Robert E. Lee, Emancipator

With the death Mary Custis Lee’s father Washington Custis, the last of George Washington’s family, in October 1857, Robert E. Lee was named executor of his will. It left Lee with the care of three hundred black people to “be fed and clothed and sheltered and kept warm; the sick, aged and infirm looked after.”

In compliance with his father-in-law’s will, Lee freed the 300 black people under his care with manumission papers on December 29, 1862. In stark contrast, it is reported that over time, Harriet Tubman spirited 70 slaves away from their home plantations toward a North hostile toward black people.

Robert E. Lee, Emancipator

“Mr. Custis, my grandfather, had made [my father] executor of his will, wherein it was directed that all the slaves belonging to his estate should be set free after the expiration of so many years. The time had now arrived, and, notwithstanding the exacting duties of his position, the care of his suffering soldiers, and his anxiety about their future, immediate and distant, he proceeded according to the law of the land to carry out the provisions of the will, and had delivered every one of the servants, where it was possible, their manumission papers.

From his letters written at this time I give a few extracts bearing on this subject:

“. . . As regards the liberation of the people, I wish to progress in this as far as I can. Those hired in Richmond can still find employment there if they choose. Those in the country can do the same or remain on the farms. I hope they will all do well and behave themselves. I should like, if I could, attend their wants and see them placed to the best advantage. But that is impossible. All that choose can leave the State before the War closes . . .

“I executed the deed of manumission sent me by Mr. Caskie, and returned to it to him. I perceived that [slaves] John Sawyer and James’s names had been omitted, and inserted them. If all the names of the people at Arlington and on the Pamunkey are not embraced in this deed I have executed, I should like a supplementary deed to be drawn up, containing all those omitted. They are entitled to their freedom and I wish to give it to them.

Those that have been carried away, I hope are free and happy; I cannot get their papers to them, and they do not require them. I will give them if they ever call for them. It will be useless to ask their restitution to manumit them . . .”

(Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee: by His Son Captain Robert E. Lee, Garden City Publishing, 1904, excerpts pp. 89-90)

The Education of a Remarkable Statesman

“From 1811 to 1850,” writes Dr. Clyde Wilson, South Carolinian John C. Calhoun served “as representative from that State, secretary of war, vice-president, twice presidential contender, secretary of state, and senator for fifteen years – Calhoun was a central figure in the American experience.

This simply-educated American “had a major if not always decisive influence on every issue of the period – in regard to not only State-federal conflict and slavery . . . but also to free trade and tariff, banking and currency, taxation and expenditures, war and peace, foreign relations, Indian policy, and public lands, internal improvements, the two-party system, and the struggle between congressional and presidential power” – all of which were causations of the fratricidal war he could see on the horizon, but did not live to see.

The Education of a Remarkable Statesman

“Calhoun’s education was wholly remarkable. “There was not an academy within fifty miles,” says one account. “At the age of thirteen he was placed under the charge of his brother-in-law, Moses Waddel, a Presbyterian clergyman in Columbus County, Georgia.”

In fourteen weeks, it is said, he had read Rollins Ancient History, Robertson’s Charles V, and South America, and Voltaire’s Charles XII. Cook’s Voyages (small vol.) Essays by Brown and Locke’s Essay as far as the chapter on Infinity.

“Sawney” [a young African boy], we learn, was his constant companion and playmate in these days. No more is heard of books until five years later, when there seems to have developed a unanimous consensus that this young man should have the benefit of higher education. Thus young Calhoun entered upon the higher education when many are about to leave it. “In [nature’s] school, remarks Calhoun’s most discrimination eulogist, “he learned to think, which is a vast achievement.”

The academy, which had now been established by this same Dr. Waddel, near Calhoun’s home, was selected for the first stage. “The boys boarded at farmhouses in the woods near the academy, furnishing their own supplies. At sunrise, Dr. Waddel was wont to wind his horn . . . At an early hour, the pupils made their appearance at the log cabin schoolhouse.

After prayers, the pupils, each with a chair bearing their name sculpted in the back of it, retired to the woods for study, the classes being divided into squads according to individual preference.

At the same time Calhoun launched for the first time into “amo” and “penna,” a batch of timorous freshmen were tapping at the doors of Yale. In two years’ time, Calhoun joined those freshmen at the junior class, and two years later graduated with them, in 1804. None of the accounts fail to mention that the subject of his graduation essay was “The qualifications necessary to constitute a perfect statesman.” It was an appropriate text for the life that followed.

Eighteen months now at a law school in Connecticut, and eighteen more in lawyers’ offices in Charleston and Abbeville, and seed time is past, the harvest begins. Two years later he was sent to the State Legislature, whence, in turn . . . he was transferred to the House of Representatives in Washington.

Looking back, Calhoun at thirteen starts at books, but is choked off; five years’ hunting, fishing and farming, at eighteen to Waddel’s Academy; at twenty to Yale; twenty-two graduates; twenty-five lawyer; twenty-seven State Legislature; twenty-nine, Congress.”

(Life of John C. Calhoun, Gustavus M. Pinckney, Walker, Evans & Cogswell Co., 1903, excerpts pp. 14-18)

Desecrating Graves in Raleigh

The Ladies Association of Wake County, North Carolina was formed as the Northern commander in occupied Raleigh ordered Southern dead removed from their graves or he would have them dug up and the remains thrown into a nearby roadway. Gen. Lawrence ‘O’B. Branch’s wife, during the early occupation of Raleigh, overheard that all Southern officers above the rank of captain were to be hung, which included her husband.

Desecrating Graves in Raleigh

“The following extracts were made from a paper by Mrs. M.L. Shipp, in the woman’s edition of the [Raleigh] News and Observer, May 20, 1895, in regard to the most prominent association of the State: “The Ladies Memorial Association of Wake County was formed in 1865, when it was necessary to remove from the grounds of the Pettigrew Hospital the remains of the Confederate soldiers buried there.

It was but a short while after the federals took possession of Raleigh before the Mayor was notified that they admired the spot where rested he Confederate dead, and ordered that they be moved at once, or they would be thrown out in the country road.

A town meeting was called, and the association formed, Mrs. L. O’B. Branch being made President . . . A resting place [at Oakwood] was selected for the reinterment of the beloved dead, and, with the help of the young men and boys of the town, the work was successfully accomplished. The graves were comparatively few at first, but none were safe from Sherman’s “bummers,” as there was scarcely a new-made grave anywhere but what was opened by these men, in search of treasures . . .

Many Confederate dead from the country were moved this spot, and the grounds were laid off and improved by [Sergeant] Hamilton, a soldier of the Confederate army who lost both eyes from a wound. To raise funds to care for the Confederate dead and erect a monument to their memory . . . it was reported that contraband articles such as Confederate flags, a strand of Gen. Lee’s hair, pictures of President Davis or any Confederate general . . . [the constant fear was] the sudden appearance of a bluecoat with orders to search the room for these contraband articles.”

(Women of North Carolina, Confederate Veteran, May 1898, excerpts pg. 227)

Mar 27, 2019 - Articles of Confederation, Conservatism and Liberalism, Democracy, The United States Constitution    Comments Off on The Problem of 1787

The Problem of 1787

The intention of the 1787 Constitution was a strictly limited, representative government with two branches of Congress to represent both the democratic and conservative principles, and an electoral college to elect the President.

Though the Constitution became a dead letter in 1861 with a president assuming dictatorial powers, in 1913 the conservative principle that the Founders had put in place to control the democratic principle, was destroyed by the Seventeenth Amendment.

The Problem of 1787

“When in May, 1787, the delegates of the Federal Convention assembled themselves in Philadelphia, their instructions were to prepare amendments to the Articles of Confederation under which the thirteen States were very loosely held together. That was understood to be their sole and express business – to amend the Articles.

Anyone who will read the debates may see for himself that the delegates . . . were possessed of two fears . . . One was the fear of monarchy; the other was the fear of democracy.

Specifically, in one case it was fear of the executive, who should be called President, lest he turn into a monarch; and, in the other case, it was fear of the people, lest they give themselves up to temptations of democracy. In both cases, it was fear – of what? Of tyranny. The problem was how to limit them.

The one least considered at first and never returned to was that the President should be elected by popular vote, for it was agreed that this would increase the danger of an elective monarchy [and] if one branch of [Congress] was going to be elected by popular vote . . . there was the danger that he would collaborate with the demagogues in the popular branch . . . to encroach upon the Constitution and overthrow it.

At last it was decided that the people should elect electors and the electors elect the President, a very awkward arrangement, and yet the best they could think of to avoid the evil of submitting the choice to direct popular vote. Then was the question of how the two branches of Congress should be elected. It was easily agreed, and yet not unanimously, that . . . the House of Representatives should be elected by popular vote.

[The] other branch of Congress, to be called the Senate, must not be elected by popular vote. What was needed was an austere, resolute Senate, unresponsive to popular clamor, with long tenure of office, perhaps for life. For this was to be the conservative principle. It was to restrain “the fury of democracy.”

Or, as Randolph said: “The object of this second branch is to control the democratic branch of the national legislature. If it not be a firm body, the other branch, being more numerous and coming directly from the people, will overwhelm it. The democratic licentiousness of the State legislatures proves the necessity of a firm Senate.”

In this matter there was scarcely any contrary opinion. The idea that the Senate should represent the conservative principle as a check upon the democratic principle was practically unanimous. What came of these deliberations was our Constitution. And how should such a Government, the first of its kind in the world, be defined? [Only] three words were necessary – constitutional, representative, limited.”

(A Washington Errand, Garet Garrett, Saturday Evening Post, January 29, 1938, excerpts pp. 31-32)

An Essential Amendment

“General Leonidas Polk and his staff met with Union officers under a flag of truce in November 1861.

After disposing of matters of business, the men adjourned for a simple luncheon. A Union colonel raised his glass and proposed a toast, “To George Washington, the Father of His Country.”

To that toast General Polk quickly added: “And the First Rebel.” All officers drank to the amended toast.”

(An Essential Amendment, Southern Partisan, Volume XXIV, Number 2, pg. 11)

Undisciplined Troops

The 4th US Colored Infantry was recruited in Baltimore with enrollment agents scouring the city, though “many of the city’s residents . . . reluctant to enlist – perhaps [because] so many had been dragooned into service by [General Robert] Schenck.” The latter impressed local slaves and free blacks into service at will to defend the city from liberation.

Many of the black recruits were forcibly removed from area farms and plantations, and in late July 1863 authority was granted to remove the inmates of a slave prison in the city for use as soldiers.

Any “able-bodied black male of military age owned “by an avowed Confederate or Rebel sympathizer” was subject to impressment. Lincoln’s proconsul in Maryland was “Governor” Augustus W. Bradford, a slave owner and committed Unionist who was allowed to keep his slaves.

These black recruits received no bounty as white troops had, and only white officers were allowed to command black units.  Lincoln added black men to his conscription net, and poor black men could not afford the $300 substitute fee to avoid service.  

Undisciplined Troops

“[General Joseph E.] Johnston’s surrender immediately placed the Union forces in North Carolina on occupation duty. Now that hostilities were officially ended, it was feared the USCT might break free of wartime restraints to trespass, assault and loot. [Colonel Samuel] Duncan was enjoined to place a guard at virtually every house on his route [to Goldsboro . . . [indicating] the low opinion that their own commanders sometimes entertained of the discipline and deportment of the USCT.

By the end of 1865 – five months after the XXIV Corps had officially ceased to exist – only a handful of Caucasian regiments in the Army of the James remained in the field. These units would be mustered out the following January and February. Much of the army’s USCT strength, however, would be kept on active duty for almost another year.

The War Department knew that if it were to keep white volunteers in service well beyond their appointed term of “three years or the duration of the war,” it risked the wrath of voters and their political representatives.

Not surprisingly, the War Office preferred to alienate African American troops, few of whom could vote and even fewer who wielded political power. Moreover, many black soldiers – especially former slaves – had no homes to return to once they left the service. They would be unlikely to object to being kept on the army’s payroll indefinitely. The 4th USCI served out its two final months of garrison duty in relative tranquility [at Washington]. There the formal process of mustering out the regiment took place on the morning of May 4, 1866.”

(A Regiment of Slaves: The 4th United States Colored Infantry, 1863-1866, Edward G. Longacre, Stackpole Books, 2003, excerpts pp. 165; 170-171)

Barbarian Vandals in Louisiana

Gen. Richard Taylor was the son of General and President Zachary Taylor, and an 1845 graduate of Yale. In 1847 his father viewed the struggle over slavery had been “brought about by the intemperate zeal” of Northern fanatics, and told him that if the North ever exceeded its ”right and proper” constitutional power, “let the South act promptly, boldly and decisively with arms in their hand if necessary, as the Union in that case will be blown to atoms, or will no longer be worth preserving . . .”

Barbarian Vandals in Louisiana

“[Taylor] personally refused to abandon the dream of [liberating] New Orleans. Even with little or no help from other quarters of the Confederacy, he would work constantly toward the day when he could gather enough strength to deliver the city into the hands of his fellow Louisianans.

With an attack on New Orleans now impossible, Taylor’s [desired] to press southeastward . . . to relieve nearby parishes of the oppressive federal presence. “We are prisoners in every sense of the term,” wrote a local militia commander . . . Were we to attempt exercising any military authority, we would be arrested and our families harassed. Where is our protection to come from?”

Taylor answered the plea by sending Major Edward Waller’s unit of mounted Texas riflemen . . . On September 4 [1862], a detachment of the Texans, along with the militia unit, struck the federal outpost at Des Allemands and forced its garrison back toward New Orleans.

Capturing enough Yankee rifles to replace many of their outdated flintlocks and shotguns, Waller’s men also recovered piles of booty the federals had stolen during a recent raid upon nearby plantations. “Books, pictures, household furniture, finger rings, breast pins, and other articles of feminine adornment and wear, attested [to] the catholic taste and temper of these patriots,” observed Taylor.

The enemy had in fact swept through Taylor’s home parish, St. Charles. His plantation, Fashion, left in the care of an overseer during his family absence, had suffered some of the worst desecration and looting. “It is one of the most splendid plantations that I ever saw,” wrote a Vermont private in a letter . . . “I wish you could have seen the soldiers plunder this plantation.” Not only did they confiscate all of the stock animals, but they also forced Taylor’s slaves to help them ransack the house and barns.

The spoils included “hundreds of bottles of wine, eggs, preserved figs and peaches, turkeys, chickens, and honey in any quantity . . . the camp is loaded down with plunder – all kinds of clothing, rings, watches, guns, pistols, swords, and some of General [Zachary] Taylor’s old hats, coats, belt-swords — and, in fact, every old relic he had worn is worn about the camp . . . nothing is respected.”

Robert Butler . . . [one of the Des Allemands militiamen described the aftermath of federal destruction]: “It was one continual scene of desolation and sadness – nearly every place on the route had been despoiled and plundered – even to the huts of the poorest creoles.”

When they reached Fashion . . . “it was a complete wreck, the furniture smashed, the walls torn down, pictures cut out of their frames, while . . . scattered over the floor, lay the correspondence and official documents of the old General while President of the U.S. – the barbarians had respected nothing but the portrait of General [Winfield] Scott upstairs.”

(Richard Taylor, Soldier Prince of Dixie, T. Michael Parrish, UNC Press, 1992, excerpts pp. 252-255)

Rough Language & Peace Democrats in Pennsylvania

General Clement A. Evans was born in Stewart County, Georgia in 1833, 100 years after the colony had been founded by Oglethorpe, and during the nullification crisis. He was wounded five times during the war and commanded Lee’s rearguard during the evacuation of Petersburg in April 1865. During Lee’s advance toward Gettysburg in mid-1863, he wrote of “coarse” Pennsylvania women “evidently accustomed to labor,” and that “people say that volunteering for Lincoln’s army is over with and that young men will hide from the draft.”

Rough Language & Peace Democrats in Pennsylvania

“June 24 [1863] Wednesday –

Marched from Waynesboro toward Chambersburg [Pennsylvania] passing through Quincy, Funkstown & other small villages. Encamped near Greenwood, on the Baltimore and Chambersburg turnpike. The class of Pennsylvanians met on this route do not impress one favorably. We find them generally living in pretty good style, but coarse, uneducated and apparently having little knowledge of the outside world. Some of them have never seen a cannon and expressed great anxiety to see the big guns.

The Southern troops were considerably surprised at the rough and profane language of the Pennsylvania belles. To us who never heard a rough word from the lips of a Southern lady, it sounds very strange to hear these Northern women curse – Considerable alarm is manifested at our approach. In some instance citizens leave their houses to our mercy, but I am glad to write that generally the orders have been observed.

The citizens supply our troops too liberally with the article of whiskey. Certainly they can ruin our army by the liberality of that sort unless the orders are enforced. In Quincy, the merchants were selling their goods to our soldiers, taking Confederate money freely.

The country we have passed through resembles the Valley of Virginia. But we have reached a much poorer region, settled by poorer people.

June 25. Thursday –

Went with the picket to their posts and took dinner with a Pennsylvania Dutch Lady. Talked to some of the peace Democrats. They appear to be very hostile to the Abolitionists & in favor of Peace. They hope for a restoration of the Union by a peace policy.

The soldiers are behaving well. These people who have been unaccustomed to an army think that the loss of a beehive or a dozen poultry quite a hardship. They ought to see the Virginia farms despoiled, houses burned, Negroes run off, women and children turned out of doors – then they would not complain.”

(Intrepid Warrior, Clement Anselm Evans: Confederate General from Georgia, Life, Letters and Diaries, Robert G. Stephens, editor, Morningside House, 1992, excerpts pp. 213-214; 218)

The War to Resist Centralization

Lincoln, in his war of 1861-1865, was victorious where King George III had failed in his attempt to prevent the political independence of the thirteen American colonies. It was not just the South that was subjugated by 1865, but the North as well with most State governments securely under Radical Republican control. No longer was the consent of the governed in the national conscience – the threat of invasion, violence and conquest of recalcitrant States replaced it.

The War to Resist Centralization

“If centralism is ultimately to prevail, if our entire system of free institutions as established by our common ancestors is to be subverted, and an Empire to be established in their stead; if that is to be the last scene of the tragic drama now being enacted: then, be assured, that we of the South will be acquitted, not only in our own consciences, but in the judgment of mankind of all responsibility for so terrible a catastrophe, and from all guilt of so great a crime against humanity.” Alexander H. Stephens

If the Civil War had merely been a power struggle between the Northern and Southern States, with the winning of the war leaving the Northern States with political power over the Southern States, the likely long-term effects would have inflicted much less damage to all the States.

No, this was a war between the Southern States and the federal government in Washington. It was a war to resist the centralization of economic, cultural, political, and military power. It was a war to uphold the most revolutionary principle ever asserted by man. That principle, the “consent of the governed,” was the basis upon which the Thirteen Colonies seceded from England.

As expressed by Jefferson [in the Declaration of Independence] and unanimously adopted by the Founding Fathers, the sole purpose of government is to secure the right of its citizens – nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. The concept of consent of the governed is the ultimate revolution, which throws off the shackles of tyranny from whichever direction it comes on the political spectrum.

The Lincoln scholars attribute the freeing of the slaves and the preserving of the Union to the federal government’s winning of the war, as if no other course of events could possibly have accomplished the same result. Their belief system about history is quite nearly predestination . . . [that] war was the only way slavery could have ended. Finally, since the war was inevitable [between North and South], the federal government is absolved from all violence, carnage and crimes against the States, the Constitution and civilians.

The idea that the Civil War was fought to “preserve” the Union is one of the most ridiculous ideas foisted on history. The only thing preserved was the federal government’s authority over the Southern [and Northern] States. Lincoln certainly fought to keep the Southern States under Union control as conquered provinces, not States.”

(Lincoln Uber Alles: Dictatorship Comes to America, John Avery Emison, Pelican Publishing Company, 2009, excerpts pp. 255-257; 259)

Immigrants, Riots and Cannon Fodder

For five bloody days in mid-July 1863, armed mobs of draft resisters, mostly immigrants, fought on New York City streets against enforcement of Lincoln’s conscription law – what began as a simple demonstration on July 13 devolved into wholesale destruction of property and life – 120 black people were killed and many fled the city in fear of their lives. This carnage was the result of Lincoln’s insatiable need for troops, as volunteers were coming to the end of their enlistments, horrifying news came from the front, and the State drafts of 1862 met with widespread evasion. Also unpopular was Lincoln’s new war aim of freeing slaves. 

To combat the rioters, nearly ten thousand Northern troops and artillery units were brought in from Gettysburg to patrol the streets.

Immigrants, Riots and Cannon Fodder

“[The] film [Gangs of New York] gives a glimpse of the rather nasty nativism among Northerners, a great many of whom hated Catholics and immigrants as much or more than they hated Southerners. None of the above fit into the Yankee ideal of true Americanism. Nativist gangs burnt down convents in Philadelphia and Boston when such things were never dreamt of in the South.

The film can open the door to another dirty little secret. We have heard a lot about immigrant criminal gangs. The fact that vigilante law prevailed over much of the North during the War has been conveniently forgotten. Besides the thousands of his critics Lincoln jailed without due process, thousands more were killed, injured, intimidated, and run out of town by proto-fascist gangs of Republican bully boys called “Wide Awakes.” They played a major role in making sure Northern elections turned out right, i.e., Republicans won.

The “riots” did not start out as race pogroms, though they degenerated into that. They started out as organized civic resistance to the draft, encouraged by the Democratic State government. Everyone knew that the Lincolnites enforced the draft at a much higher rate in areas that opposed them than they did in friendly areas – according to forthcoming studies by the New York playwright and historian John Chodes, the draft was imposed at four times the rate for Massachusetts. And the conscripts were well aware that they stood a good chance of being used up as cannon-fodder by Republicans who knew if they lost four men for every Southerner killed they would still end up on top, as long as the immigrant flow kept up.

About a fourth of the total enrollment of Lincoln’s armies were immigrants, many of whom were brought over and paid bounties for enlisting. The situation was so bad that the Pope sent one of his most persuasive priestly orators to Ireland to warn the people about being used up for Union cannon fodder.

Perhaps we can begin to recognize the historical fact that millions of Northern citizens did not willingly go along with Lincoln’s War. And the opponents were not limited to the New York City draft rioters.

The truth is that Lincoln’s party did not save the Union and the Constitution. It was a Jacobin party that seized power and revolutionized the North as well as conquering the South. The Gangs of New York can perhaps open a window that will encourage further historical discovery along these lines.”

(Scorcese’s Gangs of New York; Defending Dixie: Essays in Southern History and Culture, Clyde N. Wilson, Foundation for American Education, 2006, excerpts pp. 220-221)