Saturday, July 11, 2015
Senator: The war's over. Our side won the war. Now we must busy ourselves winning the peace. And Fletcher, there's an old saying: 'To the victors belong the spoils.'
Fletcher: There's another old saying Senator: 'Don't piss down my back and tell me it's raining.'
I believe this fictional account may have captured a lot of the attitude of the warring factions following Lee's surrender. Here is David's researched account:
"Some historians believe that if Lincoln had lived, there would have been no Reconstruction, and the Southern states would have been peacefully re-admitted to the Union to continue as before. Lincoln did make a number of speeches to this effect, but he also made speeches before and during the war declaring abhorrence of the idea of making war against civilians. After all, it was Lincoln's consistent position that the Southern states could not leave the Union, therefore they never had and the inhabitants thereof remained U.S. citizens. Nonetheless, this view did not prevent him from issuing orders, and by his tacit silence at other times, allowing the entire Bill of Rights to be ignored while he made war on civilians he considered U. S. citizens.
Therefore, as his words and actions often did not jibe, we can only speculate what Lincoln might have done with the former Confederate states after the war though the strongest indications are that he might very well have allowed the former Confederate states to return to the fold with no further punishment. As previously noted, according to Sandburg, as well as others I have not mentioned, the one thing Lincoln was absolutely insistent about was that the blacks had to go.
What actually happened is that after Lincoln's death, those who have come to be known as the Radical Republicans took charge of the government and for 12 years reduced the Southern states to political and economic servitude by taking control of their state and local government and most of their economy at the point of a bayonet. Railroads, banks, commercial shipping, and most all of the economy was taken over by Northern industrialists...these being the same Northern industrialists who decried slavery while working 'free' children as young as 8 years of age to death in their factories.
Under the Presidential administrations of Andrew Johnson, who was helpless in the face of a Congress controlled by the Radical Republicans, and later for the two terms U. S. Grant, the Southern states groaned under absolute military rule.
It is thought that race relations would have been much better if not for Reconstruction. The economic situation of a lot of blacks would certainly have been better. A large percentage of former slaves stated in a university study done in the 1920's and early 1930's that they were "better off in slave times."
Contrary to the impression left by such books as 'Roots', there were thousands of free blacks in the South, particularly in the upper South and Louisiana, prior to the war. Many were farmers, but a significant number were blacksmiths, wheel wrights, and artisans of many types. With some exceptions, which varied state by state, they had all of the civil rights of whites except that they could not vote, and they lived peacefully with their white neighbors. After the war, returning white ex-soldiers found that their homes and farms were destroyed and their land and businesses often taken by northerners. As a result, they took many of the jobs previously held by the free blacks.
If I may digress for a moment, I would like to illustrate how incorrectly this period and even the pre-war South are so often represented. I mentioned 'Roots' above as an example. In that book all blacks were slaves and suffered miserably. While slavery itself is an injustice, many slaves, as also noted above, felt that they were in better shape as slaves rather than having to fend for themselves. The huge number of pre-war free blacks is ignored altogether by most historians.
It is interesting to note that 'Roots' was written by a black author from Tennessee, Alex Haley, and the work was hailed throughout the nation when it came out in the 1970's. He won literary prizes for the work, and was praised for the novel itself and the research which went into it.
Not so much publicized is the fact that he was sued by the author of another fictional work entitled "The African" who stated that a good portion of 'Roots' was stolen from his book. Haley denied this, but lost the suit and later admitted to his plagiarism. Furthermore, genealogists and historians have proved the Haley's statements that the book's chief character, Kunta Kinte, was based on one of his ancestors are completely false.
What we have here is a fraud of an author who wrote a plagiarized book based on the plot of another author, but whose depictions of the South and slavery are frozen into the minds of the millions who read the book and saw the mini-series. Prior to the war, 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' had a similar effect. Lincoln referred to the author as 'the little lady who started this war.' Lincoln was always good at deflecting blame.
Another little known fact is that almost 90,000 free blacks were enlisted in the Confederate Army. Contrary to the assertions of a few current, revisionist historians, they were not on the rolls as actual soldiers. Most were employed as teamsters with the remainder being cooks, wheelwrights, blacksmiths, etc. They were allowed to carry personal weapons and there are several documented cases of them voluntarily filling in the ranks during battles. Ironically, they were paid a full private's pay while black soldiers in the Union army were only paid half pay.
The same type of misrepresentation is often found in history books when it comes to the Reconstruction period. Suffice it to say that the South was under total military rule for the period while at the same time northern commercial interests plundered it economically.
I have found that Northerners of an earlier generation were often mystified at the feelings of anger held by Southerners toward them for many years after the war. It is my opinion that it wasn't the war so much as Reconstruction which caused the bitterness.
My grandfather was born on the tail end of Reconstruction. He well remembered the Yankee soldiers riding out to his father's farm and stealing whatever they wanted whenever they felt like it. Remember, this was after the war.
My grandfather was an intelligent man, a lawyer and an abstractor, but he never forgave and he never forgot the constant stealing of his family's livelihood and the humiliation of his father by not being able to stop it.
Reconstruction is often portrayed as a period when yes, the Bill of Rights was ignored and yes, military rule was imposed on U. S. citizens, but it was all for good reasons. The first was to bring a still resisting South under control and the second was to integrate the freed slaves into society with the full rights and privileges which went along with their new citizenship.
My studies have indicated that the vast majority of whites were saddened that they had lost the war, but accepted that fact and wished to return as quickly as possible to normalcy as a part of the United States. They also accepted the fact that slavery was done, though the majority could have cared less about that as they didn't own any slaves, but they were concerned about what to do with an enormous number of blacks. One thing they would not do was accept social or political equality with the black race. In this view Lincoln agreed with them.
This latter view was not confined to the South. 200,000 Union troops deserted after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Only one Northern state I am aware of allowed freed blacks to vote prior to the passage of the 15th Amendment in 1868, Several others, among them Illinois, refused to even allow a black to enter the state. However, the Radical Republicans realized the political advantage these freed blacks could bring them as new voters, therefore allowing them to vote and bringing them into the Republican Party would greatly increase the power of the party and its leaders.
The political leaders of the Republican Party knew they could not force their northern constituents to abide by the rules imposed on the South, and it didn't matter anyway as blacks only made up a tiny percentage of the Northern population. Therefore, they focused on the newly subjugated Southern states. Blacks were enfranchised and whites were disenfranchised. The South was treated as a conquered territory and the whims of the puppets running the state governments were enforced by military rule.
It was not until 1877 that military rule ceased in the South and the people regained control of their state and local governments, but it was not until the 1950's that the South began to emerge from the economic ills brought upon them by the war and the subsequent Reconstruction period.
To illustrate just how badly the South had been reduced to overall poverty by the war and Reconstruction, in 1860 six of the top ten states in per capita income in the U. S. were Southern states. After the war and for the next 90 years or so the South ranked at the bottom of all of the states in per capita income.