« Memoires of the Dean Campaign | Main | Afghan Credit »

When You're Right

You're right, and Alex Dryer is right about this except I don't think he should knock the noble tradition of "waving the bloody shirt" to stoke anti-southern sentiment in the late nineteenth century. The South in the late nineteenth century was a region that heartily deserved to be subjected to some hostile sentiments. Nothing pissed me off more than my high school history textbook's many disparaging references to these insidious "radical Republicans" in the late-1860s and 1870s who had all these nutty ideas like "black people should vote" and "treason should be punished." I'll even go whole hog and say that if Andrew Johnson had been removed from office we'd be living in a better world.

September 30, 2004 | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference When You're Right:


Amen. And the Southernized Republican Party is fixin' to roll us again because we're so damn afraid of the Southern temper tantrums that have been impeding this country's progress from the very beginning.

Posted by: Donny | Sep 30, 2004 12:48:02 PM

And NYC irishmen were stringing up blacks during the draft riots. Crazy ideas. Boston's rascists during the forced busing, man, they deserved some hostile sentiments too. WTF does any of that have to do with the here and now?

Posted by: j.scott barnard | Sep 30, 2004 12:48:03 PM

Whatever happened to those great links that TNR was mailing out to bloggers so that you could link to subscription-only articles in a way that your readers could read them?

Posted by: Bob McGrew | Sep 30, 2004 1:49:48 PM

Shit, if we let the South cecede, we would be living in a better world today, or at least a better country. Lincoln and his knee-jerk anti-secession policy led directly to the catastrophic Bush "presidency."

Posted by: grytpype | Sep 30, 2004 1:50:15 PM

Geez, are you on TNR's payroll? At least WARN your readers that the links go to subscriber-only content...

Posted by: Matt Davis | Sep 30, 2004 1:51:09 PM

Yes, it's because of Andrew Johnson that I'm absolutely sure that Bush isn't the worst President we've ever had.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough | Sep 30, 2004 1:54:16 PM

Um, the link doesn't go to subscriber-only content.

Posted by: David Weman | Sep 30, 2004 1:54:44 PM

I always say Bush is the worst president since the Reconstruction, just to avoid having to compare him with Johnson. But how well do you think Bush would have handled the Reconstruction?

Posted by: grytpype | Sep 30, 2004 1:56:06 PM

the problem with the "waving the bloody shirt" tactic was that after 1876 it was a *substitute* for acting against racial oppression in the South, not a call to secure civil rights being stripped away. Playing on resentment of the South's past crime of secession increasingly went hand in hand with indifference to actual conditions in the present day South.

The way Reconstruction played out actually has some ominous parallels with our current situation in Iraq.

Posted by: rd | Sep 30, 2004 2:11:31 PM

Yes, thank you. I heartily recommend Pamela Brandwein's "Reconstructing Reconstruction," which tells a good part of the story about how a politically faction that was unequivcally right somehow got branded as villians of history.

Posted by: Scott | Sep 30, 2004 2:12:33 PM

Here's a warning: use the status bar.

Posted by: praktike | Sep 30, 2004 2:13:40 PM

Keep in mind that after Rutherford B. Hayes took office, the country effectively made a bargain that the Republicans could wave their bloody shirts all they wanted to get elected. The deal stipulated that the Republicans not actually do anything to improve conditions for blacks in the south or bother to enforce the Reconstruction-era Consitutional amendments.

Posted by: Constantine | Sep 30, 2004 2:58:41 PM

Good post. The Pro-southern forces pushing historical revisionism in our textbooks portraying the Radical Repubs as the bad guys need to be defeated. They were probably the best group of senators this country ever elected, and used the constitutional provisions they had to the fullest extent possible to right the wrongs that had existed for so long.

"But how well do you think Bush would have handled the Reconstruction?"

He'd stick it out and refuse to pull out while the KKK killed blacks. Also, look at all the problems we had with enforcing Reconstruction against an unwilling southern populace. It wasn't imcompetence, it was just the extremely difficult nature of the enterprise.
As soon as more than a handful of Northern soldiers were dead, Kerry would be waiving the white flag and talking about removing our forces and the goodness of stability, accusing Lincoln of incompetence for having not planned for how to deal with the KKK terrorists prior to the civil war.

Posted by: Reg | Sep 30, 2004 3:12:23 PM

"The deal stipulated that the Republicans not actually do anything to improve conditions"

Hayes corruptly gained the Florida electors in exchange for pulling the Federal troops out of the South. He needed those troops, unwilling to increase the size of the military or increase taxes, for the Indian Wars after the Custer disaster. Sound familiar?

It is also interesting to look at the number of blacks in the Navy etc circa 1875 versus 1905. Jim Crow became, somehow, official Federal policy.

Thr Republican Party has a long history.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Sep 30, 2004 3:17:02 PM

With respect, Bob, there weren't that many troops in the South in 1876. The main strength of the Army had long before been diverted to the Indian-fighting division of the Missouri (say around 1869). I don't have figures in front of me, but there were probably 15,000 soldiers in the Missouri in 1876 as against a couple, three thousand in the South. And this didn't change hugely after the 1876 election. Some troops were shuffled around on paper and in fact, the Southern division was rolled into the Atlantic division, but the Missouri remained at around the same strength.

But your broader point is I think correct.

Posted by: slolernr | Sep 30, 2004 3:27:36 PM

Jim Crow became official policy during World War I, after racist Democrat Thomas Woodrow Wilson of Virginia became President.

Posted by: vox populi | Sep 30, 2004 3:29:58 PM

"sooner or later those southroners will get tired of killing each other..." - or something to that effect

Posted by: Andy | Sep 30, 2004 3:33:15 PM

Oh, bloody hell. "Waiving the bloody shirt" had nothing to do with equal rights for blacks--the
Dems were castigated as the party of "rum, Romanism and Rebellion," not the party of slavery. The radical Republicans for the most part were interested in political advantage rather than equal rights for blacks. Almost nobody in 19th century Western Civilization really believed in racial equality--it took Hitler to permanently discredit the idea of racism.

Posted by: rea | Sep 30, 2004 3:40:53 PM

Shit, if we let the South cecede, we would be living in a better world today, or at least a better country.

Yeah, maybe for you. A lot of Southern blacks might feel differently about it, though.

Posted by: JP | Sep 30, 2004 4:22:46 PM

I think he goes by Zander Dryer, by the way. Isn't this Josh Marshall's former intern?

Posted by: JP | Sep 30, 2004 4:25:57 PM

1) I agree with Matt that Johnson was a lousy president and the country would have been better off without him. The South launched a war that killed hundreds of thousands of people to preserve the institution of slavery. Reconstruction did not go far enough, and those responsible were never sufficiently punished.
2) However, the worst president in US history, at least for the past 100 years, has to be Mr. Carter. Faced with an act of war, he responded by sending yellow ribbons to Iran rather than cruise missiles and aircraft carriers. Had he leveled Tehran in 1976, we would never have started down the path of escalating terror and appeasement that led to 9/11. Liberal guilt and blame-America-firstism tied his hands then and we are still living with the consquences.

Posted by: DBL | Sep 30, 2004 4:36:54 PM

Yes, Scott, not only are liberals and Northerners the worst racists, we're the ONLY racists. Yes, Reg, Iraq is much like the Civil War, which proves that we need a Republican in office.

Fifteenth Amendment, Section 3. "No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability."

Actually this was quite moderate and limited. They should have disenfranchised the whole lot of them, not just the ones who had violated oaths. And even this weak measure was removed too quickly.

The North shall rise again!

Posted by: zizka | Sep 30, 2004 4:37:40 PM

Had he leveled Tehran in 1976, we would never have started down the path of escalating terror and appeasement that led to 9/11.

Hey, someone forgot to lock the gate at the asylum again.

Posted by: JP | Sep 30, 2004 4:46:36 PM

If I were alive then, I'd probably be a Radical Republican. In fact, I think a lot of contemporary lefties probably identify more with the spirit of Radical Republicanism than any other political movement in US history.

Still, when I think about the way the Fourteenth Amendment was imposed on the South (and the country), I don't know.

The content is great. I love the Fourteenth Amendment. Really, I do. It's the best.

If you take federalism seriously, though, the process really sucked. I mean, really, really sucked.

Posted by: litho | Sep 30, 2004 4:56:36 PM

One of George Kennon's remarks about the USSR is relevant to Reconstruction. he said that rewards and punishments were of limited value in influencing the opinions of the public. If we tried to help the people, the Kremlin would keep the benefits. If we tried to punish the leadership, they'd pass the pain down to the Soviet people. After the Civil War, the North punished the South with tariff policy, railroad rate setting, public expenditures, Congressional power arrangements. Much of this was passed on to the freed slaves. It's speculative that a more enlightened policy would have produced a better outcome, but it's a reasonable speculation.

There's some interesting, but doubtless depressing history concerning Jim Crow that I'm never going to bother to learn. But anecdotally, the largest, oldest Protestant churches in this medium-sized Southern city included both races until about 1890. The system of segregation took decades to develop. And I have the impression that the peak incidence of lynching was up into the Twentieth Century, although there was no doubt a lot of physical intimidtion of blacks long before.

There are a couple of points relevant to foreign adventures like Vietnam and Iraq. The North had the naive expectation that "democracy" was magic pixie dust and ensuring black voting rights would be a magic cure for all social problems. Voting was a high priority issue, but they were kidding themselves in thinking it would suffice. Another similarity is that the Southerners knew the occupation would end sooner or later, at which point they could shrug off the reforms. It was 75 years before people roused enough energy to carry out the ideals of the Emancipation Proclamation.

It's questionable that "treason" is the correct word. The word applied then was "rebellion" or "insurrection". My copy of the Constitution says nothing about its being irrevocably binding. Gouverneur Morris, who wrote the final draft, thought it was a failed experiment around 1812 and should be scrapped, although he changed his mind. Secession was openly discussed for decades, and nobody called it treason. I think the outcome of the Civil War was a Good Thing, but not necessarily a trieumph of the Good. Once the North achieved military victory, they had some responsibility to fix things (sound familiar?),
and they blew it, to some extent. Moral pretensions about "treason" are as convincing as repeated recitations that "freedom is on the march".

Posted by: Roger Bigod | Sep 30, 2004 4:57:16 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.