New Masters from New England

The Northern abolitionists and the African slave met for the first time at Beaufort, South Carolina, and the former came face to face with what Jefferson Davis earlier pondered regarding what to do with the emancipated slave. The planters warned their hands “that the Yankees would treat them as slaves and sell them to Cuba,” a prediction that nearly became true.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

New Masters from New England

“The revolution began with considerable destruction of property. The Negroes on many plantations . . . broke the cotton gins [and] in other cases they began looting their master’s houses and furniture, and activity which the federal soldiers took up enthusiastically . . .

The [Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase’s] correspondence during the months following the fall of Port Royal showed him that the government would gain the support of an ever-increasing segment of the public through sterner war measures: “Wagons, cattle, Horses, Provisions, Negroes not excepted, in short everything useful to our army ought to be appropriated . . . advised one correspondent, who sharply criticized the government for looking “more to a peace through compromise, than to a . . . . victory of arms.”

Certainly [President Lincoln’s] cautious treatment of the issue in his message to Congress offered little encouragement. He threw the problem of defining the new status of the Negroes at Port Royal and others in their situation into the lap of Congress, and then asked that provisions be made to colonize the liberated Negroes “in a climate congenial to them.” Small wonder it was that Chase turned his first attention to contraband cotton rather than to contraband Negroes.

The rapid change in their status was not working to the advantage of many Sea Island Negroes . . . as the [Northern] army had made free use of plantation food stores, leaving many in the slave communities with little to eat. Commodore DuPont reported than numbers of the nearly ten thousand Negroes on the islands were by late winter “almost starving and some naked or nearly so . . .

Having no place to turn, they flocked to the neighborhood of the army camps [where] they were as often treated badly as offered employment and help. The New York Tribune’s correspondent reported that one enterprising and unscrupulous [Northern] officer was caught in the act of assembling a cargo of Negroes for transportation and sale in Cuba, thus giving one example of to bolster the late slave-masters’ prediction.

Something had to be done. If the land should lie fallow and the Negroes idle for long past the middle of February, there would be no cotton in 1862, and the Negroes would have to be supported by the government or charity, thus giving the opponents of emancipation a very good argument.

[Some saw in the Northern oversight of continued cotton production] arrangements the outlines of a typical graft opportunity, to achieve its classic form in the “company store” of a later day . . . and it was “of the utmost importance” that [the Negroes] should be kept busy “at the work which they have been accustomed to do . . . “

[One Northern agent] reported that the Sea Island Negroes knew all the steps involved in the cotton culture and that the great majority of them were ready to work, “with proper inducements.” They needed the help and protection of white men, however, in [his] opinion, and a good system of management. The Negroes were no longer slaves . . . Although they were “as yet in large numbers unprepared for the full privileges of citizens . . . “

(Rehearsal for Reconstruction, The Port Royal Experiment, Willie Lee Rose, Vintage Books, 1964, excerpts, pp. 16; 18-25; 29)

 

Utopian Regulation of Future Wars

The American media-provoked Cuban crisis of the late 1890’s provided an ambitious Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Teddy Roosevelt, with the opportunity to catapult the United States into imperialist status with war against Spain.

Roosevelt and the Navy League were preeminent in badgering Woodrow Wilson into entering the European war, with the full support of the steel and munitions industry.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Utopian Regulation of Future Wars:

“One of the unfortunate results of British propaganda efforts in America, and “management” of information at home, was the creation of the viewpoint that the German submarines were ineffective and that the Allies were winning the war. Upon arrival in London, [Admiral] Sims was given the full and unvarnished story. The U-boats were sinking Allied and neutral tonnage faster than it could be replaced. With six more weeks of sinkings, food imports into the British Isles would not be enough to meet demands, and shipments of munitions to the Allied armies would slow to a trickle.

It took the combined efforts of [Admiral William S.] Sims, Ambassador Walter Hines Page, and Prime Minister David Lloyd George to get the story to President Wilson and Secretary [of the Navy Josephus] Daniels without is impact being reduced by filtering through the Atlantic Fleet and the Office of Naval Operations.

[Both] . . . Admiral Benson and Mayo had been basically pessimistic about the outcome of the war before America had entered. From this outlook had developed a strategy of naval construction that anticipated the defeat of the Royal Navy. [The] capital ship construction program was laid down in 1916 that would give the United States a fighting chance of defeating the Germans at sea – provided they didn’t arrive before 1919 or 1920.

By October of 1918, Admiral Benson and the General Board were pressing hard to have a second major [naval] construction program approved. In 1918 the General Board proposed a seven-year construction program that would give the United States preeminence by 1925. Because of wartime construction in America, British merchant and naval losses, and practical cessation of naval building in England, while their ships deteriorated from hard use, the United States was in a position to seize maritime dominance with just a little effort. Once supreme, American need not be concerned about defending the Monroe Doctrine in the Western Hemisphere or the Open Door in Asia.

With her merchant marine, backed by a superior navy, the nation could compete with any power for the world’s markets. In short, as the General Board saw it, the time was at hand when the trident should pass from Britannia to Columbia – by seizure if necessary. Admirals Benson, [Henry T.] Mayo, and Charles J. Badger, Chairman of the General Board, had so testified before Congress. If it meant a period of strained relations or dangerous rivalry with Great Britain, the United States Navy was ready.

Before the war formally stopped on 11 November 1918, a small group of naval officers, plus Professor George Grafton Wilson of Harvard University and the Naval War College, had been set to work developing a Navy Department plan for a League of Nations Navy. Such a plan would be put forward whenever the subject of enforcing the League Covenant was discussed. The League Navy would be made up of vessels and personnel from existing national navies and it would be twice the size of any single nation’s navy. The beauty of the plan, as Pratt saw it, was that it would lead to an automatic regulation of international armaments and maximum freedom of the seas for all nations.

Unfortunately for the Navy, [President Woodrow Wilson] was using the new construction proposal as a form of blackmail to force Great Britain to join the League [of Nations] or face competition with a great new American fleet. Playing an even deeper game, the President was trying to face Congress and the public with a similar choice – join the League and have security from the pooling of interests, or build a new and expensive fleet to provide national security in a possibly hostile world.

During the spring of 1919 Secretary Daniels decided to divide the United States Fleet and create two fleets of equal strength – the Atlantic Fleet . . . and the Pacific Fleet . . . [as] Japanese gains in Asia during the war concerned the Wilson administration and thus the creation of a strong Pacific Fleet was designed to cause the Island Kingdom to think again before moving further.

There was the inevitable need to meet pork-barrel demands from the Pacific Coast politicians. A Pacific Fleet would require bases and the fleet payroll itself was worth attracting.”

(Admiral William V. Pratt, US Navy, A Sailor’s Life, Gerald F. Wheeler, Naval Historical Division, 1974, pp. 96-97, 127-131, 142)

Kindness Toward the Colored People of the South

Walter Clark rose from a sixteen year-old North Carolina soldier in Lee’s army who saw the fields of Second Manassas to Bentonville, where he ended the war as a major, to Chief Justice of North Carolina’s Supreme Court. His kind feelings toward those he found less fortunate than him were typical of the South’s leadership, and a high example for others to follow.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Kindness Toward the Colored People of the South:

“Born in a slave-owning home, Clark was taught always to treat the Negroes kindly and to care for them rather than abuse them, as unfortunately some masters did. This attitude he consistently maintained through life. When, in the army, Neverson, the Negro boy who faithfully attended him as a bodyguard, went with him to the line of battle, he would sent the boy back with their horse so that he would be personally out of danger; together they shared their scanty meals, and together they endured war’s hardships as true companions.

As late as 1919, Dr. James E. Shepard, a prominent North Carolina educator and president of the North Carolina College for Negroes at Durham, wrote Clark a letter of appreciation for the services he had rendered the Negroes and for his consistent justice in dealing with them. In reply Clark wrote:

“I have been the employer of colored labor ever since I became of age. I know them well and I have never received anything but kindness at their hands. I have the kindest feeling for the race and have seen the difficulties which surround their efforts to rise to better things. In my judgment, the best remedy for the situation the colored people find themselves is . . . extending the education as far as possible to all your people, impress upon them sobriety, self-control under what at times may be aggravating circumstances, the acquirement of property by industry and thrift, and the attainment, by their personal conduct, of the respect of white people.

Avoid giving this a setback by the intemperate utterances, especially by the young people of your race who are impatient at what they deem continued injustice. Most often this matter is due to the language used by office-seekers, who appeal to and excite race prejudice for their personal ends. I am sure that the vast majority of the white people of North Carolina wish to do equal and exact justice to the colored race, and their number is increasing with the proofs which the colored people are giving that they are better educated and are attaining a higher standard of morality and right living.”

(Walter Clark, Fighting Judge, Aubrey Lee Brooks, UNC Press, 1944, pp. 175-176)

The Aristocrat of the Old South

Southern planters wondered at how educated men and women of the North, former slaveholders and slave traders themselves, could believe that they would willingly injure black men and women under their care, or allow them to be beaten. The sheer cruelty of New England’s slave trade and its infamous middle passage could never be surpassed by the plantations of the Old South.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

The Aristocrat of the Old South

“It is true the aristocrat of the Old South did not go into his blacksmith shop to shoe his horse nor his wife into the kitchen to cook, or to the wash tub to wash, but it was not because they were ashamed or scorned to do it, but because there was no need for them to do these things.

History has greatly maligned the old aristocrat of the South. He was not “haughty,” he was not “purse proud,” and he did not consider himself “of finer clay” than any one else, as history has unfairly represented him.

Aristocracy was then gauged by manners and morals, and not by the size of the bank account, as I fear is too much the case today. Far more time was spent in cultivating the graces and charms of life than in amassing fortunes. They realized that “Manners are of more importance than money and laws” – for manners give form and color to our lives. They felt, as Tennyson said, “Manners are the fruit of lofty natures and noble minds.”

It will take us a long time to undo the falsehoods of history about the civilization of the Old South.

Who was the head of the plantation? Why, “ole Miss,”. . . Her life was a long life of devotion – devotion to her God, devotion to her church . . . devotion to her husband, to her children, to her kinfolks, to her neighbors and friends and to her servants. She could not be idle for she must ever be busy.

“Ole Marster” could delegate many of his duties to the overseer, while he entertained his guests. He would rise early in the morning, eat his breakfast . . . Broiled chicken, stuffed sausage, spareribs, broiled ham and eggs, egg bread, corn muffins, hot rolls, beaten biscuits, batter cakes or waffles with melted butter, syrup or honey, and the half not told.

Then, after smoking his Havana cigar, he would mount his saddle and ride over the plantation to see if the orders given the day before had been fully carried out. Then give the next day’s orders, ride to a neighboring plantation and return in time for an early dinner. Dinner was always midday on the old plantation. If it were summer . . . [he would] lie down on the wide verandah . . . while he took his noon-day nap. If it were winter, he would go into his library, and, before a large, open fireplace with whole logs of wood, he would discourse upon the topics of the day with visitors.

There was no subject with which “Ole Marster” was not at home – whether politics, philosophy, religion, literature, poetry or art. “Ole Marster’s” sons for generations had been well-educated and had a perfect familiarity with the classics – they could read Greek and Latin better than some of us can read English today. The best magazines of the day were upon his library table, and the latest books upon his library shelves.

Time [on the plantation] was measured to Christmas, and three weeks before Christmas Day the wagons would go to the nearest city or town to lay in the Christmas supplies. Every Negro man had to have a complete outfit, from hat to shoes; every Negro woman had to have the same from head handkerchief to shoes; each Negro child every article of clothing needed.; and warm shawls, and soft shoes, or some special gifts had to be bought for the old Negroes too feeble to work.

How happy all were, white and black, as the cry of “Christmas Gif” rang from one end to the other of the plantation, beginning early in the morning at the Big House and reaching every Negro cabin – Christmas can never be the same again.”

(The Civilization of the Old South, Mildred Lewis Rutherford; North Carolina Booklet, Vol. XVII, No. 3, January 1918, pp. 142-147)

Aristocrats of Color in the NAACP

Early NAACP organizer WEB DuBois was descended from African, Dutch and French ancestry, and an early example of affirmative action as Northern white liberals had paid for his education. Considering himself well-born and disdaining work, he said “I cordially despised the poor Irish and South Germans who slaved in the mills, and annexed the rich and well-to-do as my natural companions.” Booker T. Washington is remembered for encouraging black people to gain respect through work hard and earning it; DuBois counseled racial agitation and confrontation to demand respect from others.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Aristocrats of Color in the NAACP:

“The role of aristocrats of color in the affairs of the NAACP was sufficient to allow some critics, especially some identified with Washington . . . to characterize it as a self-serving, elitist organization. The Bookerite “Atlanta Independent” continually heaped ridicule on WEB DuBois and the NAACP, which it characterized as Dubois’s “exclusive bunch.”

Hubert H. Harrison, a Virgin Islander prominent in Harlem in the 1920’s, was credited with slurring the NAACP as the “National Association for the Advancement of Certain People”; but the idea was present much earlier in criticisms made by other blacks.

Calvin Chase’s “Washington Bee” was for a time a bitter critic of the NAACP and its District branch. “Any attempt,” the Bee warned the local branch in 1914, “to establish a Negro aristocracy to the disadvantage and embarrassment of the common people will be promptly exposed and condemned.” Later the newspaper cited the NAACP as proof of its oft-repeated charge that there was “as much color prejudice among certain classes of colored people” as there was “among certain classes of whites.”

According to the Bee, Negroes who flocked to organizations like the NAACP, whether because of “color prejudice” or “caste of color,” did so primarily because of a desire to remove barriers to their own personal advancement and comfort. Only when personally affected was the upper-“caste” black likely to lodge protests and leads crusades. At least some aristocrats of color viewed admission to the NAACP as by “invitation only,” in much the same way that one gained entry into the Booklovers [clubs].

[The] black leadership of the NAACP tended to be more representative of socially prominent “old families” who viewed themselves as heirs to the Abolitionist tradition and who opposed Washington’s accommodationist approach. [Pan-African Movement] Marcus Garvey, a native of Jamaica and popular leader of the Universal Negro Improvement Association . . . characterized DuBois as a ‘white man Negro” who associated only with whites and “upper ten Negroes” while ignoring the black masses.

DuBois, he thundered, worshipped a “bastard aristocracy” . . . and asked, “where did he get his aristocracy from?” and then proceeded to explain that DuBois “just got it into his head that he should be an aristocrat and ever since that time has been keeping his beard as an aristocrat.” Thunderous applause greeted Garvey’s reference to DuBois as a Negro leader who tried to “be everything else but a Negro.”

(Aristocrats of Color, The Black Elite, Willard C. Gatewood, Indiana University Press, 1993, pp. 317-321)

Dec 8, 2014 - Crimes of War    No Comments

Sherman's War Against Civilians

It was North Carolina Governor Zeb Vance’s opinion that Sherman “was a despoiler when there was no need to despoil and one who came very close to being a monster.” Lincoln had unleashed a conqueror and scourge upon Americans in the South; Davis and Lee remained firm in their belief that war should be confined to hostile armies fighting to a conclusion, and not waged upon defenseless civilians.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Sherman’s War Against Civilians

“Vance’s ideas of warfare were obtained from his earlier reading of Chancellor [James] Kent, one of the idols of his erudite Professor [David] Swain at Chapel Hill. In dealing with Sherman and Lee, he cited Kent’s commentary on plunder and depredations on private property. Kent said such conduct had been condemned by the wise and virtuous of all ages and usually was severely punished by “commanders of disciplined troops who had studied war as a science, and are animated by a sense of duty or love of fame.”

Kent said, as Vance cited him, that when a commander went beyond these limits wantonly, and seized private property or destroyed dwellings or public buildings for civil use, when it was not clearly indispensible for the purposes of war, he was sure “to be held up to the general scorn and detestation of the world.”

Vance mentioned also that Kent was studied by Sherman at West Point. He cited Major-General Henry W. Halleck in similar vein on the usage respecting private property, and brought out much evidence, like a lawyer presenting his case, capping it with similar or more severe quotations from the code prepared by the government to control the armies of the United States.

The propriety of Sherman’s military methods will always be debated, as will be, perhaps, the question of their efficacy in the broad picture of war. They kept alive pockets of bitterness in three States for more than a century. If they hastened the end of active war, they delayed the return of true cordiality. The British Field Marshall Montgomery of World War II appeared to doubt their military value when he compared Sherman’s activities to Sir Redvers Henry Bullers, commander of the British forces in South Africa, in burning the homes of the Boers, for which the Boer women, left homeless, never forgave the British.

Sherman probably could have won his campaign as easily by fighting the weakened Confederate armies without wanton devastation of the country, or, as Vance charged, the slaughter of animals unneeded for food, and without making his name perhaps permanently abhorred, especially by the women in a large area of the country, as Buller’s was with the Boers.”

(Zeb Vance, Champion of Personal Freedom, Glenn Tucker, Bobbs-Merrill, 1965, pp. 376-377)

Properly Observing Pearl Harbor Day

Properly Observing Pearl Harbor Day

The sacrifices of those who served in the American military in December, 1941 should be recounted often for us all to ponder and appreciate and the 3000 Americans who died at Pearl Harbor should not have perished in vain.

The sincerest memorial to those who fought and died in this tragedy (and others) is to analyze and discuss the multitude of reasons why it happened, and how do we ensure that American servicemen are not knowingly put in harm’s way for political purposes ever again. As there is far too much information available today for the surprise attack myth to survive scrutiny, and thanks to the Freedom of Information Act and declassification of hundreds of thousands of decoded Japanese messages, we can now get a more clear picture of how events unfolded in 1941.

The myth reported by court historians and the media is that the US was minding its own business until the Japanese launched an unprovoked attack at Pearl Harbor, thereby dragging a reluctant US into a world struggle. In reality, the US under FDR had been deeply involved in Far Eastern affairs for some time, and those policies actually provoked the Japanese attack.

As Oliver Lyttleton, British Minister of Production stated in 1944 . . . ”Japan was provoked into attacking America at Pearl Harbor. It is a travesty to say that America was forced into the war”.

After FDR’s numerous provocations toward Germany without retaliation (while the US was neutral) he switched his focus to Japan and had assistance with Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, who stated in October 1941 that “for a long time I have believed that our best entrance into the war would be by way of Japan.”

And as early as January 27th, 1941, US Ambassador to Japan in Tokyo, Joseph C. Grew noted in his diary that . . . ”there is a lot of talk around town to the effect that the Japanese, in case of a break with the US, are planning to go all out in a surprise mass attack on Pearl Harbor. Of course, I informed our government.”

Even Adm. Ernest J. King wrote a prescient report on 31 March 1941 that predicted a surprise Japanese dawn air attack on Hawaii as the opening of hostilities. The United States military had prepared for a Japanese-American conflict since 1906 with “War Plan Orange” which predicted the Philippines as the target, attacked by surprise for which the Japanese were notorious.

Also, in early 1940 Claire Chennault, the American airman hired by the Chinese, was urging General Hap Arnold and Roosevelt to provide bombers with which to firebomb Japanese cities in retaliation for their attacks on China.

While we cannot excuse Japan’s aggressiveness in Asia in the 1930’s, our government continually provoked the Japanese by freezing assets in the United States, closing the Panama Canal to her shipping and progressively reducing exports to Japan until it became an all-out embargo along with Britain’s. The Philippines, by 1941 were reinforced to the point of being the strongest US overseas base with 120,000 troops and the Philippine Army had been called into service by FDR.

General MacArthur had 74 medium and heavy bombers along with 175 fighters that included the new B-17’s and P-40E’s with which to attack or defend with. The mobilization of troops and munitions has always been recognized as preparation for attack and we thus assumed this posture to the Japanese.

We then implied military threats to Tokyo if it did not alter its Asian policies and on 26 November 1941, FDR issued an ultimatum that Japan withdraw all military forces from China and Indochina as well as break its treaty with Germany and Italy. The day before the 26 November ultimatum was sent , Secretary of War Stimson wrote in his Diary that “the question was how we should manoevre them (the Japanese) into the position of firing the first shot.”

The bait offered was our Pacific fleet.

In 1940, Admiral J.O. Richardson, the commander of the Pacific Fleet flew to Washington to protest FDR’s decision to base the fleet in Hawaii instead of its normal berthing on the US west coast. His concern was that Pearl Harbor was vulnerable to attack, was difficult to defend against torpedo planes, lacked fuel supplies and dry docks. Richardson came away from his meeting with FDR “with the impression that, despite his spoken word, the President was fully determined to put the US into the war if Great Britain could hold out until he was reelected.”

Richardson was quickly relieved of command and he was replaced with Admiral Kimmel, who was still concerned about Pearl Harbor’s vulnerability, but did not challenge FDR.

Also to be considered was the April, 1941 ABD Agreement FDR concluded with the British and Dutch in Indochina that committed US troops to war if the Dutch East Indies were invaded by the Japanese. Add to this the 1940 $25 million loan and Lend-Lease aid provided to China.

The Dutch and British were of course eager for US forces to protect their Far Eastern colonial empires from the Japanese while their military was busy in a European war, and it has been said that this was the primary reason for war with the Japanese. FDR’s dilemma was his 1940 election pledge of non-intervention (unless attacked first) to the American people, and the US Constitution, which provided only Congress with authority to declare war.

One of the most revealing elements in FDR’s beforehand knowledge of Japan’s intentions was our breaking of the Japanese diplomatic and naval operations codes as early as mid-1939. Copies of all deciphered Japanese messages were delivered to Roosevelt and the Secretaries of War, State and Navy, as well as Army Chief of Staff Marshall and Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Harold Stark.

With no deciphering machines in Pearl Harbor, though three machines went to Britain, the commanders in Pearl Harbor were left completely dependent upon Washington for information. It should be understood that with this deciphered information, our government officials could not have been better informed had they seats at the Japanese war council.

It is in this bare political light that Pearl Harbor should be examined and judged for historical perspective. Our military should not be a pawn used by presidents to initiate war and this is the basic reason the Founders deliberated extensively on the establishment of a standing army which might be used as such and for political benefit.

As nothing happens in a vacuum and the post-World War One US Neutrality Acts were in place to avoid the political machinations that dragged us into that conflict, FDR’s relentless erosion of US neutrality and his secret agreements with foreign governments led to that unnecessary loss of brave American servicemen.  We hopefully have learned from this.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Sources and Suggested Reading:

Betrayal at Pearl Harbor, James Rusbridger & Eric Nave, 1991, Summit Books

On the Treadmill to Pearl Harbor, Memoirs of Adm. Richardson, 1973, Naval History Division Press

Pearl Harbor Countdown, Adm. James O. Richardson, Skipper Steely, 2008, Pelican Publishing

The Years of MacArthur, Volume 1, D. Clayton James, 1970, Houghton Mifflin Company

Blankets of Fire, Kenneth P. Werrell, 1996, Smithsonian Institution Press

Desperate Deception, Thomas E. Mahl, 1998, Brassey’s Books

Pearl Harbor: The Story of the Secret War, George Morgenstern, 1947, Devin-Adair Company

Ten Year’s in Japan, Joseph C. Grew, 1944, Simon & Schuster

America's Reward for Racial Progress

As Truman’s Secretary of State, Dean Acheson was sensitive to international criticism of American racial issues, often fomented by the Soviets and accentuated in the US by progressives like Henry Wallace, Eleanor Roosevelt and the NAACP. Fully aware that Congress would not support a leftist social agenda, the Supreme Court was pressured to deliver a decision Acheson could peddle internationally.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

America’s Reward for Racial Progress

“From the end of World War II to the inauguration of Richard M. Nixon, American governmental policy moved steadily from advocacy of desegregation to support of race blending in schools and neighborhoods. It moved from the principle of equality of rights to that of preferential treatment for Negroes.

The original school desegregation decision said nothing more than that children should not be deprived of the right to attend any given public school by reason of their race. By 1970, this had been expanded to authorize compelling local authorities to transport children to schools outside their residential neighborhoods in order to achieve a racial mix corresponding to that of the population.

Similarly, the original court decisions upholding equal access to governmental jobs, regardless of race, were transformed into their direct opposite, preferential hiring of Negroes in public jobs and consequently deliberate violation of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

The reasoning behind some of these strange developments was foreshadowed by an amicus curiae brief submitted to the Supreme Court in the school desegregation case by President Truman’s attorney general. “Racial discrimination,” that officer declared, “furnishes grist for the communist propaganda mills, and it raises doubts even among friendly nations as to the intensity of our devotion to the democratic faith.”

Attorney General McGranery then incorporated what he called an “authoritative statement” from Secretary of State Dean Acheson which stated in part: “the hostile reaction among normally friendly peoples, many of whom are particularly sensitive in regard to the status of non-European races, is growing in alarming proportions.

In such countries, the view is expressed more and more vocally that the United States is hypocritical in claiming to be the champion of democracy while permitting the practice of racial discrimination here in this country.”One of the present authors commented on this essay by Mr. Acheson ten years ago in the following terms:

“If the Court of 1952 was prepared to weigh political factors in making a Constitutional interpretation, Acheson’s memorandum was subject to criticism because of its oversimplification and calculated omissions. It was true that Southern treatment of the Negro was resented abroad. The Supreme Court knew this. What it did not know and was in no position to judge was the total effect of a desegregation decision in terms of the world position and prestige of the United States.

Would it split or unite the country? Would it convince the world that the United States was the champion of racial equality? Or would it focus international attention for years to come on race struggle and race hatred in the United States, placing these ugly aspects of American life under a global spotlight? These were questions which an American Secretary of State should have attempted to answer provided he thought it was proper for him to inject himself into the case at all.”

These misgivings have, it would seem, been amply justified by the course of events. The United States has undertaken a historically unparalleled effort to raise the Negro by governmental action to the political, cultural, social and economic level attained by the white man. In the pursuit of this objective, it has spent billions of dollars.

It has promoted men to positions for which they are not qualified solely because they are black. It has persuaded universities to admit students who do not qualify educationally or mentally exclusively because of their color. It has filled some of the highest positions in the executive and judicial branches of government on the basis of race and without regard to merit.

The reward the United States has reaped is to be denounced across the world as a racist State and as a recrudescence of Hitlerism. By contrast, the Japanese, who continue to oppress one and a half million Etas, have been silent about their misconduct and it has passed unnoticed.

The Indians, who have abolished caste more in name than in fact, remain immune from world criticism even though their untouchables are still largely pariahs. The masochistic traditions of liberal Protestantism, reformed Judaism and modern Catholicism to the contrary, those who publicly display their sores are tagged with the leper’s bell.”

(American Statesmen on Slavery and the Negro, Nathaniel Weyl & William Marina 1971, Arlington House, excerpts, pp.386-388)

 

Political, Not Social Rights

Republican President Grant stated in his second inaugural address on 4 March 1873: “Social equality is not a subject to be legislated upon, nor shall I ask that anything be done to advance the social status of the colored man, except to give him a fair chance to develop what there is good in him, give him access to the schools, and when he travels let him feel assured that his conduct will regulate the treatment and fare he will receive.”

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Political, Not Social Rights

“Mr. Justice [Henry Billings] BROWN . . . delivered the opinion of the [United States Supreme] Court.  This case [Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896] turns upon the constitutionality of an act of the general assembly of the State of Louisiana, passed in 1890, providing for separate railway carriages for the white and colored races. Acts 1890, No. 111, p. 152.”

“We consider the underlying fallacy of the plaintiff’s argument to consist in the assumption that the enforced separation of the two races stamps the colored race with a badge of inferiority. If this be so, it is not by reason of anything found in the act, but solely because the colored race chooses to put that construction upon it.

The argument necessarily assumes that if, as has been more than once the case, and is not unlikely to be so again, the colored race should become the dominant power in the State legislature, and should enact a law in precisely similar terms, it would thereby relegate the white race to an inferior position. We imagine that the white race, at least, would not acquiesce in this assumption.

The argument also assumes that social prejudices may be overcome by legislation, and that equal rights cannot be secured to the Negro except by an enforced commingling of the two races. We cannot accept this proposition. If the two races are to meet upon terms of social equality, it must be the result of natural affinities, a mutual appreciation of each other’s merits, and a voluntary consent of individuals.

As was said by the Court of Appeals of New York in People v. Gallagher, 93 NY 438, 448: “This end can neither be accomplished nor promoted by laws which conflict with the general sentiment of the community upon whom they are designed to operate. When the government, has secured to each of its citizens equal rights before the law, and equal opportunities for improvement and progress, it has accomplished the end for which it was organized, and performed all of the functions respecting social advantages with which it is endowed.”

Legislation is powerless to eradicate racial instincts, or to abolish distinctions based upon physical differences, and the attempt to do so can only result in accentuating the difficulties of the present situation.  If the civil and political rights of both races be equal, one cannot be inferior to the other civilly or politically.  If one race be inferior to the other socially, the Constitution of the United States cannot put them upon the same plane.”

(Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 US, 537, 18 May 1896)

 

 

Aristocratic, Undemocratic, Intolerant Rhode Island

The aristocratic landholders who were unwilling to share the vote in Rhode Island were among those who made their fortunes in the slave trade of Providence and Bristol, exchanging New England rum for African slaves on the Ivory Coast. They saw their ill-gotten fortunes and all public monies become the target of the newly-enfranchised democrats, both natives and recent immigrants. Neither wealthy or poor-white Rhode Islanders viewed free black citizens as worthy of voting rights.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Aristocratic, Undemocratic, Intolerant Rhode Island:

“[April 17, 1842]:  I was struck with the lively interest he [William Ellery Channing, Unitarian minister, of Boston] took in the political affairs of Rhode Island, — a neighboring State, containing about 110,00 inhabitants, and now convulsed by a revolutionary movement [the Dorr Rebellion] in favor of an extension of the suffrage. The sympathies of Dr. Channing appeared to lean strongly to the popular party, which, in his opinion, had grievances to complain of, however much, by their violent proceedings they had put themselves in the wrong.

Although the State has been flourishing, it is entirely free from debt, a large majority of the people have, for the last forty years, called loudly on the privileged landholders to give up their exclusive right to voting, and to extend the suffrage to all adult males, in accordance with the system established in all the neighboring States. Their demands did not differ very materially from those which the legislature was willing to concede, except that the democrats claimed the suffrage, not only for every American-born citizen, but also for the new-comers, or the settlers of a few years standing. Both parties agreed to exclude the free blacks.”

(Sir Charles Lyell, Travels in North America in the Years 1841-1842, (New York, 1845), I, pp. 83-84)