Monday, January 5, 2015

With Malice Toward the Conquered Rebel States


Jefferson Davis said in 1864: "I tried in all my power to avert this war . . . The North was mad and blind; it would not let us govern ourselves . . . and now it must go on till the last man of this generation falls in his tracks . . . We are not fighting for slavery. We are fighting for Independence, and that, or extermination, we will have . . ."   Not allowed to leave the Union, the South was kept in at bayonet point and ruled by those who sought their utter political, economic and cultural destruction.

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"

With Malice Toward the Conquered Rebel States

"[The] demoralization and corruption of the times distressed [Lee].  So did comments in the Northern press, such as this statement by Indiana's George W. Julian: I would hang Jefferson Davis in the name of God.  What an outrage that Lee is unmolested too. I would hang liberally while I had my hand in.  I would give the land to the Negroes and not leave a rebel enough to bury his carcass in."

Thundered William Lloyd Garrison: "I know that in the South the powers of hell are still strong and defiant, resolved upon doing whatever evil is possible in a spirit of diabolical malignity."

These tongue lashings hurt the South almost as much as the physical destruction of earlier months.  They made an honorable return to free and independent Union all but impossible.

Radical Republicans . . . [instituted] Old Testament vengeance [and] Thaddeus Stevens was their leader. His long face, beetling eyebrows and protruding underlip seemed to imply that he lived to pronounce Dixie's doomsday. He would take an eye for everyone given, until, like Oedipus, the blinded protagonist dwelled in endless deserved darkness.  Incorruptible like Robespierre, he was equally incapable of compassion.

His counterpart in the Senate, Charles Sumner, put the proposition simply: the rebel States had committed suicide.  They were territories, subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of Congress; conquered provinces, to be given the heel. The proud nobility should be stripped of property, the aristocracy annihilated. The mighty should be laid low.

In 1865, Lee's Virginia was sullen and somber. Even when summer came, the psychological mood was autumnal.  Brown was the pervasive color: the brown of scorched-earth, dead trees, renounced ambition and once-green hopes. Dead men were everywhere. Their portraits covered parlor walls.  Their death masks filled the public places.  Their words echoed in speeches and sermons. They seemed to be concealed in widows' weeds.

The tempo of their lives echoed in the pounding of comrades' wooden legs on cobblestones. Soon they would ascend to marble blocks and guard dozens of courthouse squares."

(Lee after the War, The Greatest Period in the Life of a Great American, Marshall W. Fishwick, Dodd, Mead & Company, 1963, excerpts, pp. 51-55)