Friday, January 3, 2014

Bernard Baruch, Solid South Democrat


Bernard M. Baruch was born in Camden, South Carolina on 19 August 1870, and grew up shooting muzzle loaders and picking cotton. His father Simon was born in East Prussia in 1840 and came to Camden in 1855 '€“ later to attend South Carolina Medical College at Charleston and the Medical College of Virginia.  Surgeon Baruch served in the Third South Carolina Battalion from Second Manassas through Gettysburg, and the Thirteenth Mississippi in July 1864 through the end of the war.  In the postwar Dr. Baruch was known to emit loud rebel yells when '€œDixie'€ was played or if a theatrical performance he was attending was deserving of such.

Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman

North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission

"Unsurpassed Valor, Courage and Devotion to Liberty"
"The Official Website of the North Carolina WBTS Sesquicentennial"

Bernard Baruch, Solid South Democrat

'€œ[Bernard] Baruch was not a Democrat on specific issues.  On the contrary, he had made a fortune at least once because the Republican view on the tariff had prevailed.  [But] He was a Democrat and would contribute generously to a Democratic Party campaign regardless of what he thought the issues or, for that matter, about the candidates.  And he would vote the Democratic ticket '€“ straight.

The party regularity dated back to his childhood. He had been raised on Confederate war stories and his whole family was devoted to the Confederate cause.  Years after the Baruch [family] had moved to New York [his father] Dr. Baruch embarrassed [mother Miss Belle] frightfully by giving the rebel yell in the crowded Metropolitan Opera House.

But it was not the war or even his mother'€™s story of how her home had been burnt by Sherman'€™s men so much as it was Reconstruction that turned Baruch and thousands of other Southerners into such fervid partisan Democrats that the '€œsolid South'€ has been at once a conundrum and problem to most residents of other parts of the country since.  {Reconstruction] . . . with all its terrible connotations, bred hatred for the Republican party.

The terrors of Reconstruction lasted from shortly after the close of the war until 1877, when Baruch was seven years old.  In that year Federal troops were withdrawn from the South.  Then came the struggle to turn the rascals out, now that they were no longer protected by Federal bayonets '€“ followed by the long uphill battle to work order out of the chaos they had left. Not much of this progress  was made by the time the Baruch family moved to New York [in 1881].

In those first eleven years of his life Baruch heard constantly of Republican misrule of his town and county and State, misrule seemingly directed and certainly protected by soldiers sent by a Republican administration in Washington.  The stories told of how the Republican carpetbaggers looted the State and local treasuries, of how they prevented Confederate veterans from voting, while the Negroes, directed by Republicans from the North and local scalawags who had turned Republican for the easy graft involved, elected officials whose only thought was to line their pockets.

Money was extorted from the helpless local whites, and more was obtained by the sale of bonds, some of which were later repudiated, to innocent investors, not only in the north, but abroad!  All this left the South not only in unspeakable poverty and want, but under a mountain of debt [and impairing the future credit worthiness of the South]. This last phase was impressed on Baruch in his financial dealings on Wall Street.

March 4, 1913, was a great day for the Democrats. The troops marched into Washington from far and near, but particularly from the South, for the inauguration of their second president since '€œthe War.'€ Baruch trooped with them.  Bands in the inauguration parade played '€œDixie'€ and '€œBonnie Blue Flag'€ and '€œMy Maryland.'€  Southerners cheered the West Point cadets not only because they marched so true, but because they wore the Confederate gray.'€

(Bernard Baruch, Park Bench Statesman, Carter Field, McGraw Hill, 1944, excerpts, pp. 89-98)