Browsing "Union Leagues and Klans"

Loyal Leagues, Klans and Precedents

In postwar North Carolina the Loyal Leagues, Union League, etc., of the North’s Republican party were regarded as hostile organizations and designed to instill hatred in the freedmen against their white neighbors – for political purposes. During 1869 “there was an epidemic of barn-burnings in several counties of the State” charged to the Leagues as they encouraged blacks to destroy the agricultural livelihood of white farmers who were Democrats. Southern leaders advised Northern Republicans that if they disbanded their Loyal Leagues, the Klan would immediately disappear.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Loyal Leagues, Klans and Precedents

“The part played by the Loyal Leagues and similar organizations [Union League] in provoking the Southern people to defensive expedients was recognized by fair-minded Northern newspapers, and when in April, 1868, General [George G.] Meade issued an order for the suppression of the Ku Klux Klan, the New York Herald commented:

“The order of General Meade . . . will meet with the approval of all who espouse the cause of order and good government. But the General must not exercise his power on that organization alone. He must rigorously suppress the secret “Loyal Leagues” of Negroes; for they are equally, if not more, pernicious in their influence than the white man’s society.

The arrogance of the Negroes and their attempt to reduce the whites of the South to political vassalage by means of the “Loyal Leagues,” and the many other outrages that have been committed by these same Leagues, are equally as dangerous to the peace and safety of society as are the retaliatory actions of the Ku Klux Klan.”

An Alabama paper in an editorial denouncing the Loyal League said: “The League is nothing more than a [black] Ku Klux Klan . . . Let [their carpetbagger leader] break up the League and thus remove all temptation from the Kluxes to come here.”

It was the usual practice for the Leagues, when they held their meetings, to throw out armed pickets in all directions about the building . . . [a white resident commented that] “The Negroes acted here just like an invading army after they had conquered everything and were going rough-shod over everything. They thought they were the big dogs in the ring.”

Even so prejudiced an observer as the carpetbagger Judge [Albion] Tourgee said: “There is no doubt about this feeling, taken in connection with the enfranchisement of the blacks, induced thousands of good citizens to ally themselves with the Ku Klux Klan upon the idea of that they were acting in self-defense in so doing, and especially that they were securing the safety of their wives and children thereby.”

In such a state of affairs . . . throughout the South there began spontaneously to spring up local defensive groups, generally in the form of secret societies, designed primarily to offset the aggressiveness of the Loyal Leagues.

The members of the Boston Tea Party – and the members of the Ku Klux Klan – were but following a precedent set for them in earlier days in other lands. England had known the Moss Troopers, who took drastic means of manifesting their disapproval of the iron rule of the Normans; the misrule of Louis XI of France had resulted in the formation of that powerful and mysterious organization known as the Free Companions; Italy had its Carbonari during the Napoleonic wars.

Freedom loving people everywhere, when overwhelmed by oppression against which they have no their defense, have never hesitated to resort to secret and, if needs be, violent organizations for relief.”

(The Invisible Empire, The Story of the Ku Klux Klan, 1866-1871, Stanley F. Horn, Houghton-Mifflin, 1939, pp. 26-30)

Grant's Royal Robes

Imprisoned by scalawag Governor William Holden for alleged activities with North Carolina’s postwar Klan as it fought Holden’s Union League, Randolph A. Shotwell spent three hard years in an Albany, NY prison, which he termed the “Radical Bastille.” The prison staff was instructed to use any means to extract confessions of Klan outrages and lists of Klan members in North Carolina. Below, Shotwell criticizes the 1872 victory of Grant’s corrupt administration and the low quality of the Northern electorate.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
Grant’s Royal Robes

“Nov. 6th. All is over! The Great Farce, (the Presidential Election) closed yesterday, as had been foreseen for the past month, with a complete triumph for the Bully Butcher, and National Gift Taker. Grant walked the track. Telegraphic reports from all quarters leave it doubtful whether [Horace] Greeley will get a single vote. Even New York – the Democratic Old Guard – surrenders to the tune of 3500 majority for the “Coming Man.”

Twenty-five other States are in the same column – marching the Despot gaily to his throne! Selah! It is absolutely amazing, the apathy, the blindness, the infatuation of the people!

Is there no longer an patriotism, any conservatism in the land? What do we see this day? A nation yielding its elective franchise to elect a worse than Napoleonic despot! I say the nation yields its franchises because no one believes that Grant is the choice of the people, that he is worthy of the high Authority which is now his for another term and doubtless for life.

Bu corruption, and greed, and avarice, and fear, and Prejudice, and Misrepresentation, every malignant passion, every illegal and dishonorable means have been made to bring about the stupendous result. And now, what next?

Historians tell us that every Republic that has fallen, to shake the faith of man in his own capacity for government, has been, preceding its final fall, the scene of just such transactions as these; sectional prejudices, the majority trampling on the minority, the courts corrupted and used for political ends, open corruption in office, bribery of voters, use of the military to intimidate the opposition, great monopolies supporting the most promising candidates, and finally much unanimity in favor of some popular leader, who quietly took the crown and Royal Robes when a suitable opportunity occurred.

This is the political panorama now unfolding, slowly but surely, in our own country. The end we may almost see. And then bloodshed, insurrections, turbulence and anarchy! I do not predict that all of this is to occur in a year or two; it may be postponed for a score of years. But one thing is certain it will not be half so long, nor a third of it, if the Government continues to usurp power, and hold it, as it has done during the last decade.”

(The Diary, 1871-1873, The Papers of R. A. Shotwell, Volume III, Jos. D.R. Hamilton, editor, NC Historical Commission, 1936, pp. 276-277)

Employing Underground Methods of Protection

Twice under brutal enemy occupation the inhabitants of York County, South Carolina armed themselves and retaliated as any free people would. According to the postwar congressional testimony of Generals Hood and Gordon, the Ku Klux Klan existed in response to the Republican party’s Union League which alienated the freedmen from their white neighbors for party purposes. They stated that if the Republicans ended the Union League, the Klan would vanish.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Employing Underground Methods of Protection

“After the fall of Charleston, all of South Carolina came under the control of the British save York County. Cornwallis sent Captain Huck to destroy the William Hull Iron Works . . . north of Yorkville. The patriots of York banded together to meet Captain Huck and valiantly defeated his far superior forces at Brattonsville, ten miles south of Yorkville.

This same Scotch-Irish determination brought York into international prominence during the Reconstruction period following the Confederate War. Occupation by Negro militia and Federal infantry and cavalry became an intolerable situation. Ku Klux Klan activities reached their zenith in York which was the first in the State to organize a clan in 1868. Washington [DC] declared York in a state of rebellion, and Federal troops occupied it for ten years after the war.

International attention was focused on York during the affair of Dr. Rufus J. Bratton, a York County planter, who had escaped to London, Ontario, after a particular Klan episode. He was discovered there by the Pinkerton Detective Agency, hired by the United States Government, and brought back forcibly to York to stand trial. When [British] Prime Minister Gladstone learned of the abduction, he corresponded with the President of the United States requesting the doctor’s return. The two countries were at the time negotiating over the ship Alabama, and the somewhat “troubled waters” between the two countries had overtones for the Bratton affair.

Later, President Grant allowed Dr. Bratton to return to York peaceably. These incidents prompted Thomas Dixon to write the famous book, The Clansman, on which the motion picture production, The Birth of a Nation was based. Dr. Cameron was the prototype of Dr. Cameron in the book.

The first Bratton’s had won fame as Revolutionary War officers. The Confederate Bratton’s won world fame during the Reconstruction period. As head surgeon of the Confederate hospitals at Milledgeville and Richmond, [Dr. Bratton] knew the price paid by the South. It was more than he and the other men in York could bear to submit to the arrogant insults of the Negro troops and U.S. Militia stationed in York after the war.

Feeling forsaken by the government these men felt pressed to employ underground methods to protect themselves and their property in what to them became an intolerable situation. Like the Regulators of old, they took it upon themselves through the activities of the Ku Klux Klan, to re-establish a safe environment for their families.”

(Plantation Heritage in Upcountry, South Carolina, Kenneth and Blanche Marsh, Biltmore Press, 1965, excerpts: pp. 40-52)

 

Republicans Steal a North Carolina Election

Postwar federal election supervision in the South purportedly ensured fair and impartial elections, but in reality only ensured Radical Republican political control. The slim margin of Grant’s 1868 victory was not to be repeated and Republicans took no chances in 1872. Below former North Carolina legislator and Confederate General Thomas Clingman noted their strategies.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Republicans Steal a North Carolina Election

“On 9 July 1872 twenty delegates from the Old North State assembled in Baltimore to attend the eleventh quadrennial Democratic convention. Clingman was selected to serve on the Committee on Resolutions. Shortly after the convention adjourned, Clingman dropped a bombshell on the North Carolina Republicans in the form of a letter ostensibly written by former Democratic congressman James B. Beck of Kentucky.

The letter, which was addressed to Clingman, pointed out that the August State elections in North Carolina were widely regarded as a barometer for the presidential election in November. For that reason, the Grant administration had determined to use every corrupt means possible to carry the Old North State. Large sums had been raised for that purpose, including funds illegally drawn from the Justice Department.

Clingman played a leading role in the [post-election investigation] movement. In a letter published in the New York World and copied by numerous North Carolina newspapers, he presented a cogent summary of the Conservative argument.

The election, he said, had been managed “by an army of . . . [federal] revenue officers and deputy marshals,” who had been “liberally supplied” with money.” Those federal managers had practiced massive fraud, importing black voters from other States into the eastern counties and inducing native blacks to vote several times in different townships.

In the white-majority counties of the west, they had mobilized violators of the revenue laws and those under indictment for Klan activity with promises of immunity from prosecution “if they voted the Radical ticket.” Others, who refused to cooperate, had been arrested in order to prevent them from voting. [North Carolina gubernatorial candidate Augustus] Merrimon shared in the widespread belief that the Republicans had stolen the election.

In several eastern counties, the number of voters did exceed the number of adult males reported in the census. Moreover, a large number of indictments for Klan activity were in fact made just before the election, and many of them were dropped soon after the campaign had ended.”

(Thomas Lanier Clingman, Fire Eater From the Carolina Mountains, Thomas E. Jeffrey, UGA Press, 1998, pp. 207-209)

 

Republicans Instilled Lessons of Hatred and Hostility

Acclaimed historian Dr. Clyde Wilson has written that the Republican party was solely responsible for carrying out the bloodiest war in American history against the American South, to destroy self-government. In South Carolina, a Republican-rigged postwar convention erected a corrupt political regime kept in power by Northern bayonets, carpetbaggers and freedmen.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Republicans Instilling Lessons of Hatred and Hostility

“When the war came to an end, and the Southern States lay prostrate at the feet of their conqueror, they experienced the bitterest consequences of the humiliation of defeat. There were no revengeful prosecutions (a few judicial murders in the flush of the victory excepted). The Congress devoted itself to the work of reconstruction . . . on the principle of equal rights to all men . . . there seemed to be no reason why the States should not proceed harmoniously in the career of peaceful progress.

But there was an element in the population which rendered such a principle fatal to all peaceful progress. In many of the States, and in South Carolina particularly, a majority of the people had been slaves. All these were suddenly elevated to the rank of citizens. Were this all, even then there might have been hope.

The slaves had always lived well with their masters, bore no resentment for past injuries, and if they were let alone in their own mutual relations, the two races might, and doubtless would have harmonized and soon discovered the art of living together in peace. But this was not to be.

With the progress of Northern arms grew up an institution founded ostensibly, perhaps really, for the protection of the rights of the newly emancipated slaves. This institution, known as the Freedmen’s Bureau, became for the time the ruling power in the State. It interfered in all the concerns of whites and blacks, its officers were generally men who not only had no love for the South, but who made it their mission to foster in the minds of the blacks a bitter hatred and mistrust of the whites.

They were, on all occasions, the champions of the Negroes rights, and never failed to instruct them that it was to the Republicans that they were indebted for all the rights which they enjoyed. In the train of the Bureau came the schoolmistresses who instilled into the minds of their pupils the same lessons of hatred and hostility.

The consequence was, that though the personal relations between the races were friendly, though the blacks invariably addressed themselves to the whites as to true friends for all offices of love and kindness, of which they stood in need, they would never listen to them, if the latter wished to talk about politics.

This feeling was intensified by the introduction of the Union League, a secret society, the members of which were solemnly bound never to vote for any but a Republican. By such means, the Negro presented a solid phalanx of Radicalism . . . a new business arose and prospered in Columbia, a sort of political brokerage by which men contracted with speculators to buy the votes of members when they were interested in the passage of any measure. Here was a corruptible Legislature under the influence of men utterly corrupt.

In South Carolina . . . Society was divided into the conquered whites, who were destined to satisfy the voracious appetites of the carpetbagger, and the needy and ignorant Negro, directed by his hungry teachers. The whites had no rights which they were bound to respect; if they paid the enormous taxes which were levied upon him, the Negro was satisfied; he had done all that it was necessary for him to do in the degenerate State.”

(Last Chapter of Reconstruction in South Carolina, Professor F.A. Porcher, Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume XIII, pp. 76-79)

Reconstruction's Hungry Locusts

The wife of the president H.L. Mencken referred to as “Roosevelt the Second” provided much of the impetus for the communizing of the Democratic party in the mid-1930s, and could be readily found supporting and speaking before openly Marxist groups like the American Youth Congress, Communist National Student League, Young Communist League, and anti-Franco communists.

In a news column she wrote that “signs of poverty and unhappiness . . . will have to disappear if [the South] is going to prosper and keep pace with the rest [of the country].” Author W.E. Debnam noted that Mrs. Roosevelt need not travel South to discover “poverty and unhappiness” as she could easily find it looking out her hotel apartment window in New York City. Debnam referred her to the root cause of the South’s unhappy condition.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Reconstruction’s Hungry Locusts

“May we tell you something about Reconstruction, Mrs. Roosevelt? Apparently somebody needs to tell you for only your abysmal ignorance of Southern history could possibly explain your continued carping criticism of just about everything south of the Mason-Dixon line . . . your complete failure to understand certain social and economic problems and conditions about which you pose so frequently as an authority.

Some of our modern Southern scalawags need to be reminded too . . . and that great horde of Northern editors and reporters so prone to pillory the South on every occasion while they ignore even worse conditions in their own backyard.

When the War ended, Mrs. Roosevelt, the South was licked and no one knew it better than the men who had followed Lee. The South was defeated, but it was not penitent. It had lost the War but not its pride. There was no sense of guilt but the South was resigned to the verdict of the battlefield. There was no love for the Yankee, it’s true, but also there was – speaking generally – no hate.

Most Southerners still insisted, and laughed about it, that “damnyankee” was one word, but, while they were not prepared to forget, they were ready, given a little time, to forgive their conquerors.

But [the war] wasn’t over, Mrs. Roosevelt. The South’s Gethsemane had just begun. War, as your Yankee friend General Sherman said, is hell . . . but it’s a hell that about it a certain dignity. There was nothing of dignity about Reconstruction.

There was only the studied, deliberate debasement of a proud and defenseless people. Old Thaddeus Stevens and his gang of Radical Republicans set out to murder the South in the first degree. Their murderous assault, prompted by greed and revenge, was cold-blooded and premeditated. They worked night and day at the job of killing the South twelve long years.

They almost succeeded. Only the vitality of a civilization that simply refused to die kept the South alive.

Lee’s surrender . . . came on April 9, 1865. Have you been able to stand the heart-breaking ordeal of visiting the South in April, Mrs. Roosevelt? If you have, you must have observed – if you could bear to keep your eyes open – that by the middle of April the plowing has long since ended and the planting, for the most part, is over. Already in some areas the new crop is far advanced.

But there was little plowed land in the South in that black April of 1865 and almost no planting.

On the great plantations, and on the little farms of the small land owner, the land to a large degree lay fallow and grown up in weeds. The returning soldiers made the best they could of bad situation. They had almost no livestock – few cows, few pigs, few sheep, and even fewer horses and mules. Those that hadn’t died on the battlefield had been killed or stolen by the invading soldiers.

And labor! Well, Mrs. Roosevelt, you know what happened to the farm hands of the South. Five million Negro slaves had been set free. They did little work in the fields that spring and summer . . . and one can hardly blame them. The taste of freedom lay sweet upon their tongue. Why labor in the fields? The Yankees were going to take care of them and, come Christmas – so the story went – every black man was to be the proud owner of forty acres and a mule! More than that, he was to run the government! The government of the Southern States, that is.

Only a few Northern States allowed the Negroes to vote then, and in not one instance during the tragic era did a single Negro, no matter how intelligent, hold even the lowest elective or appointive office north of the Mason-Dixon line; not even Fred Douglass of New York, who was the idol of Northern abolitionists. But in the South, Mrs. Roosevelt, it was a different story.

The Southern white man was almost completely disenfranchised while for 12 long years the newly-liberated slavers and the carpetbaggers and the scalawags ran every Southern State government and a Negro Senator from Mississippi sat in the seat in Congress that had been held by Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy. Our Reconstruction lawmakers, of course, had some help.

They were backed by Federal troops – thousands of them Negroes in brand new Federal uniforms. They had the guidance of Thaddeus Stevens and his Radical Republican murderers and the help of the Union League. They had also the kindly assistance of self-appointed authorities on Southern problems from New York and other Northern States who came down on short visits to give out criticism and advice. You know, we imagine, the type to which we refer.

There is no need, Mrs. Roosevelt, to review in detail that saturnalia of official corruption and waste during which the new rulers, strutting like peacocks, set out deliberately to turn to their own profit every cent of taxes that could be wrung from a prostrate land.

[And our] Northern conquerors had no intention of letting [Southern cotton] serve those who had attempted to exercise their constitutional right and withdraw from the Union. The “cotton agents” descended upon the South like a swarm of hungry locusts. First they seized 3,000,000 bales outright, claiming they had been sold to the Confederate government and were, therefore, contraband of war.

What was left – or most of it – was taxed heavily, or what was more often the case, stolen by the cotton agents in one of the greatest swindles in the history of our country. The South, screamed the Radical Republicans, had caused the war . . . and the South should pay for it.”

(Weep No More My Lady, A Southerner Answers Mrs. Roosevelt’s Report on the “Poor and Unhappy South,” W.E. Debnam, Graphic Press, 1950, pp 27-37)

 

Case for an Educated Postwar Black Debated

Radical Republican political hegemony in the postwar South depended upon the freedmen casting votes, despite their illiteracy and lack of education and experience in a republican form of government. These Republicans formed Union and Loyal Leagues in the South that would teach the freedmen to hate their white neighbors, vote against their interests, and cause irreparable racial wounds which remain today.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Case for an Educated Postwar Black Electorate Debated:

“Chaplain Noble, who conducted literacy classes for the enlisted men of the 128th United States Colored Troops in Beaufort (an infantry of ex-slaves), related the outcome of a debate he arranged to “enliven” the class. The question was whether Negroes should be given immediate suffrage or whether they should learn to read first, with “the more intelligent” of the class clearly favoring the latter position “on the ground that you ought never to undertake a job unless you know how to do it.”

But those who learned less easily were in favor of immediate suffrage. One of the speakers — a black thick-lipped orator — commenced his speech as follows:

“de chaplain say we can learn to read in short time. Now dat may de with dem who are mo’ ready. God hasn’t made all of us alike. P’rhaps some will get an eddication in a little while. I knows de next generation will. We hasn’t had no chance at all. De most of us are slow and dull. Dere fo’ Mr. Chaplain, I tink we better not wait for eddication.”

Whether because of the potential logic of universal suffrage for the illiterate black majority, or because the difficulties of the chaplain’s lessons made suffrage based on literacy seem rather remote for some of the slow learners, the speaker’s sagacity brought decisive nods of approval from the majority of the audience.”

(Black Over White, Negro Political Leadership in South Carolina During Reconstruction, Thomas Holt, University of Illinois Press, 1977, pg. 34)

 

 

Scarcity of Black Democrats in North Carolina

New York’s Tammany Hall was notorious for herding recent immigrants to the polls to vote for selected candidates and the selected party. Northern Republicans saw the future of their political hegemony in the South in the freedmen, who were informed that their white neighbors would re-enslave them should blacks vote Democratic. The Klan was formed to counter the infamous Union League of the Republicans, whish taught Southern blacks to hate Sothern whites.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Scarcity of Black Democrats in North Carolina

“Very few whites voted the Republican ticket [in North Carolina]. The notable exception was the Lewellen connection, a large clan of Welsh extraction, substantial farmers dwelling to the east of town. On election day they were apt to steal the show from the Negroes. They were not so loud and “biggetty,” but they were dangerous as fighters, especially when they had liquor aboard. They were known as clannish; anyone who got into a fight with one of them soon found the whole pack on his back.

In this election my father was defeated for justice of the peace, the only office he ever consented to run for, by a coal-black Negro shoemaker; let it be added, however, that this Negro had intelligence and character. I knew him in later years and always respected him. I was sorry for him when his thieving brother was convicted of burning our smokehouse, sent to the chain-gang, and later shot to death by a guard when he tried to escape.

There were only three Negro Democrats in this voting district. Any Negro who was for any reason inclined to vote the Democratic ticket was looked down upon by his race and often threatened with bodily harm. Henry Ward was one of these. In his pocket he carried an ugly knife, threatening to cut to pieces anybody who interfered with his voting. He belonged to the unterrified Democracy. Later he was hanged for burglary.

Another Negro Democrat was Lewis Merritt, a rather handsome buck who worked as a farm hand during the week and dressed up in good taste on Saturday and came to town. He did not drink. He was quiet, poised, and had an air about him. It was whispered around that he carried a revolver. The other Negroes talked darkly about him behind his back but never to his face.

The third man, Candy Parton, voted the Democratic ticket by suggestion. Tall, lanky, old and fragile, he was the body servant of Dr. Frank Smith, a colorful survivor of what the historical writers of today call the slaveholding aristocracy. When he appeared on election day, he was always dressed for the part: high hat, frock coat, flowered waistcoat, and gold-headed cane, chin whiskers like Uncle Sam’s.

He planted himself before the voting window, legs wide apart….”Candy, go up to that window and vote,” he said with emphasis, as he scowled at a group of Negroes who seemed inclined to crowd in on Candy. The old darkey shuffled up to the polls and voted, looking as if he were not quite sure he could go through with it, but Dr. Smith never had a doubt. There stood the Old South.”

(Son of Carolina, Augustus White Long, Duke University Press, 1939, pp. 30-32)

Republicans Warn of Papist Plot

Democrat, anti-Prohibition and Catholic presidential candidate Al Smith found that many of his party had deserted him, though he did carry Massachusetts with its liquor interests, the first Democrat to do so since the War. A previous Democratic presidential candidate knowingly stated: “Smith hasn’t a chance, the Middle West does not know him and does not want him; and the South, of course, won’t have Smith.”

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Republicans Warn of Papist Plot

“Smith’s career had been a demonstration of the validity of Americanism. In his own mind, his success had confirmed the premise established by his life . . . that men of diverse backgrounds and different beliefs could nevertheless understand each other.

[An opposing view] . . . had begun earlier in the century, in the movement to restrict immigration . . . [and these] fears revived the Ku Klux Klan. Founded in 1915 in Georgia, the organization was still small and powerless at the end of the war. Thereafter it spread rapidly, not only in the South but everywhere in rural and small town America. It was particularly influential in Oregon and Indiana and had significant centers of strength throughout the West.

Purification was essential through a return to the old order, through fundamentalism in religion, through abstinence and restraint in personal behavior, and through the forceful exclusion from government and the economy of all alien sources of infection.

The millions of adherents of the Roman Church, held in subservience to a foreign despot by an army of priests and bishops, wielded enormous political power through the city machines. Their doctrines and rituals, like their hostility to Prohibition, were a danger to old America. It was necessary to prepare lest they insidiously assume control of the whole nation.

Smith did not take the Klan seriously, even in 1924. The “spirit of unrest” was an “unnatural consequence of war” and would soon subside.

The Klan, which had heretofore shown itself mostly on the local level, was nonetheless to be pre-eminent issue of the 1924 convention. Much of the strength of the organization was located in the Republican party, which was able to arrive at a tacit decision to evade any mention of the Klan in the campaign.

Openly and squarely he faced the religious issue [but] . . . With the covert encouragement of local Republicans, numerous fundamentalist groups spread the tale of the Papist plot to conquer America at the ballot box. Al made no pretense that the problem [of his Catholicism] did not exist. In North Carolina he insisted on speaking on immigration. In Oklahoma City, one of the centers of Klan strength, he launched into an attack upon the forces injecting bigotry “into a campaign which should be an intelligent debate of the important issues.”

But now as he looked down upon the stony faces, row upon row of bitter farmers soon to leave their parched lands, he perceived “the dull hostility in their staring at his strangeness and for a moment he felt a premonitory fear, for what had he and they in common?”

Through the rimless glasses across his thin parched face, Bishop Cannon had looked bitterly out upon the Houston convention. Control had fallen to the men from the “foreign-populated city called New York,” where “confessedly Satan’s seat is.” Now . . . he was resolved that “no subject of the Pope” should be President.”

(Al Smith and His America, Oscar Handlin, Little, Brown and Company, 1958, pp. 117-120; 131-132)

Secret Society Radicals

The Union Leagues were able to muster such large memberships as many Northern white men stayed home while foreigners, impressed former slaves, and bounty-enriched substitutes were off fighting Americans in the South. The Union League quickly became a powerful propaganda arm of the radical Republican party, strong enough force Lincoln to remove conservative General John Schofield from command of the western department.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Secret Society Radicals:

“The first Union League was founded in Pekin, Illinois, by a Republican party activist, George F, Harlow.  As war weariness deepened, and the restraint that had held back dissenters in the early months of the war fell away, loyal Republicans became alarmed by the resurgence in support for the Democratic party. To combat this, they formed a secret society “whereby true Union men could be known and depended on in an emergency.” By the end of 1864 the Leagues claimed more than a million members.

In May 1863, the [Philadelphia] Press urged that the North unite “by any means” and called on Unionists to “silence every tongue that does not speak with respect of the cause and the flag.” Union Leagues institutionalized the denial of legitimate partisanship by conflating opposition to the Union [Republican] Party with disloyalty to the United States. “Men of the Northwest! Are you ready for Civil War?” asked an editorial in the radical Chicago Tribune, “the danger is imminent; the enemy is at your door . . . a Union Club or League ought to be formed in every town and placed in communication with the State central committee.” They formed vigilante groups, which reported suspected disloyalists to the War Department and called for the suppression of opposition newspapers. Leagues also mobbed the offices of several small-town newspapers whose editors had expressed support for Democratic candidates or had attacked the [Lincoln] administration.

Unlike the mass-membership Union Leagues, the Union League of Philadelphia, the New York Union League Club, and the Boston Union League Club were founder with the appropriate accoutrements of a mid-Victorian gentlemen’s club: elegant headquarters with libraries, billiard rooms and butlers. Membership was by invitation only and determined by social status and “unqualified loyalty to the Government of the United States and unwavering support for the suppression of the rebellion.” The idea was to exclude anyone suspected of Southern sympathies from business or social relations with members.

“Sympathy with [armed rebellion] should in social and commercial life be met with the frown of the patriotic and true. Disloyalty must be made unprofitable.” [A founding member of the Philadelphia club] . . . the issue of the war was, after all, one that directly confronted the class interests of the city’s business elite. “We . . . live under the national law. If that is broken down, our interests, our property, and our lives may be lost in the disorder that will ensue…Nothing but ruin awaits all business interests of ours . . . if the doctrines of the Secession leaders are to prevail” Sustaining the federal government was essential . . . [and] Furthermore, as bankers and the monied elite of New York assumed an ever-greater responsibility for financing the war effort through buying government bonds, there was also a strong economic interest in the success of the Union war effort.

(No Party Now, Politics in the Civil War North, Adam I.P. Smith, Oxford University Press, 2006, pp. 68-74)

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