Browsing "Union Leagues and Klans"

Black Democrats Jeered and Hissed in 1876

During the 1876 gubernatorial campaign to rescue his State from the Radical rule of the corrupt Massachusetts-born governor, Daniel Chamberlain, Democratic candidate Wade Hampton challenged the many blacks in his audiences to advance to a new level of freedom. “You have, ever since emancipation been slaves to your political masters [of the Republican Party]. As members of the Loyal [Union] League you have been fettered slaves to a party.” Since the war’s end, Radical Republicans used the Union League to elect its candidates, suppress political opposition, and terrorize black men who sided with Democrats.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Black Democrats Jeered and Hissed in 1876

“City of Dreadful Night.” Always the words recall two nights in Charleston almost exactly ten years apart – September 1, 1886, the night after the earthquake, September 6, 1876, [the] night of the King Street riot. The riot was the worse, by far, to live through.

The riot night there was tumult and confusion of hate and fear and pistol shots, howls of wild rage, savage threats and curses, appeals of pursued and bloody men for rescue, mercy and life. The riot could have been prevented. All know that now.

It was one of the tragic incidents of the 1876 campaign and . . . it gave Charleston perhaps the most fearful night of her eventful history. The white people were overconfident. They knew unrest and anger were seething and increasing among the Negroes and were prepared to resist and suppress an outbreak; but the outbreak came before it was expected . . .

Looking back it is easy to see that the storm signals were plain. The Radical Republican leaders had noted with growing dismay and fury the slow but steady additions to the number of Negroes enrolling in Democratic [party] clubs, for one reason or another. A riotous attack had been made on the Negro club in Mount Pleasant.

The meeting of the Democratic club of Ward 8, August 31, in the old carriage factory, Spring Street near Rutledge Avenue, was invaded by a number of boisterous [Republican] Negroes who interrupted . . . [as they sought an] opportunity to injure Isaac Rivers, a huge black man and an effective speaker, working for the Democrats, and J.W. Sawyer, another colored speaker. Rivers and Sawyer were hustled, threatened and cursed, but escaped uninjured.

On the night of September 5 . . . On motion of Colonel J.D. Aiken a committee of seven was appointed charged especially with protection of colored Democrats.

[A] mob of Negroes packed the street around the entrance to the meeting place of Ward 5. The white men formed a square, with Rivers and other Negro Democrats in the middle, and marched into King Street through a roar of jeers and hisses. They were aided by police and the disturbance ended.

A meeting of the colored Democratic club of Ward 4 was held the night of the sixth at Archer’s Hall, King Street, J.B. Jenkins, vice-president, presiding. The Hunkidories and Live Oaks, Negro Radical Republican secret organizations had gathered their forces and were massed, waiting, in King Street, armed with pistols, clubs and sling shots, the last made with a pound of lead attached to a twelve-inch leather strap and providing a deadly weapon at close range.

Mr. Barnwell led the white men gallantly. They checked to mob by firing pistols just over the heads of those in the front rank . . . the police arrived at the nick of time, charged, used their clubs and were resisted fiercely. At Citadel Green the fighting became desperate . . . and several police were insensible or disabled.

A new mob of Negroes poured out of John Street, shrieking “Blood!” A black policeman named Green and J.M. Buckner, white, were shot, fell, and were drawn out of the fighting crowd with difficulty. The fifteen white men who remained on their feet struggled into the Citadel grounds and delivered the Negro Democrats, none of whom was injured.

Then the whites fled as they could and the Negro mob took the street [and] divided into gangs of fifty to one-hundred and paraded, firing pistols, defying the police, chasing and mercilessly beating every white man they could see and catch, smashing store windows, shouting threats to exterminate the white population.

The main guard house was filled with wounded white men, some of them picked up insensible and probably left for dead. Mr. Buckner was seen to be dying. Several policemen were fearfully wounded. Two reporters for the News and Courier sent to the scene of the riot were beaten, struck with stones and rescued by police only with much effort.

Panic spread fast and everywhere as people understood that war had begun on race lines and that Negroes appeared to have possession of the city. White men were compelled to stay in their homes with shivering and terror-stricken families because any white man venturing on the street alone invited death uselessly.”

(Hampton and His Red Shirts: South Carolina’s Deliverance in 1876, Alfred B. Williams, Crown Rights Books, 2001 (original 1935), excerpts pp. 119-121)

Lincoln Saves Ohio for the Union

When Ohio Democratic politician Clement Vallandigham was banished to the Confederacy by Lincoln in late May 1863, General Braxton Bragg congratulated the exile on his arrival in the land of liberty, and told that he would find freedom of speech and conscience in the Dixie. Vallandigham ran for Ohio governor in 1863 from exile in Canada, but was defeated by a well-oiled Republican machine and its soldier vote controlled by politically-appointed officers.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Lincoln Saves Ohio for the Union

“[Vallandigham’s banishment] seemed to substantiate Confederate contentions that Lincoln was a despot, that civil rights had evaporated in the North, and that secession had saved the Southern States from Lincolnian tyranny.

“The incarceration of Vallandigham,” wrote John Moncure Daniel of the Richmond Examiner, “marks the last step of despotism – there is now nothing now to distinguish the politics of the North from that of Austria under Francis, and that of Naples . . . under King Bomba [Ferdinand I].”

The editor of the Richmond Sentinel wrote in a like manner: “The trembling Chinaman prostrates himself no more submissively before the “celestial” sovereign . . . than they [Northerners] will henceforth before the majestic ABRAHAM, the joker.”

Vallandigham’s arrival in Canada coincided with the New York City anti-draft riots of July 13-16, 1863. Some Republican editors even made the wild charge that Vallandigham had connived with Confederate agents to bring about the riots . . . one Republican editor devised a forged letter . . . that the exile had helped plan the riots.

In the months that followed, Republicans in Ohio marshaled all their forces to defeat Vallandigham in the October 13 election. Since campaign money was plentiful, Republicans flooded the State with dozens of tracts and propaganda pamphlets . . . and anti-Vallandigham statements extracted from generals’ speeches and soldiers letters. Some of the quotations were genuine, others fabricated.

The Republicans disseminated their campaign propaganda through postmasters and the Union Leagues. Since every postmaster was a Republican – often the Republican editor in the village or the city, too – he had a vested interest in Vallandigham’s defeat.

[Ohio Democrats retorted that they] resented New England’s efforts to impose her moral, cultural and political views upon their section. They decried New England’s ascendancy in business and politics, her wish to hold the West in bondage. They ranted against the tariffs, against high railroad rates, and against the excise on whiskey . . . [and that Republican candidates] were railroad presidents and “tools” of the monopolists, speculators, and army contractors.”

But October 13 proved to be an unlucky day for Vallandigham, who went down to defeat by 100,000 votes. [His opponent] received 61,752 more “home” votes . . . and the “soldier vote” (collected in the field) added nearly 40,000 more to that majority.

Lincoln, jubilant, supposedly wired . . . “Glory to God in the highest; Ohio has been saved for the Union.”

(The Limits of Dissent, Clement L. Vallandigham & the Civil War, Frank L. Klement, Fordham University Press, 1998, excerpts pp. 202-203; 232-233-235; 252)

Another Casualty of the War

It is written that “despite the changes which the catastrophe of 1865 made inevitable, the distinctive culture of the region was never destroyed.” Both races had to return to living together in the same land, but social relations deteriorated with the political machinations of the carpetbaggers and the Republican Party’s Union League. For simple political opportunism and lasting hegemony over the defeated South, the latter taught the black man to hate his lifelong white neighbor and vote for the Northern party which impoverished the South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Another Casualty of the War

“Since the Civil War, there has been a decline in what the ante-bellum traveler Frederick Law Olmsted called “the close habitation and association between black and white.” Immediately after the war the two races separated in churches, and for the cultural give and take of the plantation was substituted a dual school system which sealed off the children of one race from another.

Gradually it became impossible for a white person to teach in a Negro school without losing caste. When the courts forced the attendance of Negroes in white schools, no genuine interracial fraternity developed. No longer did the two races have what William Faulkner calls “the same parties: the identical music from identical instruments, crude fiddles and guitars, now in the big house with candles and silk dresses and champagne, now in the dirt-floored cabins with smoking pine knots and calico and water sweetened with molasses.”

The whites have been able to implement a growing aversion to intimate contact with the blacks through the use of labor-saving devices and through the spread of progressive notions concerning the dignity of labor. Despite Supreme Court decisions, immutable social custom makes for increased residential segregation, especially in the newer sections of the cities.

One of the most persistent beliefs about the South is that the Negro is in a constant state of revolt against the social pattern of the section. Despite a vast literature to the contrary, the facts of history refute this assumption.

As a slave the black man never attempted general insurrection and did not run away often. “The slaves,” says a historian of the Confederacy, Robert Cotterill, “supported the Confederacy (albeit somewhat involuntarily).” It is now proved that outside compulsions rather than inner ambitions prompted the political insubordinations of Reconstruction. Their artificial character is proved by the fact that they were not accompanied by much social insubordinations and by the fact that they disappeared as soon as the outside compulsions were removed.

Indicative of the willingness of the rank and file blacks to accept the status quo are the words of a conservative demagogue who knew the Negro well. “If the election of the governor of South Carolina were left “entirely to the Negro vote,” declared Cole L. Blease in 1913, “I would receive without trouble 75 to 90 percent.”

(The Everlasting South, Francis Butler Simkins, LSU Press, 1963, excerpts pp. 48-49)

Preaching Racial Hatred in the South

Descending upon the prostrate South were the “Carpetbaggers” – Northern adventurers settling in the South and bent upon aiding the Republican Party through organizing the freedmen politically. Many were “astute demagogues who through vague speeches and tricks of mass organization won the confidence of the naïve Negro.” Northern newspaperman Horace Greeley described them as “stealing and plundering, many of them with both arms around Negroes, and their hands in their rear pockets, seeing if they cannot pick a paltry dollar out of them.” The infamous Union League was the destructive instrument of the Republican Party which drove a political wedge between Southern blacks and whites.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Preaching Racial Hatred in the South

“Scalawags were Southerners willing to espouse Republicanism for reasons of opportunism. When the pro-Negro policies of the carpetbaggers caused the scalawags to desert Republicanism, Northern leaders, conscious of the power of numbers, to an ever greater degree relied upon pure Negro support.

The principal agency of the carpetbaggers was the Union or Loyal League. Initially it was composed almost entirely of white unionists with patriotic rather than political aims. As the [radical] plans of Congress unfolded in 1867, its main purpose became the organization of Negro voters [as Republicans]. In every Southern community trusting Negroes were organized into secret lodges of the order which indulged in mummery and high-sounding platitudes. In its heyday the Union League was said to have more than 200,000 members.

Ceremony, talk about freedom and equal rights, sententious references to the Declaration of Independence, accompanied by the clanging of chains, the burning of weird lights, and prayers and songs – all had their compelling effect upon the Negroes’ emotions and thoughts. They were repeatedly reminded that their interests were eternally at war with those of Southern whites, and that their freedom demanded the continued supremacy of the Republican party.

As a consequence of these teachings, the Union League “voted the Negroes like “herds of senseless cattle.” One member described it as the ‘place we learn the law.” When asked why he voted Republican, another member replied “I can’t read, and I can’t write . . . We go by instructions. We don’t’ know nothing much.”

During the presidential campaign of 1868, the Union League of North Carolina declared that if Grant were not elected, the Negroes would be remanded to slavery; if elected, they would have farms, mules, and hold public office.

One fact is of fundamental importance in understanding the course of radical Reconstruction: the Negroes were aroused to political consciousness not of their own accord but by outside forces. This revolution in Southern behavior, unlike the more lasting political revolutions of history, was not a reflection of accomplishments in other fields.

Attainment of political equality by the Negroes, in other words, was not attended by social and economic gains, possibly not even signifying a general demand for these advantages.

Such a lack of support not only meant that the radical political experiment could be destroyed almost as easily as it was created, but that participation of the Negro in politics would be erratic and irresponsible. Even if it had not been that way, it would have been so regarded, because the Negroes did not preface their attempt to win political equality with the attainment of respect in other fields of social endeavor.”

(A History of the South, Francis Butler Simkins, Alfred A. Knopf, 1953, excerpts, pp. 272-273)

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)

Irretrievably Bad Schemes in South Carolina

In the 1876 gubernatorial election in South Carolina, incumbent carpetbag Governor Daniel H. Chamberlain “bombarded the North with lurid accounts of the [Hamburg, SC riot] based on the excited claims of Negro participants” and that this act of “atrocity and barbarism” was designed to prevent Negroes from voting, though, as a matter of fact, the riot occurred five months before the election.” A Massachusetts native and carpetbagger of dubious reputation, Chamberlain left much evidence of a willingness for making his office pay.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Irretrievably Bad Schemes in South Carolina

“In an Atlantic Monthly article published twenty-five years later, ex-Governor Chamberlain stated that] “If the [election] of 1876 had resulted in the success of the Republican party, that party could not, for want of material, even when aided by the Democratic minority, have given pure or competent administration. The vast preponderance of ignorance and incapacity in that [Republican] party, aside from downright dishonesty, made it impossible . . . the flood gates of misrule would have been reopened . . . The real truth is, hard as it may be to accept it, that the elements put in combination by the reconstruction scheme of [Radical Republicans Thaddeus] Stevens and [Oliver] Morton were irretrievably bad, and could never have resulted . . . in government fit to be endured.”

While federal troops were still holding the State House in Columbia, The Nation informed its readers, “Evidently there is nothing to be done but to let the sham give way to reality . . . to see without regret . . . the blacks deprived of a supremacy as corrupting to themselves as it was dangerous to society at large.”

As Congressman S.S. Cox of New York and Ohio remarked:

“Since the world began, no parallel can be found to the unblushing knavery which a complete history of carpet-bag government in these [Southern] States would exhibit. If the entire body of penitentiary convicts could be invested with supreme power in a State, they could not present a more revolting mockery of all that is honorable and respectful in the conduct of human affairs. The knaves and their sympathizers, North and South, complain that the taxpayers, the men of character and intelligence in South Carolina and other States, finally overthrew, by unfair and violent means, the reign of scoundrelism, enthroned by ignorance. If ever revolutionary methods were justifiable for the overthrow of tyranny and robbery, assuredly the carpet-bag domination in South Carolina called for it. Only scoundrels and hypocrites will pretend to deplore the results.”

(Wade Hampton and the Negro: The Road Not Taken; Hampton M. Jarrell, USC Press, 1949, excerpt, pp. 54-55)

Consolidating the Northern Triumph

At North Carolina’s 1867 State convention at Raleigh, Northerners were actively creating Republican Party organizations in every county, and all featured the revival of secret political societies like the Heroes of America and the infamous Union League. White Republicans were quick to realize that mobilizing the black vote was the key to dominating and controlling Southern politics. As Joseph G. de R. Hamilton wrote in “Reconstruction in North Carolina (1914, pg. 242), “In a spectacular way the colored delegates were given a prominent place in the convention. Most of the white speakers expressed delight at the advancement of the Negroes to the right of suffrage.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Consolidating the Northern Triumph

“With the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment and the elimination of slavery, every African-American was counted as one person and not three-fifths of a person for purposes of congressional representation.

If the white and black voters of the South united, the southern and Northern Democrats could possibly control both houses of Congress. The Republican Party went into panic mode – what was to be done?

The answer was simple: export racial hatred from the North to the South with a little twist. Instead of white people being taught to hate black people, as was so common in New England, Republicans would teach Southern black voters to fear and hate Southern white voters.

It should be pointed out that most Northern States at that time still prohibited African-Americans from voting. By mobilizing a large bloc of angry black voters and prohibiting large numbers of white Southern voters from exercising the right to vote, the Republican Party insured its rule in Washington.

The Republican Party’s fear of a racially untied South was made even more frightening when former Confederate leaders spoke out in favor of black/white unity. Just a few months after the close of the War, from New Orleans, General [PGT] Beauregard stated:

“The Negro is Southern born; with a little education and some property qualifications he can be made to take sufficient interest in the affairs and prosperity of the South to insure an intelligent vote.”

No one can question the Confederate General who is slandered the most as an evil racist is Nathan Bedford Forrest. In a speech to a group of black voters, Forrest reflected the goodwill that had existed before Republican Reconstruction, He states:

“We were born on the same soil, breathe the same air, live in the same land, and why should we not be brothers and sisters . . . I want you to do as I do – go to the polls and select the best men to vote for . . . although we differ in color, we should not differ in sentiment . . . do your duty as citizens, and if any are oppressed, I will be your friend.”

The use of race-hatred became a very successful Republican tool to divide the South into warring parties. These warring parties, both black and white, failed to realize that in the process of enriching Republican industrialists, bankers and politicians, they were at the same time impoverishing themselves.”

(Punished with Poverty: The Suffering South, Prosperity to Poverty & the Continuing Struggle; James & Walter Kennedy, Shotwell Publishing, 2016, excerpts, pp. 65-66)

Dec 22, 2016 - America Transformed, Race and the South, Reconstruction, Southern Culture Laid Bare, Union Leagues and Klans    Comments Off on Stealing the Name of the Klan

Stealing the Name of the Klan

The Ku Klux Klan had two reincarnations since being organized after the War. The W.J. Simmons Klan of 1915 was a nativist organization concerned about the influx on European immigrants and their effect upon American institutions; the most recent Klan of few numbers and many government informants has little if any resemblance to the original. The 1915 Klan can be compared to the strongly anti-Catholic Know-Nothing Party of the 1850s – many of whose members joined Lincoln’s sectional Republican Party.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Stealing the Name of the Klan

“[An] event that may surprise many persons who think of the Ku Klux Klan as a bigoted organization opposed to Catholics, Jews and Negroes. They forget that a generation earlier there was another Klan, from which the Klan of the present century stole the name, and that the objective of the earlier Klan, while quite without sanction of law, were scarcely comparable.

Bernard and [brother] Hartwig were rummaging in their attic at Camden. Opening an old trunk they found the regalia of a Knight of the Ku Klux Klan. It belonged to their father, in whose veins according to family records, flowed nothing but Jewish blood.

Their mother, who had followed the boys up the attic steps to see what they were doing, froze with fear when she saw them unearth the regalia. Dr. Baruch would certainly pay with his life if his membership in the Klan should be disclosed. She swore them to secrecy, and, as usual, they obeyed her commands.

In telling this story, years later, Baruch remarked that, far as he had ever heard, no member of the Klan was ever betrayed. Who were members of that organization of Reconstruction days was one of the best kept secrets in all history.”

(Bernard Baruch, Park Bench Statesman, Carter Field, Whittlesey House, 1944, pp. 2-3)

South Carolina’s Legislature of Crooked Aliens

Like other conquered Southern States, South Carolinians at the close of the war found themselves within a Union not of their choosing, yet they we not “of” this Union. Their governor was a prisoner of war, they were under martial law, and would be soon under the rule of their former servants.  The Robert Small (or Smalls) mentioned below is credited with the theft of the steamer Planter during the war, and delivering it to the Northern fleet which was aiding and abetting the enemy, and treason against South Carolina.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

South Carolina’s Legislature of Crooked Aliens

“In the [postwar South Carolina] Senate Chamber sat Major Corbin . . . a captain of Vermont troops badly wounded in the war and for a time in Libby prison, he had remained in military service until the end of the war and was then ordered to Charleston in charge of the Freedmen’s Bureau.

In the same body with Major [David T.] Corbin sat Robert Small, who while still a slave had won national fame as a pilot by running the Planter out of Charleston harbor to the Federal fleet. Some of the local black folk said that he did this in fear and trembling at the mouth of a loaded pistol leveled by a braver and more determined slave, one who never shared in the fame of the Planter exploit and was big enough not to care to.

Another of those South Carolina Senators was Beverly Nash. Black as charcoal . . . he was the perfect type of the antebellum ideal of a “white gentlemen’s colored gentleman.”

Besides those three . . . Senators, there was Leslie, once a member of the New York legislature, shrewd, crooked and cynical. And there was  [B.F.] Whittemore [of Massachusetts], who had got national notoriety while in Congress by selling a West Point cadetship for money instead of the customary price which was influence.

For the rest, the Senate floor was occupied by whites and blacks . . . But there was nobody of the old romantic type of South Carolina aristocrat. At the president’s desk sat a Negro, Lieutenant-Governor A.J. Ransier, who presided with dignity . . . A year or two before he died and [he was] working as a street cleaner in Columbia . . .

In the [House] chamber at the other end of the capitol building . . . were a great body of members, mostly Negroes. The body as a whole was in a legislative atmosphere so saturated with corruption that the honest and honorable members of either race had no more influence in it than an orchid might have in a mustard patch.”

(A “Carpetbagger” in South Carolina, Louis F. Post; Journal of Negro History, Carter G. Woodson, editor, Volume 10, January 1925, excerpts, pp. 15-17)

 

Uncontrolled Power of the Radicals

While the Northern States held African slaves there was no external anti-slavery agitation that threatened them with slave revolt and race war — those States settled their slavery question peacefully and in their own time. The American South wanted to peacefully resolve the question as well but faced relentless agitation fomenting slave revolt and race war by Northern fanatics. After crushing the South militarily, assuring Northern political control of the country required harnessing the freedmen to the Republican Party, and the notorious Union League was the vehicle to accomplish this. The Ku Klux Klan was the predictable result of the Union League.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Uncontrolled Power of the Radicals

“While [President Jefferson] Davis was suffering . . . in his prison cell . . . like a dark cloud in the sky was the determination of the Northern Radicals to prevent [Andrew Johnson’s] moderate policy [toward the defeated South]. In a letter to Thomas F. Bayard, on 11 November 1865, Benjamin, referring to the grave Negro problem which had remained after the emancipation of the slaves, said:

“If the Southern States are allowed without interference to regulate the transition of the Negro from his former state to that of a freed man they will eventually work out the problem successfully, though with great difficulty and trouble, and I doubt not that the recuperative energy of the people will restore a large share of their former material prosperity much sooner than it is generally believed.”

Yet he added this warning:

“But if [the Southern people] are obstructed and thwarted by the fanatics, and if external influences are brought to bear on the Negro and influence his ignorant fancy with wild dreams of social and political equality, I shudder for the bitter future which is now in store for my unhappy country.”

A year afterwards, in late October 1866, Jefferson Davis was being treated more humanely, but Benjamin wrote [James H.] Mason that he greatly feared “an additional rigorous season, passed in confinement should prove fatal.” And he added bitterly:

“It is the most shameful outrage that such a thing should be even possible, but I have ceased hope anything like justice or humanity demands from the men who seem now to have uncontrolled power over public affairs in the United States. I believe [Andrew] Johnson would willingly release Mr. Davis, but he is apparently cowed by the overbearing violence of the Radicals and dare not act in accordance with his judgment.”

(Judah P. Benjamin, Confederate Statesman, Robert Douthat Meade, Oxford University Press, 1943, excerpts, pp. 340-342)

 

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