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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)

 

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.)

 

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 10, 2022 - Foreign Viewpoints, Historical Accuracy, Southern Culture Laid Bare, Southern Patriots    Comments Off on Solomon Bear and German Immigrants to Wilmington

Solomon Bear and German Immigrants to Wilmington

Solomon Bear and German Immigrants to Wilmington

Solomon Bear came to Wilmington with brothers Marcus and Samuel in 1853 from Bavaria, and of course immersed themselves in the growing German and Jewish population. Bavaria was the part of Germany where the largest number of Wilmington’s adult German immigrants hailed from by 1860 and subsequent chain migration brought their relatives to the area, many being those of modest income rather than poor. In 1860 Wilmington’s German-Jewish immigrants were mostly self-employed merchants who most often began as clerks in Jewish-owned stores. In that year twelve of the eighteen clothing stores in town were Jewish-owned.  Business success followed Solomon Bear’s “Sol. Bear & Brothers” wholesale and retail clothing at 20 Market Street which included hats, boots, caps, fancy dry goods as well as wine and liquor.

Wealthy Jewish immigrant Menasse Kahnweiler had arrived much earlier and involved himself in road construction, raising sheep, and real estate.  In 1811 he utilized the upper floor of his building as a small synagogue for local Jews to worship. As more German Jews arrived, they established such organizations as the Germania Lodge of the Knights of the Pythias, and the Schutzenverein Rifle Club which evolved into the German Volunteers (German Light Infantry) led by Capt. Christian Cornehlson, born in Hanover, Germany.

As was common in the American South of that era, Jewish merchants held black laborers with five at the Kahnweiler establishment in 1860 and owned by the company itself. Historian Jonathan Sarna tells us that “as a rule those Southern Jews who could afford slaves did so.” At the same time in Charlotte, 3 German-born Jewish dry goods merchants owned slaves.

By 1858 Wilmington had developed a considerable German population which began a drive to build a place of worship in the city – soon to be known as St. Paul’s Lutheran when completed in late 1858. The pastor was Rev. John H. Mengert, D.D.  The German Jewish population sought a place of worship which was not realized until after the war – the Temple of Israel.

When war began in 1861 Solomon Bear was already involved with Wilmington’s German Volunteers which soon became Company A of the Eighteenth North Carolina Regiment on June 15. Solomon first served as a hospital steward, quite possibly through fellow Wilmingtonian and wartime assistant surgeon Thomas Fanning Wood. Other German-born Hanoverians in the Volunteers were lieutenants Ackerman, Runge, Schulken and Vollers – and enlisted men with surnames such as Bachman, Henry Bear, Brahmer, Buckner, Dienstbach, Domler, Eigenbruner, Geier, Goldenschmidt, Gunther, Heins, Hoener, Jacoby, Katz, Klein, Koch, Koppel, Kordlander, Kornahreas, Kuhl, Kyhl, Linsbrink, Luhrs, Mauss, Ortman, Overbeck, Pfundt, Portwig, Rosenthal, Schlobohmm, Schoeber, Scwartz, Solomon, Steiniger, Stolter, Teller, Theis, Ulbrich, Von Glahn, Voss, Wagner, Weil and Westerman.

Jacob Blumenthal and Henry Wertheimer were among those who did not return home after the war.

As was common in the South, those with merchant and trading backgrounds were sent to Europe as purchasing agents for the Confederacy and Bear was no doubt charged with obtaining medical supplies to run through the blockade. The Kahnweiler store offered many European luxuries such as millinery, shoes and thread brought through the blockade. Nephew Simon Kahnweiler was a Southern agent in Europe and through his father in Philadelphia arranged for ships to run the blockade to Wilmington.

After the war Solomon returned home with wife Henrietta Melman whom he had met in Richmond, and their union produced eight children. Their residence was on North Fifth Street and business success enabled them to build their summer cottage “Breezeland” at Wrightsville Beach. Solomon took an active interest in religious affairs and was a driving force in the construction of the Temple of Isael at Fourth and Market Streets. A poignant photograph exists of the grey-clad veteran Solomon Bear on horseback on January 19, 1900 – Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Birthday. Solomon died in 1904 and sons Isadore and Fred managed the business. In 1912 they built the Bear Winery at Front and Marstellar Streets and through a legal loophole in the Prohibition Act, were able to manufacture their wine for medicinal purposes only.

Lastly, though he served in the Northern military during the war, postwar immigrant Solomon Fishblate acclimated himself to Wilmington as a supporter of the conservative Democratic party. He rose to mayor of the city first in 1878, then again in the early 1890s.

 

Notes and Sources:

Heike. Anton. Jews at the Cape Fear Coast. Southern Jewish History.

Solomon Bear. Wilmington Past, Present and Future.  1908.

Abolitionist Jonathan Walker

Abolitionist Jonathan Walker was born in Massachusetts in 1799, a State known as the first to codify African slavery and deeply involved in the transatlantic slave trade. This brought already enslaved Africans from the Dark Continent’s west coast to the West Indies and North America.

Walker is said to have migrated to the Florida Territory in 1837 attracted by work in railroad construction.

Said to be concerned about working conditions for African slaves used for labor, Walker first conspired with fellow-abolitionist and Quaker Benjamin Lunday to establish a colony of escaped slaves in Mexico. Walker is most notorious for aiding seven African slaves in 1844, who at his suggestion attempted to reach the Bahamas by boat. It is claimed that he fell ill during the voyage and the craft lost its direction with the Africans unable to navigate, but all saved from disaster by a passing sloop in search of wrecks to salvage. All were taken to Key West and turned over to civil authorities; the Africans were likely boarded at the island’s barracoon while awaiting return to their employment. Walker was imprisoned for his crime.

Anchored off Key West on Saturday, July 12, 1844, Master Edwin Anderson aboard the USS General Taylor noted in his diary that at 1PM a corporal’s guard from the island’s US garrison came alongside with Walker who was to be conveyed to Pensacola. Anderson recorded that the prisoner was “confined in double irons and placed below in the hold.” Arriving at Pensacola on the 18th of July, Walker was turned over to the city marshal and held at the city jail. Some accounts claim that the Africans were confined with him, though it was more likely they were returned from where Walker had enticed them.

Tried in federal court at Pensacola, Walker was punished with eleven months imprisonment and a fine of $10,000 which was said to have been paid by Northern abolitionists. It was claimed that Walker’s right hand was “branded” with S.S. to indicate “slave stealer,” though this was likely invented for the benefit of gullible Northern audiences. After release from prison Walker returned to Plymouth, Massachusetts where he found but little sympathy for his actions.

Walker’s abolitionist friends saw him as valuable to their own ends and sent him on a five-month lecture tour of the North to further whip audiences into an anti-Southern frenzy. After events such as this, the American South began reducing its commerce with the North while recalculating the benefit of political union with the Northern States.

Herein lies an important cause of Southern independence, or “secession,” from the United States. The States that prosecuted the war to deny that independence, were led by those New England States primarily responsible for the African slaves in North America and had profited handsomely from the transatlantic slave trade that brought them – already enslaved – from Africa. To his credit, Lincoln had proposed compensated emancipation to deal with slavery, which the sons of New England slave traders loudly denounced.

 

 

It Wasn’t About Slavery Nor a “Civil War”

Once the Constitution was ratified in 1789, a State’s declaration of independence from it was recognized and fully acceptable. New York, Rhode Island and Virginia specifically noted this reserved right in their ratifications of the US Constitution, just in case the Tenth Amendment was ignored.

What we refer to as our “civil war” is erroneously claimed to be caused by a desire to abolish slavery when it was not. The decision for independence by several Southern States in 1860-1861 – secession – was not a cause for war as it was an inherent right of a State to do so. Lincoln’s minority government had no constitutional remedy to stop any States from departing. The “cause” of war was Lincoln’s decision to instigate a violent incident at Fort Sumter and then unconstitutionally raise an army without the sanction of Congress to wage war upon a State. Though many governors refused Lincoln’s request for troops to subjugate Americans, those who did were also guilty of treason.

The US Constitution’s very definition of treason in Article III, Section 3 is the waging of war upon “Them” – the States – and adhering to their enemies. What Lincoln unleashed cost a million lives lost along with our Constitution, Americans in the South subjugated and disenfranchised, the North saddled with enormous debt, inflation and fiat money, and the US government embarking on a career of imperialist ventures.

It Wasn’t About Slavery Nor a “Civil War”

In his excellent “It Wasn’t About Slavery,” author Samuel W. Mitcham, Jr. notes that “The noted historian Shelby Foote was right: those who say that the Civil War was all about African slavery are just as wrong as those who declare that the war had nothing to do with African slavery.  The fake historians and purveyors of the myth of the North’s noble and enlightened cause to end slavery willfully ignores other cause, including huge constitutional issues such as a State right to withdraw, nullification, and judicial overreach – which led Thomas Jefferson to refer to the federal judiciary as “a despotic branch.”

The issue of secession can be dealt with very simply. The United States itself was the produce of secession and the Declaration of Independence was the most beautiful ordinance of secession ever written.”

A “civil war” is a struggle of competing factions within a nation or country for control of its government. The Southern States pursued political independence from the United States in 1861 just as the thirteen colonies pursued political independence from Britain in 1776.

Mitcham notes that the North’s war did indeed actively destroy the South’s agricultural labor system and armed these workers against the South, and importantly that “freeing the slave was a result of the war, not the casus belli.”

(It Wasn’t About Slavery, Samuel W. Mitcham, Jr. Regnery History Press, 2020. Pp. xvi-xvii)

 

May 26, 2022 - Antebellum Realities, Historical Accuracy, Slavery Comes to America    Comments Off on Courage is the Rarest of Virtues

Courage is the Rarest of Virtues

Courage is the Rarest of Virtues

“According to Princeton law professor Robert George, nearly all his students declare that they would have been abolitionists had they lived in the South in the late 1850s. But he shows that only the tiniest fraction of them, or any of us, would have spoken out against slavery, or lifted a finger to free the slaves. Most of them – and us – would have gone along. Many would have supported the slave system and happily benefited from it. Here’s how Professor George makes his point.

He tells the students he will credit their abolitionist claims if they can show that in leading their present lives they have stood up for the rights of unpopular victims of injustice and where they have done so willingly.

  1. They would be loathed and ridiculed by powerful individuals and institutions in our society and;
  2. They would be abandoned by many of their friends and;
  3. They would be shouted down with vile names and;
  4. They would be denied valuable professional opportunities as a result of the moral witnessing and;
  5. They might even lose their jobs after such witnessing.

In short, he challenged the college students to show where they have – at risk to themselves and their futures – stood up for a cause that is unpopular within the elite sectors of today’s society. It is a revealing challenge to students but would be even more illuminating if applied to academic historians. It evokes an ancient wisdom, “Courage is the rarest of virtues.”

(Causes of the Civil War. Philip Leigh. Shotwell Publishing, 2020, pg. 163)

The Real Cause of the Civil War

The Real Cause of the Civil War

The Washington Peace Conference of early February 1861 was held in a city already involved in a military build-up caused by frenzied Republican editors and politicians. The Conference’s chairman, former President John Tyler described “an atmosphere where lunacy . . . prevails.” Those from the Southern States who understood the founders’ aversion to standing armies, resented the constant parading of US troops through the streets while regarding them as “a menace and a threat on the part of the North.”

The military buildup in a time of peace was fueled by Joseph Medill’s Chicago Tribune’s scare tactic of a supposed Southern army converging on Washington. The editor proclaimed himself a “volunteer sentinel on the walls.” Illinois congressman Elihu Washburne again advised Lincoln of “a widespread and powerful conspiracy,” which was in truth Americans in the South working together to form a more perfect union.

Vermont delegates to the recent Republican Convention were in town to oppose all concession to the South’s requests as a surrender of principle which would demoralize and destroy the polyglot Republican party – in other words, party over peace. Local newspapers excitedly reported rumors of secessionists poisoning army horses while Republican Radicals took delight in knowing that “grinning artillery” was ready “to rattle grape, if necessary.” Medill’s newspaper thought this a “charming medicine” for the disease called treason.” The New York Tribune wrote that “the only Peace Conference that we want is the one now assembled in Washington under General Scott.”

Treason, of course, is specifically and unmistakably defined in Article III, Section 3 of the US Constitution as waging war against “them” – the individual States.

(Old Gentleman’s Convention: The Washington Peace Conference of 1861. Robert Gray Gunderson, University of Wisconsin Press. 1961)

 

 

It Was Not About Slavery

If continued black labor in the South was essential to the economic survival of the region and the ultimate reason for seeking independence, it was equally essential that the economic survival of Northern financial, textile, and manufacturing industry interests. It was not unexpected that after the Confederate States of America was formed in early February 1861 and enacted a modest 10% tariff which would have decimated northern ports, that those northern interests urged war against the South. It was not about slavery.

The following is excerpted from Mark R. Winchell’s posthumous “Confessions of a Copperhead” recently released by Shotwell Publishing. See www.shotwellpublishing.org.

It Was Not About Slavery

“If the North was fighting for an imperial vision of American hegemony rather than for the abolition of slavery, what motivated the South? The statement of South Carolina’s anti-flag scholars quotes several Confederate officials, who declared they were fighting to preserve slavery.

It would perhaps be more accurate to say that the Confederacy was formed to assure the economic survival of the American South. (The revolutionist’s declaration of independence from England was motivated by similar economic considerations.)  In 1861, African labor seemed essential to that survival [just as New England’s poverty-wage slavery held mill workers to their employment.]

Of even greater concern, however, was the agricultural tariff passed by the US Congress on behalf of Northern industrial interests. This tariff made it difficult for Southerners to sell cotton and other crops in European markets. An independent South, free of the tariff, would have prospered among the community of nations. If Lincoln was willing to assure the perpetuation of slavery, this former corporation lawyer was not willing to ease the tariff.”

(Confessions of a Copperhead, Culture and Politics in the Modern South, Mark R. Winchell, Shotwell Publishing, 2022, pg. 183)

Trusting Congress to Ratify Unconstitutional Actions

Lincoln was a one-term Whig US congressman from Illinois before assuming the presidency with a mere 39% of the popular vote, and not even being on the ballot in many States. He had little knowledge of the US Constitution, no foreign policy awareness or experience, and led a purely sectional party of former northern Whigs and anti-Catholic Know-Nothings, Transcendentalists and abolitionists. Despite Southern unionists imploring him to abandon Fort Sumter to allow a cooling-off period to defuse the crisis and stop other States from seceding, he consciously lit the fuse of war which cost the lives of a million Americans and ended the American republic.

Trusting Congress to Ratify Unconstitutional Actions

Eighty days was the interval between Lincoln instigating the confrontation at Fort Sumter and the regular assembling of Congress in July, providing the new president with a virtual monopoly of emergency powers. On April 15th 1861, in language reminiscent of Washington’s response to the Whiskey Rebellion, Lincoln declared an “insurrection” to exist, announced that federal laws were being opposed in seven States “by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, by the powers vested in the marshals of the law,” and on his own claimed authority called forth the militia of the States to the number of 75,000 to “suppress said combinations.”

This was how our “civil war” commenced and without a declaration by the only entity vested with the constitutional authority to do so. Though the States which declared independence from the US Constitution fully considered their actions legal and peaceable, Lincoln’s political party and those supporting his actions viewed this independence movement as null. They assumed a defensive attitude with a readiness to strike in retaliation for any act of resistance to what they saw as the national authority – which they viewed the withdrawn States as still a part of.

Author J.G. Randall wrote that “Lincoln was to take other war measures. He issued on his authority two proclamations of coastal blockade by which he could continue to collect tariffs, which was the lifeblood of the US treasury.  The second applied to Virginia and North Carolina, the latter of which was still a part of Lincoln’s union – and an act of war against a State.

He decreed the expansion of the regular army on his own authority, calling forth on May 3rd recruits of the regular army beyond the total then authorized by law – any increase is a congressional function.  Acting independently and not waiting for the constitutionality of his acts to be questioned, he advised Congress in July that “whether strictly legal or not, were ventured upon under what appeared to be a popular demand and public necessity, “trusting that Congress would readily ratify them.”

(Civil War and Reconstruction, James G. Randall, DC Heath & Company, 1937, pp. 360-361)

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