Jul 14, 2019 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Immaculate Patriots and Crude Partisans

Immaculate Patriots and Crude Partisans

The infamous Union League movement originated in the secret fraternities of mid-1850s anti-immigrant Know Nothing lodges, later becoming a political party and which merged with the Republicans. New members had to be voters and recite a pledge of allegiance in elaborate rituals of burning incense, US flags and the Bible. Each swore to “sustain the existing [Republican] administration in putting down the enemies of the government and to thwart the designs of “traitors and dis-loyalists.”

Prior to Lincoln’s reelection in 1864, the Republican party disguised itself as a “Union” party to paint Democratic opposition with disloyalty. The Union League later moved into the occupied and conquered South to organize freedmen into the League and Republican party.

That freedmen vote enabled Grant’s slim victory over Democrat Horatio Seymour in 1868, and helped maintain Republican political hegemony.

Immaculate Patriots and Crude Partisans

“The first Union League was founded in Pekin, Illinois by a Republican Party activist, George F. Harlow. As war weariness deepened, and the restraint that had held back dissenters in the early months of the war fell away, loyal Republicans became alarmed by the resurgence in support for the Democratic Party.

To combat this, they formed a secret society “whereby true Union men could be known and depended on in an emergency.” The new movement gained the support of Illinois Governor Richard Yates . . . Traveling agents administered the league’s oath to local political leaders and provided the new councils with league chapters. By the end of 1864 the Leagues claimed more than a million members.

In the face of what many [Lincoln] administration supporters saw as organized disloyalty from the Democratic Party and its allies, the leagues put into practice the exhortation from John Forney’s Philadelphia Press. In May 1863, the Press urged that the North unite “by any means” and called on Unionists to “silence any tongue that does not speak with respect of the cause and the flag.” The League’s existed, they proclaimed, “to bind together all Loyal men, of all trades and professions, in a common union to maintain the power, glory and integrity of the Nation.”

A nonpartisan style colored every utterance of these organizations . . . [pledging] that their only object is to unite to support the National Government in its efforts to suppress the rebellion now being waged against its authority by a portion of the people of the Union, and not to create a political party.

Union Leagues institutionalized the denial of legitimate partisanship by conflating political opposition to the Union Party with disloyalty to the United States. [The] Leagues quickly established themselves as a powerful political force [to advance] a radical agenda. “The triumph of the Union League is complete,” concluded an editorial in the Chicago Tribune after the Union League of America persuaded Lincoln to remove a conservative general, John M. Schofield, from command of the western Department.

The League’s construction of a patriotic national community – the claim to be the “real” nation – alienated their opponents as surely as it enthused their supporters. Samuel J. Tilden, a wealthy New York railroad lawyer . . . complained to a correspondent in June 1863 that the Union League’s were creating a climate in which it was impossible for normal political campaigns to take place.

Another Democrat, David Turnure, also resented the administration’s demand that he should give “unhesitating fealty to and unquestioning endorsement of all their acts.” To him, the “immaculate patriots” who carped about loyalty were simply crude partisans, who had “abolitionized” the government and were now subverting the Constitution “under the sacred mantle of patriotism.”

Even stronger words came from Maryland Democrat, Severn Teackle Wallis . . . [who wrote to Republican] Senator John Sherman in early 1863. “You have . . . borrowed from the vocabulary of despotism the name “disloyalty,” he thundered. Such a word was “not known to free institutions” but had been created by Unionists to describe the activities of those who “question . . . the wisdom . . . or, if need be, resist the corruption and usurpation of those who temporarily hold and prostitute power.”

(No Party Now: Politics in the Civil War North, Adam I. P. Smith, Oxford University Press, 2006, excerpts pp. 68-71)

Jul 13, 2019 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Policing the Imperial Realm

Policing the Imperial Realm

After a successful revolt against the British Empire and its standing army, the former colonists recalled their experience with George III’s regulars, not to mention the known abuses of standing armies under Cromwell and James II. The latter’s corrupt army allowed him to “invade and destroy both” the constitution and interest of the public, and standing armies have been sources of trouble since the ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome.

The Boston Massacre was fresh in the minds of the Founders as they wrestled with the question of a military force at the disposal of a president, and all knew they were “tangibly dangerous entities that could act against the liberties of innocent people.” So universally contemptible was a British standing army in the colonies that a grievance against universal standing armies was included in the Declaration of Independence, and question was roundly debated in the State ratifications that followed.

Only seventy two years later, the Founders’ republic ended when a newly-elected president raised his own army with the help of several State governors and waged war upon dissident States. At the end of that war, Robert E. Lee predicted that “the consolidation of the States into one vast empire, sure to be aggressive abroad and despotic at home, will be the certain precursor of ruin which has overwhelmed all that preceded it”

Policing the Imperial Realm

“The US government has approximately 6,000 military bases and/or warehouses located within US territory, and another 737 military bases in 63 countries. Unofficially, the number of overseas bases is thought to exceed 1,000. This gives the US Defense Department control of a vast extent of territory – over 30 million acres of land worldwide conservatively estimated at $658.1 billion.

Its manpower consists of 1.4 million active-duty military personnel, another 1.1 million in the National Guard and Reserves, 718,000 civil service personnel, and approximately 200,000 local hires. Over 450,000 military personnel, their dependents, and Defense Department civilian officials are stationed in 156 countries.

Often they are exempt from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court by immunity agreements negotiated by Washington with host governments.

As Chalmers Johnson noted in Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic: “Interestingly enough, the thirty-eight large and medium-sized American facilities spread around the globe in 2005 – mostly air and naval bases for our bombers and fleets – almost exactly equals Britain’s thirty-six naval bases and army garrisons at it imperial zenith in 1898.

The Roman Empire at its height in 117 AD [sic] required thirty-seven major bases to police its realm from Britannia to Egypt, from Hispania to Armenia. Perhaps the optimum number of major citadels and fortresses for an imperialist aspiring to dominate the world is somewhere between thirty-eight and forty.”

(Imperial Dusk, Joseph E. Fallon, Chronicles, June 2012, excerpt pg. 45)

Jul 9, 2019 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Prohibiting Secession

Prohibiting Secession

The Founders rejected any thoughts of invading, coercing and subjugating a State within the proposed union; any such action by the other States or the agent created by the States would be war and grounds for dissolution of the agreement.

In fact, to prevent the federal agent and its officers from engaging in an attack upon a State, Article III, Section 3 states that “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving the Aid and Comfort.”  Note the word “them,” meaning the States.

Prohibiting Secession

“One of the better summaries of the prevalent Constitutional theory at that time (December 1861-May 1861] has been made by black scholar, professor and prolific author Dr. Walter Williams. Here is what he writes in one of his columns:

“During the 1787 Constitutional Convention, a proposal was made that would allow the federal government to suppress a seceding State. James Madison rejected it, saying, “A union of the States containing such an ingredient seemed to provide for its own destruction. The use of force against a State would look more like a declaration of war than an infliction of punishment and would probably be considered by the party attacked as a dissolution of all previous compacts by which it might be bound.”

In fact, the ratification documents of Virginia, New York and Rhode Island, explicitly said they held the right to resume powers delegated should the federal government become abusive of those powers. The Constitution never would have been ratified if States thought they could not regain their sovereignty – in a word, secede.

On March 2, 1861, after seven States seceded and two days before Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration, Senator James R. Doolittle of Wisconsin proposed a constitutional amendment that read: “No State or any part thereof, heretofore admitted or hereafter admitted to the union, shall have the power to withdraw from the jurisdiction of the United States.”

Several months earlier, Reps. Daniel E. Sickles of New York, Thomas B. Florence of Pennsylvania, and Otis S. Ferry of Connecticut proposed a constitutional amendment to prohibit secession.

Here is a question for the reader: Would there have been any point of offering these amendments if secession were already unconstitutional?”

(The Land We Love: The South and Its Heritage, Boyd D. Cathey, Scuppernong Press, 2018, excerpt pg. 7)

Jul 7, 2019 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Last Measure of an Exhausted Government

Last Measure of an Exhausted Government

Rather than end the carnage that had already, by mid-1862, claimed the lives of thousands of Americans, Lincoln instead confiscated the property of those who sought liberty in a more perfect union, and advanced a plan to incite a race war as was done by emulating Virginia’s Royal Governor Dunmore who in November 1775 emancipated all slaves “who would repair to His Majesty’s banners.”

Lincoln’s measure freed no slaves: none under his control, and none in States where he had no control. It is important to note that Americans in the South had been freeing African slaves by deed and will since the end of the Revolution, which created a large population of freedmen. This large population would have grown without the war.

Last Measure of an Exhausted Government

“While [Lincoln] thought that more evil than good would be derived from the wholesale arming of Negroes, yet he was not unwilling that that [Northern] commanders arm, purely for defensive purposes, those slaves who came within Union lines. But the President had reached a decision on the correlated policy of emancipation with which it appears that his cabinet was not in accord.

They were surprised when he read to them the first draft of a proclamation warning the rebels of the penalties provided by the Confiscation Act . . . The Cabinet was somewhat “bewildered by the magnitude and boldness of this proposal.” Only two members of the cabinet concurred in the proposal.

Secretary [Salmon P.] Chase favored this plan of military emancipation, but would not approve the method of execution. [Montgomery] Blair, the Postmaster General, deprecated this policy on the grounds that it would cost the administration the fall elections.

Secretary [of State William] Seward approved it and yet questioned the expediency of its issue at that stage of the war, owing to the depression of the public mind and the repeated reversals for the Union armies. He further deemed it to be a last measure of an exhausted government that was crying for help, stretching forth its arms to Ethiopia instead of awaiting a reverse appeal from Ethiopia. Consequently he urged a postponement of the issue . . . until the country was supported by military success.

Military reversals made the situation more serious for the President’s supporters . . . The Radicals and conservatives, resorted to incessant criticism, railing against him and his policy. Horace Greeley attacked Lincoln unmercifully in The New York Tribune and accused him of being responsible for the deplorable results coming from his failure to enforce the Confiscation Act.

Lincoln, on the contrary, lost no time in replying to Greeley, and declared that he intended to save the Union . . . “that his paramount object . . . was to preserve the Union and not either to preserve or destroy slavery; that he would save the Union, either without liberating any slaves, or by freeing all the slaves, or by freeing some and leaving others in servitude; that, at any rate, he would save the Union . . .”

The expected easy victory did not follow; but, on the contrary, came [the] sad and humiliating defeat of [General John] Pope [at Second Manassas] in August 1862.

On September 13, he informed a Chicago delegation that he was unable to free slaves by the Constitution, especially when the Constitution could not be enforced in the rebel States, and declared that any emancipation proclamation would at that time be as effective and operative as “the Pope’s bull against the comet.”

(Lincoln’s Emancipation Plan, Harry S. Blackiston; The Journal of Negro History, Vol. VII, No. 3, Carter G. Woodson, editor, July 1922, excerpts pp. 274-276)

Jul 6, 2019 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Those Were the Days Up North

Those Were the Days Up North

It is very easy to draw a line from the intense European immigration after 1848 which brought many refugees to the North from the failed Marxist revolutions and who supported Lincoln’s invasion of the South, to their many fellow-travelers who came to American shores by the end of the century. Many watched the Bolsheviks in Russia attain power, and wanted to emulate this in the United States.

This set the stage for communist-inspired political and labor unrest, and a very predictable response which included a new nativist Klan, blossoming after 1920. As the original Klan carried no flag, this new version marched proudly in many Northern cities under the Stars & Stripes and with no relation to the American Confederacy.

Those Were the Days Up North

“If the American people turned a deaf ear to Woodrow Wilson’s plea for a League of Nations during the early years of the Post-war decade, it was not simply because they were too weary of foreign entanglements and noble efforts to heed him. They were listening to something else.

They were listening to ugly rumors of a huge radical conspiracy against the government and institutions of the United States. They had their ears cocked for the detonation of bombs and the tramp of Bolshevist armies. They seriously thought – or at least millions of them did, millions of otherwise reasonable citizens – that a Red revolution might begin in the United States the next month or the next week, and they were less concerned with making the world safe for democracy than with making America safe for themselves.

Those were the days when column after column of the front pages of the newspapers shouted the news of strikes and anti-Bolshevist riots; when rioters shot down Armistice Day paraders in the streets of Centralia, Washington, and in revenge the patriotic citizens took out of the jail a member of the [International Iron Workers] – a white American, be it noted – and lynched him by tying a rope around his neck and throwing him off a bridge; when properly-elected members of the Assembly of New York State were expelled (and their constituents thereby disenfranchised) simply because they had been elected as members of the venerable Socialist Party; when a jury in Indiana took two minutes to acquit am man for shooting and killing an alien because he had shouted, “to hell with the United States.”; and when the Vice-President of the nation cited as a dangerous manifestation of radicalism in the women’s colleges the fact that the girl’s debaters of Radcliffe had upheld the affirmative in an intercollegiate debate on the subject: “Resolved, that the recognition of labor unions by employers is essential to successful collective bargaining.”

It was an era of lawless and disorderly defense of law and order, of unconstitutional defense of the Constitution, of suspicion and civil conflict – in a very literal sense – a reign of terror.

The Socialist party, watching the success of the Russian Revolution, was flirting with the idea of violent mass-action. And there was, too, a rag-tag and bobtail collection of communists and anarchists, many of them former Socialists, nearly all of them foreign-born, most of them Russian, who talked of still going further, who took their gospel direct from Moscow, and, presumably with the aid of Russian funds, preached it aggressively among the slum and factory-town population.”

(Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the Nineteen-Twenties, Frederick Lewis Allen, Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1931, excerpts pp. 45-48)

Jul 5, 2019 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Fine Election Strategies

Fine Election Strategies

The presidential election of 1868, between General Ulysses Grant and former-Governor Horatio Seymour of New York, was decided by a mere 300,000 votes out of nearly 6 million.

A brilliant Radical Republican strategy designed to keep the defeated South in political vassalage was enacting black male suffrage in occupied Southern States, while disenfranchising as many white males as possible. This enabled Grant to defeat Seymour with an all-important swing vote provided by 500,000 freedmen.   

Shilling for voting blocs was not new in America by Grant’s time: Lincoln himself purchased a Springfield, Illinois German-language newspaper with which to hawk his campaign and corner the German vote. One hundred years later, Kennedy’s party used a voting bloc to defeat Richard Nixon.

Fine Election Strategies

“The finest election strategies,” John F. Kennedy remarked after the 1960 campaign, “are usually the result of accidents.”

One further consequence of the Nixon/McCarthy attack [on Democrat Adlai Stevenson] could not have been more brilliant had it been planned. On October 24 . . . [Dwight] Eisenhower said that if elected, he would “go to Korea.” Implicit therein was the promise to seek a negotiated end to the Korean War. It was electrifying.

As always in the United States there was a real difference between the vocal commitment to the heroic and warlike stance and the deeper commitment to peace. Meanwhile, so frozen was the Democratic position by now that we did not even recognize the power of the Eisenhower initiative. And the response [by Stevenson], when it came, was pathetic in its stereotype. “The root of the Korean problem does not lie in Korea. It lies in Moscow . . .”

[Regarding the later election campaign of John F. Kennedy in 1960, author Galbraith states further:] “During the campaign that year Martin Luther King had been jailed in Georgia, and there was much favorable reaction when, at the urging of staff members, Kennedy promptly telephoned Mrs. King and Robert Kennedy as promptly telephoned the judge” (Ambassador’s Journal, 1969, pg. 6).

Kennedy’s phone call “received considerable attention in the African-American community, and some commentators argue that the impact on African-American voters helped Kennedy with the election.”

It is reported that Robert Kennedy called the judge and berated him – King was released the next day. Both Kennedy brothers had expressed concerns about King’s association with known-communist like Bayard Rustin, who served as King’s mass demonstration organizer.

(A Life in Our Times, A Memoir: John Kenneth Galbraith, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1981, excerpts pg. 299)

Jul 4, 2019 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Losing Exported Lost Causes

Losing Exported Lost Causes

Canadian-born, Keynesian economist John Kenneth Galbraith was a young Harvard-trained New Deal liberal who later served Adlai Stevenson, John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. He also served as US ambassador to India.

The latter taught him an understanding of far-off cultures, and to oppose post-WW2 American warhawks who clamored for endless military interventions around the globe.

Galbraith may have understood what Robert E. Lee saw in the defeat and subjugation of the American South in 1865 — the lost conservative balance which Southern statesmen provided against a liberal, revolutionary North: “the consolidation of our States into one vast republic, [is] sure to be aggressive abroad and despotic at home.”

Losing Exported Lost Causes

“South Vietnam is exceedingly bad. Unless I am mistaken, [Ngo Dinh] Diem has alienated his people to a far greater extent than we allow ourselves to know. This is our old mistake. We take the ruler’s word and that of our own people who have become committed to him. [Their] opponents are thieves and bandits; the problem is to get the police. I am sure the problem in Vietnam is to preserve law and order. But I fear we have one more government which, on present form, no one will support.

In September, back in Washington, I pressed my concerns directly with [President] Kennedy and later added a more marginal thought:

“When I wake up at night I worry that in our first year in office we will be credited with losing Laos which we did not have, losing East Berlin which we did not have, losing East Berlin which we did not have and (touchy point) with failing to persuade the world that Formosa is China. As an extreme idealist I am in favor of lost causes. But I wonder if we should lose our lost causes more than once.”

I had little doubt of Kennedy’s agreement. It was nearly complete. The problem, as ever, was the political pressure of those clamoring of action, those wishing to do something, anything, at the price of doing wrong things. Reference to the Bay of Pigs and the acceptance of a neutral Laos, [Kennedy] said: “You have to realize that I can only afford so many defeats in one year.”

My opposition to the Vietnam policy of [the Nixon] administration was less than absolute. I never wavered in the belief that the Vietnamization of the war was a fraud. The Saigon government and armed forces were, one knew, far too incompetent, much too commercially committed, to stand on their own.

To burden such a government and army, as later in Iran, with complicated weapons and their associated requirements in repair, logistics and sophisticated organization enlarges greatly the opportunities for graft. And in the end it ensures a more resounding collapse.

Weaponry, we will one day learn, must be related in its complexity to the sophistication and competence of the country that seeks to use it. The fraud of Vietnamization, however, like my own earlier arguments for the enclaves, was political cover for the larger goal of getting out. This being so, no one could object.”

(A Life in Our Times, A Memoir: John Kenneth Galbraith, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1981, excerpts pp. 468-469;

Jul 2, 2019 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Lincoln’s German Patriots

Lincoln’s German Patriots

The all-German Thirty-second Indiana Infantry’s commander, German revolutionary August Willich, saw Southern State withdrawal from the Union as setting “a precedent that would allow future dissenting minorities to fragment the nation even further into numerous bickering aristocracies such as existed in Germany, thus ending the great American experiment in democracy.”

Willich joined Lincoln’s crusade while proclaiming a need to protect America’s republican institutions, constitutional law and self-government, though the very basis of the crusade was the destruction of America’s constitution in which the word “democracy” does not exist, and the destruction of self-government in the American South.

Out of the nearly 1000 members during its three-year existence, the Thirty-second Indiana suffered only 171 killed or died of wounds. In comparison, many units North and South lost percentages of 60 to 70 percent in hard fighting.

To be clear, the primary reason behind the German immigrant dislike of slavery was that they “wanted to keep it from spreading, [fearing] that throngs of freedmen would move into the North and compete with them for jobs and/or claim government land in the West that they hoped to acquire.”

Lincoln’s German Patriots

“Among Indiana’s Germans who answered Lincoln’s first call [for troops] were all unmarried members of the Indianapolis Turnverein. After [they] returned from their three-month enlistments, several urged prominent German-American citizens to support the formation of a German regiment for their State, and on August 8, 1861, the Frei Presse von Indiana announced [that] . . . Governor Morton selected August Willich, a former Prussian army officer . . . to lead the new regiment.

August Willich was well-known among Germans in the United States because of his prominent role in the unsuccessful 1848 German Revolution . . . Willich moved to New York in 1853 to recruit political refugees for the liberation of Germany . . .

Willich promoted communism in Germany because he saw it as a means to improve the lot of struggling peasants and laborers; he then espoused it in America as a means for the workingman to receive fair value for his labor. Tauntingly called the “communist with a heart” by Karl Marx, Willich enthusiastically promoted the organization of labor unions and decried monopolies.

[Most] Forty-eighters and Radical Republicans were simultaneously becoming disenchanted with Lincoln because they felt he was not prosecuting the war with enough vigor and was moving too slowly on the abolition of slavery.

Impending manpower shortages in 1864, resulting from . . . lack of enlistments and the expiration of the enlistments of volunteers who mustered in early in the war, forced the federal government to begin offering a large bounty and a thirty-day furlough to veterans who would extend their enlistments. Army-wide about 57 percent of the eligible men re-enlisted during the year.

The 32nd’s veterans declined the army’s offer and mustered out after three years.

Letters from two Germans in other regiments published in the Louisville Anzeiger in 1864 attributed the low reenlistment rate in their regiment to the lack of support from home. They pointed out that a huge number of healthy young men at home refused to join in the fight, and until they did the men who had served in the field for more than two years would not extend their enlistments.

Other soldiers apparently were just tired of the war and wanted to go home, believing they had done enough for their country.”

(August Willich’s Gallant Dutchmen: Civil War Letters from the 32nd Indiana Infantry, Joseph R. Reinhart, Kent State University Press, 2006, excerpts pp. 9; 15-17)

Jul 2, 2019 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Undermining Jefferson Davis’ Sable Arm

Undermining Jefferson Davis’ Sable Arm

In early 1863 General Joseph Hooker, then-commander of the Army of the Potomac, created the Bureau of Military Intelligence (BMI) which was under the guidance of deputy provost marshal Col. George H. Sharpe. Much of his information came from Union League and paid informants within unoccupied areas who reported Southern military movements.

Unfortunately for General Grant’s men in 1864 Virginia, their commander “stubbornly adhered to the notion that the Confederates teetered on the brink of collapse,” a belief fostered by regular misinformation delivered by Sharpe’s agents.

One historian’s observation of Grant’s generalship during the Virginia Campaign concluded that the Union general-in-chief “relied on chance and improvisation to an extraordinary degree,” which sacrificed the lives of many blue-clad soldiers.

Had the Confederacy fielded black troops in early 1865 as in Col. Sharpe’s scenario below, they might well have forced a stalemate in Virginia and North Carolina.

Undermining Jefferson Davis’ Sable Arm

“Perhaps the most interesting concern for the BMI that winter [of 1864-1865] was the Confederacy’s decision to arm blacks to fight for Southern independence. Davis had advocated the recruitment of blacks for service in the Confederate armies since November 1864, and the following March the Confederate Congress, after much argument, authorized the use of these men in combat roles.

Three days after the House passed the bill, Sharpe wrote a fascinating analysis on how black Confederates, which he estimated would total as many as two hundred thousand, might be employed by the enemy and what the North could do to undermine this potential advantage.

If Lee placed fifty thousand black troops in the Richmond-Petersburg lines, Sharpe reasoned, he could defend these key points while freeing a “movable column” of white troops to “throw upon any threatened point, or for unexpected and diverting attacks.”

Black troops deployed similarly at Danville, Gordonsville, and Lynchburg might be decisive. “[W]ill not negro troops . . . be able to hold these points,” he asked, “and will not the white forces still under the control of the Confederacy be substantially free for supporting and aggressive movements?”

This troubling scenario led Sharpe to consider ways of ending this experiment “before, by habit, discipline and experience with arms, they shall have grown to that aptitude of a soldier which will bring them to obey orders under any circumstances.” In any event, he wished to avoid testing his hypothesis.

Sharpe proposed a covert operation using blacks from Union ranks to slip into Richmond and sow discontent among the new recruits and foment mass desertion. This plan could work, he concluded, because “Negroes are an eminently secret people; they have a system of understanding amounting to almost freemasonry among them; they will trust each other when they will not trust white men.” Though the Confederacy’s bold experiment never really developed, the BMI carefully monitored these efforts until the war’s end.”

(Grant’s Secret Service: The Intelligence War from Belmont to Appomattox, William B. Feis, University of Nebraska Press, 2002, excerpts pp. 260-261)

Jul 1, 2019 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Andrew Johnson versus Radical Republicans

Andrew Johnson versus Radical Republicans

Andrew Johnson was a Democrat in the Andrew Jackson tradition, and despite owning slaves himself, was a bitter opponent of aristocratic Whig slave holders. A John Breckinridge supporter in 1860 and a “violent opponent of Lincoln”, Johnson was wary of Radical Republicans before, during and after the War.

Once Johnson assumed the presidency following Lincoln’s death, he resisted Radical demands that black freedmen be enfranchised for the obvious purpose of maintaining Republican political power.

Johnson preferred to leave this question to the people; in the fall of 1865, a referendum to extend the vote to all black males in the District of Columbia failed 6591 to 35, in Georgetown, 712 to 1.

Johnson Versus Northern Capitalists and Radicals

“Like Andrew Jackson and Jefferson before him, Johnson was concerned with the question of the Western frontier. He had persistently opposed the attempts by Northern capitalists to secure large grants of public land for railroads and similar purposes. In his view the public domain should be allotted to small farmers, and it was his hope that by this means a new class of small holders would grow in the West and who would unite with the poor white people of the South whom he represented.

He had been quick to see that the War had enabled the Northern manufacturers to make enormous profits at the expense of the United States government and the American taxpayers. Most of the bonds issued during the war were now held by Northern capitalists, who were earning interest at six to seven percent.

The high tariffs set up during the War had especially benefitted them, and they were anxious above all else that this protection be retained. Were the Southern States to be readmitted to the Union, the alliance which they would form with the Northern and Western Democrats 40-would once more place the manufacturers of New England in the minority position which they held for so many years before the War.

Johnson was well aware that the Northern Radicals would not hesitate to use any means to prevent and delay the readmission of the Southern States – even if this involved increasing the power of the Legislative branch of the government at the expense of the Executive and Judiciary . . . he was determined to prevent this at all costs.

[His] strong opinions [against secession leaders] had made many of the Radical Congressmen who had been associated with Johnson in the Committee on the Conduct of the War, including [Benjamin] Wade and [Charles] Sumner, confident that he would endorse their theories on Reconstruction and they felt hopeful he would declare himself in favor of Negro suffrage.

On February 7, 1866, [Johnson] accorded an interview to a delegation of eleven Negro leaders, among them the great Abolitionist orator, Frederick Douglass . . . “[who desired] placing in our hands the ballot which will save ourselves.”

While maintaining the same friendliness of manner Johnson indicated to the delegation his fear that a “war of the races” would ensue if the poorer white man and the Negro were placed in competition with one another at the ballot box.” Such decisions should not be forced upon the white population of the South against its consent, and he urged the emigration of Negroes to Africa and Latin America as a solution to the problem.”

(The Uncivil War: Washington During Reconstruction, 1865-1878, James H. Whyte, Twayne Publishers, 1958, excerpts pp. 40-42; 52)

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