Political, Not Social Rights

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

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Political, Not Social Rights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Aristocratic, Undemocratic, Intolerant Rhode Island

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

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Aristocratic, Undemocratic, Intolerant Rhode Island:

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

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

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

 

Hamilton and Jefferson's Capital Deal

Despite stiff opposition to the new Constitution and its centralized federal power, Alexander Hamilton’s funding schemes found approval in deals and speculation on future profits with federal bond schemes. He additionally wanted to establish a central bank, though wary of this enterprise issuing paper money as governments could not be trusted to exert self-discipline in fiscal matters.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Hamilton and Jefferson’s Capital Deal

“Hamilton knew perfectly well that every State wanted the capital, and that Jefferson and Madison especially wanted the capital located in the rural South, away from what they regarded as the commerce and corruption of the cities. Hamilton intercepted Jefferson outside President Washington’s Broadway [New York City] mansion one day shortly after [his government assumption of State debt] bill’s defeat and asked for help in getting his bill through Congress. Jefferson, who had opposed the adoption of the Constitution itself, and favored the States in nearly all federal-State disputes over the distribution of power, was opposed to the bill.

Nonetheless, he offered to meet Hamilton the following night for dinner, with Madison in attendance. There a deal was made. Enough votes would be switched to ensure passage of Hamilton’s bill, in return for which Hamilton would throw his support to having the new capital located on the muddy and fever-ridden banks of the Potomac. To ensure Pennsylvania’s cooperation, the temporary capital was to be moved to Philadelphia for ten years.

The deal was made, and the bill was passed and signed into law by President Washington. Hamilton was right that [federal] bonds would find acceptance in the marketplace, and the entire issue sold out in only a few weeks.

The new government, with a monopoly on customs duties and possessing the power to tax elsewhere, was simply a better credit risk than the old [Articles of Confederation] government and the States had been. When it became clear that the US government would be able to pay the interest due on these bonds, they quickly became sought after in Europe, just as Hamilton had hoped, especially after the outbreak of the war in which the other European powers tried to reverse the tide of the French Revolution.”

(Hamilton’s Blessing, The Extraordinary Life and times of Our National Debt, John Steele Gordon, Penguin, 1997, pp. 30-33)

Crusades to Transplant American Civilization

Americans in 1898 followed what Reverend Alexander Blackburn called “the imperialism of righteousness, and Samuel Flagg Bemis “an imperialism against imperialism,” crusading to free an oppressed people while imposing an alien culture upon them. At home, Americans received large doses of what Ernest May referred to as “cascades of imperialist and moralistic oratory,” and New Republic founder Herbert Croly believed that the Spanish War launched the whole Progressive Era by delivering “a tremendous impulse to the work of reform.”

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Crusades to Transplant American Civilization

“So what was new about 1898? Why even call it imperialism, another abused word (like isolationism) with a host of nasty connotations? And above all, why include it among the traditions of US foreign policy? For the decidedly new, problematic feature of the era was not the colonialism that everyone now condemns, but the moral progressivism that most now applaud!

The United States went off the rails, in terms of its honored traditions, when it went to war with Spain in the first place. Imagine: the American people and government allowed themselves to be swept by a hurricane of militant righteousness into a revolutionary foreign war, determined to slay a dragon and free a damsel in distress.

It was precisely the sort of temptation that Washington and Hamilton scorned, Jefferson and Madison felt but resisted, and John Quincy Adams damned with eloquence. Exceptionalism meant Liberty at home, not crusades to change the world. In terms of US traditions, the only thing wrong with the imperialist era was what everyone took for granted was right: the war to end war in Cuba.

Having then vanquished the Spaniards, Americans found themselves in possession of several small colonies. The problem of what to do with them raised a second temptation: not retention of foreign bases – that was sound strategy – but rather the “All-Philippine Movement,” which landed the nation’s moral elites in the muddle Polk had avoided at the time of the All-Mexico Movement.

For not only did Americans charge off on a crusade, they remained in the lands they seized in the belief that they had a mission to transplant American civilization, even though they had no intention of allowing the islanders to graduate to statehood. As one historian shrewdly observed: “The imperialist compromise was to allow the flag to advance but to deny that the Constitution followed the flag.”

What did follow the flag was the same do-gooder impulse that inspired the reforms of the Progressive Era . . . Colonial administrators, economists, teachers, doctors, missionaries, investors, and the Army Corps of engineers descended on Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam, and Panama to whip yellow fever and malaria, build the Panama Canal (which TR dubbed a gift to humanity), develop the economies, and free the people from their Spanish Catholic legacy.

For at bottom, the belief that American power, guided by a secular and religious spirit of service, could remake foreign societies came as easily to the Progressives as trust-busting, prohibition of child labor, and regulation of interstate commerce, meat-packing and drugs. Teddy Roosevelt’s “rhetoric of militant decency” was the voice and spirit of the age. “Our chief usefulness to humanity,” he preached, “rests on our combining power with high purpose.”

(Promised Land, Crusader State, the American Encounter with the World Since 1776, Walter A. McDougall, Houghton-Mifflin, 1997, pp. 118-120)

Dec 6, 2014 - Crimes of War    No Comments

Sherman's Horde of Thieves and Plunderers

Wartime Governor Zeb Vance of North Carolina compared the “gentler invasion of Cornwallis in 1781” with Sherman’s hordes in 1865, noting Cornwallis’s order from Beattie’s Ford, January 28, 1781: “It is needless to point out to the officers the necessity of preserving the strictest discipline, and of preventing the oppressed people from suffering violence at the hands of whom they are taught to look to for protection . . . “

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Sherman’s Horde of Thieves and Plunderers

“Vance considered it apparent to every intelligent observer as 1865 dawned that the Confederacy was doomed. Lee was holding Richmond with what he described as “a mere skirmish line.” In twenty miles of trenches, Grant faced him with 180,000 men. Savannah had fallen and while the South still held Wilmington and Charleston, their loss was inevitable.

Sherman with 75,000 troops was preparing for the “home-stretch toward Richmond,” driving the scattered Confederate detachments – not more than 22,000 – before him. Enemy cavalry overran the interior of the Confederacy. “Nowhere,” Vance continued, “was there a gleam of hope; nowhere had there come to us any inspiring success. Everything spoke of misfortune and failure.”

Vance was most critical of the conduct of Sherman’s army and the “stragglers and desperadoes following in its wake.” He was severe in his castigation of the Federal commander.

“When a general organizes a corps of thieves and plunderers as a part of his invading army, and licenses beforehand their outrages, he and all who countenance, aid or abet, invite the execration of mankind. This peculiar arm of the military service, it is charged and believed, was instituted by General Sherman in his invasion of the Southern States. Certain it is that the operations of his “Bummer Corps” were as regular and un-rebuked, if not as much commended for their efficiency, as any other division of his army, and their atrocities were often justified or excused on the ground that “such is war.”

Vance in his denunciation of Sherman was not able to look ahead to wars in which supposedly enlightened nations would make civilians their main target, devastate entire cities to break down morale and the will to resist, and degenerate warfare to a barbarity that would have appalled the horde of Genghis Khan.”

[Vance continued:] “The whole policy and conduct of the British commander was such to indicate unmistakably that he did not consider the burning of private houses, the stealing of private property, and the outraging of helpless, private citizens as “War,” but as robbery and arson. I venture to say that up to the period when that great march [Sherman’s] taught us the contrary, no humane general or civilized people in Christendom believed that “such is war.”

(Zeb Vance, Champion of Personal Freedom, Glenn Tucker, Bobbs-Merrill, 1965, pp. 374-376)

Yankee Slave Traders Dividing Arab Families

In their zeal to load human cargo bound for the New World, New England slavers on Africa’s coast often caught competing Arab slave traders in raids on barracoons. Antebellum North Carolina Governor John Owen (see www.cfhi.net) purchased an Arab in Charleston named “Moro” who had been well educated prior to capture, and like S’Quash below, considered himself above Negro slaves. The author was the son of General Rufus Barringer, and nephew of General Daniel Harvey Hill.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Yankee Slave Traders Dividing Arab Families

“The abolition of the slave trade was voted by the United States Congress in 1790, but the importation of slaves was prolonged by the votes of Massachusetts and South Carolina. North Carolina, which was never at heart a slave State, had always carried a tariff on Negroes. However, the law was finally passed in 1804, to become effective January 1, 1808, that no more slaves were to be imported.

[North Carolinian Robert McDowell travelled to Charleston to purchase slaves off a New England slaver, selecting a large black man who] . . . was a commanding figure. His clear-cut, aquiline features were extremely dark, like a Moor, and his straight black hair and beard, matted and foul from neglect, were not kinky. He was obviously not a Negro. “I will take him,” said Mr. McDowell. “What is his nationality?”

“To tell the truth, I don’t know,” answered the captain . . . ”But I’ve always thought some slave dealer was settling an old score.”

The potential truth of this statement has been borne out by history. With the approaching close of the slave trade, far more ships appeared on the Guinea Coast than could possibly be provided with cargo; so the slave traders made raids upon the slave barracks or barracoons. In doing so, they got a number of Arabs, themselves slave traders, and their wives, concubines, and children. At the last minute, it was “The devil take the hindmost.”

To avoid recrimination and to render the captives less dangerous, the Yankee slave traders divided these Arab families up amongst their various ships, and S’Quash fell to this trader. It was a terrible fate, but no more or less than his system had meted out to others. It was in the final settlement a case of “Winner take all.”

Nine miles out on the King’s Highway, the mile post, which should have carried the Roman numeral IX, had been damaged and replaced with a simple 9, an Arabic numeral. The captive stopped the wagon and held out his hands, showing five fingers of one hand and four of the other, a total of nine, thus proving he could read Arabic and understand at least simple arithmetic, no mean achievement for a slave.

To make a long story short, S’Quash, as he was called in a phonetic effort at his real name, was an Arab of a family long engaged in the slave trade; he had the advantages of travel and education of his day and class in that he had been to Cairo and could read Greek as well as Arabic. Whatever his past, he definitely threw in his lot with the ruling class [and] assigned to . . . the “big house” in order to acquire some English and the pattern of living in this strange land.

He held himself completely aloof from the Negro slaves and would neither live nor mate with them, staying in a hut by himself. [He learned a nearby plantation held] a Dinka Negress and asked permission to marry her. The famous tribe of Dinkas . . . came from what is now called Anglo-Egyptian Soudan [and] . . . In their subtle Arabic caste system she was eligible as a wife and was purchased by [the master] at a substantial figure, $3000, which was a top price.

[Many years later after the War], I was questioned by one of [my] cousins about a queer picture in the attic, “not quite white and quite colored” and did I know anything about it? It was the portrait of S’Quash, and since no one else wanted it, I sent for [S’Quash descendant] Harvey and gave it to him, saying, “Harvey, you should have this for I am sure you are the only Negro in the United States who has the portrait of his great-grandfather who was an Arab slave trader.”

(The Natural Bent, The Memoirs of Dr. Paul B. Barringer, UNC Press, 1949, pp. 10-15)

Washington's Remains Removed from Harms Way

Underscoring the sectional nature of the victorious Republican party were fears that relics and heroes of the old Republic would be desecrated or violated.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Washington’s Remains Removed from Harms Way 

“[Diary entry] May 21, 1861:

Removal of the Remains of Washington – A correspondent of the Lynchburg “Republican” says:

“I was told today that a report having reached . . . Virginia that the tomb of Gen. Washington was going to be violated by the Republicans, his remains and those of his family were promptly removed to a more central spot in the State, where they will be out of harm’s way.

If this is true, what a commentary on the North! How strange that coming events should prompt such a move! Surely we live in a singular age.”

(Diary of Ada Amelia Costin, Wilmington, North Carolina, Tuesday, May 21, 1861. Special Collections, Randall Library, UNC-Wilmington)

The Fictitious Status of a Sovereign State

The visiting Frenchman Hauranne, stayed in the North and supported its war against the American South. Yet, he wrote about and admitted the dictatorial and arrogant abuses of power inherent in Lincoln’s regime, often comparing it to the French Directory and Reign of Terror.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

The Fictitious Status of a Sovereign State

“[Diary Entry] December 21, 1864:

You know that senators are elected, not be direct popular vote, but by the State legislatures, with each sending two senators to Congress, whatever the size of the State’s population. But since last July Louisiana has a new State constitution, a semi-military document produced by General [Nathaniel P.] Banks and a Mexican-style junta chosen exclusively by known friends of the Federal Government. Thus Louisiana’s rights of Statehood have been restored, at least on paper; the reorganized State government exercises its full sovereign rights; but officials are elected under the protection of the military authorities, by a twentieth, at most, of its citizens.

That is called “reconstruction” of the State of Louisiana, though it serves only to give an appearance of legality to a state of martial law. Louisiana could have been made a “territory” for the time being; that is, the policies of the Washington government could have been imposed on her without giving representation in Congress. She could have been left for awhile longer under the undisguised rule of a military commandant and this arbitrary exercise of power would at least have had the merit of honesty.

It was thought preferable to give her the fictitious status of a sovereign State in order to wield in her name in the halls of Congress the power of which she has been despoiled. Some Republicans . . . give their unreserved approval to all the dictatorial measures of General Banks. Finally, the dictator of Louisiana has come to Washington in person to support his protégés, and no one doubts that the two senators will be seated.”

(A Frenchman in Lincoln’s America, Volume II, Ernest Duvergier de Hauranne, Donnelly & Sons, pp. 218-219)

Antiquity Out of Fashion

There is much truth in the view that today’s universities are job-training facilities that specialize in leftist indoctrination of young people and accomplish little in the way of a valuable education.  These schools demonize the past unless it fits within the framework of the cultural Marxism they espouse —  while they rob students of the ability to understand their culture, traditions and roots of the Western Civilization they live within.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Antiquity Out of Fashion:

“At our universities, the historians like to dump the ancient history course in the lap of the philologists, and vice versa. Here and there it is treated like a poor relation whom it would be a disgrace to let go to ruin entirely. But with the public at large antiquity is completely out of fashion, and the “culture” which is supported by this public even feels hatred for it. Various faults of antiquity serve as a pretext.

The real reason is conceit about modern communication and transport and the inventions of our century; then too, there is the inability to distinguish technical and material greatness from the intellectual and moral kinds; and finally, the prevalent views about refinement of manners, philanthropy, and the like.

But what makes it generally impossible for the present-day average “educated” man to find anything appealing in the ancient world is the total egoism of today’s private person who wants to exist as an individual and asks of the community only the greatest possible security for himself and his property, for which he pays his taxes amid sighs, and who also likes to attach himself to the community in a specific sense as an “official.”

On the other hand, the peoples of the ancient Orient, who lived tribally, impress us as races of which each individual is only a type, with the king as the highest type.

Finally, today’s “educated” men are firmly resolved to make a bargain, with whatever power, for their existence at any given time. There is an enormous veneration of life and property. There is a mass abdication, and not just on the part of the rulers! And there are numerous bargaining positions and concessions against the worst – and all this with great touchiness in matters of recognition and so-called honor.

With the ancients, on the contrary, it was all or nothing, with no fear of disaster. The fall of states, cities, and kings was considered glorious. That is something alien to us.”

(Judgments on History and Historians, Jacob Burckhardt, Liberty Fund, 1999, pp. 5-7)

Dec 1, 2014 - Prescient Warnings    No Comments

An AntiFederalist Warning

North Carolinian Timothy Bloodworth (1736-1814) was a self-made man: minister of the gospel, farmer, politician, smith, physician and wheelwright. Benevolence toward his fellow man was said to be his most distinguishing characteristic.  He was first elected to the legislative assembly at age 22, and elected to Congress in 1784.  Bloodworth resigned in 1787 to return home where he fiercely fought ratification of the new Constitution he saw as an opening wedge of tyranny.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

An AntiFederalist Warning

“(In 1788) North Carolina’s Anti-Federalists contended that the adoption of this centralizing Constitution would lead to the destruction of the rights of the States and their people;  the removal of government from popular control; that capital and industry would be promoted at the expense of agriculture;

[T]hat the omission of a Bill of Rights would be disastrous; that a government so far removed from the people was dangerous—as all had learned with a central government in London; and that State governments would be swallowed up by the national government.

Timothy Bloodworth of New Hanover county maintained that the Constitution would set up an “autocratic tyranny, or monarchical monarchy.” Thomas Person of Granville county insisted that it would be impractical and dangerous,” and noted Baptist preacher Lemuel Burkitt predicted that should the Constitution be put into effect, the district for the capital would become a walled city with a standing army of 50,000 or more, to be used for “crushing the liberties of the people.”

(North Carolina and the Federal Union, Hugh Talmadge Lefler, UNC Press, 1954