Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The North an Absolute Dictator of the Republic

There was no “Lost Cause” as Jefferson Davis was correct in predicting that struggles for the principle of constitutional government would emerge once again, in other forms and at other times. There was indeed established by the North a “Myth of Saving the Glorious Union” which claimed that religion and morality were on the side of the righteous victors, and that they had eradicated an “outpost of Satan’s dominion” in defeating Southerners seeking political independence. In no way had they saved the constitutional and fraternal Union as the Founders’ had erected it. See http://www.ncwbts150.com/TheMythoftheLostCause.php for more on this topic.

Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman
North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission
"The Official Website of the North Carolina WBTS Sesquicentennial"

The North an Absolute Dictator of the Republic:

“[But] there were persons in Congress and out who would not believe the war had come to an end until those who had caused it were adequately punished, the Negro set on the road to first-class citizenship, and the Republican party assured of political dominance. As early as May 5, 1865, The Independent, which spoke for what came to be called the radical Republicans in Congress, was asserting:

“There is one, and only one, sure and safe policy for the immediate future, namely: The North must remain the absolute Dictator of the Republic until the spirit of the North shall become the spirit of the whole country…the South is still unpurged of her treason. Prostrate in the dust she is no less a traitor at this hour than when her head was erect. They cannot be trusted with authority over their former slaves; they cannot be trusted with authority over the re-cemented Republic…The only hope for the South is to give the ballot to the Negro and in denying it to the rebels.”

In like spirit George W. Julian of Indiana would “indict, convict and hang Jefferson Davis in the name of God; as for Robert E. Lee, unmolested in Virginia, hang him too. And stop there? Not at all. I would hang liberally while I had my hand in.” Senator Benjamin Wade of Ohio suggested that “if the Negroes by insurrection could contrive to slay one-half of the Southern whites, the remaining half would then hold them in respect and treat them with justice.” Charles Sumner would seize all rebel property and distribute it to the Negroes, give them the vote, and let them rule the section.

In President Andrew Johnson’s third annual message, “he opposed granting the Negro the vote on grounds that “no independent government of any form has ever been successful in (his) hands.” Yet Johnson’s point was that Negroes just out of slavery knew so little of public affairs that their voting would consist of nothing more “than carrying a ballot to the place where they were directed to deposit it.”

The war would not be over until the Southern people were “repentant” to the point of accepting intellectual, social and economic changes, perhaps even a political rearrangement.

The symbol of these changes was to be the Negro. Just as slavery had been the symbol of all that had divided North and South, so now all the differences had to do with the Negro. The trouble with symbols is that they vastly oversimplify situations and tend unconsciously to stir emotions, and to reduce material interest to the pattern of right versus wrong.

Why did Congress now insist on taking a hand in control (of Reconstruction)? The object, of course, was to give the legislature under Republican dominance the power to do with the South what the victor in the war thought should be done.

The Negro was now a three-fifths man, and his vote, if granted or refused, was a party matter. In either case, it might determine party control. It could not be forgotten that Wade Hampton’s brother had told Whitelaw Reid that if the Negro were given the ballot, “the old owners would cast the vote of their people almost as absolutely and securely as they cast their own. If Northern men expected in this way to build up a Northern party in the South, they were gravely mistaken.”

Yet if it worked the other way, the future of Republican rule was assured.”

(Reconstruction: The Ending of the Civil War. Avery O. Craven, Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1969, pp. 93-133)

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