Thursday, August 30, 2012

Lincoln and Romney on Self-Deportation

Abraham Lincoln and Mitt Romney have more in common than their political party. 

Former Governor Mitt Romney
At Tampa, FL Republican delegates crafted their immigration plank that called  "for tough border enforcement and opposition to "any forms of amnesty" for illegal immigrants.  The proposed something they termed as "humane procedures to encourage illegal aliens to return voluntarily."  This policy of self-deportation was advocated by Romney during the nomination campaign last fall. 

This Republican position advocated by Romney is amazing similar to that favored by Abraham Lincoln.  One of President Lincoln's policies during his administration was the voluntary colonization of African American Freedmen.  There remains considerable debate about whether Lincoln's racial views  included that African Americans could not live in the same society as white Americans. Benjamin Butler stated that Lincoln in 1865 firmly denied that "racial harmony" would be possible in the United States. One view is that Lincoln adopted colonization for Freedmen in order to make his Emancipation Proclamation politically acceptable. This view has been challenged since President Lincoln's administration attempted to colonize freedmen in British Honduras after the Emancipation Proclamation took effect on January 1, 1863.

President Abraham Lincoln
Since the 1840s Lincoln had been an advocate of the American Colonization Society program of colonizing blacks in Liberia. In an October 16, 1854, speech at Peoria, Illinois (transcribed after the fact by Lincoln himself), Lincoln points out the immense difficulties of such a task are an obstacle to finding an easy way to quickly end slavery.

My first impulse would be to free all the slaves, and send them to Liberia, -- to their own native land. But a moment's reflection would convince me, that whatever of high hope, (as I think there is) there may be in this, in the long run, its sudden execution is impossible. If they were all landed there in a day, they would all perish in the next ten days; and there are not surplus shipping and surplus money enough in the world to carry them there in many times ten days. What then? Free them all, and keep them among us as underlings? Is it quite certain that this betters their condition? I think I would not hold one in slavery, at any rate; yet the point is not clear enough for me to denounce people upon. What next? Free them, and make them politically and socially, our equals? My own feelings will not admit of this; and if mine would, we well know that those of the great mass of white people will not.

Lincoln mentioned colonization favorably in his first Emancipation Proclamation, and continued to support efforts at colonization throughout his presidency.

Lincoln also created an agency to direct his colonization projects. In 1862 he appointed the Rev. James Mitchell of Indiana to oversee colonization, and established a Bureau of Emigration under his head at the Department of the Interior.

In a July 12, 1862 speech to senators and representatives from slave-holding border states, Lincoln said:

Room in South America for colonization, can be obtained cheaply, and in abundance; and when numbers shall be large enough to be company and encouragement for one another, the freed people will not be so reluctant to go.
According to the authors of Colonization after Emancipation: Lincoln and the Movement for Black Resettlement  "the concept of colonization never became a permanent fixture of US policy, and by the time Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, the word “colonization” had disappeared from his public lexicon. As such, history remembers Lincoln as having abandoned his support of colonization when he signed the proclamation."  

Evidence from British Colonial and Foreign Office documents indicates that "Lincoln continued to pursue colonization for close to a year after emancipation" and that "Lincoln may have been attempting to revive this policy at the time of his assassination."

Lincoln’s conducted "highly secretive negotiations with the British government to find suitable lands for colonization in the West Indies." It also reveals that "the U.S. government worked with British agents and leaders in the free black community to recruit emigrants for the proposed colonies."  The scheme was "never very popular within Lincoln’s administration and even became a subject of subversion when the president’s subordinates began battling for control over a lucrative “colonization fund” established by Congress."
Will illegal immigrants happily register to return to their native countries and give up all they had gained through their hard work?  This is about as likely as the freed black men in 1865 flocking to colonies in Africa and South America.  It was flawed policy then and it's flawed policy today.  

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Perspective on Slavery

One cannot study the Civil War without analyzing the "peculiar institution" of slavery.  While northern historians seem quite content in their view of slavery as an un-American evil, southern scholars often present it as a caring relationship between slave and master.  The historians from Dixie use examples to illustrate the loyalty of slaves and bond to their owners.  The truth, of course, lays somewhere in between.  This brings me to that wonderful statistical graph --- the normal curve.

If we could obtain data on how slaves were treated --- relationship with owners, quality of life, degree of freedom, etc. --- we would find a lovely  curve with data distributed around a mean or average value.  On one end we would see a small percent of the data for those who treated their property as human beings while on the other end  of the graph we would find an equal number of owners who were monsters.  Such is the nature of human beings --- for every Saint there is a Sinner.  The issue becomes of finding the average behavior and range of variation from that behavior.

Let us consider the relationship from the slave's perspective.  The concept of slavery means that you have no control of your life.  It is the essence of negative empowerment.  You have no choices in your existence.  You may be fed, and sheltered, but there is limited or no opportunity to create a better life for yourself.  This state has little to do with how you are treated.  Good masters or bad ones, the ground rules of slavery are the same. Allow me to make a comparison with a household pet.  Irregardless of the master, the rules are the same as for a pet.  You are property, you are confined to an area, you eat when you are fed, you are confined in public on a leash, you must have certain medical treatments and certifications, you mate when and with  whom your master dictates, and you can be bought and sold at his pleasure.  This is your fate just as the slaves, although I doubt that most pet owners would regard their cats and dogs as slaves. 

Now let's turn to the owner.  He has human property and it's rather expensive to purchase and maintain. This property works like a machine, but it has emotions and these emotions make it more difficult to "operate/control."  For the economics of slavery to work, a slave must produce more revenue than his "operating costs."  In the agricultural south, a person's wealth is measured in his property --- land and slaves.  However, the real value is in the slave, because without the slave the land cannot be worked to produce revenue and, without cash flow, the land is worthless.  This issue is at the heart of the Civil War.

Now rational owners would want to treat their slaves well to make sure the "machines of their wealth" continued to operate at their peak.    The significant word is "rational."  Consider those people who don't maintain their assets. They fail to do routine maintenance on their cars and homes,  they let their skills atrophy, and ignore their investments.  Logic is a characteristic not often associated with human beings.  So for every slave owner who realized the value of his asset, there were probably those who fell in the category of not understanding or not appreciating this worth.  Add to this mix, those owners who treated their wealth as a God-given right and resented the notion that any part of it was from the labor of his slave.  This idea would increase with each generation as the entrepreneurial energy of grandparents eroded into expected entitlement of their grandchildren. This issue is also common to other business enterprises.

If we weigh these factors together, we see the "average slavery index" as imprisonment with forced labor whose pain is lessened by rational owners who treated their slaves humanly either because they saw them as human beings and not objects or they were interested in maximizing the performance of their property.  The owners were not all monsters, but they were typical of employers who wanted to maximize the output of their workers and minimize the cost to get this output. 

This employer-employee relationship hasn't changed much in the last 150 years.  Improvements in the relationship were due to government regulations (child labor, prison labor, minimum wages, and health and safety) and the collective power of labor unions. Any questions?  Ask your boss.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Capturing the Halls of Montezuma

William J. Worth
Most students of the Civil War know that many of the officers fought together in the Mexican War.  Their exploits and training has been well-chronicled in biographies and histories of the conflict between neighbors.

In researching the role of C. F.Smith in this war, I discovered a report by Brevet Major General William J. Worth that illustrates the level to which these future Civil War officers were involved in this war of conquest.  Worth's report describes the capture of the San Cosme garita and subsequent entrance into the "city of Mexico."  The description of the battle is interesting reading, but the recognition of officers who contributed to the victory reads like a Civil War who's who.

Notice  the number of future leaders that Worth mentions in his September 16, 1847 report to general-in-chief Winfield Scott.  I have added links to Wikipedia for the notables.

Officers and men of every corps carried themselves with wonted gallantry and conduct. Be pleased to refer to reports of subordinate commanders. Major Sumner, reported to me with his cavalry on the morning of the 13th, was actively on service, and under fire, and was advanced upon the San Cosme road, to be at hand to pursue the enemy. Towards evening the general-in-chief ordered his command to return to Tacubaya. the commander of this excellent corps rendered every service which the incidents of the day offered to their ready aceptance. 
I have again to make acknowledgements to Colonels Garland and Clark, brigade commanders, as also to their respective staffs; to Lieut. Cols. Duncan and Smith; Captain McKenzie, commanding, and the following officers, composing the storming party; Lieut. Simpson, 2d artillery and Johnson, 3d artillery, (light battalion;) Lieuts. Rodgers and McConnel, 4th infantry; Captain Ruggles and Lieut. J. P. Smith, 5th infantry; Lieuts. Armistead and Morrow, 6th infantry, and Lieut. Selden, 8th infantry; to Lieut. Col. Belton, 3d artillery; Major Lee, 4th; and Brevet Major Montgomery, 8th infantry; to Lieut. Jackson, 1st artillery, (Magruder's light battery;) Lieut. Hunt, 2d artillery, (Duncan's light battery;) Captain Brooks, 2d artillery; Lieuts. Lendrum and Shields, 3d artillery; S. Smith, Haller, and Grant, 4th infantry, especially; and Lieut. Judah, 4th infantry; Lieut. and Adjutant Lugenbeel, 5th; and Lieut. E. Johnson, 6th (much distinguished;) Captains Bomford and Gates, and Lieuts. Merchant and Pickett, (each distinguished for gallantry and zeal;) the young and gallant Rodgers and J. P. Smith, Lieuts. of 4th and 5th infantry, killed with the storming party; Captain Edwards, voltigeurs, and Lieut. Hagner, ordinance, commanded mounted howitzers, placed upon buildings, and rendered effective service, well sustained by the intelligent ordinance men.

Of the staff, Lieuts. Stephens, Smith, and McClellan, engineers, displayed their gallantry, skill, and conduct, which so eminently distinguished their cause. The first was badly wounded. I must not omit a respectful notice of the very intelligent enlisted men of the Sapers and miners, and desire to apply the same remark to Capt. Huger, and Lieut. Hagner and their excellent men.

Captain Mackall, assistant adjutant general, wounded; Captain Pemberton, wounded; Lieut. Semmes, (navy;) Lieut. Wool, aid-de-camp; and Lieut. Hardcastle, topographical engineers; and Woodbridge, division commissary; Major Borland and W. G. Kendall, volunteer aids-de-camp, the later wounded; each exhibited habitual gallantry, intelligence, and devotion.

(Source: Worth, W. J. Report of the capture of garita San Cosme and entrance into Mexico City to Scott. 16 September 1847.)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Battle of Pea Ridge by James R. Knight

The Battle of Pea Ridge
The Battle of Pea Ridge is James Knight’s latest addition to The History Press’ Civil War Sesquicentennial Series.  Knight’s narrative traces the war in the Ozarks from 1861 to the battle at Pea Ridge on March 7-8, 1862. 

The book presents the battle in north western Arkansas between the Confederate Army of the West commanded by General Earl Van Dorn and the Union Army of the Southwest led by General Samuel R. Curtis.  “The Pea Ridge Campaign pitted a young, dashing and aggressive cavalryman and Indian fighter against an older engineer and administrator --- both of them fighting their first major engagement.”

Union forces had driven General Sterling Price’s Missouri State Guard out of Missouri and into camps in Fayetteville and Strickler’s station.  In spring of 1862 Curtis moved his approximately 10,250 Union soldiers and 50 artillery pieces into Benton County, Arkansas, along a small stream called Sugar Creek. Curtis found an excellent defensive position on the north side of the creek and proceeded to fortify it and for an expected Confederate assault from the south.

Earl Van Dorn
Major General Van Dorn had been appointed overall commander of the Trans-Mississippi District to moderate a conflict between competing generals Sterling Price of Missouri and Benjamin McCulloch of Texas.  Van Dorn’s force was approximately 16,000 men, including 800 Cherokee Indian troops, Price's Missouri State Guard, Texas Rangers, and Confederate infantry from Arkansas and Louisiana.  Van Dorn was aware of the Union movements into Arkansas and was intent on destroying Curtis's Army and reopening the gateway into Missouri.

On the night of March 6, Van Dorn divided his army into columns and advanced north with plans to outflank the Union position near Pea Ridge.  When Curtis learned that the Confederates were approaching, he moved his army north on March 7 to meet the attack.

Aided by Hal Jespersen’s excellent maps, Knight guides us effortlessly around the battlefield.  We begin with the first contact at 3:00 am on March 7 on Telegraph Road.  Van Dorn decides to divide his army with Van Dorn and Price on the Bentonville Detour and McCullough moving along Ford Road.  Then, as Knight explains, the battle “becomes two separate battles, fought about two miles apart --- one around Elkhorn Tavern and the other just north of the 3 follow small hamlet of Leetown.”  At Elkhorn Tavern, Colonel Asa Carr manages to hold off the superior Confederate forces. 

Ben McCulloch
Meanwhile at Leetown Colonel Peter Osterhaus faces Ben McCulloch’s entire division on Oberson’s Field.  The odds were in the Confederate’s favor with 7,000 troops to 1,000 Union soldiers. These odds would soon be changed when McCulloch and Brig. Gen. James McQueen McIntosh were killed and Col. Hebert, the next in command was captured.  The leaderless Rebel forces stopped their attack.

At Elkhorn Tavern, Van Dorn was having success and by nightfall, the Confederates controlled the Tavern and Telegraph Road.
Samuel Curtis
On March 8, Curtis’s regrouped and consolidated army, counterattacked near the tavern and, by successfully employing his artillery, slowly forced the Rebels back. Running short of ammunition, Van Dorn abandoned the battlefield and retreated to Van Buren, Arkansas.

Knight concludes that “Samuel Curtis’s victory at Pea Ridge ensured Federal control of Arkansas, north of river, and the entire state of Missouri for the rest of the war --- more than eighty-five thousand square miles.
This is a fine overview of the Battle of Pea Ridge.  The book flows smoothly from one portion of the battlefield to another.  Jespersen’s maps support Knight’s narrative and greatly add to understanding the events of March 7-8, 1862.  No one should visit Pea Ridge without reading Knight’s guide to the battle.

James R. Knight is a graduate of Harding University.  He spent five years as a pilot in the United States Air Force and thirty-one years as a pilot for Federal Express.  Knight lives in Franklin, TN and works part-time as a historical interpreter for the Battle of Franklin Trust.  He is the author of The Battle of Franklin and TheBattle of Fort Donelson.
We rank The Battle of Pea Ridge