Nov 18, 2014 - Democracy    No Comments

Fears of Descending into Democracy

“Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor, for patriotism is indeed a two-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind.

And when the drums of war have reached a fever-pitch, and the blood boils with hate, and the mind is closed, the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry. Rather, the citizenry, infused with fear and blinded by patriotism, will offer up all their rights unto their leader and gladly so.”    Julius Caesar.

Fears of Descending into Democracy 

One of John C. Calhoun’s greatest fears was that democracy in the United States would evolve into a class warfare system whereby the taxpaying class would be perpetually looted by the tax consuming class.

“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess out of the public treasury. From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that democracy always collapses over a loose fiscal policy, always to be followed by dictatorship.”

Alexander Fraser Tytler, 1787, on the decline and fall of the Athenian Republic

 

“…He announced that democracy itself had created a new tyrant—public opinion. Tocqueville saw the powers of this strange new democratic monster. “The majority lives in the perpetual utterance of self-applause, and there are certain truths which the Americans can learn only from strangers or from experience. Democracy not only infuses a taste for letters among the trading classes, but introduces a trading spirit into literature. The ever increasing crowd of readers and their continuing craving for something new ensures the sale of books that nobody much esteems.”

Daniel Boorstin, Introduction to Democracy in America.

 

“Our real disease…is democracy.”

Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804)

 

“Democracies have even been spectacles of great turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.”

James Madison, Federalist Paper No. 10.

“Between a balanced republic and a democracy, the difference is like that found between order and chaos.”

John Marshall, US Supreme Court Chief Justice.

 

“In the strict sense of the term, a true democracy has never existed, and never will exist.”

Jean Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract, III, 1762.

 

“In the degenerate state to which democracy never fails to reduce a nation, it is almost impossible for a good man to govern, even if he could get into power, or for a bad man to govern well.”

Gouverneur Morris, May, 1812, to DeWitt Clinton.

 

“Morris spoke out against democracy in every branch of government. This was not an unusual position at the (Constitutional) Convention: “The evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy,” Elbridge Gerry said roundly during the Convention’s first week. But Morris added a twist of his own. A broad franchise across the board would empower the rich, who would control poor or fickle voters. “The people never act from reason alone. The rich will take advantage of the passions and make these the instrument for oppressing them. Give the votes to people who have no property, and they will sell them to the rich who will be able to buy them.”

(Gentleman Revolutionary, Gouverneur Morris, The Rake Who Wrote The Constitution)

 

“The United States, by trying to survive as a republic, was defying one of the most certain laws of history. As thinkers then interpreted the past, republics seemed sure to die because self-government could last only as long as the populace possessed enough virtue to voluntarily sacrifice private interest for the public good. The example of previous republics showed that a free people would eventually grow selfish and prefer their own ease to vigilance on behalf of liberty.

Thus the people would become corrupt, and economic dependence would lead to political subjugation and to tyranny. Republics, like people, had an ineluctable life progression, and with the onset of corruption, liberty began to die. Americans had no guarantee that their new republic would not repeat this familiar cycle.”

(Light Horse Harry Lee, the Legacy of the American Revolution, Charles Royster, 1981)

 

“Besides the unsuitableness of the republican form to the genius of the people, America is too extensive for it. That form may do well enough for a single city, or small territory; but would be utterly improper for such a continent as this. America is too unwieldly for the feeble, dilatory administration of democracy. Rome had the most extensive dominions of any ancient republic. But it should be remembered that very soon after the spirit of conquest carried the Romans beyond the limits that were proportioned to their constitution, they fell under the despotic yoke. A very few years had elapsed from the time of their conquering Greece and first entering Asia, till the battle of Pharsalia, where Julius Caesar put an end to the liberties of the country.”

Anonymous, The True Interest of America Impartially Stated, 1776.

 

“We are now forming a republican government. Real liberty is neither found in despotism or the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments.”  Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804) Debates of the Federal Convention, June 26, 1787.

 

“One of the worst forms of government is a pure democracy, that is, one in which the citizens enact and administer the laws directly. Such a government is helpless against the mischiefs of faction.” James Madison, The Federalist Papers, 1787.

 

“The known propensity of a democracy is to licentiousness which the ambitious call, and ignorant believe to be, liberty.” Fisher Ames (1758-1808) Speech in the Massachusetts Ratifying Convention, January 15, 1788.

 

“When a people shall have become incapable of governing themselves, and [are] fit for a master, it is of little consequence from what quarter he comes.” George Washington (1732-1799) Letter to Marquis de Lafayette, April 28, 1788.

 

“It has been observed by an honorable gentleman that a pure democracy, if it were practicable, would be the most perfect government. Experience has proved that no position in politics is more false than this. The ancient democracies, in which the people deliberated, never possessed one feature of good government. Their very character was tyranny; their figure, deformity. When they assembled, the field of debate presented and ungovernable mob, not only incapable of deliberation, but prepared for every enormity.”

Alexander Hamilton, New York Ratification Convention, June 21, 1788

 

“The republican is the only form of government which is not eternally at open or secret war with the rights of mankind.”

Thomas Jefferson, Letter to William Hunter, March 11, 1790.

 

“When the Constitution was framed, no respectable person called himself or herself a democrat.” Charles Beard

 

“Washington, Jefferson and Hamilton were republicans, but never democrats. Hamilton openly repudiated any democratic affiliation; Washington did not go that far but he was frankly distrustful of democracy; Jefferson accepted its principle and argued eloquently for the theory, but his conception of democracy was fantastically far removed from the ideas of his successors. It never occurred to Jefferson to doubt that while the people should rule, they should exercise their power through representatives drawn form the gentry—not indeed gentlemen by heredity, but those who had earned the title by their own demonstrated quality. Jefferson believed in an aristocracy of brains and character, not of blood; but he believed in aristocracy.”

Gerald W. Johnson, American Heroes and Hero Worship, 1941.

 

“It is the almost universal mistake of our countrymen, that democracy would be mild and safe in America. They charge the horrid excesses of France not so much to human nature, which will never act better when the restraints of government, morals and religion are thrown off, but to the characteristic cruelty and wickedness of Frenchmen.

The truth is, and let it humble our pride, the most ferocious of animals, when his passions are roused to fury and are uncontrolled, is man; and of all governments, the worst is that which never fails to excite, but was never found to restrain those passions, that is, democracy.

It is an illuminated hell, that in the midst of remorse, horror and torture, rings with festivity; for experience shows that one joy remains to this most malignant description of the damned, the power to make others wretched.”

Fisher Ames, The Dangers of American Liberty, 1805.

“A democracy cannot last. Its nature ordains that its next change shall be into military despotism, of all known governments, perhaps, the most prone to shift its head and the slowest to mend its vices.

The reason is, that the tyranny of what is called the people, and that by the sword, both operate alike to debase and corrupt till there are neither men left with the spirit to desire liberty, nor morals with the power to sustain justice.”

Fisher Ames, The Dangers of American Liberty, 1805.

 

“Remember, democracy never lasts long . . . There was never a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy.”

John Adams, Letter to John Taylor, April 15, 1812.

Nov 17, 2014 - Emancipation    No Comments

The First Emancipation Proclamation in America

The first emancipation proclamation in America was issued by Lord Dunmore in 1775 to acquire needed troops and incite race war among the American colonists and African slaves.  The second emancipation proclamation in America was issued by Vice-Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane on 2 April, 1814 for the same purpose. The third came from Abraham Lincoln who was probably aware of the first two.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

The First Emancipation Proclamation in America

“John Murray, Earl of Dunmore, the Royal Governor of Virginia . . . In April, 1775, when a patriot throng was threatening to seize a store of ammunition in Williamsburg . . . suggested that slaves who rose up against their patriot masters and bore arms for the king might gain their freedom. “By the living God, if an insult is offered to me or those who have obeyed my orders,” the governor warned, “I will declare freedom to the slaves and lay the town in ashes.”

A recurring fear among wealthy landowners of the South was that a ferocious slave rebellion would explode across the region. Janet Schaw commented in the summer of 1775 that the Whigs were insisting that the British had promised “every Negro that would murder his Master and family that he should have his Master’s plantation.” In June of that year the Wilmington Committee of Safety sent out “Patroles to search for & take from Negroes all kinds of Arms whatsoever.”

On November 7, 1775, safely aboard ship in Norfolk Harbor, the governor issued a proclamation announcing that all able-bodied, male slaves in Virginia who abandoned their Whig masters and took up arms for the king would be free . . . ”Negroes and others (appertaining to Rebels) free, that are able to bear arms, they joining his Majesty’s Troops as soon as may be, for the more speedily reducing this Colony to a proper sense of duty to His Majesty’s crown and dignity . . . ” “Hell itself could not have vomited anything more black than this design of emancipating our slaves,” wrote a patriot newspaper correspondent.

In May 1775 . . . South Carolina [Whigs] reported that word had arrived from friendly sources in London that the British were concocting a slave uprising and an Indian assault against the colonists. “Words, I am told, cannot express the flame that this occasioned amongst all ranks and degrees; the cruelty and savage barbarity of the scheme was the conversation of all companies,” proclaimed William Bull, Royal governor of South Carolina.

Moderates such as Robert Carter Nicholas in Virginia, who had been most reluctant to sever his ties with Great Britain, became convinced of the need for separation because of Lord Dunmore’s disregard for the right of property . . . Even the yeoman farmers of Virginia, the two Carolinas, and Georgia, most of who had no expectation of owning slaves, were now more likely to accept characterizations of the Virginia governor as a sneering, leering tyrant who epitomized the insolent, uncaring British bureaucrat.”

(Southern Campaigns of the American Revolution, Dan L. Morrill, N&A Publishing, 1993, pp. 31-33)

 

Nov 17, 2014 - Aftermath: Despotism    No Comments

The Shameful Period of Reconstruction

The following is excerpted from a Tuesday, 31 May 1892 address by Col. Alfred Moore Waddell of Wilmington, before the Alumni Association of the University of North Carolina. His address was entitled “The Life and Character of William L. Saunders,” and Waddell described the postwar experience administered to the South.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 
The Shameful Period of Reconstruction

“[Reconstruction] constitutes the one indelible and appalling disgrace of the American people—the one chapter of their history which contains no redeeming feature to relieve it from the endless execration of the civilized world.

A distinguished orator from a Northern State declared in Congress in 1872 that one-third of the boundaries of this Republic had been filled “with all the curses and calamities ever recorded in the annals of the worst governments known on the pages of history,” and attacking the authors of these calamities, he exclaimed:

“From turret to foundation you tore down the governments of eleven States. You left not one stone upon another. You rent all their local laws and machinery into fragments, and trampled upon their ruins. Not a vestige of their former construction remained.” And again he said: “A more sweeping and universal exclusion from all the benefits , rights, trusts, honors, enjoyments, liberties, and control of government was never enacted against a whole people, without respect to age or sex, in the annals of the human race. The disgraceful disabilities imposed against the Jews for nearly eighteen hundred years by the blind and bigoted nations of the earth were never more complete or appalling.”

Those old enough to remember that most shameful period of our history will readily recall the degradation, the crimes against civilization, and the terrorism which then prevailed, and how, amidst the general dismay, the faint-hearted stood helpless and silent before the arbitrary and reckless power exercised over them.”

Nov 17, 2014 - Prescient Warnings    No Comments

Riotous Living Out of the Public Treasury

Georgian Alexander H. Stephens saw evil in the nativist and anti-Catholic Know-Nothing party, just coming into notice in late 1854.  He was opposed to secret organizations in a free republic, “where,” he says, “every man ought to have his principles written on his forehead.” Below he writes on 1 December 1854:

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Riotous Living Out of the Public Treasury

“Public sentiment in this country is in a transition state, so far as the principle of party organization is concerned. Old parties, old names, old issues, and old organizations are passing away.

A day of new things, new issues, new leaders, and new organizations is at hand. The men now in power, holding their positions by the foulest coalition known in our history, seem not to foresee that doom which evidently awaits them.

Standing upon no policy but the division of the spoils, their time is taken up in revelry and riotous living out of the public treasury. But like Belshazzar at the feast, they have the handwriting on the wall, whether they can read it or not.”

(Life of Alexander H. Stephens, Richard M. Johnston & William Hand Browne, J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1883, pg. 286)

 

Nov 17, 2014 - Crimes of War    No Comments

Colonizing the American South de Novo

Sherman’s strategy of subduing the American South included starvation and wanton destruction to dissuade them from independence. Before beginning his Meridian, Mississippi campaign in early 1864, he wrote his wife, “We will take all provisions, and God help the starving families.”

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Colonizing the American South de Novo

“Copied from the “Washington Evening Star”:

United States Commissioner A.J. Williams, of Cleveland, Ohio, a member of the Loyal Legion, recently gave out for publication the following letter written by Gen. Sherman to his brother, Senator John Sherman, in 1862.

Memphis, Tenn., Aug. 13, 1862

My Dear Brother,

“ . . . At last I got here and found the city contributing gold, arms, powder, salt and everything the enemy wanted. It was a smart trick on their part thus to give up Memphis that the desire of gain to our Northern merchants should supply them with the things needed in war. I have one man under sentence of death for smuggling arms across the lines, and hope Mr. Lincoln will approve it.

But the mercenary spirit of our people is too much and my orders are reversed and I am ordered to encourage the trade in cotton, and all orders prohibiting gold, silver and notes to be paid for it are annulled by orders from Washington. But what are the lives of our soldiers to the profits of the merchants?

After a whole year of bungling, the country has at last discovered that we want more men. Now 1,300,000 men are required when 700,000 was deemed absurd before.

Of course I will approve the confiscation act, and would be willing to revolutionize the government so as to amend that Article of the Constitution which forbids the forfeiture of land to the heirs. My full belief is, we must colonize the country de novo, beginning with Kentucky and Tennessee, and should remove 4,000,000 of our people at once south of the Ohio River, taking the farms and plantations of the Rebels.

I deplore the war as much as ever, but if the thing has to be done, let the means be adequate.

Don’t expect to overrun such a country or subdue such a people in one, two or five years. It is the task of half a century. We must colonize and settle as we go South . . . enemies must be killed or transported to some other country.

Your affectionate brother, W.T. Sherman”

(Gen. Sherman’s Colonization Scheme, His Comment on Men and Measures in August 1862, Confederate Veteran, November 1896, pg. 37)

Nov 17, 2014 - Crimes of War    No Comments

Setting Stark Starvation Loose Upon the Land

Many noted Sherman’s mental instability early in the war, and while in command at Memphis he was greatly disturbed by Southern cavalry attacks on his forces there.  While unable to thwart these constant attacks, he would take his anger out on defensless Southern civilians while rationalizing that they were responsible for his dilemma.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Setting Stark Starvation Loose Upon the Land

“Fort Sumter was fired upon, and now the sulking Achilles came out to fight; and with him blood and iron would play a part from the very beginning. In May [1861] he declared: “the greatest difficulty in the problem now before the country is not to conquer, but so conquer to impress upon the real men of the South a respect for their conquerors.” As the war got under way Sherman became hypnotized by it . . . and refused to be diverted by those who would minimize the task or mollify it by soft considerations of the claims of humanity or too close adherence to the rule book.

As condemnation of his prodigality in the use of men began to come in, he replied that the war could not be fought with breath, but that hundreds of thousands of lives must perish, and he added, “Indeed do I wish I had been killed long since.”   [He] began “to regard the death and mangling of a couple thousand men as a small affair, a kind of morning dash – and it may be well that we become so hardened.”

[In 1862 he wrote] the Secretary of the Treasury, “The Government of the United States may now safely proceed on the proper rule that all the South are enemies of all in the North.”

As to the large number of people who were being arrested [for disloyalty] in Kentucky, he would send them “to the Dry Tortugas, or Brazil, every one of those men, women and children, and encourage a new breed.”

“To secure the navigation of the Mississippi River [to Northern shipping] I would slay millions. On that point I am not only insane, but mad.” For every shot fired at a [Northern] river steamer he would return “a thousand 30-pound Parrotts into every helpless town on Red, Ouchita, Yazoo, or wherever a boat can float or a soldier march.”

But for no reason beyond the fact that the South was opposing the North, he would set stark starvation loose upon the land. Before beginning his Meridian campaign early in 1864, he wrote his wife, “We will take all provisions, and God help the starving families.”

[In 1863 he insisted] on war, pure and simple, with no admixture of civil compromises . . . [and] considered it unwise at that time “or for years to come” to give the Southern people “any civil government in which the local people have much to say . . . All the Southern States will need a pure military Government for years after resistance has ceased.”

By the summer of 1864 . . . [Sherman] offered this advice to General Sheridan, who might find it useful in the Shenandoah Valley: “I am satisfied, and have been all the time, that the problem of this war consists in the awful fact that the present class of men who rule the South must be killed outright rather than in the conquest of territory . . . Therefore I shall expect you on any and all occasions to make bloody results.”

He wrote Grant his well-known article of faith, “Unless we can repopulate Georgia it is useless to occupy it; but the utter destruction of roads, houses and people will cripple their military resources . . . After he had reached Savannah he wrote to Halleck, “We are not only fighting hostile armies, but a hostile people, and we must make old and young, rich and poor, feel the hard hand of war, as well as their organized armies.”

When he found himself on one of Howell Cobb’s plantations in Georgia, he instructed his army “to spare nothing,” and on the march through South Carolina, one chilly night he consumed in the blazing fireplace the furniture of “one of those splendid South Carolina estates where the proprietors had formerly dispensed hospitality that distinguished the regime of that proud State.”

His first disagreement with the Radical reconstructionists grew out of his long-standing attitude toward the Negro. He had spurned abolitionism in 1861, and during the war he had shown his contempt for Negro soldiers. He wrote in May, 1865, “. . . I do not favor the scheme of declaring the Negroes of the South, now free, to be loyal voters, whereby politicians may manufacture just so much more pliable electioneering material . . . they are no friends of the Negro who seek to complicate him with new prejudices.”

Sherman set down as an article of faith, “The white men of this country will control it, and the negro, in mass, will occupy the subordinate place as a race.”

[His postwar belief regarding Radical Reconstruction is summed up with] “The South is ruined and appeals to our pity. To ride the people down with persecutions and military exactions would be like slashing away at the crew of a sinking ship.”

(Sherman and the South, E. Merton Coulter, North Carolina Historical Review, Volume VIII, Number 1, January 1931, excerpts, pp. 46-53)

Nov 16, 2014 - Crimes of War    No Comments

The Minds of Adolf and Josef Sherman

William Sherman publicly expressed his views on official Northern war policy, claiming that the rules of civilized warfare would be observed by his forces. Despite the assurances, his theory of collective responsibility led him to “the wreaking of vengeance upon a town because it happened to be near the scene” of a recent attack on his command. His total war theory “placed in his hands a weapon, simple in its application, to strike back at his enemy with telling blows.”

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

The Minds of Adolf and Josef Sherman

“[Sherman wrote Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P.] Chase [in August 1862], not only to set the government straight as to where its cotton policy was leading, but also to clear up his own thinking about the war. [He] summed up to the Secretary:

“This is no trifle when one nation is at war with another, all the people of one are enemies of the other; then the rules are plain and easy of understanding.” He assured Chase that at the outset of the war there was apparently no understanding of such a simple matter, and he continued:

“The Government of the United States may now safely proceed on the proper rule that all men in the South are enemies of all in the North; and not only are they unfriendly, but all who can procure arms now bear them as organized regiments, or as guerillas. There is not a garrison in Tennessee where a man can go beyond the sight of the flagstaff without being shot or captured.”

Thus did Sherman strip war of all the rules of conduct voluntarily subscribed to by the nations of the civilized nations of the nineteenth century and set up a single very simple one – that all of the people of the South were enemies of those in the North, and the Union armies might therefore proceed on the “proper” rule that no line was to be drawn between the military forces of the South and the noncombatant civilian population.

Sherman here stated, in simple language, the basic principle upon which the waging of total war rests and upon what efforts to justify it are founded.

Sherman [described] his helplessness [before Southern cavalry raids on his forces] in a report to General Grant as early as August 1862. He pointed out the difficulty of coming to grips with the enemy . . . The elusiveness of Southern units brought from Sherman a characteristic recourse to generalization, as he assured Grant: “All the people are now guerillas, and they have a perfect understanding.”

[Sherman] wrote his brother in September: “It’s about time the North understood the truth. That the entire South, man, woman and child, is against us, armed and determined.”

It was evident that this time that Sherman was determined to consider the resistance encountered . . . as the treacherous acts of the civilian populace. He was to shut out any thought that his troubles were caused by Confederate cavalry. It mattered not that he had not investigated or weighed the evidence to establish the truth of the proposition – he had convinced himself that it was true, and that was what he would act upon.

Sherman had been searching around for some means of crippling those he was coming to hate, and as early as July 31 [1862], a few days after he took command at Memphis, he wrote to his wife . . . “We are now in the enemy’s country, and I act accordingly. The North may fall into bankruptcy and anarchy first, but if they can hold on, the war will soon assume a turn to extermination, not of soldiers alone, that is the least part of the trouble, but the people.”

[His brother Senator] John Sherman had written the General shortly before the Union army occupied Corinth . . . “However delay, defeat or a much longer continuation in the barbarity of rebel warfare will prepare the public mind in the North for a warfare that will not scruple to avail itself of every means of subjection.”

(Merchant of Terror, General Sherman and Total War, John Bennett Walters, Bobbs-Merrill, 1973, pp. 57-61)

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)

Agitating for Equality Rather than Peace

Abolitionists of the Old North were agitating for equality more than the end of African slavery. Their strategy was not to compromise and find a peaceful and practical solution to the riddle; the goal of their radical Republican brethren who aided and abbetted them was to destroy the Southern economy and Southern political influence in national councils, no matter the cost in human lives and misery.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Agitating for Equality Rather Than Peace

“To have dropped the demand for immediate emancipation because it was unrealizable at the time would have been to alter the nature of the change for which the abolitionists were agitating. That is, even those who would have gladly accepted gradual and conditional emancipation had to agitate for immediate and unconditional abolition of slavery because that demand was required by their goal of demonstrating to white Americans that Negroes were their brothers. Once the nation had been converted on that point, conditions and plans might have been made.

Before the war, they refused to be drawn into discussions on the problem that sudden emancipation might create or on “plans” for easing the transition to freedom, for implicit in such discussions, they felt, was an assumption that Negro inferiority rather than white racism would produce the problems. This would not be so if the discussions were carried on by a society free of racism but merely anxious for the change in the Negro’s status be as smooth as possible.

But among whites unready to accept the Negro as inherently their equal, any such debate would feed the prevalent prejudice and provide an anesthetic for consciences that were beginning to hurt.

This is why [William Lloyd] Garrison’s first great campaign was to discredit colonizationism; that movement diverted attention from the principle of equality and had proved an adequate salve on potential antislavery consciences. That is also why some abolitionists could not accept free-soilism as a tactic to strangle slavery to death in the Southeast; while they might recognize the practical utility of the tactic, they could not admit the legitimacy of slavery in any part of the country without denying their movement’s fundamental principle [of equality].

To criticize the agitator for not trimming his demands to the immediately realizable – that is, for not acting like a politician – is to miss the point. The demand for a change that is not politically possible does not stamp the agitator as unrealistic. For one thing, it can be useful to the political bargainer; the more extreme demand of the agitator makes the politician’s demand seem acceptable and perhaps desirable in the sense that the adversary may prefer to give up half a loaf rather than the whole. Also, the agitator helps define the value, the principle, for which the politician bargains.”

(Means and Ends in American Abolitionism, Aileen S. Kraditor, Pantheon Books, 1967, pp. 27-28)

Northern Resistance to Abolitionists

Anti-abolition sentiment was often found north of Mason and Dixon’s line and evidenced by incidents like the 1837 shooting death of abolitionist Elija Lovejoy in Alton, Ohio.  The local citizenry tried to convince Lovejoy of his unpopularity by throwing his presses into the Mississippi River three times before resorting to the fatal measure.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Northern Resistance to Abolitionists

“One of the earliest newspapers of Niagara Falls [New York], The Niagara Falls Daily Recorder, had brief but somewhat volatile tenure becoming involved in the hot-button issue of slavery in the 1830’s. The story of early newspapers was related in a 1937 article by city historian Edward T. Williams, himself a longtime journalist and newspaper owner.

The Recorder issue of April 8, 1839, contained a two-column account of a public abolitionist meeting in the downtown union chapel, located near the “Eagle Tavern on the south side of Falls street.” The article, the editor pointed out, was published as an advertisement “paid for jackass and all.” The story had a picture of a jackass at the head.

The meeting was called by a Mr. Pickard, described as an itinerant abolitionist. It was agreed after he spoke one hour that members of the opposition would be allowed to reply. Apparently there was a lot of opposition to slavery abolition in the village, including the Recorder, which was owned by one W. Law.

Williams said the newspaper report “was evidently made up for those opposed to Mr. Pickard, and the abolitionist received little consideration, being called “used up.” The group then passed a couple resolutions against abolition. One said:

Resolved: that the doctrine of the present abolitionists is a far greater evil than slavery as it now exists.”

Another resolution said:

Resolved: that all further attempts to lecture upon the subject of slavery in this village deserves to be met with the most spirited opposition until abolition lecturers become like angel’s visits, few and far between.”

(History of Falls Newspapers Complex, Bob Kostoff, www.niagarafallsreporter.com, Jan. 18, 2011)