The Essence of Piety

Richard Weaver wrote of the modern position of egotism, which seems to permeate all we see, read and hear today.  This develops, he reasoned, “when man has reached a point at which he will no longer admit the right of existence of things not of his own contriving.”  He presents the paradox of man’s continual warring upon nature as “not a sign of superiority to her; it is proof of preoccupation with nature, of a sort of imprisonment by her.”

The Essence of Piety

“[Man’s] immersion in the task of reconstructing nature is an adolescent infatuation. The youth is an intellectual merely, a believer in ideas, who thinks that ideas can overcome the world. The mature man passes beyond intellectuality to wisdom; he believes in ideas too, but life has taught him to be content to see them embodied, which is to see them under a sort of limitation. In other words, he has found that substance is part of life, a part which is ineluctable.

The humbler view of man’s powers is the essence of piety; and it is, in the long run, more rewarding, for nature seems best dealt with when we respect her without allowing ourselves to want too fiercely to possess her.

The second form of piety accepts the substance of other beings. It is a matter of everyday observation that people of cultivation and intellectual perceptiveness are quickest to admit a law of rightness in ways of living differently from their own; they have mastered the principle that being has a right qua being.

Knowledge disciplines egotism so that one credits the reality of other selves. The virtue of the splendid tradition of chivalry was that it took formal recognition of the right to existence not only of inferiors but also of enemies.

The modern formula of unconditional surrender – used first against nature and then against peoples – impiously puts man in the place of God by usurping unlimited rights to dispose of the rights of others. Chivalry was a most practical expression of the basic brotherhood of man. But to have enough imagination to see into other lives and enough piety to realize that their existence is a part of beneficent creation is the very foundation of human community.

There appear to be two types to whom this kind of charity are unthinkable: the barbarian, who would destroy what is different because it is different, and the neurotic, who always reaches out for control of others, probably because his own integration has been lost.”

(Ideas Have Consequences, Richard M. Weaver, University of Chicago Press, 1948, excerpts pg. 173-175)  

Lincoln’s Lights

By capturing, confiscating and conscripting black men for his war effort, Lincoln greatly succeeded where earlier British emancipation efforts to thwart American independence failed.  Had Cornwallis won victory at Yorktown, would George III and Parliament have hung Jefferson, Franklin, Adams, Henry and the rest of American leadership, and rewarded black slaves with political rights and the land of rebels?

Lincoln was certainly appreciative of the black military labor gained from captured Southern territory, and depriving the South of agricultural workers which was the primary target of earlier British emancipation efforts in 1775 and 1814. At the same time Lincoln had to face political reality once the Southern armies and leadership were dispensed with, and the votes of his freedmen were required to insure permanent Republican party hegemony.

Lincoln’s Lights

“While there is endless speculation about how Lincoln felt in the recesses of his heart and about what he would have done had he lived, it is usually agreed that he never gave his support to full equality for Negroes. Nor is there one shred of credible evidence that he ever modified his fundamental racial attitudes, in spite of his gentle nature, his kind feelings for Negroes, and his appreciation for their military prowess.

Beyond signing the bills that came before him and aiding the struggle to equalize military pay rates, the President generally stood aloof from the campaign being waged in Congress for more rights and advancement for Negroes.

Moreover, he never so much as hinted that the ballot be given to Negroes living in the North, and he apparently assumed no leadership in the battle to eliminate the Black Laws in Illinois and elsewhere in the Middle West.

Although he assented to the repeal of his colonization program in 1864, it is likely he never gave up the idea completely. As prospects for deportation dimmed, he suggested at various times that an apprenticeship system ought to be established to prepare for racial coexistence.

But it was the need to found a loyal political organization in the South, rather than his compassion for the Negro, that absorbed most of his attention, and the party he envisaged was to have a white base.  At one time the President suggested that the Unionist government in Louisiana might consider enfranchising “some of the colored people . . .”; but he steadily turned down demands that equal suffrage be imposed on the South and used his influence in Congress to block such legislation.

According to his lights, the freedmen were to be entrusted to the care of those conservative white Southerners whom he hoped would control politics in the new South. As Kenneth M. Stammp has said, “The Negroes, if they remained, would be governed by the white men among whom they lived, subject only to certain minimum requirements of fair play.”

(Free But Not Equal: The Midwest and the Negro During the Civil War, V. Jacque Voegeli, University of Chicago Press, 1967, excerpts pp. 168-169)

Bringing Down the Vengeance of Heaven

In 1620 a Dutch trading vessel entered Virginia’s James River with twenty Negroes aboard, and sold them to the settlers as laborers. But it was not in Virginia that a legal basis for slave ownership was first created, as Massachusett’s “Body of Liberties” promulgated in 1641, held that “There shall never be any bond slavery, villeinage, nor captivity among us, unless it be lawful captives taken in just wars, and such strangers as willingly sell themselves, or are sold, unto us.” And from this came New England’s domination of the transatlantic slave trade.

Bringing Down the Vengeance of Heaven

“Taking a hint apparently from the Mahommetans, the clergy had denounced it as a scandalous and outrageous thing for one Christian to hold another in slavery; and their preaching on this point had been so successful, that about the time of the discovery of America it had come to be considered a settled matter, not in England only, but throughout Western Europe, that no Christian ought to be, or lawfully could be, held as a slave.

But with the customary narrowness of that age, this immunity from slavery was not thought to extend to infidels and pagans. While the emancipation of serfs was going on, black slaves, brought by the Portuguese from the coast of Guinea, became common in the south of Europe, and a few found their way to England.

The first Englishman to be engaged in this business was Sir John Hawkins, who, during the reign of Elizabeth, made several voyages to the coast of Guinea for Negroes, whom he disposed of to the Spaniards of the West Indies.

The Queen granted several patents to encourage this traffic; yet she is said to have expressed to Hawkins her hope that the Negroes went voluntarily from Africa, declaring that if any force were used to enslave them, she doubted not it would bring down the vengeance of Heaven upon those guilty of such wickedness.

The newly discovered coasts of America were also visited by kidnappers. Few, if any, of the early voyagers scrupled to seize the natives, and to carry them home as slaves. Sir Ferdinando Gorges, so active and so conspicuous in the early settlement of New England, had a number of these captured natives, whom he claimed as his property, kept under restraint, and employed as guides and pilots. The practice of the early English settlers in America, and their ideas of the English law on the subject, corresponded exactly with . . . Jewish provisions, indeed it would seem to have been regulated by them.

Thus they took with them, or caused to be brought out, a large number of indented Christian servants, whose period of bondage was limited to seven years, and who, till after the Revolution, constituted a distinct class in the community. Indeed, of the white immigrants to America preceding that era, the larger portion would seem to have arrived there under this servile character.

But while the servitude of Christians was thus limited, the colonists supposed themselves justified in holding Negroes and Indians as slaves for life.”

(Despotism in America: An Inquiry into the Nature, Results and Legal Basis of the Slave-Holding System in the United States, Richard Hildreth, John P. Jewett and Company, 1854, excerpts pp. 178-180)

Apr 29, 2020 - Antebellum Realities, Carnage    Comments Off on Lieutenant Grant’s Lesson at Palo Alto

Lieutenant Grant’s Lesson at Palo Alto

The Battle of Palo Alto in early May 1846 demonstrated to a young Lieutenant Ulysses Grant the effectiveness of mobile light artillery used to great effect against an opponent of near equal strength. During the 1861-1865 war and with virtual unlimited troops, artillery and supplies, Grant was mostly ineffective against an opponent of greatly inferior numbers who most often employed captured artillery and supplies against him. Robert E. Lee can certainly be faulted for not sufficiently fearing the king of battle’s massed effect at Malvern Hill and Gettysburg.

Lieutenant Grant’s Lesson at Palo Alto

“[At the Battle of Palo Alto], Taylor fought his artillery in line with and sometimes in front of his infantry, the practice sanctioned since 1800. Those small brass 6-pounders and small cast-iron 12- and 18-pounders look like children’s toys nowadays, but Lieutenant Grant saw that they were “a formidable armament.” They outranged the Mexican artillery, whose feebly glancing solid shot came up so slowly that one could step over them, and as for Mexican flintlock muskets, “at the distance of a few hundred yards a man might fire at you all day without your finding it out.”

In his first engagement Lieutenant Grant had a happy moment of command when his captain made a reconnoissance and a happier one when he captured a colonel in braid and buttons. But he also got the first chapter of a lesson that was to sink deep.

So far as the Americans were concerned, Palo Alto was almost entirely an artillery action. Colonel Childs, Major Ringgold, and Captain Duncan maneuvered their batteries as if they were platoons of cavalry and fired them almost as if they were pocket pistols. All afternoon they took at least an eight for one toll from the Mexicans, who could never get near them.

So a function had been found for “light artillery” and Lieutenant Grant had learned about fire power. In four years of the Civil War he only twice forgot the superiority of metal to human flesh. He imparted the lesson to William Tecumseh Sherman, and a great part of the defeat of the Confederate States of America was inflicted in the muggy Mexican sun on May 8, 1846.

For the far more brilliant Lee, who had as much chance as Grant to learn the lesson, never learned it. He remained confident that the courage of the Southern infantryman could prevail against the Northern barrage and sent them against it too often – at Gettysburg pushing the best part of his army against a semi-circle of guns that unhurriedly went on shooting them down as they came.

There is no reproach in that fact: the texts show that a full year of the first World War had passed, and half a million men had been killed in their tracks, before any commander learned about the power of massed fire what Ulysses Grant, whose campaigns all of them studied, learned in the six hours of Palo Alto.”

(The Year of Decision: 1846, Bernard DeVoto, Little, Brown and Company, 1943, excerpts pp. 194-195)

Republican Party Deportation Movement

The Republican party’s platform of 1860 was not antislavery, but aimed at restricting those of African descent to the American South and not allowing blacks into western lands reserved for their European immigrant constituency. When their war caused displaced Africans to flood northward and threaten the jobs of white workers, Republicans admitted northern race prejudice and responded with unrealistic assurances to their voters as well as a deportation plan for the black race.

Republican Deportation Movement

“Following a familiar pattern, antislavery politicians and editors of every rank and persuasion cried that emancipation would staunch the flow of colored immigrants from the South; that it was bondage rather than freedom that was driving them into the North. Free the slaves, they said, and a warm climate, a sentimental attachment to their native land, and northern race prejudice would induce them to stay on southern soil.

Many went further, predicting the same forces would send all or most of the northern Negroes rushing southward. Two optimistic radicals, Congressman George W. Julian of Indiana and Albert J. Riddle of Ohio, expected that freedom in the South would drain the North and Canada of their colored populations. They were joined in this soothing refrain by their colleagues from Pennsylvania including the leading radical Republican in the House, Thaddeus Stevens.

In reply to a Missouri congressman’s accusation that Indiana would not receive Negro immigrants, Representative Albert G. Porter of Indiana retorted that black labor was not needed in his State; that Hoosiers had “elected in favor of the white race by prohibiting slavery”; that Missouri had chosen slavery and thereby agreed to accept its disadvantages; and that if any “inconveniences” should follow emancipation “the duty to be just to the freedmen is yours, and you cannot fairly shift either the burden or the duty to us.”

Yet after listening to [proposed solutions to emancipation] the Republican party finally adopted a voluntary Negro colonization as its official policy. The blacks that were to be freed and who consented to leave were to be sent outside the United States. Before the Civil War there had been active, if ineffective, colonization societies in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. War revived the nation’s flagging interest in the scheme.

In his message to Congress in December 1861, President Lincoln recommended that slaves seized under a confiscation act passed in August of 1861 and those that might be freed by State action be removed to “some place, or places, in a climate congenial to them,” and asked lawmakers to consider also including free Negroes who were willing to depart.

A deportation movement now got underway in earnest with a vanguard of Midwestern Republicans” Senators Lyman Trumbull, John Sherman, James R. Doolittle, Orville H. Browning of Illinois, Henry S. Lane of Indiana, and Secretary of the Interior Caleb B. Smith of Indiana.”  

(Free But Not Equal: The Midwest and the Negro During the Civil War, V. Jacque Voegeli, University of Chicago Press, 1967, excerpts pp. 20-23)

Apr 26, 2020 - Economics, Emancipation, Freedmen and Liberty, Northern Culture Laid Bare, Race and the North, Republican Party    Comments Off on A National Characteristic

A National Characteristic

Early in the war and with displaced black people migrating northward threatening white northerners jobs, Midwest Republicans proposed the use of federal power to insure that the freedmen would remain in the South, suggesting “that the blacks be colonized in Florida, or placed in the Indian territories of the southwest, or apprenticed on confiscate plantations, or restrained and employed in the South by the government.” Senator Doolittle below was Chair of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee 1861-1866, and carried out the hanging of 38 Sioux in 1862.  

A National Characteristic

Senator [James R.] Doolittle, leading advocate of colonization in the Senate, explained, “The question of race is a more troublesome one than the question of condition [slavery] in the truth.” In August of 1862, President Lincoln reminded a group of colored men that the broad “physical difference” between the two races is “a great disadvantage to us both, as I think your race suffer very greatly, many of them by living among us, while ours suffer from your presence.”

They were just as sure that anti-Negro prejudice was a national characteristic which would not be dispelled by universal emancipation, as some abolitionists thought it would.

A House committee, headed by Albert S. White, an Indiana Republican, endorsed emancipation and colonization, and reported that a belief in the inferiority of the Negro was “indelibly fixed upon the public mind . . . There are irreconcilable differences between the two races which separate them, as with a wall of fire . . . [The] Anglo-American never will give his consent that the Negro, no matter how free, shall be elevated to such equality.” Genuine concern for the welfare of the Negroes, as well as racial antipathy, nourished the deportation movement.

Republican colonizationists knew well that all men aspired to equality, and they truly sympathized with the condition of the Negro, free or slave. They urged – since history and the evidence on every hand indicated that white Americans would not admit black men to full equality – that emancipation be accomplished by the voluntary resettlement of the freedmen in foreign lands where they could enjoy equal rights and govern themselves. Such a course would benefit both races, they said. The whites would profit from the departure of an alien people; the blacks would escape from domination and oppression.”

(Free But Not Equal: The Midwest and the Negro During the Civil War, V. Jacque Voegeli, University of Chicago Press, 1967, excerpts pg. 23)

The Fatal Precedent

The origins of the Mexican War are far more complex than usually presented in modern textbooks, with England figuring prominently into the reasons behind a hurried annexation. A need to preserve Texas as a reliable supplier of cotton, while limiting American expansionism, propelled Britain into mediating Mexican-Texan difficulties. While New Englanders opposed annexation on supposedly moral grounds, they coveted California which would give them a port more convenient for whaling and their opium traffic with India – the latter creating severe addiction problems in China.

John C. Calhoun opposed James Polk’s war with Mexico with a plea “that America never take one foot of territory by an aggressive war.” He added, “If fight we must, let us fight a defensive war.” He dismissed Polk’s assertion of “war exists with Mexico” as a “palpable falsehood.”

The Fatal Precedent

“The way Polk got the [Mexican] war started ensured that it would be vehemently protested in certain quarters. Shortly after Texas was annexed (December 29, 1845), Polk ordered General Zachary Taylor, commander of the army in Louisiana, to move to Texas to protect its southern flank on the Rio Grande.

In reality, the southern flank was the Neuces, 150 miles to the north; Mexico claimed the area between the two rivers, and the pretensions of Texas and the United States was without foundation. An American reconnoitering party of sixty-three men encountered a Mexican force near the Rio Grande and was attacked. Eleven were killed, five wounded and the rest captured.

When Polk received the news, he asked Congress to appropriate funds to support Taylor, declared that the Mexicans had invaded the United States and “shed American blood on the American soil,” and requested not a declaration of war but a recognition that “war exists” by virtue of Mexico’s action.

The Democratic majority in the House limited debate to two hours, read but a few of the documents Polk had submitted, and passed a bill calling for volunteers and appropriating $10 million. Just sixteen congressmen voted against the bill.

Among the few in Congress who spoke against the action was John C. Calhoun. Unlike northern opponents of the war, he had strongly favored the annexation of Texas, but he thought the war was avoidable, set a dangerous precedent . . . The passage of the appropriations bill with its “war exists” preamble in effect transferred to the presidency Congress’s power to declare war, for the president as commander in chief could order troops anywhere, provoke a fight, and present Congress with was a fait accompli.  

The precedent could prove fatal, Calhoun insisted, for it “will enable all future presidents to bring about a state of things, in which Congress shall be forced, without deliberation or reflection, to declare war, however opposed to its convictions of justice or expediency. The precedent would, indeed, be applied to Calhoun’s own State fifteen years later.”

(States’ Rights and the Union: Imperium in Imperio, Forrest MacDonald, University of Kansas Pres, 2000, excerpts pp. 150-151)

Restless Yankees Infested with Guilt

One of the great conundrums of American history is the “treasury of virtue” claimed by New England as it allegedly struck the chains of slavery off the black man. Though the war was begun by Lincoln as simply one to “save the Union,” with Massachusetts troops conspicuously rushing to his side, New England abolitionists were quick to morph the war into an abolition crusade.

In truth, the ancestors of the crusading abolitionists grew wealthy in the transatlantic slave trade which exchanged Yankee notions and rum for enslaved Africans, then sailed to the West Indies and North America to deposit those that survived the murderous middle passage.  The exploitation of the black man continued with Eli Whitney’s invention, cotton-hungry New England mills, and Manhattan banks which revived a dying and unwanted peculiar institution. It is then fair to state that the original “slave power” was New England.

Restless Yankees Infested with Guilt

During the Victorian Age, an aphorism held that “idle hands are the devil’s workshop.”  In England the adage may have been coined to salve the consciences of plutocrats wallowing in wealth gained at the expense of a wretched factory proletariat, but in the United States, at least, it had broader connotations. 

When times were hard and the struggle to make ends meet the Yankees accepted their lot uncomplainingly, as if that was what God had destined for them.

When times were good and life was easy, they became restless and infested with feelings of guilt. In such circumstances, their tendency was to look around for evil and band together to strike it out.  [The] years after the 1849 gold rush were a period of unprecedented prosperity that lasted almost a decade. Fads and fancies proliferated, but most commonly, Yankees focused their reforming energies upon slavery, or, more properly, upon which they perceived as the slave power.”

(States’ Rights and the Union: Imperium in Imperio, Forrest MacDonald, University of Kansas Pres, 2000, excerpts pg. 165)

“The Massachusetts Idea”

On September 22, 1864, the Illinois State Register reported “A new feature . . . We noted the sale of three likely able-bodied men yesterday – color not stated, as it is immaterial to Uncle Abe – at $400, $450 and $600 respectively . . . They were bought to fill a Woodford County order.” Only three days later the paper wrote “the demand for substitutes seems to be on the increase. Yesterday their par value averaged $700 to $900. About a dozen, most of them Negroes, were picked up and are already in the service of Father Abraham.”   

 Milton S. Littlefield was a prewar Republican organizer in Illinois, and was later sent by Lincoln to fervent abolitionist Gen. David Hunter in South Carolina as “an agent and symbol of altering Presidential idea about the Negro and the war.” Littlefield was notorious for shaving enlistment bounties into his own pocket, and in the postwar was renowned for his railroad bond frauds in North Carolina.

The Massachusetts Idea”

 “[Lincoln secretary] John Hay called the procedure “the Massachusetts idea” in a talk about it with Sherman and Grant, neither of whom liked it. Sherman, indeed had defied an act of Congress, passed on July 4, 1864, authorizing Northern governors to send agents into the South to recruit Negroes “who shall be credited to the State which may procure the enlistment.”

When some such agents had asked Sherman where they might begin to receive their colored men, he had named eight cities all in Confederate territory far from any Union troops.  The idea was not limited to Massachusetts though it had been part of that State’s motivation . . . [and] had been a part of the Massachusetts purpose in forming the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, which the doomed young Shaw led off to war to the applause of abolitionists and poets in Boston, and the 55th which furnished the man hanged in Jacksonville [for rape].

President Lincoln, in the message in which he announced and Amnesty and Reconstruction Proclamation which preceded the ill-fated expedition to Olustee, mentioned as one of the advantages of enlisting Negro soldiers that of “supplying the places which otherwise must be filled with so many white men.”

Nothing could be more clear than Littlefield’s statement in his appeal for enlistments on the Florida expedition calling attention to the Federal bounty each recruit would receive and another bounty “from the State to which he will be accredited.”  (There was a gap between the $300 he promised and the $700 Jefferson County [New York] paid.)

Perhaps as the officer “charged with the payment of all bounties to colored recruits” in the Department of the South, he was partial to Jefferson County. Also it is possible that some of the bounty money stuck to his hands or those of his cousin, friends and associates there.

The process in which he took part, however, was not a rare deal but a plan publicly blessed by local taxpayers and high public officials. During the war the Northern States paid nearly $300,000,000 in bounties for recruits.”

(Prince of Carpetbaggers, Jonathan Daniels, J.B. Lippincott Company, 1958, excerpts pp. 103-104)

Capturing Sea Island Volunteers

While it is generally reported that black recruits in the occupied Sea Islands of South Carolina flocked to the Union standard, the truth is that many ran from Northern State agents sent to enlist them for their State quota of troops.  While many enlisted voluntarily, it was due to generous enlistment bounties offered, much of which stuck to the recruiter’s hands, and the possibility of being forced into service or shot for refusal.  During the war the Northern States paid nearly $300,000,000 in bounties for recruits to fill the blue ranks.

The writers below were ardent antislavery New England men at Port Royal, both Harvard men just out of college. Their 1864 observations are telling.

Capturing Sea Island Volunteers

“The next group of letters returns to the subject of Negro recruitment. By this time various Northern States, in despair of finding enough men at home to make out the number of recruits required of them by the general Government, were getting hold of Southern Negroes for the purpose, and their agents had appeared in the Department of the South, competing for freedmen with offers of large bounties.  At the same time, General Foster made up his mind that all able-bodied Negroes who refused to volunteer, even under these [bounties], should be forced into the service. If the conscription methods of the Government up to this time had not been brutal, certainly no one can deny that adjective to the present operations.

From CPW

Aug. 9. Lieutenant-Colonel Rice, agent for Massachusetts, has come. After looking about a little, he does not think the prospect of getting recruits very brilliant, but his agents are at work in Beaufort streets, and may pick up a few men. He intends to send native scouts on to the main to beat up recruits; $35 a man is offered for all they will bring in.

Colonel Rice intended to come down here to-day, but had to go and see General [John G.] Foster and Colonel [Milton] Littlefield, Superintendent of Recruiting. (He, Colonel L., calls it recruiting to conscript all he can lay hands on.) There is to be, not a draft, but a wholesale conscription, enforced here. Lieutenant-Colonel Strong of the First South [Carolina Colored Volunteers] (Thirty-third USCT) enrolled all colored men last month.  

It is possible, if the men can be made to understand this, that a few can be induced to volunteer, but I hardly think than many will be secured, either by enlistment or draft.

From WCG

Sept 23. They are carrying out the draft with excessive severity, not to say horrible cruelty. Last night three [black] men were shot, — one killed, one wounded fatally, it is thought, and the other disappeared over the boat’s side and has not been seen since, — shot as they were trying to escape the guard sent to capture all men who have not been exempted by the military surgeons. The draft here is mere conscription, — every able-bodied man is compelled to serve, — and many not fit for military service are forced to work in the quartermaster’s department.

Oct. 12. You ask more about the draft. The severity of the means employed to enforce it is certainly not to be justified, nor do the authorities attempt to do so, — after the act is done. The draft is carried on by military, not civil, powers. We have no civil laws, courts, officers, etc. The only [lawful] agents to be employed are necessarily soldiers, and the only coercion is necessarily that of guns and arbitrary arrests.

The Massachusetts recruiting agents, of course, have nothing to do with enforcing the draft. But their presence seems to have increased its activity and their bounty money contributes to its success.

(Letters From Port Royal: Written at the Time of the Civil War, Elizabeth Ware Pearson, editor, W.B. Clarke Company, 1906, excerpts pp. 281-284)

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