Assuming Puritanical Attitudes

Born at sea while his family sailed from Ireland to America, John Newland Mafffitt was destined for a life on the water. Having just relinquished command of the USS Crusader at New York on March 1, 1861, after several years capturing New England-captained and financed slavers off Cuba, the country he had left had become something different.

Soon to become one of the most famed of blockade runners and privateers, he had, by his account, in the first three of his four captures of slavers, rescued 789 Africans from their cramped holds.

The Wilmington Daily Journal of 25 September 1863 remarked, “It is a curious fact, for those who maintain the civil war in America is founded upon the slave question, that [Maffitt] should be the very man who has distinguished himself actively against the slave trade.”  

Though describing himself as a “slave holder” due to a modest interest in land he had inherited from his wife’s family, Maffitt found the newly-rediscovered morality of New Englanders disingenuous.

Assuming Puritanical Attitudes

“The news of Fort Sumter reached Washington in the early evening of April 13, causing intense excitement within the city. Maffitt now faced his terrible decision of allegiance. He could hear the tramp of soldiers and the roll of artillery wagons day and night outside his house. Southern families departed daily; resignations were announced “in language of gall and bitterness.” Maffitt’s relatives were in the South. His property was partly in the North – his Washington home with its valuable furnishings and fine library; and partly in the South interest in land he inherited . . .

He recoiled against a people who sold slaves to Southerners and then became puritanical in their attitudes:

‘I fancied that New England, with her well-developed secession proclivities, would offer no material objection to the course of the South. In truth it was natural to presume that fanatical abolitionism would hail with joy the departure of the un-Godly, slaveholding section of the country from her unwelcome participation in the Union. But material interest gave zest to patriotism, and her war course would lead the world to suppose that she never contemplated a severance from the Union and forming a Northern Confederation.”

(High Seas Confederate: The Life and Times of John Newland Maffitt, Royce Shingleton, University of South Carolina Press, 1994, excerpts pp. 30; 32-33)  

Bringing Lincoln’s War to an End

The following are editorials appearing in the February 11, 1863 issue of the Allentown Democrat, of Allentown, Pennsylvania, a newspaper highly critical of Lincoln’s war and impending use of black troops to quiet widespread draft resistance.

“A Question: The Republican party we assert is an Abolition party. If we tell them so, most of them deny it. Now, if they are not Abolitionists, we would ask them to point us out the word or paragraph of any Republican paper that ever opposed Abolition, or that now condemns the 1st of January Abolition Proclamation. Do they not to a man sustain the President in his n****r policy, either by open declaration or by significant silence? Be sure they do, and they only expose their hypocrisy by attempting to conceal it.”

“The Homogenous Army: The administration organs are preparing the way for a general decapitation of all generals who are not abolitionists, and the [New York] Tribune and Wendell Phillips declare any man unfit to lead the Union armies who does not adopt the radical [program] all the way through.

If it be true that no man but an abolitionist should be a general, certainly no man but one of the same faith should fight in the ranks. What is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander. A general’s ability to lead an army depends on his genius and knowledge of the art of war, and not on his ideas of ethnology and diversity of the races of mankind –

A man may make a good soldier who never voted the abolition ticket, and if conservative sentiments disqualify a general to lead an army, it also disqualifies the soldier from being fit to follow. If we must have abolition generals, let us have an abolition army, and then the war will soon come to an end beyond all manner of doubt.”

(Allentown Democrat, February 11, 1863)

Remembering Pearl Harbor

The sacrifices of those who served in the American military in December, 1941 should be recounted often for us all to ponder and appreciate that the 3000 Americans who died at Pearl Harbor should not have perished in vain.  The sincerest memorial to those who fought and died in this tragedy (and others in American history) is to analyze and discuss the multitude of reasons why it happened and how we ensure that American servicemen are not knowingly put in harm’s way for political purposes ever again. 

As there is far too much information available today for the surprise attack myth to survive even cursory scrutiny, and thanks to the Freedom of Information Act and declassification of hundreds of thousands of decoded Japanese messages, we can now get a very clear picture of how events unfolded in 1940-41.

The myth reported by our historians and the media is that the United States was minding its own business until the Japanese launched an unprovoked attack at Pearl Harbor, thereby dragging a reluctant US into a world struggle.  In reality, the US under FDR had been deeply involved in Far Eastern affairs for some time, and those policies actually provoked the Japanese attack. 

As Oliver Lyttleton, British Minister of Production stated in 1944…”Japan was provoked into attacking America at Pearl Harbor.  It is a travesty to say that America was forced into the War.”

After FDR’s numerous provocations toward Germany without retaliation (while the US was neutral) he switched his focus to Japan and had assistance with Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, who stated in October 1941 that “for a long time I have believed that our best entrance into the war would be by way of Japan.” 

And as early as January 27th, 1941, US Ambassador to Japan in Tokyo, Joseph C. Grew noted in his diary that “there is a lot of talk around town to the effect that the Japanese, in case of a break with the US, are planning to go all out in a surprise mass attack on Pearl Harbor.  Of course, I informed our government.”  Even Admiral Ernest J. King wrote a prescient report on 31 March 1941 that predicted a surprise Japanese dawn air attack on Hawaii as the opening of hostilities. 

The US had prepared for a Japanese-American conflict since 1906 with “War Plan Orange” which predicted the Philippines as the expected target, attacked by surprise as the Japanese were notorious for.  By early 1940 Claire Chennault, an American airman hired by the Chinese, was urging General Hap Arnold and Roosevelt to provide bombers with which to firebomb Japanese cities in retaliation for their attacks on China.

While we cannot excuse Japan’s aggressiveness in Asia in the 1930’s, those in high position in the United States government continually provoked the Japanese by freezing assets in the US, closing the Panama Canal to her shipping and progressively reducing exports to Japan until it became an all-out embargo along with Britain’s. 

The Philippines, by 1941, were reinforced to the point of being the strongest US overseas base with 120,000 troops and the Philippine Army had been called into service by FDR.  General MacArthur had 74 medium and heavy bombers along with 175 fighters that included the new B-17’s and P-40E’s with which to attack or defend with.  The mobilization of troops and munitions has always been recognized as preparation for attack and we thus assumed this posture to the Japanese.

The US then implied military threats to Tokyo if it did not alter its Asian policies and on 26 November 1941, FDR issued an ultimatum that Japan withdraw all military forces from China and Indochina as well as break its treaty with Germany and Italy.  The day before the 26 November ultimatum was sent, Secretary of War Stimson wrote in his Diary that “the question was how we should maneuver [the Japanese] into the position of firing the first shot.” 

The bait offered was our Pacific fleet.

In 1940, Admiral J.O. Richardson, then commander of the Pacific Fleet, flew to Washington to protest FDR’s decision to base the fleet in Hawaii instead of its normal berthing at San Diego. His concern was that Pearl Harbor was vulnerable to attack, was difficult to defend against torpedo planes, lacked fuel supplies and dry docks.  Richardson came away from his meeting with FDR “with the impression that, despite his spoken word, the President was fully determined to put the US into the war if Great Britain could hold out until he was reelected.”

Roosevelt relieved Richardson of command with the comment that the admiral “didn’t understand politics.” He replaced Richardson with Admiral Husband Kimmel, who was still concerned about Pearl Harbor’s vulnerability but did not challenge FDR.

Also to be considered was the April, 1941 ABD Agreement FDR concluded with the British and Dutch in Indochina which committed US troops to war if the Dutch East Indies were invaded by the Japanese.  Add to this the 1940 $25 million loan and Lend-Lease aid provided to China.

The Dutch and British were of course eager for US forces to protect their Far Eastern colonial empire from the Japanese while their military was busy in a European war.  And FDR’s dilemma was his 1940 election pledge of non-intervention (unless attacked) to the American people and the US Constitution, which allowed only Congress authority to declare war.  

One of the most revealing elements in FDR’s beforehand knowledge of Japan’s intentions was breaking of the Japanese diplomatic and naval operations codes as early as mid-1939. Copies of all deciphered Japanese messages were delivered to Roosevelt and the Secretaries of War, State and Navy, as well as Army Chief of Staff Marshall and Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Harold Stark. 

With no deciphering machines in Pearl Harbor, though three machines went to Britain, the commanders in Pearl Harbor were left completely dependent upon Washington for information.  It must be understood that with this deciphered information, our government officials could not have been better informed had they had seats in the Japanese war council.

It is in this bare political light that Pearl Harbor should be examined and judged for historical perspective.  Our military should not be pawns used by presidents to initiate war, the very fundamental reason the Founders deliberated extensively on the establishment of a standing army which might be used as such.

As nothing happens in a vacuum and the post-World War One US Neutrality Acts were in place to avoid the political machinations that dragged us into that conflict, FDR’s steady erosion of US neutrality and secret agreements led to that unnecessary loss of brave American service-men.  We hopefully have learned from this.  Bernhard Thuersam

Sources:

Betrayal at Pearl Harbor, Rusbridger & Nave, 1991, Summit Books

The Years of MacArthur, Vol 1, D. C. James, 1970, Houghton Mifflin Company

Blankets of Fire, Kenneth P. Werrell, 1996, Smithsonian Institution Press

Desperate Deception, Thomas E. Mahl, 1998, Brassey’s Books

Pearl Harbor: The Secret War, George Morgenstern, 1947, Devin-Adair Co.

Ten Year’s in Japan, Joseph C. Grew, 1944, Simon & Schuster

Defending British Interests in the Orient

Contrary to mainstream textbook histories, FDR faced stiff opposition in Congress and the military with regard to Japan.  As a committed Anglophile, Roosevelt allowed a neutral US to supply munitions to a belligerent England and sought a backdoor to the European war by luring Japan into shooting first. Admiral J.O. Richardson, commander of the US Pacific fleet in 1940, was relieved of command when he twice criticized FDR’s order for the fleet to remain at Pearl Harbor as obvious bait, instead of steaming back to the safety of San Diego.

An early warning of Japanese intentions was sent by US Ambassador Joseph C. Grew on January 27, 1941: “There is a lot of talk around town to the effect that the Japanese, in case of a break with the United States, are planning to go all out in a surprise mass attack on Pearl Harbor. Of course I informed our Government.” (Ten Years in Japan, Grew, Simon & Schuster, 1944, pg. 368)

Defending British Interests in the Orient

“In mid-August General Douglas MacArthur, the Army Chief of Staff, had told Secretary of War Hurley that, “While this country may conceivably become engaged in a war in the Pacific or with other countries of this hemisphere, such a war under present conditions is not probably and in any event would not be of such a magnitude as to threaten our national safety.”

A bit later he and [Admiral William] Pratt assured the President that Japan could be defeated were war to eventuate; how long it would take depended on whether Great Britain were an active ally of the United States. The views of MacArthur, that war with Japan was “improbable,” reflected a species of folk wisdom extant in the country at that time. There had been no crises in Japanese-American relations since the [California] Immigration Act of 1924, and considerable cooperation had been manifested since 1927.

As an institution, the [US Navy] General Board had long accepted as fact that Japan was the national “enemy” (today the term would be “threat”) and eventually the conflict of interests between the two nations would lead to war. In 1927 the board accepted the premise that Japan’s goal was “political, commercial and political domination of the Western Pacific.”  The events of 1931-1932 merely confirmed this premise.

Led by Rear Admiral Bristol, a former Asiatic Fleet Commander (1927-1929), the Board stood foursquare for maintaining the Open Door [China policy], resisting Philippine independence measures, and promoting American commerce in the Orient. On the other hand, Admiral Taylor, the current CINCAF; his relief in 1933, F.B. Upham; and the respected Rear Admiral W.D. Leahy, destined to become Chief of Naval Operations in January 1937, all shared a common feeling that the United States had so few genuine interests in China that it was foolish to be needling the Japanese. Leahy summed up a lot of [naval] service opinion when he wrote in his diary:

“I do not understand what the Japanese are trying to do . . . It would seem that the United States has little interest there but may be drawn into a war in the Orient by the desire of Europe to have somebody else preserve its trade advantages in China.  It would be wise for America to keep hands off before it is too late.

“Today press news by radio brings us information that the training squadron and all available ships in the Atlantic have been ordered into the Pacific Ocean “for maneuvers . . .”

“Lacking any information as to a reasonable excuse for getting into trouble in the Orient at this time it seems that a movement of all ships to the Pacific can only intensify the existing unfavorable attitude of the Orient toward us. It definitely looks like a bluff that the other side may have to call whether it wants to or not.”

When writing to his brother, Admiral Taylor felt China was “up to its old tricks trying to get someone, preferably the U.S., to fight her battles for her.” A year later he concluded that Secretary [of State Henry] Stimson had “botched” things badly because he had forgotten that legalistic judgment against Japan was worthless unless the public and a sheriff backed the verdict.  “It seems to me that one of the most dangerous persons in the world is a lawyer turned diplomat . . . So in diplomacy, treaties can be quoted, but what is their value as a deterrent to a nation determined on a course of action unless violation brings in its train the international police represented by fleets and troops.”  

Admiral F.B. Upham . . . had a simple prescription: the United States should clear out of the Orient and close its markets to Japanese products.  

(Admiral William V. Pratt, US Navy, A Sailor’s Life (excerpts), Gerald F. Wheeler, Naval Historical Division, 1974, pp. 340-349)

Dec 6, 2020 - Economics, Patriotism    Comments Off on Venus in Distress

Venus in Distress

In “The Story the Soldiers Wouldn’t Tell,” author Thomas P. Lowry writes that the Victorian age indulged in euphemism, usually referring to prostitutes as soiled doves or Cyprians. He notes that to solve a serious problem in his command at Nashville in July 1863, Lt. Col. George Spaulding of the Eighteenth Michigan Regiment chartered a steamer to remove “all [white] women of known to be of vile character.” Within a month they were all back in Nashville, though their places had been quickly “filled by their black colleagues.” Camp Washington below, was a rendezvous point for Philadelphia companies in 1861, located near Easton, Pennsylvania.

Venus in Distress

“It was discovered in Camp Washington this morning, that a certain young lady of easy virtue and strong Union proclivities, had testified her loyalty to the Federal cause by establishing her headquarters at camp, where she had passed a restless night in exhorting the military to patriotic deeds of daring when they should be brought face to face with the Southern foe, etc.

The commanding officer being apprised of the fact and being unwilling that her health should fall victim to her zeal, ordered a military escort to conduct her beyond the boundaries of the camp. Accordingly, our Amazon was marched off with military honors, but terrible to relate, so thoroughly had she ingratiated herself into the good graces of the soldiery, that they refused to leave her without some substantial token by way of a . . . [remembrance].”

(Civil War History of the 47th Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers, Lewis G. Schmidt, self-published, 1986, pg. 21)

Defenders of Their Once Peaceful Homes

Bethel, Virginia is located about ten miles from Yorktown where Cornwallis surrendered and virtually ended the Revolutionary War, with French assistance. Oddly enough, the War to conquer the South began near the same place, Little Bethel Church and a little further north, Big Bethel Church.

In command of forces invading Virginia was Massachusetts lawyer and General, Benjamin Butler.  His plan of battle was described as “the official plan for the first battle for the maintenance of the Republic.” The object of Butler’s expedition “was stated in these unconventional words: “If we bag the Little Bethel men, push on to Great Bethel, and simultaneously bag them.  Burn both Bethels or blow up if brick.” Most of the work, it was further directed, was to be done with the bayonet.

Colonel John B. Magruder was commander of three Southern regiments, one of which was the First North Carolina Volunteers under Col. D. H. Hill.

Defenders of Their Once Peaceful Homes

“Yorktown, Virginia July 3, 1861

To: Mrs. Hugh McCormick, Bladen County, NC

As I am not well today I am not at work. I cannot pass off my time in a more satisfactory way than writing to one of my most highly esteemed cousins. I hope when this letter is received by you that Cousin Hugh, you and the babe will be well and enjoying the richest blessings of life.

 Cousin Bettie, I am now faring worse than I ever have. I try to take it in good faith, since I do not consider myself better than those who are sharing the same fate. I will stand firmly under all the hardships and temptations I’m exposed to here.

The Cause that I’m engaged in is a glorious one. Please do not understand me to say that Civil War is a glorious thing – it is not. On the other hand it is the greatest curse that ever befell a nation. But we did not introduce war into our peaceful land. We are only defenders of our once peaceful homes. We have taken up arms to drive back the invading foe and the hirelings of the North. Our commanders are much stronger than Lincoln or Scott. I believe our great Benefactor is interceding for us and will continue to do so as long as we are engaged in the right Cause.

Tell Cousin Hugh that I was in the battle at Bethel. Our company was in the most exposed position of any of them . . . We could only dodge the balls the best way we could. The shells came so thick it gave the appearance of a hailstorm. A shell burst about twenty or thirty feet from me in the air.

Cousin Bettie, I must close by saying I hope to see you all one more time.

Yours until death, N.G. King”

(Our John of Argyll and Cumberland, An Informal Narrative of John MacCormick and His Descendants, 1762-1976, Luola MacCormick Love, Publisher, 1976, pp. 55-56)

Lincoln’s General, Ben Butler

A prewar antiwar Democrat in the Massachusetts legislature who “regularly spoke out against the abolition of slavery”, Benjamin Butler of Massachusetts rose in rank from militia officer but only noted for his lack of military skill. Earning the title “Beast” at occupied New Orleans in 1862, his command there and elsewhere were marred “by financial and logistical dealings across enemy lines, some of which probably took place with his knowledge and to his financial benefit.”

Lincoln’s General, Ben Butler

“[Lincoln’s private secretary John] Hay had some characteristic references to another notoriety of that period – Benjamin F. Butler – whom he met at Point Lookout in January, 1864.

“In the dusk of the evening,” he writes, “Gen’l Butler came clattering into the room where Marston and I were sitting, followed by a couple of aides. We had some hasty talk about business: he told me how he was administering the oath at Norfolk; how popular that was growing; children cried for it; how he hated Jews; how heavily he laid his hand on them; ‘a nation that the Lord had been trying to make something of for three thousand years, and had so far utterly failed.’ ‘King John knew how to deal with them – fried them in swine’s fat.’

At Baltimore we took a special car and came home. I sat with the General all the way and talked with him about many matters . . . He says he can take an army within thirty miles of Richmond without any trouble; from that point the enemy can either be forced to fight in the open field south of the city, or submit to be starved into surrender . . . He gave me some very dramatic incidents of his recent action in Fortress Monroe, smoking out adventurers and confidence men, testing his detectives, and matters of that sort. He makes more business in that sleepy little Department [of the James] than anyone would have dreamed was in it.”

At that sort of work Butler undeniably excelled; at fighting, his achievements were restricted to the feats he boasted he could perform when the enemy was at an entirely safe distance.”

(The Life and Letters of John Hay, Volume I, William Roscoe Thayer, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1908, pp. 142-143)

Sadly Fighting Your Own People

Lincoln launched his war in 1861 with the stated goal of maintaining the Union, and by use of force, to refuse recognition of those States choosing to form a more perfect Union of their own. After Lincoln had become disenchanted with several ineffectual commanders, he settled upon U.S. Grant who achieved some measure of success with relentless mass attacks upon numerically inferior numbers, the latter to be worn down by simple attrition.

Grant’s wife, Julia Dent, inherited thirty slaves and her father’s plantation, White Haven, making Grant the proprietor of a large slaveholding estate.  Grant was indifferent to slavery and no abolitionist, writing his father that “I am sure that I have but one desire in this war and that is to put down the rebellion. I have no hobby of my own with regard to the negro, either to effect his freedom or to continue his bondage.”

Appreciating a fellow autocrat who was consolidating scattered republics into a centralized empire, Bismarck supported Lincoln’s war and encouraged Germans to purchase Union war bonds – and by 1864, German immigrants made up fully one-quarter of Lincoln’s army.

Sadly Fighting Your Own People

“They met in Berlin in June, 1878, while Bismarck was presiding over the Congress of Berlin, one of those nineteenth-century gatherings where the rulers of Europe redrew the map of the continent to make it more to their liking.  Grant did not attend the Congress; he was just passing through town. But when Bismarck learned of his presence, the Chancellor sent a note to Grant’s hotel, inviting the general to visit him at the Radziwill Palace the next day at four o’clock. Grant accepted.

After . . . pleasantries, Bismarck led Grant into his office, which overlooked a sunny park, The Chancellor famous for uniting Germany was eager to talk to the general famous for reuniting the United States. But when Bismarck praised Grant for his military prowess, the general demurred.

“You are so happily placed in America that you need fear no wars,” said Bismarck, who ruled a country that bordered its rivals. “What always seemed so sad to me about your last great war was that you were fighting your own people. That is always so terrible in wars, so hard.”

“But it had to be done,” replied Grant.

“Yes,” said Bismarck. “You had to save the Union just as we had to save Germany.”

“Not only to save the Union,” replied Grant, “but destroy slavery.”

“I suppose, however, the Union was the real sentiment, the dominant sentiment”, said Bismarck.”

(Encounter, US Grant Talks War with Bismarck, Peter Carlson, www.history.net, accessed 11.22.20)

Reminder of When the United States “Were”

“The flag of the United States preserves the truth as to the “one people” doctrine. On June 14, 1777, the Congress which submitted the Articles [of Confederation] to the States, passed this resolution: “That the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white, with thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”

Afterwards the stars in the “new constellation” were increased as new States were added to the Union, the first act of the Congress providing for such increase being passed April 4, 1818.

It was a union of separate and sovereign States, bound together by the ties of mutual interest and for mutual defense, the same ties which bound them under the Articles, and under the Constitution. Such was the significance of the flag and in the beginning, and nothing has happened since to impart any other significance to it.

If this is not true, the stars should have been long ago removed from it and the population of the “Nation” substituted for them, the thirteen strips remaining to remind us of the time when the United States “were.”

(The Case of the South Against the North, Benjamin Franklin Grady, Edwards & Broughton, Publishers, 1899, pg. 68)

Nov 21, 2020 - Conservatism and Liberalism, Foreign Viewpoints, Historians on History, Prescient Warnings    Comments Off on The Pursuit of Truth

The Pursuit of Truth

“By enlarged intellectual culture, especially in philosophic studies, men come at last to pursue truth for its own sake, to esteem it a duty to emancipate themselves from party spirit, prejudices and passion, and through love of truth to cultivate a judicial spirit in controversy. They aspire to the intellect not of a sectarian but of a philosopher, to the intellect not of a partisan but of a statesman.”  Lecky

(William Edward Hartpole Lecky (1838-1903) was “an Irish historian, essayist and political theorist with Whig proclivities” and author of “History of England During the Eighteenth Century.”)

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