against the tyranny of the majority that ordinarily characterized democracy. Then United States possessed a centralized government but not a centralized administration.

To what extent American self-government was an outgrowth of the federal constitution, or merely a by-product of their habits and experiences, remains to be seen. This much, however, is clear: no subject so agitated the founding fathers as the possible loss of local responsibility under a federal government. The new constitution had to be designed in a way that maximized State autonomy.

As Hamilton put it in Federalist 62, “The equal vote allowed to each State [i.e. in the Senate] is at once a constitutional recognition of the portion of sovereignty remaining in the individual States, and an instrument for preserving that residual sovereignty.”

Although Hamilton favored a centralized economic authority, he argued that the federal government could not legitimately use the taxing power as an excuse to interfere in the internal government of the States. In Federalist 28, he argued that State militias would be called out to resist invasions of sovereignty.

[James] Madison concurred, and in Federalist 46 suggested that the States would band together to prevent such encroachments. Even the arch-federalist John Marshall declared (in McCulloch v. Maryland) that “no political dreamer was ever wild enough to think of breaking down the lines which separate the States, and of compounding the American people into one common mass.”

Interference in the life of local communities had been one of the complaints against the royal government. The anti-Federalists were afraid that, by adopting the Federal Constitution, they were saddling themselves with another absolutist regime. Mass democracy, as Toqueville realized, was dangerous.”

(The Politics of Human Nature, Thomas Fleming, Transaction Publishers, 1988, excerpts pg. 200)

“Who Shall Restrain the Will of the People?”

The American Founders foresaw the problem of abuse of power and the rise of a president who would cut the shackles of the Constitution, though they more feared sectionalism and an evil combination of the branches of government.

The abuse of power arose with a president who fomented war upon a State, which is treason under the Constitution, raised an army without the consent of Congress, and threatened to arrest and imprison all who defied him. With the formerly federal government afterward under absolute executive and congressional control, the schools educating young citizens on their fealty to national power.

James Louis Petrigu (1789-1863) was a South Carolina Unionist and served as that State’s attorney-general. His stated faith in education as the bulwark of a republic was unfortunately upset by government control of the schools.

“Who Shall Restrain the Will of the People?”

“As Petigru understood it, the United States Constitution confirmed what the Revolution had aimed to achieve. Reversing the Confederation’s dispersal of power was but a minor part of its accomplishment, for it had by its division of legitimate governmental power between the individual States and the federal union ensured the Revolution’s goals of restricting centralized public authority in the interests of individual liberty.

But individual freedom, as Petigru said in his 1844 Fourth of July oration, required positive government as well as restraints on legitimate power. This too the Constitution had accomplished with its system of checks and balances. Without both the powers allotted and the restraints imposed, “there would be no barrier between a dominant majority and the object they mean to effect.”

Thus, by creating a constitutional union that divided sovereignty between State and nation and checked the evil of concentrated power in any one branch of government, the American people had fulfilled the promise of their revolution.

But the problem of abuse of power was not obviated by the broadly democratic underpinning of the American experiment. Nowhere did Petigru more clearly address that dilemma than in the question he asked that Independence Day audience: “For who shall control where all are equal, or how shall the people restrain the will of the people?”

The best means to control the popular passions implied in his question was education. If a republic was to survive, he thought, its government must provide the schools necessary to cultivate in all its citizens the intellectual independence that was “the bright side of Democracy.”

Without access to knowledge, citizens would lack the ability to challenge their government, and individuals the means to protect their freedom . . . [and] withstand the force of majority opinion. And given Petigru’s opinion that “the Majority are wicked is a truth that passed long ago into a proverb,” republican government could not long survive unless it sponsored that learning, for “what hope is there for the human race when there is no minority?”

(James Louis Petigru: Southern Conservative, Southern Dissenter, William & Jane Pease, University of Georgia Press, 1995, excerpts pp. 149-150)

No Negotiation, No Compromise

Lincoln supported the Corwin Resolution of 1860 which stated that “No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State.”

His Republican party was “antislavery” only in regard to restricting black persons to the borders of the Southern States where they reside, and maintaining the territories of the West to the immigrants who supported his party.

After the secession of Southern States and his war against them begun, he offered protection for African slavery if they would return to his Union before January 1, 1863. When those States continued to fight for their independence, his total war pressed onward and the South’s economic wealth and political liberty was destroyed.

No Negotiation, No Compromise

“In the tumultuous six months between his election in November 1860 and the outbreak of the Civil War in April 1861, Abraham Lincoln rejected all diplomatic efforts to resolve the deepening crisis peacefully.

In the political dispute with the newly-constituted, but militarily weak, Confederate States of America, there would be no meaningful negotiations. No compromise would be offered or accepted. Instead, tensions between the two governments would be heightened, and the passions of the American public inflamed, by Lincoln’s provocative and deceptive rhetoric.

Lincoln’s words were a reflection of his unflagging desire to wage total war upon the South. It was to be a war that would last until the enemy agreed to unconditional surrender and US public officials and private contractors had made a financial killing. In 1878, Henry S. Wolcott, special investigator for the US War and Navy Departments, estimated “at least twenty, if not twenty-five percent of the entire expenditures of the government during the Rebellion, were tainted with fraud.”

Lincoln’s ideological view of politics equated progress and patriotism with support for a high protective tariff, internal improvements, and a national bank. Capturing just 39 percent of the popular vote, Lincoln considered his election a democratic mandate to pursue his agenda. A rejection of his economic program by the political leadership of the South, therefore, would be a rejection of democracy.

Lincoln’s program depended on the tariff, and the tariff depended on the South remaining in the Union, as did the survival of the Republican party. For that reason, Lincoln initially pledged his support for the Corwin Resolution, which had been adopted in the waning days of the Buchanan administration. This was the original Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

It had been passed by the House and the Senate, and signed by President Buchanan, but it was never ratified, because, by then, many Southern States had decided to secede. The fact that the South withdrew from the Union despite the passage of this amendment indicated other issues besides slavery motivated their secession. Foremost was the South’s embrace of free trade, the antithesis of Lincoln’s economic agenda.”

(Lincoln, Diplomacy and War, Joseph E. Fallon, Chronicles, April 2008, excerpts pg. 43)

Results of Confederate Independence

War against the South commenced in April 1861 was not the only option open to Lincoln. He could have followed his predecessor’s view that he had no constitutional authority to wage war against a State – which is treason. The proper option would have been for a president to facilitate peace and call a convention of States to iron out differences, and find compromises all considered best. This is how the federation of States was created by the Founders.

Neither was war the only solution to African slavery in the United States – recall that Lincoln offered Southern States no interference with slavery if they would return to the Union. The South was seeking independence, and wanted to solve the riddle of slavery within State boundaries as the Northern States had done – in their own time, and at their own pace.

Results of Confederate Independence

“It is legitimate to inquire, in view of all the facts discussed, what would have been the effect on our condition, our institutions, and our future relations if the Confederate States had established their independence. I can, of course, only give my opinion, founded on certain physical features of the country, on certain racial characteristics of the people North and South, and on the sentiments of other nations, as well as on the fundamental principles for which we contended.

Emancipation. – There would have been certainly the gradual emancipation of the slaves on the following grounds:

The sentiment of the civilized world was opposed to slavery; and though our system was misunderstood and misjudged, yet no nation can hold out against a universal moral sentiment.

There was a feeling throughout the South from the beginning of the republic favorable to emancipation as soon as it could be done without danger to all concerned. If the abolition propaganda had not aroused opposition by its unjust misrepresentations and denunciations of slaveholders, the Border States would have brought it about several years before the war. A

s it was, throughout the South there was a growing effort to correct to confessed evils of the system. The example of the Border States would have necessitated some form of emancipation, some modification of the system in the States farther south that would have preserved the white man’s control, while giving the Negro freedom. The conduct of the slaves during the war while left in charge of the master’s family was without parallel in history; and this not only deserved freedom, but it called forth the sentiment of the Southern people favoring it.

Gen. R.E. Lee freed his slaves in 1863.

I believe that emancipation would have come in such a way as to avoid the dangers of race conflict, of social equality, and of giving the Negro a political franchise to which he was not fitted. The South would have given him his liberty and every right necessary to the development of his manhood, and it would have secured him the hearty interest and help of the white man. No doubt political rights would have been granted gradually as the Negroes became prepared for their exercise.

A Restored Union – There would have been ultimately a restoration of the Union on terms that would leave no ground of misunderstanding as to the several spheres of Federal and State sovereignty. The rights of the States would have been thoroughly and clearly guarded. The rights of the central government would have been definitely marked and limited. This would have been the old Union as originally intended by the fathers. The Constitution could not have been set aside by the interpretation of a majority of a Supreme Court appointed by a partisan executive.

The Taxing Power Guarded. – The Constitution of the new Union would have so guarded the taxing powers of the central government that it would not have been possible for it by tariffs to build up one section of the country at the expense of the others, nor to build up great trusts to levy tribute on the whole country for the benefit of the few.

The Confederate Constitution was simply a revision of the old, or rather the clear statement of the real meaning of the old.”

(Results of Confederate Independence: The Failure of the Confederacy – Was it a Blessing? James H. M’Neilly, D.D., Confederate Veteran, April 1916, excerpts pp. 164-165)

Targeting Key West Civilians

The State of Florida withdrew from the Union on January 10, 1861 – three days afterward a US Army captain moved his troops into the nearly-complete Fort Zachary Taylor at Key West, a fortress built specifically to protect the city and State from invasion.

Though then-President James Buchanan admitted no authority to wage war against a State — which was the very definition of treason in Article III, Section 3 – his actions with regard to reinforcing US forts were viewed as hostile and intended to precipitate a conflict.

The economic reality of an industrial North seeking protectionist tariffs and an agricultural South seeking the opposite would eventually lead to separation. A local newspaper had editorialized its concern over Northern sectionalism in 1832 during the heat of the discussion over the National Tariff Act of that year. It read:

“We have always thought that the value of the union consisted in affording equal rights and equal protection to every citizen; when, therefore, its objects are so perverted as to become a means of impoverishment to one section, whilst it aggrandizes another, when it becomes necessary to sacrifice one portion of the States for the good of the rest, the Union has lost its value to us; and we are bound, by a recurrence to first principles, to maintain our rights and defend our lives and property.”

Targeting Key West Civilians

“Construction of Fort [Zachary] Taylor [at Key West] was nearly complete when Florida seceded from the Union. On the night of January 13, 1861, Capt. [John] Brannan marched his [44] men from the barracks to Fort Taylor – taking possession of the fort while the city slept.

While the majority of the citizenry was for the Confederacy, there were some Union supporters on the island. Throughout the war, pro-Union supporters, white and black, tattled on the doings of their pro-Confederate neighbors, but island life in general remained calm.

One incident in February 1863, however, united all the residents against the Union army. The commander of the fort was ordered to round up “all persons who have husbands, brothers or sons in Rebel employment, and all other persons who have at any time declined to take the oath of allegiance, or who have uttered a single disloyal word, in order that they may all be placed within the Rebel lines.”

Six hundred citizens, including some staunch Union supporters whose sons had joined the Confederate army, fell into these categories. They were ordered to pack up and board ships that would take them to Hilton Head, S.C. According to one citizen:

“. . . The town has been in the utmost state of excitement. Men sacrificing their property, selling off their all, getting ready to be shipped off; women and children crying at the thought of being sent off among the Rebels. It was impossible for any good citizen to remain quiet and unconcerned at such a time.”

At the last moment, orders arrived superseding the operation. The protests of the “good citizens” had been heard.”

(Key West, Images of the Past, Joan & Wright Langley, Belland & Swift Publishers, 1982, excerpts pp. 20-21)

Southern Fears of Northern Interests

Patrick Henry of Virginia was one of the most vocal opponents of the constitution which eventually would supersede the Articles of Confederation. He predicted that members of Congress would become a new aristocracy and vote themselves large salaries; that national control over State militia was dangerous to freedom; that Northern commercial interests would menace the South. James Madison could only reply that the “Constitution was not perfect, but as good as might have been made.”

Southern Fears of Northern Interests

“The Virginia delegates returning from Philadelphia had hardly reached their firesides when a long campaign began against the Constitution. In letters, pamphlets and speeches there poured forth almost every conceivable argument against it. It contained no bill of rights, and its adoption would lead to the destruction of personal liberties; it would bring back monarchy; it would create a ruling aristocracy; and it protected the abominable slave trade.

But above all, the Constitution was a dagger aimed at the South, and its point must be blunted or avoided. It must be amended to protect against all these evils. Were it not possible to secure changes, Virginia must think of creating a Southern federation in which the rights of person, republicanism, and Southern interests would be effectively defended.

One of the more moderate enemies of the Constitution was Richard Henry Lee . . . [writing that] “the Constitution threatened Southern interests; and he emphatically declared that Congressional authority to regulate commerce was a menace to the South. Said he:

“In this congressional legislature a bare majority can enact commercial laws, so that the representatives of seven Northern States, as they will have a majority, can, by law, create the most oppressive monopolies upon the five Southern States, whose circumstances and productions are essentially different from theirs, although not a single man of their voters are the representatives of, or amenable to, the people of the Southern States . . . it is supposed that the policy of the Southern States will prevent such abuses! But how feeble, sir, is policy when opposed to interest among trading people.”

Far more forthcoming in denunciation was Benjamin Harrison, who wrote to Washington: “If the constitution is carried into effect, the States south of the [Potomac], will be little more than appendages to those northward of it. . . . In the nature of things they must sooner or later, establish a tyranny, not inferior to the triumvirate or centum viri of Rome.”

Equally vigorous language was used by George Mason [who] wanted amendments protecting both personal and States’ rights. He feared the Constitution would bring either oligarchy or monarchy and Northern dominion.

[Patrick] Henry . . . aroused the fears of men indebted to British merchants: those grasping enemy creditors who would make use of the Federal courts-to-be . . . [and that] the Northerners would control that government, and they would discriminate grievously against the Southern people whenever they could secure gain for themselves.”

(The First South, John Richard Allen, LSU Press, 1961, excerpts pp. 111-114)

Opinions on State Rights

It is written that what the French took from American Revolution was their theory of revolution, not their theory of government. When French officers were leaving for home, they were cautioned by Samuel Cooper of Boston to “not let your hopes be inflamed by our triumph on this virgin soil. You will carry our sentiments with you, but if you try to plant them in a country that has been corrupt for centuries, you will encounter obstacles more formidable than ours. Our liberty has been won with blood; you will have to shed it in torrents before liberty can take root in the old world.”

Opinions on State Rights

“The true natural check on absolute democracy is the federal system, which limits the central government by the powers reserved [to the States], and the State governments by the powers they have ceded. It is the one immortal tribute of America to political science, for State rights are at the same time the consummation and the guard of democracy.

So much so an American officer wrote, a few months before [First Manassas]:

“The people in the South are evidently unanimous in the opinion that slavery in endangered by the current of events, and it is useless to attempt to alter that opinion. As our government is founded on the will of the people, when that will is fixed our government is powerless.”

Those are the words of Sherman, the man who, by his march through Georgia, cut the Confederacy in two. Lincoln himself wrote, at the same time:

“I declare that the maintenance inviolate of the rights of States, and the right of each State to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that balance of powers on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depend.”

Such was the force with which State rights held the minds of abolitionists on the eve of the war that bore them down.”

(Lectures on the French Revolution, John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, Liberty Fund, 2000, excerpts pp. 31-32)

Mar 27, 2019 - Articles of Confederation, Conservatism and Liberalism, Democracy, The United States Constitution    Comments Off on The Problem of 1787

The Problem of 1787

The intention of the 1787 Constitution was a strictly limited, representative government with two branches of Congress to represent both the democratic and conservative principles, and an electoral college to elect the President.

Though the Constitution became a dead letter in 1861 with a president assuming dictatorial powers, in 1913 the conservative principle that the Founders had put in place to control the democratic principle, was destroyed by the Seventeenth Amendment.

The Problem of 1787

“When in May, 1787, the delegates of the Federal Convention assembled themselves in Philadelphia, their instructions were to prepare amendments to the Articles of Confederation under which the thirteen States were very loosely held together. That was understood to be their sole and express business – to amend the Articles.

Anyone who will read the debates may see for himself that the delegates . . . were possessed of two fears . . . One was the fear of monarchy; the other was the fear of democracy.

Specifically, in one case it was fear of the executive, who should be called President, lest he turn into a monarch; and, in the other case, it was fear of the people, lest they give themselves up to temptations of democracy. In both cases, it was fear – of what? Of tyranny. The problem was how to limit them.

The one least considered at first and never returned to was that the President should be elected by popular vote, for it was agreed that this would increase the danger of an elective monarchy [and] if one branch of [Congress] was going to be elected by popular vote . . . there was the danger that he would collaborate with the demagogues in the popular branch . . . to encroach upon the Constitution and overthrow it.

At last it was decided that the people should elect electors and the electors elect the President, a very awkward arrangement, and yet the best they could think of to avoid the evil of submitting the choice to direct popular vote. Then was the question of how the two branches of Congress should be elected. It was easily agreed, and yet not unanimously, that . . . the House of Representatives should be elected by popular vote.

[The] other branch of Congress, to be called the Senate, must not be elected by popular vote. What was needed was an austere, resolute Senate, unresponsive to popular clamor, with long tenure of office, perhaps for life. For this was to be the conservative principle. It was to restrain “the fury of democracy.”

Or, as Randolph said: “The object of this second branch is to control the democratic branch of the national legislature. If it not be a firm body, the other branch, being more numerous and coming directly from the people, will overwhelm it. The democratic licentiousness of the State legislatures proves the necessity of a firm Senate.”

In this matter there was scarcely any contrary opinion. The idea that the Senate should represent the conservative principle as a check upon the democratic principle was practically unanimous. What came of these deliberations was our Constitution. And how should such a Government, the first of its kind in the world, be defined? [Only] three words were necessary – constitutional, representative, limited.”

(A Washington Errand, Garet Garrett, Saturday Evening Post, January 29, 1938, excerpts pp. 31-32)

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