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.

 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. 



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, 




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.

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,