The Coming of the Civil War - RR144R31
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Just a brief word further on Manifest Destiny, Tewson gives instances of a like faith among the Russians for example. And you can find this humanistic version among a number of peoples. But as he points out, first of all these humanistic versions as the Russian, see the holy group as the people or the race, and second they are the good ones and the enemy is the evil, therefore maintain the faith against the enemy, defend, not conquer, a very static position. Then third, and most basic, these humanistic versions hold not that things are to be made new, as in Biblical faith, “Behold I make all things new.” But the past is excepted in principle as the epitome of the good. “Let us go back to our pure Russian heritage. Or to our Anglo Saxon tradition, or to our pure Gallic or French inheritance, and so on. So the appeal is to a racial purity in the past, rather than looking ahead to make all things new.
Now, our subject shall be the coming of the civil war. The Coming of the Civil War. The first thing we must say about that event is that it was not an inevitable war. For a long time the radical historians have tried to foist upon Americans the notion that it was an irrepressible conflict, there was no escaping it. One of the reasons some of the great presidents before the civil war are still held in contempt and are not held as very good presidents is because they refused to believe that it was an inevitable conflict. In other words, because they tried to avert the conflict, it is held that ipso-facto they were incompetents, fumblers, bumblers, and the like.
Thus, a whole series of very able men, Tyler, Polk, Fillmore, Pierce, and Buchanan, are consistently treated with disrespect in the textbooks. [00:03:14]
Again, a whole school of historians are insistent upon...
Again, a whole school of historians are insistent upon declaring that the only way slavery could have been eliminated was exactly the way it was done, by war, by the total conflict that ensued in the Civil War. There are still writers who are bent on showing how slavery was profitable. However there are so many factors that they overlook in their computations that their data is questionable. Pierce, as president in one of his messages warned the country against the belief that slavery was going to continue indefinitely. Pierce was accused of being Pro-Southern, although he came from New Hampshire. But Pierce’s point of view was, as a man who believed in free enterprise, that economically it was impossible for slavery to continue indefinitely. It could not compete with free enterprise. Slave labor was unprofitable, therefore he felt: “Leave the matter alone, it will eventually destroy itself. It will become unable to compete with the free-market worker.’ Now as against some who felt that slaver would continue indefinitely there are other scholars who say that by 1870 slavery would have started to disappear in the south.
One of their reasons for this is that some of the northern mill owners were beginning to work out plans with prominent southerners to establish factories, textile mills in the south, so that instead of having to shift the cotton to the north and then the finished goods back it could be manufactured in the south. The idea was that very ordinary every day textiles could be manufactured there, and the superior type of cloth manufactured in the North.
Now one of the consequences of the use of the Negro in the factory would have been their very progressive emancipation, because there would have had to been a very real incentive to get them to work, and this would have been pay. The average slave was a poor worker, it was a joke even among southerners how little work a slave did. The slave had cradle to grave security, the result was getting much work out of the slave was a problem, he took life easily. One of the most common ideas among the slaves, kind of a standard joke was: ‘Puttin on ole’ Massah.” That is, taking advantage of him, kidding him, and in one way or another fooling him, Slaves in the south would have money. Why? For the simple reason that it was a way of bribing them to work. So that slaves were regularly going into town to buy liquor for themselves, to buy tobacco, to buy clothing, a little fancier than they were given, simply because one way of getting a slave to work was by means of the incentive of money. [00:07:40]
So there was a steady movement towards paying them...
So there was a steady movement towards paying them, which in some cases enabled ambitious slaves to buy their own freedom, when they saved their money. Moreover, only one out of 17 southerners was a slave owner. The other 16 did not like the slave owners, or the slaves. They resented the prestige or the position that was acquired by the slave owner. And so he was very often tempted to be, whether honestly or whether out of envy or jealousy, anti slavery. South Carolina for a variety of reasons was the one state that was emphatically pro slavery. The anti slavery sentiment became extremely strong during the Civil War in the south. Why?
Well supposing you were one of these southerners how did not have slaves. The war began. You might have been for independence from the Union up until that point, but when the war began and you were drafted, you thought twice about the whole issue. And for you to be going off to war, possibly to die, while the slaves sat around on the front porch, would really infuriate you. And the sentiment of bitterness among the confederate soldiers about the fact that they were fighting and dying and the slaves were back there doing nothing, is something that today is not often talked about. [00:09:44]
You see, what has happened is that so many southerners...
You see, what has happened is that so many southerners after the war, because of reconstruction, began to glamourize their cause. When they had been hostile to it throughout the war. Jefferson Davis was very unpopular once the war began, because it was one thing to say: “I want freedom from Washington” another thing to be told that you had to obey orders from your won president and you had to be drafted by him. So they were bitterly hostile throughout the war to much that Jefferson Davis represented. It was only when the Union imprisoned Jefferson Davis after the war that he became a hero to the south. Now this doesn’t mean that Davis was not a good man before, during and after, he was. He was a very superior man. But the plain fact is, throughout the war years he was disliked. He represented the war, he represented the draft.
Now on top of that the war was foolishness compounded on the part of the south. It was a disaster. Just look at some of the figures. 35 million Americans. 26 million in the north. Now that, immediately gives you a staggering situation. That means 9 million in the south. But that’s not all. Of that 9 million, 5 million were free, and 4 million slaves. Well now, any realistic look at that picture gives you a sad prospect doesn’t it. 26 million against 9 million, but you can’t say 9 million, its 26 million against 5 million. The situation was hopeless, utterly hopeless. And this is why you have to recognize that it was an emotional, irrational stampeding for which South Carolina has to take the blame, that led them into it.
Now, many of the politicians including Jeff Davis were talking about this. After all it was popular with the people. But Jeff Davis himself not too long before that had been in Boston, sitting down with the cotton Whigs as a good friend, talking about plans for the development of the south, economically. [00:13:05]
But once the rabble rousing element, especially in...
But once the rabble rousing element, especially in South Carolina, got people whipped up, and started secession, it was pushed through in one state after another. And once the South Carolinians fired on Fort Sumter, there was no turning back no matter how badly people felt. Alexander Stephens who was vice president of the Confederate State was virtually a traitor to the south during the war, because he recognized there was so much disaster ahead, and was trying one way or another to prevent the ugly course of events, recognizing also that in the name of fighting the war, the south was surrendering its own liberties.
Now in terms of the very brilliant generalship which the south commanded, it did not become the total disaster it could have been. The Union dead were 360,000 in the war. 360,000. The south, 358,000. But, when you realize that the south had 5 million men that were white, and divide that in two and you have two and a half million maybe who were men, and of that 2 ½ million you would have to say that 2/3rds were little children, little boys and old men, so out of that 2 ½ million, maybe a million and a half, in fact the estimates say, I don’t know why, that of military age there were 1 million 65 thousand. You see. Why the discrepancy I don’t know, you would think it would be higher, but actually according to the military statistics there were only a million sixty five thousand men who could possibly bear arms in the south. So, when you take 358 thousand of them as dead before the war, you begin to realize what a disaster the war was for the south. Now southerners talk rightly about the horror of reconstruction, and the horror of the invading army, and the destruction they wrought as Sherman marched and burned and looted and destroyed right and left. But those things can be replaced, you see. But what could you do with 1/3 of your men of military age dead? That’s a disaster beyond parallel. [00:16:33]
Consider what would happen if one third of the men...
Consider what would happen if one third of the men of military age of Virginia or the entire east were suddenly to disappear in the next four years, and you have some idea of the disaster.
Now when southerners thus talk about the evils of reconstruction and the horrors of the march of Sherman’s army, they are talking about very real things and they are not exaggerating, but they are forgetting the worst thing of all. The very worst. It was a disaster of staggering dimensions, and it was all futile. Unnecessary and wrong.
Let’s examine some of the background of the events that led to the war. First of all, in 1820 to 21, one of the important pieces of legislation was the Missouri compromise. Some years earlier the Louisiana purchase had added a sizeable territory to the United States, and in the Missouri Compromise it was decided to maintain a political balance between the North and the South. To allow as the states came in, one to be slave and one to be free. So that, in each successive state or territory, as it came in there was to be a balance. The constitution as it was adopted was, to permit slavery in one, not require it of course, that was never the fact, but you could own slaves in this one new state, and in the other you could not. The Missouri Compromise therefore worked out a political balance.
However, this applied to the Louisiana Purchase. With the Mexican war a tremendous amount of new territory was added to the United States, what was to be done with this? Unfortunately, one congressman, Wilmot, in the Wilmot proviso of 1846, moved that there be no more slavery in territories acquired from Mexico. This measure had the whole country up in arms as it were, ready to fight the slavery issue all over again, which had ostensibly been settled by the Missouri compromise. The Wilmot proviso passed in the house but failed in the Senate. And as a result, the old Henry Clay, ably seconded by the very old Daniel Webster came up with a compromise of 1850. The compromise was to continue the earlier compromise in the new territories. First, it provided that California was to come in as a free state. Second, the slave trade, but not slaver itself was abolished in Washington D.C. This had been a real problem, in that Northern congressmen who were anti slavery would get very much worked up when they would come to Washington D.C. and find a slave market working. It would infuriate them, and so it was they felt a wise measure to abolish the slave marked and the slave trade in London, although slavery could exist, that is southerners could come here and settle, or come to Congress with their slaves and there was no problem.
Third, a stronger fugitive slave law was passed as part of the compromise of 1850. Fourth, the compromise of 1850 provided that the public debt of Texas before 1845 was to be taken over by the United States, and Texas in return was to relinquish part of New Mexico which Texas was claiming.
Then fifth, it was provided, you see now California had come in free and Texas as slave, that New Mexico, and Utah, the territories, would be free to choose a pro or an anti slavery position at such time as they became states. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief when Daniel Webster first proposed to second this, and came out in favor of Henry Clay’s Compromise of 1850. You recall the immediate reaction of Massachusetts and much of New England was one of horror, Daniel Webster was denounced, he was described as Ichabod, the glorious departed, but in just a few days after this tremendous outburst of wrath, and horror, they began to realize that “Yes, here was a workable answer to prevent the conflict that otherwise would ensue.” And as a result the compromise of 1850 was passed. [00:23:03]
The whole nation breathed a sigh of relief...
The whole nation breathed a sigh of relief. There were very good communications between North and South, or more particularly between New England and the south. And it seemed as though further troubles were definitely avoided. We now had virtually all the territory we were likely to acquire, a compromise had been reached, and those who were anti slavery could hope that little by little slavery would become an impossible institution and would disappear. Then, on January the fourth, 1854, the peace was shattered, and the whole nation in an uproar. Northerners who had up until this time been hostile to the abolitionists, came out fighting, and were ready to shake hands with abolitionists, they had refused to talk to before. Why?
One man, a senator, introduced a bill which immediately brought everything into conflict. Stephen A. Douglas. Called the Little Giant.. Introduced the Kansas Nebraska bill. The Kansas Nebraska bill. Now Douglas held when he did this that the compromise of 1850 had wiped out the Missouri compromise, so that the necessity of having a balance between the North and the South no longer existed. Now the minute he brought this out into the open, of course it became a matter of debate. It had been assumed that the compromise of 1850 and the Missouri Compromise were both a part of the law of the land, and that there was no necessity for conflict, and now here was a Senator who was assumed to be Pro Southern, who was trying to saddle the fence on things, reopening the whole issue. [00:25:33]
He did it in the name of popular sovereignty, an issue...
He did it in the name of popular sovereignty, an issue that was becoming more and more popular in some areas. And so, Douglas said: “Popular Sovereignty must prevail. As Kansas and Nebraska come in as new states, they must decide in terms of their own voting whether they are going to be free or slave, and we cannot settle it here because the old compromise requiring one to be free and one to be slave is no longer valid.”
Now unfortunately, the Kansas Nebraska Bill passed in that, while Kansas and Nebraska were being brought in as territories, and some provision had to be made for their future, and Douglas’s popular sovereignty idea prevailed.
Now the immediate result was what is called the: Bleeding of Kansas aspect of American history. Kansas, a territory, began to look forward to statehood. Immediately it became the focus of northern and southern intention. What happened was that a very bloody history ensued. Southerners moved in from Missouri to settle the area and to make sure it would be pro slavery. At the same time in New England an immigration society was formed to rush people into Kansas who would be anti slavery, to make it an anti slavery state. Very quickly then, these two groups were in conflict, and it led to the massacre of some of these people who had immigrated there from New England, as outsiders were trying to tip the balances. You had people from Missouri coming in to massacre them. And immediately there was retaliation. The guilt is clearly on both sides, very, very heavily.
In fact, one of the paid killers became very famous subsequently in American history. Does anyone know his name? John Brown. John Brown was financed, together with his sons to act as a paid killer, who ruthlessly went from one area to another to massacre the pro slavery families. The men would be dragged out of their cabins and ruthlessly shot down. Both sides were doing it, it was an ugly, vicious situation. Both sides unable to vote or act together began to create their own governments, to vote in their own constitutions. [00:29:07]
The net outcome however was that finally instead of...
The net outcome however was that finally instead of becoming a state, Kansas stayed a territory, and as a territory the free soil men being numerically stronger gained control, and so it was emphatically a free state. But trouble had been started. And John Brown now as a paid killer, a fanatical anti slavery man, who claimed to be a Christian of sorts but in reality really semi insane fanatic, a vicious killer, was hired by a group of Unitarian abolitionists, very wealthy men, who formed a secret society for this purpose, and called themselves the Secret Six. The Secret Six was made up of these 6 wealthy Unitarians who could finance what was going on. There was a second Secret Six of thinkers, men like Emerson. These men then felt, the best way to bring this issue into the open, again, is to force a war, and in particular to strike in the south and incite the slaves to warfare. So that we can create civil warfare in the south.
John Brown was heavily financed for this purpose by these people. And the result was the raid on Harpers Ferry. Well, it was a total failure in that the Southern Negro had no desire for a revolution or a revolt. On the other hand, the one thing that the southerner feared, almost psychotically, was a slave revolt. There had been sometime earlier, much earlier, one or two slave revolts, notably Nat Turner's revolt. And as a result there was a lingering fear of what could happen if the slaves turned against them. Part of the slave was a statistical fear, after all if you are 5 million free men with 4 million slaves, you know that if those slaves get ideas, why, it could very serious.
This kind of thing of course has been a fear in every slave culture throughout history. One of the things for example in ancient Greece, Athens, that was a matter of state policy was that because Athens was overwhelmingly made up of slaves, you could not dress your slaves in any distinctive clothing. They had to be dressed like you.
Now can you guess the reason for such regulation?
[Audience Member] To prevent the slaves from realizing that they were actually more.
[Rushdoony] Right, you see the slaves in Greece were of the same race and color, complexion as anybody else. And certainly if a slave were dressed exactly like everybody else, when the slave was on the streets he didn’t want to be known as a slave, so he would walk along, and if he went shopping for his master or his mistress, he went just like anybody else. So, the slaves had no idea how many slaves there were. If they had ever known how vastly they had outnumbered the free, at any time the slaves could’ve taken over Athens. [00:33:34]
Now this kind of fear of slavery you, as I said earlier...
Now this kind of fear of slavery you, as I said earlier, will find in every culture where there has been the institution of slavery. And so there were extreme fears in the south with regard to slave revolts. It has been popular in recent years on the part of the liberals, and especially civil rights people and increasingly with Negro’s, to portray the possibility of slave revolts as a very real one, after all, if you are a black you don’t want to think that your people were not freedom fighters, ready to get up there and charge and create a revolution at the drop of a hat, so the kind of picture that you are going to try and see when you look back at the south is that your people were freedom fighters and it was only because there was practically a bayonet in their behind all the time that you didn’t have the south in flames. The reality is that in spite of the fears of the southerners, the possibility of a slave revolt was very, very slim.
Even in the period of reconstruction, when you had union forces and carpet baggers trying to use the negro in order to take advantage of the south and to rule the south, it by and large failed. And while in a few instances you had Negro’s exercising power to a limited degree, by and large during the period of reconstruction although the fact of Negro senators in the state senates and Negro legislators and governors loomed large in the mind of the white southerner, they were figureheads. They were ordered around by white’s who used them to accomplish whatever they wanted. The spirit of revolt was not there. But, John Browns raid on Harper’s Ferry frightened the south. It sent shock waves everywhere. It was October 19, 1859. Moreover, the thing that most frightened them was, that John Brown was a poor man with no money, so poor you couldn’t even call him bankrupt because he didn’t have enough assets to go bankrupt and no one would ever give him enough so that he could go into debt. He was a ne’er do well. [00:36:48]
And yet he was extremely well supplied...
And yet he was extremely well supplied. Now obviously there was a plot. That was the most obvious thing. A plot to create a slave revolt. The south was right at that point. The plot however, was a very small one and a foolish one. The Secret Six and a handful of others, and John Brown and a small handful, it was a hair-brained scheme, it accomplished nothing but the execution of Brown and those involved in the plot with him, that is on the acting end, some of the wealthy members of the Secret Six immediately took fright, fearful that Brown would talk, and left the country. However, then as now people are ready to imagine conspiracies, and where there are real conspiracies, simply because their fears magnify them, they blow them up into a fantastically large thing. And so the belief in the South was that virtually every foreigner was involved in a conspiracy to have their slaves rise up during the night, and to creep into their bedrooms and slit their throats and rape their women, and there was a tremendous amount of hysteria created by John Brown. So that, while the Secret Six and John Brown made a very absurd attempt, they were impractical men, it was a foolish, hare brained scheme, surprisingly it did succeed because there was an equally hare brained reaction in the South. The fright, the terror that it created made them ready when Lincoln was elected, not too many days after, to feel that this is the end. We are going to face slave revolution, we are going to face every kind of horror, secession, this is the answer. And South Carolina led the way in Secession, and afterwards led the way in firing the shot on Fort Sumter. [00:39:32]
The irony of it was too at the same time the Democratic...
The irony of it was too at the same time the Democratic Party split two ways, between Breckenridge and Douglas. Some of the Cotton Whigs of the North who wanted peace, put a southern candidate in the running, Bell of Virginia, to try to have a peace candidate, so the vote was divided even further, although Lincoln gained only 40 percent of the votes, the popular votes, he gained an overwhelming majority of the electoral votes because he carried one state after another in that the vote was split four ways. Lincoln had a hundred and eighty electoral votes, Breckenridge, 72, Bell 39, and Douglas only 12. And so the war began. There was only one winner.
In a sense it was John brown, the Secret Six, the hotheads. It was in congress, the work of two of the most contemptible characters the senate and the house had yet seen in Washington. Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, and Thaddeus Stevens in the House of Pennsylvania. They were the real winners. They were the ones who foisted their ideas which were essentially totalitarian and socialist upon the Union. They were the ones who continually troubled the North, and the South, and Lincoln. Sumner was a Unitarian to the core, who had a hatred of God and of Christianity, who had been a champion of Horace Mann and the state controlled public school system, Thaddeus Stevens was a club footed man whose body was nowhere as near as deformed as his mind was. An exceedingly brilliant man, in terms of intelligence a very superior man, but a man contorted and twisted by hatred. A statist to the core in most areas. His mistress was a colored woman, a devout Catholic, He himself a rampant Atheist who hated Christianity.
These men governed. There is one amusing story, to lighten a very grim story, about Thaddeus Stevens. When Lincoln made an appointment to the cabinet, I believe it was Cameron, Thaddeus Stevens stormed in to protest. He thought he ought to have the right to control Lincoln, and tried, and failed. And he expressed his utter hatred and contempt for Cameron, who to a degree Lincoln was obligated in terms of the deal that put him into the presidency to make a cabinet official. And Thaddeus Stevens said: “That man Cameron is so dishonest he would steal everything except a hot stove.” And somebody overheard it reported it to Cameron, who went to Thaddeus Stevens and protested vehemently about it. So, Stevens came right back to Lincoln and he said: “I was wrong about Cameron. He would steal a hot stove!” [00:44:03]
Are there any questions at this point about anything...
Are there any questions at this point about anything we have covered in this hour? Yes? Yes, the electoral votes, Lincoln one hundred and eighty. Breckenridge 72, Bell, 39, Douglas, 12. What? Douglas was what? I can’t hear you. Yes, Douglas and Breckenridge were Democrats, and Bell was of the Union party. Also, essentially a democrat put up by the Cotton Whigs to try and present a peace program. He was a Virginian. Breckenridge was a southerner, Douglas was from Illinoi, but essentially a southerner in his outlook. I believe he was from Pennsylvania if my recollection serves me correctly. It’s sad that today Douglas is being rehabilitated, and he has a fearful guilt to blame. He was a very able man, but there is no question that he bears a fearful responsibility for the war, in terms of his Kansas Nebraska bill. It was a very ill-advised one. But Douglas was ambitious for the presidency, and he was ready to get into the public limelight. In a sense though he eliminated himself from it, not from the limelight, but from a very serious candidacy as president. He also helped to make another president, Lincoln, in that it was through the Lincoln, Douglas debates that Lincoln gained eminence.
Any other questions? [Tape Ends] [00:46:47]