Monthly Archives: September 2019

How ex-Rebels Lost the Vote During Reconstruction

(September 29, 2019) After the Civil War a veto-proof Republican Congress used two methods to impose puppet regimes in the former Confederate states without interference from President Andrew Johnson. First was to require universal black male suffrage. Second was to deny voting rights to the Southern white classes most likely to oppose Republican rule. Estimates on the number of whites disfranchised vary widely. Eric Foner of Columbia University put’s it at merely 8,000 – 10,000 but his estimate is far too low for two reasons. First, his research characteristically focuses on blacks to the near exclusion of whites. Second, his estimate is based only upon one method of white disfranchisement involving disqualifications stipulated in the Fourteenth Amendment. He disregards the actions of Republican-controlled Southern legislatures and bias among the registrars compiling Southern voter registration rolls under the 1867 Reconstruction Acts.

From December 1863 to April 1865, Reconstruction proceeded under President Lincoln’s guidance. After he died, President Johnson attempted to follow in Lincoln’s footsteps. But in March 1867 congressional Radical Republicans took charge. The plans of both Lincoln and Johnson permitted the typical ex-Confederate soldier to vote, although those who had participated in the Confederate government were excluded. Neither Lincoln or Johnson required that the former Confederate states adopt black suffrage, although both suggested to Southern leaders that their states should permit black Union veterans and property owners to vote. None did at the time.

After March 1867 Congress required that all former Confederate states except Tennessee form conventions to write new constitutions. (Tennessee was excepted because it was already controlled by a Republican vassal government.) Each state had to form new voter registration lists. Military occupation commanders usually selected registrars from among the minority of Southerners who opposed the region’s former political leaders.  Consequently, registrars eagerly registered blacks but might arbitrarily disqualify whites even when the whites claimed to have met the conditions of the Fourteenth Amendment. There was no appeal to a registrar’s decision.

The power of biased registrars to disfranchise former Confederates far beyond the modest estimates of Eric Foner and his followers is ignored by modern historians. Nonetheless, prior to the politically correct interpretations that have dominated Reconstruction-era history during the last 30 – 40 years, researchers had long known of it as evidenced by William Russ’s “Registration and Disfranchisement Under Radical Reconstruction”:

As the New York Evening Post said on April 4, 1867: “The work of registering is of greatest importance. It is the foundation on which is to rest the whole work of reconstruction.” Since this was true, the first task, and a difficult one, was to secure loyal Unionist registrars who could be depended upon to interpret the laws as the radicals wished.

The registration results summarized below show that blacks composed half, or more, of the voters in six of the ten states. (They had already approached a majority in Tennessee in 1866 when the state adopted black suffrage.) By comparison, the previous 1860 official census revealed that blacks composed a majority of the population in only two states. There were, however, two reasons that ex-Confederates lost control in the six states noted above. In addition to disfranchisement during voter registration, some whites that could have qualified as voters boycotted the process out of protest.  Although nobody can know the proportional impact of the boycott or disfranchisements, white exclusions and black suffrage allowed Republican coalitions win elections in every Southern state except Virginia.

After their Republican-dominated legislatures went into session, some states with a minority of black voters further denied voting rights to ex-Confederates through legislative action. Typically they required a voter applicant to affirm by oath that he had never supported the Confederacy. In Arkansas, for example, votes cast in the 1868 presidential election totaled 41,000 but increased to 97,000 in the 1876 elections after ex-Confederates were once again voting. Thus, Arkansas’ white disfranchisement totaled about 56,000. The figures were larger in Tennessee where legislative disfranchisement happened earlier. Tennessee votes cast in 1857 before the Civil War were 131,000 as compared to only 24,000 in 1865, which was a year before the state allowed blacks—but not ex-Rebels—to vote.  Thus, white disfranchisement in the Volunteer State totaled about 106,000.

By 1877 all but a handful of former Confederates had regained voting rights. Gradually, the national Republican Party concluded that the corrupt Carpetbag regimes were delaying the region’s economic recovery thereby partially impeding a rebound from America’s 1873 – 1878 depression. Republicans also realized they no longer needed Southern votes to control the federal government due to Party’s popularity within the rapidly growing Northern states that benefitted from its mercantile economic polices and among the frontier states being admitted to the Union. All of the first ten new states to join the Union after the Civil War, for example, initially had two Republican senators until Oklahoma’s admission in 1907.

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To learn about Republican mismanagement of Reconstruction consider reading:

U. S. Grant’s Failed Presidency by Philip Leigh

Keep Andrew Jackson on the $20 Bill

(September 26, 2019) My article below about Andy Jackson was published by The Hill earlier today.

Six Reasons to Keep Andrew Jackson on the $20 Bill

Toward the end of the Obama Administration the Treasury Department recommended that President Andrew Jackson’s portrait on the $20 bill be replaced with one of Harriet Tubman, who was a black leader in the underground railroad. While Tubman’s activities may merit recognition on another bill, she should not replace Jackson because his contributions did far more to shape America’s destiny.

First, Jackson was the first commoner to become President after a string of six aristocrats. His 1828 inauguration was unprecedented. Ten thousand commoners attended, many from the West and South. According to eyewitness Margaret Bayard Smith the crowd that followed him from the Capitol to the White House was composed of, “Country men, farmers, gentlemen. . . women and children, black and white.” The White House was opened to all, including blacks. Smith concluded, “It was the People’s day, and the People’s President, and the People would rule.”

(Owing to their copyright, readers must finish the article at The Hill’s website here.)


Misrepresenting the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act

(September 23, 2019) Acolytes of historians Eric Foner and James McPherson often misinterpret the federal 1850 Fugitive Slave Act, which they consider an example of the South’s readiness to ignore states’ rights when it served the region’s interests. In reality, when Northern states flouted the law by falsely standing on the principle of states’ rights, they set an example of federal defiance that the South would later use to justify secession. To understand the controversy, begin with the 1789 Constitution.

The Constitution would never have been adopted unless it contained provisions to prevent slaves from escaping “slave” states as a way to obtain freedom in “free” states. Thus, Article Four, Section Two reads in part: “No [slave from one state] . . . escaping into another shall . . .  be discharged . . .[as a slave], but shall be delivered up . . . [to the slaveowner.]” Although the exact language is more wordy, the meaning is clear: Runaway slaves must be returned to slaveowners.

Senator Henry Clay (Lincoln’s Role Model) Proposing the 1850 Compromise

Four years later the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 strengthen the Constitution’s fugitive slave clause. The ’93 Act authorized local governments to seize and return escaped slaves and penalized anyone who aided in their flight. Gradually select Northern states defied the ’93 Act by passing state laws that might imprison any slave-catcher that came into the state. Eventually the Supreme Court got involved. In the 1842 Prigg v. Pennsylvania eight-to-one decision the Court ruled that such state laws were unconstitutional. However, it also ruled that no state could be compelled to devote legal resources to enforce slave-catching. This necessitated a new law that would provide a federal apparatus for enforcement, partly because the alternative circuit courts would likely become overloaded with fugitive slave cases. Absent such changes, catching runaways would default to a private operation with, at best, sporadic regulatory oversight.

Consequently, the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law came into existence as part of the Compromise of 1850, which had two key provisions. First, it admitted California as a “free” state thereby shifting the power balance in the Senate to the “free” states. In contrast to the House of Representatives where the “free” states had long held a decisive numerical advantage, prior to California’s admission the Senate was evenly split between “free” and “slave” states, 15-to-15. California’s addition was a major Southern concession since four years later Oregon also joined as a “free” state, further tipping the Senate power balance to 17-free and 15-slave.

The second major part of the 1850 Compromise was the 1850 Fugitive Slave  Act, which was specifically designed to form the federal enforcement mechanism necessitated by Prigg v. Pennsylvania. The new Act required the federal circuit courts to appoint special commissioners to manage the process. Slave-catchers had to gain the applicable commissioner’s approval before returning a captured slave. Commissioners decided whether the captured person was an escaped slave, or free black. If judged to be a free black the captive was set free and if judged to be an escaped slave he (or she) was returned to the slaveholder. The extra paperwork required to return a runaway earned commissioners a $10 fee whereas they otherwise got $5.

Northerners soon reneged on the 1850 Compromise. In a number of instances mobs almost immediately defied the law during the capture and return processes. Eventually eight Northern states also passed personal liberty laws that penalized anyone who helped a slave-catcher.  They again invoked states rights as their authority even though such rights were only reserved for factors not enumerated in the Constitution. But the right to regain a runaway slave was explicitly stated in the Constitution. Even the legendary Massachusetts Senator Daniel Webster recognized the constitutional responsibility for the “free” states to comply when he addressed the Senate in 1850: “It is my judgement that the South is right . . . And the North is wrong. . . Every member of every northern legislature is bound by oath . . . to support the Constitution . . .  which says to these states that they shall deliver up fugitives . . . No man fulfills his duty in any legislature who sets himself up to find excuses, evasions, [and] escapes from this constitutional obligation.”

Due to such deliberate “excuses, evasions, and escapes,” by 1854 the Fugitive Slave Act was unenforceable in many parts of the country. Six months after the Supreme Court ruled against the personal liberty laws in 1859, Abraham Lincoln admitted to an Ohio audience, “We must not withhold an efficient fugitive slave law, because the constitution demands it.”

By then, however, some Northern states had gone too far. They  invoked nullification theory to justify their continued defiance even though Northerners derisively rejected nullification when South Carolina relied upon it some twenty years earlier in a tariff dispute. Consequently, the South lost faith that the North could be trusted to abide compromises and was instead set on gaining economic domination. As John C. Calhoun had warned over a decade earlier, by 1861 seven Cotton States concluded that Northern mendacity left self-determination as the only option to economic marginalization.

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How did Lee’s Maryland Campaign lost dispatch get lost?

Lee’s Lost Dispatch & Other Civil War Controversies by Philip Leigh

Northern Response to Southern Secession

(September 22, 2019) Most modern Civil War historians cite some of the Cotton State secession documents as “proof” that the Civil War was chiefly about slavery. As documented here, at least four of the initial seven Confederate states that seceded before President Lincoln’s April 15, 1861 call for 75,000 troops to coerce them back into the Union cited slavery as an important reason for secession. The additional four upper-South states of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas seceded only after Lincoln’s call for troops.

Most of today’s historians, however, make three errors in judging the secession Declaration of Causes as “proof” that the war was all about slavery. First, they ignore the fact that the four upper-South states with half the white population of the eleven-state Confederacy only seceded after Lincoln forced them to choose between invading the sovereignty of the Cotton States, or fighting to prevent the invasion. They had remained Union-loyal while the Cotton States were seceding because they concluded that their own secession was unnecessary to protect their rights. Second, the historians fail to consider the reasons mentioned in the corresponding general assembly resolutions of Northern states in response to Southern secession.  Third, they equate the reasons for secession with the reasons for the war, even though secession need not have led to war.

Regarding the second point, the general assemblies of at least the ten Northern (free) states listed below passed resolutions opposing secession. None sought to end slavery. New Jersey even recommended the Crittenden Compromise, which would have forever protected slavery from federal action. The main goal of the resolutions was to avoid disunion, which generally led the ten states to regard secession as “treason” or “rebellion.” Since none wanted to end slavery, it is illogical to argue that the war was all about slavery merely because some of the first seven seceding Cotton States considered secession a way to protect slavery.

Free States With General Assembly Resolutions Against Southern Secession
(January-February 1861)
(None wanted to end slavery)

  1. Indiana
  2. Maine
  3. Massachusetts
  4. Michigan
  5. Minnesota
  6. New Jersey
  7. New York
  8. Ohio
  9. Pennsylvania
  10. Wisconsin

Regarding the third point, the reason why there is not necessarily an equivalency between secession and war is because the North could have let the South leave in peace. There was no danger that the South would militarily invade the North. In fact, many Republican and Democrat Northern leaders were prepared to at least acquiesce to Southern secession. Examples include George McClellan, Horace Greeley and Edwin Stanton, Lincoln’s future War Secretary.

Significantly, the resolutions from Northern states above show that they would fight to “preserve the Union.” The cited reasons, such as the “freedom,” “prosperity” and “happiness” allegedly enabled by the Federal Union, are vague abstractions that may be mere obfuscations designed to camouflage a real goal to avoid the economic consequences of disunion.

A truncated Union separated from its Southern states, for example, would likely face two significant economic problems.

First, it could not hope to maintain a favorable balance of payments. The salve states accounted for about 70% of America’s exports on the eve of the Civil War. Thus, without the South’s export economy, America might become a perpetual debtor nation forever at the mercy of its stronger trading partners that would deplete her gold supply in order to settle the persistent trade imbalances.

Second, since the Confederate constitution outlawed protective tariffs, her lower tariffs would confront the remaining states of the abridged Union with two consequences. First, since ninety percent of Federal taxes came from tariffs, the government’s revenue loss would be sizable. Articles imported into the Confederacy from Europe would divert tariff revenue from the North to the South. Second, and more importantly, a low Confederate tariff would induce Southerners to buy manufactured goods from Europe as opposed to the Northern states where prices were artificially inflated by protective tariffs. Tariffs in 1860 amounted to $54 million, but the import-protected goods and trading revenues in the North associated with Southern trade totaled $200 – $400 million (Southern Wealth & Northern Profits Kettell).

If modern historians had taught students about the anti-secession resolutions from the Northern states together with the secession cause declarations, the true difference between the two regions would be more discernible. The South wanted self-determination and peace whereas the North wanted economic hegemony.

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To learn how the Confederacy nearly won its independence during the six months from June to December 1862, consider reading:

The Confederacy at Flood Tideby Philip Leigh


Indiana: Laws of the State of Indiana, (J. P Chapman, 1861), 188
Maine: State of Maine Website
Massachusetts: History of the 5th Massachusetts, p. 29
Michigan: Acts of the Michigan Legislature, 1861, p. 579
Minnesota: Journal of the Senate of Missouri, 1861, p. 194
New Jersey: Journal of the Assembly of New York, 1861, p. 231
New York: Revised Statutes of New York, 1863, p. 107
Ohio: Journal of Ohio Senate, 2nd Session, 1861, p. 19
Pennsylvania: Journal of Wisconsin Assembly: 1861, p. 206
Wisconsin: General Acts of Wisconsin Legislature, 1861, p. 345

Is This a Microaggression?

(September 20, 2019) For the last two-and-a-half years an un-named Civil War online forum, or FaceBook group, has continued a running thread for members to discuss their favorite statues. Either out of crassness, or simple unawareness, the administrators fail to appreciate how insulting it might be for Southern members to watch Northerners discuss their favorite statues while Confederate statues are being removed, destroyed and vandalized. In February of 2017, for example, one Southern member selected as their favorite the Dallas Robert E. Lee statue, which has since been removed. The next day, another person selected the Memphis equestrian statue of Bedford Forrest, which has also since been taken down.

Dallas statue of Robert E. Lee as it is being removed.

There’s can be no doubt that if Union soldier statues were being wrecked and defaced, the supposedly “bi-partisan” online group’s moderators censors would not permit a “statue discussion” thread.   Perhaps 10-12 years ago such groups—and even  academic historians—would have defended Confederate statutes, particularly against defacement and mob destruction. Not anymore.

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To learn how the Confederacy came close to winning its independence during the June-to-December period of 1862 consider reading:

The Confederacy at Flood Tide by Philip Leigh

Everyone Knows Everything: Burnham’s 1st Law

“Everyone knows everything,” is the first of James Burnham’s ten maxims. During the mid-twentieth century he was a significant American intellectual who began his adulthood as a committed Communist before becoming a devout capitalist and co-founder of The National Review with William F. Buckley. His first rule implies that nobody can forever succeed in hiding their true feelings and nature. Eventually, everything will come out, and probably already has. Our great secret is not really secret. Others perceive more about us than we realize.

In terms of Civil War history many of those who ridicule the Southern viewpoint and tear down Confederate statues really just want to signal their own imagined moral superiority and dislike of those who refuse to agree with their interpretations.

Late last year, for example, The Washington Post interviewed a 62-year-old member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans named Frank Earnest and transformed it into a lengthy article ridiculing Frank and Confederate heritage. Here are some of the 3,200 remarks from readers in the “comments” section:

Does this yahoo not know that his “rebel ancestors” are what is known as traitors?

“I kept hoping Frank would croak before I skim-read to the last paragraph . . .

I feel bad for thinking the same thing . . .

Frank is a moronic fossil who’s dying of COPD.  No great loss. . .

Frank Earnest is an individual of adult age engaged in one of the oldest games played by stubborn, willful, adolescent boys –– “Bet You Can’t Change My Mind.” He lacks “Good Faith,” a fundamental quality required for what we call “Honesty.”

Manacle Frank and make him walk all the way to southern Mississippi while chained to a gang of others.

Make Frank pick cotton from daybreak to dark under a broiling sun.*

To quote Forrest Gump:  “Stupid is as stupid does.”

Enough said from the Deep South.

He wants to keep living in his fantasy identity because he’s afraid that if he didn’t have it he wouldn’t be anything.

There’s WAY too many of these clowns to ignore. We have to face these jerks head-on.

Thus, Burnham’s first law reveals that such critics don’t just dislike slavery and the Confederacy: They actually despise those present Southerners who refuse to accept their one-sided interpretations of the War Between the States and Reconstruction.

Learn about the six month period when the Confederacy came closest to winning its independence in:

The Confederacy at Flood Tide by Philip Leigh