Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Nullification Crisis: Sowing the Soil That Produced the Whig Party

This is post number fifty-two in a historical series dealing with the career of Mississippi’s Whig/Republican governor and senator, James Alcorn, following the War Between the States and constitutes an overview of the Nullification Crisis, an unexpected distraction (contradictory in substance) intricately woven into Jackson’s war on the American System. The Nullification Crisis was intimately related to the ongoing battle between the principles of strict construction and nationalism. This is my fourth post related to Southern Whiggery. See the sidebar for earlier posts.
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What discontent Jackson engendered among adherents to the American System when he vetoed re-charter of the Second National Bank, he soothed by tacitly supporting the protective Tariff of 1832, a modification of the 1828 Tariff of Abominations. The National Bank had friends among Southern planters, too, but the tariff had far fewer. Jackson’s acceptance of a “protective” tariff frustrated predominately strict-constructionist/state rights Southrons weary of carrying the load for what they considered an unconstitutional measure. These had hoped by electing the nominally state-rights Jackson to the presidency that he would do something about the tariff—beyond mere modification of a monstrosity they’d dubbed abominable. Jackson, however, did support a protective tariff to protect “American labor,” and he was actually a Southern nationalist for whom the “Union,” not federalism, was sacrosanct. Such creatures did exist, I guess. His adherence to the state-rights doctrine was “qualified” by (this is me talking) how important the issue was to the Federal government, or in his case, the man leading it. With such a leader, state rights becomes arbitrary—sorta like directing who of what sex can use the other gender’s restrooms and school showers. See the problem?
[Granted, contemporary abuse has become ridiculous, but the point is, and as our current situation proves, one cannot “qualify” such a doctrine, which is why strict constructionists are...well, “strict constructionists” to prevent such foolishness.]
As far as South Carolina was concerned, the protective tariff was unconstitutional, and in November of that year, she challenged the Tariffs of 1828 and 1832 by passing an Ordinance of Nullification—the same tactic Virginia and Kentucky had used in response to President John Adams’ unconstitutional Alien and Sedition Acts back in 1798. South Carolina had put the Federal government (as well as the rest of the nation) on notice that she would not allow collection of the Federal tariff within her boundaries after 1 February 1833. The state’s intermediary with the Jackson Administration was her senator, John C. Calhoun. Man and state were challenging what in less than fifty years into the new Republic had become standard procedure: sovereign states subverting themselves to an overreaching Federal government in support of “private interests.” Jackson considered nullification tantamount to treason against the “Union.” 

Outside the Federal government, the primary benefactors of the protective tariff were the Northeast and its spawn in the Midwest where the measure guarded America’s fledging industries. Well, they had been “fledging” twenty years earlier, but were holding their own by 1832, and the self-serving “protection of American labor” had displaced the euphemistic “protection of fledgling industries.” 

Except for some pockets of protection, a good example being Louisiana’s sugar industry, the protective tariff was unpopular across the South, but not enough so to outweigh Jackson’s popularity. Though lip service was given in support of Calhoun, the South outside of South Carolina wished he’d stand down. He didn’t. Neither did Jackson, and on this matter, Jackson had plenty of support in the Northeast. In December, Jackson issued his Proclamation to the people of South Carolina, menacing in tone and condescending in manner. Massachusetts Senator Daniel Webster, whose interests were centered in the protectionist stronghold of New England, applauded the proclamation. His praise did not go unnoticed by the White House. One month later in January 1833, when it became apparent Jackson might require additional powers to subdue the recalcitrant Carolinians and collect his revenues, the president requested Webster’s support in framing the Force Bill which authorized the use of military force against South Carolina.  

The Nullification Crisis was the iconic event that ultimately gave birth to the Whig Party. South Carolina responded to Jackson’s threat of force by denouncing Jackson as King Andrew, and it was the nullifiers and state righters of South Carolina who revived the term Whig, not in reference to the English opposition party, but rather to the Southern Patriots who had assumed the name during the American Revolution, highlighting their opposition to King George and distinguishing themselves from their Tory/Loyalist neighbors. Laying out the crisis’ play-by-play in tandem with the values and principles that drove the state righters from the Jackson camp, one ascertains that the basic principles of the Southern Whig did not falter throughout the remainder of the Party’s twenty-some-odd-years existence as a national entity. That is why during Reconstruction one reads statements by old-line Southern Whigs (by then identified as independents, born-again Democrats, and even treacherous Scalawags) referring to state rights and “constitutionality” when denouncing the tyranny exercised by the Radical Republicans in the North. Such comments, which keep popping up in my research on Reconstruction, are what set me on this Whig junket. To a Southern Whig, state rights and strict construction were the principles that gave birth to the Party. Not so for their Northern counterparts where the future “Whig-Party principles” would focus on the protective tariff, the Bank, protection, and the allocation of the resulting Federal largesse for internal improvements. Those people’s  platform represented nothing more than the original National Republican agenda warmed over. It was Clay, in sore need of Southern support given his disastrous showing in the election of 1832, who (metaphorically speaking) rode in on his white charger and saved the Republic from civil war. But the South had more than electoral support to offer Henry Clay, something he desperately needed: the core of a new party with Southern support already built in.  

Next time I will hit the highpoints driving the compromise that ended the Nullification Crisis.

Thanks for reading,

Charlsie

 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Jacksonian Democracy, the National Republicans, and the American System

This is post number fifty-one in a historical series dealing with the career of Mississippi’s Whig/Republican governor and senator, James Alcorn, following the War Between the States and is my third in a sub-series detailing Southern Whiggery. See the sidebar for earlier posts. 
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In his singular study Whig Party in the South (1913), historian Arthur Charles Cole outlined five stages of development of the Party in the South from its birth in the 1830s to its demise after its disappointing performance in the 1852 election. First and foremost, Cole stated unequivocally that the Whigs evolved from a disaffected group of Jacksonians turned anti-Jacksonians, the direct result of Andrew Jackson’s reaction to John C. Calhoon’s Nullification of the Tariff of 1832. Though not “nullifiers” per se—indeed, most of these men adamantly opposed the concept as well as Calhoun’s tactic—these state-rights leaders abandoned the Jackson camp in the wake of Jackson’s threatened military action against the state of South Carolina. Their numbers reflected a fair proportion of the South’s planting class. Briefly, for the sake of future reference, the other four stages were the Southern Whigs’ acceptance of Clay’s American System, realized by the year 1844; after 1844, a period of cautious interaction with their Northern counterparts, the result of the slavery issue; a growing rift between not only Southern and Northern Whigs, but increased distrust by the Party’s Southern constituents given the Northern faction’s reaction to abolitionism, making the Party an unfit champion for Southern interests; the demise of the National Party following the disastrous election of 1852; and an attempt to revive the Party on the part of the South until the War Between the States swept all pretense aside. I argue that there is yet another stage, that being during Reconstruction and Redemption.  

In my last post I referenced Henry Clay’s need for a cause strong enough to wrest the hearts and minds of the American people from the popular Andrew Jackson. Two highly charged issues, one the National Bank, the second the Nullification Crisis—the two intricately linked by the American System—partially filled Clay’s need. 

The American System, so named by its chief partisan, Clay, and the very essence of the National Republican platform, was a government-assisted economic program the roots of which go back to our first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton. Nationalistic in concept, it is characterized by:

(1) a high protective tariff, initially put into effect to protect burgeoning American industry...

Okay, belay that. Initially it was put into place, with Southern support, in 1816 to protect and strengthen this young nation’s security against Britain following the War of 1812. Lasting peace with mother England arrived in the short-term, then came the argument to protect America’s infant manufacturers. Try as those manufacturers could to deny it [okay, this is me talking], their infant could remain an infant only so long, so the pro-tariff argument again morphed, this time into the protection of “American labor” [yeah, right, more like those who employed the labor]. The Tariff of 1816 didn’t go away; in fact, tariffs kept getting more protective.

(2) A national bank supported by investments from the Federal government and private investors, its purpose to stabilize the currency and reign in risky state banks; and

(3) Federal subsidies for internal improvements, primarily roads and canals meant to link the nation and foster industry as well as security.  

They all sound great, don’t they? We have them today and much, much more. One problem, though: such programs can’t be managed (then as now) without centralization. Popular in New England and Pennsylvania and even the Midwest where industry/manufacturing blossomed, The American System was out of sync with the Founder’s federalism. Strict constructionists/state righters, residing mostly in the South, knew it. State righters, astute victims of the protective tariff, understood the reason the Founders went to the lengths they did in framing the Constitution to prevent such shenanigans, and were aware of the Anti-Federalists pre-ratification warnings as to why the Constitution wouldn’t. This brings us back full circle to the Old-Jeffersonian concerns about the nation’s direction in the wake of the War of 1812. The American System opened the door to Federal interference in the states as well as to political corruption. It was, as those old Jeffersonians of the day repeatedly warned, a looming threat to our [now] long-lost Federal Republic. 

The matter of the Second National Bank, key to the American System, can be divided into two events, one being Jackson’s veto of its re-charter in 1832 followed one year later by his removal of government deposits from the Bank. Event one, I will relate here. Though an obvious attack on the American System, Jackson’s veto was within his purview and constitutional; the removal of the deposits, far more egregious, I will detail in a future post.  

Riding high on the wave of good feeling that accompanied Jackson’s re-election in 1832 and very much aware that Andrew Jackson was no friend of the National Bank, Nicholas Biddle, the Bank’s president, decided the time was favorable to present the Bank’s re-charter to the president, despite the charter’s not expiring for another two years. Considering the popularity of the bank in the Northeast and among the rich planters in many Southern states, Biddle was certain Jackson would not dare veto the measure whereas two years down the road he might. Henry Clay, a bitter foe of Jackson, and Daniel Webster of Massachusetts encouraged Biddle’s decision for early re-charter because they were certain Jackson would veto it, and they were desperate for any conflict that might decrease Jackson’s popularity with the people. Given Jackson’s antagonism to the banking elite, Clay considered the man and his administration a threat to the American System.  

As Clay and Webster anticipated, Jackson declared the Bank outside the scope of national authority and unconstitutional. He vetoed the bill, foiling Biddle. In North Carolina, W. R. Hinton, a Jackson elector, ceased to back Jackson after the veto, but despite protests such as that presented by Hinton and others belonging to the wealthy banking elite, Jackson had foiled Clay and Webster as well. The common folk, regarding the bank a corrupt engine of aristocratic privilege, did not protest the veto, and the National Republicans did not have the votes to override it. The National Republicans had lost the National Bank, a serious blow to the “American System,” and they had nothing to show for it.  

On the subject of the National Republicans’ economic agenda, the American System was about to receive yet another challenge.  

An introduction to the Nullification Crisis next time and thanks for reading,

Charlsie

Monday, October 31, 2016

The Primordial Soup Whence Sprang the Whig Party

This post is number fifty in a historical series stemming from the career of Mississippi’s Whig/Republican governor and senator, James Alcorn, following the War Between the States and is the second installment to a sub-series focused on the evolution of Southern Whiggery.
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To paraphrase Henry Clay, the purpose of the Whig Party was to rescue liberty from an overreaching executive [that being Andrew Jackson]. Throughout the party’s relatively short and tumultuous history, many Whigs cherished that mission—I think in the end the bulk must have been in the South or else it clearly indicates the Republicans didn’t spring from the Whig party, because if there was ever an overreaching executive, Lincoln was one, but he was not the first. Truth is the Whig party was an incongruous political entity from the git-go and the Republicans most assuredly did spring from the Whig Party; in fact, for what my two cents is worth, their trek from Federalist to Lincoln’s Republicans is as clear as spring water. But that path the Federalists carved through the National Republicans and later the Whigs represents only one Whig faction. If not for its enmity to Andrew Jackson, the Whigs probably would have never come into being. Without a doubt, the National Republican and Old Republican factions comprising the Jeffersonians as of the early 1830s would have split, but I’m not qualified to guess what would have happened to the state-rights group within the Old Republicans, those strict-constructionists who split with Jackson during the nullification crisis and ultimately joined the Whigs. Tracing this latter group is the purpose of this series. On that note, and for the purpose of continuity, I want to rehash some history that many of you probably already know. For that, I apologize, but I think it’s necessary in order for the reader to follow my rationale.  

Let’s go back to the beginning, to John Adams and the Federalist Party, proponents of Alexander Hamilton’s diversified national economy in which government played an important role in shaping and supporting the private interests of those promoting a national direction. The fruits of that party's policies, nominally, were to benefit all, but this was especially true for those who owned the industries. This concept of a government-supported economy [or more cynically, government manipulated by private interests] was opposed by Thomas Jefferson’s Old Republicans who believed the only way individual liberty was to persevere was through republican institutions that put the general good before private interests. It was the responsibility of office holders to protect said liberty from both public (government) and private interests (banks and industry). This very basic argument was fundamental to what kind of nation the United States would become. 

By the time Henry Clay, founder and guiding light of the Whig Party, was a young man, those left of the Founding generation had faded from the limelight. Enabled by Hamilton’s coup with his “implied powers” argument, which secured the United States its First National Bank, the new generation was toying with the founding wisdom—bending the Constitution’s words to shape self-aggrandizing agendas. Arguments ensued as to what constituted the common good and general welfare and how much could government interfere before it was encroaching on the rights of the states and those of private citizens. Socially, there was a divide between materialism and the speculative market of the economic nationalists, homed primarily in the Northeast, and the simplistic agrarian/artisan economies of the regular folks, more popular among people of the South and West. The Federalists had pretty much done themselves in with their seditious activities during the War of 1812 and many of their number forsook the floundering party and found a home with the National Republican faction (recall, the kinder gentler Madisonian nationalists) of the Jeffersonians. John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts was one such “√©migr√©.” 

Flush with the victory of the War of 1812, young Jeffersonians such as James Monroe, Henry Clay, and John C. Calhoun evolved into ardent nationalists who believed in a strong national government and the prospects (albeit in some cases “qualified”) of a government-supported economy in tandem with “necessary” internal improvements. Further, civic duty was by then being equated favorably to economic self-interest—after all, if a public policy, reputed to be favorable to all, happened to ease the promoter’s wants, what did it hurt? This was “common good,” at its best. As of the boon times of 1817, John Quincy Adams, James Monroe, John C. Calhoun, and, of course, Henry Clay and the rest of the National Republicans dominated the party, and the Old Jeffersonians chaffed over the direction nationalism and speculation in a boon economy were leading the nation. 

In 1819, the speculation resulted in an economic downturn, which the Midwest and the Southeast blamed on the Bank of the United States and the eastern elite whom Clay served. For years after, this crisis flamed Congressional debates over the tariff, internal improvements, and land policy. From the yeoman’s point of view, the cause of the crisis was the banking policies of the elite, who suspended species payments in response to the crisis then continued merrily on their way, unaffected by an economy that forced many a common man off his land and out of his home.  

Then in 1824 came the Missouri Compromise, the culmination of a two-year struggle within the Jeffersonian ranks to prevent Missouri’s entering the Union as a slave state. The divide had been between the National Republicans led by the New England mercantilists and the Old Republicans comprised of strict constructionists and state righters. The Old Republicans claimed the “party” had, to its shame, become involved in a nationalist program of aggrandizing national power onto itself. If New England interests could interfere in a state yet to enter the Union, then eventually it would acquire the power to interfere in existing states. The time had come, they said, to rededicate the party to state rights and strict construction. Thus the Panic of 1819, and the obvious sectional divide over economic interests, empowered the Old Republicans and shifted the balance of power away from the National Republicans. 

That same year (1824), five men vied for the presidency. John C. Calhoun, Secretary of War under Monroe, dropped out of the competition, opting instead for the Vice Presidency. This left four:   

John Quincy Adams, son of founder John Adams of Massachusetts and the darling of the New England set and a strong proponent of national legislation to promote economic development. 

Henry Clay of Kentucky who, in the eyes of the North, was a Southern slave-holder with interests  vested in the South. Further, Northerners believed he conceded too much to the South in the Missouri compromise. To the South, he was an opponent of strict construction and to the West, an agent of the hated national bank that had created the economic havoc that had ruined so many good men. To both the West and the South he was an opponent to Jackson’s Indian wars and removals.  

William H. Crawford of Georgia, Secretary of the Treasury under Madison and Monroe and the candidate of the Old Republicans’ state-rights wing. But Crawford had been nominated by congressional caucus, a tool by then regarded as anti–republican (his being chosen by politicians rather than the people). Their principled choice tarnished by the circumstances of his nomination, the state-rights constituency turned to the fourth contender, the populist Andrew Jackson. As a new senator, Jackson had voted for the protective tariff and internal improvements, but was nevertheless the foe of the haughty Northeast and the corruption eating away at the Republic. 

Jackson won the plurality of both the popular and electoral elections. Adams came in second. Crawford’s popularity was confined primarily to parts of the established South (Virginia and his native Georgia). Clay carried only his home state of Kentucky and neighboring Ohio.  

With no one candidate getting a majority of the electoral vote, the contest went to the House, where Clay, utilizing his formidable influence, proved the difference in Adams’ victory over Jackson. This computed to a victory for the New England elite. Once in the executive mansion, Adams made Clay his Secretary of State, and the Jackson camp cried “foul.” To the common man in the South and in the West, Jackson was a fundamental Republican. John Quincy Adams was a snobbish New England elitist. The tariff and the sweeping national agenda under the “general welfare” clause offended those who believed in state rights and strict construction. Adams was openly hostile to slavery [or is that euphemistic for being hostile to slave owners?], and in the West, he failed to take what voters there felt to be appropriate action against the Indians. In Clay’s defense, he had always supported the national-economy camp and opposed Jackson on Indian issues. 

Nevertheless, the election of Adams was perceived to be a rejection of the popular will and has been passed down through history as the Corrupt Bargain. It haunted Clay for the rest of his career, ended Adams’ as soon as his “misbegotten” term was up, and four years later sent the martyred Jackson to the White House with enough popular support (reflected in the victories of his constituents in the Congress and the state houses), to allow his subsequent abuse of executive office to threaten the Republic.  

At this point, I want to reference Daniel Webster of Massachusetts, the heretofore missing link to what would evolve into the Whig Party. Webster had been a young Federalist at the time of that party’s demise. In 1824, he backed John Quincy Adams’ administration. In the short term, he would flirt with the Jackson administration, but in the end he settled on “Yankee Whiggery,” the Federalist Party incognito. 

So, by the next election in 1828, the National Republicans of Adams and Clay were the minority faction within the Jeffersonian Party. Clay believed it was the persona of Andrew Jackson, hero of New Orleans, man of the people and enemy of the Indians that got him elected, not the common man’s aversion to the National Republican’s economic nationalism and its leadership by political elites. Thus, the Old Republicans evolved into the Jacksonian Democrats. Jackson had cemented his hold on the Old Republican Party of Thomas Jefferson with, supposedly, adherence to state rights and strict construction. In reality, what gave him purchase was his general opposition to the political elite. But here’s the problem with Jackson—he’d won the South and the West, they’d put him in the White House, but once there, he curried favor with the Northeast and the Midwest by supporting the tariff and internal improvement programs, just as he had back in his senatorial days. I don’t think it was politics; he didn’t like those elitists anymore than his constituents did. I think he was a nationalist, and he believed in internal improvements to strengthen the nation and, by default, the tariff that funded them. But that policy spat in the face of those adherents to the Old Republican principles. Certainly, he believed in a strong, “unquestioned” executive, and sorry folks, strict constructionist that ain’t. 

John C. Calhoun of South Carolina split with Jackson over the tariff [yes, I know there were other things, but the tariff is what is relevant here]. Despite his growing anti-Jackson stance, Calhoun did not end up in the National Republican Party, the principles of which distanced him from it as he evolved as a political theorist and a statesman. Even when Southerners started to question Jackson on the nullification issue, the policies of the monied elite generally discouraged Southerners from entering the National Republican Camp. Similarly in the North, outside New England, the states showed little concern for the national issues touted by the National Republicans and were offered alternatives to the National Republican Party for venting their opposition to Jackson. The National Republicans, focused as they were on national economic issues [again, I interpret that to mean economic issues that affected them personally], failed to recognize what mattered at the grass-roots level. This was the era of the populist, pro-farmer Antimasons, who were against urban control of rural areas and promoted the idea of political candidates coming from the people, not professional politicians. They did not favor the National Republicans who were well-grounded in the 18th century belief in a republicanism practiced by the elite for the public good. The Antimason movement became very large throughout the North. Whereas the National Republicans focused their campaign on converting the “leadership” of the opposition to the National Republican cause, believing the people would follow, the Jacksonian Democrats and the Antimasons and other splinter groups, focused on converting the voters. In time, the Jacksonian Democrats usurped the Antimason cause in the Northern states. 

[That’s an interesting thought on smaller, intrastate parties. We need more of those today. The people of a state should have legislatures and governors focused on them and not vested in a national party from whom they take marching orders.]

But I digress. 

In the early 1830’s the National Republicans were in sore need of a “cause” large enough to counter the peoples’ grievances against a powerful elite and its corruption—both inimical to republics. These are what caused the voters to rally to and continue to stand behind Andrew Jackson. It would be Jackson himself who filled the National Republican need. Calhoun’s interposition, Biddle’s bank, and the birth of the Whig Party next time.  

Thanks for reading,
 
Charlsie

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Whigs, An Introduction to the Series

This post is number forty-nine in a historical series stemming from the career of Mississippi’s Whig/Republican governor and senator, James Lusk Alcorn, following the War Between the States and introduces a sub-series dealing with the Southern Whigs. 
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At this juncture, I’m taking a detour from the main narrative on Alcorn to address an important aspect of Reconstruction that is, I’ve come to believe, less a thread woven into the story’s fabric than it is the material basic to the weave. I refer to the Southern Whigs. My objectives in this brief series are to provide the reader with the evolution of the Whig Party and its role in the South and to identify the Southern Whig’s role during Reconstruction, which is my ultimate purpose for this adjunct. For a detailed history of the Whig Party, I refer the reader to Michael Holt’s The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party and to Arthur Charles Cole’s The Whig Party in the South. Holt’s book is a monster, weighing in at 985 pages in the paperback, and that does not include the notes, but the work is an essential reference for those interested in the subject. Cole’s 1911 doctoral dissertation (it was published in 1913 and is now in the public domain) remains the definitive history of the Whig Party in the South.

The American Whig Party emerged from a split between the Madisonian-leaning, Federalist-infiltrated National Republicans and the Old Republicans, the latter being the primary branch of the Jeffersonian Republican Party. The National Republicans represented the monied, industrial, and banking interests of the Northeast, adhering to government promotion of a national economic program, more in line with the old Federalist doctrines, tempered by kinder/gentler “Madisonism.” The Old Republicans, truer in spirit to our third president, represented the populist, democratic ideals of the common man in the South and West who believed less government computed to greater individual liberty. Jeffersonian Republicans had despised Federalists back in the day of Alexander Hamilton and John Adams and were appalled by this growing faction within the old party. 

During the eight years of Andrew Jackson’s presidency (1829-1837), men from both factions of the Jeffersonian Republicans and from all sections of the country embraced the Whig Party in opposition to an overreaching executive, a factor that took primacy over the conflicting interests of the participating allies. In the end, some twenty years later, these conflicting interests proved a greater (negative) impact on the Whig Party than the anti-Jacksonian cause that had given birth to it. These conflicts, which resulted in its demise, were inherent to the Whig Party from its inception. As far as I’m concerned, these issues, which dealt, fundamentally, with the role of the national government and the role of the states in the Federal system were major disconnects. I will delve deeper into the highpoints in upcoming posts, and I will do so more to focus on the principles and evolution of the Southern Whig and his growing estrangement from his Northern fellows than to narrate the history of the party. For now, suffice it to say that Southern Whigs, like all things Southern, were a different breed from their Northern counterparts. I’d go so far as to suggest the only true Whigs were the Southern ones and the Northern ones were really Federalists in drag, but as my faithful readers know, I am prejudiced in my opinions; furthermore, I’m a far cry from being an expert on Whigs.

In reading histories of that long-ago war, one often reads/hears the term “unionist” bandied about in reference to some Southerners. More often than not, its antecedent is a Southern Whig, but this allusion demands clarification. Southern Whigs, though they idolized Henry Clay and espoused the “principles” of the Whig Party (or what they perceived the principles of the Whig Party to be), did indeed love the “Union”, but not as the inviolable entity Daniel Webster claimed  to have predated the states—that is New England hogwash. Southern Whigs adhered to the Union for the safety and stability it afforded them under the Constitution in the routine conduct of their business and daily lives. If you’ll recall, one of Alcorn’s primary reasons for accepting the Reconstruction Acts of 1867 was because kowtowing was the means by which Mississippi could re-enter the nation, get her representation back in Congress, receive the protection provided by the Constitution, and divest herself of the Yankee contagion—okay, those last are my words.  

Southern Whigs were the largest and wealthiest group of slave-owners in the South. During the antebellum years, they often dominated politics in North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Louisiana, and they had healthy pluralities in a number of other Southern states. During the twenty-odd years spanning the party’s existence, Whigs represented thirty percent (roughly one-third) of the voters and members of the legislature in Mississippi. As a group, these men opposed secession both in theory and in fact, but when the Democratic fire-eaters won out and war came, the Whigs backed their states and their region with money, with arms, and with their blood. For those who do not realize it, opposition to secession and opposition to slavery are two different things, just as being a unionist does not mean being “pro-North,” but rather expresses a preference for the status quo. Drawing such simplistic parallels is worthy only of non-thinking adherents to the modern mainstream’s revision of Civil War history. When the choice finally had to be made, the vast majority of Southern Whigs never questioned where their loyalties lay. Oh, yes, Whigs always questioned Democrats, and they questioned the wisdom of Jefferson Davis, but not out of love for Lincoln or Union or a belief in freedom for the black man. Those particular questions sprang from love for the South and the principles of our Founders’ Republic and the very real danger now threatening their way of life. Perhaps Southern Whigs never belonged in the Whig Party any more than their states belonged in a Federal union perverted by Northern economic interests.  

Next time a more detailed look at the embryonic Whig Party and the rise of the Southern Whig.
 
Thanks for reading,  

Charlsie

Monday, September 12, 2016

Alcorn’s Gubernatorial Victory, November 1869

This post is number forty-eight in a historical series discussing Mississippi’s Whig/Republican governor and senator, James Alcorn, following the War Between the States and continues the “saga” resulting from the Democratic victory over the Republican “reconstruction” constitution framed during the Black & Tan Convention in the winter/spring of 1868. That Republican defeat meant a second election, the story of which culminates below. For earlier posts in this Alcorn-driven series see the sidebar on the right.
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The election went off without a hitch or relatively close to it. There were small riots in Sunflower, Newton, and Hinds counties, which the Clarion attributed to “Radical” intimidation—but, of course, intimidation from that source wouldn’t have caused Ames to call for a new election—especially since the Radicals won—the self-righteous little autocrat wouldn’t have wasted his time.  

According to James Garner in Reconstruction in Mississippi, the Constitution was ratified 113,735 for  (Appleton’s figure was 105,223 for) to 955 against. The voter disfranchising clause, now separate from the progressive constitution, was defeated, 2206 for to 87,874 against, and the clause that proposed disqualifying ex-Confederates from everything into perpetuity was defeated 2390 for to 87,253 against. The requirement for administration of the “iron-clad” oath to state officers was rejected 2170 for to 88,444 against, and the clause forbidding the loan of the state’s credit was ratified. 

As for the state tickets, suffice it to say that for those Democrats who had supported the Dent ticket, the results were embarrassing. James Lusk Alcorn trounced Louis Dent 76,143 to 38,133 (based on that total, it appears Appleton’s figure might be closer to the correct total for votes cast on the state constitution). Louis Dent left the state. [I wonder if he went back to D.C. I really wonder if he ever spoke to his brother-in-law again.] The Negro vote went almost exclusively to Alcorn (and his ticket) and 28 of Mississippi’s 60 counties had Negro majorities. Alcorn also carried 15 counties with white majorities. All the congressional candidates for the 41st Congress on the Dent ticket were defeated. A straight Republican (that would be Radical) ticket made up of three Northerners and two Southern whites were sent to Congress to represent the state:

1st Congressional District: George E. Harris from Hernando, native of Tennessee and a pre-war Whig; became a Republican in 1867

2nd Congressional District: J. L. Morphis, probably another pre-war Whig, who switched to the Republican Party in 1867. He was from Pontotoc

3rd Congressional District: H. W. Barry, a New Yorker and ex-brevet general, United States Army

4th Congressional District: George C. McKee from Illinois and ex-brevet general United States Army

5th Congressional District: Legrand W. Perce, another New Yorker, ex of the United States Army

There you have it, folks: Mississippi’s long-anticipated and desperately yearned for representation in Congress that made us once again a respected member of a “union” we wanted only to leave in peace, all our fears now having come to fruition. These are the representatives designated to look after the interests of the Mississippi taxpayer, their families, and their proud history. Oh wait, that’s not quite all of them. I forgot our glorious senators—they’ll come up shortly—after the new Radical legislature meets in January. 

In announcing the results of this election, the Clarion pointed out two things. First, the commander of the fourth district and provisional governor, Adelbert Ames, who controlled the election was heavily partisan in his support of the Radical party headed by Alcorn, and second, 15,000 Conservative voters had been disfranchised due to voting restrictions on ex-Confederates. The Clarion, however, failed to put much store in the voters who simply did not turn out. The majority of white taxpayers—and to be sure, they were the ones paying for all this orchestrated bull—twenty percent of their number killed and/or wounded in an unwarranted war of aggression fighting for the Republic, which would survive or fail—not the “Union,” mind you, but the Republic—after having seen their women violated, their families shattered, their property and infrastructure decimated in the name of Union and patriotism, themselves branded with the epithet of traitor while the greedy and malicious sit back in Washington with the oblivious blessings of the constituents who put them there—those Mississippi taxpayers now watch as step by step the victor desecrates the Constitution and dismantles the Founder’s Republic. And their choices at the ballot box? Two wings of the same party, one supported by an “enlightened” Democratic leadership telling these downtrodden, overtaxed warriors, who a year before had given their all to defeat the progressive agenda, that principle doesn’t matter any longer and the past is dead. Oh, and history will record your deeds...well, however, history records them. We stand at the threshold of a grand new nation, they said, a democracy, and we must comply and we will pay for it even while history denigrates us as the traitors it will make us, but that’s okay, because there is no other way.  

All right, that’s my interpretation—Charlsie a century and a half later is making an attempt here to show the modern reader how the rank and file of the Democrat Party/the defeated Confederate South was viewing the political scene. The “official” Democratic leadership, the one that had joined forces with the Conservative Scalawags in hopes of defeating Alcorn and the Radicals—for both pragmatic and self-aggrandizing reasons—had lost touch with its base, which was growing more frustrated by the moment. The Scalawags and the official leadership of the new Democratic Party might have been eager to blame secession, the war, and defeat on the old Democrats, but the men and their families who’d suffered so greatly during the struggle believed during it all that the South was right. What the “Democratic leadership” failed to grasp in 1869 was that many of those honorable men still did believe they’d been right and telling them they weren’t, while at the same time offering them a platform that reiterated how “wrong” they’d been, offered them nothing worth voting for in 1869. Even those whose faith was shattered didn’t like what they were seeing and what they’d be getting. Many of those simply did not show up at the polls     

The one silver glow around the gathering storm clouds was that martial law would, supposedly, end (to be replaced by secret police and tyrannical militias in support of the administration, not to mention the continued presence of Federal bayonets to support the unpopular Radical administrations when the people rose up against them); the state would get its representation back in Congress—albeit none of the representatives were representative of the people who paid the taxes in the state—oh, but that’s what democracy is all about—the majority decides how to spend the money of the taxpayer, even though way too many put nothing in the kitty themselves. 

Elections would now be free of military interference and self-government/home rule was in sight. No matter how bad this “temporary” Radical hegemony would be in the minds of this Mississippi leadership who’d supported the Conservative candidate, it had to be better than Ames. Here’s a hint for those of you who don’t know the story, Ames ain’t gone. Mississippi has a long hard row stretching out before her. 

Technically James Lusk Alcorn’s was a Radical victory, but Alcorn was, in fact, a Conservative Scalawag in Radical clothing. The Radicals would soon be using similar terms to describe him. At the time of his election, the question was whether he would retain his office and prove a good governor [the other option being the U.S. Senate] or would he abandon the state to the Radical cabal he led to power?  

Thanks for reading,

Charlsie

Monday, August 29, 2016

General Adelbert Ames Prepares for Election Day, 1869

This post is number forty-seven in a historical series discussing Mississippi’s Whig/Republican governor and senator, James Alcorn, following the War for Southern Independence and continues the “saga” resulting from the Democratic/Conservative victory over the Republican “reconstruction” constitution framed during the Black & Tan Convention in the winter/spring of 1868. That Republican defeat meant a second election, the story of which continues below. For earlier posts in this series, see the sidebar on the right.
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On 14 October 1869, General Adelbert Ames, commander of the Fourth Military District and provisional governor, in accordance with presidential directive, issued a general order declaring 30 November/1 December as the dates set aside for the new election that would determine Mississippi’s reentry to the Union (which those of Ames’ ilk claimed she’d never left). In the running were a civil government, a new constitution, and the fate of proscription in the case of ex-Confederates as well as the state’s ability to pledge funds for whatever the legislature deemed appropriate.  

Of course, reentry into the Union required, by tacit determination of an outlaw Congress, that a Republican ticket be elected. On the surface, that was no problem, because Republicans were all there was to choose from. I maintain, however, that Conservative Republicans would have created a great deal of heartburn at the Washington level, but to what machinations the Radicals at the National level would have resorted in order to nullify a second conservative victory we’ll never know. They’d done their scheming before hand this time around (first putting Ames in control of the state, as well as the election; reversing Grant’s support for the Conservative candidate, Dent; softening the Radical stance on the proscription clauses; and replacing the unpalatable Yankee Eggleston for governor with home-grown James Lusk Alcorn). No more screwups like the summer of ’68, by George! [I refer to Massachusettes’ Boutwell, of course, because George Washington would have never been party to such tyranny.] 

That 14 October order contained detailed instructions for the revision of the registration lists and general management of the election and the counting of returns. On 5 November, Ames issued order #234 establishing a requirement for more than a thousand registrars at $5.00 per day, to include the two days required for the election and for an unspecified number of days after, which these registrars would need to complete the returns.  

The registrars, two white and two black of different political parties were to be selected by the board of registry, members comprised of individuals hand-picked by Ames, assigned for each of the five precincts to challenge the right of any person to be registered who, in the “opinion” of the person challenging, was disqualified from voting (the proscription clauses were still in effect as of this election). Ames enacted many such elaborate precautions to ensure a “correct” registration and “fair” election, but I’m not convinced the two terms, in this context, are mutually compatible. 

In addition, he assigned five presidents for each registry board in each county for three days extra at $5.00 per day plus expenses to bring the returns to Jackson. These presidents received allowances for ballot boxes, stationery, and room rent. Additionally, one deputy sheriff was assigned duty, at $5.00 per day during the election. James Garner, in Reconstruction in Mississippi does not state what “constituted” the election timeframe in the case of these deputies, but he did estimate the cost for this election in excess of $100,000. Unfortunately, Garner was also remiss is indicating how Ames raised revenue to pay for this election, but the people of Mississippi did pay for it. Ames further declared if any fraud or intimidation were committed during the election, another election would be held—at another cost, we must assume, of $100,000. I’m sorry, y’all, but no matter which way you cut it, the man was an arrogant horse’s butt. 

On 6 November, Ames issued another order assigning forty-nine army officers to serve as election inspectors. These men, primarily captains and lieutenants, were drawn from the 16th Infantry Regiment headquartered at Grenada with companies posted at Natchez, Jackson, Vicksburg, Grenada, Lauderdale (County), and Corinth. In fact, there appears to be some reposting of these units within the state as of March 1869, possibly as precautionary measures on the part of Ames in anticipation of the fall elections, but also as a reorganization from the Fourth Military District into the Department of the South [though Ames’ orders are still issued by him from the “Fourth Military District” as of December 1869]. The officers from the 16th served primarily as roving inspectors for each county. They were authorized to give orders in the name of the commanding general (Ames), and their duties were to: 

--visit the registry boards

--instruct them in regard to duties

--generally exercise control of the “work” of registration

--observe the actual holding of the elections (votes being cast, I assume)

--report to headquarters

--keep Ames advised in advance upon probable occurrences likely to affect the “result” of the election  

That latter duty is telling. I wonder what steps Ames would have taken had he learned the election was going “South?” And yes, the pun was intended. I’m thinking he had some course/remedial action in mind, else why would he have needed to know in advance? 

The results of all this hard work on the part of Ames next time.  

Thanks for reading,
Charlsie

 

Monday, August 15, 2016

The 1869 Gubernatorial Campaign in Mississippi

This post is number forty-six in a historical series discussing Mississippi’s Whig/Republican governor and senator, James Alcorn, following the War Between the States and continues the “saga” resulting from the Democratic victory over the Republican “reconstruction” constitution framed during the Black & Tan Convention in the winter/spring of 1868. That Republican defeat resulted in a second election, the story of which continues below. For earlier posts in this Alcorn-driven series, I refer the reader to the sidebar on the right.
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After his nomination by the Conservative Republicans (National Union Republican Party) and his subsequent acceptance as its gubernatorial candidate, Louis Dent returned to Mississippi in early September. Recall that he had been living in the state prior to his brother-in-law’s (Ulysses Simpson Grant’s) moving into the White House, at which point Dent was invited to join the president and Julia (Dent’s sister). On the 14th of September, the Clarion published the schedule of his speaking engagements, forty odd, starting in Corinth on the 18th and ending on the 30th of September, after which, Dent informed Alcorn, he would be available for “discussion,” this in response to an invitation for debate extended by Alcorn. 

Louis Dent and James Alcorn held their first such face-off at Grenada in early October, and the Clarion declared Dent the winner. This assessment was supported by kudos published in the Aberdeen Examiner who saw in Dent an “eloquent debater and orator for the Conservative cause.” James Garner (Reconstruction in Mississippi), my source for the newspaper analysis, however, maintained that Judge Dent, whose main oratorical weapon was a subtle and deep sarcasm, was no match for the experienced Alcorn, whose booming oratory had been finely honed in the stump-style politicking of the South of that day. The topics for Dent’s biting invective were Alcorn’s role in the secession crisis back in ’61 and his subsequent war record—no battles, no wounds, and no taking the enemy capitol. 

Well, we saw Alcorn’s war record in the early part of this long series (follow the links for the fourth through seventh posts listed on the right under Alcorn Series for more information). No, he never found martial glory, but not for want of asking for the opportunity, and he was there for the Confederacy in a support role and served in Mississippi’s Confederate legislature despite his undermining criticisms of the war effort (which was going badly). At the same time, of course, he was ensuring his own survival to “fight” again another day by wheeling and dealing (selling) cotton to Yankee entrepreneurs along the river in the dark of night (Okay, that’s my synopsis, but it was done illegally and in violation of Confederate law, and Alcorn did get quite wealthy off the trade). Those “lucrative” investments at the time were now funding his present day “fight” for control of the state.

Dent spent a good part of the debate trying to convince people his “whole soul was enlisted in the great agricultural and commercial interests of Mississippi, and their resuscitation and development” as a bona fide citizen of the state. George Alcorn (James’ cousin) and clerk at the probate court in Coahoma County where Dent leased “abandoned” property, had circulated a letter that Dent was not on the tax rolls for that county. 

Alcorn kept his focus on the gloomy condition of the state under the last four years of Democratic leadership. Now, any reasonable person might argue that war and Reconstruction would account for that. Of course, Alcorn blamed the war on the Democrats and its loss on Jeff Davis’ policies/grand strategy. Understand that for the four years following the end of the war, Mississippi and the entire South needed an infusion of capital. Not only had the reconstruction contemporary Americans readily assume to be part of U.S. policy after having pounded the stuffing out of a foreign nation not occurred (and never would), the Southern states had been forced, under Federal bayonets, to contend with costly constitutional conventions, welfare for a huge vagrant population created by an invading army in an unwarranted war, and other self-aggrandizing expenses a hate-filled occupier imposed on a taxpayer it had managed to disfranchise. Their lands devastated, their populations decimated, and their labor force disbursed and living off the largesse of the American taxpayer, including Southern ones, Mississippi and her sister states did not have a means of generating income, and they were being raped by an unconstitutional Congress and an ancillary weak administration, under the Radicals’ thumb, imbued with a self-serving zeal to make the South Northern. A better analogy for the treatment of the South after the War Between the States for those of you familiar with history would be Rome to Carthage rather than the United States to Germany and Japan following World War II.

These conditions Alcorn blamed on Democratic intransigence in the face of Republican (Party) expectations for the South in the “new” democracy the Radicals were creating. In the mind of the exigency-driven, would-have-been-tyrant Alcorn, the Radicals and the North had a right to demand these things and create a new nation under the rules of war and conquest. For sure, unwarranted and unconstitutional as it may have been, there are not many things more effective than beating the stew out of someone, then telling him how things are gonna be from now on, especially after the Northern populace sanctioned the changes. Alcorn was advocating acquiescence to the destruction of the Founder’s Republic, and the principles of that Republic were critical to the South’s survival and always had been; that’s why she seceded.  

Personally, I think Alcorn viewed acquiescence to the party in power as temporary. In tandem with Alcorn’s detesting Democratic principles and stubbornness, he believed that once Mississippi submitted to the Radical plan for Reconstruction, she would get her representation back in Congress and from that source get her long-awaited share of Federal money. Alcorn, the Whig, had wanted Mississippi to receive her share of that money for decades, a point he made when accepting the gubernatorial nomination at the Radical convention.

The campaign apparently was a colorful one. Supposedly there was a threat from the Klan, but more in theory than actual fact. Keep in mind that the Klan was composed of, and led by, Democrats and many nominal Democrats were, by this time, leaning toward the “progressive” or New Departure  persuasion and weren’t gonna muck with the candidates—now, that’s just my opinion. There is some rumor that the Democratic leadership had lost control of its military wing, but I think those uncontrolled elements are more the result of Republican hype and propaganda. Truth was leadership of the political and military wings was probably the same. What wouldn’t have been under their control were independent groups whose so-called atrocities were readily attributed to the Klan, whether Klan or not. My point is that Alcorn did assume some risk by running on the Radical ticket. One might consider that Dent, running on much the same platform, would have shared those risks from those same fringe groups. Perhaps he did. If history says, I haven’t found it. Amelia, Alcorn’s wife, tried to dissuade her husband from running as did his friend J.F.H. Claiborne. The opportunity Alcorn had waited a lifetime for—one he’d spent time and money finagling into being—and  they’re asking him to sit it out? Not a chance.

Alcorn proved up to the perceived challenge. During a campaign address in Ripley, Mississippi, he nearly came to blows with a local politician, who Alcorn dubbed a liar (them’s fightin’ words back in those days, folks), and as the audience scrambled for the door and windows, Alcorn called them back and told them there was nothing to fear because his opponent was a “drunken cowardly vagabond.” Okay, that incident is recorded in a letter to Amelia, so one might speculate “Dandy Jim” embellished it some. In Aberdeen, he allayed the fears of his audience when, on hearing the cocking of pistols near the rostrum, he pulled a six-shooter from his satchel and challenged the would-be assassins to face him like men. Then, in an address to a mostly Negro audience at a railroad platform in Winona, when what has been described as “several of the more desperate whites” planned to kill Alcorn “with a rifle,” (implying distance from the platform, you think?), conservative Democrats prevented their carrying out the plan. I don’t know if that “prevention” occurred on scene or off or if it’s even valid or just another delicious rumor embellished to add excitement to the campaign. 

Dent, a non-Mississippian and abandoned by his brother-in-law, Grant, whose endorsement the Conservatives hoped might sway the people of Mississippi, left the state after the joint debates, not even sticking around for the election results. Of course, his presence up to that point was probably nothing more than the fullfilment of a commitment—that’s based on my assumption his brother-in-law had informed him privately the fix was already in, and he was not to be elected.  

But here’s something regarding the undercurrents of this volatile period: Alcorn readily attributes the poor economic condition of the state following Presidential Reconstruction to “Democratic” intransigence following defeat, the direct result being the state’s remaining outside the safety of the Union. But there’s more to the story of the Democrats not using the name Democratic Party because they were in disgrace. A more accurate reason for this fusion party using the sobriquet Democratic-Conservative or simply Conservative Party was because the ascendant leadership in the vast majority of all those Southern legislatures elected as far back as 1865 and 1866—the same ones that wrote the new state constitutions under the provincial governments set up by President Johnson, the ones who rightly resisted passage of the unconstitutional 14th and 15th amendments, the ones who enacted the infamous Black Codes—was not composed of Democrats. The bulk of the leadership in those Conservative parties were Old-line Whigs. They had been who the people had turned to with the defeat of the Confederacy. In the case of Mississippi, these old Whigs, for the first time ever, were at the top of the food chain. Alcorn was an Old-line Whig. Yes, they needed the Democratic polity, hence the annotated name, but they were the ones in charge. This would further account for the growing fissure between the Democratic-Conservatives and Old-line Democrats (Bourbons) within the “Democratic-Conservative” Party. Just as important, Old-line Whigs dominated the leadership of the Scalawags who were, despite appearances, opposed to the Radicals. It had been 140 “local men of affairs,” all reputedly Whigs, who wrote the address asking the people of the state to vote for Louis Dent. Now, that particular group of solicitors was probably composed of both Democratic-Conservative Whigs and National Union Republican Whigs (Scalawags).  The Whigs, be they of the Democratic-Conservative or Scalawag persuasion, are a whole different study and a very important one, and as soon as I’ve put Alcorn in the state-house in this series, I’m gonna take a detour and attempt to sort them out.
 
Next time, military governor and commander of the Fourth Military District Adelbert Ames’ extensive efforts to ensure a “fair” election. Thanks for reading. 

Charlsie