Abraham Lincoln was a fine President, but some of the people under him were anything but that. (Thaddeus Stevens, for example, was quite the special snowflake.) For one thing, Honest Abe did not intend for the postwar South to be run by a gang of carpetbaggers:
Mr. Kennedy has some apprehensions that federal officers, not citizens of Louisiana, may run as candidates for Congress in that State. In my view, there would be no possible object in such a course. . . . What we want is conclusive evidence that respectable citizens of Louisiana are willing to serve as members of congress, and to swear to support the Constitution, and that other respectable citizens are willing to vote for them. To send a parcel of Northern men here as Representatives, elected, as it would be understood, and perhaps really so, at the point of the bayonet, would be disgraceful and outrageous.
— Lincoln correspondence to G. F. Shipley, 11/21/1862
Lincoln’s intended postwar policy was eloquently stated during his second inaugural address:
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.
It’s very unfortunate that it didn’t work out that way, for rather obvious reasons.
Despite whatever you may have heard from your leftist professors and politically correct history books, the Radical Reconstruction following the Civil War was a vast moneymaking opportunity for a bunch of fraudsters to loot the South. Worse, it was a reign of terror. This “Reconstruction” had a lot more in common with the Morgenthau Plan than the Marshall Plan.
One of the organizations – perhaps the most notorious one – responsible for this was the Union League, also called the Loyal League. Their agitation, in the name of locking down political power, caused catastrophic damage to race relations, and this aspect of the carpetbagger regime was the immediate cause for the retaliations that eventually followed. Even though the details have fallen into the memory hole a century and a half later, all this had tremendous negative impact. Its legacy on race relations even now is greater than the much more recent Trayvon Martin shooting, which the MSM did their utmost to spin into a White versus Black “hate crime” despite all the inconvenient facts.
What did the Union League / Loyal League actually do?
For the answer, let’s consult Wikipedia, our trusty ultimate source of human knowledge, so fair and objective and “NPOV” that it hurts. Their article as of 10/15/2019 begins:
The Union Leagues were quasi-secretive, men’s clubs established during the American Civil War (1861–1865), to promote loyalty to the Union of the United States of America, the policies of newly elected 16th President Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865, served 1861–1865), and to combat what they believed to be the treasonous words and actions of anti-war, antiblack “Copperhead” Democrats.
From the rest of the introduction, you’d think it was pretty much like the Kiwanis Club, the Elks, or the Rotary Club except with a little political flair. Maybe that’s indeed how it rolled in the North, but in the South, things took on a different character. What does the article say about that?
During the Reconstruction era, Union Leagues were formed across the South after 1867 as working auxiliaries of the Republican Party, supported entirely by Northern interests. They were secret organizations that mobilized freedmen to register to vote and to vote Republican. They taught freedmen Union views on political issues and which way to vote on them, and promoted civic projects. Eric Foner reports:
By the end of 1867 it seemed that virtually every black voter in the South had enrolled in the Union League, the Loyal League, or some equivalent local political organization. Meetings were generally held in a black church or school.
The Ku Klux Klan was a secret organization of whites that resisted what they saw as the excesses of Reconstruction. They sometimes terrorized and even assassinated Union League leadership. Founder Nathan Bedford Forrest grew uneasy about the group’s tendency to lawlessness, and disbanded it in the late 1860’s.
From that, you’d think the Union League was just hosting political pep rallies, until Fraternity Tri-Kappa attacked them for absolutely no reason.
The article does have a pretty lively edit history, so someone’s been trying to fix it. (Before anyone gets the wrong idea again, I’ve never made a single change to it, nor do I intend on doing so.) Might there be a contrarian opinion to the version existing now about what these “quasi-secretive men’s clubs” were up to in Dixie?
What Wikipedia’s article didn’t tell you
The columnist Mike Scruggs fills us in on the things you didn’t read in Wikipedia. Here are some highlights of the article, which is worth a read in its entirety:
The Union League perpetrated far more violence against both blacks and whites in the post Civil War Reconstruction years of 1865 to 1877 than the Klan. Why has the violence of the Union League been shoved deep into the memory hole of history? It is because the Union League was essentially a quasi-federal agency carrying out the policies of Reconstruction. The factual history of this political despotism, corruption, and violence is a moral and political embarrassment, which the powerful guardians of counterfactual political narratives have relentlessly sought to suppress.
Indeed, you won’t hear anything about it from your professors, or today’s PC history books. He goes further into their political motives, which were to gain a lasting hold on national power for the Radical Republican faction. (Bear in mind that they were remarkably different from today’s Republicans, or even moderates like Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson.) Here’s how it rolled at their meetings, typically held in remote areas:
Union League meetings were conducted as a mystical secret society with secret rituals. Meetings were especially devoted to stirring up enmity between blacks and whites. A catechism written by Radical Republicans in Congress was used in Union League meetings to create an unreasonable sense of entitlement, grievance, and resentment. They were taught that Northern Republican whites were their friends and allies and that white Southerners and Democrats were enemies to be hated and despised. They were frequently promised that they would receive land and livestock confiscated from the whites. In some cases they were even promised racial dominance that would entitle them to the wives and daughters of their white enemies. This led to a number of violent racial incidents. Such racial incidents were frequently used by carpetbagger governments to demonstrate to Washington and the Northern press and public the continued need for Southern Reconstruction. Other promises were in the form of threats of a death penalty by hanging to any black who betrayed the League by voting Democrat.
There might be a reason why a generation of young Southerners grew up thinking that “damn Yankee” was a single word. Scruggs describes further how the Union League became a paramilitary force of a quarter million. Then this:
In order to insure that all blacks voted Republican the Union League bullied and beat other blacks into submission. Even flogging with the lash was used. If that did not work, they exacted the death penalty, frequently by lynching.
Perhaps this is one of the reasons why we have the secret ballot these days, where you cast your vote in a booth or little cubicle stand. Other than that, he tells of how the Union League went on a very extensive arson spree, and sometimes conducted murderous raids on civilians. Furthermore:
The Raleigh Sentinel reported on August 29 of the same year that ten Federal Army companies associated with the Union League had terrorized the Goldsboro area and committed violent depredations of all sorts. It reported the actions of the troops “so violent that it was unsafe for women to leave their homes.” This was all part of the Reconstruction mandate to remake the South.
This isn’t exactly how to win the public’s hearts and minds.
In Myrta Lockett Avary’s 1906 book, Dixie After the War, she relates a tragic atrocity. In Upstate South Carolina, a group of Union League Federal soldiers marching and singing halted to discharge a volley of bullets into a country church during services, instantly killing a fourteen-year-old girl. At a nearby residence a squad of the same troops entered a home and bound the elderly owner as they ransacked his house and argued over who would first ravage his daughter. The girl when approached drove a concealed knife through the heart of her assailant. She was then beaten to death by the rest. But under corrupt military and carpetbagger rule, Southern whites had little recourse to justice. No Federal justice occurred.
Today’s PC history books don’t mention anything like this – or, of course, Wikipedia – except for hotly denying that anything of the sort ever took place. (Yeah, I bet those two dead girls were lying, and the dead senior citizen too, right?) This installment of Mike Scrugss’ series on the Radical Reconstruction finishes with this:
But as Klan activity increased in response to Union League and other Reconstruction misdeeds, the Radical Republicans formed a committee to investigate the Klan. A minority report by Northern Democrats and Conservative Republicans representing more than a third of the committee, however, noted that the Union League had “instilled hatred of the white race” and had “made arson, rape, robbery, and murder a daily occurrence.” They also noted the role of corrupt government and Union League violence in driving whites to take law into their own hands.
Now you know the other side of the story, one that Wikipedia didn’t tell you.
How bad were the carpetbaggers?
Was the contrarian article I excerpted from merely the fulminations of a grouchy columnist? If you don’t believe him, perhaps you might consider Woodrow Wilson’s take on the carpetbagger regime. As a boy, he lived through the Civil War and Radical Reconstruction. Furthermore, he had access to many other sources who were around during that time. Later, he became a history professor.
Eventually, Woodrow Wilson became President. I do have quite a few bones to pick about our first globalist POTUS. The worst is that he got us suckered into someone else’s fight – the first of many to come – prolonging a senseless bloodbath. This led to a chain reaction of other horrors, thus beginning America’s century of perpetual war. Still, by all accounts, his earlier career as a history professor was quite distinguished. Here are some of the things he wrote in 1902, volume 5 of A History of the American People:
Negroes constituted the majority of their electorates; but political power gave them no advantage of their own. Adventurers swarmed out of the North to cozen, beguile, and use them. These men, mere “carpet baggers” for the most part, who brought nothing with them, and had nothing to bring, but a change of clothing and their wits, became the new masters of the blacks. They gained the confidence of the negroes, obtained for themselves the more lucrative offices, and lived upon the public treasury, public contracts, and their easy control of affairs. For the negroes there was nothing but occasional allotments of abandoned or forfeited land, the pay of petty offices, a per diem allowance as members of the conventions and the state legislatures which their new masters made business for, or the wages of servants in the various offices of administration. Their ignorance and credulity made them easy dupes. A petty favor, a slender stipend, a trifling perquisite, a bit of poor land, a piece of money satisfied or silenced them. It was enough, for the rest, to play upon their passions. They were easily taught to hate the men who had once held them in slavery, and to follow blindly the political party which had brought on the war of their emancipation.
This is a pretty clear reference to what I excerpted earlier, concerning the carpetbaggers taking advantage of the freedmen and using demagoguery for political advantage. Later, Wilson writes quite a bit about financial chicanery and mismanagement. For example:
The real figures of the ruin wrought no man could get at. It was not to be expressed in state taxes or state debts. The increase in the expenditure and indebtedness of counties and towns, of school districts and cities, represented an aggregate greater even than that of the ruinous sums which had drained the treasuries and mortgaged the resources of the governments of the States; and men saw with their own eyes what was going on at their own doors. What was afoot at the capitals of their States they only read of in the newspapers or heard retailed in the gossip of the street, but the affairs of their own villages and country-sides they saw corrupted, mismanaged, made base use of under their very eyes. There the negroes themselves were the office holders, men who could not so much as write their names and who knew none of the uses of authority except its insolence. It was there that the policy of the congressional leaders wrought its perfect work of fear, demoralization, disgust, and social revolution.
Wilson doesn’t mention the Union League by name. However, as described earlier, this was the paramilitary force (sometimes overlapping with the Yankee occupational army) that did the dirty work for the Radical Republicans in Congress. Since they maintained a transmission belt all the way to Washington, all that had official approval.
No one who thought justly or tolerantly could think that this veritable overthrow of civilization in the South had been foreseen or desired by the men who had followed Mr. [Thaddeus] Stevens and Mr. Wade and Mr. Morton in their policy of rule or ruin. That handful of leaders it was, however, hard to acquit of the charge of knowing and intending the ruinous consequences of what they had planned. They would take counsel of moderation neither from northern men nor from southern. They were proof against both fact and reason in their determination to “put the white South under the heel of the black South.”
Wilson doesn’t go into specifics on the depredations. Less than four decades after the fact, it was still an explosive topic. Still, it’s not too hard to read between the lines.
The price of the policy to which it gave the final touch of permanence was the temporary disintegration of southern society and the utter, apparently the irretrievable, alienation of the South from the political party whose mastery it had been Mr. Stevens’s chief aim to perpetuate. The white men of the South were aroused by the mere instinct of self-preservation to rid themselves, by fair means or foul, of the intolerable burden of governments sustained by the votes of ignorant negroes and conducted in the interest of adventurers [the carpetbaggers]: governments whose incredible debts were incurred that thieves might be enriched, whose increasing loans and taxes went to no public use but into the pockets of party managers and corrupt contractors.
Again, this is not how to win hearts and minds:
Why didn’t you hear about all this before? Today’s radicalinski historians like Eric Foner and Howard Zinn do a great job of running everything through their Narrative filter. Many of Wikipedia’s editors do the same thing, of course.