Radical Ideology Printed on "Lincoln Green"

Crucial to the success of Lincoln’s creation of fiat money and bond-sales was master publicist and financier Jay Cooke. The latter “subsidized editors and columnists of most of the important papers of the nation” whose journalists were still receiving bribes from him when he pushed for bond redemption in gold. At the end of the war, Cooke worked hard to convince the Northern populace that their onerous debt was justified and “His efforts were supplemented by the Loyal Publications League, which was resuscitated in 1868 in order “to spread throughout the country correct views upon the subject of taxation and currency.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Radical Ideology Printed on “Lincoln Green”

“The cruel quandary which the effort to rein in the lower classes created for radicalism became enmeshed in the debate over the greenback currency. Despite all its complexities, the currency question typified the fate of Radical doctrines, for here the Republican party repudiated its own radical handiwork.

Both the plan for a managed fiat currency and the rhetoric subsequently used in its defense were the offspring of the Radical wing of the Republican party. The legal tender bill was taken up by Congress at the end of 1861 because gold loans floated by the Treasury had exhausted the coin supply of the banks and forced them to suspend specie payments.

The Union was confronted by the prospect of runaway bank-note inflation and the sale of bonds below par value, either of which would have raised the cost of prosecuting the war toward a prohibitive level. At this juncture, Elbridge Spaulding, a Buffalo banker and Republican congressman, proposed a solution in defiance of the national traditions of States’ rights, hard money, and bank control of currency: that the federal government should issue its own interest-free notes receivable for all public dues and legal tender for all private transactions.

The value of these notes was to be stabilized by permitting their conversion into government bonds bearing 6 per cent interest, which were payable in five years and redeemable in twenty, commonly known as 5-20s’.

This majestically simple scheme met with furious opposition from the Democrats and many bankers. Pendleton, Vallandigham, Conkling and Justin Morill stood shoulder to shoulder against the bill; but its Radical supporters, led by Thaddeus Stevens, enlisted enough Conservative (and even banker) support for the scheme as a temporary war measure for it to pass the House 93 to 59. Senate opponents were strong enough to graft on an amendment providing for payment of interest on the 5-20 bonds in coin.

This action created the problem of how to raise the promised gold. [but compromise established a dual-currency system]: gold for the importer [tariffs] and bond-holder, greenbacks for everyday domestic purposes.

As the war continued and governmental needs for borrowed funds soared, both the currency supply and the debt structure grew ever more complex. By the war’s end the country was faced with rampant inflation, constant manipulation of gold prices by speculators, a morass of different bond issues, and four major forms of currency – greenbacks, specie, national bank notes, and State bank notes. The task of unraveling the mess fell on Treasury Secretary Hugh McCulloch . . . [and] with authority granted by Congress in March 1866, [he] initiated a steady withdrawal of greenbacks from circulation, and redemption of short-term notes.

[A] bill introduced by Robert Schenck to force a halt to the Treasury’s contraction policy enlisted the support not only of Stevens, Butler and Logan, but also Senator Sherman and Jay Cooke, and of numerous Democrats. The measure swept the House by a vote of 127 to 14, and in the Senate only four Conservative Republicans voted against it. The Conservative economic program had been thoroughly defeated.

Hard money advocates characterized their own position as scientifically sound and moral, and that of their [fiat money] foes as demagogic and dishonest. Speaking for Spaulding’s bill in 1862, Henry Wilson had described the debate as “a contest between brokers and jobbers, and moneychangers on the one side, and the people of the United States on the other.”

Not to be outdone, John Bingham charged the bill’s foes with misconstruing the Constitution for “the purpose of denationalizing the people . . . [and stripping] the power of the people over their monetary interests in this hour of national exigency.”

Here was the Radical ideology in its purest form, printed, as it were, on bills of “Lincoln green.” Understandably, Henry Carey attributed both the economic vigor and the patriotic spirit of the nation to protection and greenbacks . . . Thaddeus Stevens [had] judged the whole national banking system as a “mistake,” [and] declared: “Every dollar of paper [money] in circulation ought to be issued by the Government of the United States.” [Republican editor Benjamin Bannon of Pennsylvania] devised a scheme for the circulation of greenbacks as the exclusive currency of the nation, with national banks serving as distribution centers only.

From the tariff of 1846 until the Republican legislative triumphs of 1862, Bannan argued, nonproductive capital had ruled the land, and now it was again “striving to gain the ascendancy.”

(Beyond Equality, Labor and the Radical Republicans, 1862-1872, David Montgomery, University of Illinois Press, 1981, pp. 340-345)

The Old and New Republican Party

The first disputed presidential election occurred in 1796 with John Adams elected only “by the whim of two Southern electors” — one from Virginia and one in North Carolina – and both voted for Jefferson as Vice President. This electoral result and victory for the monarchical Adams spurred Jefferson and Madison to formulate the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, whose spirit was that State governments were the foundation of the American political system, and their power unlimited except for strictly delegated and enumerated functions.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The Old and New Republican Party

“The Democratic-Republican Party . . . was the political party whose theory was aimed at the increase of direct popular control over the Government, the widening of the right of suffrage, the limitation of the powers of the Federal Government, and the conservation of the powers reserved to the State governments by the Constitution. It is therefore a strict construction party and has always operated as a check upon the nationalization of the United States.

It at first (1792-3) took the name of the Republican party, which more properly belongs to its present possessors, and was generally known by that name until about 1828-30. Upon its absorption of the French or Democratic faction, in 1793-6, it took the official title of the Democratic-Republican party.

About 1828-30 its nationalizing portion having broken off and taken the name of “National Republican,” the particularist residue assumed the name of “Democrats,” which had been accepted since about 1810 as equivalent to “Republicans,” and by which the have since been known. Some little confusion therefore, has always been occasioned by the similarity in name between the strict construction Republican party of 1793 and the broad construction Republican party of 1856.

[During the formative period, 1789-93 period, the forces] which have always tended to the complete nationalization of the American Union were in operation at the adoption of the Constitution, [and their] influence was as yet by no means general. The mass of the people was thoroughly particularist, interested mainly in the fortunes of their State governments, and disposed to look at the new Federal Government as a creature of convenience only, to be accepted under protest until the exercise of its functions should prove burdensome or unpleasant.

The planters of the South, and particularly of Virginia, had generally supported the change in government [from the Articles of Confederation] and the early measures of the Federal party, induced partly by the influence of Madison and partly by the compromises by which the Constitution had been made acceptable to them.

When Hamilton, early in 1790, finally, and almost from sheer necessity, fell back upon commercial interest as the stock upon which to graft his nationalizing measures, he necessarily alienated the whole South, which was not only particularist but exclusively agricultural, except in a few isolated spots on the seaboard. The difference between the two sections was as yet only in degree, not in kind.

Both were mainly agricultural; both were particularist; neither possessed manufactures; but the South, which had far less banking and commerce than the North, and therefore in Jefferson’s words, “owed the debt while the North owned it,” first felt repulsion to the Hamiltonian policy.

The opposition to his plan for settling the public debt was mainly to its commercial aspect; the opposition to his project of a national bank in the following year was of a distinct party nature, and was based upon that strict construction of the Constitution which was always afterward to be the party’s established theory.

In 1791-2, therefore, we may consider the Anti-Federal party, which had so warmly opposed the adoption of the Constitution, as rehabilitated into a party, as yet without a name, which was to maintain the binding force of the exact and literal language of the Constitution, and to oppose any enlargement of the Federal Government’s powers by interpretation.

The first authoritative claim of the party name occurs in Jefferson’s letter of May 13, 1792, to Washington, in which he says:

“The Republican party, who wish to preserve the government in its present form, are fewer in number [than the monarchical Federalists]. They are fewer even when joined by the two, three or half-dozen Anti-Federalists, who, though they dare not avow it, are still opposed to any general government; but being less so to a republican to a monarchical one, they naturally join those whom they think pursuing the lesser evil.”

Before the close of the year 1792 we must regard the Republican party as fairly formed. Its general basis was a dislike to the control exercised by any government not directly affected by the vote of the citizen on whom the laws operated; a disposition to regard the Federal Government . . . as possibly a second avatar of royalty; and an opposition to the Federalist, or Hamiltonian, measures of a national bank, a national excise [tax], a protective tariff, a funding system for the debt, and to all measures in general tending to benefit the commercial or creditor classes.”

(American Political History, 1763-1876, Alexander Johnston, Volume I, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1905, pp. 208-212)

 

Lincoln and a Few Gourds of Corn Aboard

H.L. Mencken famously held that it is hopeless to look for the real man in biographies as they tend toward distortion and sentimentalism. Regarding the authors he added: “Nearly all our professional historians are poor men holding college posts, and they are ten times more cruelly beset by the ruling politico-plutocratic-social oligarchy than ever the Prussian professors were by the Hohenzollerns. Let them diverge in the slightest form from what is the current official doctrine, and they are turned out of their chairs with a ceremony suitable for the expulsion of a drunken valet.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Lincoln and a Few Gourds of Corn Aboard

“Even Lincoln is yet to be got vividly between the covers of a book. The Nicolay-Hay work is quite impossible; it is not a biography, but simply a huge storehouse of biographical raw materials; whoever can read it can also read the official Records of the Rebellion.

So far as I can make out, no genuinely scientific study of the man has ever been attempted. The amazing conflict of testimony about him remains a conflict; the most elemental facts are yet to be established; he grows vaguer and more fabulous as year follows year.

One would think that, by this time, the question of his religious views (to take one example) ought to be settled, but apparently it is not, for no longer than a year ago there came a reverend author, Dr. William E. Barton, with a whole volume on the subject, and I was as much in the dark after reading it as I had been before I opened it. All previous biographers, it appeared by this author’s evidence, had either dodged the problem or lied.

The official doctrine, in this as in other departments, is obviously quite as unsound. One hears in the Sunday-schools that Abe was an austere and pious fellow, constantly taking the name of God in whispers . . . [and] that he was a shining idealist, holding all his vast powers by the magic of an inner and ineffable virtue.

Imagine a man getting on in American politics, interesting and enchanting the boobery, sawing off the horns of other politicians, elbowing his way through the primaries and conventions, by the magic of virtue!

Abe, in fact, must have been a fellow highly skilled at the great democratic art of gum-shoeing. I like to think of him as one who defeated such politicians as Stanton, Douglas and Sumner with their own weapons – deftly leading them into ambuscades, boldly pulling their noses, magnificently ham-stringing and hornswoggling them – in brief, as a politician of extraordinary talents, who loved the game for its own sake, and had the measure of the crowd.

His official portraits, both in prose and daguerreotype, show him wearing the mien of a man about to be hanged; one never sees him smiling. Nevertheless, one hears that, until he emerged from Illinois, they always put the women, children and clergy to bed when he got a few gourds of corn aboard, and it is a matter of unescapable record that his career in the State legislature was indistinguishable from that of a Tammany [Hall] Nietzsche.

(Roosevelt: An Autopsy, Prejudices, A Selection, H.L. Mencken, Johns Hopkins Press, 1996, pp. 48-49)

Emancipation in Return for Determined Bravery

Southern General Thomas C. Hindman was among many who believed that the Confederacy should enlist black troops, and this initiative led to the Confederate Congress approving the enlistment of 300,000 black men in March 1865. The resistance from President Jefferson Davis stemmed from his belief that the South needed the African for its agricultural production, and that they should not serve as cannon-fodder or replacements for white troops who would not fight – as in the North.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Emancipation in Return for Determined Bravery

“Any hope of Confederate success in the field, [Hindman] asserted, rested on the principles that “the entire white male population” be placed in military service for the duration of the war and that exemptions be limited to essential employees of the Confederate and State governments.

Faced with a struggle for life itself, the Confederacy could not afford to overlook a single resource. “The ghosts of legions of Southern heroes . . . [would] haunt our pillows” if the Confederacy did not employ its “ultimate strength.” To those who would argue that property rights in slaves must remain inviolate, he stated that . . . white men in the army were the property of God, themselves, and their families. Was property in slaves “any more sacred,” he rhetorically asked.

To those who would claim that blacks would not fight, he pointed out the similar remarks about Northerners had been proved false. Blacks, he contended, were courageous and endured “pain and hardship” as well as whites. If they were put “by the side of white Southern soldiers,” . . . and assured of “freedom for good conduct,” he was confident that they would “display a determined bravery” in fighting for the Confederacy and their homes. Although a slave owner himself . . . he now was ready to support emancipation for blacks who would agree to fight in the Confederate army.

The idea of arming and enlisting slaves did not originate with him. As early as 17 July 1861, William S. Turner, a prosperous farmer from Hindman’s hometown of Helena [Arkansas], had written Secretary of War L.P. Walker and enquired in “Negro regiments . . . could be “received” for Confederate service. According to Turner, at least one man near Helena was willing to provide his son as a captain and “arm 100 of his own” slaves.

{Friend and former law partner General Patrick Cleburne] . . . proposed guaranteeing “freedom within a reasonable time to every slave in the South” who “remain[ed] true to the Confederacy.” In addition, “a large reserve of the most courageous of our slaves” must be trained for military service. With freedom for themselves and their families, black men, he predicted, would fight valiantly for the South.

Great Britain would respond with moral “support and material aid,” while Northerners, stripped of their “most powerful and honestly entertained plank in their war platform,” would soon tire of the fight. The presentation generated instant controversy . . . [and at its close, Generals William J.] Hardee and [Joseph E.] Johnston seemed “favorably disposed” . . . [and] Hindman was convinced that blacks must be enrolled as soldiers, and he risked his career to advance the concept.

On 16 January, he wrote a personal letter to [President Jefferson] Davis discussing the issue and other matters relating to the state of affairs in the army. According to his calculations, if “Negroes were allowed as teamsters, cooks, hospital attendants, laborers, and for the pioneer companies of divisions and engineer companies of the army, it would swell our ranks, at once, [by] about 20,000 men.” Such a revitalization of the armies “ought to ring in the ears of [every] Congressman” like the oratory of Cato.”

(Lion of the South, General Thomas C. Hindman, Diane Neal and Thomas Kremm, Mercer University Press, 1993, pp. 184-190)

Emancipation in Exchange for Recognition

The Confederate government consistently maintained that the emancipation of African slaves was the province of the  individual  States, as it had no authority to do so delegated to it by the Constitution.  The Cofederate Constitution was identical to the United States Constitution on this question.  As the war ground on and the North used captured Africans as labor and troops, it was obvious that the Confederacy should muster black troops, if emancipated by their owners and they voluntarily enlisted. This was done in March, 1865.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Emancipation in Exchange for Recognition

“It has been said that the Confederate agents always found among all classes in England and France a fixed and unrelenting hostility to slavery, but that in England, except among a relatively small part of the population, this hostility had no bearing upon their sympathies, which were largely in favor of the South. In their [Yancey-Rost-Mann mission] note to Russell of August 14, 1861, while they assured the [British] Foreign Minister that the war was one of conquest on the part of the North rather than a war to free the slaves, the commissioners acknowledged “the anti-slavery sentiment so universally prevalent in England.”

The reply to this European criticism and hostility to slavery was finally embodied in a circular sent to all the agents, January 15, 1863, in which [Confederate Secretary of State Judah] Benjamin . . . [instructed them to answer that] this domestic institution was one which only the individual States could deal with. The Confederate government, wrote Benjamin, “unequivocally and absolutely denies its possession of any power whatever over the subject and cannot entertain any propositions in relation to it.”

But this solid front against the discussion of abolishing slavery began to break in the Confederacy under the hostile attitude of Europe and the military necessity at home. After Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation thousands of Negro troops joined the Federal armies. With 400,000 or 500,000 foreigners and over 200,000 Negroes added to the Federal armies the small white population of the South began to feel itself overwhelmed by the weight of mere number; and finally it was urged that Negroes who could be enlisted in the Confederate armies should be freed.

This agitation culminated in the early winter of 1864-65 . . . [and] the Confederate government determined to capitalize in its diplomacy upon the idea of emancipation. On December 27, 1864, Benjamin wrote dispatches to Mason and Slidell to put the question squarely up to England and France whether slavery was and had been the obstacle to recognition. Duncan Kenner of Louisiana, member of Congress and chairman of the Ways and Means Committee . . . was appointed as special envoy to carry these instructions and to act with Mason and Slidell in case negotiations [to emancipate the slaves in exchange for recognition] should follow.

The optimistic Benjamin was in profound despair and he was now desperate. The freeing of the slaves was to hazard black supremacy, and all the horrors of Haiti. His note is worthy of extensive quotation: “The Confederate States have now for nearly four years resisted the utmost power of the United States with a courage and fortitude to which the world has accorded its respect and admiration.

No people have ever poured out their blood more freely in defense of their liberties and independence, nor have endured sacrifices with greater cheerfulness than have the men and women of these Confederate States. They accepted the issue which was forced on them by an arrogant and domineering race, vengeful, grasping and ambitious. They have asked nothing, [and] fought for nothing but for the right of self-government, for independence.”

But this was an inadequate picture of that heroism, for, in fact, the Confederacy, outnumbered by the North three to one, had been fighting Europe as well as the North. England and France had aided the United States by “the abandonment by those two powers of all rights as neutrals,” that is, he said . . . “their countenance of a blockade which, when declared, was the most shameless outrage on international law that modern times have witnessed . . . .[and] their indifference to the spectacle of a people [while engaged in an unequal struggle for defense] exposed to the invasion not only of the superior numbers of their adversaries, but of armies of mercenaries imported from neutral nations to subserve the guilty projects of our foes.

While engaged in defending our country on terms so unequal, the foes whom we are resisting profess the intention of resorting to the starvation and extermination of our women and children (Sherman’s march) as a means of securing conquest over us. In the very beginning of the contest they indicated their fell purpose by declaring medicines contraband of war, and recently have not been satisfied with burning granaries and dwellings and all food for man and beast.

They have sought to provide against any future crop by destroying all agricultural implements, and killing all animals that they could not drive from the farms, so as to render famine certain among the people.”

[The] Richmond Sentinel [of] January 19, 1865 . . . stated concisely the grounds upon which the South should free the slaves and use them as soldiers. “It is a question,” said the paper, “simply whether we give for our own uses, or whether the Yankees shall take for theirs. Subjugation means emancipation and confiscation . . . it would be far more glorious to devote our means to our success than to lose them as spoils to the enemy.”

[The] Richmond Enquirer of the same date [supported] warmly the idea of emancipation. “[We] must convince the world that we are fighting for the self-government of the whites and not for the slavery of the blacks; that the war has been forced upon us by the enemy for the purpose of spoliation and subjugation . . . and if that liberation [of the blacks] can be made to secure our independence, we believe that the people of these States would not hesitate to make that sacrifice.”

(King Cotton Diplomacy, Frank Lawrence Owsley, University of Chicago Press, 1931, pp. 530-536)

Rochester's Spirit of Hate

The vigilante justice of lynching was not confined to the South as is commonly believed, and race relations in the North, before and after the war, were not as harmonious as abolitionists and accounts of the mythical underground railroad claimed.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865

 

Rochester’s Spirit of Hate

“After his Rochester, New York, home was burned to the ground by incendiary on June 1, 1872, Frederick Douglass expressed his anger in his weekly New National Era: “Was it for plunder, or was it for spite? One thing I do know and that is, while Rochester is among the most liberal of Northern cities, and its people are among the most humane and highly civilized, it nevertheless has its full share of the Ku-Klux spirit . . . It is the spirit of hate, the spirit of murder.”

Race relations were often contentious in Rochester due in part to Douglass’s strong civil rights voice. By 1870, although Rochester’s African-American population was minute – just 427 out of a total population of 62,386 – racial tension, especially over employment, prompted concern by whites.

On Saturday, December 30, 1871, the [Rochester Daily] Union’s third edition published the city’s first report of the rape of an eight-year-old German girl by a black man after she had returned from a church event. News of the crime “spread like wild fire” after the child was returned to her parents. She had been brutally beaten but described her attacker to the police who began a frantic search for him.

Early Monday morning officers arrested William Edward Howard, and he was identified as the rapist by the girl at her home. Her father later “apologized to [a] reporter for not having killed the Negro when he was in the house.” Howard was not a stranger to the city’s police. In early 1871, he was arrested for voting illegally, and he served six months in jail. At the time of his arrest for rape, there was a warrant for his arrest for stealing from a local German woman.

Douglass’s son, Charles, who worked with his father on New National Era, wrote to his father on January 20: “That Howard boy was in my company in the 5th Cavalry. He came to the regiment as a [paid] substitute, and asked to be in my Co. I had to tie him up by the thumbs quite often. His offence was stealing.”

Outside the jail an agitated mob assembled . . . composed mainly of Germans, was intent on taking the law into its own hands, and the jail became Howard’s fortress. The [Rochester Daily] Union’s reportage was most descriptive: “Threats were made to lynch him and matters looked serious . . . four or five hundred people in the assemblage . . . [and cries of] “kill the nigger, give us the nigger” were loud and frequent.” [Judge R. Darwin Smith pronounced] “The sentence of the Court is that you be confined to Auburn State Prison for the period of twenty years at hard labor. The law formerly punished your crime with death.”

At the prison entrance, Howard turned toward [an angry crowd of several hundred men] and with his free hand placed his thumb on his nose and waved his fingers to mock them. Once in jail, Howard renounced his guilty plea, and professed his innocence.”

(The Spirit of Hate and Frederick Douglass, Richard H. White, Civil War History, A Journal of the Middle Period, Volume 46, Number 1, March 2000, pp. 41-47)

Connecticut and the Slave Trade

In colonial Fairfield, Connecticut, free and slave Africans worked the ships that delivered New England rum and Yankee notions to Africa — traded to African slave traders for more slaves. Towns like Fairfield grew affluent producing goods, barrel staves, foodstuffs and trinkets for the West Indies, where the majority of the slaves acquired would end up. As a young man Frederick Douglass worked the Baltimore shipyards helping to build fast slavers for New England merchants for the same purpose.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Connecticut and the Slave Trade

“Connecticut conducted another census in 1774. With a population of 4863, Fairfield was the eleventh largest town in Connecticut in 1774. The 4863 persons included 4544 whites and 319 blacks, giving Fairfield the highest percentage of black population in the colony. Fairfield’s growing trade encouraged the growth of its black population. Approximately three out of every four blacks in Fairfield in the 1770’s were slaves. Most of them were men who worked as laborers or household servants; a smaller number of women were household servants; and even a smaller number were children.

Most slaves were denied the pleasure of residing, with or without the benefit of marriage, with a member of the opposite sex. Captain David Judson owned a married couple and their child, but more typical was Hezekiah Gold, who owned four men, “a wench,” a young man, and two boys. Slavery was a luxury that Fairfield came to afford as it became more affluent.  Most free blacks in Fairfield worked as laborers, either on the docks or on board ship.”

(Fairfield, The Biography of a Community, Thomas J. Farnham, Fairfield Historical Society, 1988, pp. 71-72)

 

 

New England Federalist Secession Doctrine

An irony of history has the doctrine of secession originating in the South when it was first advanced by New England over the issue of Louisiana’s admission to Statehood. Jefferson and Madison, both Southerners, opposed secession; New England Federalists demanded it.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

New England Federalist Secession Doctrine

“The final political phenomenon to arise out of the North-South competition of the 1790s was the doctrine of Secession. It represented the death rattle of the Federalist party. The pivotal year was 1800 when the Democratic leaders Jefferson and Burr succeeded in putting together a coalition of the have-nots of the country – the agriculturalists of the South and the proletarians of the Northern cities. They won control of the nation.

The Federalist party survived another sixteen years, although it never again won control of the House, Senate or presidency. It did not take defeat well.

Barely three years after the Democratic rout, Northern Federalists began arguing for the secession of the New England States from the Union. There was nothing understated about their secessionist position. It was widespread, and if it could not be done peaceably, they said, it should be done violently.

Listen to one of the many secessionists, Josiah Quincy III, scion of the New England Quincy’s, future mayor of Boston and future president of Harvard University. In 1811 he was a thirty-eight-year-old congressman standing opposed to the admission of Louisiana as a State:

“It is my deliberate opinion,” he said, “that if this bill passes, the bonds of this union are virtually dissolved, that the States which compose it are free from their moral obligations, and that as it will be the right of all, so it will be the duty of some to prepare, definitely, for a separation; amicably if they can; violently if they must.”

One man who listened carefully that year was a freshman congressman from South Carolina. He was John C. Calhoun, who had been taught the secessionist doctrine in the law schools of New England, who had listened to it in the Congress, and who would one day carry it back down South . . . . Meanwhile, it is an unfair stroke that history has identified the South with secession when in fact the earliest and clearest arguments against it were proposed by Jefferson and Madison.

The creators of secession doctrine, and the teachers of it from 1800 to 1817, were New England Federalists.”

(The Natural Superiority of Southern Politicians, A Revisionist History, David Leon Chandler, Doubleday & Company, 1977, pp. 114-116)

The Life and Soul of the United States Government

Marylander Reverdy Johnson defended Mary Surratt in the Lincoln assassination conspiracy trial, argued that his client and others charged were civilians, and that the military commission Judge Advocate John A. Bingham convened had no jurisdiction – but to no avail. Major Bingham was a Pennsylvanian and Radical Republican appointed by Lincoln. In contrast to Bingham, Alexander H. Stephens and Jefferson Davis were the ablest constitutional scholars in the country.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The Life and Soul of the United States Government

“Read Judge Advocate Bingham’s argument before the Military Commission in Washington in reply to Hon. Reverdy Johnson. It is rhetorical sophistry, specious and plausible to the careless and uninformed reader; but it is utterly fallacious. It affects me in nothing so much as in the sadness it produces when I view it as but an additional evidence that Power, in its incipient and dangerous strides in trampling on the liberties of a country, is never wanting in able and brilliant advocates and defenders.

[Bingham’s] main ground, [is] that the Constitution . . . is intended and made for peace only and not for war, is fundamentally wrong. The Constitution was made for war as well as peace. To the various questions put by the Judge Advocate: Whether in war, men are not slain, prisoners captured, property taken, all without due process of law; the answer is, that they are not; no more than a man who, in peace, puts himself in defiance of the law officers, and is shot down by the sheriff or his posse: that is due process of law in such case. So in war.

In the cases of rebellion and insurrection, the only military forces known to the Constitution are such as are called out in the nature and character of the posse comitatus. For their government, when so called out, laws are made, as well as for the government of such permanent force as may be kept on hand. What a soldier rightfully does in taking life in battle he does according to law prescribed, and orders given in accordance with that law.

No soldiers, even in war, can be rightfully quartered on any man’s premises except in accordance with law previously described. This is an express provision of the Constitution. The idea that the Constitutional guarantees are all suspended in war and that during war martial law takes the place of the Constitution is monstrous.

The Judge Advocate’s remark about the natural principles of self-defence, and that the nation, as a man, may resort to any means to save its life, is rhetoric and not argument; its sentiment is ruinous to liberty. The life and soul of the United States Government is the Constitution and the principles with all the rights therein guaranteed. Whoever strikes at them, or at one of the least of them, strikes a deadly blow at the life of the Republic.

Nothing can be more absurd than that the life of a man can be preserved by an extinction or suspension of all the vital functions of his organism; and yet this is no more absurd than is the argument of those who speak of warding off a blow at the life of the nation, by a suspension or violation of the guarantees of the Constitution.”

(Recollections of Alexander H. Stephens, His Diary, Myrta Lockett Avary, LSU Press, 1998 (Original 1910), pp. 291-293)

Forebodings of Unequal Equality

Alexander H. Stephens of Georgia thought African slavery “one of the greatest problems of this interesting age,” and wondered “what is to be the fate of the poor African God only knows. His condition as a slave is certainly not a good one” though far better in the American South than in “his own barbarous clime.” Stephens believed the problem of Africans selling their own people into slavery to be a Christian nation’s duty to solve, and this was something European nations fairly accomplished in the late 19th century.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Forebodings of Unequal Equality

“I see in the Boston Herald that there was a riot yesterday in Washington, D.C., between Federal soldiers and Negroes; attack by the former upon the latter; 150 or 200 soldiers engaged. The military, or provost guard was called on to suppress it. Several were wounded and some killed on both sides.

Is this but the beginning of deplorable conflicts hereafter to be enacted between the races, until one or the other is extinguished? Sad forebodings haunt me. I apprehend intestine strifes, riots, bloodshed, wars of the most furious character, springing from antipathies of castes and races.

Equality does not exist between blacks and whites. The one race is by nature inferior in many respects, physically and mentally, to the other. This should be received as a fixed invincible fact in all dealings with the subject. It is useless to war against the decrees of nature in attempting to make things equal which the Creator has made unequal; the wise, humane, and philosophical statesman will deal with facts as he finds them. In the new order of things, I shall hope and, if permitted, strive, for the best; yet I cannot divest myself of forebodings of many evils.

My own judgment was that those who elected to go to a free State would not be so well off as those who should remain at home with masters of their choice. Still, that was a matter for their own decision and which I did not feel at liberty to control.

So far as my own Negroes are concerned, there is nothing now that would give me more pleasure, under the changed order of things, than to try the experiment and see what can be done for them in their new condition.

(Recollections of Alexander H. Stephens, His Diary, Myrta Lockett Avary, LSU Press, 1998 (Original 1910), pp. 207-208)