Monthly Archives: August 2017

New book ponders long-lasting effects of Reconstruction

The Cotton Boll Conspiracy

If social media has a redeeming quality, it may be the ability to learn the unvarnished truth regarding the true feelings of others.

Within the past month I’ve come across numerous comments in the middle of Facebook conversations that were startlingly narrow-minded, yet because they singled out a group deemed OK to bash, no one uttered a peep.

The first came in early July, amid debates concerning the South’s ongoing educational deficiencies, specifically the overall low ranking many Southern states register on nationalized tests. Within a short time, the cause was identified solely as “Jim Crow.” Finally, one individual, located in the Northeast, stated bluntly, “I hate Southern white males.”

A second conversation dealt with the threat of radical Islam within the US. One individual countered that he had been to Islamic countries and that the Deep South, for example, was “way scarier” than Indonesia “in his experience.”

This individual…

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President Grant’s Bad Start

(August 27, 2017) Although most modern biographies attribute the Grant Administration’s reputation for corruption to venal advisors who took advantage of the President’s innocent naivety, they tend to ignore early examples of Grant’s own dubious conduct that set low ethical standards for others in his Administration to follow.

One incident was the sale of his “I” Street residence in Washington shortly before he moved into the White House on the March 4, 1869 inauguration day. He had purchased the four-story structure only three years earlier for $30,000 with part of a $100,000 purse raised on subscription for him by wealthy New Yorkers arranged by former General Daniel Butterfield. His wife, however, was angry about the sale because she anticipated the home would be their permanent residence after Grant’s presidency ended. She also seemed to be annoyed at the $40,000 sales price.

In response, at Grant’s urging, Butterfield and Treasury Secretary designee Alexander Stewart led a subscription to buy the furnished house for General William T. Sherman at a price of $65,000. Once the money was raised, Grant repudiated his written agreement with the first buyer, pocketed the $35,000 profit, and in July would appoint Butterfield as an Assistant Treasurer in the Department’s vital New York City sub-treasury office where he would soon become involved in the Administration’s first major scandal. Although Grant returned his $1,000 deposit, the first buyer of the home felt cheated and threaten to embarrass the President with a breech of contract suit during Grant’s second election campaign in 1872.

Grant set a second bad example of taking a genteel form of bribery when he accepted a vacation home as a gift only a few months after becoming President. During his first six months in office he spent at least two months on vacation. One of his favorite spots was the seaside village of Long Branch, New Jersey where seven donors bought him a $35,000 “cottage.” The “cottage” had twenty-seven rooms.

One of the donors owned a Philadelphia newspaper and another owned the Pullman Company, which manufactured railroad cars. Grant appointed a third donor, Thomas Murphy, to the notoriously lucrative and corrupt post of New York’s Customs Collector. Even when he was in his White House office he worked only an estimated four hours daily. He was on vacation when the Administration’s first big scandal was hatched and on another vacation when it climaxed.

In sum, the notorious corruption during Grant’s Presidency appears to be foreshadowed early in his Administration by the President’s own disreputable conduct, which seems to underscore what everyone learned as a child, “Followers are guided by what their leaders do, not what they say.”

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Sources: Joseph Rose, Grant Under Fire; Ron White, American Ulysses; William McFeely, Grant; William Hesseltine, Grant the Politician

Confederate Monument Motivation

(August 26, 2017) Today’s post is provided by Dr. Michael Bradley who earned his PhD at Vanderbilt and taught history at Tennessee’s Motlow College for thirty-six years before retiring eleven years ago.

One point demonstrating Republican Party racism in the 19th and early 20th Centuries that Bradley fails to mention is the treatment of Asian-Americans. As explained in my earlier post, the Party had no interest in promoting racial equality for Asian-Americans because the minority could not be counted upon to be a reliable GOP voting block. That is one reason their rights under the Fourteenth Amendment were ignored and they were not even permitted to become naturalized citizen until 1943.

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In the ongoing debate over Confederate statues, memorials, and markers one of the charges advanced by those favoring their removal is that these objects are reminders of white supremacy and that the motive for erecting them was to reinforce Jim Crow laws. It is pointed out that many of them were erected in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries when legal segregation being developed and enforced.

The academic research on which this conclusion rests is represented by the work of W. Fitzhugh Brundage, Where these Memories Grow, Jumpin’ Jim Crow edited by Dailey, Gilmore,and Smith, and a Karen Cox’s, Dixie’s Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture.

Each of these books argues that the groups who erected Confederate monuments believed in, and supported, white supremacy. The authors offer quotes from publications and speeches made by such groups to support their argument. They show, quite conclusively, that belief in white supremacy was widespread among the members of such groups.

From such evidence today’s anti-statue crowd concludes that the monuments themselves represent white supremacy. The statues, they argue, cannot be separated from the beliefs of their creators. Having introduced this idea into the debate, however, the anti-monument mob should face the one-ton gorilla standing just behind them. Specifically, the people who erected Union monuments believed the same thing.

For example, David Blight’s Race and Reunion admits that the Union veterans were not particularly interested in promoting the cause of racial equality. By the early 20th Century they agreed that the South fought for states rights and the North fought to preserve the Union. As Blight editorially condensed the interpretation at the time, “The cause of the Confederacy had been states’ rights without slavery, and the cause of the United States had been union without freedom.”

This is why one never sees a monument to Union troops which proclaims that the soldiers fought to end slavery. Instead, they all say that their struggle was to preserve the Union.

What did the North do to show they believed in white supremacy? When the 14th Amendment, guaranteeing citizenship regardless of race, was submitted to the states for ratification New Jersey, Oregon, Ohio, California, and Kentucky voted “no”, or voted “yes” only to rescind their affirmative vote. California did not ratify the 14th Amendment until 1959, Oregon in 1973, Kentucky in 1976, and New Jersey and Ohio in 2003.

Moreover, the area which formed the states from Iowa to the Rockies were settled only by white people because the 1863 Homestead Act did not allow people of color to receive free federal land.

Prominent leaders from northern states, such as U.S. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, from Massachusetts, endorsed white supremacy. Lodge described his concern for immigration by complaining that, “the immigration of people removed from us in race and blood is on the rise.” He also said “On the moral qualities of the English-speaking race, therefore, rest our history, our victories, and all our future. There is only one way in which you can lower those qualities or weaken those characteristics, and that is by breeding them out. If a lower race mixes with a higher in sufficient numbers, history teaches us that the lower will prevail.” Yet a statue of Senator Lodge stands unmolested on the grounds of the state capitol in Boston.

The notorious KuKluxKlan of the 1920’s echoed Lodge’s concerns. This movement was characterized by opposition to Jews, Catholics, and immigrants and it found a warm welcome in northern states. Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Kansas were Klan strongholds and the organization flourished in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington.

Given contemporary claim is that monuments represent the ideology of those who erected them, then critics should admit that Union monuments are just as much dedicated to white supremacy as are Confederate ones. If Confederate monuments are seen as a way of telling African Americans “stay in your place” then Union monuments must be seen as a way of saying “we don’t care about you and never did.”

If being erected during the period of Jim Crow is evidence of racism what do we say to the fact that the Robert Gould Shaw monument, honoring both Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts, was unveiled in 1896, the year the Supreme Court handed down the Plessy v Ferguson decision? (Editor Note: Only one Southern justice voted with the seven-to-one majority in this case.) The Union Soldiers and Sailors monument in New York City was erected in 1902 and the Union monument at St. Paul, Minnesota, went up in 1903, all of them dedicated during the period of Jim Crow.

Perhaps the scholars have got it wrong. Clearly, white people in the 19th and early 20th Centuries did believe themselves to be superior; Europeans felt the same way. But is it possible that the monuments were motivated by a desire to remember family and neighbors who had engaged in a fierce struggle which was divisive but which should now be put behind? Is it possible that these monuments were meant to say “we remember our own”? Is the history of Civil War memory is the late 19th and early 20th Century the “Age of Jim Crow” or is it the “Age of Memorialization”?

The Americans—North and South—who erected these monuments did not choose to remember everything but they did something positive in remembering family and friends. But if one chooses to condemn some of them, one must condemn all of them because the racial beliefs of those who erected them were identical.

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Does Google Cheat on Search Results?

(August 21, 2017). Yesterday a forty-year-old friend of a FaceBook friend opined that Confederate monuments should be removed because most of them were erected during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s to emphasize the South’s hostility to racial integration. Since I was a youth in the South during that period I told him that nearly all the monuments I saw then, and even earlier when I was a boy, were already old. In truth, most  Rebel statues were erected in the early 20th century and nearly all by 1950.

My FaceBook interlocutor told me I was wrong, which I could prove to myself by “Googling it.”

I replied that continuing a dialog with him was not worth a grown man’s time.

Unfortunately, it does appear that Google is “doctoring” their search results, evidently to conform to a social or political agenda. Earlier today I Googled the term, “American Inventors.” The surprising results—for those arranged by their photos—are summarized in the table below.

The same Google search for “American Inventors” among users living in Spain, however, does not get impacted by the algorithm used for the above results. Thus, Spanish Google users more often get names like Henry Ford, Cyrus McCormick, Thomas Edison, Jonas Salk, Alexander Graham Bell, Nikola Tesla, Lee DeForest, Philo Farnsworth, George Eastman, Orville Wright, Wilbur Wright, Samuel Morse, Joseph Henry, Robert Noyce, Chester Carlson, William Shockley, Eli Whitney, Robert Fulton and etc.

While I applaud the accomplishments of the African-American inventors listed in the table above, I am skeptical that their preponderance in the listings represents the best results for the simple search term, “American Inventors.”

Google should be ashamed to misrepresent history in this manner, especially since they claim as their corporate motto, “Don’t be evil” as a code of conduct.

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NPR-PBS Poll: Americans Want Confederate Statues to Remain

(August 20, 2017) A poll commissioned by National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting System taken after the Charlottesville riots discloses that only about one-in-four American voters want Confederate statues to be taken down. The poll results are summarized in the graphic below.

 

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