Monthly Archives: March 2021

Ulysses Grant’s Corrupted Presidency

(March 30, 2021) Yesterday’s discussion about the political Ulysses Grant disclosed that his black voting and civil rights activism was self-serving. It targeted the single minority group that could be manipulated to keep Republicans in power by way of puppet carpetbag regimes in the South. He did nothing for other ethnic minorities such as Native-Americans, Chinese-Americans and even white immigrants such as the Irish. Grant even spent more money authorized by the KKK enforcement acts for so-called “supervision” of elections in the North than he did in the South. That was because white immigrants in the populous Northern cities tended to vote for Democrats. He, and fellow Republicans, increasingly abandoned Southern blacks as new organically Republican states entered the Union from the West. Beginning with Kansas in 1861 and ending with Utah in 1896, the first eleven states to join the Union after the start of the Civil War each added two new Republicans to the Senate.

Beyond its hidden racism, Grant’s Presidency was notoriously corrupt. During his eight years the in the White House the President’s cabinet seats consisted of six secretaries and an Attorney General. Four resigned for connections to various corruption scandals. The initial Vice President was booted from Grant’s re-election ticket for accepting bribes in connection to the Union Pacific railroad, which was receiving massive federal subsidies at the time. Grant’s personal secretary was charged with leading a group of treasury agents who were accepting bribes to enable distillers to evade excise taxes. Although not convicted, after a trial Grant banished the secretary to a job inspecting remote lighthouses. Similarly, Grant’s Navy Secretary avoided formal charges for sharing in the excess profits of a Navy Department supplier, but the wealth he acquired while in office left the public skeptical of his claims of innocence.  

Although Grant-apologists often assert he was personally honest and merely naïve in his choice of advisors, the claim ignores, or minimizes, two points. First, he and his wife  regarded the Presidency and a regal lifestyle as an entitlement for his role in winning the Civil War. Since they considered his salary to be too small, he would often reward financial benefactors with reciprocal appointments. Second, significant evidence suggests that he may have been directly involved in the distillery tax evasion scheme.

Regarding the first point. Between 1865 and 1869 inclusive, donors bought—or gave him enough money to buy—a total of four homes in Galena, Illinois, Philadelphia, Washington and Long Branch, New Jersey.

One of the seven donors for the President’s 27-room Long Branch “cottage” was Tom Murphy, a notorious supplier of shoddy merchandise to the Union army during the Civil War. Grant appointed Murphy as customs collector for the Port of New York where three-fourths of America’s tariffs were paid. It was the most lucrative patronage assignment available in the federal government. Money tended to stick to the fingers of the port’s tax collectors and administrators.

Similarly, Grant assigned General Daniel Butterfield to New York’s sub-treasury office in exchange for raising a fund enabling General William T. Sherman to buy Grant’s Washington home shortly before he moved into the White House. Since the money was a Grant-arranged windfall for Sherman the latter agreed to pay Grant a price that was more than double the amount the President-elect had paid only three years earlier. Soon after his appointment, Butterfield took a bribe to join Jay Gould’s attempted corner the gold market in September 1869. A Grant brother-in-law joined them.

The year before Grant became President, Henry Cooke of Maryland’s Seneca Sandstone Company, sold shares to influential Republicans at half-price. He planned to profit by supplying building materials to contractors in the District of Columbia. After Republicans controlled both the White House and Congress, Cooke expected they would endorse a modernization program that would elevate the status of our nation’s capital with new buildings and public transportation structures. Among the bargain -priced stock buyers was General Ulysses Grant whose shares were valued at $20,000. The President sold them four years later, six months after appointing Cooke as D.C.’s Territorial Governor where he could help control public works spending in the District.

Henry’s brother was Jay Cooke, an investment banker who had been Grant’s largest political contributor for the President’s 1872 re-election campaign. Grant was having breakfast at Jay’s Philadelphia mansion the very morning that Cooke’s investment bank failed, triggering a financial panic and four-year economic depression. Jay Cooke & Company was chiefly capitalized with securities of the Northern Pacific railroad including federal subsidy bonds. After it emerged from bankruptcy, the Northern Pacific eventually collected federal land grants aggregating the size of the state of Missouri.   

Regarding the second point concerning possibilities that President Grant was personally corrupted, consider the Whiskey Ring scandal.

The episode enabled distillers to evade about two-thirds of the taxes they owned in exchange for bribes and campaign donations. It ended only because Grant felt compelled to appoint reform-minded Benjamin Bristow as Treasury Secretary two years into the President’s second term because Bristow’s predecessor had resigned in disgrace for unrelated tax collection improprieties. Ultimately Bristow’s investigation led to Grant’s personal secretary, Orville Babcock, who was indicted as a leading Ring participant involving hundreds of lower-level members. Regarding Babcock’s White House status General of the Army William T. Sherman once said, “…those who go to see the President see Babcock first. He is a kind of intermediator between the people and the President.”

Grant responded to the accusations against Babcock as follows:

  1. Since Babcock was an army officer as well as a personal secretary, Grant tried to get the investigation shifted to the Army. The President even went so far as to name the Babcock-friendly judge advocate (military prosecutor) as well as the equally Grant-pliable officers for the tribunal. The Justice Department prosecutor blocked the move by correctly replying that he could not send his evidence to the distant military tribunal because it was illegal to remove evidence from the court of jurisdiction. 
  2. Next, Grant hired a spy—at taxpayer expense—to infiltrate the prosecutor’s office and report everything he learned. The spy, however, eventually sided with the prosecutors after Babcock told him to destroy all the evidence he could find.
  3. After an assistant prosecutor suggested in his jury summation that the President had usurped Bristow’s authority when he blocked the Secretary’s order to replace a Treasury employee and suspected conspiracy leader, Grant instructed his Attorney General to fire the assistant.
  4. After the Babcock indictment, President Grant directed that his Attorney General no longer allow the prosecution team to arrange plea bargains with lower-level participants in exchange for testimony against those with higher status.
  5. After one of the convicted Treasury clerks was replaced, his replacement wrote future Supreme Court Justice John Harlan two days before Babcock’s trial began, “What has hurt Bristow worst of all & most disheartened him is the final conviction that Grant himself is in the Ring and knows all about [it.]”

If Grant was not guilty, he certainly acted a lot like Richard Nixon, or like Nixon might have acted. First, he hired a spy to infiltrate the prosecution office, much like Nixon’s plumbers. Second, he fired a prosecuting attorney for citing facts unfavorable to the President, which was similar to Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre. Third, he ordered his Attorney General to cease plea bargains because they would make higher level government employees more vulnerable to conviction.

While I don’t believe Grant’s statues or tomb should be torn down, those among the cultural elite who consider themselves to be paragons of morality may want reconsider their condemnation of Confederate statues.

Destroy Grant’s Tomb?

(March 29, 2021) Modern biographers and historians have deified Ulysses Grant as a civil rights hero and exemplary President. In truth, his civil rights advocacy was aimed at the solitary racial minority that could keep his Republican Party in power and the corruption during his presidency was monstrous. He did nothing for other ethnic minorities such as Native Americans, Chinese-Americans and Irish immigrants. Moreover, he abandoned the freedmen after he concluded that his Party could more likely remain in power by cutting them loose. 

Although today’s cultural elites believe that postbellum Republicans promoted black suffrage as a moral impulse, the chief objective was to create Republican-controlled vassal regimes in the South to keep the infant GOP in power in Washington by way of Carpetbag electors, senators and congressmen.  When the Civil War ended the Party was barely ten years old. It might have been strangled in its cradle if re-admittance of Southern states had not been manipulated in a way to prevent Southerners from allying with Northern Democrats to regain control of the federal government.

Consequently, Republicans settled on two goals. First was mandatory black suffrage in former Confederate states where inexperienced black voters could be directed to consistently support Republican interests. Second was to deny political power to the Southern white classes most likely to oppose Republicans. The latter was accomplished by disfranchising ex-Confederates through various federal and carpetbag state government actions.

As a result, in 1868 Republican presidential candidate Ulysses Grant won the election with only a minority of America’s white vote. Although he had a seemingly decisive 214 to 80 electoral vote margin, it hinged upon black votes and restrictions on ex-Confederates. In combination with the disfranchisement of former Confederates in Tennessee, Missouri, and West Virginia ex-slaves gave Grant 67 of his 214 electoral votes. Without those 67 votes, the 1868 election would have resulted in tie in the electoral college. Thus, black voting rights were considered a necessity for power-hungry Republicans.

Despite his modern reputation for civil rights activism, the experience of Grant’s second attorney general, Amos Akerman, suggests the President had a hidden agenda. Specifically, America’s railway industry may have led him to subvert the interests of Southern blacks to those of railroad moguls.

Akerman was the second of President Grant’s five attorneys general. He served a little over a year from November 1870 to December 1871. He was the most vigorous of Grant’s AGs in prosecuting the Ku Klux Klan. In order to expedite prosecutions, he expanded the powers of the then newly created federal Justice Department. About six hundred Klan members were convicted.

Grant, however, apparently revealed a 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, the President 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 sometimes qualified for federal subsidies. In June 1871 he had denied land and bond grants to the Union Pacific Railroad.

Shortly before resigning Akerman confronted Grant’s 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 the work required to qualify for the grants. Nearly simultaneously Interior Secretary Columbus Delano complained to Grant that Akerman had annoyed railroad moguls Collis Huntington and Jay Gould with unfavorable rulings. Whether at the urging of Fish, Delano, or Hoar, Grant replaced Akerman with Oregonian George Williams who later resigned under bribery accusations, as did Delano. The New York World reported in January 1872 that Williams’s appointment was essentially a triumph for the Pacific Railroads.  

The year after he became President, Grant signed the 1870 Naturalization Act, which preferentially favored blacks compared to other so-called nonwhites. Specifically, the Act allowed blacks born outside the USA to become citizens through the same naturalization process available to whites, but it did not permit Chinese-Americans and other nonwhites to utilize the process. For decades thereafter Chinese-American rights were far more restricted than those of whites, or even blacks. They could not, for example, become naturalized Citizens until 1943.

Although often praised for funding the KKK enforcement acts to protect Southern black voters, few historians realize that Grant spend most of the money to police elections in the big cities of the North where immigrants, such as the Irish, often voted for Democrats.

Ultimately the freedman’s loyalty to the Republican Party was not enough to sustain Grant’s interest in black civil rights. That became apparent during the autumn 1875 elections in Mississippi and Ohio. Grant twice turned down requests by Mississippi’s carpetbag governor to supply federal troops to police the polls on Election Day. But national sentiment was turning against federal interference in state affairs. Forty years later former black Republican Mississippi Congressman John Lynch revealed that Grant confessed to him in November 1875 that Ohio politicians told the President that Mississippi intervention would likely cause Republicans to lose Ohio. Basically, Grant traded a Republican victory in Mississippi for a bigger one in Ohio. Thereafter, the Republican Party steadily lost interest in Southern blacks. They did not need the black vote because the first 11 states that joined the Union after the start of the Civil War arrived with two new Republican senators each.

Despite a false reputation among hagiographers for sympathetic feelings toward Native-Americans, President Grant ignited an illegal war with the plains tribes in an attempt to lift the country out of an economic depression.  Coincident with the 1873 flood of white immigrants into the northern Great Plains, a collapse in railroad speculation sent the American economy into a tailspin. As it progressively weakened, Grant pondered how earlier gold discoveries in California and the Rocky Mountains had promptly energized America’s economy. Thus, in the summer of 1874 he sent a military expedition into the Black Hills of present-day South Dakota to investigate rumors of gold. Since the Hills were part of a Lakota Sioux reservation—officially off limits to white civilians—the expedition’s goal was falsely represented as a site search for a new military fort. 

Lieutenant-Colonel George Custer led the expedition into the Hills where they discovered modest, buttempting, quantities of gold. Soon the first rush of prospectors began showing up. Initially Grant made little effort to control the prospecting, but within a year he decided the government must acquire the Black Hills. When the Indian leaders summoned to Washington refused to relinquish the region, Grantended the meeting by informing them that they must either cede the Black Hills or risk losing their rations. They departed without an agreement.

Consequently, Grant contrived an excuse to start a war in order to justify seizing the Hills by force. He planned to provoke the small minority of Lakota living off their reservation in “un-ceded” lands where the Fort Laramie Treaty granted them hunting privileges. In November 1875 Grant called the general commanding the region and the commissioner of Indian affairs to a White House meeting. Together they prepared an ultimatum requiring the Indians to return to their reservations by January 31, 1876 or be declared hostile. In the dead of winter, it was an impossible demand.

The result was the famous Battle of the Little Big Horn, which resulted in the deaths of Lieutenant-Colonel Custer and about 300 cavalrymen. But the Indian victory was only temporary. Indian commission George Manypenny arrived at the Sioux reservation in September 1876 to practically dictate a settlement. He compelled the tribes to accept his terms by telling them that they would be moved to present-day Oklahoma, forfeit their firearms and horses, and no longer be supplied rations if they declined.  

Sioux descendants litigated the settlement well into the twentieth century. In 1980 the U. S Supreme Court awarded eight tribes $106 million in compensation for “a taking of tribal property,” but the Sioux refused it. The money has remained in escrow and grown to about $1 billion. Prior to the Supreme Court ruling, a lower court judge wrote in 1975 of the Manypenny Agreement:  “A more ripe and rank case of dishonorable dealing will never, in all probability, be found in our history.” (Source: Jeffrey Ostler, The Lakota’s and the Black Hills, Viking Publishers, 2010).

Although I do not personally believe that Grant statues should be torn down, in fairness, however, cancel culture warriors should consider his racism and other faults before continuing with the destruction of Confederate memorials.

Racist Midwestern Icons

(March 27, 2021) Although today’s race-obsessed cancel culture eagerly destroys Southern icons, statue critics should also examine Northern racism in order to avoid hypocrisy. While recent Civil War Chat episodes discuss examples of Northern racist icons such as William T. Sherman and William Seward, today’s episode focuses on Midwestern racism generally. During his 1831-32 American tour, French nobleman Alexis de Tocqueville found racial prejudice to be “stronger in the states where they have abolished slavery than where it still existed [and] nowhere stronger than in those states where servitude has never been known.” Among the midwestern states and territories he visited that never had slavery were Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio. As shall be discussed the situation was much the same in the states and territories of Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota.

Consider Lincoln’s home state of Illinois. When Lincoln was twenty-one years old in 1830 1.6% of the state’s population was black. When he ran for President thirty years later in 1860 blacks comprised only 0.4% of Illinois residents. As a territory in 1813 Illinois outlawed “incoming free black(s).” Any that did arrive could be punished with 39 lashes every fifteen days until they left. By 1829 the prohibition was relaxed but free blacks seeking to enter the state had to post a $1,000 bond with proof of freedom. In 1848 Illinois voters approved “black exclusion laws” by a four-to-one margin. In 1853 the state passed a law that would penalize anyone bringing a free black into the state with a fine of $100 – $500 and up to a year in jail.

In 1859 Republican Senator Lyman Trumbull of Illinois opposed giving equal rights to blacks. “We the Republican Party,” he said, “are the white man’s party . . . we are for the free white man.” Three years later during a Senate discussion concerning wartime slave confiscation he said, “[Illinoisians] want nothing to do with the negro . . . They ask, ‘what will we do with them; we do not want them set free to come among us. . .’” Other Illinois politicians agreed. Although Republican Congressman Owen Lovejoy opposed slavery, he believed blacks to be endemically inferior and felt America was meant exclusively for whites. Since the state’s wartime Governor Richard Yates believed that blacks could never compete effectively with whites in the Northern economy, he considered emancipation as a way to rid the North of blacks. They would, he argued, migrate to the South where their skills suited the region’s economy.

A month after Trumbull’s Senate remarks above, Lincoln’s hometown newspaper and frequent media mouthpiece, Springfield’s Illinois State Journal, wrote: “The truth is the N-word is an unpopular institution in the free states. Even those who are unwilling to rob them of all the rights of humanity . . . do not care to be brought into close contact with them. . . Now we confess that we have this in common with 95% of our people against the N-word.” In August 1861 the Republican-loyal Chicago Tribune wrote, “The great ally of the slaveholders in this country is the apprehension in the Northern mind that if the slaves were liberated, they would become roaming, vicious vagabonds, that would overrun the North; and from the day they were made free, they would cease to work.”

After Union armies captured plantations along the lower Mississippi River Valley, Lincoln’s War Secretary authorized commanders to transfer some ex-slaves up-river to Illinois. In September 1862 the citizens of Pike County, Illinois forced a refugee train to turn back.  Chicago’s mayor refused to set up a committee to help resettle the slaves. Governor Yates was reported to have said, “The scattering of those black throngs should not be allowed if it can be avoided. . . The mingling of blacks among us means we shall always have trouble.”

The feelings in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Iowa, and Wisconsin were similar.

Ohio Senator Ben Wade, abolitionist, co-sponsor of the anti-Lincoln 1864 Wade-Davis Manifesto, and postbellum advocate of black suffrage, personally loathed blacks. In 1863 he remarked, “If we are to have no more slave states, what are we to do with the excess N-words?” Twelve years earlier he had described Washington as a “God-forsaken, N-word ridden place.” Eight years after the war, he sought to hire a white servant because he was “sick and tired of N-words.”

Wade’s companion Republican Senator and brother to General William T. Sherman, John Sherman, said that Ohioans were “opposed to having many negroes among them.” He added that blacks in general “were spurned and hated all over the country, North and South” and spoke of the immutable “law of God. . . [that] whites and blacks will always be separate, or where they are brought together, one will be inferior to the other.” In 1852 he argued that an emancipation bill then under consideration would have triggered black migration northward and “would have made Southern Ohio uninhabitable” to whites.

In 1862 the Cincinnati Enquirer editorialize that wartime confiscation of slaves would cause “hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of slaves to . . .  come North and West” where they would either replace white laborers or “have to be supported as paupers and criminals at public expense.” Lincoln’s Treasury Secretary, Ohioan Salmon Chase, urged that Union General Benjamin Butler emancipate the slaves in his district after the general had occupied New Orleans. Chase’s motivation was not altruistic.  He expected that Northern blacks would migrate toward the Southern climate.

Soon after the war ended, Ohio elected General Jacob Cox governor to serve from 1866 to 1868. Although he had been somewhat supportive of abolitionist goals prior to the War, he adamantly opposed granting African Americans the right to vote. He also advocated separating whites and African Americans in the South, putting former slaves onto reservations. Wisconsin Republican Senator James R. Doolittle agreed, and proposed that Southern blacks be colonized to Florida. He argued that free blacks should be colonized to “keep our Anglo-Saxon institutions and Anglo-Saxon blood pure and uncontaminated.” During Governor Cox’s term, Ohioans revoked their support of the Fourteenth Amendment, which sought to give African Americans equal protection under the law. Ohioans also rejected a statewide referendum intended to give African Americans the right to vote in the state.

Even as Midwestern states were discouraging black settlement, they actively recruited white European immigrants. Wisconsin law placed an immigration commissioner in New York City in 1852. Iowa followed suit with a similar law in 1860.  As a result, white immigration to Wisconsin surged from Ireland, Germany and Norway. There was never an attempt to entice blacks from the South. Michigan Republican Senator Jacob Howard opined that freed slaves “ought to be created as equals before the law” only after he realized that blacks would be contained in the South. In 1862 he was outraged to learn of a relocation plan for 123,000 refugee blacks to his state. In 1858 Indiana Republican Congressman George Julian admitted “Our people hate the Negro with a perfect if not supreme hatred.” Indiana’s 1851 constitution prohibited blacks from entering or settling in the state. Like other Midwesterners, Julian favored black suffrage in the South because he believed it would rid the Northern states of blacks. Republican Indiana Congressman Albert S. White said “[The] Anglo-American will never give his consent that the negro shall be elevated to equality.”

As Alexis de Tocqueville averred, the historical evidence suggests that American racial prejudice was most virulent in the states that never had slavery. One need only consider that blacks comprised about one percent of the population of such states as compared to 40% in the eleven Confederate states.

What About Harriet Beecher Stowe Statues?

(March 24, 2021) Two years after the 1851 release of Uncle Tom’s Cabin author Harriet Beecher Stowe moved from Ohio to Connecticut. Notwithstanding her newly created wealth and status she rejected a proposal by black abolitionist Frederick Douglass to aid in building a black vocational school in New Haven. She explained her objection in a letter to white abolitionist Wendell Phillips:

Of all the vague unbased fabrics of a vision this floating idea of a colored industrial school is the most illusive. If [black people] want one, why don’t they have one—many men among the colored people are richer than I am & better able to help in such an object—will they ever learn to walk?

While it is debatable that “many” colored men were “richer” than Stowe, Alabamans should be credited with the original $2,000 funding for Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee institute in 1881 when the impoverished state was controlled by Southern whites of the post-carpetbagger era. Stowe should have been able to do better, particularly given the near universal condemnation of postbellum Southern whites in academia.

Two years after the Civil War ended, Stowe moved to Florida in 1867 to a cotton plantation on the St. John’s River that she had given her son $10,000 to lease. Although the venture quickly failed, it provided Harriet firsthand observations for plantation life and black workers—perspective she had never before had. She wrote in her 1872 book, Palmetto Leaves, “As a class [blacks] are more obedient, better natured, more joyous and easily satisfied [than whites.]” Blacks, she fooled herself, enjoyed toiling in the hot Florida sun. Her summation evokes a Gone With the Wind narrative:

The thermometer these three days past has risen to over ninety every day. No white man dares stay in the field later than ten o’clock . . . Yet, the black laborers whom we leave in the field pursue their toil. If anything, more actively and cheerfully, than during the cooler months. The sun awakens all their vigor and all their boundless jolly. . . A gang of negroes—great brawny muscular fellows—seemed to make a perfect frolic of this job which . . . would have threatened sunstroke to any white man.

Those who understand and know how to treat the negroes seldom have reason to complain of their ingratitude. But it is said, by Northern men who come down with Northern habits of labor, that the negro is inefficient as a laborer.

The Northern man when he first arrives . . .  looks with impatient scorn on what seems to him the slow shilly-shally style in which both black and white move on. It takes an attack of malarial fever or two to teach him that he cannot labor the day through under the tropical sun as he can in the mountains of New Hampshire. After a shake or two of this kind, he comes to be thankful if he can hire a [negro or two] to plough and hoe his fields.

Stowe did not think that black children were fit for anything more than the most practical education. To be sure, she attributes much of the black child’s indifferent attitude toward learning as a legacy of dependence linked to slave culture.  Although the adults wanted so-called book learning, it was too hard. Unfortunately, they did not sufficiently motivate their children.

The teaching in the common schools ought to be largely industrial, and do what it can to prepare the children to get a living by doing something well. Practical sewing, cutting and fitting, for girls and the general principles of agriculture for boys, might be taught with advantage.

Although her son and his partners only harvested two bales of cotton at the end of the plantation’s growing season, Harriet purchased an orange grove on the east bank of the St. Johns River where she lived during the winter season until 1884. Notwithstanding that her white neighbors had supported the Confederacy during the War Between the States she wrote in 1873, “I came to Florida the year after the war and held property in Duval County ever since. In all this time I have not received even an incivility from any native Floridian.” Since Uncle Tom’s Cabin had left her a famous author she sometimes corresponded with notable historical figures. In 1866 she wrote the Duchess of Argyle:

My brother Henry has talked with [President Andrew Johnson] earnestly. Henry takes the ground that it is unwise . . .  to force negro suffrage on the South. His policy would be to hold over the negro to the protection of the Freedmen’s Bureau until the great law of free labor shall . . . draw the master and servant together . . . [Massachusetts Senator] Charles Sumner is simply looking at the abstract right of the thing. Henry looks at the actual probabilities.

I am sorry that people cannot differ on such great and perplexing public questions [as black suffrage] without impugning each others motives. . .  I think our President [Andrew Johnson] is much injured by the abuse that is heaped on him and the selfish and unworthy motives that are ascribed to him by those who seem determined to allow nobody an honest unselfish difference in judgement from their own.

While her writings indicate that the postbellum Harriet Beecher Stowe had a good heart, two points stand out. First, she had a Gone-With-the-Wind attitude toward the black man’s physical constitution. Second, she often felt that the Radical Republicans that imposed carpetbag regimes on the South had woefully distorted expectations for both Southern blacks and whites. They chiefly coveted the temporary political power that black suffrage and Confederate disfranchisement could provide until the organically Republican territories of the West could be admitted as states.

Tear Down Leland Stanford, Sr. Memorials?

(March 22, 2021) The proper name of Stanford University is Stanford Junior University because it is named for Leland Stanford, Sr.’s only child who died in adolescence.  To be sure, the school’s original funding was provided by Leland, Sr. who was a California Governor and railroad mogul who eventually died in 1893 when representing the state in the U. S. Senate. He was also a racist and a vigorous opponent of foreign immigration.

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.

Viewers who might try excuse Stanford by questioning whether he was speaking sincerely—instead of as a politician—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.” Those spontaneous words were spoken by a man who nearly always spoke publicly from a prepared text. Indeed, he was even accused of being a boring speaker because he read his speeches aloud.

Later when speaking about Chinese-Americans as Governor, Stanford said:

“The presence of numbers of that degraded . . . people would exercise a deleterious effect upon the superior [white] race . . . To my mind it is clear that [Chinese-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. ”

(He was saying that it would be hard to get rid of the Chinese if they became a larger share of California’s population.)

Stanford’s chief reason for supporting the Republican Party on the eve of the Civil War was its support for a northern-route transcontinental railroad, for which Stanford’s Central Pacific would become the 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.”

Even though a northern route would be more expensive than a southern one since it would need to cross the Sierra Nevada mountains, Stanford’s choice was motivated by the fact that he lived in Sacramento, not Southern California and notwithstanding that the Sierra route would require extensive and costly tunneling. Economy of taxpayer-funded public works was secondary to Stanford’s personal prosperity, even at the cost of many Chinese worker lives in blasting and construction accidents.

Stanford also had little regard for blacks. About a month before President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862, he 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.” He realized that an intact Union increased the value and economic feasibility of a transcontinental railroad. To be sure, Stanford commented at least once that he was an “uncompromising” opponent of slavery. However, that remark predated by several months the one in which he said “slavery was not the real issue” of the War.

If, however, contemporary academic historians permit Stanford to salvage his reputation and legacy by changing his mind on slavery, they can only inconsistently deny the same privilege to Confederate President Jefferson Davis. In July 1864 Davis told Northern peace commissioners: “We are not fighting for slavery. We are fighting for independence…”

Finally, if Stanford’s racism is an insufficient reason to justify re-evaluating his historical status, historians 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. According to historian Matthew Josephson, for example, they pocketed $36 million in excess profits from their taxpayer funded construction company that built The Central Pacific Railroad. When Federal investigators finally asked to look at the accounting books in 1873, one of Leland’s partners told them the books had been destroyed since the railroad had been completed four years earlier in 1869. But that’s another story, and a good one.

While Stanford University is the namesake of his son, Leland Senior’s body is entombed in an on-campus mausoleum and the University’s Memorial Church is named for him. If today’s Californians truly value the lives and dignity of non-Anglo-Saxon American immigrants, they may wish to scrub Leland, Sr.’s name from all memorials in the state.

Robert E. Lee and Ty Siedule

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(March 21, 2021) Any historian who claims that esteem for Robert E. Lee results from a postbellum Southern legend is wrong. Only a month after the Appomattox surrender, Union General Ulysses Grant wrote, “All the people of the South except a few politicians will accept whatever Lee does as right and be guided by his example.”

Former West Point historian Ty Seidule’s recent book demonizes Robert E. Lee, Confederates at large and their descendants. He minimizes Northern white supremacy and assumes his critics are deluded by a postbellum Lost Cause Mythology, which mislabels General Grant a “butcher” and falsely claims the South was beaten by overwhelming numbers. He’s wrong on all points.

First, wartime Northerners—not postbellum Southerners—labeled Grant a butcher during his first campaign against Lee. As a West Point Civil War textbook states: “Many . . . Northern . . . newspapers were appalled at the cost of Grant’s campaign, labeling him a butcher.” Seidule coauthored that book.

Second, three months after Lee’s surrender, General Grant explained to War Secretary Stanton: “The resources of the enemy, and his numerical strength, were far inferior to ours. . . I therefore determined . . . to hammer continuously against the armed force of the enemy and his resources, until by mere attrition . . . there should be nothing left to him but . . . submission.”

Undeniably Lee was the most respected commander on either side during the War. After nine months of temporary duty in Georgia and Tennessee, Lee’s third corps joyfully rejoined his Virginia army a week before its first battle against Grant. When the soldiers caught sight of Lee during a welcoming review, one wrote: “[A] wave of sentiment swept over the field. Each man seemed to feel the bond which held us all to Lee. The effect was that of a military sacrament, in which we pledged anew our lives.”

Lee earned such respect by sharing his soldiers’ hardships and taking responsibility for the army’s failures. He commonly slept in a tent instead of a nearby residence and his battle report to President Davis after defeat at Gettysburg praised his soldiers but offered his own resignation.

Third, Seidule fails to understand that the 1860 Republican platform banning slaves in the federal territories was really targeted at blacks, per se. The idea originated with Congressman David Wilmot in 1846 when he introduced a bill to bar slavery in the territories that might be acquired when the Mexican War ended.  He explained:

I make no war upon the South, nor upon slavery in the South. I have no . . . sympathy for the slave. I plead the cause . . . of white freemen. I would preserve for free white labor a fair country . . . where the sons of toil, of my own race and own color, can live without the disgrace which association with negro slavery brings upon free labor.

In 1854 future President Lincoln said: “The whole nation is interested that the best use shall be made of these [western] territories. We want them for the homes of free white people.”

The month before his September 1862 Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln’s home state of Illinois voted two-to-one against black suffrage notwithstanding that blacks composed only 0.4% of her population.  Moreover, Seidule may credit Lincoln with too much nobility. Charles Francis Adams, Jr.—the son of Lincoln’s ambassador to Great Britain—stated that most wartime Northerners believed that the proclamation would spark a slave uprising to suddenly end the war by forcing Confederate soldiers to return home to defend their families.

Only nine days before releasing the proclamation Lincoln admitted that it might provoke a slave rebellion. While meeting with a visiting group of Chicago abolitionists he stated that he was aware of the potential “consequences of insurrection and massacre at the South” but considered emancipation to be “a practical war measure.”

While condemning as desperate Lee’s January 1865 request that the Confederacy enlist black troops in exchange for their freedom to be followed by a “general . . .  plan of emancipation,” Seidule fails to appreciate that Lincoln’s decision was also driven by desperation.  In late June 1862 Northerners expected the Confederacy to soon collapse since Union General McClellan’s army was only six miles outside of Richmond. But two months later Lee’s army was at Washington’s doorstep, which was defended by a demoralized Union army freshly routed at the Second Battle of Bull Run. Only three weeks before his proclamation, military reversals had so depressed Lincoln that he remarked he was “almost ready to hang himself.”

Seidule ignores Northern racism aimed at quarantining blacks in the South. Twenty of the twenty-two states that joined the Union after Texas in 1845 were states where blacks composed merely one percent of the respective populations. The two exceptions were the border states of Oklahoma and West Virginia. All of the first eleven that joined after the Civil War had started arrived with two new GOP senators.

The Party’s chief reason for wanting Southern black suffrage during Reconstruction was to fabricate GOP-controlled vassal regimes until new states could be formed out of the organically Republican western territories. That’s why the first Republican Reconstruction President, Ulysses Grant, won only a minority of America’s white popular vote in 1868. Prior to the War the “free” states outside the South had only 2% of America’s blacks and 94% of them could not vote.

Dr. Seidule recently moved from West Point to New York’s Hamilton College, which has a prominent statue of Elihu Root. As America’s Secretary of War from 1899 – 1904 Root killed hundreds of thousands of brown-skinned Filipinos who were fighting for independence from the Washington government.