From Independence to Independence

(The following is drawn from David Hackett Fischer’s excellent “British Folkways in America.”)

The American Revolution was not a singular struggle but a series of four separate Wars of Independence waged in very different ways by the major cultures of British America.

The first (1775-1776) was a massive popular insurrection in New England. An army of British regulars was defeated by a Yankee militia much like the Puritan bands from which they were descended and urged on by their Calvinist clergy. This war, as stated by John and Samuel Adams was not fought to secure any rights of man in any universal sense, but against what was called “the contagion of venality and dissipation” which was spreading from London to America. New Englanders felt that they had always managed their own affairs and when England tried to stop them – especially their smuggling of goods and slave trade without the Crown’s percentage paid – the war came.

The second war for independence (1776-1781) was more protracted and fought mainly in the middle colonies and coastal south. It was a gentleman’s war of British regulars and professional mercenaries commanded by English gentry, against an increasingly professional American army led by a member of the Virginia gentry. They were fighting for what Jefferson called “the ancient liberties of his Saxon ancestors.”

The third war of independence reached its climax in the years 1779-1781. It was a rising of British borderers in the southern backcountry against American Loyalists and British regulars who invaded the region. The result was a savage struggle which resembled many earlier conflicts in North Britain with much family feuding and terrible atrocities committed on both sides. Prisoners were slaughtered, homes were burned, women were raped, and even small children were put to the sword.

The fourth war of independence continued in the years from 1781 to 1783, a non-violent economic and diplomatic struggle, in which the elites of the Delaware Valley played a leading part. The economic war against England was led by Robert Morris of Philadelphia; the genius of American diplomacy was Benjamin Franklin.

The end of the war resulted in the creation of three “regional republics” of British America – voting blocs of “eastern” colonies of New Englanders; a Southern bloc centered in tidewater Virginia; and a midland bloc of mainly Delaware Valley delegations. The Constitution of 1787 was an attempt to write the rules of engagement among these three regional republics – an agreement which began dissolving in Andrew Jackson’s first term. The nullification issue of 1832 tested the strength of a State’s true sovereignty.

By 1850 the Southern bloc had enough and began reconsidering the value of its political alliance with the others. In 1854 the new Republican party arose from the ashes of the Whig party and absorbed anti-Catholic Know Nothings, Transcendentalists and radical abolitionists. In 1860, this strictly sectional party fielded its second presidential candidate and won a plurality victory in November 1860. Within a month this party would drive South Carolina to independence; other States would soon follow.

In an act of desperation and fearful of his party losing its recently-gained power, this first Republican president violated Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution he was sworn to defend – “Treason against the United States shall consist only of levying War against them; or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” “Them” is the States, individually or collectively.

(Primary Source: Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America. David Hackett Fischer, Oxford University Press, 1989, pp. 827-828)

 

The Twenty Thousand Bayonets of a Free Government

Ohio-native and Alabama soldier Edmund Patterson found himself captured at Gettysburg on the second day of battle. His captors were of the “German Corps”, the unit Stonewall Jackson overran and scattered earlier at Chancellorsville; he was sent to Johnson’s Island prison in Ohio. Patterson relates below how the prison heard news of the New York City draft riots, quelled by Northern troops sent from Gettysburg.

The Twenty Thousand Bayonets of a Free Government

Diary entry August 18th, 1863:

“Years must pass before this war will be settled and thousands upon thousands of noble forms must lie cold in death, and I may be among that number. I wish to live to see the Confederate States and Independent Nation, loved at home and respected abroad, and at peace with all the world.

I believe that this war will be the downfall of slavery, or that it will not exist at all in the Southern States as it once did exist. What effect this will have on the future wealth and greatness of our country, I am unable to say.

Present appearances indicate that a large portion of our country will be overrun by the invaders and will become a desert waste. Wherever the foot of the Yankee hireling presses the sacred soil of the South, it carries with it the torch as well as the sword. Not confining themselves to making war on armed men, as our noble army does, they satisfy their insatiable thirst for plunder and revenge by burning dwellings, by turning defenseless and helpless women and children out of their homes and burning their only shelter before their eyes.

Many have thus been left penniless and homeless, dependent on the charities of the world, but it will be remembered to the honor and glory of the Southern people that they, during this terrible struggle, have always been ready to open their heart and their homes to these poor homeless wanderers.”

Diary entry, August 21st, 1863:

“We [prisoners] are told that the draft is going on very peaceably in N.Y. City; strange, “passing strange,” what a pacifying influence twenty thousand bayonets together with artillery and cavalry in proportion will have in executing the laws of a “free government.” Is it not strange that this number should be required in New York City, when two and a half millions of men cannot enforce the laws of Abraham in the South?”

(Yankee Rebel: Civil War Journal of Edmund DeWitt Patterson. J.G. Barrett, editor, UNC Press, 1966, pp. 130-131)

 

Jul 27, 2022 - America Transformed, Carnage, Costs of War, Lincoln's Blood Lust, Myth of Saving the Union, Northern Resistance to Lincoln, Withdrawing from the Union    Comments Off on The Human Cost of Seeking Political Independence

The Human Cost of Seeking Political Independence

Edmund D. Patterson was born in Ohio of New England parents in 1842. Age seventeen found him well-educated and selling books by subscription in northern Alabama as well as teaching school. With war in 1861 came his enlistment in the Lauderdale Rifles, which became Company D of the Ninth Alabama Infantry. Patterson’s regiment arrived in Virginia two days after the battle of First Manassas, and the following extract is from his diary entry of July 23, 1861.

The Human Cost of Seeking Political Independence

“On the day we reached this place the rain poured down in torrents, and when we camped for the night, it was in mud and water several inches deep, and near the bloodiest part of the battlefield.

I have just returned from a walk over the battlefield. I made an attempt to go over it some hours ago, but the smell of the blood made me sick, and I had to turn back, but this time I succeeded, and may God grant that I may never see another.

I have often read descriptions of battlefields but never, until now, realized all the horrors that the word expresses. Here are the mangled human bodies on every side, some pierced by a rifle or musket ball – others almost torn to fragments by a shell – in some places horse and rider have fallen together. Some have a look or expression on their face as mild and calm as if they were only sleeping, others seem to have had a terrible struggle with the monster death and only yielded after having suffered such pain as has caused their faces to assume expressions that are fearful to look upon, their features distorted, the eyeballs glaring, and often with their hands full of mud and grass that they have clutched in their last agony.

I noticed one who had striven vainly to staunch the flow of blood from a wound through the body by stuffing mud into the wound. This was probably while the battle was still raging and no one near to attend to him. Another clutched in his hand a portion of a pack of cards, while the remained of them lay scattered around him.

But why attempt to describe in detail the particulars of this sickening scene? Many a poor fellow who left his home a few weeks or few months ago full of hope for the future now lies sleeping on this battlefield never more to be disturbed by the rattle of musketry . . . or the roar of artillery.

The result of this battle will teach the North a lesson that will not soon be forgotten. It will show them, and the world, that we are in earnest and that we mean what we say and that in attempting our subjugation they have undertaken a Herculean task. It seems to me that this battle has been a complete victory.”

(Yankee Rebel: Civil War Journal of Edmund DeWitt Patterson. J.G. Barrett, editor, UNC Press, 1966, pp. 7-8)

Let the South Depart in Peace

Let the South Depart in Peace

Frederick Grimke’ (1791-1863) wrote about the meaning of American constitutional democracy in his “Nature and Tendency of Free Institutions” of 1848. His work was hailed as a fitting companion to Tocqueville’s Democracy in America as both works at the time were deep philosophical studies of this country’s democratic civilization.

Born in Charleston, South Carolina, Grimke’ was a Southern aristocrat, well-acquainted with American history and possessed a lifetime’s intimate experience with American legal and political institutions.  He parted with what he saw as Tocqueville’s grand mistake “of identifying equality of condition,” instead holding that the American system contained the promise of equality of opportunity.

On the subject of African bondage, he opposed immediate and uncompensated abolition and found himself frequently at odds with sisters Sarah and Angelina, the latter married to the intense Connecticut abolitionist Theodore Weld. Grimke’s first-hand experience with free black communities around Cincinnati convinced him of their not yet being ready to assume the responsibilities of American self-government.

As the sectional gulf between North and South widened, Grimke’ held that States could not nullify federal laws within the Union but were at full liberty to withdraw from that union and form another. He viewed this as akin to a person who had decided to migrate to another country.

He wrote that “no enlightened person who values freedom would contest the right of an individual to emigration; and likewise, none should threaten or compel a State bent on seceding to remain” in a political union it wished to leave.

Grimke’ understood this policy of peaceful departure from the 1789 Union by a group of States to be a lesser evil than war. Grimke’ also believed – as did Jefferson – that a number of regional American confederations might later be created; and while they would have distinct political governments, they would continue to belong, if not to the original union, but to the American democratic civilization which he so greatly prized.”

(The Nature and Tendency of Free Institutions, Frederick Grimke, John Williams Ward, editor. Harvard University Press, 1968. Review essay by Adrienne Kohn, South Carolina Historical Magazine, Vol. 71, 1970.)

 

A Soviet Gift to America

Since German socialist architects Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe and others were welcomed to US universities in the 1930s, collectivist methods like centralized planning have dominated architectural education. In the 1950s and beyond one commonly finds “Planning” prominently displayed on a business card in addition to architecture. Today, government planning departments invade long-established city neighborhoods with ever-changing rules regarding acceptable density, diversity and low-income housing. The Soviet Union is now long gone, but its gift to America remains.

A Soviet Gift to America

“There was another aspect of the Soviet Union that attracted American collectivist liberals. The Soviet Union was a “planned economy,” indeed even a “planned society.” At a time when the United States was suffering from unemployment, the Soviet Union was portrayed as “the land without unemployment.”

This great accomplishment was alleged to be the result of central planning; this was contrasted with the chaos of a “laissez-faire economic system,” with all its unhappy accompaniments. The New Deal was seen as a step, faltering and insufficient, in the right direction.

“Planning” was held forth as an ideal toward which the United States should move. After the Second World War, the idea of comprehensive planning diminished in the publicly expressed affection of collectivist liberals, but a strong subterranean attachment remained. There is still a clandestine love of planning. It is after all a logical necessity.

If one believes in the powers of reason and of scientific knowledge, in progress toward ever higher targets or “goals,” in collective self-determination, as well as in the limitless competence of government which proceeds in accordance with rationality and scientific knowledge, then one must be in favor of planning.

However tarnished the image of the Soviet Union has become, it still retains the credit of being “planned.”

(The Virtue of Civility: Selected Essays on Liberalism, Tradition and Civil Society. Edward Shils.  Liberty Fund, 1997. Excerpt, pg. 146)

Jul 9, 2022 - America Transformed, Jeffersonian America, Tenth Amendment, The United States Constitution    Comments Off on The Source of Political Power Flows from States

The Source of Political Power Flows from States

In his foreword to “Chaining Down Leviathan” by Marco Bassani, Dr. Donald Livingston writes of America’s new central government differing from the European model by having no plenary power. He adds that “It had only a few well-defined powers delegated to it by a compact between sovereign States,” which all held the right to check unauthorized acts of central power – and even withdraw if they chose to do so. As to new States being created in the future, Thomas Jefferson believed that States “would negotiate secessions and form new Unions of States”. He imagined perhaps three new countries united by trade and defense treaties: a federation along the Atlantic coast, one along the Atlantic coast, the Mississippi, and the Pacific. The States themselves held supreme political authority; the government at Washington was merely the agent created by the States.

Source of Political Power Flows from States

“The linchpin of John C. Calhoun’s analysis of the United States Constitution was the power of the individual State as a contracting party to, and the real dominus of, the federal pact.

It must be noted that the word “State” is all over the Constitution (it appears 103 times), while the term “nation” does not appear at all. Federal political representation, and not just that of the Senate, is centered on the States; the members of the House of Representatives are elected “by the People of the several States.”

Regarding eligibility for election, the State-centered character of representation is even more marked: for the House the candidate must be an inhabitant of the State “in which” he or she will be chosen; for the Senate the candidate must be an inhabitant of the State for which he or she will be chosen. In sum, for the House a person is chosen as a representative of a State; he or she is never imagined as a delegate of a part of the American people (which simply does not exist from a constitutional point of view), while the senator is in Washington on behalf of their State.

The source of political power flows from the States to the federal government, and never vice-versa. The Constitution authorizes and prohibits certain actions by the federal government, but to the States nothing is ever permitted, only prohibited. This means that while State political authorities must check only if a constitutional prohibition exists, in the absence of which they can act freely.

A general political capacity is recognized only for the States. The Tenth Amendment (“the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people”) is the architrave of American polity. It sums up the entire system of permissions and prohibitions in the sense delineated by Calhoun.”

(Chaining Down Leviathan: The American Dream of Self Government 1776-1865. Luigi Marco Bassani, Abbeville Institute Press, 2021, pp. 195-196)

Union Victory in Colorado

Union Victory in Colorado

Philadelphian Edward W. Wynkoop migrated westward in the late 1850s and became an officer in the First Colorado Regiment early in the Civil War. By 1864 his unit was fighting irate Cheyenne Indians who resisted the constant encroachments of white settlement in their territory. His view of the Indian being less than human was in line with most easterners coming West.

Wynkoop’s superior was Ohioan Colonel John Chivington, a Methodist minister who believe that the Cheyenne would “have to be soundly whipped before they will be quiet.” He instructed now-Major Wynkoop that any Cheyenne found in his vicinity were to be killed outright as that was the only way to deal with them.

Wynkoop came to better understand the Cheyenne leaders after they agreed to peace negotiations as well as release white captives, though Unionist Governor John Evans at Denver agreed with Chivington. Major Wynkoop’s better relations with the Cheyenne was rewarded with his transfer to Fort Reilly, Kansas, ostensibly for not killing enough Indians.

In late November 1864 Col. Chivington, in command of the First and Third Colorado Regiments descended upon the Cheyenne-Arapaho village at Sand Creek which thought it was at peace with the whites. Chivington’s dawn attack butchered about two hundred Cheyenne – two-thirds of them women and children. His troopers later paraded through Denver “with the genitals of the dead dangling from their shirts and hats.”

Wynkoop was soon promoted to lieutenant-colonel and charged with investigating the Sand Creek “battle.” He called the affair an “unprecedented atrocity” in which “women and children were killed and scalped, children shot at their mothers’ breasts, and all the bodies mutilated in the most horrible manner.” Despite the official investigation and Wynkoop’s condemnation of Chivington’s monstrous conduct, the colonel was not charged and allowed to resign and retire from the United States Army.

Col. Chivington’s massacre of helpless Cheyenne only intensified the conflict as the southern Plains once again dripped with blood. Wynkoop continued to arrange peace talks and bring more peaceful relations, but continued postwar white encroachments brought an uneasy peace.

In early 1867 came Gen. Hancock and Custer to threaten the Indians – later came Sheridan, Sherman and Miles on their mission to clear the Plains of Indians.

(Between the Army and the Cheyenne. Louis Kraft. Military History Quarterly, Winter, 2002, pp. 48-53)

Jul 2, 2022 - Emancipation, Freedmen and Liberty, Historical Accuracy    Comments Off on South to the Promised Land

South to the Promised Land

The newest federal holiday was to recognize the June 19, 1865, emancipation of enslaved black people in Texas. On that date northern Gen. Gordon Grainger of New York told black slaves who were not already aware of how to gain their freedom, of their new status in the US. These remaining slaves in Texas had not already taken advantage of the well-known “Mexican Caanan” a short distance southward.

South to the Promised Land

“Historian Alice Baumgartner states ‘After independence from Spain, in 1821, ‘Mexico passed these really radical antislavery laws, and Mexicans at all levels of society were serious about enforcing them. This was well-known to enslaved people on the US side of the border.’

In 1849, Mexico’s Congress decreed foreign slaves free “by the act of stepping on the national territory.” This soon became common knowledge among enslaved people in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas and what would later become Oklahoma.  They envisioned what historian calls a “Mexican Canaan” across the Rio Grande – a promised land where they could be free.

They made the arduous journey through Texas . . . In the 1850s a dozen slaves were reaching Matamoros, Mexico every month. Two-hundred seventy arrived in Laredo, in Tamaulipas, just across the border from Laredo, Texas.”

(South to the Promised Land, Richard Grant. Smithsonian Magazine, July/August 2022, pg. 82; 84-85)

Jun 25, 2022 - American Military Genius, Foreign Viewpoints    Comments Off on Sir Garnet Wolsely’s Two American Heroes

Sir Garnet Wolsely’s Two American Heroes

Field Marshal Wolsely (1833-1913 became one of the most admired and influential British generals who served in the Crimea, India, Canada, West Africa, China and Egypt, and played a central role in modernizing the British army of his period. He became commander-in-chief of all British forces from 1895-1900.

Sir Garnet Joseph Wolsely’s Two American Heroes

War Office, London

8th December 1883

 

“My Dear Miss S.,

I have long been collecting the letters of eminent people but have had much difficulty in obtaining those of the great men on your side of the Atlantic. I have only known two heroes in my life, and General R. E. Lee is one of them, so you can understand how I value one of his letters. I believe that when time has calmed down the angry passions of the “North,” General Lee will be accepted in the United States as the greatest General you have ever had, and second as a patriot only to Washington himself.

Stonell Jackson, I only knew slightly, his name will live forever also in American history when that of Mr. U.S. Grant has been long forgotten, such at least is my humble opinion of these men when viewed by an outside student of military history who has no local prejudice.

That [letter] of General Beauregard is one that I shall always prize. I am indeed very grateful to you for telling me to keep it.  Again, thanking you most sincerely for your kindness to me in this matter, believe me to remain,

Very faithfully yours, Wolsely.

 

The Fruit of Lincoln’s “Victory”

In his “Note on American Heroes” author Donald Davidson wrote of the Lincoln myth still in use today by historians who have ceased to be what they claim and knowingly have become mere myth-perpetuators.

The Fruit of Lincoln’s “Victory”

“The Union that Lincoln is said to have wanted to reestablish was never really set up. If Lincoln was a supporter, as in a dim way he may have been, of the Jeffersonian notion of a body of free and self-reliant farmers as the bulwark of the nation, then why did he fight the South?

Lincoln made war upon his own idea, and that the fruit of his victory, represented in sprawling, confused, industrial America is a more pitiful sight than the desolate Lee plantations, for it is hardly even a noble ruin.

However effective it may have been as a war measure, Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation was an inept bit if civil statesmanship, for it put the Negro problem beyond the hope of any such solution as America has been able to use for the Indian problem.

By letting himself by used as the idealistic front for the material designs of the North, Lincoln not only ruined the South but quite conceivably ruined the North as well; and if fascism or communism ever arrive in America, Lincoln will have been a remote but efficient cause of their appearance.”

(A Note on American Heroes, Donald Davidson. The Southern Review, Winter 1936, pg. 439)

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