by Al Benson Jr.
Member, Board of Directors, Confederate Society of America
After the Confederate States of America succumbed to Yankee/Marxist might in 1865 (the Confederacy never officially surrendered) there arose a mighty clamour for “civil rights” for blacks in the South. Notice that there was no similar clamour for them in the North–only in the South! With the returning remnants of the Confederate army came yet another “army”–the Yankee/Marxist rabble, er, pardon me, I meant the Yankee army of occupation–composed of Northern public education proponents, slick politicians, carpetbagger fortune hunters, and the ever-present Freedmen’s Bureau.
After Abraham Lincoln’s assassination (and even today, the jury is still out on who was ultimately responsible for that) the radical abolitionists in Congress repudiated Lincoln’s “reconstruction” policies and substituted their own instead. There had been notable differences in what Lincoln wanted to do, which would have gained him additional patronage and what the radicals wanted to do which would have gained them more patronage. I am surprised that this particular situation has not been more explored as a possible reason for the assassination. But, then, that wouldn’t have gone along with the game plan, would it?
Needless to say, the complete hatred of the abolitionist radicals for anything Southern was pathological. In March of 1867 they forced the South under martial law, deprived the white population of voting rights, redress in courts and representation. Carpetbagger politicians and just-freed ex-slaves were handed the power to govern the South. Author Thomas DiLorenzo wrote: “The so-called Reconstruction only poured salt into ‘the nation’s wounds,’ an inevitable consequence of the precedents established by Lincoln in disregarding constitutional liberties and international laws for the sake of politics…The primary effect, if not the intent, of the ‘Reconstruction’ policies of 1865-77 was to centralize and consolidate state power in Washington, D.C., and to establish Republican Party political hegemony that would last for some seventy years.” Lincoln had a view of “reconstruction” that would have allowed him to retain most of the power. The radical Congress had yet another view of “reconstruction” that would have given Congress the power to administer it rather than the president. Mr. Lincoln’s assassination conveniently settled that little question in favor of the radical Congress.
The war’s end marked the beginning of our modern “civil rights” movement, what has been termed a “socio-political experiment with the freed slaves–by Northern interests–which has left an indelible impression in the Southern mind with regard to the negro in politics.” The point has been made that, had the Yankee/Marxist mentalities in Washington handled “reconstruction” differently the results would have been much better for all concerned. That’s probably true, but, unfortunately, the collectivists in Washington did exactly what they wanted to do. It was all part of an ongoing agenda lasting down into our own day. It was not done by accident, but by design–the design of class struggle–black against white in the South–and it worked!
Booker T. Washington, the well-known black educator, had some telling thoughts on “reconstruction.” Having avoided the propaganda of Yankee/Marxist agitators, his thinking was clear on this issue. Washington, in his autobiography Up From Slavery wrote the following: “Though I was but little more than a youth during the period of reconstruction, I had the feeling that mistakes were being made, and that things could not remain in the condition that they were in very long. I felt that the Reconstruction policy, so far as it related to my race, was in large measure on a false foundation, was artificial and forced. In many ways it seemed to me that the ignorance of my race was being used as a tool with which to help white men into office, and that there was an element in the North that wanted to punish Southern white men by forcing the Negro into positions over the heads of the Southern whites. I felt the Negro would be the one to suffer for this in the end.”
It’s interesting that, in a North, supposedly so cognizant of “civil rights” and black opinions, that Washington’s opinions and thoughts on this subject were not given more serious consideration. But, then, that would not have fit the radical agenda! Mr. Washington later wrote: “I saw colored men who were members of the state legislatures, and county officers, who, in some cases, could not read or write, and whose morals were as weak as their education.” That’s exactly what the radicals wanted.
Realizing the statist mindset of these Northern “reconstructors” it is highly doubtful that they sought results other than what they got. They desired a “reconstruction” that would, first of all, rub the South’s nose in the mud for even daring to resist the collectivist “power from on high” in Washington, D.C. Secondly, they wanted a South purged of all its theological leanings toward Reformed doctrine and the biblical concept of local self-government.
One clique of Northern troublemakers that was largely responsible for the early shaping of the civil rights movement in the South was the Union League. According to Kent Steffgen, in his book The Bondage of the Free: “The League was an organization started in Ohio in 1862 when it appeared the South might be on its way to victory. Raising troops within the states for the Union army, the league paid their expenses, sent supplies to the front, and distributed political literature. Within a year after its birth, the League had established itself in 18 Northern states and transferred its headquarters to New York City.” We might wonder, why New York City, and who ran the organization there? Of course there was severe opposition to the war in New York City, which may have had something to do with that.
During wartime one can understand the formation of such a group. Perhaps, sensing the reluctance in much of the North to wage active aggression against the South, particularly in the Midwest, the group’s founders wanted to do something to counter pro-Southern sentiment. The Union League was their effort in that direction.
However, once the war was officially over, the Union League should have been disbanded. But it’s so hard to abolish what you have promoted that the organization just hung in there–and moved South! It then became the promotional arm of the Republican Party, the supposed “party of small government.” The research Donnie Kennedy and I did for our book Lincoln’s Marxists has given the lie to that “small government” fable.
The League went about setting up local Union League Clubs throughout the South, especially in the areas of the heaviest black population (all the better to manipulate you, my dear). The Union League or “Loyal League” as it was known in some areas, at once became a semi-secret organization for white Northern radicals and Southern blacks. Does that trend sound much different than the way the “civil rights” movement operated in this country in more recent decades, and even today to some extent?
According to Kent Steffgen: “The Union League henceforth worked for radical reconstruction of the Southern states, punishment of Southern leaders, confiscation of property for equal distribution among the Negroes, and for Negro suffrage…Each unit operated as a secret oath-bound order with a constitution, a ritual, passwords, obligations, etc., all of which was designed to appeal to the freed Negro…the Loyal or Union Leagues were administered by carpetbaggers who wasted no time setting out to build a political force for themselves.” So this was the true foundation of “civil rights.” It was not a movement begun out of any real desire to better the lot of ex-slaves, or to help them to adapt to a new life in a changed environment, but rather a movement to ensure that Northern power brokers in the South could hang onto their new positions.
It was a political tool for Northern radicals, through which they could use the blacks to perpetuate themselves in power. Their whole scheme of property confiscation was thoroughly Marxist in sentiment, as were its perpetrators. Their entire program was carefully thought out and planned–because it is still working today, with few people the wiser, after 150 years!