Undeniable Truths <br> As I see it: May 2010


The South’s Heritage of Conservatism:

The address below was delivered during an economic depression like the one today, and the author encourages his listeners to recall the adversity faced by the postwar generation of Americans in the South – those who suffered the horrors of Reconstruction. He also notes the predictable result of the South’s conservative restraint being removed from the federal agent in Washington: speculation, graft, greed, corruption – and the worship of progress.

Bernhard Thuersam, Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute

To those who fought and suffered during the long and fearful years of the War Between the States a tribute is always due. To the survivors of that momentous conflict – in which the South displayed unequaled bravery and marvelous determination –sincere reverence cannot too often be paid. The young men and women who lived in the South after 1865 were tragic figures. They were the lost generation of the South, who led hard, bare and bitter lives, when young people of the South before and since were at play and in school.

That Tragic Era from 1865 to 1880 was a period when the Southern people were put to torture –so much so that our historians have shrunk from the unhappy task of telling us the truth. That was a black and bloody period – when brutality and despotism prevailed – a period which no American can point with pride. To the generation of Southerners who struggled in the years after the war in the sixties we owe the redemption of the South and the preservation of its society.

[The War and Reconstruction] cost the South heavily – but they also cost the nation. The South paid for theirs in an economic collapse and carpetbag domination extending over a period of nearly thirty years. But the nation also paid its price – it lost the powerful influence of the conservative Southern tradition. In antebellum times the South had steadied the nation’s western expansion by its conservatism, but when the South was broken and destroyed, we saw a period of western expansion, of European immigration, of speculation, of graft, and of greed – unknown before in the annals of our history.

The nation after the war – especially the North and West – entered into an era of expansion, of worship for the new, of so-called progress, for which we still pay the price in our periodic overproduction. We should learn that economic wealth may be amassed, yet the fickle turns of business fortune can destroy it in a few years. Witness the economic collapse of our nation in the last few years after a period of unrivaled business growth. The eternal national values are then those intangible contributions to national life such as the old South gave – not wealth, not progress, but those great qualities of tradition and conservatism and individuality which neither Depression nor hard times can destroy.

May the faith of the old South be ours, so that we can rebuild our State and Nation – and as we do so may we add the South’s contribution to American life not only its heritage of conservatism, of tradition and individuality, but also that spirit of silent strength in the hours of adversity – that spirit shown during the War and Reconstruction.”

(The Tragic Era (excerpt), Dr. Julian S. Waterman, Dean, University of Arkansas Law School, Memorial Day speech at Fayetteville, Confederate Veteran Magazine, July, 1931, pp. 275-277)


The Northerners Fundamental Mistake:

The average Northerner’s image of the antebellum American South was based primarily on the exaggerations and fiction of writers who either had not journeyed southward in their lives, or knew by firsthand accounts what they were writing about.

Bernhard Thuersam, Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute

The Southern legend was unique…[and] begun innocuously by a young Baltimorean, John P. Kennedy. After visiting the plantation of his mother’s Virginia kin, he wrote a charming book called Swallow Barn (1832) – a series of sketches of a past time on plantations as it had come down to him through the pathos of distance and sentiment. Kennedy went on back North [and] the byplay of his imagination became the genesis of that glamorous plantation world that never was. From this model grew a body of glowing literature whose composite impression soon passed into folklore.

Writing even more from imagination than had Kennedy, the abolitionist authors drew a gaudy picture of harems of bright-skinned girls from the Potomac to the Gulf, being slavered over by a goateed colonel with a whip in one hand and a julep in the other. A composite character developed of this colonel, a sort of Cottonfield Caligula, who lived in imperious and splendid sin. The colonel was invariably lazy and proud, self-indulgent and quick-tempered, pleasure-loving and courtly, an utterly thriftless wastrel who squandered the wealth (which, despite these traits he had somehow acquired) in ostentatious and ruinous hospitality.

The apogee was reached in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, published in 1851, and the figures of Mrs. Stowe’s vivid imagination entered American folklore on the other side. From the enemy’s side, the worst was attributed to all. Much that European travelers found charming, Northern observers found deplorable, invariably attributing the conditions to lack of Southern lack of get-up-and-go and a slothful incapacity for material well-being.

The Northerners made a fundamental mistake: they measured the South by the yardstick they brought from home. To the Northerner, his factories represented “progress.” Upon this industrial progress were based the standards of an acquisitive competitive society which valued material possessions, the physical symbols of success – “conspicuous consumption” – and the traits and habits that directed a life toward these things. The observers, unable to conceive of a people without those values, cited the lack of factories as indicating backwardness and judged the people as failures for not achieving something they never wanted. As with Americans ever since, they could not believe that people different from themselves actually liked their own way of life.

While in the capitalistic North power fed on power – men who made money pooling their wealth with other money men, formed combines of power for wider spheres of exploitation, toward the ultimate goal of government control – the Southern planter wanted to enjoy what he had. To him the doctrine that “time is money” would have been incomprehensible and monstrous. Time belonged to man, not to the bank: it was his heritage from God.

Where Northern leaders regarded the Union as a nation of people, Southerners regarded it as a confederation of semiautonomous principalities. In their confederation with other States, no member of the ruling class ever dreamed of placing a strongly centralized government over himself. Even Jefferson, when old and dying, wrote his highest praise to Judge Spencer Roane for his outraged stand against a central government which presumed to encroach on the rights of the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

(The Land They Fought For, Clifford Dowdey, Doubleday & Company, 1955, pp. 11-13)

Meaning of plantation:
The planting, or setting in the earth for growth by farmers.

Most Southern Plantation/Farm homes look like this. Not like those in movies.


War to Keep the Southern States in the Union

The observances of memorial days rightfully honor those who gave their lives in war in defense of their firesides and country; yet usually missing is a full accounting of the political intrigues, avarice and hidden reasons for those lives lost and money spent. In the case of the War Between the States, if the eradication of slavery had truly been the reason for war, the wealth expended by the North for that noble objective could have purchased the freedom of every African slave five times over, and without firing a shot in 1861. There must have been another reason for war.

Bernhard Thuersam, Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute

War to Keep the Southern States in the Union:

"An interesting clipping taken from the New York Sun in May 1893 and recently sent to the (Confederate) Veteran by Comrade L.D. Davis of El Paso, Arkansas goes into much accurate detail as to the tremendous cost to the Union of the War of the States. The writer of the article does not take up what he calls "consequential damages" of the war, such as the paralysis of certain branches of business, the suspension of trade with the Southern States, and the extinction of a large part of the country's maritime commerce, but discusses only such facts as are afforded by official records, stating that when the figures are mere estimates they are well within bounds.

The losses considered are:

1. The current war expenses paid during the four years by the United States government with money raised by taxation or borrowed upon the nation's credit.

2. The bounties paid to the volunteers by the States or from sources other than the Federal government.

3. The money raised and expended by organizations of citizens for the alleviation of the soldiers' condition.

4. The direct loss to the nation's wealth resulting from the employment in military service of citizens who otherwise would have been producers.

5. The war claims paid by act of Congress since the war for destruction of property or any other reasons.

6. The interest on the war debt to the present time, and then the expenditure on the pensions to date.

According to this statement, when the matter is conservatively estimated so that the figures arrived at represent the minimum amount of cost, the result is something only a little less than eight and one-half billion dollars. "These figures," says the clipping, "stagger the imagination." What does it really mean when we say that the money cost of the war to the North alone was that unimaginable amount?

To raise money enough to pay the bill in one lump sum, every voter in the United States at the time this article is written would (each) have to contribute more than $600. If the burden (of war debt) were to be distributed among the whole earth's population, every human being alive anywhere to-day would be taxed about $6.

"But," continues the article, "there is a simpler and more striking way at arriving at the significance of these figures. It cost the North $8,425,185,017 to keep the Southern States in the Union; while by the census of 1860 the estimated value of the eleven Confederate States, counted State by State, was $5,202,166,207.

Thus it appears that to keep these eleven States under the flag, the North paid out three billion dollars more than the entire valuation of all the property in all the seceding States."

(What The War Cost, Confederate Veteran Magazine, February 1913, page 51)


Making the South Tributary to the North

There were reasons other than the institution of slavery why the American South wished to sever its political relationship with the Northern States. Not only was the South the primary financial supporter of the federal government, it was paying for internal improvements of the Northern section which was inciting slave insurrection, and denying American Southerners full access to territories owned by all the States. It is truly ironic that New England’s greed increased the need for slave labor to feed its many cotton mills, yet they would claim to abhor the institution they reaped immense profit from. To better serve humanity in the 1830’s, the fanatic abolitionists should have destroyed the Massachusetts cotton mills and sunk her many transatlantic slavers.

Bernhard Thuersam, Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute

Making the South Tributary to the North:

“England had discouraged manufacturing in her colonies that she might have a larger market for her manufactures. Immediately upon the declaration of our independence we began to manufacture what we needed, and for the first quarter century after our independence the South took the lead of the North in commerce and manufactures as well as agriculture. We shipped our produce and bought goods in exchange in the open markets of the world. The ports of Norfolk, Wilmington, Charleston and Savannah had a direct trade with Europe.

In 1799, according to assessment for direct taxes, the North and the South had almost exactly the same amount of property, viz., $400,000,000 in value each. From 1791 to 1802 inclusive the exports from the North were $129,205,000. In the same period the five Southern States exported $256,708,300.

From 1791 to 1813 the five Eastern States exported, including an immense amount of Southern productions, only about $299,000,000. The Southern States for the period, including New Orleans, exported $509,000,000. The commercial prosperity was wholly on the side of the South.

Why then did the South lose its supremacy in commerce and navigation? [Thomas Hart] Benton in his “Thirty Years’ View” said the extinction of the commercial supremacy of the South was and is charged to Federal legislation by which the producing and self-sustaining section was made subject to the non-producing or dependent section.

Some of the chief legislation of the Government against which he inveighed was the policy of the protective tariff and internal improvements and the immense sums levied on the products of one section of the country to be disbursed in tremendous expenditures in the other, making the South tributary to the North and a supplicant for a small part of the fruits of its own labor.

Benton in a speech in Congress said: “Under this legislation the exports of the South have been made the basis of the Federal revenues. Virginia, the two Carolinas and Georgia may be said to defray three-fourths of the annual expense of supporting the Federal Government; and of this great sum annually furnished by them, nothing, or next to nothing, is returned to them in the shape of government expenditures.”

(Annual Agricultural Resources and Opportunities of the South, J. Bryan Grimes, Farmers’ National Congress speech, 1901, pp. 4-5)


Lincoln Disclaims All Purpose of War

Lincoln inaugurated war against South Carolina when his armed fleet departed New York harbor to reinforce Fort Sumter, a fort on the soil of a State whose citizens had determined to change their form of government in accordance with Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. Virginia remained in the Union until Lincoln’s duplicity made it clear that he desired war against his own people, his fellow Americans.

Bernhard Thuersam, Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute

Lincoln Disclaims All Purpose of War:

“The Confederacy, already formed since the seceding of South Carolina and five of the States of the lower South, sent its ablest men to urge Virginia to join it, satisfied that unless she did so the effort to organize a new and independent nation would fail. To these overtures the Virginia Convention gave respectful attention, but declined the alliance. Still anxiously seeking to secure peace, the convention sent three distinguished members to confer with Mr. Lincoln in reference to the course he intended to pursue in dealing with the Confederate States.

They reported that the President “expressly disclaimed all purpose of war”; in addition to this, Mr. Seward, the Secretary of State, and Mr. Bates, Attorney General, gave similar assurances – and yet, the same train which brought Virginia’s commissioners home, brought the President’s proclamation, demanding 75,000 troops to coerce the seceding States. The quota assigned to Virginia called for three regiments, or 2,304 men.

Governor [John] Letcher’s reply to this call was emphatic. He wrote:

“The militia of Virginia will not be furnished to the powers at Washington for any such purpose as they have in view. Your object is to subjugate the Southern States, and a requisition made upon me for such an object – and object in my judgment not within the purview of the Constitution, or the Act of 1795 – will not be complied with. You have chosen to inaugurate civil war, and having done so, we will meet it in a spirit as determined as the administration has exhibited toward the South.”

(Virginia’s War Governors, 1861-1865, Confederate Veteran, December 1930, page 463)

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