Day By Day by The Great Chris Muir

Friday, May 8, 2015

Blacks And Slavery

Two articles for record keeping:

The First Legal Slave Owner in What Would Become the United States was a Black Man

Today I found out the first legal slave owner, in what would eventually become the United States, was a black man.
The man was Anthony Johnson.  Johnson first came over to America as an indentured servant, arriving in 1620 in the Colony of Virginia.  He did not come over willingly, as many did, agreeing to become indentured servants in exchange for passage to the New World. Rather, Johnson was captured in Angola by neighboring tribesmen and eventually sold to a merchant who transported him to Virginia, where he was then sold to a tobacco farmer.
Despite this, Johnson was not technically a slave, as most think of it.  He was simply required to serve the farmer for a time in exchange for room and board.  However, like slaves, indentured servants could be sold or lent out to someone else, and, for the most part, they could be punished how those that owned their contracts saw fit.
One of the biggest differences between slaves and indentured servants was that once the indentured servant’s contract was up, depending on the agreement made with the person paying for transport, often the former servant would be given some small compensation for their services to help them get their start as free individuals.  This might include some amount of land, food (often a year’s worth), clothing, and tools.
During their time serving, indentured servants also typically learned some trade as they worked, which was significant for many who chose to make the journey to the Americas as indentured servants- often poor, uneducated individuals, lacking a trade, and in search of the promise of a better life.  Because of this, in the early days, most indentured servants in the British colonies in America were actually Irish, English, German, and Scottish, rather than African.
Johnson, of course, didn’t choose to come over. Nevertheless, once in America, he toiled away as a tobacco farmer for the duration of his contract.  During this time, he also met a woman (soon to be his wife) named simply “Mary”, who had been brought over to America about two years after Johnson, with her contract also being purchased by the same man who owned Johnson’s contract.
In 1635, after working on the tobacco farm for about 14 years, Johnson was granted his freedom and acquired land and the necessaries to start his own farm.  Sources are conflicting on whether he purchased the remaining years on his wife’s contract or whether she completed it, but in the end, the two, with their lives now their own, began working for themselves.
They soon prospered and took advantage of the “headright” system in place for encouraging more colonists, where if you paid to bring a new colonist over, whether purchasing them at the docks or arranging it before hand with someone, you’d be awarded 50 acres of land.  Similarly, those who paid their own passage would be given land under this system.
This leads us to 1654. One of Johnson’s servants, John Casor who was brought over from Africa, claimed he was under a “seaven or eight yeares” contract and that he’d completed it. Thus, he asked Johnson for his freedom.
Johnson didn’t see things this way, and denied the request. Despite this, according to Casor, Johnson eventually agreed to allow him to leave, with pressure supposedly coming from Johnson’s family who felt that Casor should be free.  Thus, Casor went to work for a man by the name of Robert Parker.
Either Johnson changed his mind or he never said Casor could go, because he soon filed a lawsuit against Parker claiming that Parker stole his servant, and that Casor was Johnson’s for life and was not an indentured servant.
Johnson ultimately won the case, and not only did he get his servant back, but Casor became Johnson’s slave for life as Johnson had said he was.  This officially made Johnson the first legal slave owner in the colonies that would eventually become the United States. (There were other slaves before this, just not ones that were legal in the British colonies under common law).
The judge’s decision on the matter was announced as follows:
This daye Anthony Johnson negro made his complaint to the court against Mr. Robert Parker and declared that hee deteyneth his servant John Casor negro under the pretence that said negro was a free man. The court seriously consideringe and maturely weighing the premisses, doe fynde that the saide Mr. Robert Parker most unjustly keepeth the said Negro from Anthony Johnson his master … It is therefore the Judgement of the Court and ordered That the said John Casor Negro forthwith returne unto the service of the said master Anthony Johnson, And that Mr. Robert Parker make payment of all charges in the suit.
About 7 years later, Virginia made this practice legal for everyone, in 1661, by making it state law for any free white, black, or Indian, to be able to own slaves, along with indentured servants, as they’d been able to have before.
While Johnson’s temporarily gain of being granted the services of one of his indentured servants for life no doubt had a positive affect on his thriving business, ultimately the gradual changing of attitudes in the colonies concerning slavery and race came back to hurt Johnson’s family, with slavery slowly becoming less about one’s original financial situation and more about where you or your ancestors were originally from.
When he died in 1670, rather than his thriving plantation going to his children, the court declared that “as a black man, Anthony Johnson was not a citizen of the colony” and awarded the estate to a white settler. Quite a contrast to the declaration in 1654 by the court that Johnson and his wife were “…inhabitants in Virginia (above thirty years) [and respected for] hard labor and known service.”

Bonus Facts:
  • While most of the land in Johnson’s estate was taken away, his children were allowed a small portion of Johnson’s former property to use to provide for themselves, but even that 40 acres was lost by Johnson’s grandson, John Jr., when he was unable to pay his taxes one year.
  • While Johnson is generally considered by most historians to be the first legal slave owner in what would become the United States, there was one person who preceded him in 1640 who owned a slave in all but name.  The virtual slave was John Punch, ordered to be an indentured servant for life, though by law was still considered an indentured servant with all the rights that went with that.  In Punch’s case, he was made a lifelong indentured servant owing to the fact that he tried to leave before his contract was up.  When he was captured and brought back, the judge in the matter decided a suitable punishment was to have Punch’s contract continue for the rest of his life.
  • What makes Punch’s case even more interesting (and unfair) is that when he ran away, he ran away with two white indentured servants who were also seeking to get out of their contract.  The punishment for the white indentured servants was not a lifetime of servitude, though.  Rather, they were given 30 lashes with a whip and a mere additional 4 years on their contracts.
  • The average price for bringing an indentured servant over to America in the 17th century was just £6.  Meaning that under the headright system, as long as you could afford to feed, clothe, and house them, you could acquire 50 acres of land for just over £1 per 10 acres.
  • The first Africans to be imported to the Americas were brought over in the 1560s, primarily in areas controlled by Spain.  The English colonies didn’t start importing Africans until much later, around 1619, just a couple years before Anthony Johnson was brought over. The first group to the British colonies were imported to Jamestown and comprised of 20 Africans who had been aboard a Spanish ship that was attacked by a Dutch vessel.  After the Dutch crew successfully took over the Spanish ship, they were left with 20 Africans who they took to Jamestown and declared were indentured servants, trading them for supplies.
  • In Virginia, in 1662, legislatures enacted a law stating that if you owned a slave, not only were they yours for life, but any children of a slave mother would also be a slave, regardless of whether the father was a slave or not.  Before this, the father’s status was typically what was used to determine the child’s status, regardless of race or the mother.
  • A further change of the laws came in 1670 when a law was passed forbidding those of African or Indian descent from owning any “Christian” slaves.  In this case, this did not necessarily mean literal Christian slaves; if you had a black or Indian slave who was a Christian, that was fine, as they were black or Indian, and thus “heathen”, regardless of what they said or believed or even if they were baptized.
  • A further hardening of the laws came in 1699. In an attempt to get rid of all the prominent free black people, Virginia enacted a law requiring all free black people to leave the colony, to further cement the majority of free people in the colonies as non-black, and allow the tyranny of the majority with respect to those of African descent to progress unhindered.  Many did not have the funds to actually leave, and some chose to ignore the decree, as relationships between whites and free blacks tended to be as you’d expect humans to act towards one another, namely somewhat friendly in many cases; this included some intermarrying, despite the fact that to some extent this was discouraged even then, primarily because Africans were considered “heathens”.  Obviously those either from Africa or of African descent who had married someone of European descent weren’t inclined to leave their spouses and homes. In fact, it’s estimated that about 80% of all those non-slaves of African descent in the United States between 1790 and 1810 were a product of this intermarrying in the Virginia colony.


In an 1856 letter to his wife Mary Custis Lee, Robert E. Lee called slavery "a moral and political evil." Yet he concluded that black slaves were immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially and physically.
The fact is large numbers of free Negroes owned black slaves; in fact, in numbers disproportionate to their representation in society at large. In 1860 only a small minority of whites owned slaves. According to the U.S. census report for that last year before the Civil War, there were nearly 27 million whites in the country. Some eight million of them lived in the slaveholding states.
The census also determined that there were fewer than 385,000 individuals who owned slaves (1). Even if all slaveholders had been white, that would amount to only 1.4 percent of whites in the country (or 4.8 percent of southern whites owning one or more slaves).
In the rare instances when the ownership of slaves by free Negroes is acknowledged in the history books, justification centers on the claim that black slave masters were simply individuals who purchased the freedom of a spouse or child from a white slaveholder and had been unable to legally manumit them. Although this did indeed happen at times, it is a misrepresentation of the majority of instances, one which is debunked by records of the period on blacks who owned slaves. These include individuals such as Justus Angel and Mistress L. Horry, of Colleton District, South Carolina, who each owned 84 slaves in 1830. In fact, in 1830 a fourth of the free Negro slave masters in South Carolina owned 10 or more slaves; eight owning 30 or more (2).
According to federal census reports, on June 1, 1860 there were nearly 4.5 million Negroes in the United States, with fewer than four million of them living in the southern slaveholding states. Of the blacks residing in the South, 261,988 were not slaves. Of this number, 10,689 lived in New Orleans. The country's leading African American historian, Duke University professor John Hope Franklin, records that in New Orleans over 3,000 free Negroes owned slaves, or 28 percent of the free Negroes in that city.
To return to the census figures quoted above, this 28 percent is certainly impressive when compared to less than 1.4 percent of all American whites and less than 4.8 percent of southern whites. The statistics show that, when free, blacks disproportionately became slave masters.
The majority of slaveholders, white and black, owned only one to five slaves. More often than not, and contrary to a century and a half of bullwhips-on-tortured-backs propaganda, black and white masters worked and ate alongside their charges; be it in house, field or workshop. The few individuals who owned 50 or more slaves were confined to the top one percent, and have been defined as slave magnates.
In 1860 there were at least six Negroes in Louisiana who owned 65 or more slaves The largest number, 152 slaves, were owned by the widow C. Richards and her son P.C. Richards, who owned a large sugar cane plantation. Another Negro slave magnate in Louisiana, with over 100 slaves, was Antoine Dubuclet, a sugar planter whose estate was valued at (in 1860 dollars) $264,000 (3). That year, the mean wealth of southern white men was $3,978 (4).
In Charleston, South Carolina in 1860 125 free Negroes owned slaves; six of them owning 10 or more. Of the $1.5 million in taxable property owned by free Negroes in Charleston, more than $300,000 represented slave holdings (5). In North Carolina 69 free Negroes were slave owners (6).
In 1860 William Ellison was South Carolina's largest Negro slaveowner. In Black Masters. A Free Family of Color in the Old South, authors Michael P. Johnson and James L. Roak write a sympathetic account of Ellison's life. From Ellison's birth as a slave to his death at 71, the authors attempt to provide justification, based on their own speculation, as to why a former slave would become a magnate slave master.
At birth he was given the name April. A common practice among slaves of the period was to name a child after the day or month of his or her birth. Between 1800 and 1802 April was purchased by a white slave-owner named William Ellison. Apprenticed at 12, he was taught the trades of carpentry, blacksmithing and machining, as well as how to read, write, cipher and do basic bookkeeping.
On June 8, 1816, William Ellison appeared before a magistrate (with five local freeholders as supporting witnesses) to gain permission to free April, now 26 years of age. In 1800 the South Carolina legislature had set out in detail the procedures for manumission. To end the practice of freeing unruly slaves of "bad or depraved" character and those who "from age or infirmity" were incapacitated, the state required that an owner testify under oath to the good character of the slave he sought to free. Also required was evidence of the slave's "ability to gain a livelihood in an honest way."
Although lawmakers of the time could not envision the incredibly vast public welfare structures of a later age, these stipulations became law in order to prevent slaveholders from freeing individuals who would become a burden on the general public.
Interestingly, considering today's accounts of life under slavery, authors Johnson and Roak report instances where free Negroes petitioned to be allowed to become slaves; this because they were unable to support themselves.
Black Confederates and Afro-Yankees in Civil War Virginia (University Press of Virginia-1995) was written by Ervin L. Jordan Jr., an African-American and assistant professor and associate curator of the Special Collections Department, University of Virginia library. He wrote: "One of the more curious aspects of the free black existence in Virginia was their ownership of slaves. Black slave masters owned members of their family and freed them in their wills. Free blacks were encouraged to sell themselves into slavery and had the right to choose their owner through a lengthy court procedure."
In 1816, shortly after his manumission, April moved to Stateburg. Initially he hired slave workers from local owners. When in 1817 he built a gin for Judge Thomas Watries, he credited the judge nine dollars "for hire of carpenter George for 12 days." By 1820 he had purchased two adult males to work in his shop (7). In fewer than four years after being freed, April demonstrated that he had no problem perpetuating an institution he had been released from. He also achieved greater monetary success than most white people of the period.
On June 20, 1820, April appeared in the Sumter District courthouse in Sumterville. Described in court papers submitted by his attorney as a "freed yellow man of about 29 years of age," he requested a name change because it "would yet greatly advance his interest as a tradesman." A new name would also "save him and his children from degradation and contempt which the minds of some do and will attach to the name April." Because "of the kindness" of his former master and as a "Mark of gratitude and respect for him" April asked that his name be changed to William Ellison. His request was granted.
In time the black Ellison family joined the predominantly white Episcopalian church. On August 6, 1824 he was allowed to put a family bench on the first floor, among those of the wealthy white families. Other blacks, free and slave, and poor whites sat in the balcony. Another wealthy Negro family would later join the first floor worshippers.
Between 1822 and the mid-1840s, Ellison gradually built a small empire, acquiring slaves in increasing numbers. He became one of South Carolina's major cotton gin manufacturers, selling his machines as far away as Mississippi. From February 1817 until the War Between the States commenced, his business advertisements appeared regularly in newspapers across the state. These included the Camden Gazette, the Sumter Southern Whig and the Black River Watchman.
Ellison was so successful, due to his utilization of cheap slave labor, that many white competitors went out of business. Such situations discredit impressions that whites dealt only with other whites. Where money was involved, it was apparent that neither Ellison's race or former status were considerations.
In his book, Ervin L. Jordan Jr. writes that, as the great conflagration of 1861-1865 approached: "Free Afro-Virginians were a nascent black middle class under siege, but several acquired property before and during the war. Approximately 169 free blacks owned 145,976 acres in the counties of Amelia, Amherst, Isle of Wight, Nansemond, Prince William and Surry, averaging 870 acres each. Twenty-rune Petersburg blacks each owned property worth $1,000 and continued to purchase more despite the war."
Jordan offers an example: "Gilbert Hunt, a Richmond ex-slave blacksmith, owned two slaves, a house valued at $1,376, and $500 in other properties at his death in 1863." Jordan wrote that "some free black residents of Hampton and Norfolk owned property of considerable value; 17 black Hamptonians possessed property worth a total of $15,000. Thirty-six black men paid taxes as heads of families in Elizabeth City County and were employed as blacksmiths, bricklayers, fishermen, oystermen and day laborers. In three Norfolk County parishes 160 blacks owned a total of $41,158 in real estate and personal property.
The general practice of the period was that plantation owners would buy seed and equip~ ment on credit and settle their outstanding accounts when the annual cotton crop was sold. Ellison, like all free Negroes, could resort to the courts for enforcement of the terms of contract agreements. Several times Ellison successfully sued white men for money owed him.
In 1838 Ellison purchased on time 54.5 acres adjoining his original acreage from one Stephen D. Miller. He moved into a large home on the property. What made the acquisition notable was that Miller had served in the South Carolina legislature, both in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate, and while a resident of Stateburg had been governor of the state. Ellison's next door neighbor was Dr. W.W. Anderson, master of "Borough House, a magnificent 18th Century mansion. Anderson's son would win fame in the War Between the States as General "Fighting Dick" Anderson.
By 1847 Ellison owned over 350 acres, and more than 900 by 1860. He raised mostly cotton, with a small acreage set aside for cultivating foodstuffs to feed his family and slaves. In 1840 he owned 30 slaves, and by 1860 he owned 63. His sons, who lived in homes on the property, owned an additional nine slaves. They were trained as gin makers by their father (8). They had spent time in Canada, where many wealthy American Negroes of the period sent their children for advanced formal education. Ellison's sons and daughters married mulattos from Charleston, bringing them to the Ellison plantation to live.
In 1860 Ellison greatly underestimated his worth to tax assessors at $65,000. Even using this falsely stated figure, this man who had been a slave 44 years earlier had achieved great financial success. His wealth outdistanced 90 percent of his white neighbors in Sumter District. In the entire state, only five percent owned as much real estate as Ellison. His wealth was 15 times greater than that of the state's average for whites. And Ellison owned more slaves than 99 percent of the South's slaveholders.
Although a successful businessman and cotton farmer, Ellison's major source of income derived from being a "slave breeder." Slave breeding was looked upon with disgust throughout the South, and the laws of most southern states forbade the sale of slaves under the age of 12. In several states it was illegal to sell inherited slaves (9). Nevertheless, in 1840 Ellison secretly began slave breeding.
While there was subsequent investment return in raising and keeping young males, females were not productive workers in his factory or his cotton fields. As a result, except for a few females he raised to become "breeders," Ellison sold the female and many of the male children born to his female slaves at an average price of $400. Ellison had a reputation as a harsh master. His slaves were said to be the district's worst fed and clothed. On his property was located a small, windowless building where he would chain his problem slaves.
As with the slaves of his white counterparts, occasionally Ellison's slaves ran away. The historians of Sumter District reported that from time to time Ellison advertised for the return of his runaways. On at least one occasion Ellison hired the services of a slave catcher. According to an account by Robert N. Andrews, a white man who had purchased a small hotel in Stateburg in the 1820s, Ellison hired him to run down "a valuable slave. Andrews caught the slave in Belleville, Virginia. He stated: "I was paid on returning home $77.50 and $74 for expenses.
William Ellison died December 5, 1861. His will stated that his estate should pass into the joint hands of his free daughter and his two surviving sons. He bequeathed $500 to the slave daughter he had sold.
Following in their father's footsteps, the Ellison family actively supported the Confederacy throughout the war. They converted nearly their entire plantation to the production of corn, fodder, bacon, corn shucks and cotton for the Confederate armies. They paid $5,000 in taxes during the war. They also invested more than $9,000 in Confederate bonds, treasury notes and certificates in addition to the Confederate currency they held. At the end, all this valuable paper became worthless.
The younger Ellisons contributed more than farm produce, labor and money to the Confederate cause. On March 27, 1863 John Wilson Buckner, William Ellison's oldest grandson, enlisted in the 1st South Carolina Artillery. Buckner served in the company of Captains P.P. Galliard and A.H. Boykin, local white men who knew that Buckner was a Negro. Although it was illegal at the time for a Negro to formally join the Confederate forces, the Ellison family's prestige nullified the law in the minds of Buckner's comrades. Buckner was wounded in action on July 12, 1863. At his funeral in Stateburg in August, 1895 he was praised by his former Confederate officers as being a "faithful soldier."
Following the war the Ellison family fortune quickly dwindled. But many former Negro slave magnates quickly took advantage of circumstances and benefited by virtue of their race. For example Antoine Dubuclet, the previously mentioned New Orleans plantation owner who held more than 100 slaves, became Louisiana state treasurer during Reconstruction, a post he held from 1868 to 1877 (10).
A truer picture of the Old South, one never presented by the nation's mind molders, emerges from this account. The American South had been undergoing structural evolutionary changes far, far greater than generations of Americans have been led to believe. In time, within a relatively short time, the obsolete and economically nonviable institution of slavery would have disappeared. The nation would have been spared awesome traumas from which it would never fully recover.

NOTES
1. The American Negro: Old World Background and New World Experience, Raymond Logan and Irving Cohen New York: Houghton and Mifflin, 1970), p.72.
2. Black Masters: A Free Family of Color in the Old South, Michael P. Johnson and James L. Roak New York: Norton, 1984), p.64.
3. The Forgotten People: Cane River's Creoles of Color, Gary Mills (Baton Rouge, 1977); Black Masters, p.128.
4. Male inheritance expectations in the United States in 1870, 1850-1870, Lee Soltow (New Haven, 1975), p.85.
5. Black Masters, Appendix, Table 7; p.280.
6. Black Masters, p. 62.
7. Information on the Ellison family was obtained from Black Masters; the number of slaves they owned was gained from U.S. Census Reports.
8. In 1860 South Carolina had only 21 gin makers; Ellison, his three sons and a grandson account for five of the total.
9. Neither Black Nor White: Slavery and Race Relations in Brazil and the United States, Carl N. Degler (New York, Macmillan, 1971), p.39;
     Negro Slavery in Louisiana, Joe Gray Taylor (Baton Rouge, 1963), pp. 4041.
10. Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877, Eric Foner (New York; Harper & Row, 1988), p. 47; pp. 353-355.

Kindle Available
Black Slaveowners

Black Slaveowners: Free Black Slave Masters in South Carolina, 1790-1860
An analysis of all aspects and particularly of the commercialism of black slaveowning debunks the myth that black slaveholding was a benevolent institution based on kinship, and explains the transition of black masters from slavery to paid labor.




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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Southern Core Values

From the Abbeville Institute

Southern Core Values



In American higher education of the past forty years, I have observed two American histories, and two American literatures – which teach different American ideals and values, resulting in different societies and different vision of what it means to be an American. Today we have a Northern history and a Southern history; we have a Northern literature and a Southern literature. As I write, there is no consensus, nor has there been for two centuries. The Northern perspective is dominant, even though it is an aberration and even though it has become increasingly intolerant. If you don’t like the Northern/Southern dichotomy, then use a Lincolnian vision of America versus a Jeffersonian vision of American.
There are numerous way to illustrate this conflict, but I want to focus on some lost documents and wisdom primarily from the pen of William Gilmore Simms. Needless to say, Simms is a spokesman for Southern history and literature, as we would expect from the Father of Southern Literature. Simms and the South were Jeffersonian. Simms consistently defended a Jeffersonian vision of America. Nowhere do we see Simms’s views of America and the South more clearly than in his literature on Mr. Lincoln’s War.
During the Invasion of the South, Simms wrote extensively about the two major military campaigns in South Carolina: the Burning of Columbia and the Bombardment of Charleston.
With four of his children, Simms took refuge in the capital city as Sherman marched through the heart of the state, burning and looting his way to Columbia. He was in Columbia when Sherman arrived on February 17, 1865, and he was still in Columbia when Sherman left four days later. One of Simms’s responses to Sherman’s destruction of Columbia was to write a 90-page historical narrative which he published in a tri-weekly he helped create out of the ashes of the destroyed city. In the Columbia Phoenix he recorded what he and other had witnessed and experienced. This compelling account is now being read and studied in A City Laid Waste: The Capture, Sack and Destruction of the City of Columbia. Some people – including Simms’s first biographer – claim that it is Simms’s best writing. Certainly it is a masterpiece on multiple levels, as I have argued elsewhere.
Prior to Sherman’s destruction of Columbia, Simms had spent a considerable amount of time in Charleston during the 587-day Yankee siege of the port city, a siege he criticized with passion in poetry. Simms’s response to the longest siege of the war included a series of poems, unpublished. In the following pages, I want to highlight six of these war poems. Among other things, they portray Simms’s vision of core Southern values which are consistent with a Jeffersonian vision of America.
As a war poet, Simms was exceptional, surpassing Herman Melville in Battle-Pieces and Walt Whitman in Drum-Taps, both of whom defended — even glorified – Lincoln’s invasion of the South.
Herman Melville wrote a short poem called “The Swamp Angel” to praise the 24,000 lb. cannon Yankees placed in the marshes almost five miles outside Charleston. To Melville’s speaker, Charleston is a proud city, a wicked city, guilty of secession and slavery. Melville ignored the fundamental involvement and complicity of Northern states in slavery. Facing this massive weapon of war, Melville’s Archangel Michael flees not only St Michael’s Church but also the whole city as Charleston women and children receive their just punishment from “a coal-black Angel with a thick Afric lip.” Melville’s North was establishing a consolidated, centralized, commercial Union, and not even God’s Archangel Michael could stop the power of the Northern superior white race. Melville, I remind you, was a middle-aged non-combatant who received his war news primarily from New York and Boston newspapers.
Simms’s “The Angel of the Church,” though, is a poem that portrays the Horrors of Invasion from the perspective of a Southern speaker who knows the realities of the siege. Crumbling walls, crumbling homes and crumbling churches – to Simms – would never crumble people’s spirits who had received their core values from Revolutionary War forefathers. Furthermore – Simms declares – the Biblical God of justice and righteousness is watching, and before Him no misdeeds go unpunished. Through prayer for God’s protection and through faith, the beleaguered people of Charleston can implore God to charge His guardian Archangel Michael to use his golden shield to protect the innocent, and to permit the Holy City somehow to withstand. (Today, I might add, the remains of the exploded Swamp Angel are in Trenton, New Jersey, but St Michael‘s Church still stands in the heart of Charleston.)
No city in the South was hated more by Yankees than the city of Charleston, not even Richmond. For 587 days, Charleston was under siege, including bombardments from land and sea. But firmly in the way were the Carolina Lowcountry’s defenses, which Robert E. Lee had helped conceive. (Most people do not know that General Lee began growing his famous beard while serving five months in Charleston.) These defenses included Fort Sumter, the most shelled place in the Western hemisphere. During the war, Union invaders hurled over six million pounds of projectiles at the pentagonal fort.
In “Sumter in Ruins” Simms pays tribute to the defenders who endured and saved the city. Historic Charleston would never have survived the Invasion without Fort Sumter. Simms’s speaker is a Southern patriot calling on the noble sons of freeborn patriots to resist. Even though Ft. Sumter was shelled into rubble, even though – figuratively – the lion’s den and the eagle’s nest were destroyed, still the soul of the freeborn lion and the soul of the freeborn eagle are neither defeated nor diminished, and remain fit to defend the people and to avenge the Invasion. The nobility, the courage, the inventiveness, the endurance, and the sacrifice of the Confederate defenders were monumental. Charlestonians, Simms reminds his readers, love liberty and home, receiving these gifts from their forefathers and recognizing them as the essential foundations of a humane, peaceful and virtuous society.
The other fortification that saved the wooden city of Charleston from total destruction was Fort Wagner. Simms praised the “terrible beauty” of the patriotic Southern struggle:
Glory unto the gallant boys who stood
At Wagner, and, unflinching, sought the van;
Dealing fierce blows, and shedding precious blood,
For homes as precious, and dear rights of man!
In “Fort Wagner” Simms is the national poet of the invaded South, commemorating the young men dying in defense of the sovereign Southern States in the face of unlawful, unconstitutional, and criminal Yankee invasion:
High honor to our youth – our sons and brothers,
Georgians and Carolinians, where they stand!
They will not shame their birthrights, or their mothers,
But keep, through storm, the bulwarks of the land!
Simms underscores the importance of the struggle. If Southerners were to lose their inalienable rights and be forced into a tyrannical union, then the “innocent races yet unborn shall rue it,/The Whole world feel the wound, and nations wail!” Our young patriots must succeed, but regardless our love for them will last, and we will never forget their sacrifices. To Simms, the defenders were brave; they were patriotic. Without their heroic actions at Fort Sumter and Fort Wagner, Charleston would have fallen, and at the very least the historic city we enjoy today would have disappeared. (Because of their efforts, Charleston currently boasts some 4,000 historic buildings.) Simms was not content merely praising Southern defenders at Fort Wagner; he wanted also to memorialize the grounds on which they fought. He wrote “Morris Island” to remember the Confederate defenders and the “good cause” of the South. He pays tribute to the barrier island which, he believes, will become “a shrine” to freedom “while liberty and letters find a tongue.” Now that the Lincoln Administration was invading the South, Southern men would resist the aggression, Simms claims, and defend the port city against all criminal attacks. During the long siege, this barrier island near the mouth of Charleston Harbor became the site of the fiercest fighting “against the felon and innumerous foe.”
Defending his home city against invasion was a cause dear to the heart of Simms, who spent much of his life learning about and praising Revolutionary War heroes. To William Gilmore Simms, Southern Confederates were also defending and preserving the original ideals of consensual governance, personal liberty, and prosperity based on the frugal and responsible use of natural resources. Charleston, Simms points out, had a venerable history of opposing tyranny and usurpation, and of defending American ideals.
In “South Carolina” he pays tribute to the State which had fought for freedom in 1776, 1812, and now in 1861. To Simms, South Carolina was again in a struggle for independence, similar to the struggle against Great Britain: a fight for freedom, for homes, for families. As a public voice, speaking for Southern history and identity, Simms praises his State’s “Great Soul in little frame.” As a South Carolina and Southern historian, Simms proclaims his State’s uniqueness:
To check the usurper in his giant stride
And brave his terrors and abuse his pride.
And for what?
Thou hadst no quest but freedom and to be
In conscience well-assured, and people free.
With the Lincoln Administration attacking the State and laying siege to his beloved city, Simms again calls on Southern Patriots to resist those who would do harm to the people and to the country.
On Morris Island, the fighting to destroy the city was fierce:
Earth reels and ocean rocks at every blow;
But still undaunted, with a martyr’s might,
They make for man a new Thermopylae;
And, perishing for freedom still go free!
The allusion to Thermopylae is one Simms would use again. Charleston was the front line of the phalanx, the wall of shields to protect the few against the many. The campaigns in South Carolina would determine the future of the American experiment in consensual governance, he believed, because the Invasion of the South was targeting the liberty, the rights, and the prosperity bequeathed by our Revolutionary forefathers. When Simms wrote of the two South Carolina campaigns, he consistently recorded and eulogized the courage, the honor, and the sacrifice of the Confederate defenders. This new Yankee-conceived union, “The Blessed Union,” would not be consensual, but would be conceived in deceit, and would be founded on coercion and exploitation and usurpation.
To Walt Whitman singing in Drum-Taps, though, Unionism was the new American virtue, greater than all others, sealed by the life and death of Lincoln. And secession, Whitman would chant, was “the foulest crime in history, known in any land or age.” And so a new view of American was being proclaimed by Melville and by Whitman, a view that began with the barbaric Invasion of the South.
As a war poet, Simms was defense-minded. He was involved and informed, praising Americans who continued to advocate a Jeffersonian view of America – as Simms says in his poem “Sacrifice” – not for crimes against humanity, not because they were greedy or materialistic, not because they were ambitions or crazed for power. Rather, Southerners were sacrificing and dying because they were defending the glorious republic of Thomas Jefferson, which was being attacked, vilified and replaced by a consolidated Lincolnian unitary empire. Simms’s poetic testimony is that Southerners were sacrificing and dying in great numbers only because they chose to be free and to leave a legacy and a history of freedom.
What then are those Confederate core values: morally, socially and politically?
Again, William Gilmore Simms is the one to tell us in his eyewitness account of the burning of Columbia. A City Laid Waste includes Simms’s historical narrative of the destruction of Columbia. Simms opens with an allusion to Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. How can Americans claim that governments should derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed” when they destroy our State Houses of government? How can Americans believe that we have inalienable rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness when they destroy our homes and rob and kill our people for plunder? How can anyone claim that Americans have inalienable rights of freedom of expression and inalienable rights of freedom of worship when they loot and burn our presses and our churches? Lincoln and Sherman are undermining the fundamental principles of what it means to be an American. Their invasion, unlawful and unconstitutional, is a death blow to American rights won for us all by the founding generation, despite the cover-ups and despite continuous propaganda to the contrary. Southerners were defending their homes, their families, and their liberties. Southerners were also defending their natural resources – their fields, their farms, their forests.
By conducting campaigns against civilians, the Lincoln Administration was undermining International Law, the Geneva Convention and Christian decency. They were also setting an example of scorched earth and total war which would become the norm and model for 20th century warfare.
In order to justify and defend these criminally immoral acts, Americans would begin to romanticize the Invasion – to distort, to obfuscate, to ignore, to destroy, to dismiss, to lie, to willfully misrepresent and to deliberately misplace blame. The victims of the Invasion would be vilified and demonized, and the Invaders would glorify and deify themselves.
The Lincoln American would begin to bow down above all else to unity and to the Leviathan State. Over the years, the Old American and Confederate values of self-defense, Biblical and Classical ideals, green harmony with nature, inalienable rights and consensual government would fall by the wayside; and Southerners, too, would be called upon to relinquish a noble history, a superior morality, and a visionary philosophy.
I begin my conclusion by quoting from an unpublished letter by a Yankee Invader in the 10th Illinois Infantry. Private Grundy writes on 26 April 1865, returning to his unit:
“I could see the routes the Army traveled by the smoke above the forests in the distance . . . which seemed to extend for many miles, and the nearer I approached the more dense and suffocating became the atmosphere all around, for we passed through burning forests & past burning cotton, cotton gins . . . barns, outhouses, rails and in fact everything in the shape of wood which came in their path.”
Speaking of Sherman in Columbia, Private Grundy says,
“Some things I saw done in that Campaign would have shocked a demon, and what more the world will remain ignorant of it, save such as the most important events, but the horrors, atrocities & crimes, I guess they will never be known save as the soldiers relate them to their friends . . . I never could describe the scenes on that night the light of the conflagration, the shrieking and weeping of women and wringing of hands, the crackling of the flames which tore mercilessly through the doomed city sparing neither the abode of the poor or the magnificent dwellings of the rich, of the shouts and yells of the drunken soldiers, and the indiscriminate plundering and pillaging of houses and stores . . . it beat anything I ever saw since the War began.”
Then Private Grundy interprets the Invasion:
“I do not care if they come to terms in such a way that their entire concern may have to be swept off the face of the earth . . . Crush them, pulverize them. Drive them into the Ohio River . . . I want to say it and do it. Either give up the Union and disgrace the National flag at once, or crush the Rebellion. Tampering with them has played out. Command them to surrender, and if they refuse to do so, let the dogs of war of the North go for them and show them no mercy, nor ask any; for as such as we are now in the field, its my opinion they of the South will always be hostile towards the North and if we don’t have another war we shall be constantly annoyed by them . . . for the Southerners are proud people and their spirit is not broken, even tho they have been overpowered, and so long as the present generation exists, just so long will there be an antagonistic feeling towards the North & its my opinion they will try and avenge this humiliation at some future day.”
This assessment comes from the mouth of a soldier in Sherman’s Army.
If you go to New York City today, you will see on Fifth Avenue a larger than life equestrian statue of Sherman, led not by Liberty, but by Victory, an apt reminder that no matter how much the invaders of the South proclaimed their love of liberty, their actions proved they loved Southern wealth and imperial dominance much more. Nothing exceptional about the motives of Lincoln and Sherman: they coveted money and power.
If you go to Washington, D.C. you will see a whole Sherman Square with a huge statue to Sherman in the center. These “half-acre monuments” were unveiled at the beginning of the 20th century, the so-called American century (more accurately the Yankee century, because it was the bloodiest in the history of mankind, when governments killed over 360 million people).
Where are the monuments to those who opposed the crimes, the atrocities, and the usurpations of the Northern invaders? Where are the monuments to those who suffered in the Burning of Columbia, the monuments to those who resisted and endured the Bombardment of Charleston?
Cultural, moral and philosophical differences between the North and the South were prevalent from the first, but it was the Invasion that created two Americas – not American slavery, nor Southern secession, but the Bombardment of Charleston and the Burning of Columbia. Yes, the brutal and unconstitutional Invasion of the South forever created two Americas.
During this Sesquicentennial, you have heard many people blame the South, blame South Carolina, and blame Charleston for the Civil War. But it was the Invasion to Prevent Southern Independence that changed America, not the efforts of Charlestonians to save their city and not the actions of Southerners to defend themselves against brutal aggression. The Northern Invasion created a Southern people and a Southern civilization forever different and forever superior, yes, superior morally, superior spiritually, and superior philosophically. Simms and Private Grundy were right: Southerners are proud; Southern spirits were not crushed by the Lincoln Invasion, and by the Grace of God, Southerners may still be free, still independent and still a sovereign people within their free and independent states.
The final Southern author I want to emphasize is Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve of Charleston. (The following pages are quoted form my book Fire in the Cradle: Charleston’s Literary Heritage.)
“After graduating with a Ph.D. from the University of Gottingen, he was elected at the age of twenty-four professor of Greek at the University of Virginia, where he remained twenty years. During the war he fought for the Confederacy, serving as aide-de-camp in Gen. Fitzhugh Lee’s command in 1861, as a private in the First Virginia Cavalry in 1863, and as an aide on the staff of Gen. John B. Gordon in 1864. As he said, he had earned ‘the right to teach Southern youth for nine months . . . by sharing the fortunes of their fathers and brothers at the front for three.’ He fought the war on another front as well, writing over sixty editorials for the Richmond Examiner. In September 1864 he was wounded in a skirmish at Weyer’s Cave and carried off the field. With a crippled leg as a constant reminder of the war, he began to refer to himself as the ‘lame Spartan school master Tyrtaeus.’
“As a champion of the Southern cause after the war, Gildersleeve continued to defend the South with his pen. Two essays ‘The Creed of the Old South’ and ‘A Southerner in the Peloponnesian War’ are particularly eloquent defenses of his Southern countrymen. In ‘The Creed of the Old South,’ he says:
“At the Centennial Exposition of 1876, by way of conciliating the sections, the place of honor in the Art Annex . . . was given to Rothermel’s painting of the battle of Gettysburg, in which the face of every dying Union soldier is lighted up with a celestial smile, while guilt and despair are stamped on the wan countenances of the moribund rebels. At least such is my recollection of the painting; and I hope that I may be pardoned for the malicious pleasure I felt when I was informed of the high price that the State of Pennsylvania had paid for that work of art. The dominant feeling was amusement, not indignation. But as I looked at it, I recalled another picture of a battle scene, painted by a . . . French artist, who had watched our life with an artist’s eye. One of the figures in the foreground was a dead Confederate boy lying in the angle of a worm fence. His uniform was worn and ragged, mud-stained as well as blood-stained; the cap which had fallen from his head was a tatter, and the torn shoes were ready to drop from his stiffening feet; but in a buttonhole of his tunic was stuck the inevitable toothbrush, which continued even to the end of the war to be the distinguishing mark of gentle nurture – the souvenir that the Confederate so often received form fair sympathizers in border towns. I am not a realist, but I would not exchange that homely toothbrush in the Confederate’s buttonhole for the most angelic smile that Rothermel’s brush could have conjured up.”
“Speaking for himself and his fellow countrymen, with the weight of his learning and experience behind him, Gildersleeve then vouches for the feeling that ‘right or wrong, we were fully persuaded in our own minds, and . . . there was no lurking suspicion of any moral weakness in our cause. Nothing could be holier than the cause, nothing more imperative than the duty of upholding it.’ He concludes his tribute to the Confederate defense of states rights and civil liberty with a prediction:
“That the cause we fought for and our brothers died for was the cause of civil liberty, and not the cause of human slavery, is a thesis which we feel ourselves bound to maintain whenever our motives are challenged or misunderstood, if only for our children’s sake. But even that will not long be necessary, for the vindication of our principles will be made manifest in the working out of the problems with which the republic has to grapple. If, however, the effacement of state lines and the complete centralization of the government shall prove to be the wisdom of the future, the poetry of life will still find its home in the old order, and those who love their State best will live longest in song and legend – song yet unsung, legend not yet crystallized.”
According to these sources (Simms, Grundy, Gildersleeve), Southerners fought to defend homes and families, and to preserve American ideals. The values of the founding generation were wholeheartedly embraced by Southern Confederates, including the heroic defense of American inalienable rights.
The Northern invaders fought for money and power. Simms called them “monsters of virtuous pretension.” Furthermore, Simms proved that any schism of Christianity which targets innocent civilians, — women, children and the infirm – is a “deformed Christianity.” Private Grundy confessed that what he saw done to the people of South Carolina would make even a demon blush. But then to justify the consolidated Union formed by these atrocities, he proclaimed his willingness to exterminate everyone in the South in order to control the land and to seize Southern wealth and to establish a new imperial American Union. And Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve declared Southern Confederates were motivated to defend Civil Liberties and to preserve consensual government within the various and diverse free and independent states.
I have presented only three primary historical sources; not one of them is readily available or well known. Which defended and embodied the core values of a true American? The Northern American shown to be imperial, intolerant, greedy, deceitful and destructive or the Southern American whose core values are stated in Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, and who defended those values in the War for Southern Independence.


About David Aiken

David Aiken received a B.A. in History, Philosophy and English from Baylor University, a M.Div. in Biblical Studies and Christianity and Culture from Duke University, a M.A. in Southern Literature and Classics from the University of Georgia, and a Ph.D. in American Literature and Modern British and American Literature from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He has written, edited or introduced more than fifty articles and books on William Faulkner, Flannery O'Conner, William Gilmore Simms and other Southern authors, and is a founding member of the Abbeville Institute and the William Gilmore Simms Society. More from David Aiken

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Civil War

ALL politics in this country are dress rehearsal for civil war.

 - Billy Beck

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Epochal Consequences Of Woodrow Wilson’s War by David Stockman

Found at: David Stockman's Corner

The Epochal Consequences Of Woodrow Wilson’s War
Remarks by David Stockman
Committee for the Republic
Washington DC January 20, 2015

My humble thesis tonight is that the entire 20th Century was a giant mistake.
And that you can put the blame for this monumental error squarely on Thomas Woodrow Wilson——-a megalomaniacal madman who was the very worst President in American history……..well, except for the last two.
His unforgiveable error was to put the United States into the Great War for utterly no good reason of national interest. The European war posed not an iota of threat to the safety and security of the citizens of Lincoln NE, or Worcester MA or Sacramento CA. In that respect, Wilson’s putative defense of “freedom of the seas” and the rights of neutrals was an empty shibboleth; his call to make the world safe for democracy, a preposterous pipe dream.
Actually, his thinly veiled reason for plunging the US into the cauldron of the Great War was to obtain a seat at the peace conference table——so that he could remake the world in response to god’s calling.
But this was a world about which he was blatantly ignorant; a task for which he was temperamentally unsuited; and an utter chimera based on 14 points that were so abstractly devoid of substance as to constitute mental play dough.
Or, as his alter-ego and sycophant, Colonel House, put it:  Intervention positioned Wilson to play “The noblest part that has ever come to the son of man”.  America thus plunged into Europe’s carnage, and forevermore shed its century-long Republican tradition of anti-militarism and non-intervention in the quarrels of the Old World.
Needless to say, there was absolutely nothing noble that came of Wilson’s intervention. It led to a peace of vengeful victors, triumphant nationalists and avaricious imperialists—-when the war would have otherwise ended in a bedraggled peace of mutually exhausted bankrupts and discredited war parties on both sides.
By so altering the course of history, Wilson’s war bankrupted Europe and midwifed 20th century totalitarianism in Russia and Germany.
These developments, in turn, eventually led to the Great Depression, the Welfare State and Keynesian economics, World War II, the holocaust, the Cold War, the permanent Warfare State and its military-industrial complex.
They also spawned Nixon’s 1971 destruction of sound money, Reagan’s failure to tame Big Government and Greenspan’s destructive cult of monetary central planning.
So, too, flowed the Bush’s wars of intervention and occupation,  their fatal blow to the failed states in the lands of Islam foolishly created by the imperialist map-makers at Versailles and the resulting endless waves of blowback and terrorism now afflicting the world.
And not the least of the ills begotten in Wilson’s war is the modern rogue regime of central bank money printing, and the Bernanke-Yellen plague of bubble economics which never stops showering the 1% with the monumental windfalls from central bank enabled speculation.
Consider the building blocks of that lamentable edifice.
First, had the war ended in 1917 by a mutual withdrawal from the utterly stalemated trenches of the Western Front, as it was destined to, there would have been no disastrous summer offensive by the Kerensky government, or subsequent massive mutiny in Petrograd that enabled Lenin’s flukish seizure of power in November. That is, the 20th century would not have been saddled with a Stalinist nightmare or with a Soviet state that poisoned the peace of nations for 75 years, while the nuclear sword of Damocles hung over the planet.
Likewise, there would have been no abomination known as the Versailles peace treaty; no “stab in the back” legends owing to the Weimar government’s forced signing of the “war guilt” clause; no continuance of England’s brutal post-armistice blockade that delivered Germany’s women and children into starvation and death and left a demobilized 3-million man army destitute, bitter and on a permanent political rampage of vengeance.
So too, there would have been no acquiescence in the dismemberment of Germany and the spreading of its parts and pieces to Poland, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, France, Austria and Italy—–with the consequent revanchist agitation that nourished the Nazi’s with patriotic public support in the rump of the fatherland.
Nor would there have materialized the French occupation of the Ruhr and the war reparations crisis that led to the destruction of the German middle class in the 1923 hyperinflation; and, finally, the history books would have never recorded the Hitlerian ascent to power and all the evils that flowed thereupon.
In short, on the approximate 100th anniversary of Sarajevo, the world has been turned upside down.
The war of victors made possible by Woodrow Wilson destroyed the liberal international economic order—that is, honest money, relatively free trade, rising international capital flows and rapidly growing global economic integration—-which had blossomed during the 40-year span between 1870 and 1914.
That golden age had brought rising living standards, stable prices, massive capital investment, prolific technological progress and pacific relations among the major nations——a condition that was never equaled, either before or since.
Now, owing to Wilson’s fetid patrimony, we have the opposite: A world of the Warfare State, the Welfare State, Central Bank omnipotence and a crushing burden of private and public debts. That is, a thoroughgoing statist regime that is fundamentally inimical to capitalist prosperity, free market governance of economic life and the flourishing of private liberty and constitutional safeguards against the encroachments of the state.
So Wilson has a lot to answer for—-and my allotted 30 minutes can hardly accommodate the full extent of the indictment. But let me try to summarize his own “war guilt” in eight major propositions——a couple of which my give rise to a disagreement or two.
Proposition #1:  Starting with the generic context——the Great War was about nothing worth dying for and engaged no recognizable principle of human betterment. There were many blackish hats, but no white ones.
Instead, it was an avoidable calamity issuing from a cacophony of political incompetence, cowardice, avarice and tomfoolery.
Blame the bombastic and impetuous Kaiser Wilhelm for setting the stage with his foolish dismissal of Bismarck in 1890, failure to renew the Russian reinsurance treaty shortly thereafter and his quixotic build-up of the German Navy after the turn of the century.
Blame the French for lashing themselves to a war declaration that could be triggered by the intrigues of a decadent court in St. Petersburg where the Czar still claimed divine rights and the Czarina ruled behind the scenes on the hideous advice of Rasputin.
Likewise, censure Russia’s foreign minister Sazonov for his delusions of greater Slavic grandeur that had encouraged Serbia’s provocations after Sarajevo; and castigate the doddering emperor Franz Joseph for hanging onto power into his 67th year on the throne and thereby leaving his crumbling empire vulnerable to the suicidal impulses of General Conrad’s war party.
So too, indict the duplicitous German Chancellor, Bethmann-Hollweg, for allowing the Austrians to believe that the Kaiser endorsed their declaration of war on Serbia; and pillory Winston Churchill and London’s war party for failing to recognize that the Schlieffen Plan’s invasion through Belgium was no threat to England, but a unavoidable German defense against a two-front war.
But after all that—- most especially don’t talk about the defense of democracy, the vindication of liberalism or the thwarting of Prussian autocracy and militarism.
The British War party led by the likes of Churchill and Kitchener was all about the glory of empire, not the vindication of democracy; France’ principal war aim was the revanchist drive to recover Alsace-Lorrain—–mainly a German speaking territory for 600 years until it was conquered by Louis XIV.
In any event, German autocracy was already on its last leg as betokened by the arrival of universal social insurance and the election of a socialist-liberal majority in the Reichstag on the eve of the war; and the Austro-Hungarian, Balkan and Ottoman goulash of nationalities, respectively, would have erupted in interminable regional conflicts, regardless of who won the Great War.
In short, nothing of principle or higher morality was at stake in the outcome.
Proposition # 2:  The war posed no national security threat whatsoever to the US.  Presumably, of course, the danger was not the Entente powers—but Germany and its allies.
But how so?  After the Schlieffen Plan offensive failed on September 11, 1914, the German Army became incarcerated in a bloody, bankrupting, two-front land war that ensured its inexorable demise. Likewise, after the battle of Jutland in May 1916, the great German surface fleet was bottled up in its homeports—-an inert flotilla of steel that posed no threat to the American coast 4,000 miles away.
As for the rest of the central powers, the Ottoman and Hapsburg empires already had an appointment with the dustbin of history. Need we even bother with the fourth member—-that is, Bulgaria?
Proposition #3:  Wilson’s pretexts for war on Germany—–submarine warfare and the Zimmerman telegram—-are not half what they are cracked-up to be by Warfare State historians.
As to the so-called freedom of the seas and neutral shipping rights, the story is blatantly simple. In November 1914, England declared the North Sea to be a “war zone”; threatened neutral shipping with deadly sea mines; declared that anything which could conceivably be of use to the German army—directly or indirectly—-to be contraband that would be seized or destroyed; and announced that the resulting blockade of German ports was designed to starve it into submission.
A few months later, Germany announced its submarine warfare policy designed to the stem the flow of food, raw materials and armaments to England in retaliation.  It was the desperate antidote of a land power to England’s crushing sea-borne blockade.
Accordingly, there existed a state of total warfare in the northern European waters—-and the traditional “rights” of neutrals were irrelevant and disregarded by both sides. In arming merchantmen and stowing munitions on passenger liners, England was hypocritical and utterly cavalier about the resulting mortal danger to innocent civilians—–as exemplified by the 4.3 million rifle cartridges and hundreds of tons of other munitions carried in the hull of the Lusitania.
Likewise, German resort to so-called “unrestricted submarine warfare” in February 1917 was brutal and stupid, but came in response to massive domestic political pressure during what was known as the “turnip winter” in Germany.  By then, the country was starving from the English blockade—literally.
Before he resigned on principle in June 1915, Secretary William Jennings Bryan got it right. Had he been less diplomatic he would have said never should American boys be crucified on the cross of Cunard liner state room so that a few thousand wealthy plutocrat could exercise a putative “right” to wallow in luxury while knowingly cruising into in harm’s way.
As to the Zimmerman telegram, it was never delivered to Mexico, but was sent from Berlin as an internal diplomatic communique to the German ambassador in Washington, who had labored mightily to keep his country out of war with the US, and was intercepted by British intelligence, which sat on it for more than a month waiting for an opportune moment to incite America into war hysteria.
In fact, this so-called bombshell was actually just an internal foreign ministry rumination about a possible plan to approach the Mexican president regarding an alliance in the event that the US first went to war with Germany.
Why is this surprising or a casus belli?  Did not the entente bribe Italy into the war with promises of large chunks of Austria? Did not the hapless Rumanians finally join the entente when they were promised Transylvania?  Did not the Greeks bargain endlessly over the Turkish territories they were to be awarded for joining the allies?  Did  not Lawrence of Arabia bribe the Sherif of Mecca with the promise of vast Arabian lands to be extracted from the Turks?
Why, then, would the German’s—-if at war with the USA—- not promise the return of Texas?
Proposition #4:  Europe had expected a short war, and actually got one when the Schlieffen plan offensive bogged down 30 miles outside of Paris on the Marne River in mid-September 1914.  Within three months, the Western Front had formed and coagulated into blood and mud——a ghastly 400 mile corridor of senseless carnage, unspeakable slaughter and incessant military stupidity that stretched from the Flanders coast across Belgium and northern France to the Swiss frontier.
The next four years witnessed an undulating line of trenches,  barbed wire entanglements, tunnels, artillery emplacements and shell-pocked scorched earth that rarely moved more than a few miles in either direction, and which ultimately claimed more than 4 million casualties on the Allied side and 3.5 million on the German side.
If there was any doubt that Wilson’s catastrophic intervention converted a war of attrition, stalemate and eventual mutual exhaustion into Pyrrhic victory for the allies, it was memorialized in four developments during 1916.
In the first, the Germans wagered everything on a massive offensive designed to overrun the fortresses of Verdun——the historic defensive battlements on France’s northeast border that had stood since Roman times, and which had been massively reinforced after the France’s humiliating defeat in Franco-Prussian War of 1870.
But notwithstanding the mobilization of 100 divisions, the greatest artillery bombardment campaign every recorded until then, and repeated infantry offensives from February through November that resulted in upwards of 400,000 German casualties, the Verdun offensive failed.
The second event was its mirror image—-the massive British and French offensive known as the battle of the Somme, which commenced with equally destructive artillery barrages on July 1, 1916 and then for three month sent waves of infantry into the maws of German machine guns and artillery. It too ended in colossal failure, but only after more than 600,000 English and French casualties including a quarter million dead.
In between these bloodbaths, the stalemate was reinforced by the naval showdown at Jutland that cost the British far more sunken ships and drowned sailors than the Germans, but also caused the Germans to retire their surface fleet to port and never again challenge the Royal Navy in open water combat.
Finally, by year-end 1916 the German generals who had destroyed the Russian armies in the East with only a tiny one-ninth fraction of the German army—Generals Hindenburg and Ludendorff —were given command of the Western Front. Presently, they radically changed Germany’s war strategy by recognizing that the growing allied superiority in manpower, owing to the British homeland draft of 1916 and mobilization of forces from throughout the empire, made a German offensive breakthrough will nigh impossible.
The result was the Hindenburg Line—a military marvel based on a checkerboard array of hardened pillbox machine gunners and maneuver forces rather than mass infantry on the front lines, and an intricate labyrinth of highly engineered tunnels, deep earth shelters, rail connections, heavy artillery and flexible reserves in the rear. It was also augmented by the transfer of Germany’s eastern armies to the western front—-giving it 200 divisions and 4 million men on the Hindenburg Line.
This precluded any hope of Entente victory. By 1917 there were not enough able-bodied draft age men left in France and England to overcome the Hindenburg Line, which, in turn,  was designed to bleed white the entente armies led by butchers like Generals Haig and Joffre until their governments sued for peace.
Thus, with the Russian army’s disintegration in the east and the stalemate frozen indefinitely in the west by early 1917, it was only a matter of months before mutinies among the French lines, demoralization in London, mass starvation and privation in Germany and bankruptcy all around would have led to a peace of exhaustion and a European-wide political revolt against the war makers.
Wilson’s intervention thus did not remake the world. But it did radically re-channel the contours of 20th century history. And, as they say, not in a good way.
Proposition #5:  Wilson’s epochal error not only produced the abomination of Versailles and all its progeny, but also the transformation of the Federal Reserve from a passive “banker’s bank” to an interventionist central bank knee-deep in Wall Street, government finance and macroeconomic management.
This, too, was a crucial historical hinge point because Carter Glass’ 1913 act forbid the new Reserve banks to even own government bonds; empowered them only to passively discount for cash good commercial credits and receivables brought to the rediscount window by member banks; and contemplated no open market interventions in debt markets or any remit with respect to GDP growth, jobs, inflation, housing or all the rest of modern day monetary central planning targets.
In fact, Carter Glass’ “banker’s bank” didn’t care whether the growth rate was positive 4%, negative 4% or anything in-between; its modest job was to channel liquidity into the banking system in response to the ebb and flow of commerce and production.
Jobs, growth and prosperity were to remain the unplanned outcome of millions of producers, consumers, investors, savers, entrepreneurs and speculators operating on the free market, not the business of the state.
But Wilson’s war took the national debt from about $1 billion or $11 per capita—–a level which had been maintained since the Battle of Gettysburg—-to $27 billion, including upwards of $10 billion re-loaned to the allies to enable them to continue the war. There is not a chance that this massive eruption of Federal borrowing could have been financed out of domestic savings in the private market.
So the Fed charter was changed owing to the exigencies of war to permit it to own government debt and to discount private loans collateralized by Treasury paper.
In due course, the famous and massive Liberty Bond drives became a glorified Ponzi scheme. Patriotic Americans borrowed money from their banks and pledged their war bonds; the banks borrowed money from the Fed, and re-pledged their customer’s collateral.  The Reserve banks, in turn, created the billions they loaned to the commercial banks out of thin air, thereby pegging interest rates low for the duration of the war.
When Wilson was done saving the world, America had an interventionist central bank schooled in the art of interest rate pegging and rampant expansion of fiat credit not anchored in the real bills of commerce and trade; and its incipient Warfare and Welfare states had an agency of public debt monetization that could permit massive government spending without the inconvenience of high taxes on the people or the crowding out of business investment by high interest rates on the private market for savings.
Proposition # 6:   By prolonging the war and massively increasing the level of debt and money printing on all sides, Wilson’s folly prevented a proper post-war resumption of the classical gold standard at the pre-war parities.
This failure of resumption, in turn, paved the way for the breakdown of monetary order and world trade in 1931—–a break which turned a standard post-war economic cleansing into the Great Depression, and a decade of protectionism, beggar-thy-neighbor currency manipulation and ultimately rearmament and statist dirigisme.
In essence, the English and French governments had raised billions from their citizens on the solemn promise that it would be repaid at the pre-war parities; that the war bonds were money good in gold.
But the combatant governments had printed too much fiat currency and inflation during the war, and through domestic regimentation, heavy taxation and unfathomable combat destruction of economic life in northern France had drastically impaired their private economies.
Accordingly, under Churchill’s foolish leadership England re-pegged to gold at the old parity in 1925, but had no political will or capacity to reduce bloated war-time wages, costs and prices in a commensurate manner, or to live with the austerity and shrunken living standards that honest liquidation of its war debts required.
At the same time, France ended up betraying its war time lenders, and re-pegged the Franc two years later at a drastically depreciated level. This resulted in a spurt of beggar-thy-neighbor prosperity and the accumulation of pound sterling claims that would eventually blow-up the London money market and the sterling based “gold exchange standard” that the Bank of England and British Treasury had peddled as a poor man’s way back on gold.
Yet under this “gold lite” contraption, France, Holland, Sweden and other surplus countries accumulated huge amounts of sterling liabilities in lieu of settling their accounts in bullion—–that is, they loaned billions to the British. They did this on the promise and the confidence that the pound sterling would remain at $4.87 per dollar come hell or high water—-just as it had for 200 years of peacetime before.
But British politicians betrayed their promises and their central bank creditors September 1931 by suspending redemption and floating the pound——-shattering the parity and causing the decade-long struggle for resumption of an honest gold standard to fail.  Depressionary contraction of world trade, capital flows and capitalist enterprise inherently followed.
Proposition # 7:  By turning America overnight into the granary, arsenal and banker of the Entente, the US economy was distorted, bloated and deformed into a giant, but unstable and unsustainable global exporter and creditor.
During the war years, for example, US exports increased by 4X and GDP soared from $40 billion to $90 billion.  Incomes and land prices soared in the farm belt, and steel, chemical, machinery, munitions and ship construction boomed like never before—–in substantial part because Uncle Sam essentially provided vendor finance to the bankrupt allies in desperate need of both military and civilian goods.
Under classic rules, there should have been a nasty correction after the war—-as the world got back to honest money and sound finance.  But it didn’t happen because the newly unleashed Fed fueled an incredible boom on Wall Street and a massive junk bond market in foreign loans.
In today economic scale, the latter amounted to upwards of $2 trillion and, in effect, kept the war boom in exports and capital spending going right up until 1929. Accordingly, the great collapse of 1929-1932 was not a mysterious failure of capitalism; it was the delayed liquidation of Wilson’s war boom.
After the crash, exports and capital spending plunged by 80% when the foreign junk bond binge ended in the face of massive defaults abroad; and that, in turn, led to a traumatic liquidation of industrial inventories and a collapse of credit fueled purchases of consumer durables like refrigerators and autos. The latter, for example, dropped from 5 million to 1.5 million units per year after 1929.
Proposition # 8:  In short, the Great Depression was a unique historical event owing to the vast financial deformations of the Great War——deformations which were drastically exaggerated by its prolongation from Wilson’s intervention and the massive credit expansion unleashed by the Fed and Bank of England during and after the war.
Stated differently, the trauma of the 1930s was not the result of the inherent flaws or purported cyclical instabilities of free market capitalism; it was, instead, the delayed legacy of the financial carnage of the Great War and the failed 1920s efforts to restore the liberal order of sound money, open trade and unimpeded money and capital flows.
But this trauma was thoroughly misunderstood, and therefore did give rise to the curse of Keynesian economics and did unleash the politicians to meddle in virtually every aspect of economic life, culminating in the statist and crony capitalist dystopia that has emerged in this century.
Needless to say, that is Thomas Woodrow Wilson’s worst sin of all.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Robert E. Howard: Southern Writer By Mike C. Tuggle


Another gem by Mike C. Tuggle found at the Abbeville Institute. Mike recently released a fine new novel AZTEC MIDNIGHT. Go to the links and experience the author's excellent writing.

Robert E. Howard: Southern Writer