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.
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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,

Charlsie

*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
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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,

Charlsie




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,
Charlsie






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.
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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,
Charlsie

Monday, February 6, 2017

Identifying Those Earliest Southern Whigs and Where That Has Led Me

This is post number seven in a series detailing Southern Whiggery. See the sidebar for earlier posts.
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The proof is in the pudding, and by that I mean the “truth” is in the pudding—in the taste, not in the pretty picture on the box. Calhoun and his fellow nullifiers from South Carolina were the Whigs and the original anti-Jackson “party” as opposed to a mere “faction” of the Old Jeffersonians. If the Whig Party had looked at the beginning like what it evolved into (over a relatively short period) there would have been no reason to involve the Southern state righters. The National Republican faction (which already contained Southerners) would have simply broken with the Jacksonian Democrats (which had a lot more Southerners) and life would have continued pretty much as it eventually did anyway. Ah, but Henry Clay would have had no more Southern support in 1836, 1840, or whenever, looking into the then unforeseeable future, than he’d had in 1832 when Andrew Jackson smashed him in his second win of the presidency. Southern Whiggery, at its inception, was not an endorsement of Clay’s policies, but was anti-Jacksonian in its own right. The National Republicans and the state righters making up the new “Whig Party” were allies operating on opposite ends of the spectrum regarding Constitutional interpretation and were personified in the beings of Clay and Calhoun.

From the very beginning, there were Americans in the young Republic, in then much less polarized sections, who fought liberal interpretation of the Constitution. But with the end of the War of 1812, a spirit of nationalism swept the country and found a home in the hearts of many Southerners, Calhoun among them. Recall that Federalist New England had opposed the war because, simply put, blockades and embargoes declared necessary by the central government hurt her interests. As a result, focus was placed on the interests of the nation as a whole, which meant using the powers of the central government for the “general welfare” of all. By the 1830s the “revenue” only tariff had morphed into a high protective tariff benefiting New England (and Midwestern) mercantilists to the detriment of everyone else, in particular the agrarian South. The by now more pragmatic ex-young nationalist John C. Calhoun had stopped second-guessing what had gone wrong and was determined to set things right. Funny thing about setting precedents, once that cat is out of the bag, it’s hard to get him back in. A generation of American leaders had failed to heed what the political theorists of the founding generation had warned against, utilization of a centralized state to promote self-aggrandizing, un-republican values. Folks tend to cite Thomas Jefferson here, and I certainly have no problem with that, but he did support ratification of the Constitution. My favorite is Patrick Henry who warned us not to ratify the thing with its nominally limited central government...the first and biggest precedent of all.

Another, who was still around and kicking at the time, was North Carolina’s Nathaniel Macon, who also opposed ratification, but represented his state in the House and later the Senate almost from the inception of the new government. The focus of his career of thirty-seven years was keeping the central government limited as decreed by its charter. An original opponent of the Federalist Party, Macon never fell under the spell of its brand of economic nationalism, forwarded in turn by Clay and the National Republicans. The fact remained that a central government had been created and what would follow would be generations of self-serving men seeking to control it. Their weapon of choice and, not coincidentally the one most conducive to wheedling power and money from the people in the name of common good, was the general welfare clause.

By the time the nationalistic ardor created by the War of 1812 had cooled and the stark reality of having fallen victim to its passion struck home, dramatic action was called for. President Andrew Jackson, an ardent nationalist of the Jacksonian mold (I’m being facetious, but I can’t think of a better way to say it—he was an anti-New England Unionist) struck against Biddle’s National Bank to the cheers of the common folk in the South and the West and the jeers of the National Republicans regardless of section. Calhoun (and South Carolina) struck against the tariff. Ah, but a strike against the tariff was a strike against the national government, which the nationalist Jackson could not tolerate. Jackson’s counter was to propose a military strike against South Carolina. That was something the Jacksonian-Democrat state righters—even those not in sympathy with Calhoun—could not sit idly by and abide. The nullifiers were limited in number and weak, but Southerners were plentiful, and Jackson was pushing the envelope (and Southerners made up a good chunk of his base).

But the Nullification Crisis didn’t occur in a vacuum. Many wealthy and powerful Southerners (the sugar planters of Louisiana, Kentucky hemp-growers, the mining industries of western Virginia) supported a protective tariff, but also of significance in the abandonment of Jackson by some state righters was the issue of the U.S. National Bank, an entity which had Southern supporters in the aforementioned sugar merchants, miners, and hemp-growers as well as black-belt cotton planters. These men were primarily of the National Republican variety, but the existence of nominal supporters of a national bank among state righters does have purchase. A national bank stabilized the money and banking in general. The problem with Biddle’s bank was its partisanship; it catered to and was supported by, a certain, finite, class of people.

[I believe an argument could be made that support of Biddle’s bank was not necessarily the same as support for a national bank for which, at a number of junctures in our early history, an amendment to the Constitution was suggested to accommodate.]

To rehash, Dr. Michael Holt in the Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party states that at the opening of Congress, December 1833, there were twenty National Republicans and twenty Jacksonians squaring off in the U.S. Senate along with two nullifiers and six Southern state-rights senators who had abandoned the Jackson camp in the wake of Jackson’s overt threat to South Carolina. These eight senators held the balance of power in the Senate. Neither Holt nor Arthur Cole in History of the Whig Party of the South identified precisely who these men were. South Carolina’s nullifiers, of course, are easy to identify: John C. Calhoun and William C. Preston. I’m not absolutely sure who the other six were, but having done a little research, I hereby take a stab at identification: Gabriel Moore of Alabama, John Black and George Poindexter of Mississippi, Willie P. Mangum of North Carolina, John Tyler of Virginia, and Joseph Kent of Maryland.

Originally a Jacksonian, Mangum is on record for warning his fellow Southerners to trust no administration forcing the South to wear the chains of the American System, and in 1833, he broke with Jackson for doing what he perceived as that very thing.

Just for the record, at the same time the anti-Jacksonians seized control of the Senate, the House gained an additional eleven Southern anti-Jacksonians and five additional nullifiers—four of the latter from South Carolina and one from Alabama. Of course, it made no difference in the House, where Jacksonian Democrats had things locked up.

In the course of searching for the identity of those six senators, I came across a 1954 article by Princetonian Charles Grier Sellers in The American Historical Review titled “Who Were the Southern Whigs.” From the title, as you may have guessed, I had hoped for specific identities of those six men, but his article didn’t deal with the U. S. Senate, but rather focused broadly on the House and on state legislatures. Mr. Sellers’ argues it was the Bank War, not state rights, that shaped the Southern Whig Party. He appears to be challenging the prevailing belief 63 years ago that state rights shaped Southern Whiggery. Perhaps this is still the prevailing academic position, particularly among Southerners. I admit that I have trouble seeing the Southern Whigs as state righters, but I have less of a problem seeing them as strict constructionists, and therein might be the problem—using the term “strict constructionist” interchangeably with “state righter”. Swap nullifier and secessionist for strict constructionist and the problem increases. Those latter were definitely strict constructionists, but does it follow that all strict constructionists were secessionists?

[Now, in my mind, if you apply strict construction to the Tenth Amendment, then you believe in the right to secede—how could you not? Whether you’re in favor of secession or not is a different question. But that’s me.]

Throughout their history, Southern Whigs compromised their strict-constructionist stance, condoning violation of the Constitution only in “certain situations.” But who determines what constitutes those “situations”? One cannot simply qualify what is necessary and proper under certain conditions, then proceed with the violation in the name of an arbitrary, so-called good. Not, that is, and remain a strict constructionist. A “so-called good” is relative, all too often, to one’s self-interest, and the basest form of self-interest is greed. This is a classic un-republican concept. Further, one can’t advocate the sanctity of Union, then vote for secession, which is what a lot of them eventually did, indicating the Union wasn’t quite so sacred after all. Pondering that, when push came to shove, sounds like the Southern Whigs’ state-right colors bled through.

I’m gonna close the post at this juncture because the story of Southern Whiggery is as much about what the Southern Whigs were as it is about who they were. Throughout its evolution, the character of Southern Whiggery varied from state to state and was shaped not only by the interests of the individual states, but by the interests of different sections within each state. The story is as rich and varied as everything else about the South and goes hand in hand with what can be detailed about the opposition Southern Democrats. Each state had a healthy, viable two-party system before sectionalism (and nationalism, darn it) clouded the political horizon. I think it’s a story worth telling and is, in my humble opinion, critical to understanding what led to sectionalism, war, discord within the Confederacy, Reconstruction, Redemption, and eventually the solid “Democratic” South.

So, my anticipated “brief” junket into the history of Southern Whiggery has taken on a life of its own. I will continue with who/what were the Southern Whigs next time. At the same time I plan to return to Alcorn and the dark days of Reconstruction, and the two series will parallel each other.

Thanks for reading,

Charlsie


Monday, January 9, 2017

Jackson’s Removal of the Deposits from the Second National Bank and the Hijacking of Southern Whiggery

This is post number six in a series detailing Southern Whiggery. This post continues with the year 1833, the year of the Nullification Crisis, the removal of the government deposits from the Second National Bank of the United States, and the birth of the Whig Party. See the sidebar for earlier posts. 
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The senate adjourned on the 2nd of March 1833, the same day it passed both the Compromise Tariff of 1833 and the Force Bill, the former effectively canceling the need for the latter and averting Federal action against South Carolina. Henry Clay’s effort to make a bloodless end to the Nullification Crisis had placed this devout nationalist in the state-rights camp. I doubt that’s where he wanted to be for the long term, but I’m not so sure how he felt being there at that moment. Clay was in search of Southern support—and that was for the long haul.  

The Nullification Crisis had also fed the ambition of Daniel Webster, who now saw himself as a champion of the Union (that would be the Northern concept of Union, the nationalists’ Union, the gimmick through which he advanced the interests of his New England constituents) in opposition to the subversive South, which aimed to triumph over the American System and to blow up a storm over the slavery issue. Now, that last is a paraphrase of Webster’s own words. It’s not clear to me what the man was thinking—he may have been referring to the issue of slavery in the territories or the South’s raising a ruckus over the repeated unrestrained abuses perpetrated by abolitionists. Maybe both, but odds were the South wouldn’t have been making an issue over slavery unless someone else had brought it up first.  

Then in September of that same stress-filled year (clearly the president considered his re-election a mandate), Andrew Jackson removed the federal deposits from Nicholas Biddle’s Second National Bank of the United States with plans to disburse those assets to state banks.
[I tried to find out what physically happened to the money—did government agents actually march into the bank in Philadelphia, make a huge withdrawal, and move specie to a treasury vault in Washington? It’s all rather murky, but as I understand it, what Jackson actually did was direct the government to use its deposits in the Second National Bank for operating expenses while at the same time to cease making deposits to the bank, so that within a short time, Biddle’s bank had more banknotes circulating than it had specie to cover them. If anyone reading this knows the particulars, I’d love for you to comment.]
Jackson did this while Congress was adjourned, and no matter how one feels about the national bank and its patron “American System,” Jackson’s action was a usurpation of Congressional power, and don’t forget that no matter how arrogant we allow Congress to become or how worthless our representatives prove, they still represent the people of the United States. The executive tasked to carry out the laws they promulgate should respect that. He has veto power, and the people’s representatives have override.

Jackson’s move didn’t come out of the blue...well, kinda, maybe, sorta. The National Republicans had expected him to try something. During his annual report to Congress that past December, Jackson had referenced the Bank of the United States as an unsafe repository for America’s money, and he’d earlier requested the government sell its extensive bank stock, but Congress denied the request. In September 1833, with his trusted advisors, Post Master General Amos Kendall and Francis Blair watching approvingly, Andrew Jackson removed his disapproving Secretary of the Treasury, William Duane, and replaced him with his more amenable attorney general, Roger Taney. Taney had, in fact, drafted the lion’s share of Jackson’s bill vetoing the bank’s re-charter. Taney dubbed the National Bank an unfit habitat for the people’s money, citing as misconduct: political partisanship, the denial of information to government-appointed directors, monolithic financial power, and the inherent corruption of the democratic principles of the Republic. With that justification, he...um,  “reallocated” let’s say, the use of government deposits. At the same time, Jackson dispatched Kendall to find safe repositories for the government’s money in private banks.  

In his December 1833 report to Congress, Jackson explained that the Bank of the United States interfered in politics to the point it had become a veritable electioneering machine. It made loans to influence legislation, and at that very moment, Nicholas Biddle was out there fomenting a vindictive financial crisis proving that the nation’s finances should not be at his mercy. Actually, Biddle had instigated the financial crisis by contraction and calling in loans that past summer in the wake of Jackson’s veto of the Bank’s re-charter 

When challenged to provide the authority by which the Secretary of the Treasury had usurped a Congressional prerogative, Taney responded to Congress that, according to the charter, if Treasury deemed removal of the deposits necessary and Congress was not sitting, the treasury secretary was to take action and inform the Congress as soon as possible upon its reassembling. That’s what he was doing now, informing Congress. [Just as an aside, Congress turned around and told this Jackson “appointee”  to Secretary of Treasury they hoped he enjoyed his short-lived reign, because they weren’t approving him as secretary (okay, it didn’t play out exactly that way—I embellished it a bit). Jackson eventually took care of him, though, nominating him to fill the deceased John Marshall’s chair, Taney became the fifth Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court].

Suffice it to say there was much ado concerning not only the manner in which the removal of the deposits was carried out, but also about the contemporary damage then being done to the nation’s economy. Clay insisted the deposits were safe, Jackson that the institution posed a danger to the Republic and again alluded to Biddle’s self-made financial crisis affecting the nation. [Actually, I believe Clay and Jackson may have been talking apples and oranges here.] Impeachment would have been the proper recourse for Jackson’s perceived overreach, but it was out of the question given the Democrats had the House, so Henry Clay opted for a senatorial censure of Jackson to be entered in the Senate Journal. A majority of the senators agreed, and it was done. Several years later, Thomas Hart Benton, the long-lived Democratic senator from Missouri, got it expunged.
Volumes have been written on the Bank War, and it’s not the purpose of this series of posts to detail events, but rather to provide the reader an overview under which the Whig Party came into being. So, where is the Whig Party in all of this? Let’s start with the anti-Jacksonians. As of December 1833, they consisted of :
(1) The National Republicans, proponents of the American System

(2) Calhoun’s Nullifiers

(3) State righters who abhorred the National Republicans economic agenda, but who were opposed to nullification (see my Clay’s Objectives in Settling the Nullification Crisis).

It was Clay, determined to organize an anti-Jackson coalition, who took charge of this hodge-podge in the early winter of 1833-1834. Webster would remain absent until Jackson’s dispensation of the deposits from the National Bank went through in late January. [Recall Webster deserted Clay and entered the Jackson camp during the Nullification Crisis and was Jackson’s hammer behind the Force Bill] Then, his hopes having proved futile, he returned to the Clay camp. Jackson may have had control of the House, but as stated in my last post, the Senate was up for grabs: The Senate of the 23rd Congress of the United States comprised 20 Jacksonian Democrats, 20 National Republicans and eight independent Southern senators, six who had departed the Jackson camp after the Nullification Crisis and South Carolina’s two nullifiers. With those eight, the anti-Jacksonians seized control of the Senate Committees in mid-December 1833. It is from this point that Professor Michael Holt (Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party) dates the party’s birth. [Cole, The Whig Party in the South, dates it to the spring of 1834. More on that later.] 

In the early winter of 1833-1834, Clay knew it would be his (new) allies in the South—represented by those eight independent Senators who had broken with Jackson and who had little use for the National Republicans—who would prove his vanguard in rescuing the government and public liberty from Andrew Jackson. But Clay wanted more from the South. With the poignant sense of history (sadly a subject Clay had little interest in) the new party kept the name the South Carolinians had revived during the Nullification Crisis and the “Whig” Party became the umbrella under which could gather all those opposed to Jackson and (a short time later) Van Buren and their effort to concentrate power under the executive branch [as opposed to the National Republican effort to concentrate government power in the hands of bankers and the manufacturing elite]. The irony is Calhoun and his South Carolinians never embraced the “Whig Party,” but remained independent (Forever nullifiers. You rock, South Carolina!)

But, back to the point, what I’m seeing is a principle dealing with the abuse of executive power against the legislative branch (the people’s representatives); therefore, the abuse was translated by those representatives as abuse against liberty. But Clay fell short of the beliefs held by his allies in the South, whose focus was on state rights. This was, and albeit this is me talking here, the keystone of our federal system. The division of powers between the three branches of the Federal government was to balance power between the executive, the legislative, and the judicial branches of the central government and nothing more. That division/separation had nothing to do with state rights and the threat that the executive/central government made against the state of South Carolina and her elected leaders, yet it was the state-rights issue that gave birth to the Whig Party and nominally gave Clay his Southern supporters. Once the Federal government—and its three branches—were in charge, superior to the states, as is the case today, who was going to rescue liberty from the government? Congress always had the tool to rein Jackson in: Impeachment. The House, held by his own Jacksonians, refused to bring the man to trial. The states had their sovereignty in all matters except the limited ones delegated to the central government.

The choice of the Southern name rather than the continuation of “National Republican” for the new party says a lot about what Clay had done. He’d pulled off a coup is what he did. He and his cohorts infiltrated a band of strict-constructionist state righters, took their name, gave lip-service to their republican principles, and housed their anti-republican American System there. If only the South and West had chosen, at that point, to stand alone.  

How, one asks, could this work? Well, I’m not convinced that it did...ever. Nevertheless, the Whig party did come into existence and the South played a big role within it. More importantly it played a big role in the South, one that’s never really, in my opinion, been done justice. Like so many things dealing with the South, her role in the foundation of the Whig Party and the founding principles to which the Southern faction devoted itself have been marginalized, leaving the primarily Northern National Republicans and their anti-republican American System representative of the Party’s principles. The result leaves the Southern Whig smelling worse, perhaps, than he should. I’ll continue with Southern Whiggery next time.

Thanks for reading,

Charlsie