Monthly Archives: May 2017

Should Stanford University Change its Name?

(May 29, 2017) Was California Governor (later U. S. Senator) Leland Stanford—founder of Stanford University—sufficiently racist to justify dropping his name* from the university and destroying all publicly displayed memorials to him?

Consider Stanford’s remarks in his acceptance speech as the Republican Party’s gubernatorial candidate in 1859:

[T]he  cause in which we are engaged is one of the greatest in which any can labor. It is the cause of the white man…I am in favor of free white American citizens. I prefer free white citizens to any other race. I prefer the white man to the negro as an inhabitant to our country. I believe its greatest good has been derived by having all of the country settled by free white men.

Readers who might try to invent an excuse for Stanford by questioning whether he was speaking sincerely, or politically, should note that the nominee’s opinions were expressed impromptu because he added, “…I have not prepared any speech. I come here tonight without having framed in my own mind what I should say.”

Stanford’s chief reason for supporting the Republican Party on the eve of the Civil War was the Party’s support for a northern-route transcontinental Railroad, for which Stanford’s Central Pacific would become a prime beneficiary. The nominee clarified in the same acceptance speech, “We are in favor of the [northern-route transcontinental] Railroad…I am in favor of the railroad and it is the policy of this state to favor that party which is likely to advance their interests.”

About a month before President Lincoln issued the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862, Governor Stanford wrote, “The Republican Party early appreciated the real character of the political issues before the [American] people. Slavery was not the real issue…Our cause…is the maintenance of the Union.”

Although Stanford commented at least once that he was an “uncompromising” opponent of slavery, he made that statement during the second year of the Civil War. That was several months before he wrote his opinion above that “slavery was not the real issue” of the War. If, however, contemporary censors permit Stanford to salvage his reputation and legacy by changing his mind on slavery, it should be noted that they inconsistently deny the same privilege to Jefferson Davis who told Northern peace commissioners in July 1864, “We are not fighting for slavery. We are fighting for independence…”

If Stanford’s racism toward blacks is not sufficiently repellant to today’s selective censors, they may want to consider his racism toward Asian-Americans. In speaking as governor Stanford said:

“The presence of numbers of that degraded…people [Chinese-Americans] would exercise a deleterious effect upon the superior [white] race….To my mind it is clear that [Asian-American] settlement among us is to be discouraged by every legitimate means. Large numbers are already here, and unless we do something early to check their immigration, the question which of the two tides of immigration meeting upon the shores of the Pacific”—the Euro-American and the Asian—“shall be turned back, will be forced upon our consideration when far more difficult than now of disposal…”

Finally, if Stanford’s racism is an insufficient reason to justify removing his name from the university, politically correct zealots may wish to investigate the corruption and bribery that enable him, and his three partners, to advance the interests of the Central and Southern Pacific railroads…but that’s another story, and a good one.

* Although the school was actually founded in honor of his deceased son, the money came from the dad and they both had the same last name.

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Best of the Blogs (5-26-2017)

(May 26, 2017) Provided below are links to the best of the Civil War blog articles I read during the past week.

  1. “Yep, nothing says tolerance like tearing down somebody else’s monuments.”

2. A Vermont high school’s athletic teams are no longer permitted to be informally known as “The Rebels.”

3. A Jersey Girl Defends Robert E. Lee.

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Erroneously Equating Swastika and Confederate Flag

(May 23, 2017) Yesterday New York Times editorial writer Brent Staples equated the Nazi flag with the Confederate flag.  Mr. Staples evidently did not realize that some of the U.S. tanks that liberated the Nazi concentration camps flew the Confederate flag. He also apparently fails to realize that 40% of America’s soldiers today come from the South whereas only 15% are from the Northeast, or that the Confederate flag has accompanied American military forces in the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom. In fact, upon the U.S. entry into the First World War 10,000 aged veterans in Gray showed up in Washington to support the effort whereas only 3,000 veterans in Blue made the trip.

 

Mickey Mouse Harassment

(Mat 21, 2017) According to some experts copyrights last far too long because The Walt Disney Company regularly convinces the federal government to extend them in order to protect the Mickey Mouse trademark.

This is a problem for students of the Civil War Era because the works of many historians from 1923 to about 1970 are out of print and unavailable in the public domain. Moreover, historians of that period often came to different—sometimes contrary—conclusions to those of more recent authors. One example is the changing perspective on the Republican Party’s motivation for advocating black suffrage in the South after the Civil War. Earlier historians generally admit that the Party was probably as much concerned about using the voting block to retain power in Washington as it was in the intrinsic merit of racial equality. In contrast, modern historians generally minimize, or ignore, the political power factor.

Since many out-of-print books published between 1923 and 1970 remain under copyright  there is only a dwindling supply of used copies available. Some are in such short supply that the prices are painfully high. A good example is Philip S. Foner’s Business & Slavery: The New York Merchants and the Irrepressible Conflict. It was originally published in 1941 and the copyright was renewed in 1968. Since the renewal means it will not be out of copyright until 2036, the best price for a used copy at Amazon is $160.

There are two reasons that Philip Foner’s book should interest students of the Civil War.

First, he was Eric Foner’s uncle. Eric is one of the leading of present day Civil War Era historians who predominantly emphasize the centrality of slavery as the cause of the war. He often cites the protection of slavery in the “Declaration of Causes” for secession provided by five of the deep South states to make his point. Yet any declaration of secession causes fails to explain why the Northern states simply did not let the Southern states depart peaceably. If the Northern states wanted to be divorced from slavery, why not just let the South leave? Eric even admits that he does not know how to answer that question and further claims that no historian has been able to answer it.

The second reason uncle Philip’s book should interest us is its focus on the very question that his more famous nephew mostly ignores. In short, it argues that New York merchants had greater reason to be concerned about the adverse economic impact of Southern secession than with freedom for the slaves. Even after South Carolina seceded they urged Lincoln to compromise the Party plank intended to prevent the spread of slavery into the the territorial regions of the country, but Lincoln refused. In short, the chief reason the New York merchants chose to support the war was to avoid the economic consequences of Southern secession.

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The original 1790 Copyright Act provided for a 14-year term which was renewable for one additional 14-year term.  When Mickey Mouse came on the scene in 1928 copyright duration was 28 years with a 28 year renewal, which would have required his copyright to expire in 1984. Thus, in 1976 Congress overhauled the copyright act providing Mickey seventy-five years of protection until 2003. As the 2003 deadline approached a new copyright act was adopted in 1998 that gives Mickey protection until 2023.

The chart above from Art Law Journal indicates a correlation between Mickey’s copyright deadlines and periodic revisions to extend the deadlines for all copyrights.

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Radical Republican Racism

(May 19, 2017) Most modern historians give the post Civil War Republican Party a free pass on racism. They generally presume that the Party’s demand for black suffrage and civil rights in the South was motivated by the intrinsic morality of racial equality and pejoratively contrast it with the violent resistance such policies sometimes encountered from the region’s whites.

Earlier historians, however, more often explained that the Party also had a second agenda. Specifically, Republicans realized that they could lose control in Washington if the Southern states re-entered the Union without a significant Republican voting block, which almost certainly would have happened if whites dominated the Southern electorate. Thus, they reasoned, continued Republican control could be assured by imposing two federal actions. First was to create a Republican-loyal constituency out of the freed slaves, which accounted for 40% of the former Confederacy’s population. Second was to shrink the South’s opposing electorate by denying voting rights to many former Confederates.

The impact was almost immediate. In the 1868 presidential election Ulysses Grant would have lost the popular vote majority without Southern black votes, although he would have retained his Electoral College victory,

Current historians also applaud Reconstruction Era Republicans for creating and using federal powers—including the suspension of habeas corpus—against Southern whites suspected of intimidating and sometimes killing black and Republican voters in the region. They neglect, however, to mention that the Republicans failed to use those same powers to protect other racial minorities that were not solidly Republican. In fact, the Republican-sponsored 1866 Civil Rights Act and the three constitutional amendments of the era mostly ignored “non-white” American residents who were not black. One of the most abused among such groups were the Chinese-Americans.

Two thirds of the lynching victims in California between 1850 and 1900 were Asians. The biggest such episode occurred in Los Angeles in 1871 when nineteen were lynched, including one woman. While modern biographers applaud President Grant for enforcing the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act in the South, they neglect to mention that his Administration failed to apply the Act to the Los Angeles lynching where the perpetrators were white Californians.

Another incident occurred in Eureka, California fourteen years later. After a white man was killed in the crossfire between two quarrelling Chinese in 1885 the city forcibly removed all of its Chinese residents in 48 hours. Over three hundred were hurriedly loaded onto two ships that happened to be in the harbor and told never to return. There can be little doubt that massive bloodshed would have resulted if the Asian immigrants had resisted.

When the Chinese-Americans sued for damages in 1886 the California Federal Circuit Court ruled in Wing Hing v. City of Eureka that the Asians were not entitled to any recompense because tax records showed that they owned little property and what they did own was “probably worthless.” Nearly all the Asians were renters because the Eureka’s whites refused to sell them real estate.

Although there were far fewer lynching in California than in the South, the number of Chinese-Americans in the state never topped 10% and few were permitted to vote until well into the twentieth century. In fact, they could not become naturalized citizens until 1943 when a bill sponsored by a Southern Democrat in the Senate became law. It is frightening to imagine the amplification of white violence against Chinese-Americans that might have resulted in California if the Asian immigrants had been permitted to vote while representing as large a share of the population as the 40% that blacks did in the South.

The 1870 Naturalization Act is another example of how the infant GOP deliberately excluded civil rights to racial minorities that were not part of the Republican-loyal Southern black voting block. The Act guaranteed blacks the right to become naturalized citizens and, as such, to own property. If it had included other “non-white” immigrants many of Eureka’s Chinese-Americans could have been property owners, entitled to recompense after their banishment. The 1870 Act was sponsored by two New York Republicans, in the Senate and House respectively. It passed 33-to-8 in the Senate and 132-to-53 in the House and was signed by President Grant. In 1878 a California Federal Circuit Court specifically ruled in In re Ah Yup that Chinese-Americans could not become naturalized citizens.

Since Californians recognized that the Fourteenth Amendment would automatically bestow citizenship on the offspring of Chinese-Americans born in the USA, they took three actions to minimize such possibilities.

First they persuaded Congress to pass the 1875 Page Act that basically blocked Chinese women from immigrating at a time when the great majority of Chinese in America were males. Second, in 1905 California passed a miscegenation law, which prevented Chinese and white intermarriage. Third, despite the results of the Civil War, the state’s Supreme Court ruled in People v. Brady (40 Cal. 198 – 1870) that the Fourteenth Amendment did not apply to California because it was a “sovereign state.” California basically nullified, with impunity, a part of the U. S. Constitution that it did not like.

Next came a series of federal Chinese Exclusion Acts designed to reduce the number of Asian residents. The first, in 1882, stopped Chinese immigration for a decade. Seven years later the Republican-dominated U. S. Supreme Court ruled that it was constitutional. The 1892 Geary Act extended the exclusion for another decade. In 1904 the exclusion acts were made permanent. In 1925 even the Chinese wives of American citizens were denied entry into the United States. As the accompanying table illustrates, the Exclusion Acts sharply reduced the growth of Chinese-Americans, which as late as 1950 represented less than 2% of California’s population.

There is no denying that much of the hostility toward Chinese-Americans came from the white laboring classes of the Democratic Party that competed for employment with the Asian immigrants. Thus, the Democratic Party platforms during the presidential elections of 1876, 1880, 1884, 1888, and 1892 contained planks supporting limits on Chinese immigration. Nonetheless, the Republican Party platforms of 1882, 1884, and 1888 also included planks supporting Chinese immigration limits.

The key difference is that the GOP limited its concern for minority suffrage and civil rights to Republican-loyal black voters and largely ignored the plight of other “non-white” minorities. As a result, it is difficult to conclude that Republicans were genuinely interested in minority rights, except for the solitary minority that would help keep the Party in power. Such a conclusion changes the complexion of the currently dominant Reconstruction interpretation that minimizes Republican Party self-interest.

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Best of the Civil War Blogs (5-18-2017)

(May 18, 2017) Provided below are links to selected Civil War and Reconstruction articles and one audio interview that I enjoyed I during the past week.

1. Although Jefferson Davis is often miss-characterized as tyrannical compared to Lincoln, this Civil War Talk Radio interview documents that, unlike Lincoln, he never interfered with a free press in the Confederacy, no matter how much the Fourth Estate criticized him.

2. The Cotton Boll Conspiracy blog documents that a number of blacks who joined Wade Hampton’s Red Shirts in a successful effort to oust South Carolina’s carpetbag government in 1876, were not only appreciated by their white colleagues, but even honored.  As a matter of interest, when I once tried a year or so ago to edit the Wikipedia article about South Carolina’s 1876 election to include this matter, it was repeatedly erased by anonymous Wikipedia administrators that would not tolerate any mention of blacks being part of the Red Shirts.

3. On his Facebook page, Grant Under Fire author Joe Rose posts this video from the campus of Texas Tech University. 

 

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