Thursday, May 31, 2018

Mississippi’s Readmission to the Union, With Conditions

This post is number fifty-one 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. With proscription conditions in the new constitution modified, the Republicans triumphed in the second election and the new puppet legislature enacted the final requirements for readmission. This post picks up the story in Washington during the winter of 1870. For earlier posts in this Alcorn-driven series, see the sidebar.

The legislature having completed its requirements as laid down by Congress, it retired to await the blessings of Congress, from which the new puppet Republican legislature expected the state’s speedy admission to the Union equal to that of the original state. In reality, true “equality” vis-à-vis the central government was dead for all the states—federalism itself having been butchered along with the Confederacy.

To emphasize this point: In conjunction with Mississippi’s readmission, Benjamin Butler of Massachusetts introduced a bill making it a qualification that any state officer swear under oath never to have born arms against the United States, unless that encumbrance had already been removed. It was the same old “iron-clad oath” requirement. Recall we’d been through this with Butler before. This new iteration referred to holding office, sans the voting restriction, but the stipulation already existed in the Fourteenth Amendment. But the bill also added the condition that the recalcitrant states could never amend their constitutions to deprive a citizen of the vote, right to hold office, or attend public schools. Such amendments to their constitutions of course, new, old, or amended, are the prerogatives of the individual states themselves. And more telling, why should such conditions be relegated to the “recalcitrant” states? And the condition that any state not be able to alter its constitution matter for what “noble” cause the restraint was perpetrated, is (was I should say) anathema to our federal system. Except where specifically outlined in the Constitution, the central government had no say in state matters. The restrictions in Butler’s “recalcitrant” state bill would shortly deprive Mississippi, Virginia, and Texas of their equality with the original members of the Union, and the denial of a state’s right to change its organic laws is contrary to federalism. Kentucky’s James Beck, still fighting, offered a counter proposal, “unconditional readmission.” The Butler Bill passed the House 136-56.

The debate in the Senate on Butler’s bill continued for two weeks at which point moderate Republican John Sherman of Ohio, who was no friend of the South (yes, he is little Billy’s brother) said on February 17th that he was going to start messing with other pieces of legislation if there wasn’t movement on the bill (don’t know which side he was taking). The senate judiciary committee, chaired by Lyman Trumbull of Illinois, another individual who was no friend of the South, found that Mississippi met all prior requirements for readmission and recommended unconditional readmission. The Senate rejected those findings, then passed the House (Butler’s) bill, in conjunction with Mississippi’s readmission, and sent it to the president. Grant signed it on the 23 February 1870.

This is the final aftermath of the battle that had been fought and won by the people of Mississippi in the summer of 1868.  Grant himself recommended separate votes on the proscription clauses and the constitution. As a result, in the fall of 1869 proscription was defeated and the progressive constitution passed. Now, only months later, Congress has made a de facto repudiation of the Mississippi taxpayer’s will and its token Republican president has participated in the treachery. I do not know Alcorn’s take on this treachery, but he is on record for telling his wife Amelia prior to the gubernatorial election in the fall of 1869, that if the Democrats won (Dent), he’d recommend Congress continue martial law in the state. Looking at the votes in both houses of Congress, it’s clear the bill was a collusion to give Mississippi’s usurping Republicans what the people of the state had denied them.

Writing in 1901, James Garner in Reconstruction in Mississippi states that after five years with no representation in Washington, and three of those years under martial law, Mississippi was readmitted to the Union under “conditions” that impaired her sovereignty. Congress, in assuming the power to deprive the state of the right to change its governing constitution in certain particulars, arrogated to itself sovereign powers, and had it been able to enforce its commands, the principle of the federal system would have been destroyed.

[H]ad it been able to enforce its commands...?

Garner was writing at a time when Republican hegemony over the federal government had been cracked, a time when folks who still believed in the Constitution and understood the basic tenants of federalism it governed. Sadly, those conditions do not exist today, and the underlying weaknesses of federalism framed during Reconstruction, the usurpation of state rights by a tyrannical central government, is today characterized by a worthless Congress and an overreaching executive branch, which Congress itself has been strengthening for decades with powerful, unconstitutional agencies to the detriment of us all. To us true believers in the founders’ republic, federal law does not trump state law. Federal law only trumps state law where the federal government has been delegated supreme power by the states, and those instances are limited. But that means nothing when the states fail to react, just like they did nothing in 1861 when Lincoln opted to make war on the Southern states after they legally seceded from a hostile “Union.” Well, okay, those Northern states did do something. They supported him against sister states to the detriment not only of the South, but to the republic. With the forced ratification of the 14th and 15th Amendments, the principle of the federal system framed by our founders was destroyed.

After President Grant signed the bill readmitting Mississippi to the Union (with the conditions attached), Henry Wilson, the junior senator from Massachusetts, presented the credentials of Hiram Revels to the Senate. Revels’ credentials had been signed by Brevet Major General and Provisional Governor Adelbert Ames. A point rose as to the appropriateness of Ames’ signing Revels’ credentials—ha, wait until they get to Ames’—on two counts: Military officer certification was not on the list of evidence required by law, and Ames was not the true executive, Alcorn was. But remember, Alcorn couldn’t execute anymore than the legislature could legislate until after the bill admitting the state into the Union was signed by the president (by which time Ames and Revels were already in Washington. Perhaps they should have waited, huh? Got their credentials in order, then caught a later train?). I conclude the Senators figured Alcorn could have signed them and should have. Instead the arrogant Ames had done the deed.

They hemmed and hawed over Revels’ credentials for two days, then one of them proposed to just let the Senate vote to seat him, which it proceeded to do, 48-8. Popular sentiment brands those Democrats who opposed Revels’ seating as racists and the Republicans who supported him as brave reformers determined to eliminate the special burdens placed on the Negro. Hogwash. The Republicans were just as racist, and their constituents more malevolent in their opposition to the Negro than a Southern Democrat whose racism was condescending, yes, but comparatively benevolent. The Republicans sacrificed their racial prejudices to permanently break the link between the government framed in 1787 and the nationalist one they were codifying into law as of 1870. Whether the Democrats were racist, benevolent, malevolent, or whatever, is irrelevant. Their unsuccessful struggle was an effort to halt the creation of a tyrannical central government and its ancillary destruction of republican principles. The law/arguments used to seat Revels in 1870 were unconstitutional.  The race card was not needed to make their point. The Republicans, however, did need it to make theirs.

Now, as to those platitudes of poetic justice made in the case of a Negro taking Jeff Davis’ seat in the U. S. Senate. Davis’ physical chair had long before been taken by a Kansas senator who refused to give it up. (That actual, physical chair, of course, is another irrelevancy, but was considered symbolic by the idealists of the day). And as for the story that had been bouncing around since Davis resigned his seat in the Senate in 1861 in which Davis supposedly told Pennsylvania Senator Simon Cameron that he’d probably be replaced by a Negro in a few years time, that story has also been turned on its ear and reiterated with it being a prescient Cameron informing Davis of that dire fate. It doesn’t matter which one said it.  It’s all faux “poetic justice.” The seat Revels filled was the one vacated in 1861 by Mississippi’s junior senator, Albert Brown. Ames took Davis’ seat, and personally, I think Revels would have made a much better fill.

When Ames presented his credentials to the Senate, signed by his own hand, the issue of his seating went to the judiciary committee. The committee reported back that Ames had gone to Mississippi under orders as a military officer, and he was not a citizen of the state. That report from its own judiciary committee was not sufficient for the Senate to simply say, “go home,” preferably to Maine.
[All those Republican senators were mad at Trumbull, anyway, for breaking ranks and not voting to convict Andrew Johnson at his impeachment trial.]

Seating Ames took weeks. His chief supporters in the Senate were Radical Republicans Oliver P. Morton (Indiana’s gubernatorial tyrant; now, Senator), George Boutwell (Massachusetts), and George Edmunds (Vermont), and moderate Republican John Sherman (Ohio). Ames’ primary opponents were Democrats Thomas Bayard (Delaware) and Allen Thurman (Ohio).

Again citing Garner, Ames’ acceptance of the Senate seat from Mississippi’s legislature, over which, as provisional governor, he wielded influence, was (at best) in poor taste. He owned no real property in the state and paid little or no taxes. He knew little of the state or its needs. He was a stranger to Mississippi and her people. He had no respect for their tastes, habits, and prejudices, and he admitted that had he failed to get his appointment to the Senate, he would not have made Mississippi his home.

And on that note, back in Jackson, the puppet legislature passed a joint resolution to Congress stating that Ames’ election had been regular and legal, so seat him. Given that, the Senate rejected 40-12 the judiciary committee’s report. This non-resident Ames not only represented Mississippi in the U.S. Senate, he would go on to do so as governor. Ames turned out to be a special emissary of the Negro race, and he later admitted that in leaving the military for a civil career he’d made the “fatal” error of his life.

No matter what else, by General Order 25 of 26 February 1870, the Fourth Military District ceased to exist. [Arkansas, the other state making up the Fourth Military District, had been readmitted to the Union in 1868, also under a puppet administration.]

Back to Mississippi, next time, and Alcorn’s inaugural speech, outlining his optimistic vision for the brand new United States, and the South’s finally getting its hand in the till.

In your dreams, Alcorn.

 Thanks for reading,


Saturday, February 3, 2018

They Gulped the Blood and Gobbled the Flesh...

A post in the “Skewing Southern History Series”

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I’d become strained doing too many things at once and finishing nothing, so last summer I took a hiatus from blogging. My historical research, however, has not suffered, only the dissemination of my findings, aside from comments and what I hope have been appropriate shares on Google Plus, Twitter, and to a lesser extent, Facebook. But as I’ve stated before, sometimes something crosses one’s path that cannot be left go. Such was a Pinterest prompt for my  “Confederacy” board on which I pin photos of Confederate soldiers, Southern memorials, and other such tidbits related to a short-lived sovereign nation to which I pay homage.

The prompt was a photo of an unidentified Confederate soldier in cavalry boots (which I would have naturally pinned). I clicked the photo and was taken to an All Things Interesting article published on 27 September 2017. The title of the article was “America’s Darkest Hour: 39 Haunting Photos of The Civil War.” Now I’m not real big on dead soldiers on the battle ground, even Yankee ones, which considering my loyalties might be considered a little more palatable...though certainly not much. All I wanted was the fella in cavalry boots. But one had to click to go somewhere else to see the photos, so I started reading the article instead. At the git-go, it appeared to be a bipartisan accounting of a terrible tragedy that happened a long time ago; in short, a quick overview to accompany the photos, an account one would write for a child or foreigner who’d just parachuted in here and knew nothing of our War Between the States [talk about fire bells clamoring in the night]. I’ve got a pretty good laywoman’s knowledge of events, so initially there was nothing in there I wasn’t aware of. Then, halfway through the article (it isn’t a long one) came something I was not familiar with. I quote:

“For four deadly years, the country endured not only its bloodiest and most vicious military conflict, but also some of its cruelest racial hatred. Adding to the already immense heap of skulls, Confederates used disease, starvation, exposure, and outright execution to kill hundreds of thousands of former slaves during the war, a figure not included in death toll estimates thanks to a deliberate lack of record keeping.”

Not “hundreds”, y’all, not even “thousands”, but hundreds of thousands. And exactly when did this “lack of evidence” proving the occurrence of genocide come to light? And speaking of creating fact from non-existent evidence, why didn’t the writer take the gruesome lie one step further and explain away the absence of hundreds of thousands of Negroid skulls? Allow me to demonstrate: “There’s no evidence of the holocaust dear gullible reader (the article’s readership) because the Confederates ate the murdered slaves.”

Ha, you see, I really can write compelling fiction! Yes siree, that’s the perfect sequel to this horror story being attributed to my Southern ancestors, and my embellishment makes so much sense. The Confederates were, after all, hungry. Shortages were rampant due to invasion and blockade, so they “gulped the blood and gobbled the flesh and greedily gorged on the lifeless corpse[s].”* And once they had eaten their fill, they boiled the fat for soap, then ground the skeletal mass into meal for bread and cake. That’s why today’s fine teams of modern investigative journalists, such as the writer of the dung defecated in the ATI article, can’t find where the bodies are buried.

Let’s break down the above paragraph further. Consider the line about “a deliberate lack of record keeping?” That alone should tell any reasonable reader how far the writer will go to insult his intelligence. Why, if one were to do such a thing, would the executioners make a record of it? It’s not as if the victims had property to account for; they were property. Maybe that explains it. The executioners were keeping the murders secret from the rightful owners who were off somewhere else fighting Yankees. Ya think? Duh. Consider, too, the time it would have taken away from the army’s defending against invaders. I wonder if the writer of the article has any idea how many Yankees were running around in the South between 1862-1865. Certainly enough to come across hundreds of thousands of murdered slaves. I wonder if he/she even knows Yankees invaded the South or where the war was fought? Besides, don’t you know [I’m being facetious here], few Southerners could read and write, so keeping a record would have been difficult.

But the underlying implications are more sinister than that. Note the use of the words “deliberate lack...” By referencing a perceived requirement for such a record, of which someone in a position of power would have made a conscious effort to forgo, the writer is implicating the Confederate government in a conspiracy to annihilate its Negro population. Where exactly is the writer of this article going with this?

Yes, well, I know, too.

Next, let’s look at the line “used disease, starvation, exposure, and outright execution....” That is blatant plagiarism of Southern charges of Federal excesses (national policy) against Southern civilians, black and white. That is precisely where the writer of the ATI article stole that line. Such policy is a component of total war and during the War Between the States was routinely carried out by Federal officers in command in the South as sanctioned by their civilian head, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, and blessed by their sanctified leader Abraham Lincoln.

The charge against the Confederacy is, of course, false, and the proof (other than those yet-to-be-uncovered heaps up skulls) is evident by the simple fact that such horrendous deeds make no sense. There’s no record, not because of poor record keeping or pre-sanctioned omission, but because it didn’t happen. Why would Southerners who had, for two and a half centuries, lived intimately with the Negro: Slept with him, ate with him, nursed and been nursed by him, fought and died along side him for more than two centuries in our nation’s struggles leading up to the War Between the States suddenly start exterminating him?  I’m not talking about Negroes who fell behind enemy lines and ended up in the Federal army. They chose to take up arms as soldiers (or we could hope so, anyway) and were fair game like all soldiers taking up arms and invading the sovereign South.

The charge of premeditated extermination [and that’s what paragraph four of the ATI article is] is equally oxymoronic in light of the fallacious argument that the South seceded to preserve slavery..., then decided to exterminate its slaves? But wait! Maybe we’ve stumbled upon yet another point to ponder. Is the “all about slavery” narrative morphing into “it was all about removing the perceived inferior race from the United States?”

Sorry, folks, that exclusive “white-man’s-only nation” attitude was the battle cry of another group.

I’m not going to argue that the antebellum white Southerner wasn’t racist; he definitely was. But his racism was predominantly benevolent, and no matter how demeaning that benevolence, it falls well shy of atrocity. I say this, one, because Southerners are basically good people and, two, because that benevolence helped them justify the institution. It was the Northern attitude towards the Negro that was malevolent and that malevolence played out against the “contaminated” South and white Southerners, who had supposedly degenerated vis-à-vis their superior Northern counterparts after two hundred and fifty years of intimacy with the Negro race. In my opinion, and this is strictly my opinion, the greatest shame of the Southern Democrats and the modern Klan (not the original) is their self-aggrandizing embracing, then making truth of, a Yankee lie.

In light of the sordid tale of genocide masquerading as “fact” presented above, the rather slipshod description of Davis’ capture near the end of the article comes as no surprise.

I had never heard of All Things Interesting, but it has a substantial readership and is part of the online media, PBH Network. There are no by lines, attributions, or supporting references in the 27 September article. Whoever wrote the thing conducted only superficial research in slapping the piece together. They are unconcerned with the war, its causes, its repercussions, or the people involved. They are either convinced that all right-thinking Americans regard those who defended/still defend the Confederacy as either dead or to have seen the light and become “good” Americans, or they’re trying to convince the rest of us that’s the case. Extant defenders are nothing more than lunatics who support “proven” racist traitors and represent only a fringe of the Southern population.

Promulgation of such lies is what ATI counts on to grow its readership. That’s how propaganda works. The Left (assuming ATI isn’t financed by the Left) finds such ignorance a useful tool to achieve its agenda.  This is the legacy “neo-conservatives”, many in leadership positions across the South, have left us. A large number of Americans don’t know where this nation, or they themselves, came from. They look at America’s ante-bellum past as they do that of the Roman Republic: It was long ago, and there’s no one invested in it any longer. They feel right in saying and/or accepting whatever nonsense they “think they know,” packaging it as truth, and shouting it to the world if it furthers their agenda. These born-yesterday Americans derive from two different sources, new arrivals and the much more egregious multi-generationals who find validation in detaching themselves from ancestors who sacrificed their immortal souls, according to their progeny’s self-righteous interpretation of right and wrong, to give them what they have today. We in the South have long been blessed with a paucity of both. Disgracefully, the number among the latter is growing.

*Beowulf for those of you who have forgotten that classic example of old-English alliteration from high school.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Selection of Hiram Revels to the U. S. Senate

This post is number fifty in a historical series discussing Mississippi’s Whig/Republican governor and senator, James Alcorn, following the War Between the States and continues with the results of the fall 1869 victory of the Republican ticket headed by Alcorn and the Radical party. This post falls prior to the inauguration of the new governor, but subsequent to calling to order the new legislature by the interim military governor, Adelbert Ames.

As discussed in my last post, the ratification of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments was (at the time) the last hurdle placed in front of Mississippi before she would be accepted back into the loving arms of the hate-filled Union. Until that blessing occurred, Mississippi could not participate in the legislative process, but there was one last duty she could and should perform prior to soliciting Congress for readmission. That was the selection of her U.S. Senators.

To quickly recap, Alcorn was elected to fill the full session beginning 4 March 1871, roughly one year in the future, and Adelbert Ames was elected to fill an unfinished term of four years, the seat vacant since the late winter of 1861. Still to be chosen was the individual who would fill the second seat vacant since that same secession winter. That term had less than 14 months left on it and was the seat Alcorn anticipated filling the following March. In the meantime, an interim Senator was needed to fill the chair. The story passed down is that the Negro legislators, whose people had been instrumental in the election of the majority Carpetbaggers and Scalawags now holding power in Mississippi, insisted a black man fill that seat. How many white “allies” they had among the Carpetbaggers and Scalawags (and their strongest allies would have been among the Carpetbaggers) is not known. Negro legislator John Roy Lynch representing Adams County in the house, states that the Republicans were in agreement on the selection of a black Senator, but the house journal casts doubt on that, because when the voting started there were a number of Carpetbag hopefuls. Moreover, the record implies that the black legislators weren’t even in agreement on who their choice for U. S. Senator would be. According to James Garner in Reconstruction in Mississippi the battle was between B.B. Eggleston and Hiram Revels, and for a brief blip on the radar screen in the middle of the voting, that was indeed the case, but that was as much fluke as fact.

Ignorant of Mississippi’s values, reckless of the burden placed on her taxpayer, and heedless of the long-term welfare of her people, neither Revels nor Eggleston were representative of a devastated state vying against a Congress that had anything but Mississippi’s interest at heart. I, myself, find poetic justice in Revels’ victory occurring over the likes of Eggleston (and a number of other Radicals). Self-serving righteousness aside (not Revels’, but the Radicals’), Senator Revels was well educated and capable even if neither representative of the state nor appreciative of the role of a U.S. Senator—a failing permeating many Republican Senators at the time, not counting those hell-bent to knowingly alter the republic overall.

Revels had joined Federal service in Baltimore at the outbreak of the war, and he had assisted in the organization of Negro troops. He came with the U. S. Army to Jackson in 1863 and aided in the formation there of the Freedman’s Bureau. In time he would become the first president of Alcorn College for Negroes, and he has the distinction of being the first Negro seated in the U.S. Senate.

The Mississippi senate’s selection of Alcorn and Ames for the U.S. Senate occurred on the 18th of January, 1870. The Mississippi senate, however, failed to make a selection for the short-term seat, nor did the house and as of the following day when senate and house went into joint session to elect the Mississippi Senators, Hiram Revels had not even been mentioned as a possible candidate (at least, in the official record). He, himself, voted for the Carpetbagger Alston Mygatt on the first ballot and on the second, the Scalawag Abel Alderson, an 1850 transplant from Maryland, who did not take part in the war and was not serving in the legislature at the time of his nomination.

The 19 January joint session readily confirmed J. L. Alcorn for the new term beginning in March 1871 (119 to 2, the lone votes against him going to W. L. Sharkey, the old-line Whig who had served as Mississippi’s provisional governor during the earliest days of Presidential Reconstruction and Adelbert Ames, the then provisional governor). On cue, Ames was confirmed for the longer unfinished term, 94 votes to Robert Lowry’s 24. Alcorn also got a vote here as did Horace Greeley, a facetious jab, no doubt, at the hostile editor of the New York Tribune’s having as much right to represent Mississippi in the U. S. Senate as did Adelbert Ames. Unfortunately, no record is made of who initiated the vote, but a Democrat is a solid bet.

The unfinished, short-term seat proved up for grabs, however, no one candidate having a majority in either branch of the legislature. From what I’m able to gather, the joint session combined the votes of both houses from the previous day’s separate sessions to form the baseline for the 19 January voting:

R. W. Flournoy, who you may recall from an earlier post as a man James Garner in Reconstruction in Mississippi described as one of the most Radical Republicans in the state, received 27 votes [he was not a member of the legislature]
The aforementioned Abel Alderson 21
B. B. Eggleston [not in the legislature] 19
State senator Alston Mygatt, a Carpetbagger representing Warren and Issaquena counties, 8
C. B. New [not a member of the legislature] 2
Alexander Warren, a Scalawag representing Madison county 1
T. W. Stringer, a Negro representing Warren and Issaquena counties in the senate 1
J. J. Spelman, a Negro representing Madison County in the Mississippi house 4
J. W. C. Watson, an old-line Whig who served as a senator in the Confederate Congress, now a Democrat not serving in the legislature, but who had proved a thorn in the side of the Republicans during the Black and Tan Convention 18 
 J. W. Vance [another non-member of the legislature, who had been nominated in the house the day before by Scalawag M. Campbell representing Desoto County and in the senate by F. H. Little representing Chickasaw and Monroe Counties. Vance was a favorite of Democrats and a number of (I think we can safely assume) moderate Scalawags] 19

I would like to expand here, if I may, on my reckless use of the term “safely assume.” I am making some effort here at home to identify all these legislators by party affiliation and faction. I had identified senator Little as a probable Carpetbagger, based on his voting, but the only thing I’m sure of at this point is that he was a Republican. His nomination of Vance for the U.S. Senate seat indicates he might very well have been a Scalawag. However, on the second round of voting for this seat, also on 19 January, he voted against Vance, casting his ballot for B.B. Eggleston—can’t get much more “Carpetbag” than that. Of course, when studying the legislative journals, one doesn’t see the behind-the-scenes maneuvering going on, just clear indications that something is amiss. And “what” senator Little really was remains a mystery for now (at least to me).

The field proved smaller for the first joint ballot, six candidates as opposed to ten. Clearly some wheeling and dealing had gone on. The leading Democratic candidate from Wednesday’s last ballot, Watson, was no longer in the running and Eggleston’s total had jumped by twenty votes and the Southern wing’s choice, J. W. Vance, by 12. The withdrawal of Watson from the running resulted in his 18 votes being divvied up primarily between J. W. Vance, Robert Lowry (Newt Knight’s nemesis, who would eventually become governor of the state), and Abel Alderson:

 R. W. Flournoy, 22
Abel Alderson, 23
B. B. Eggleston, 39

Flournoy, Alderson and Eggleston (the first two Scalawags, one radical, one moderate, and Eggleston, the Carpetbagger, were trading Negro and Carpetbagger votes at this point).

J. W. Vance, 31
Robert Lowry, 5
C. B. New, 1

Hiram Revels’ name finally appears on the second ballot in the joint session when he was nominated by Mr. W. H. Roane, a Carpetbagger representing Pike County in the Mississippi house. One Carpetbag and three Negro senators voted for him as did eighteen Negroes and eight Carpetbaggers in the house. He received no Scalawag or Democratic votes on this ballot.

Abel Anderson 15
B. B. Eggleston 19
R. W. Flournoy 11
Robert Lowry 2
Hiram Revels 30
J. J. Spelman 3
Stafford, [not a member of the legislature] 1
J. W. Vance, 39

As of this juncture, Vance had gained two Democratic senators who had voted for Robert Lowry and a Scalawag who now chose to abandon Eggleston (or decided Eggleston was a lost cause). The battle at this point became one between Revels and Vance vice Revels and Eggleston, because once Revels’ hat was in the ring, the Negroes abandoned Eggleston (except the gentleman senator Revels and representative J. J. Spelman from Madison County who had nominated Eggleston in the first place, and Charles Caldwell, the Negro senator from Hinds County, who remained loyal to Abel Anderson). Eggleston, Alderson, and Flournoy had received a significant number of Negro votes prior to Revels’ nomination. Eggleston lost 10 Negro votes to Revels in addition to 5 Carpetbaggers; Flournoy lost 7 Negroes to Revels; and Abel Alderson lost 2 Negroes and 2 Carpetbaggers.

By the third ballot, Flournoy, Stafford, the Negro Spelman, and Lowry are gone and numbers are shifting:

Abel Alderson 13
B. B. Eggleston 19
Hiram Revels 40
J. W. Vance 49

And by the fourth ballot the quest for the sixty-one required votes is really between only two men, the Scalawag nominee, J. W. Vance, and the Negro nominee, Hiram Revels:

Abel Alderson 8
B. B. Eggleston 18
Hiram Revels 43
J. W. Vance 50 (who received 2 Carpetbag votes, one from the Alderson camp and one, actually, from Revels’ camp).

At this point, the legislative body adjourned until Tuesday, 20 January 1870, and the next day, the Scalawag senator, J. H. Pierce representing Panola and Tallahatchie Counties, withdrew J. W. Vance’s name from the list of hopefuls, and on the sixth ballot, Hiram Revels received 81 votes, twenty more than needed to win election. But here are a couple of interesting things to ponder. The first deals with the withdrawal of John W. Vance’s name and the second is the re-dissemination of the votes once Vance’s name was removed.

What happened over night to compel the Scalawag senator Pierce to remove Vance’s name from the competition before the first vote on 20 January? Of the five Scalawags in the senate who had supported Vance without fail, four now cast their votes to Revels. The fifth, H. N. Ballard representing Desoto County, does not appear to have voted. All seven Democratic senators who had supported Vance (the senate total), cast their ballots to the wind as did his 22 Democratic supporters in the house. John Surratt (Lincoln assassination conspiracy) and John Smith (Pocahontas’ old flame) being among the nominees. To be fair, there were votes cast for good nominees such as J. Z. George, lawyer and future Mississippi supreme court justice prior to his election to the U. S. Senate in 1881 and W. S. Featherston, antebellum legislator and Confederate war hero who would remain active in politics in the fight against the Carpetbag administration and into Redemption. W. L. Sharkey even received a couple of votes, but my point here is that in the election for the short-term U.S. Senate seat, in January 1870, there was no further coordinated vote among this now rudderless group once Vance was removed from the field. Six of the 13 Scalawag representatives who had supported Vance in the house, threw in their lots with Revels, backing their senators, the remainder, less one, cast their votes for Abel Alderson.

So what happened? Why did the Scalawags (and it does appear that it was the senate Scalawags who “sold out” and suddenly withdrew the name of the leading contender right from under their nominally allied Democratic compatriots with whom they appeared in lockstep on their way to sending a Democrat to the U.S. Senate.  [Just can’t trust those Scalawags]. Ah, but was it the sell-out it appears? Vance’s name wasn’t the only one missing from that final vote—B. B. Eggleston’s was, too. Fourteen Carpetbaggers, 2 Negroes, and 1 Scalawag who had voted for the ex-Union general now cast their votes for Revels. With Revels’ already existing 43, that made 60 votes—not quite enough to win the seat. And the plot thickens.

John W. Vance (the leader on the night before the decision) was father to two Confederate veterans. He was a long-time lawyer and resident in Desoto County (the same county represented by Scalawag Senator Ballard who didn’t vote in the final poll), and on the 10th of May 1870, the Mississippi senate confirmed Alcorn’s appointment of J. W. Vance as judge on Mississippi’s Twelfth Circuit.

Here’s what I think happened. The Carpetbaggers, foiled by their Negro supporters, who were sticking by their guns regarding a Negro getting that senate seat, now accepted the fact that Eggleston, sheared of his Negro votes, would not win that seat. The Eggleston clique (there were always Carpetbaggers who opposed Eggleston just like there were those who supported Revels) capitulated and cast their lots with the Revels’ ascendancy. But even if all Eggleston’s votes shifted to Revels (and there was no guarantee of that), there were Carpetbaggers adamantly opposed to a Negro getting that seat. Add to that, the popular Scalawag Abel Anderson was still in the running. That meant Revels would still come up shy of the votes he needed to win. So after that final vote the evening of 19 January and adjournment, the pro-Vance moderate Scalawags approached the Radical camp and offered their Republican colleagues a deal. The Scalawags would withdraw Vance’s name and cast their support (or, at least enough support) to Revels, if the Radicals would support John W. Vance for judge on Mississippi’s Twelfth Circuit. I would guess that Alcorn would have been privy to the agreement. I for one can believe those moderate Senate Scalawags (and their Democratic allies who nevertheless refused to vote for Revels (nor were they needed at that point)) found more value in having their man as a judge on the Twelfth Circuit than they did in a lame-duck senator whose term would end in fourteen months. [And, of course, it could have been the other way around—the Radicals could have approached the Scalawags. I simply have my suspicions as to which group was the smarter of the two. Shoot, the Scalawags could have supported Vance all along hoping for an opportunity to make such a deal. I don’t know exactly how it happened, but there’s no doubt in my mind that it did happen in much this way]. The moderate Scalawags cut a deal with the Carpetbaggers, putting Revels in the U. S. Senate in return for placing Vance on the Twelfth Circuit—really not much of a sacrifice for Alcorn, who would have preferred a Southerner on the circuit anyway.  

One last aside. I had some initial trouble with my theory on the selection of Judge Vance for the Twelfth Circuit in that other Mississippi records place him on the Third Circuit (Adams, Claiborne, Franklin, and Jefferson Counties). It was a major glitch in that it simply made no sense for that particular man—critical to my theory—to be assigned to the Third Circuit. My J. W. Vance, the one leading the vote count on the evening of the 19th, came from Desoto County, and for the deal I proposed to work he had to have been appointed to the Twelfth Circuit. Sure enough, a review of the of 19 May 1870 Hernando Press confirmed the state senate had approved native son J. W. Vance for the Twelfth Circuit and stated specifically the Twelfth Circuit was comprised of Desoto, Panola, Sunflower, and Tallahatchie Counties. Yeah, you catch that? Panola and Tallahatchie Counties were represented by Senator J. H. Pierce, the same man who had withdrawn Vance’s name on the morning of the 20th of January. Why the other historical records have it wrong, I don’t know. Of course, it was probably a one-time error that kept repeating itself. Research is so much fun.

The seating of Hiram Revels in the U. S. Senate next time—along with all the other “conditions” for Mississippi’s reentry into the Union.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Mississippi’s Final Stretch for Reentry into a Union She Supposedly Never Left

This post is number forty-nine 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—Washington’s Radicals were simply not going to take Mississippians’ rejection of their agenda as the answer. For earlier posts in this Alcorn-driven series, see the sidebar.

Upon ratification of the progressive constitution and election of state officers, Mississippi’s military governor, Adelbert Ames, ordered the new legislature to meet 11 January 1870. This was the first legislature to meet since the inauguration of martial law and Congressional Reconstruction in the spring of 1867. The Radical U.S. Congress made two more demands of the state before considering Mississippi for readmission to the “new nation,” those being ratification of the unconstitutional Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. Once the legislature was assembled and organized, Ames, acting in his capacity of provisional governor, requested it consider passage of the two amendments, which forever altered the fundamental relationship between the central government and the states. The legislature not only considered the two amendments, it readily ratified them, but that had been the plan all along.

Much has been said of the abuses of “Negro Rule”during the course of these puppet governments set up during Reconstruction in the South, but as of 11 January 1870, Mississippi was not yet to that point. To be fair to the Negro, Negro Rule is a misnomer, because the people calling the shots were always white politicians aiding and abetting corruption in return for votes, both at election time and in the state house. The more accurate term, and one used routinely for the period, is Carpetbag Rule.

Of the 139 men making up the puppet legislature that passed the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, only thirty-one were Negroes, mostly ex-slaves, many illiterate, and none with legislative experience or understanding of how legislatures operated. Most were ignorant of the history and the intent of the framers of the U. S. Constitution, which is why the Radicals in Congress ensured their citizenship, suffrage, and election to legislative positions. The Negroes’ case was not unlike that of European immigrants in Northern cities who joined Lincoln’s army to fight for “freedom” and democracy which could only be accomplished, by some obtuse reasoning, by a forced marriage between North and South. All were manipulated by a political system determined to pervert what the founders had created in 1787 and create something new.

Within the ranks of those thirty-one Negroes were very capable individuals, primarily black ministers, who were both well-educated and knowledgeable, yet still lacking legislative experience, but in lockstep with those whose goal it was to alter the Republic. Twelve such had been elected to the house, and three of Mississippi’s five Negro senators were ministers. It should be noted that black ministers dominated black leadership across the entire South. The Republican hierarchy reached the black voter through the black ministers.

The legislators representing the wealthiest counties in the state were now ex-slaves: one senator and three representatives from Warren County, the location of Vicksburg; two representatives and one senator from Hinds County, the location of the state capitol Jackson; two representatives and one senator from Adams County, the location of Natchez; two representatives and one senator from Washington County in Mississippi’s Yazoo-Mississippi Delta where Greenville is located; Lowndes County, site of Columbus, sent one senator and one representative; Noxubee County sent three Negro representatives to the state house; Holmes, Panola, and Wilkinson Counties had two Negro representatives each; and seventeen other counties sent one Negro each to Jackson to represent their interests. In addition to the black legislators, there were forty-nine Carpetbaggers, primarily ex-Union soldiers who were recent inhabitants of the state, twenty-five Scalawags composed in large part of ex-Whigs and ex-Confederates and home-grown opportunists who never, or no longer, saw eye-to-eye with the Democrats; four additional Republicans in the house, who I have yet to confirm as Carpetbagger or Scalawag*; and finally there were thirty Democrats made up of both New Departure adherents who had acquiesced to the new order and the Bourbons, the democrats of old (and probably some old-line Whigs) who remained true to the principles of the old republic: the Constitution, state rights, and home rule—you know, liberty. Not some lofty ideal of “freedom” dictated by those who felt qualified to define exactly what that abstract quality is within a controlled state, not “democracy” imposed and manipulated by centralized government, but liberty, a quality achieved only by the absence of as much government as possible and still guarantee the protection of property. A government limited by laws framed and controlled at the local level.  Needless to say, people who thought like the Bourbons were outnumbered in the recreated Southern legislatures, in a nation led by men, both Radical and non-, hell-bent to shape it into Leviathan. Those latter needed government-enforced democracy and the illusion of  “freedom,” and though the Bourbons might have elicited sympathy from their fellow Democrats and even many Scalawags, they garnered little real support among men who, even though they might have disdained Leviathan, were now determined to carry on in an altered state where liberty was now an ephemeral beauty whose time had passed.
[I have yet to narrow down which was which among the Democrats, and I imagine I will find the two groups will polarize significantly during the course of Carpetbag Rule before finally consolidating in the wake of Republican corruption and misrule.]
Doctor Franklin representing Yazoo County, but who was in fact a Carpetbagger from New York, was elected speaker of the Mississippi house. The vote for the Fourteenth Amendment was 24-2 in the senate (twelve Carpetbaggers, five Scalawags, five Negroes, and two Democrats; the two nays were both Democrats. Three Carpetbaggers, one Scalawag, and two Democrats did not cast votes). The house vote for the Fourteenth Amendment was 87-6 (thirty-four Carpetbaggers, thirteen Scalawags, one additional Republican whom I’ve yet to determine if Carpetbagger or Scalawag, twenty-six Negroes, twelve Democrats, and one member who I am unable to determine if he was Republican or Democrat. Five Democrats and one Scalawag opposed the amendment. Six Democrats and seven Republicans did not record a vote. The latter group was composed of six Carpetbaggers and one Negro who were absent, but of the six Democrats who did not cast a vote, only one was absent. The other five simply did not vote. One hundred six legislators sat in the Mississippi house.

The senate vote on the Fifteenth Amendment was 28-0 (twelve Carpetbaggers, six Scalawags, five Negroes, and five Democrats. There were no negative votes, but three Democrats and two Carpetbaggers did not cast votes). The house vote was 92-1 (thirty-four Carpetbaggers, fourteen Scalawags, twenty-six Negroes, and eighteen Democrats).
[The lone nay vote was cast by Democrat J. K. McLeod representing Greene County in south-central Mississippi. Of note, his was one of the six votes against the Fourteenth Amendment. Hmmm...might have our first Bourbon identified here.]
There were 26 Republicans and 7 Democrats in the senate for a total of 33 state senators. Given the number of Democratic votes cast in support of these amendments, readmission to the Union and the end of martial law took precedent over principle. We might also conclude here that in the fall of 1869 the majority of Democrats elected to the legislature were of the New Departure persuasion. The Fourteenth Amendment had been ratified in July of 1868, so was already law, but the Fifteenth wasn’t ratified until 3 February 1870. Mississippi was the twenty-third state to approve (twenty-eight were needed to ratify). Looking at the ratification process for both those amendments, neither would have been ratified without the coercion of the Southern states, which didn’t even have a vote in Congress when those amendments were passed by that tainted assembly.

The state’s ratification of these two egregious changes to the U.S. Constitution fulfilled the demands of Congress and placed the question of Mississippi’s readmission to the new United States in Congress’ hands.

The legislature could not legislate until Congress approved Mississippi’s admission; however, there was one more matter to which it could attend before adjourning. That was the election of Mississippi’s U.S. Senators, one for the full term beginning the following spring (4 March 1871) and two to fill Mississippi’s senatorial seats vacant since Jeff Davis and Albert G. Brown walked away from the U.S. Senate in 1861. Alcorn was elected to fill the full term beginning in March 1871. Of the two unfulfilled terms, one seat had four years remaining on it, the other thirteen months. Adelbert Ames was the predisposed choice to fill the four-year term. He received all the votes in the senate and seventy-two votes in the house, two of which were Democrats. Hmmm...wonder what that bought them? I hope it cost them their next election.

The compromise choice for the shorter-term seat was Adams County senator Hiram Revels, a Negro of mixed blood who had been born free in North Carolina and raised and educated in Indiana. In Reconstruction in Mississippi, James Garner states Revels beat out the favored B. B. Eggleston to fill the term. Y’all remember Eggleston? He was president of the Black and Tan Convention and subsequently headed the Republican ticket defeated by the Democratic-Scalawag coalition led by J. L. Wofford in tandem with the progressive constitution in the summer of 1868. He was the man who accepted the surrender of Atlanta in 1864 and the man from whom Alcorn usurped the Radical party in the state back in the fall of 1869. Eggleston was Butler’s man. Now he was dealt his coup de grace, displaced by a Negro for U. S. senator from Mississippi. The delusion of poetic justice, of course, was (and remains so to this day) at work here, the downtrodden Negro taking Jeff Davis’ seat in the Senate. In fact, Revel’s election to fill the seat is widely regarded as the fulfillment of Davis’ reputed prophecy to Simon Cameron back in 1861 when he supposedly said that in all probability a Negro would be sent to take his place in the Senate. I’ve also heard that it was Cameron who warned Davis of that possibility and not the other way around. There would, in my opinion, be more reason for such sentimentality had an illiterate, ex-slave from Mississippi been elected for the job, but to my mind it is mawkish affectation either way. 

The contemporary Negro representative from Adams County, John Roy Lynch, in The Facts of Reconstruction covertly suggests the powers making up that soon-to-be legislature had already agreed on a Negro filling the short-term seat prior to its opening session on 11 January 1870. Analysis of the house journal, however, suggests the decision that a Negro would fill that seat was one agreed to only by the Negroes and that it was more a determination than a decision. Moreover, when entering the fray, Hiram Revels was not their first choice (nor was he, from what I gather, seeking the job). In fact, the black caucus, shall we say, hadn’t settled on a choice.

On a pragmatic note, what I liked about the subsequent sequence of votes to fill the seat is that the roll-call votes and the manner in which hopefuls were nominated, then supported, has helped me determine who was who among the Republicans in the Mississippi legislature...Carpetbagger or Scalawag.

Hiram Revels next time.

Thanks for reading,


*Though I think I have a good handle on who was a Scalawag and who was a Carpetbagger, there may be a discrepancy here and there. One thing is certain, there were thirty-one Negroes and seventy-eight white Republicans, for a total of 109 Republicans, opposed to thirty Democrats making up the Mississippi legislature in the winter of 1870.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Myths: The Union, The War, and The Lost Cause

This is my second post prompted by the application of the Lost Cause myth to the Newt Knight/Free State of Jones legend recently claimed by some with a political agenda and represents my counter thoughts to those presented  in Victoria Bynam’s The Free State of Jones and Sally Jenkins and Paul Stauffers’ State of Jones. I address the issue in support of my conviction that we Southerners should be reading, writing, and teaching Southern history, not to mention making movies of our own

One who gives credence to Daniel Webster believes the Union predated the states. What, you might ask? Yes, well, that’s what our Southern ancestors thought, too, when they heard that foolishness. But Webster had to do something to debunk the validity of state rights, and that was less violent than what Lincoln did. [Don’t forget, however, that Webster wrote the Force Bill promulgating a federal military attack on South Carolina in 1833. I figure Webster would have approved of Lincoln.]

Now take Webster’s imaginative recast of history in tandem with William T. Sherman’s words in an 1864 missive to a subordinate in Huntsville, Alabama on dealing with Southern “treason” and intransigence against the United States government at whose pleasure the South even existed:

For my part, I believe that this war is the result of false political doctrine, for which we are all as a people responsible, viz: That any and every people has a right to self-government...In this belief, while I assert for our Government the highest military prerogatives, I am willing to bear in patience that political nonsense of...State Rights, freedom of conscience, freedom of press, and other such trash as have deluded the Southern people into war, anarchy, bloodshed, and the foulest crimes that have disgraced any time or any people.

Yeah, old war-is-hell Billy was a true patriot all right—a real supporter and defender of the Constitution. Then there was Charles Sumner’s stated belief “promulgated” during Congressional Reconstruction that the only rights the states had were those Congress blessed them with. Excuse me? Yes, it was Southern intransigence that provoked his revealing himself, but that arrogant, self-righteous traitor to the very concept of the republic was referring to all the states. Then there was Thaddeus Stevens (Pennsylvania), speaking, also during Reconstruction, to defeated Confederate general Richard Taylor (Louisiana), stating that the Constitution needed to be discarded; it was not a fit document to govern the nation. Well, the Radicals didn’t discard the Constitution, they desecrated it instead.

And we in the South didn’t know what we were fighting for against thugs such as those?

Just as a writer of historical fiction justifies her use of an anachronistic word using the yard-stick of a its having been in general usage for twenty years prior to its first appearance in the dictionary, the layman or woman should be forthright enough to consider the political opinions of such men had been floating around for some time before the South threw in the towel and said she’d had enough working with those undermining the basic tenants of our federal system (state sovereignty/limited federal supremacy). Extrapolating, anti-Southern encroachments harkened back to the 1830s—and that’s provable—all a forthright layperson has to do is pick up a history book. Alas, fewer and fewer indulge in such informed opinion now, but I would be willing to bet my Southern ancestors were very aware of this perfidious attitude spawned by self-aggrandizing economics, which required centralization to accomplish and maintain. This is the crop sown by Hamilton, tilled by Henry Clay, and fertilized with American blood by Lincoln’s Republicans. We’re reaping the results now. Next comes plowing under the fallow fields, a wasteland of lost liberty—eclipsing a Lost Cause.

Both Bynum’s work and the Jenkins-Stauffer book on the Newt Knight legend make much ado about the Jones County unionists, particularly Jesse Collins, who I would agree was a unionist—such as he thought a “unionist” was. It’s just my opinion, but what Jesse Collins wanted was the status quo that existed before the South seceded, which he didn’t have once Northern aggression forced an oft-resisted centralization of the Confederate government in its effort to survive invasion.  

Davis had problems with his governors, not just Piney Woods farmers, the latter being a more direct problem for the governors than they were to Richmond. Anyone who has studied the history of this period—or history period—knows this. People at war often balk at the demands of their beleaguered government. The people of the Confederacy sure weren’t the first, and before it was all over, their government was under extreme duress, so, therefore, were its citizens. As a people they remained loyal to their government, particularly when faced with the hated alternative. And rest assured that alternative was hated and rightly so. Those comprising the alternative had just proven how evil they really were and things weren't going to improve for a long, long time. Given the nature of how Southern history is taught these days (or rather not taught), the Bynums, the Jenkinses, the Stauffers, and the Gary Rosses now making up the bulk of mainstream historians/media are taking the opportunity to try and persuade a Southern populace, who they assume to be ignorant until enlightened by them, to piss on their ancestors’ graves. All assumption aside, why would anyone worthy of respect—or whose respect we would aspire to gain—do such a thing? The only people more reprehensible are Southerners who buy off on these pied pipers and actually do it. That’s not to say the acceptance of facts when confronted with incontrovertible evidence should be considered sacrilege. We did lose the war after all, and there are a number of valid reasons for it—but Southern treachery falls too far down the list to be relevant. These subversives, however, would have Southerners believe otherwise. Worse, they portray men, whose feet of clay have long been regarded by Southerners with contempt, as American patriots. Historical studies identifying mistakes and even suggesting blame, where possible, should not be considered disloyalty to the Southern Cause, but critical self-analysis and the study of lessons learned are a good light-year away from sleeping with the enemy. That’s what the mainstream today is demanding Southerners do in order to become true Americans. Count among today’s mainstream many of our own Southern leaders; that is, after all, what they are doing.

In my opinion, Jessie Collins couldn’t see the forest for the trees. On page 49 of their book, Jenkins and Stauffer inserted a ditty:

I’m de po’ folks’ lan’ with my miles of sand,
and my cottonwoods moan and groan,
An’ I’m gonna stay free from hills to the sea and
my forest are all my own.

The authors maintain the ballad supports the regional pride and independence of the poor whites in the region of Jones County and surrounds. I agree. Now tell me how in Hades anyone can deduce loyalty to Lincoln’s Union out of that? What we have today is the absolute last thing those folks would have wanted. If they were here, vice their great-greats...they’d still be in the swamps. What the “federal union” resulting from ratification of the Constitution gave Collins and his neighbors was freedom from government and for seven decades state government stood as a bulwark against federal overreach. Secession—in tandem with all-out war waged against the state(s)—changed that. The interference on the part of the Confederate government, the government Collins forsook, was the direct result of unwarranted war waged against the South. His hatred of the Confederacy [which I suspect had more to do with partisan alignments within his county itself, divided along the lines of those actually working for the government (collecting taxes) and those who were not] probably translated more along the lines of “this wouldn’t have happened if you people hadn’t seceded. Everything would have been fine.” No, it wouldn’t have, but the Jesse Collinses couldn’t see that. Independent, primarily subsistence farmers/grazers, they had been isolated from the conflicting economic interests dividing North and South and the North’s ever-increasing push to marginalize the South’s political power in the central government. The Confederacy, through necessity, had dared to “bother” Jesse Collins, disrupt his life, and interfere with his well-ordered existence, which had been relatively free of governmental presence. The war was the Confederacy’s fault, not Yankee aggression—they’d always left him alone. Bynum, Jenkins, and Stauffer’s implication that those so-called Jones-county unionists would be pleased with Hobbs’ Leviathan of today is misleading and in my personal opinion, false.

Two other implications which run through both books—and this goes hand in hand with the authors’ attempt to marginalize the “Lost Cause”—are that secession equals war and the South opted for war to protect slavery. No, the South risked a war to protect her posterity by that time already threatened economically (the tariff), politically (denial of the formation of slave-holding states in the new territories, exacerbating a situation that was already pivotal and in only a few years would leave the South totally outvoted in the general government, something both sides knew and which the North promoted and the South, for obvious reasons, resisted) and physically (the threat to Southern property, i.e. the underground railroad encouraging theft and the much more ominous threat of terrorism and anarchy which manifested itself in the raid of  John Brown on Harper’s Ferry. That attack was financed by Northern industrialists, philanthropists, and abolitionists who created a martyr of a psychopath while the Northern populace exalted his life and mourned his death. The financiers were never brought to trial, leaving them and those of their ilk free to continue their madness.)

I feel no embarrassment in conceding the South’s agrarian economy was based on slave labor, especially when challenged by those supporting a regime sustained by a seemingly unlimited labor force of hapless immigrants ushered into poverty in filthy Northern cities to serve the masters of industry for a pittance. Really, who has the right to be judging anyone here on the basis of “humanitarianism”? But both perceived wrongs are irrelevant, because secession, no matter the reason, did not cause the war. Lincoln’s aggression did. And here’s the real crux of that second implication—Lincoln waged the war to free the slaves. What hogwash. Lincoln’s war to “free the slaves” is the greatest spin of all. I’d go so far as to call it an out-’n-out cyclone. The refusal of the North, again for self-aggrandizing economic reasons, to accept an independent South with free-market ports, and the more immediate loss of tariff revenue, is what prompted Lincoln’s aggression. It was the North that opted for war, and it did so for economic reasons.

But let’s just suppose those Southerners so long ago really did not know what they were fighting for or believed after times got tough they were fighting for the rich man’s slaves, that the state-rights issue and home rule and curbing the growing tyranny of a central government in the hands of industry never even crossed their poor “stupid” minds—it certainly should be crossing our minds now, because those were the issues that mattered and that’s what the mainstream is trying to deflect. If we don’t do something to reclaim our history, in fifty years all our Southern ancestors will have been opposed to the Confederacy—there will be nothing left spearheading those old battles, but evil slave owners, and the federal republic created by our founders will be a forgotten political theory swallowed up by a fabricated democracy embracing the concept of a worldwide, “elitist-supervised,” mediocre humanity. (The lowest common denominator is the only way to make egalitarianism work). 

Next time, a documented history of Jones County from another point of view.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, March 6, 2017

It’s Not Whether Newton Knight was a Traitor and a Criminal. His Threat Lies in the Spin

Almost a year ago now, when a Google+ follower asked for my opinion on the then upcoming Gary Ross’ movie based on Newt Knight and the free state of Jones County, Mississippi, I really couldn’t say much except that I didn’t intend to see the thing. I knew from the git-go where the movie would go; and its focus, as is all focus concerning the South at present, disturbed me. I’ve worked on this post off and on since then. As far as the movie is concerned, I haven’t seen it and a critique from a pro-South point of view has already been done more effectively than I could have managed. So in structuring my thoughts on the subject, I decided to let my focus on writing and teaching Southern history be my guide. This is my first of several posts resulting from this most recent regurgitation of the Jones’ County legend. Though discussion of the movie is now dated, the theme of Southerners championing Southern history is not and, I hope, never will be.

At the time the question was asked of me, I had a general knowledge of Newton Knight and Jones County, had been aware of the history since I was in high school—and that was a long time ago. I had a copy of Ethel Knight’s Echo of the Black Horn—I’d paid a pretty penny for it, too—but I hadn’t read it. (It, as well as Thomas Knight’s tale of his father’s adventures, were reprinted in time for the movie’s debut and are now on sale at a reasonable price). Reading about a criminal and a deserter from Jones County didn’t interest me nearly as much as sorting out the causes of unwarranted war (kidding—there’s always a reason, but its noble justification is too often created by the twenty-twenty hindsight of the victor. That’s the spin, and our War Between the States is a classic example.). Of even greater interest to me is the war’s result—in this case the loss of liberty and the creation of Hobbs’ Leviathan right here in North America.

I have since read both Knight books and three more on the subject. Aided with the ignorance of the masses, Ross’ movie, with its reach, is one more notch in the gun of those pushing that spin of righteousness on the part of Lincoln’s Union in waging war on the South. And the South is not the only victim here. So, too, is our Founder’s Republic, now threatened by the determination of this most recent group of centralizers to portray what came out of Philadelphia in 1787 as the blueprint for democracy rather than a federal republic.

The present attack on Southern history has been ongoing since the 60’s, but the intensity has fluctuated markedly over the past five decades. The present onslaught hasn’t seen the like since Reconstruction and, for all intents and purposes, is unwarranted—when taken out of the context of the Left’s attack on all things American [ah, but that’s an important context to note]—and amounts to nothing less than a purge of the South and its history. But purgers can only accomplish their objective through genocide of the people they seek to erase...or if survivors themselves capitulate. What I’m saying is the obliteration of Southern history, i.e. the South’s role in colonial history, the Revolution, the framing of the Republic, and as the champion of state rights can only be destroyed if we Southerners allow it to happen. 

If I’ve connected the dots right, the book from which Gary Ross derived his idea for a movie, The Free State of Jones, was written by Victoria Bynum over fifteen years ago. Sometime during the ensuing period, Ross wrote a screenplay and did some research of his own, then turned that screenplay over to Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post and Paul Stauffer, a Harvard history professor, to co-write The State of Jones, a book paralleling/supportive of the screenplay. The Bynum book is a scholarly piece of work and comes replete with a lot of history regarding the origins of the families who settled the Piney Woods during territorial days—she is, in fact, a branch off the tree. For that reason, if none other, folks interested in the history of the South and migration from the Carolinas and Georgia west will find value in her work. It’s the spin that I find disconcerting, but I expected it when I embarked on this study. Bynum meets my expectations in the afterward to the second printing (timed again to coincide with the movie’s release): Reviving this history is to undermine the Lost Cause “myth” of a solid South struggling in defense of its way of life against the Northern aggressor. The implication is that those who initiated the struggle were slave owners determined to protect slavery, and, in this retelling of the tale, there is a substantial number of Southerners who were against secession and hence, war. Oh, then there’s the emphasis on an interracial love story between Newt Knight (a married man with children) and Rachel, (his grandfather’s slave with numerous children of her own), a “subplot” ignored during the founding of the legend.

The State of Jones, the Jenkins and Stauffer book, is another entertaining read, an excellent example of fiction masquerading as historical fact. The work is fraught with  “probablys,” may-haves, can-be-guessed-ats, “perhapses,” and likes, to mention a few, followed by passages culled from valid accounts and then near seamlessly superimposed into the Newt Knight story leaving the non-partisan reader to accept the skewed narrative as fact.

What are these people trying to accomplish here? Would you buy into their trying to establish a warm and fuzzy feeling between still divided sections because after 150 years, two World Wars and numerous other major conflicts with Yank and Reb fighting side by side we are still at each others’ throats? [Cow patties don’t stink, folks, unless someone takes a stick and stirs them up.] Is the production of these recent books and movie an acknowledgement by our intellectual betters that all Southerners aren’t really bad after all? That the majority of our ancestors were merely the stupid dupes of a few evil, self-aggrandizing men and their progeny has remained stymied in that same ignorance ever since? And now, by swallowing this kaa-kaa being rammed down our throats, we will be forgiven and welcomed back into the egalitarian, feminist, and pure democracy of Thomas Jefferson as “true” Americans?

Forget that ever happening. It never will. First off, Jefferson was a slave owner and a Virginian and no amount of deflection will change that—it’s such second guessing and apologizing for slavery for which we have no right or need to make that has painted the South into a corner. Second, Jefferson believed in liberty, and the only way to ensure liberty is to limit government. Democracy and limited government fell under the purview of the states and the locales within them, not the general government. But no matter which road we take at this point in history, Southerners will never be the intellectual equals of leftist elites; in fact very few will, Southern or not. The elites are superior, don’t you know? More importantly, we should never aspire to be. Once we Southrons swallow and digest their poison, the nation of our forefathers will be worth no more than what we defecate out our other end. We will no longer be of concern to those supreme beings, because the threat we pose to their goals will have ceased to exist, our having finally achieved the mainstream’s ideal of what an “American” is supposed to be. Then, all of us will be good for nothings. But, I digress.

Regarding secession, a major factor in the Jones County legend, a lot of Southerners opposed it, but I’m informed enough to know that being against secession and being pro-Union are two different things. For a variety of reasons, including internal interests, anti-secessionists did not think separating from the Union was a good idea, preferring to weather Northern abuse. Understand they were aware of the problems with their Northern counterparts: the tariffs, the application of public money for internal improvements in the North, the efforts to minimize Southern representation in Congress so the North could expand its advantage. A preference for staying in the Union didn’t necessarily compute to agreeing with the Union cause, which, as it turned out, meant keeping all the territory together under one supreme ruler and keeping the South around to serve as its cash cow and cannon fodder; individual liberty be damned. The Whigs—the biggest, richest slave owners in Mississippi (and across the South), were passionately opposed to secession, but do not delude yourself into thinking these Southern patriots, regardless of their stance on slavery, accepted subordination to Northern interests. They simply preferred the economic/defensive security guaranteed by membership in the Union and hoped to negotiate the injustice/share in the wealth; it was to their economic advantage to do so. Certainly, as in any other state in the Union, each Southern state had diverse economic interests and rivalries. That existed in the beginning and continues today.  What I find galling are people, with an agenda, assuming to tell Southerners the reason they seceded and what they were fighting for, of twisting facts around to make them appear as something else. What happened folks ain’t complicated and it sure the devil wasn’t altruistic. Worse yet are native Southerners—and I mean people who can trace their roots back to colonial days and the early Republic, and there are lots of us down here, buying off on the so-called neo-Confederate/Lost Cause myth. Consider that in January, 1864, Irish-born Confederate general Patrick Cleburne of Helena, Arkansas stated:

 “It is said slavery is all we are fighting for, and if we give it up we give up all. Even if this were true, which we deny, slavery is not all our enemies are fighting for. It is merely the pretense to establish sectional superiority and a more centralized form of government, and to deprive us of our rights and liberties.”

And Confederate General Richard Taylor pointed out in Destruction and Reconstruction (published in 1879):

“During all these years the conduct of the Southern people has been admirable....they have struggled in all honorable ways, and for what? For their slaves? Regret for their loss has neither been felt nor expressed. But they have striven for that which brought our forefathers to Runnymede, the privilege of exercising some influence in their own government.” (For those of you who don’t recall from your social studies days, Runnymede is the place where the Magna Carta was signed).

And my third and last rebuttal, though thousands of such exist: It was Edward A. Pollard, editor of the Richmond Examiner, who, in 1866, first used the term, “Lost Cause,” as the title of his book on the War Between the States. Yet today’s mainstream historians/or pseudo-historians are trying to convince today’s Southerners we don’t know what our ancestors were fighting for between 1861-1865 (1861-1877 actually) and The Lost Cause is actually a myth created by the Southern Democrats at the end of the 19th century, then expanded upon well into the 20th to keep themselves in power. Beyond its bogus application of the term “myth” in this case, I won’t argue the mainstream’s point, but it has gotten a bit ahead of itself here. First those Southern Democrats had to get themselves back in power.

Throughout the travails of Reconstruction while New Departure Democrats, infiltrated with old-line Southern Whigs, routinely sacrificed principle in their efforts to counter the Republicans, the old-line Democrats, the Bourbons, stuck to the principles of home rule, sovereign states, and decentralization. In the end they prevailed over a corrupt and treasonous Republican Party—and in so doing eclipsed the failed policies of the less Conservative Democrats. This brings the reader up to 1875-1877 and a long way (in human years) from the turn of the century.

What did develop near the end of the 19th century and expanded well into the 20th in the wake of the perceived Negro betrayal of the Populist Movement, when jolted white politicians decided it was more cost effective to eliminate the Negro vote than court it, was the emphasis on white supremacy historians link to pro-slavery. Now that those Southern Democrats did tie to the Lost Cause. They then used the threat of “Negro rule,” which proved so devastating during Reconstruction, to keep themselves in power. That today’s historians link the evolution of the Lost Cause of state rights and limited federal government and the legality of the South’s secession under the Tenth Amendment to the white-supremacy tact of the old Southern Democrats nearly a half-century later is indicative of one of two things, ignorant and unthinking historians or those with an agenda. I don’t think they’re ignorant and I think they’re doing a lot of thinking—about how to twist the facts to meet their agenda in tandem with the hope readers don’t pick up a history book with a copyright prior to 1960. Okay, I’m being facetious here, but you get my drift. This double whammy against the South serves a (leftist) mainstream agenda, and is a real coup in supporting their perversion of our federal system into the faux democracy lauded today as the enemy of racism and champion of civil rights. For any American who cares about our Republic, to buy off on this deflection due to ignorance is unconscionable.

Now, if, on the other hand, you believe the Founders were wrong, and you reject the Constitution they framed, and you believe we really should be a democracy where social norms are dictated and enforced by an all-powerful central government, then have at it, but don’t ream the South for believing as it did, because when it comes to the Founders and the Constitution, the South was right and Southerners who aren’t aware of that, or deny it, shame on them. The biggest threat to the preservation of Southern rights (state rights), values, principles, and history is the Southerner.

 My point in what I presented above is to argue there is no break in the Lost Cause faith through the war up to and including the present day and to imply it was all concocted by the sons of Bourbons at the turn of the last century, and that, in fact, the South seceded for the cause of an institution that was legal and protected by the Constitution is a falsehood, one perpetrated by design and bought only by the ignorant drunk on their own “feel-good” propaganda...or those with a self-serving agenda. The mainstream media, hopelessly infested with a leftist ideology, is not trying to expose a lie inherent to the “Lost Cause”; it is determined to obliterate the truth, a truth rooted in the Founding itself.

Next in this series I’ll delve into the real “myths” of the War for Southern Independence—or the Civil War if you druther. That’s what the mythmakers call it, anyway.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, February 20, 2017

Southern Whiggery and Southern States

This is post number eight in a series detailing Southern Whiggery. See the sidebar for earlier posts.

In my last post, I made reference to a 1954 American Historical Review article by Charles Grier Sellers titled “Who Were the Southern Whigs”. In the article, Mr. Sellers argued against Southern Whiggery being the result of state-rights sentiment, but rather the result of adverse reaction to Jackson’s Bank War. In that same post, I countered that had Whiggery been simply National Republicans in drag the Southern state righters would have never been involved at all. Taking that one step further, Clay would not have gained control of the Senate committees in December 1833, and the term Whig would have remained where it belonged with the patriots of ’76, John C. Calhoun, and the Southern Nullifiers/state righters who opposed the central government’s overreach (protective tariff/military coercion against a sovereign state). No matter what Southern Whiggery became, or Whiggery period for that matter, its roots are South Carolina’s nullifiers and the grudging support Calhoun’s principles found among the likes of John Tyler of Virginia, Wylie P. Mangum of North Carolina, and Dixon Lewis of Alabama. It is this core that Henry Clay locked his sights on and into which he moved the National Republicans lock, stock, and barrel, leaving the Old Jeffersonian Party to the Jacksonians. In so doing, Clay struck out anew, freed of the overt “nominal” baggage of the defunct Federalists who had found their way into National Republican ranks. Covert or not, those men followed Clay out of the Jeffersonian Party and shortly after identified as Whigs (Northern Whigs).

Add to that the Southern National Republicans, who were already sitting in good political stead when Clay consolidated his new party. These men remained nationalists in the “National Republican” scheme of things. Oh, they wanted the South to have her rights within the nation, but with the choice between nationalism (Union/centralization) and state-rights, nationalism held sway. For those of that stripe, Southern Whiggery evolved, and Southern sectionalism evolved along with it.

For those of you who have been following my series on Alcorn, think back on his criticism of Jefferson Davis’ execution of the War Between the States. James Alcorn was a Southern nationalist...and a centralizer. That is a characteristic of Southern Whiggery passed down from the National Republicans.

Another failure in the study of Southern Whiggery that Charles Sellers points to is the missing, according to him, application of geographical sectionalism within the states themselves—the division between upcountry and low country, hill country and black belt. Sellers suggests the study of that aspect of Southern Whiggery has been omitted due to the focus on national sectionalism and state rights and that the Southern Whigs’ opposition to the nationalistic leg of the party has been over emphasized. Well, maybe it had dropped out of the narrative by 1954, but Arthur Cole certainly mentioned it in Whig Party of the South published in 1914. Perhaps in the not so distant past (sixty years ago) there was a tendency to focus on the party after attacks on slavery had caused Southerners to close ranks, obscuring the look back at the social, economic, and ideological lines that originally crisscrossed within each state—Sellers did make reference to the “modern” scholar of the subject, but Sellers specific references to Cole’s shortcomings in his article mitigates against that. I’ve not noted that omission myself. I’ve always known that the Whigs represented business and banking interests and in the South included the wealthiest cotton planters.

Sellers goes on to imply that recent studies (circa 1954) fail to recognize that when the Whig party formed, the antebellum South had a vigorous two-party system, and the individual voter was focused on his party and its place and success within the section of the state he resided. The banding together of Southern Whigs (and Democrats) against a common, anti-Southern foe didn’t evolve until the late 1840s. Now, I do believe the study of Southern Whiggery is lacking...or lost. Where I disagree with Sellers is where...well... the point made when I started this post—Sellers’ argument that the formation of the party in the South was over the Bank, not state-rights. I believe it was both. I think there was a big dichotomy in Southern Whiggery—strict construction/loose construction, republicanism/nationalism, state rights/Union, and constitutionality/tyranny. I say this because I can see the dual nature of Southern Whiggery in my study of Reconstruction. Both strains bled through to the end.

Let’s look first at the 1824 election that sent John Quincy Adams to the White House and the more popular Andrew Jackson back to Tennessee and how it panned out in Dixie: Andrew Jackson carried Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana (except the extreme southeast, where the sugar barons resided—they went for Adams), both North and South Carolina, and most of Maryland. Missouri and Kentucky went for Clay. Georgia went for William Crawford (a native son) as did Virginia and extreme western Maryland. 

[It’s sometimes hard to align the politicians of this era primarily because party principles/platforms hadn’t solidified. The term National Republican doesn’t appear until 1830, and since we know that some National Republicans had started calling themselves Whigs by the spring of 1834, the term wasn’t around long (though you wouldn’t know it by the way it pops up in history). Nevertheless, though the life of the name was brief during its day, the principles of National Republicanism within the Democratic-Republican ranks went back to the presidency of James Madison who promoted a kinder, gentler form of government interference...oops, excuse me..., I meant to say, promotion of the national economy manifested by Henry Clay’s American System. In applying terms to the Adams’ administration, these men are often called anti-Jacksonians; however, that term is used well into the Jacksonian period and it does not follow (at least, in my mind) that all anti-Jacksonians were National Republicans in the “Madisonian”sense of the term.]

Now let’s look at the Southern state legislative elections following the formation of the Whig Party in the winter/spring of 1833-1834. And before I continue, this is how I plan to frame this series on the Southern Whigs—reviewing politics within each Southern state vis-à-vis what’s happening with the national party and the Whig delegations in Congress.

This information on the 1834 and 1835 state elections is culled primarily from Michael Holt’s Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party.

In Maryland, Kentucky, and Louisiana the National Republicans already had a hold. Here the National Republicans carried on under their new name and the conversion was pretty much seamless. Maryland always having been a predominantly National Republican state, the Whigs won 5 of 8 congressional seats in 1835, and in Clay’s Kentucky during the summer/fall of 1835, Whigs won 8 of 13 congressional seats, up 5 seats from the previous Congress (Kentucky also gained a seat that year).

Much farther south, Louisiana’s Whigs won the governorship in July of 1834. An overly optimistic Clay attributed the victory (along with gubernatorial wins in Indiana and Illinois) as a referendum against Jackson. In Louisiana, however, the Whig victory dealt more with the popularity of the candidates and factional rivalries than national issues. Though Louisiana’s Whig legislators denounced removal of the deposits in the spring, it was ethnic rivalries between French Creoles in Southern Louisiana and native Americans in the northern part of the state (I think Holt here refers to white folks who had moved in vs the French-mix, who had been in Southeastern Louisiana since the early 18th century) had long shaped state politics. The Creoles had maintained power through suffrage restrictions, gubernatorial patronage, and over representation in the legislature. When the Democratic nominee suggested changing the situation in 1834, the Creoles rallied behind the Whig candidate, who just happened to be a Creole, and the Whigs prevailed.*

In Virginia, nationalists in the west (National Republicans representing the region’s mining interests) who’d backed Clay in the 1832 presidential contest merged with the more numerous eastern state-rights advocates to condemn Jackson’s removal of the deposits . This coalition adopted the Whig name and took the Virginia legislature in 1834. The legislature then forced the resignation of Jacksonian William C. Rives from the Senate by instructing him to vote for restoration of the deposits (which he refused to do). In his stead, it elected prominent state righter Benjamin Watkins Leigh to replace Rives. John Tyler, another state righter, was Virginia’s senior senator. State righter Littleton W. Tazewell was elected governor. In Virginia, the struggle was one between liberty and power, rather than bank or no bank.

In North Carolina, Calhounites led by John Branch, state-rights followers of the influential Senator Willie P. Mangum, and a tiny group of National Republicans joined forces to protest Jackson’s removal of the deposits and to contest the August legislative election. By the summer of 1834, they were using the name Whig to identify themselves even though North Carolina Whigs didn’t hold their first state convention until December 1835. As it turned out, the national issue of the bank deposits didn’t make the cut in North Carolina. The Whigs needed state issues with which to confront the Democrats, because taking on Jackson with only a national issue didn’t engage the voting populace.* The Democrats defeated the Whigs in August and immediately tried to push Mangum out (but he held on until November 1836). By the summer/fall of 1835 the Whigs held only six of thirteen Congressional seats. Still, that’s more than the three seats held the year Jackson won reelection.

Georgia’s congressional election of 1834 and the 1835 gubernatorial race was between a pro-Jackson Union party and an anti-Jackson state-rights party led by John M. Berrien. The state-rights party denounced the removal of the deposits as tyranny and economically pernicious, but its main platform was support of state rights and hostility to Jackson’s Proclamation to the people of South Carolina and the Force Bill. But again, Holt points out that state issues* were missing and what the Georgia “Whigs” had in their arsenal were national issues. The Georgia pro-Jackson Democrats swept the congressional and legislative elections. In 1835, the Democrats elected both the governor and four congressmen.

In Mississippi, a state-rights association formed in the spring of 1834 in protest of the Force Bill, and in December, a Whig convention met denouncing the removal of the deposits and Jackson’s tyranny. This group then arranged a ticket, designed to gain state-rights support for the gubernatorial and congressional elections scheduled for November. The plan was to fuse the two major anti-Jacksonian groups in the state. In 1835, the Whigs won the governorship, but lost both congressional seats and the legislature by more than a two to one margin.

Missouri gave up no congressional seats to the Whigs in 1835; however, John Bull, a National Republican (and prior Jackson elector) was the first occupant of a newly created congressional seat in 1833 (Missouri’s second). That says something to me. He was replaced by a Jacksonian Democrat, Albert Harrison in 1835—well, that says something, too, doesn’t it?

By the end of 1834, Alabama was one of only three Southern states that had not formed an anti-Democratic party that might align with the Whigs. The other two were Tennessee and South Carolina. In 1835 Whigs held two of Alabama’s five Congressional seats.

In the spring and fall of 1835, Tennessee Whigs won 8 of 13 congressional seats, a major shift from the one seat National Republicans had traditionally held in that state in the years leading up to the Twenty-fourth Congress. The Whigs also won the gubernatorial contest over three-time incumbent Democrat William Carroll, but that victory had less to do with national issues and more to do with both state issues and Hugh White’s nomination as the Whig candidate for president to run against Van Buren. White’s candidacy, in fact, was the impetus for the formation of the Whig Party in Tennessee (1835). The Whig candidate for governor, Newton Cannon, won based on the huge vote from east Tennessee where Cannon’s advocacy for state-financed internal improvements found favor. The voter turnout in the 1835 gubernatorial contest was huge, even greater than that in the presidential race a year later (not unusual, except that Hugh White was a native son). Nevertheless, it was the gubernatorial race, not White’s candidacy, that solidified the Whig Party in Tennessee.

I have omitted South Carolina from the study, for she never formally participated in Clay’s altered Whiggery.

*Professor Holt makes this observation in discussing the state elections: Where the Whig Party campaigned almost exclusively against Jackson, one on one—especially where the only issues were national ones, the Jacksonians won. So for the Whigs, the glow of the spring of ’34 was dimming by the fall and had grown dismal as of 1835 (well, except in Tennessee where Whiggery was apparently booming). The improving economic situation resulting from an infusion of European capital and Biddle’s easing up on contraction had relieved the brief resentment against Democratic banking policies and prevented the Whigs from exploiting Jackson’s new anti-banking initiatives: specifically, his hard money initiative undermining circulatability of private banknotes and his Species Circular prohibiting the purchase of public land with paper money, an act that alienated Democratic businessmen. In time these practices would provide ammunition for Whig campaigners, but the three year boom starting in 1834 nullified Whig gains to date.

The election of 1836, Van Buren, the sub-treasury...and their effects on Whiggery in Dixie yet to come.

Thanks for reading,