Monthly Archives: December 2017

Favorite Civil War Novels

(December 30, 2017) H. W. (Bill) Brands is one of the most prolific authors of American History. I get the impression that he hopes to replicate in narrative form an accounting of our country’s history that resembles Gore Vidal’s seven volume American Chronicles series of novels. In fact he all-but-admits that Vidal’s work is a major influence. Moreover, one of his YouTube lectures describes how a ninth grade history class that relied entirely upon historical fiction for reading assignments ever after influenced his attitude toward teaching.

Henry William Brands

I also like well crafted and authoritatively researched Civil War fiction for two reasons.

First, it can provide insight into the daily lives of the participants. The characters are not merely names but instead stand up from the page and cast a shadow. Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind, for example, benefitted from the author’s personal links to people whose parents, grandparents and other relatives lived through the era. More recent successful novels rely upon memoirs, letters, and diaries. As Yale professor and boyhood refugee from Castor’s Cuba, Carlos Eire, puts it, “Show me history untouched by memories and you show me lies. Show me lies not based on memories and you show me the worst lies of all.”

Second, successful fiction requires originality, which is too often absent among American historians. Many academic historians, for example, have long been compelled to conform to politically correct interpretations in order to earn their PhDs. They are like the supercilious graduate student in the bar scene from Good Will Hunting who tries to humiliate Chuckie Sullivan (Ben Affleck) only to be put in his place by Will Hunting (Matt Damon) for merely reciting assigned history readings. The smug student retorts by commenting that Hunting will likely be working in a burger stand years later while he (the student) will probably be a prosperous Harvard graduate. Hunting replies, ” Yeah, may-bee, but at least I’ll be original.”

Provided below are my five favorite Civil War novels.

  1. Confederates by Thomas Keneally
  2. Lincoln by Gore Vidal
  3. Rifles for Waite by Harold Keith
  4. Woe to Live On (aka Ride With the Devil) by Daniel Woodrell
  5. The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara

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Presently Amazon and Barnes & Noble Online are out-of-stock of my latest book, Southern Reconstruction. Although my publisher has ordered a second printing, the production run will not be completed until next month.

Meanwhile, some physical Barnes & Noble stores do have them in stock. Go to this link, and click on the “Want it today? Check Store Availability,” which is in small print to the right of the picture cover. The link will prompt you to enter your zip code and afterward display a list of stores nearby and will also indicate which ones have Southern Reconstruction in stock. Some other independent physical stores may also have the title in stock.

Finally, both Amazon and Barnes & Noble have eBook versions available.

My Amazon Author Page

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Post-Bellum Republicans and the Southern Black Vote

(December 27, 2017) One of the reasons the Republican Party wanted ex-slaves to vote after the Civil War was because they knew that freedmen would vote Republican and thereby help the infant GOP hold onto power in Washington. Even though widely acclaimed for winning the Civil War, candidate Ulysses Grant only got 53% of the popular vote in the 1868 presidential election, which was the first one after the Civil War. If it had not been for Southern blacks Grant would have failed to win a majority of the popular vote, although he would have won the electoral vote. In other words, only a minority of whites voted for Grant.

Eight years later the situation had changed for two reasons.

First, the country was in the midst of its worst economic depression up to that time. Growing numbers of Republican and Northern voters concluded that the corrupt carpetbagger’s focus on lining his own pocket was choking the South’s economic recovery  to a point where it was also hindering America’s overall economy. Thus, the Party was willing to make a deal to manipulate the presidential votes one last time in order to get their man in the White House. The Republicans would disclose the insincerity of their merely rhetorical advocacy for blacks in a deal that would permit white Southerners to reagin control of the carpetbagger states.

Specifically, the Republicans would use the ballot-counting machine of Louisiana’s crooked carpetbaggers to steal the state’s electoral votes for “Rutherfraud” B. Hayes. In exchange, Hayes would remove federal troops from the three Southern states where they remained: Louisiana, South Carolina, and Florida. Hayes would also require that Southern  Democrats acquiesce to a switch in the electoral tallies for South Carolina and Florida from the Democratic column, where the original vote put them, into the Republican column. The switch would assure Hayes’s election by a single electoral vote. Although all three states had voter fraud on both sides, Hayes’s deal allowed the Republicans to pretend that the fraud was predominantly among the Democrats.

Second, the pragmatic Republican politicians of 1876 could foresee that the South’s black vote would become an unnecessary way of maintaining Republican control in Washington. They recognized that the established geographic population growth and migration patterns favored states with few blacks and otherwise populated by—or likely to be populated by—characteristically Republican demographics.

From 1860 to 1876 the electoral votes for the eleven states of the former Confederacy where blacks composed forty percent of the population increased from 88 to 95. By comparison, over the same period the electoral votes from the twenty-two states that remained Union-loyal during the Civil War where blacks composed less than five percent of the population increased from 215 to 260. Additionally, the Republican-dominated states of Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, and Colorado, which had not been permitted to vote in 1860, provided an additional 14 electoral votes to Hayes in 1876. All four had few black voters. In short, the states of the former Confederacy represented only 29% of the total electoral votes cast in 1876 as compared to 35% in 1860. Moreover, few blacks lived in the Northern and Western states holding 71% of the total electoral votes in the centennial year.

Finally, the next seven states to join the Union after 1876—North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah—were overwhelmingly white and generally Republican. Each of the seven, for example, sent two more Republicans to the United States Senate upon being admitted to the Union. Oklahoma would be the first decidedly Democratic state to join the union after the Civil War. That would not happen until 1907, which was thirty years after President Grant left office.* Thus, the practical Republican politician of 1875 realized that black votes would steadily decline in value in terms of retaining the Party’s control in Washington.

After 1876 the morality of racial equality would generally stand alone as the chief reason for politically supporting blacks, but its was evidently an insufficient cause for the typical nineteenth century Republican. For fourteen years after Hayes’s 1876 election the Party virtually ignored blacks until 1890 when Republican President Benjamin Harrison was approaching a tight race for reelection against Democrat Grover Cleveland in 1892. Harrison took the office away from Cleveland in 1888 with an electoral vote majority despite losing the popular vote. In order to help Harrison in the 1892 election Congressman Henry Cabot Lodge introduced a bill that would provide for federal supervision of elections in the South.

Democrats opposed the bill because they feared that Harrison-appointed federal supervisors might put their thumbs on the scale of Republican candidates. Thus, the Republican Party was prepared to make another deal that would throw blacks under the omnibus. Specifically, they abandoned Lodge’s elections bill in exchange for Democratic support of the McKinley Tariff, which was designed to protect Northern industries from foreign competition. The protected industries employed few blacks and had even fewer black owners. The average duty increase from 38% to 50% was almost entirely for the benefit of Northern whites.

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*Oklahoma was also the first state to be initially admitted after the Civil War with a significant minority population, which were Native Americans. In fact, the “Civilized Tribes” encompassing the Cherokee, Seminole, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Creeks located in the eastern half of the territory hoped to be admitted as a separate state. They planned to name it Sequoyah in honor of the originator of the Cherokee alphabet. Republican President Theodore Roosevelt blocked the plan. If Oklahoma were split into two separate parts, he reasoned, each part would likely  send two more Democrats to the U. S. Senate. That would give the former Oklahoma Territory four Democratic Senators instead of only two.

***

Presently Amazon and Barnes & Noble Online are out-of-stock of my latest book, Southern Reconstruction. Although my publisher has ordered a second printing, the production run will not be completed until next month.

Meanwhile, some physical Barnes & Noble stores do have them in stock. Go to this link, and click on the “Want it today? Check Store Availability,” which is in small print to the right of the picture cover. The link will prompt you to enter your zip code and afterward display a list of stores nearby and will also indicate which ones have Southern Reconstruction in stock. Some other independent physical stores may also have the title in stock.

Finally, both Amazon and Barnes & Noble have eBook versions available.

My Amazon Author Page

A Christmas Gift for 2017

(December 21, 2107) Since hardcover versions of my Southern Reconstruction book will be out of stock at Amazon and Barnes & Noble Internet stores until next month, even though a second production run has been ordered, provided below is a free copy of the first chapter titled, “Introduction.” This online version does not include the footnotes, which are available in the hardcover and e-book versions. (For a review of Southern Reconstruction by Publisher’s Weekly, click here.)

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Southern Reconstruction

Introduction

Partly because of a focus on racial injustices underscored by about four thousand lynches between 1882 and 1951, modern histories of Southern Reconstruction suffer two limitations. First, they tend to ignore, or minimize, how developments in one section of the country impacted those of the other. Second, they focus almost exclusively on race.

Regarding the first limitation, a valid picture of Reconstruction cannot be drawn without integrating the history of the Gilded Age in the North with that of Reconstruction in the South. The experience of Amos Akerman provides an example.

Akerman was one of Republican President Ulysses Grant’s five attorneys general. He served a little over a year, from November 1870 to December 1871. Born in New Hampshire, at age twenty-one, in 1842, he moved to Georgia, where he first worked as a tutor and later became a lawyer. Despite initially opposing secession, he remained loyal to the South and served as a Confederate quartermaster during the Civil War. He also functioned as a line officer during Union Major General William T. Sherman invasion of Georgia in 1864.

Akerman was the most vigorous of Grant’s attorneys general in prosecuting the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). In order to expedite prosecutions, he expanded the powers of the then newly created federal Justice Department. About six hundred Klan members were convicted. Although most received light sentences, sixty-five were imprisoned for up to five years at a federal penitentiary in Albany, New York.

Back Cover of Southern Reconstruction Book

Grant, however, may have revealed his secondary interest in racial justice when he abruptly asked Akerman to resign in December 1871. Partly at the prompting of Secretary of State Hamilton Fish, Grant had misgivings about Akerman’s “obsession” with the Klan. Perhaps more importantly, Akerman also frustrated important Northern capitalists. He was, for example, critical of the dubious terms under which railroads often qualified for federal subsidies. He may have suspected the long-festering Crédit Mobilier scandal that was a paragon of such corruption and would soon dominate the news. In June 1871, Akerman had denied land and bond grants to the Union Pacific Railroad, which had given Crédit Mobilier lucrative contracts to build the line when the railroad was unprofitable because of the inability of a partially completed line to generate much traffic in a sparsely populated territory. Crédit Mobilier allocated shares of stock—a genteel form of bribery—to influential politicians, including both of Grant’s vice presidents as well as a future president, James Garfield, who committed perjury when he denied it. (Grant’s second vice president, Henry Wilson, returned the stock and claimed to have endured a loss on the transaction.)

Shortly before resigning, Akerman confronted the previous attorney general, Ebenezer Hoar, when the latter was representing a railroad client’s land grant claims. Akerman told Hoar that the client had not completed work required to receive the grants. Nearly simultaneously, Interior Secretary Columbus Delano complained to Grant that Akerman had annoyed railroad moguls Collis Huntington and Jay Gould with rulings unfavorable to their interests. (After Grant left office and returned from a Worldwide tour he accepted at $25,000 cash gift from Gould.) Whether at the urging of Fish, Delano, or Hoar, Grant replaced Akerman with George Williams, who later resigned under bribery accusations, as did Delano.

Grant biographer William McFeely concluded that after Akerman’s resignation, “the finest champion of human rights in the Grant administration went home to Cartersville, Georgia, where he practiced law privately for only eight more years. He had given up on his native North and Northerners.”

Akerman correctly reasoned that Northerners were too preoccupied with the economic progress and growing wealth of the Gilded Age to be much concerned about racial equality. Following his resignation, he wrote Georgia’s Carpetbag governor, Benjamin Conley, “Even such atrocities as Ku-Kluxery do not hold their attention . . . the Northern mind being active and full of what is called progress runs away from the past.”

Significantly, Akerman was echoing a point that was increasingly obvious to Northerners outside of Washington. Six years earlier, in 1866, the editor of the Chicago Tribune wrote US Senator Lyman Trumbull of Illinois:

 “You all in Washington must remember that the excitement of the great contest is dying out, and that commercial and industrial enterprises and pursuits are engaging a large share of public attention . . . people are more mindful of themselves than of any philanthropic scheme that looks to making Sambo a voter, juror and office holder.”

 The same month that Akerman resigned, the Thirty-Ninth Congress reconvened, after a ten-month recess, under a cloud of suspicion that it was controlled by the railroad industry. One newspaper correspondent famously suggested that notices be nailed to the congressional doors stating, “The business of this establishment will be done hereafter in the offices of the Pennsylvania Railroad.” In addition to being the biggest railroad, the Pennsylvania was the also country’s largest corporation.

Akerman’s story also shows how political actions targeted at the South later boomeranged to impact developments in the North. Although urged to destroy the KKK, President Grant was wary of claims that he wanted to become a dictator by using stern federal powers to supersede the legal prerogatives of the individual states. One bill under congressional consideration that might be subject to such interpretation proposed to give the president the right to use the army to enforce court decisions and suspend the writ of habeas corpus. Nonetheless, reasoning that federal interdiction in local affairs was justified when tax collections and mail transportation were endangered, Grant threw his support behind the 1871 bill, which became known as the Ku Klux Klan Act.

Twenty-three years later, Grant’s logic for using federal power to protect the mails during the KKK crisis was applied to striking laborers. During the 1894 Pullman strike, workers disrupted train movements, particularly through Chicago. In response, President Grover Cleveland authorized armed federal troops to run the mail trains. When strikers attacked one regiment, the soldiers opened fire, wounding scores of people and killing about thirty. The strike was broken. Strikers were subjected to arrest and trials without jury.

The Fourteenth Amendment is another example of legislation presumably targeted at improving the civil rights of freedmen that rebounded to obstruct consumer and progressive interests by guarding the properties of powerful capitalists. The amendment characterized ex-slaves as “persons” and deemed them to be American citizens and citizens of the state in which they resided. All states were prohibited from abridging the rights of any “person,” which leveraged the Fifth Amendment declaration that no “person” could be “deprived of . . . life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” Twenty years after adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Supreme Court ruled in two late 1880s decisions that corporations were also “persons” whose property rights were protected by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Those two decisions sharply curtailed the powers of states to regulate railroads and other corporations.

Some of the Fourteenth Amendment’s authors evidently had such motives from the beginning. When Republican Ohio Congressman John Bingham wrote the “due process” clause, he composed it “word for word” to protect property rights as well as civil rights. Later, in 1882, when former US Republican Senator Roscoe Conkling of New York represented the Southern Pacific Railroad before the Supreme Court with objections to California taxes, he argued that as an architect of the amendment, he labored to word it in a way to protect both private property rights and black civil rights against the encroachments of state legislatures.

As noted above, the second limitation of current Reconstruction narratives is the virtually exclusive focus on race. To illustrate, the standard college text and currently most influential academic book about the era is Eric Foner’s Reconstruction, which concludes:

What remains certain is that Reconstruction failed and that for blacks its failure was a disaster. . . . If racism contributed to the demise of Reconstruction, by the same token Reconstruction’s demise . . . greatly facilitated the spread of racism. . . . An enduring consequence of Reconstruction’s failure [was that] the [politically Democratic] Solid South helped . . . weaken the prospects not simply of change in racial matters but of progressive legislation in many other realms.

 Foner fails to mention any lingering consequences affecting both Southern whites and blacks, even though whites represented 60 percent of the region’s population. Nonetheless, the harmful effects of Reconstruction were more substantial, multiracial, and protracted than commonly understood. One example is Southern poverty.

Nearly a century after the war, eight of the ten states with the lowest per capita income in 1960 were former Confederate states. Even 150 years later, in 2011, Virginia was the only Southern state to rank among the top ten in per capita adjusted gross income, whereas five of the lowest ten were other Confederate states. The classic example is Mississippi, which ranked number one in 1860 per capita wealth but was dead last at fiftieth in 2011 per capita income.

Although Southern poverty and cotton culture is commonly associated with blacks, in 1940 whites made up two-thirds of the region’s farmers who either rented their lands or were sharecroppers. According to a 1938 presidential economic report, about half of Southern white farmers were sharecroppers “living under economic conditions almost identical to those of Negro sharecroppers.” Shortly after the Great Depression began, the president of General Motors (Alfred P. Sloan) voluntarily slashed his annual salary from $500,000 to $340,000. His $160,000 cut was more than all the income taxes paid by the two million residents of Mississippi that year. Widespread Southern poverty led to lower life expectancies, principally because of poor diets and unaffordable medical care. In 1930, sixty-five years after the end of the Civil War, South Carolina was the only state with as much as half of its population under the age of twenty because its residents died earlier.

Memoirist Shirley Abbot, who grew up in Arkansas during the 1930s and ’40s, wrote of the period:

The words of President Roosevelt echoed in our heads—“one third of a nation ill-clothed, ill-fed, and ill-housed,” and we certainly knew which third he meant. We knew that we were poor, backward, behind . . .

 [As for local politicians] . . . it should be said that most of the post-Reconstruction South was run in [a] more or less . . . [despotic] fashion. In little towns like Hot Springs, the rule of law had not yet outpaced the rule of poverty or the southern code. People, black and white, were mostly poor, trying to survive in an economy that was still largely rural.

Abbott’s adulthood illustrates a persistent consequence of Southern poverty. After Arkansas taxpayers funded her public education, Abbott left to become a successful editor and writer in New York and Massachusetts, where she paid taxes to educate the children of those well-endowed states. For at least a century after the Civil War, one of the South’s greatest exports included some of its most capable people.

Contrary to Foner’s claim that Southerners resisted progressive movements, outside the realm of race relations, Southern Democrats championed some of the most progressive legislation of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Former Confederate Postmaster General John Reagan was an early proponent of federal railroad regulation after he became a US congressman in 1874. After Woodrow Wilson became the first president whose boyhood was in the South following the Civil War, he successfully promoted such measures as a graduated income tax, tariff rate reductions, the Federal Reserve System, the Farm Loan Act, and the Warehouse Act. Finally, the Populist movement originated in the South instead of in the Great Plains as is customarily supposed. Most Southern Populists, however, remained in the Democratic party.

In contrast, Republicans fostered some of the most regressive policies. For forty-five years, between the 1868 election of Grant as president and the inauguration of Democrat Woodrow Wilson in 1913, the Republicans held the White House over 80 percent of the time, the Senate over 90 percent of the time, and the House of Representatives almost two-thirds of the time. During that era, 90 percent of the money collected in the domestic economy was composed of excise taxes on liquor, beer, wine, and tobacco. There was no income-sensitive tax.

As for external tax revenue—customs duties—the Republicans consistently favored high protective tariffs, which were essentially a regressive sales tax on consumers. Furthermore, tariffs were the chief federal revenue source during the forty-five-year period. They were much larger than the taxes on the domestic economy that were collected by the Internal Revenue Service as opposed to the Customs Offices where the tariffs were collected. The Republican Party refused to reduce tariffs even when the Treasury reported surpluses every year from 1866 to 1893. Some surpluses were embarrassingly large, particularly toward the end of the era.

Instead of cutting taxes by lowering tariffs, Republicans spent the surplus extravagantly to win political support among favored constituencies. A prime example was the increasingly liberal Union veterans’ pensions. Most Southerners preferred lowering the tariff over spending the excess customs duties on Union veterans pensions, which grew to an astounding 40 percent of the federal budget in 1893. Before the surplus was consumed by the growing pensions, however, one sympathetic Northern senator sponsored an education-funding bill to apportion part of the surplus to the states based upon illiteracy rates. It would have particularly aided the South, where such rates were higher, income levels lower, and the school age share of population larger, but the bill never got out of the House of Representatives.

Furthermore, Northern attitudes toward racial equality were more obstructive than is usually assumed. They even provided a precedent that led to the separate-but-equal doctrine of the 1896 Supreme Court decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, which legitimized segregation for almost sixty years thereafter. Although the case involved a Louisiana incident, Justice Henry Brown of Michigan cited a Boston precedent upholding segregated schools. Six other justices joined him in the 7–1 decision. The lone dissenter was from Kentucky, while six of the seven justices voting with the majority were from states that were loyal to the Union during the Civil War.

Finally, Republican advocacy of African-American civil rights was diluted by a huge dose of self-interest. When the Civil War ended, the Republican Party was barely ten years old. It could be eclipsed, and possibly strangled in its cradle, if the readmittance of Southern states into the Union failed to be managed in a way that would prevent Southerners from allying with Northern Democrats to regain control of the federal government. With other things the same, the abolition of slavery would increase Southern congressional representation by fifteen members over the antebellum tally because of the obsolescence of the original constitutional provision restricting the counting of slaves to three-fifths of their number for purposes of a state’s congressional representation and electoral votes.

The historical facts reveal that Republicans were distressed about the consequences to their party if Southern states were promptly readmitted into the Union without Republican control over the method of readmission. Even before the war ended, a joint congressional resolution in December 1864 proclaimed that Arkansas and Louisiana—temporarily readmitted under a wartime Reconstruction plan by President Abraham Lincoln—were “not entitled to representation in the electoral college.” Historian Matthew Josephson concluded:

The resolution reveals how even in the winter of 1864-65 [before the war was over] the Republican Party leaders were secretly obsessed with once again becoming a minority Party. Even in the twenty-three United States, only 55% of the vote in the presidential election of 1864 had been Republican. The Democratic anti-war vote was thus a big minority. What, then, if eleven unregenerate States returned to constitutional relations with the Union? They assailed Lincoln on this ground; they would fall upon his successor, too, should his policies threaten or jeopardize the retention of power by the war party.

 If all representatives from the former Confederate states were admitted to the Thirty-Ninth Congress in December 1865, and each added member was a Democrat, the Republican majority in the Senate would have dropped from 43–9 and become 43–31. Similarly, the party’s majority in the House would have dropped from 152–40 and become 152–81. In short, the Republicans would have no longer held a veto-proof two-thirds majority in Congress.

Historians William Cooper and Thomas Terrill elaborate in their American South: A History:  “Republicans’ fears that the Democrats would regain their antebellum political dominance were not fantasies. The dominance of the Republican Party was not assured in 1865, and would not be until the 1890s. Only then were the Republicans able to control the White House and both houses of Congress consistently.”

Historian Arthur Schlesinger’s analysis of Republican motivations concluded, “The technique of ‘waving the bloody shirt’—meaning to advertise for a generation that ‘not every Democrat is a Rebel, but every Rebel is a Democrat’—enabled the Republicans to [direct Northern voter hatred toward Southerners] in order to long submerge the fact that they were becoming the party of monopoly and wealth.” Banker J. P. Morgan, who epitomized Gilded Age wealth, cogently observed, “A man always has two reasons for the things he does­—a good one and the real one.” Morgan was implying that the good reason is a false, benevolent explanation that conceals the real self-serving one.

If, for example, racial equality was the true objective of nineteenth-century Republican black suffrage advocacy, an explanation for why the party did not promote suffrage for Chinese immigrants is needed. The historical record provides no good explanation. Republican inconsistency between supporting black civil suffrage while ignoring Chinese-American suffrage likely results from the fact that Chinese exclusion attracted California voters to the Republican Party, whereas the inclusion of black voters transformed the Southern states from a Democratic voting block into a Republican one.

Beginning in 1882, the federal government responded to racist pressures from California and other Western states with laws that would help deny the vote to Chinese residents and reduce their numbers. The ’82 law was succeeded by additional measures—known collectively as the Chinese Exclusion Acts— that restricted immigration and denied citizenship to the Chinese. California used the acts, which were not repealed until 1943, to deny voting rights to Chinese people. The immigration restrictions effectively cut the number of Chinese in America from 105,000 in 1880 to 62,000 in 1920.

Nonetheless, most contemporary Reconstruction historians are too prone to accept the putative righteous explanations for Republican actions as opposed to the real ones. Conversely, they too readily apply sinister interpretations to the actions of Southern Democrats. Foner, for example, laments that the 1866 Georgia legislature appropriated $200,000 to aid “aged and infirm white persons,” including Confederate widows and orphans, while making no allowance for the dependents of deceased Union soldiers or aged and infirm blacks. He failed, however, to disclose four mitigating points.

First, although Georgia didn’t aid the survivors of fallen Union soldiers, neither did the Northern states aid the widows and orphans in their states who had husbands and fathers in the Confederate army.

Second, the federal government started paying increasingly generous Union veterans’ pensions in 1862. The former Confederate states individually paid much smaller pensions to Rebel veterans. Additionally, Southerners had to pay their share of federal taxes needed to fund the Union pensions. The annual disbursements did not peak until 1921 and trailed off only gradually for years thereafter. During the fifty years prior to 1917, the accumulated Union veterans’ pensions totaled over $5 billion, which was more than twice the amount spent by the federal and Northern state governments to fight the entire war.

Third, the 1866 federal Southern Homestead Act gave freedmen temporary preferential homesteading access to 46 million acres of Southern land. The Republican-dominated Congress, however, declined to provide blacks with preferential access to homesteads outside the South, although it was generous in providing land grants to railroads. The Northern Pacific Railroad, for example, would eventually receive so much federal acreage that it would approximate the size of the state of Missouri.

Finally, even Foner admits that the 1866 Georgia legislature reasoned that aid to blacks should at least temporarily be the responsibility of the federal government through its much better financed Freedmen’s Bureau, which chiefly targeted African-Americans. Emancipation was, after all, a national policy, which justified reliance upon national (i.e., federal) funding sources to pay for the needs of the ex-slaves.

The purpose of this book is to tell the story of Southern Reconstruction by transcending the limitations of a race-centric narrative and to more fully put the account into context with that of the rest of the country. Although racism has been a shameful characteristic and legacy of the era, there is a larger story to be told involving members of all races.

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Presently Amazon and Barnes & Noble Online are out-of-stock of my latest book, Southern Reconstruction. Although my publisher has ordered a second printing, the production run will not be completed before Christmas.

Meanwhile, some physical Barnes & Noble stores do have them in stock. Go to this link, and click on the “Want it today? Check Store Availability,” which is in small print to the right of the picture cover. The link will prompt you to enter your zip code and afterward display a list of stores nearby and will also indicate which ones have Southern Reconstruction in stock. Some other independent physical stores may also have the title in stock.

Finally, both Amazon and Barnes & Noble have eBook versions available.

My Amazon Author Page

After Black Troops Fought Against Black Troops

(December 19, 2017) As described in this earlier post, Black Militia fought against Black Militia in Reconstruction Arkansas during an episode called The Brooks-Baxter War. It resulted from a falling out within the Republican Party between two gubernatorial candidates in the 1872 election, Elisha Baxter and Joseph Brooks. (Since the carpetbagger government denied voting privileges to most ex-Confederates, the Democratic Party was unable to field a candidate that year.) The “war,” which killed as many as two hundred men, started in April 1874 when the two candidates called upon their followers to take up arms to settle the disputed election after eighteen months of indecisive legal maneuvers.

Much as he did in a similar 1872 disputed election in Louisiana, Grant chose a winner. Unlike in Louisiana, however, Arkansans welcomed presidential arbitration because they wanted an end to violence more than they cared whether it be Baxter or Brooks sitting in the governor’s chair. In May 1874 Grant chose Baxter but he would renege on the choice before year end. Among other factors, his reversal implied that the President may have been more interested in sustaining Republican Party control in the Southern states than he was in the integrity of those state governments.

Both Baxter and Brooks promised to help restore voting rights to former Confederates. Since the initial post-election court maneuvers favored Baxter he held office when  the 1873 legislature passed an amendment to the 1868 carpetbagger constitution that would permit most ex-Confederates to vote. Next, Baxter supported calls for a new constitutional convention in the summer of 1874 to replace the 1868 constitution. The October elections ratified the new constitution and chose Democrat Augustus Garland to replace Baxter as governor.

Not only did Grant oppose the new Garland regime, he objected to the 1874 constitution by citing a technicality in the 1868 constitution that he believed invalidated the new constitution. Moreover, during his annual message in December Grant flip-flopped on his own May arbitration that made Baxter governor.  Presently,  he implied that Baxter had no authority to call for a new constitutional convention because Brooks—not Baxter—was Arkansas’s legitimate governor. Grant’s true objection to the new constitution had more to do with its shift toward localism which would hinder the Republican Party’s ability to hold power by controlling all of the state’s election machinery remotely from the state capital in Little Rock.

Although Grant threatened to use federal troops to force his will on the state he was prepared to first await the recommendations of a House investigating committee headed by Vermont Republican Luke Poland. Early in February 1875 the Committee rejected Grant’s interpretation. It concluded that there was “no just reason” for the federal government to interfere in Arkansas’s state elections. The House of Representatives accepted the Committee’s majority report in a vote of 150-to-81. Even among Republicans support for Grant was divided. While eighty Republicans voted to support the minority report, sixty-five voted against it as did eighty-five Democrats.

Grant’s capricious reversal aroused suspicions, even among his own cabinet members. Secretary of State Hamilton Fish and Treasury Secretary Benjamin Bristow, for example, surmised that the President may have fallen under the influence of Arkansas’s prosperous carpetbagger senators. As railroad promoters, the two senators became enraged when Baxter refused to let private railroads repay debts owed to the state in company stock.

Sources: Ulysses S. Grant, Sixth Annual Message to Congress, December 7, 1874; Charles Calhoun, The Presidency of Ulysses S. Grant, 474-76; Thomas DeBlack, With Fire and Sword, 218; William Gillette, Retreat From Reconstruction, 144

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Presently Amazon and Barnes & Noble Online are out-of-stock of my latest book, Southern Reconstruction. Although my publisher has ordered a second printing, the production run will not be completed before Christmas.

Meanwhile, some physical Barnes & Noble stores do have them in stock. Go to this link, and click on the “Want it today? Check Store Availability,” which is in small print to the right of the picture cover. The link will prompt you to enter your zip code and afterward display a list of stores nearby and will also indicate which ones have Southern Reconstruction in stock. Some other independent physical stores may also have the title in stock.

Finally, both Amazon and Barnes & Noble have eBook versions available.

My Amazon Author Page

How Tariffs Contributed to the Civil War

(December 18, 2017) While most modern historians minimize tariffs as a cause of the Civil War they nearly always fail to consider three points.

First, instead of explaining why tariffs fell from 1846 to the eve of the Civil War in 1860, they merely point to the decline as a reason to deny that the South could have been much concerned about future tariff policy. Nonetheless, one reason American rates dropped was because Great Britain had convicingly demonstrated the prosperity that free trade could provide after she abolished nearly all agricultural tariffs in 1846 and thereafter became the World’s mightiest economy. A second reason was that Britain’s action cut the legs out from under domestic protectionists who had eternally pointed to English trade barriers to justify the perpetuation of high American tariffs.

Second, they ignore the ancient wisdom: “To the victor belong the spoils.” Specifically, after winning the war, the Northern states increased America’s tariff on dutiable items from 18% before the war to an average of 45% for almost fifty years after the war. Rates dropped only temporarily during President Wilson’s era and then shot back up when the Republicans regained control of the federal government during the Roaring Twenties. America did not move toward a free trade posture until after World War II when the destroyed economies of Europe and Asia were incapable of offering any competition. Realizing that the fortunes of war had this time left them with a near worldwide monopoly on manufactured goods the Northern states suddenly wanted every country to remove tariffs.

Third, while they eagerly proclaim that the Confederate Constitution specifically legalized slavery, they almost always fail to point out that it also outlawed tariffs designed to protect any domestic industry. The Confederates regarded such tariffs as form of government welfare for politically well connected industries.

James Bovard provides a good two-part analysis of America’s historical tariffs up to the early 1930s. The second part is pertinent to the Civil War era. The first part is available through a link at the top of the second part.

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Presently Amazon and Barnes & Noble Online are out-of-stock of my latest book, Southern Reconstruction. Although my publisher has ordered a second printing, the production run will not be completed before Christmas.

Meanwhile, some physical Barnes & Noble stores do have them in stock. Go to this link, and click on the “Want it today? Check Store Availability,” which is in small print to the right of the picture cover. The link will prompt you to enter your zip code and afterward display a list of stores nearby and will also indicate which ones have Southern Reconstruction in stock. Some other independent physical stores may also have the title in stock.

My Amazon Author Page

Confederate Statues and 21st Century Race Relations

(December 17, 2017) Provided below is an interview with Johnny C. Taylor who was the CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund—a charitable organization supporting historically black colleges and universities—during the past seven years. Justice Marshall, for example, graduated from Howard University, which was founded in 1867 by former Union General O. O. Howard who was also the university’s president for five years from 1869 – 1874.

Mr. Taylor’s remarks about Confederate Monuments start at the twenty-three minute and fifteen second mark.

***

Presently Amazon and Barnes & Noble Online are out-of-stock of my latest book, Southern Reconstruction. Although my publisher has ordered a second printing, the production run will not be completed before Christmas.

Meanwhile, some physical Barnes & Noble stores do have them in stock. Go to this link, and click on the “Want it today? Check Store Availability,” which is in small print to the right of the picture cover. The link will prompt you to enter your zip code and afterward display a list of stores nearby and will also indicate which ones have Southern Reconstruction in stock. Some other independent physical stores may also have the title in stock.

My Amazon Author Page