Grand Army Rights as Conquerors

North Carolinian Nathanial Macon opposed the granting of pensions to War of 1812 veterans since the freedom they fought for and retained seemed suffient compensation for military service.  He was aware of the predictable political constituency enabled by a large army, true then as it is today.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Grand Army Rights as Conquerors

“The assumption behind the original pension law of 1862 had been that the Federal government . . . was liable only for injuries . . . sustained while in [service]. Mere service as a Union veteran did not entitle a man to any special consideration, even if he happened to be sick, jobless or destitute. By far the most common rebuttal [to pension reform] involved the declaration of a new principle: that the Union veteran had a prior claim on the nation’s treasury, not as a compensation for illness, not as a gratuity, but as an absolute right.

The Service Pension Association’s Frank Farnham, calling the GAR “the representatives of those who saved the country, by the greatest of sacrifices,” argued that “any reasonable demand” of the veterans should receive the public’s “unqualified support.”

Opposition to the Grand Army, he said, came mostly from the ex-Confederates, ex-Copperheads and Mugwumps. New York supporters of the $8 service pension bill were even more blunt. “The GAR,” they proclaimed in 1886, “own this country by the rights of a conqueror.”

[“Nation” editor Edwin] Godkin . . . found service pensions appalling in principle. As Congress was considering a proposal to pension all veterans over the age of sixty, he wrote:

“A large proportion of the half-million people who are added to the pension roll are persons who have no possible claim to consideration. Some of them were worthless as soldiers during the war; others are now “hard up” simply because they have grown shiftless and dissipated since the war; others are well-to-do and in no possible need of any increase to their income. The simple fact about the matter is that any old “bummer” who can establish the fact that he was connected with the Union Army in any way for ninety days, even if he got no further than the recruiting camp, may now have his name placed on the pension roll and draw $8 a month for the rest of his life.”

(Glorious Contentment The Grand Army of the Republic, Scott McConnell, UNC Press, 1992)

Hoke Smith and the Grand Army Pensions

The first Democrat president after the War, Grover Cleveland went to work immediately on the “Billion Dollar Congress” which notoriously had handed out extravagant war pensions to the Grand Army of the Republic’s (GAR) veterans. In Cleveland’s second term, 1893 to 1897, his Secretary of the Interior, Hoke Smith of Georgia revealed the depth of pension frauds amid the Republican party’s loyal electorate.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Hoke Smith and the Grand Army Pensions

“By 1893 there were almost a million pensioners, receiving over $156 billion annually, or almost a third of the entire expense of operating the government. That inveterate reformer Carl Schurz called the pension system “a biting satire on democratic government. Never has there been anything like it in point of extravagance and barefaced dishonesty.”

The pressure exerted by the GAR and the political dynamite in the pension question had continually precipitated more generous pension legislation. Furthermore, the lax administration of the pension laws allowed applicants with the weakest possible claims, as well as some who were guilty of “wholesale and gigantic frauds,” to be admitted to the rolls.

In May 1893, [Hoke] Smith . . . revoked the notorious “Order No. 164″ [of] 1890 . . . an interpretation [by Republican Commissioner of Pensions Raum] which proved highly advantageous to persons with minor disabilities not of service origin. During the second Cleveland administration, the spiraling cost of the Federal pensions was checked . . . [but] it was in Congress that fundamental pension policy was determined and the Congressmen were in a liberal mood as far as the [Civil War] veterans were concerned.”

(Hoke Smith and the Politics of the New South, Dewey Grantham, Jr., LSU Press, 1958)

The Grand Army's Death's Head

The United States Centennial observance in 1876 could not avoid the reality of one section of the country pinned to the other by ruthless conquest and bayonets still stained with American blood. Having left the Union in 1861 to preserve the Founders’ Constitution, there was little to celebrate in 1876.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The Grand Army’s Death’s Head

“The . . . celebration of the birth of the American nation — was held in Philadelphia in 1876. An occasion so completely engaging the attention of the country and participated in so widely drew forth much discussion in the South.

Some Southern leaders opposed their section taking part; they still felt that the country was not theirs and that it might be less than dignified in themselves, and lacking in respect for their heroic Revolutionary ancestors, to go to Philadelphia and be treated as less than equals in a union which those ancestors had done a major part to found.

Former [South Carolina] Governor Benjamin F. Perry saw in the Centennial an effective way to drive home to the country the similarity of principles of the rebellion that became the Revolution, and the rebellion that became the “Lost Cause.

[He wrote:] “This Centennial celebration of the rebels of ’76 cannot fail to teach the Northern mind to look with more leniency on Confederate rebels who only attempted to do in the late civil war what the ancestors of the Northern people did do in the American revolution . . . It shows a want of sense as well as a want of principle, and a want of truth, to call the rebels of 1776 patriots and heroes, and the rebels of 1861, “traitors.”

Only one contingency would induce a Virginian not to take part. The Grand Army must not be represented: “It would be the death’s head on the board; the skeleton in the banquet hall.”

(The History of the South, Volume VIII, E. Merton Coulter, LSU Press, 1947)

 

Toys and Fuel for Goths and Vandals

The barbarian invader will often destroy his victim’s institutions of religion and learning, symbols having no meaning for him. This invader will also destroy literature which he sees as counter to his narrow vision, replace it with that which extols his more primitive culture and base ideals, and then inform his captives that this is progress.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Toys and Fuel for Goths and Vandals

“Almost in the twinkling of an eye the whole social fabric of the South was swept away, and a half-century has hardly sufficed to produce an entire readjustment to new conditions, so fundamental was the change. The libraries and colleges, indeed all institutions that fostered and conserved its culture, suffered heaviest.

Almost every school building in the South was occupied at one time or other by soldiers as barracks or hospitals, and books and instruments of unknown value were used as fuel or served as toys for the idle hours of high privates. In many of the libraries, broken sets and mutilated volumes still remain as pathetic reminders of the days of blood and fire.

The famous library at Charleston was partially destroyed, the building being used as a military hospital; all the Virginia institutions suffered greatly, as did those in Kentucky and Tennessee. The most astonishing episode, however, of the kind, in that most astonishing conflict, was the burning of the library building and collections of the University of Alabama, during the final days of the war. This library, which was one of the largest and best selected in the South, was ruthlessly destroyed at a time when the issue of the conflict had been decided, and no conceivable gain could have resulted from such an action.

Of the influence of his books upon the man of the early South, we are permitted to judge by the work the Southerner did in the forming of the nation. [The] schools and libraries of ante-bellum days surely had a large share in the development of the men who defended, by impassioned speech and heroic deed, social traditions and an ideal of the state doomed by the spirit of progress.”

(The South in the Building of the Nation, Volume VII, Edwin Wiley, Southern Historical Publication Society, 1909, pp. 500-501, 510)

 

American's Sacrificed for Vested Interests

North Carolinian Claude Kitchin rightly sensed Woodrow Wilson’s intentions as he wrote in February 1916: “I think the President is anxious for war with Germany . . . I fear the President is going to watch for the first opportunity to strike at Germany and involve this country in a world-wide war . . . It seems a crime against civilization and humanity for this Christian nation to plunge into the war and make a slaughter-house of the whole world.” Nearly 117,000 American men unnecessarily perished in the Great World War, Part One.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

American’s Sacrificed for Vested Interests

“Various motives were attributed to Kitchin for his opposition to the Wilson war policies. But the fact remains that Wilson, with complete authority to direct our relations with the warring Powers, persisted in following a highly un-neutral and war-threatening course which inevitably led us into the holocaust; and that Claude Kitchin, along with most other leaders of the President’s own party in Congress, backed by large majorities in both Houses – at least until the potent resources of the Administration were employed in full force – fought for a more genuinely neutral and pacific course.

That the President was beset by powerful economic and political forces and was ill-advised by men of his own choice, whom he knew to be biased, helps greatly explain his course but adds nothing to his wisdom as a statesman.

Wilson himself, his appointees in belligerent capitals, and the advisors upon whom he most relied were biased in favor of the Allies and against the Central Powers. A large majority of the American public was similarly biased and was easily victimized by propaganda. We were lured by the growing volume of profitable trade occasioned by the war, which became the basis of a booming – though ephemeral – prosperity. To enjoy this trade we had to encounter the hazards of unlawful “blockades” on either side.

As the Allies had more to offer us, as their huge naval superiority made their “blockade” more formidable, and as our sympathies were predominantly on their side, we endured their arbitrary dicta and defied those of Germany.

The time came when the Allies could no longer make their mounting purchases except on a credit basis. The Administration was besought to permit the granting of credits and later the floatation of loans to the Allies in this country. Reluctant at first, it yielded by degrees.

And thus we developed a vested interest which ran into the billions in the ultimate triumph of the side upon which we had staked our “prosperity.” The Wilson Administration came to rationalize its one-sided policies on the faulty hypothesis that one side was fighting for the right and the other for the wrong, that one was even “fighting our battles” against the menace of the other.

Wilson conceived of himself first as the great World Arbiter and finally as the Commander of Righteousness Triumphant.”

(Claude Kitchin and the Wilson War Policies, Alex Arnett, Russell & Russell, 1937, pp. 115; 117-119)

Becoming a Great National Consolidated Democracy

On February 19, 1847, Senator John C. Calhoun stated that “the day that the [political] equilibrium between the two sections of the country . . . is destroyed is a day that will not be far removed from political revolution, anarchy, civil war, and widespread disaster.” On the next day he said: “We know what we are about, we foresee what is coming, and move with no other purpose but to protect our portion of the Union from the greatest of calamities . . . ”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Becoming a Great National Consolidated Democracy

“But while [territorial acquisition, immigration and political representation] measures were destroying the equilibrium between the two sections, the action of the government was leading to a radical change in its character, by concentrating all the power of the system in itself.

[It] would not be difficult to show that the process commenced at an early period of the government, and that it proceeded, almost without interruption, step by step, until it absorbed virtually its entire powers . . . That the government claims, and practically maintains, the right to decide in the last resort, as to the extent of its powers, will scarcely be denied by any one conversant with the political history of the country.

That it also claims the right to resort to force to maintain whatever power it claims, against all opposition, is equally certain. Indeed, it is apparent, from what we daily hear, that this has become the prevailing and fixed opinion of a great majority of the community. Now, I ask, what limitation can possibly be placed upon the powers of a government claiming and exercising such rights?

And, if none can be, how can the separate governments of the States maintain and protect the powers reserved to them by the Constitution, or the people of the several States maintain those which are reserved to them, and, among others, the sovereign powers by which they ordained and established not only their separate State Constitutions and governments, but also the Constitution and government of the United States?

But, if they have no constitutional means of maintaining them against the right claimed by this government, it necessarily follows that they hold them at its pleasure and discretion, and that all the powers of the system are in reality concentrated in it. It also follows that the character of the government has been changed in consequence from a federal republic, as it originally came from the hands of the framers, into a great national consolidated democracy.

It has indeed, at present, all the characteristics of the latter, and not one of the former, although it still retains its outward form.”

(The Life of John C. Calhoun, Gustavus M. Pinckney, Walker, Evans & Cogswell, 1903, pp. 178-179)

Cincinnati's Anti-Black Past

In 1804 and 1807 Ohio had enacted “Jim Crow Laws” that required Negroes entering the State to post a $500 bond to guarantee good behavior, as well as a court document proving they were free. Though the bond requirement was not strictly enforced, by 1829 Cincinnatians were greatly alarmed by the large black population and ordered them to comply or leave the city within thirty days.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Cincinnati’s Anti-Black Past

“There was an abolition mob in Cincinnati a fortnight before my arrival, and the excitement had hardly subsided then. Let it be remembered, Ohio is a non-slave State. Two boys were playing near the canal, and bothering a Negro man, who got into a passion and stabbed one of them with a knife. The Negro was apprehended; but the citizens were so indignant at the outrage that they determined to hunt the Negroes out of the town altogether. For this purpose, they met at Fifth Street Market, some thousands strong, with rifles and two fieldpieces, and marched in regular order to the district of the city where the Negroes principally resided.

The blacks were numerous, and rumor said they were to show fight. Many of them had arms. Some said they fired on the citizens, and others not. There was some firing; but I could not ascertain if any of the blacks were killed, the accounts were so various. The end of the matter was, that they hounded them out of the town, and not a Negro durst show his black face in the town for a week. Many of them fled to the authorities of the town for protection; and the jail-yard was crowded with the poor creatures who had fled for their lives.

An arrangement was immediately come to, between the authorities and the citizens; to the effect that no Negro should be allowed to live in the city who could not find a white man to become his security, and be answerable for his conduct. There were two days of mobbing. The second day they gutted an abolition establishment, and sunk the press in the middle of the Ohio River, where it now lies . . .”

(Lynch Law — North and South, William Thomson, The Leaven of Democracy, Clement Eaton, editor, Braziller Press, 1963, page 424)

Conceiving the Professional Revolutionary Man

In the late 1880s German socialists thought the United States “had much better hopes” of achieving socialism than Russia as “the masses are quicker.” At that time a definite revolutionary doctrine was emerging: the belief in “the people,” socialism, materialism, technology, and the concept “of the ruthless “New Man” breaking sown the past and turning his back on it.” It was a new religion with no ceremonies or church, and pursued with “a confused belief in idealistic terrorism for its own sake.” History, traditions and culture became enemies of the state.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Conceiving the Professional Revolutionary Man

“[The] existing world must be swept away. “Nihilism was born in Russia.” Dostoevsky declares. “We are all nihilists.” Blood will flow in streams,” Alexander Herzen cries. “And the upshot? . . . It is enough that . . . there will perish the world which oppresses the new men of the new time . . . Long live chaos, therefore, long live destruction! We are the executioners of the past.”

The Russia in which Nicholas II had grown up was filled with all kinds of “believers” who swallowed the queerest creeds, ranging all the way from minor religious deviations and sects who expected salvation from the drinking of milk to less harmful people who specialized in drunken sex orgies, violence, collective torture, self-mutilation and sometimes collective suicide.

To some extent the theme of the Russian revolution was the bridging of [the] gap between the universities and the [mostly illiterate] peasants, the combination, as in some chemical formula, of the intellectuals and the masses, and this is the point where the revolution became really explosive.

In the 1850’s and 60’s nihilism [had arrived in Russia] – the word was invented by Turgenev – the cult of believing in the destruction of all constituted authority, and it was accompanied by the idea that the way ahead lay not through art but through science; science now was to be the great panacea. These were also the years of the first serious attempts by the intelligentsia to combine with the peasants.

The Narodnik movement was an intensely Russian affair, a going down to the peasants rather than an effort to raise them up. The Narodniks believed that the revolution would be based upon the workers on the land, and that their instinctive communism would legitimately form the new Russian state. Out of these beginnings one of the two great left-wing parties – the Social-Revolutionaries – grew up.

Meanwhile, a technique for the physical act of revolution, for terrorism and all the business of secret cells and underground communications was developing. A new man was conceived, the professional revolutionary, a man who regarded himself as expendable, who followed blindly the leader and the party line, and who if need be would lie, cheat and murder to gain his objective.

He was possessed of neither patriotism nor of pity; his only faith was in the revolution itself, and in this he was a fanatic. [It was envisaged that] a communist state on utopian lines . . . would be created by a small resolute group of these supermen.

The terrorists now were professional terrorists [including] university students who lived in a world of passionate idealism and passionate hate. Violence was beginning to beget violence in a vicious and never-ending circle, and it was destroying the possibility of any reasonable approach to reform.

The young men on fire with the idea of personal sacrifice, despised liberalism; socialism – the redistribution of wealth and the end of Czardom – was their direct aim, and it became for them a sacred trust.”

(The Russian Revolution, Alan Morehead, Bantam Books, 1959, excerpts, pp. 30-34)

Fleeing Northern Race Prejudice

To quell the fears of Northerners who envisioned emancipated slaves flooding their way in search of employment and wages, Northern leaders began advancing theories. Giving the freedmen political control of the defeated South would “drain the northern Negroes back to the South” as they fled northern race prejudice. Lincoln and other Republicans advanced ideas of colonization; Grant as president gave serious thought to deporting freedmen to Haiti.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Fleeing Northern Race Prejudice

“As the war for the union began to take on the character of a war for freedom, northern attitudes toward the Negro paradoxically began to harden rather than soften. This hardening process was especially prominent in the northwestern or middle western States where the old fear of Negro invasion was intensified by apprehensions that once the millions of slaves below the Ohio River were freed they would push northward – this time by the thousands and tens of thousands, perhaps in mass exodus, instead of in driblets of one or two who came furtively as fugitive slaves.

The prospect of Negro immigration, Negro neighbors, and Negro competition filled the whites with alarm, and their spokesmen voiced their fears with great candor. “There is,” [Illinois Senator] Lyman Trumbull told the Senate, in April, 1862, “a very great aversion in the West – I know it to be so in my State – against having free negroes come among us.”

And about the same time [Senator] John Sherman, who was to give his name to the Radical Reconstruction Act five years later, told Congress that in Ohio “we do not like negroes. We do not disguise our dislike. As my friend from Indiana [Congressman Joseph A. Wright] said yesterday, the whole people of the northwestern States are, for reasons correct or not, opposed to having many negroes among them and the principle or prejudice has been engrafted in the legislation of nearly all the northwestern States.”

So powerful was this anti-Negro feeling that it almost overwhelmed antislavery feeling and seriously imperiled the passage of various confiscation and emancipation laws designed to free the slave. To combat the opposition Republican leaders such as George W. Julian of Indiana, Albert G. Riddle of Ohio, and Salmon P. Chase advanced the theory that emancipation would actually solve northern race problems.

Instead of starting a mass migration of freedmen northward, they argued, the abolition of slavery would not only put a stop to the entry of fugitive slaves but would drain the northern Negroes back to the South. Once slavery [was] ended, the Negro would flee northern race prejudice and return to his natural environment and the congenial climate of the South.

One tentative answer of the Republican party to the northern fear of Negro invasion, however, was deportation of the freedmen and colonization abroad . . . the powerful backing of President Lincoln and the support of western Republicans, Congress overcame [any] opposition. Lincoln was committed to colonization not only as a solution to the race problem but as a means of allaying northern opposition to emancipation and fears of Negro exodus.

(Seeds of Failure in Radical Race Policy, C. Vann Woodward, New Frontiers of the American Reconstruction, Harold M. Hyman, editor, pp. 126-129)

Free Soil Iowa Without Black People

The free soil and anti-slavery mantras of the prewar Republican party meant confining the black man to the South and reserving the western territories to European immigrants who did not want to compete with cheap labor. Lincoln and his fellow Republicans felt that the best use of the territories was “for homes of free white people”; Senator Lyman Trumbull of Illinois admitted the white supremacy basis of his party, stating that “We, the Republican party, are the white man’s party.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Free Soil Iowa Without Black People

“It is surprising that so many forceful anti-Negro views could be aired on the frontier and yet escape the scrutiny of so many historians. At the constitutional conventions of almost every western State, the single most pressing question was the admission or status of the black population. “Shall the territories be Africanized?” was the way Senator James Harlan of Iowa phrased it.

Both proslavery and antislavery delegates vied with each other in verbalizing their resentment of black people, and their insistence that equality was entirely unacceptable to white residents of the States. Some even jeopardized their State’s admission to the Union by offering anti-Negro laws that were in clear violation of the wishes of Congress. And, as the slavery controversy grew and civil war appeared more imminent, colorphobia increased in the western States.

The 1850 Indiana Constitutional Convention illustrated the fury of this colorphobia. One delegate argued:

“. . . that we can never live together upon an equality is as certain as that no two antagonistic principles can exist together at the same time.”

Comments at the 1844 Iowa Constitutional Convention [were]:

“We could never consent to open the doors of our beautiful State and invite [the black] to settle our lands.”

“The ballot box would fall into his hands and a train of evils would follow that would be incalculable.”

“The Negro not being a party to the government, has no right to partake of its privileges.”

“There are strong reasons to induce the belief that the two races could not exist in the same government upon an equality without discord and violence.”

[The Iowa Journal of History, Vol. I]

(The Black West, William Loren Katz, Open Hand Publishing, 1987, pp. 49-50)