Monday, May 23, 2016

So, What About Those Mississippi Democrats in 1869?

This post is number forty in a historical series studying 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 progressive constitution framed during the Black & Tan Convention in the winter/spring of 1868, which resulted in a second election. For earlier posts in this Alcorn-driven series see the sidebar on the right.
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The Democratic Party (which at the time called itself the Democratic-Conservative Party) is credited for the defeat of the progressive constitution and the Republican ticket in the summer of 1868 and rightly so, but here, too, something is missing from the record. James Lusk Alcorn is on record for stating it was the Scalawag J. L. Wofford, ex-Confederate and founder of the Republican Party in Mississippi, who led the charge that defeated both. It’s important for the reader to understand there was a great divide between Southern Republicans (Scalawags/conservatives) and Northern Republicans (Carpetbaggers/Radicals). It wasn’t a pure delineation. There were Northern conservatives as well as Southern Radicals, but generally the line was clear. Yes, they worked together to their mutual benefit, but the Northerners learned early on that they couldn’t trust the Southern wing when it came to telling Southerners how things were gonna be. The Scalawags wanted a Southern party not a Northern one, and only a brief perusal of the history of those dark days tells the story written between the lines. It also probably explains, at least in part, the “encourage immigration” point in the Carpetbag platform. 

Now a lot of this is my opinion, but for sure Wofford managed his victory over the Radicals with lots of Democratic-Conservative help. He teamed up with like-minds (and by like-minds I mean those opposed to the Radicals and the proscription clauses) within the Democratic leadership, which would have included the Bourbons who would have played a critical role in the 1868 victory. Analyzing what happened in 1869, I’m of the opinion it was the Bourbons who got the constituents to the polls in 1868 and defeated the Republican agenda across the board. This “conservative” alliance rocked the Radicals’ world—for a hiccup in time. And how different things might have been in Mississippi and across the entire South in the decades following the war had there been only a Southern Republican Party opposing the old Democrats, a healthy choice between two diametrically opposed philosophies on the role of state government that from election to election could have kept the overall political atmosphere balanced. That was, in fact, what Alcorn originally envisioned and was what Wofford had created, but the spectre of the arrogant, self-righteous Radical invaders from a despised section of the nation and their ancillary corruption in tandem with the willingness of the Scalawags to cooperate, all too often, with them for pragmatic reasons (and yes, self-aggrandizement) proved the fodder that fueled the Bourbon resurgence and leaves me unable to find do-diddily-squat on the likes of J. L. Wofford today. 

No doubt, at least in my mind, these two “conservative” bodies thought they could pull off the same victory the second time around. As stated in my last post, in June of 1869 the Scalawag Party had invited many from that same cabal to its “steering committee” meeting. How many Democrats attended, I do not know, but I surmise the “regular” Democrat leadership was represented—Bourbons probably showed up to get a feel for what was going down, though I’m confident they already knew. 

As of the spring of 1869, the Democratic-Conservative Party saw little hope for forward progress as things stood, but did organize as such. It declared itself in favor of ratifying the progressive constitution with the proscriptive clauses removed. As early as 22 April, ex-governor A.G. Brown (Democrat) wrote a letter to the Jackson Clarion, which was then favorably discussed by leading newspapers throughout the state as well as meetings of conservatives in different parts of the state. In the letter, Brown proposed:

-acceptance of the Fifteenth Amendment

-guarantee of civil and political rights of the freedmen

-no “partisan” opposition to the new president (Grant)
 
-hostility to men who come into the state to make mischief (we’re back to the Carpetbagger’s “immigrants” here)

-good will to all who come to Mississippi in good faith to share in the fortunes of the Southern people 

So, this Conservative-Democratic Party platform had much in common with the Scalawag Party platform, and the two groups soon entered negotiations based on their common opposition to the Radicals and the proscription clauses.  

Ah, but here’s the problem: Even though the “regular” Democratic platform had much in common with the Scalawag platform, the Scalawag platform also had much in common with the Radical platform, minus that “mischievous men” business. Simple deductive reasoning, therefore, concludes that the “regular” Democrat platform had much in common with the Radicals, too. I stated in an earlier post that there was more wrong with that progressive constitution than the proscriptive clauses, and the Mississippi taxpayer was aware of it—his Democratic-Conservative leadership had drummed it into him in the months and final weeks leading up to the election in 1868, if nothing else. And the Fifteenth Amendment was a desecration, as was the Fourteenth, to the Constitution. One year later that same leadership is saying neither really mattered, but getting back into the Union at any price and reentry under present conditions was the best to be hoped for 

On 7 August 1869, 33 (Democratic) papers across the state endorsed the policy of cooperation with the Scalawags and urged the people to “support” the plan, an appeal echoed on 9 September when the Democratic Party officially announced its intention not to field a ticket, but to support the Scalawag ticket and the progressive constitution with the proscriptive clauses removed. The name agreed upon for the gubernatorial candidate of the conservative Republicans (the coalition, actually) was Louis Dent, brother-in-law to Ulysses Simpson Grant. Oh my, the beds politicians fall in and out of. “Ain’t” no wonder, is it, that they disgust the people so? 

Unfortunately, there was too much assumption between the Scalawags and the Democratic-Conservatives as to what was and was not acceptable to the Mississippi taxpayer in that Scalawag platform, and my bet is that constitution most certainly was an issue as was the Fifteenth Amendment. That platform was a capitulation to everything they’d fought, suffered, and died opposing between 1861 and 1865. The Conservative-Democratic Party attitude had degenerated to: “Well, boys, we did lose the war.” Not the best expression to make in the face of a proud and stubborn people who never stopped believing they were right and the antics of their occupiers reinforced that conviction every day, and who had, only a year before at those same leaders’ urging, rallied to defeat and expose the forces of tyranny for what they were. Now they were supposed to capitulate? Talk about surrender in the wake of victory! 

The “Bourbons,” the old marginalized Democrats, were waiting in the wings, watching all this. It’s my personal belief they were the force who actually got the rank and file to the polls the year before. One year later, these stubborn leaders have not capitulated to exigency, to the sacrifice of principle in return for representation in a corrupt, tyrannical, and unconstitutional Congress. So on 20 October 1869, the Democrats opposed to the “Dent Movement” held a convention in Canton, Mississippi (Madison County) north of Jackson stating the Democratic Party could not be committed to support either wing of the Republican Party. The statement further said that “this” leadership would not tell people what to do, but the “opposed-to-the-Dent-Movement” faction would remain firm in its devotion to state rights and leave responsibility for the establishment of Republican hegemony in Mississippi to rest where it properly belonged. But, the faction further stated, that in view of the dissention within the Democratic Party itself it would not put forth a candidate in the 1869 election. The Democratic Party, like the Republican, had split. With the Democrats, the split was over principle, or lack of. With the Republicans, who were generally lacking in principle, particularly in regard to the U. S. Constitution and the Founder’s Republic, the split was over which branch would get the spoils. 

Much has been written on the factions within the Republican Party in the South during Reconstruction to the detriment of historical detail on what was happening within the Democratic Party during these years—not just in Mississippi, but across the South. Similar images exist in every Southern state [shoot, perhaps the Northern ones, too, but today, no one seems to care]. With the idealistic deflection by the left on the faux narrative of slavery and “democracy” being “who we are as a nation” it might never be sorted out. Indeed, the perspective is disappearing. Southerners, certainly, should not let that happen.  

What we’re seeing here within the Democratic-Conservative Party is a movement known as the New Departure. As of 1870, it was in vogue across the South and would also come to dominate the Northern  wing of the Democratic Party.

Actually, I think it still dominates the Northern party only now it’s exponentially worse.
 
Kidding aside, it basically advocated acceptance of Reconstruction and the Republican program. I plan to delve into more detail about the Southern Democrats and the internal turmoil caused by the New Departure in my next post.

Thanks for reading,

Charlsie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Excuse Me? Who Doesn’t Know the History?

A post in the “Skewing Southern History Series”

I recently published my sixth fiction novel, Honor’s Banner, a sequel to my post-Civil War Gothic, Camellia Creek, and was dismayed to see that my first Amazon review was a one-star. “[B]ut if she did research, she translated it to her own version and trying to rewrite history,” the reviewer says of my Historical Note at the end of Honor’s Banner 

If the review had been a critique of my writing, I would have simply let the matter drop. I’ve learned there’s no way to defend oneself against a critique on craft without appearing gaseous on sour grapes. This reviewer, however, chose to attack the historical accuracy of my work affording me not only an excellent example supporting the theme of my recent posts on the subject of skewing Southern history but also providing me the opportunity to rebut the reviewer’s negative critique. Hereupon, I risk public censure: 

This challenge was put forth by someone who believes it was, and I quote, “Johnson (Lincoln’s Vice President) who made the south a mess after the war because he was a Southerner and he tried to make it so the Plantation owners could use Blacks to rebuild the south even though they were free, by paying little o[r] nothing for wages and generally keep them slaves even though they were free. Blacks were murdered by the thousands in the south after the war, but she [she being me] doesn’t mention that at all.”  

This reviewer’s understanding of Reconstruction is based on revisionist history promoted over the past fifty years. Johnson, a mule-headed man from east Tennessee hated the plantation elite. His falling out with Congress was actually due to his attempt to carryout Lincoln’s plan for Reconstruction (not rebuild the plantation economy, but one of reconciliation), which stumbled in the face of the Radical’s plan of centralization, nullification of state rights, and the demise of Federalism as the Founders meant for it to be. A strong argument can and has been made that Lincoln’s plan cost him his life. I don’t place a lot of stock in Lincoln, but he was not a Radical. Johnson, who the Radicals believed were in his camp, primarily because of his overt enmity to the plantation system, proved a ringer to the Radical cause. He was easier to turn public opinion against than Lincoln would have been, though, so they let him slide (or missed him if one buys into the conspiracy theory of Atzerodt being part of Booth’s team the night Lincoln was murdered and the ancillary belief the Radicals were behind the assassination. I have no opinion either way regarding that particular conspiracy theory.). Nevertheless, the Radicals neutralized Johnson in the fall 1866 elections when the Radicals gained control of Congress.  

As for paying the freed slaves, the Southern economy was in shambles. England, the South’s primary foreign cotton market, had, with the encouragement of Washington and New England mercantilists, cultivated new sources of raw cotton. There was no significant amount of capital to pay anyone until a cotton crop came in—that meant labor with a promise to pay—and the laborers weren’t interested in working and no one made them work. Johnson couldn’t have replicated the plantation economy even if he’d wanted to.  

And those thousands of murdered blacks? I don’t know if a body count was ever made covering twelve years of Reconstruction, and I would be suspect of any number thrown  out there—including the reviewer’s “thousands,” but yes, many were killed: by white Democrats, by white Republicans, and Freedmen killed one another. They killed white folks, too, and white folks killed one another. Some were killed for political reasons, some in self defense. Some murders were real, some were fabricated for fodder in Northern newspapers. At the time of my story, the great majority of Federal troops in the South were Negro and when those troops were disbanded in the spring and summer of 1866 they were trained soldiers. In the years going into Congressional Reconstruction these men (who were all born and raised in the South) made up the bulk of the armed militias supporting the puppet Republican administrations, themselves backed with Federal bayonets. What was happening in the South during these years were pockets of armed warfare. The Negro was not innocent and he was not helpless, no more so than his white counterpart anyway, who, I should add, he outnumbered in Mississippi and South Carolina and made up a significant plurality in the rest of the South. All in all, most of both races survived, actually managing to remain halfway decent to each other despite the aggravation of Northern interlopers.  

But whatever the overall body count, the time period covered by my two novels combined is six months, October 1865-March 1866. Presidential Reconstruction in Mississippi ended in December 1865. At that time, things had begun to unravel between Congress and the man they thought was on the Radical side (Johnson), the fall elections of 1866 are a half year away and the Reconstruction Acts, officially issuing-in Congressional Reconstruction are a year down the road. The murders and alleged fraud and intimidation which are today the lore upon which the righteousness of Reconstruction is woven (and which are, I believe, what the reviewer is basing her critique on) are in the future. The white South is trying to find its footing, the Freedmen either remain on the plantations where they lived prior to and during the war for the reason that it was home, it was relatively safe, and they cared for their white folks and their white folks cared for them. Those who left did so because the plantation was either abandoned by its demoralized and defeated owners (assuming they were still alive) or they believed freedom included the freedom to do as they pleased, and that included doing nothing. These indigents numbered in the hundreds of thousands and they found succor in the larger communities secured by Union troops (who, I reiterate, were mostly black), living off the taxpayer—including the Northern one. I know the history, sans slant, which on close inspection of modern works doesn’t add up.  

Likewise, I’m not sure what to make of the reviewer’s take on my characters:  “...she has taken history and twisted it to make it sound like all who supported the north, anti-slavery, President Lincoln (in other words all things Northern) evil and the Southerners were all wonderful people who treat their slaves so wonderful that they continued to serve them after the War.” 

Did she expect me to make my hero a slave-beating, murdering bigot? Hardly sympathetic, and her implication is not true. The hero of Honor’s Banner is a United States Marine, who honored his oath primarily in support of his Blue-grass Kentucky family. The primary antagonists in both stories are Southerners. Yes, my story is prejudiced in favor of the South, but no more so than most works of escape fiction that happen to portray the hero as the “good” guy. Oh duh. I am a Southerner; my ancestors were Southerners. My pro-Southern stance on history is my brand; other than a love of storytelling, it is the reason I write.  

No, what the reviewer finds fault with is that I have dared to challenge the current liberal orthodoxy of Southern treason and intransigence by making heroes of unrepentant Southerners, who refuse to acknowledge the South’s sins against the faux idolatry of Union and democracy both symbolized by that boogeyman, slavery. Or, perhaps it’s simply that I’ve made the South and Southerners—repentant or not—heroic at all. Guess that makes me guilty, too. 

Well, I can handle it.
 
Thanks for reading,

Charlsie

 

 

 

Monday, May 9, 2016

The 1869 Mississippi Republican Platform(s): So, What’s the Difference? Discerning Taxpayers Want to Know

This post is number thirty-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 progressive constitution framed during the Black & Tan Convention in the winter/spring of 1868, which resulted in a second election. For earlier posts in this Alcorn-driven series, (best read in sequence from oldest to most recent), see the sidebar on the right.
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On 23 June 1869 the National Union Republican Party of Mississippi (and like-minded leaders of the Democrats, old-Whigs, and the unaligned who participated by invitation) met in Jackson and took steps to “promote general interests of the state.” To clarify, this was technically a Scalawag convention. [If you’re wondering why the Scalawags bear the name of the national party vice the Carpetbaggers, it’s because J. L. Wofford, a Mississippian, founded the Republican Party in Mississippi early on, before the Carpetbaggers were established.] These were the men who organized the defeat of the progressive constitution and the Republican ticket in the summer of 1868 and they were conspicuous in their opposition to the “committee of sixteen”, following that group to Washington in the early winter of 1868-1869 to counter Radical demands that Congress declare the Republican defeat a victory. Now, in June 1869, they appointed an executive committee and adopted a platform of principles: 

-that our state should be reconstructed in accordance with the acts of congress (that would be the Reconstruction Acts beginning in 1867) and the amendments passed by Congress

-toleration, liberality, and forbearance will inspire confidence, restore harmony, and bring peace and prosperity

-solicited the aid of very citizen, black, white, rich, or poor

-expressed unfaltering devotion to the National Union Republican Party (that would be the party in control back in Washington, folks, and the wing in control was the Radicals)

-endorsed the Fifteenth Amendment

-deprecated all attempts at further disfranchisement other than required by the Constitution and U.S. law (and, as an adjunct, declared that the Mississippi Reconstruction Convention’s attempt to bring the state back into the Union using the proscriptive clauses rendered it unworthy of respect

-thanked President Grant for rejecting the progressive Mississippi constitution

-voted to put the platform to the people

-called a state convention to nominate candidates (the group made no nominations at this time)
 

The Radical or Carpetbag wing met on 2 July 1869 in Jackson and framed a seventeen point platform: 

-unfaltering devotion to the National Union Republican Party (that would be the same group of Radicals in Washington)

-favored an impartial and economic administration of government

-free speech for all

-free schools

-tax reform

-equality for all before the law

-removal of disabilities, which the convention qualified, as soon as the “spirit of toleration” now dawning is so firmly established that Congress recognizes it as such to justify universal amnesty

-universal suffrage (a bit oxymoronic, don’t you think in reference to the previous point—but this is a reference to the Fifteenth amendment and to insuring the Negro vote)

-encourage immigration (I think they were talking about bringing in more white Yankees to lead recalcitrant white Southerners who didn’t know how to govern and the ignorant Negro who knew nothing about almost everything)

-endorsed President Grant

-expressed confidence in Ames (the same man who as provisional governor had supported them during the failed election of 1868 and who now, serving as both the commanding general of the Fourth Military District and provisional governor, has set up the upcoming election. The reader did note that in the Scalawag platform expression of confidence for Adlebert Ames was absent, right?)

-eulogized Congress as the assembled wisdom and “expressed will” of the nation [Does that turn your stomach, or not?] 

This group then organized for the upcoming election and adjourned without nominating a state ticket. 

Okay, now what about those Democrats? Next time.
 
Thanks for reading,

Charlsie

 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

“True For the Cause of Liberty”

A post in the “Southern History Series”

Not long after reading Ilario Pantano’s Grand Theft History, I came across the history of the Second Spartans, a South Carolina patriot militia regiment formed during the American Revolution. The beauty of the Second Spartans is that it was made up of  men drawn from the northwest section of South Carolina (Union, Chester, Fairfield, York counties/districts to name a few) who were there during those critical years when the British initiated their Southern strategy against the colonies of Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia, and they were there at that last critical juncture beginning with Patrick Ferguson’s defeat at King’s Mountain, which Lord Clinton, commander-in-chief of British forces, said put in motion a “chain of events that followed each other in regular succession until they at last ended in the total loss of America.” This timely publication of Oscar and Catherine Gilbert’s True For The Cause of Liberty dovetailed sweetly with Pantano’s book. 

The co-authors’ individual talents dovetail nicely, too, which, no doubt, explains this exceptional work; he at one time a Marine Corps artilleryman with an interest in battlefield history, she a genealogist. Together, their interests testify to hours upon hours of research required for deciphering the battle actions—some, such as Cowpens, with contradictory accounts—and the painstaking scouring of pension applications and family histories, letters, and diaries reiterated in the book to create a remarkable look at what proved to be the strategic scenario that convinced Lord Cornwallis he really did need to get out of the Carolinas and ultimately convinced mother England she’d be better served without this entire war.  

I stated in an earlier post that I knew the war in the South to have been particularly nasty. This book, drawn from the statements of the men who actually fought it, leaves the reader with no doubt as to just how nasty. It also speaks of dedication, determination, and sacrifice. In their struggle against the king and his agents, these men had to leave their families vulnerable to their loyalist counterparts, British regulars, and Britain’s Indian allies, and there were many, many militias throughout the South, so take this sketch of the Second Spartans and magnify it a hundred times. It was no easy decision and no small sacrifice, and the bloody battles, skirmishes, revenge killings, retribution, hangings, tortures, rapes, and pillaging went on, constantly, for years—even well after the war. 

For the purposes of this blog post—one in an ongoing series to do justice to the South’s role in the founding of this nation and in securing that nation in the aftermath, and to emphasize my unwavering belief in the Confederacy’s place as the true link to our Founders’ lost Republic, I direct readers to the “Author’s Preface.” There note is made of the systematic marginalization of Southern history since the mid-nineteenth century (before South Carolina seceded). After the secession crisis and the South’s defeat, the South’s role in the Revolutionary War was relegated to only a few lines of text in mainstream history books, and it’s been shrinking since.  

To their credit, for it’s not the purpose of their book, the only place the authors point out the current injustice being fomented against the South is in the preface. [Pointing out the current injustice is my purpose in writing this post.] That said, general lovers of American history and of the Revolution—and I refer to those without an agenda either for or against the South—will find much of value in this well-written, fast-paced work. Truly, there is never a dull moment, and there is so much to learn and questions answered—like “How, when all the battles were fought and won in the north, did Cornwallis manage to get himself surrounded in Yorktown, Virginia? And why, with Cornwallis’ surrender, did the British just up and say, “We don’t want to play anymore, we’re going home”? I mean, really, our history books make that surrender of Cornwallis sound as if we’d razed London itself. He surrendered one army. Clinton was still alive and kicking in New York. 

Yes, there’s a lot more to the Revolutionary story on, actually, both sides of the Atlantic, and it’s been missing from the mainstream for a long time now—and a big chunk of that missing narrative lies in the South.  

Thanks for reading,

Charlsie

 

 

 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Delineating the Political Camps, a Laywoman’s Analysis

This post is number thirty-eight in a historical series discussing Mississippi’s Whig/Republican governor and senator, James Alcorn, following the War Between the States and continues the “saga” resulting from the Democratic victory over the Republican progressive constitution framed during the Black & Tan Convention in the winter/spring of 1868, which resulted in a second election. For earlier posts in this Alcorn-driven series, (best read in sequence from oldest to most recent), start with 17 February, 24 March, 16 April, 17 July, 24 July, 18 September, 9 October, 23 October, 5 November, 22 November, 15 December, 29 December 2014, 13 January, 24 January, 9 February, 24 February, 9 March, 31 March, 8 May, 10 June, 30 June, 3 August, 30 August , 13 September, 27 September, 11 October, 25 October 2015, 8 November25 November14 December, 27 December 201518 January1 February20 February,  7 March,  22 March, and 5 April 2016.
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 For the single, most comprehensive background for this post, see my 25 November 2015 entry, President Grant Says...
 
On 13 July 1869, President Grant proclaimed Tuesday, 30 November as the date the constitution would be resubmitted to the people. As the president had suggested in the early spring, the proscriptive clauses and the clause forbidding the loaning of the state’s credit would be submitted to a separate vote. Each voter would be allowed to vote for or against the constitution without the clauses, and each voter would then be allowed to cast a separate ballot for or against the objectionable clauses. But even before the presidential proclamation (everyone knew it was coming) the campaign had commenced.  

To reiterate, there were four political bodies in play, the Radical Republicans, primarily Northern Carpetbaggers; the conservative Republicans, primarily Southern Scalawags; the, official or “regular” Democrats composed of the more progressive/pragmatic Democrats now allied with old-line Whigs, who hated the Republicans even more than they despised Democrats; and the more-or-less impotent original Democrats, the dregs of the old Southern wing of the party long blamed by the old Whigs and now the new Democratic “leaders,” who had climbed up on that bandwagon, for having led the South to disaster. But, and I emphasize this point again, what the new Democratic “leadership” was ready to concede and who they now chose to blame, and what the Democratic rank and file thought of those concessions, those granting them, and this self-aggrandizing redirecting of blame ultimately proved incompatible. The much maligned old Democrats, the Bourbons, would become the Redeemers and, simply put, evolve into the Southern Democratic Party that would, in the short term, gain hegemony over the “solid South.” The Southern Democrats would retain power for almost a century, until the establishment within the Democratic Party conspired to eliminate them from the equation—and that establishment, no longer burdened by any Constitutional principle worth having, morphed into the Democratic Party we have today. To do justice, the Southern Democratic Party was burdened with a self-imposed weight of its own, which had, long before the 1960s, resulted in cracks undermining its foundation, leaving it unable to withstand the liberal onslaught. But in the summer of 1869, all that was yet to be.  

In early June, the conservative Republicans, led by J. L. Wofford, an ex-Confederate and founder of Mississippi’s Republican Party and who Alcorn credited as having led the campaign that defeated the Radical agenda the year before, scheduled a meeting on 23 June between the conservatives and prominent men known to be in sympathy with them. Those “prominent” men would have included the old-line Whigs and enlightened Democrats. What Wofford, who hailed from Tishomingo County in northeast Mississippi and who established a newspaper in Corinth, had created, and this is all strictly my thoughts on the matter, is the hybrid group that James Alcorn had envisioned years earlier and been unable to bring to fruition. Wofford’s success in creating this “hybrid” party could stem from a number of factors: he’d been quickest to form the “Scalawag” party in the state; he applied more discretion on the racial issue; he overtly displayed strict opposition to the proscription clauses. I’m guessing. I do not know the details and can find little on the man. Whatever the specifics, Wofford had managed early on not to isolate himself from potentially influential Southern cohorts. He’d been a war hero who saw more than his share of combat, a distinction that separated him from Alcorn who was thwarted by circumstance (or blackballing) from achieving martial glory. Wofford had also, to his credit, met with disfavor among the “Carpetbag” branch of the Republican Party in Mississippi. I say that because he was not at the constitutional convention in the winter of 1868 and his only role regarding the new constitution was in defeating it—and, in league with the Democrats, he did a darn good job. Wofford had founded the party within the state, then saw his efforts usurped and himself marginalized by Northern Radicals who’d moved in with specific marching orders from the Radical elite in Washington. Recall that the “superior” North had to teach all Southerners, including those with a Republican persuasion, how to be real Americans. The honest truth is the Radical elite did not want Southerners of any sort in an autonomous position of leadership.  To them, the South was a clump of clay to be molded as they deemed fit in order to advance their power and political agenda. The subsequent plunder and malfeasance was their minions’ reward for performing this duty. For a conservative Republican Southerner like Wofford, that Radical vision did not sit well. For that matter, it wouldn’t have set well with Alcorn either, nor, I imagine many conservative Northern Republicans, but the latter weren’t in a position to do anything overtly. The Northern populace had put the Radicals, not them, in power. 

Early in 1869, the Republican Okolona News, demanded General Eggleston, Mississippi’s 1868 Republican nominee for governor, be shelved and the party find another man more agreeable to Mississippians. Put that in tandem with the strong-willed Wofford at the head of the party Alcorn had only dreamed of, and James Lusk Alcorn emerges as a good fit for the Radicals. I believe I’m relatively safe in assuming the Okolona News had already made that determination short of just coming out and saying so. Certainly the Radicals needed someone new to head the ticket. I’m merely suggesting they’d already found him. 

A Radical plan was in motion, had been, in fact, since the Democratic/Conservative victory in July of 1868. Ames’ replacing Gillem was a significant step in ensuring no more fumbles at the polls. (In addition to information provided in my 25 November post, see Adlebert Ames and Preliminary Preparation....)  A year earlier, Alcorn had campaigned for the progressive constitution and Republican ticket; he saw the Radical organization as the state’s best chance for resuming its position in the nation and getting its representation in Congress. Clearly, by the summer of ’69 he viewed the Radicals as his best opportunity to head the state civil government, and his decision to represent his district as part of the  “committee of sixteen” was made with that goal in mind. How many state Radicals he’d swayed as of the fall of 1868 is unknown, but I’ve little doubt Alcorn’s decision to lead the Radicals was thought out before that trip to Washington, and I maintain he had an agenda when he got there—and it wasn’t to convince Congress to vacate the 1868 election results, though he probably did lip service to that plan. He wanted an “in” with the powers that be. Obviously he’d been accepted at the state level, but he needed support from the Radicals’ “big guns” at the national level to carry out his plan.

I have nothing to confirm Radical leaders within the state realized his objective, much less condoned it, but later, during the Alcorn administration, evidence does emerge indicating state Radicals were aware of his machinations and some, at least, were wary of him. But that’s a discussion for a future post. 

It’s been said Alcorn had nowhere to go, but to the Radicals. I would agree, understanding he didn’t want to vie for a leadership position within his party of choice, otherwise he could have teamed up with Wofford’s group where, politically, he belonged. That, of course, assumes he’d have even been welcomed. But recall, at the time the “committee of sixteen” left for Washington, the Conservatives had followed, bringing with them an agenda of their own. The Wofford group was talking to President Grant at the same time Alcorn’s was wheeling and dealing with Congressional leaders. More on the Wofford group’s plan in a later post.  

The Republican parties’ platforms (that’s plural), next time, and thanks for reading. 

Charlsie

 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Reading, Writing, and Teaching Southern History

Other Posts in my Southern History Series:
Ilario Pantano’s Grand Theft History


In Grand Theft History, Ilario Pantano addresses the culture war between progressives and conservatives for control of the Republic as well as the Marxists historians who are determined to dismantle the America of our Founders in support of the former. 

I maintain that the Founders’ Republic has been gone for a century and a half, no longer visible or viable with the desecration of Federalism that came with the so-called “ratification” of the 14th and 15th Amendments whereby the central government usurped civil rights and suffrage onto itself, both the sole domain of sovereign states; the 16th amendment which fed and continues to feed the insatiable monster the central government has become today; and the 17th amendment, by which the people of the states sold out state rights in return for pure democracy, thus damaging Federalism every bit as much as did the 14th and 15th amendments.  

In the fall elections of 1866, the people of the victorious North rejected our Founder’s Republic as surely as they’d rejected Southern rights. What was left has been whittled away at ever since. Trying to reconstitute our Founder’s Republic given what happened during the Civil War and Reconstruction is, in my mind, delusional. It’s gone, and I don’t think we’ll see its like again. What made us exceptional was lost, as odd as it may seem to some of you, with the Confederacy. What replaced it was the post-Civil War (and certainly post-founding) narrative on the virtues of civil rights and democracy, and we’ve been traveling that common path of democracies since, and we will meet their common fate, implosion under the social excesses and economic weight of the mob or empire under a dictator. We could hope for “imperial,” great, but not exceptional. Some folks, in fact, believe we are already there. What I haven’t lost is my unwavering conviction that the South was right, and the loss of our Founders’ Republic correlates directly to the unwarranted war waged against her. I do not want the basis for that belief lost, too, particularly to future Southerners. 

In his book, Pantano defines grand theft history as the “improper and intentional omission or distortion of historical fact to the significant detriment of one or more parties.” He begins his argument by establishing that Southerners had something of value that was taken away from them, that being their rightful place in American history by the omission and misstatement of historical facts. He further argues that these omissions and misstatements were/are intentional. Well, I maintain that the South had plenty of value taken from her long before now, but I won’t haggle over the point. This latest slight simply heaps insult on top of injury, but I'm digressing a bit...sorta.

If the reader (jury) agrees with Pantano’s argument, the miscreants are condemned to clean up their act, do their duty, and report the historical record accurately. 

It’s less that I disagree with Pantano on this last point than I believe it is a requirement that cannot and would not be enforced. Who would enforce it? The reader?  

I don’t think so. The powers that be are complicit with liberal historians’ marginalization of Southern history. In the minds of those geared to this agenda, they are doing their duty by twisting the history. Revisionism is as old as history itself.  

No, it’s time for partisan action. We Southerners need to be writing our own history. Of course, a quick perusal of the bibliography Pantano published with Grand Theft shows that we already are and always have been. But that doesn’t change the fact that the academic gatekeepers have left no room in academia for anything but negative reflection of the South. What we Southerners need to do is quit buying into it and start reading (and writing and teaching) our own history books and, for the love of Saint Peter, stop apologizing for something that was normal, accepted, and for which everyone in this nation and most of the world was complicit in, including black folk, and had been millennia before the white man ever set foot on this continent. You take away the bad things we all have done and we wouldn’t have survived as a people on this continent, much less built a nation, not to mention we, as a species, would still be living in caves—and still, no doubt, being bad to one another. Why the devil should the South carry the weight of guilt for all history—oh yeah, that’s right, I get it! Our refusal to reject the full promise of our Founder’s Republic (federalism/decentralization) renders us unrepentant on the issue of slavery—because that was the one and only issue, right? Bullshit. Talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Classic. Except we’re not suppose to note the baby. It’s the dirty bathwater the left has us focused on. But it’s not about the bathwater. It’s about the baby, and it always has been.

The left believes that the only way to achieve true freedom, as they perceive it to be, is by erasing everything the Republic once stood for and pretending it never was. On top of the ruins it will build its brave new Utopian world where civil rights, equality, and freedom for all is defined and enforced by a “benign” central government (the states relegated to satellites, equally benign, of course).

Ain’t it funny how that Utopian monster, no matter how often it defeats itself with its own stupidity, never ceases to raise its ugly head? Granted its appearance is periodic. I attribute that phenomenon to excess prosperity and esoteric minds, freed from the drudgery of honest labor (thanks to excess prosperity), focused on getting even more of other people’s money to fund/control the Utopian agenda. Ha! If they read more history books, they’d know it never works—oh, darn it, I forgot! That won’t work if they read the revised versions.
 
More—on the virtues of the South, that is—next time and thanks for reading, 

Charlsie

 

 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Alcorn Readies His Campaign to Run for Governor on the Radical Ticket

This post is number thirty-seven 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 progressive constitution framed during the Black & Tan Convention in the winter/spring of 1868. As of my last post the issue of Mississippi’s returning to the Union had been returned, euphemistically speaking, to the people of Mississippi. For earlier posts in this Alcorn-driven series, (best read in sequence from oldest to most recent), start with 17 February, 24 March, 16 April, 17 July, 24 July, 18 September, 9 October, 23 October, 5 November, 22 November, 15 December, 29 December 2014, 13 January, 24 January, 9 February, 24 February, 9 March, 31 March, 8 May, 10 June, 30 June, 3 August, 30 August , 13 September, 27 September, 11 October, 25 October 2015, 8 November25 November14 December, 27 December 201518 January1 February20 February,  7 March  and 22 March 2016.

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Despite Congress’ refusal to void Mississippi’s July 1868 election results and declare the Republican ticket elected, its members were hard at work behind the scenes, setting the stage for a Republican victory in the state. There was, at the national level, as well as within the state, the same power struggle on-going between the regular Republicans (Radicals) and the more conservative members of the party. This struggle, as I’ve previously noted, is important for understanding what happened in Mississippi and Virginia during this time and what happened with/to the in-coming president. Ulysses S. Grant had appeared, at the outset, sympathetic to the conservatives in both states. His Radical handlers had yet to “get a handle on him.” They would tighten the leash shortly. 

Just as important to understanding the internal politics of the era is an appreciation for what was at stake. The Radicals needed control of the South in order to counter any threat to its agenda that might emerge from those Northern states paying attention to what was going on. The Radicals were altering the Founders’ Republic into a pure democracy, and in 1869 the next item on their agenda was the suffrage, a right belonging to sovereign states, and one ultimately usurped by the Federal government with the then un-ratified Fifteenth Amendment. The Radicals also looked at the Fifteenth Amendment as a means of maintaining their power into perpetuity. Controlling the South was key. 

So, whatever wheeling and dealing went on between the national leaders of the Republican Party and the “committee of sixteen” during the latter’s stay in Washington in the winter of 1868-1869, it was all framed to ensure a Republican victory in Mississippi. The linchpin for the Radical plan proved to be James Lusk Alcorn. He had, no doubt, been blessed to carry the torch. Eggleston, the carpetbag nominee who had led the ticket to defeat in the summer of 1868, was out. This, of course, was all going on before “Grant’s” decision to resubmit the new progressive constitution to the people separate from the obnoxious proscription clauses. Shoot, this was underway before Grant was even inaugurated, but things were jelling. 

Back at Friar’s Point, Mississippi (Alcorn’s home), the presses of a new paper, The Weekly Delta, started to roll on 9 February 1869. The editor was Robert J. Alcorn, James’ cousin who represented Yalobusha County at the Reconstruction constitutional convention during the winter of 1868. The paper’s original publisher was F. S. Belcher. In March, Belcher sold his interest to a chancery clerk of Coahoma County, George R. Alcorn, another of James’ cousins. That same month, James resigned from his law firm, Alcorn, Stricklin, and Harmon. The Weekly Delta claimed to be independent, but supported both the national Republican Party and Alcorn. It defended both and was unequivocally a Republican paper. 

Alcorn had always been an impressive man in Mississippi and his tossing his hat in with the Radicals was a matter of no small concern to the state’s Democrats. Being a “native son,” so to speak, he posed a subtle threat unlike that of the overtly distasteful Yankee interloper Eggleston, who had been adamantly in favor of the proscription clauses as opposed to Alcorn who had opposed them, but still campaigned for the constitution in the summer of 1868, stating those clauses could be removed later.  

On 2 June 1869, The Weekly Delta expressed hope that James Lusk Alcorn would run for governor on the Republican ticket. Ah, from die-hard Unionist to reluctant secessionist, who at the secession convention in 1861 brought the house down with, “Mr. President, the die is cast; the Rubicon is crossed; I follow the army that goes to Rome; I vote for the ordinance”, now to leadership of the state’s contingent of the foulest group of men who have ever sank their talons into the flesh of this nation. Such are the misfortunes of war and the expedient nature of political principle. 

There were four political entities that played a role in the upcoming events in Mississippi:  

The Radical Republicans or carpetbaggers, which I maintain Alcorn was not, either by place of origin or in principle, but with whom he’d made his bed;  

the conservative Republicans, the scalawags or native Mississippians, where Alcorn properly belonged;  

the more progressive Democrats, the official party, who were trying to figure out where they belonged—turns out they didn’t;  

and the old-line Democrats, known to history as the Bourbons, who at the time didn’t have a place, but waited in the wings and remained true to the basic principles of the old Democratic Party in the South.  

I will elaborate on each during the course of this series. Thanks for reading,

Charlsie