by Lanny Carruthers:
Part 4 of 6: Reconstruction
Once the War to Prevent Southern Independence was over, two forms of society were forced into a single country again. Radical Republican leader Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania proposed, unsuccessfully, that all former Confederates lose the right to vote for five years. In Arkansas rebel votes were denied the right to vote beginning in 1865 until a ruling by the Arkansas Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional. However, radicals adopted a new Arkansas constitution in 1868 which enfranchised blacks and disenfranchised rebels. It lasted until the Brooks-Baxter feud in 1874 between two rival Republican factions resulted in a new state constitution in 1875.
The Military Reconstruction Acts of 1867 were passed; they divided the South into five military districts with military leadership composed of former Union generals. The State of Tennessee was exempt from Reconstruction due to the large number of Union supporters and the fact that Tennessee had agreed to most of the demands from Radical Republicans enforcing Reconstruction (sounds like an Obamacare exemption). This military apparatus was used by Radical Republicans of the North to impose one form of society upon another form of society, in ways that would make most dictators envious.
By evidence of historical facts, buried in libraries, that are not taught in grade school and college classrooms, the country we know today is actually the forced creation of a country never envisioned by our founding fathers and the Constitution. Theoretically, all of the growth of government and a majority of laws since approximately 1861 could be ruled unconstitutional, and the United States could be deemed a dictatorship. After all, even the Russians and Venezuelans have elections. The President ignored a Supreme Court justice’s decision overturning his order suspending the writ of habeas corpus, and over the next few years allowed these new restrictions. He also imposed martial law in some border areas and curbed freedom of speech and the press. The aforementioned president was Abraham Lincoln…not President Trump.
Why were millions of acres of land granted to railroad companies instead of sold to railroad companies to fund Reconstruction and opportunities to freed blacks between 1850 and 1871? Banks believed that it would take years for railroad companies to repay their debts, and were reluctant to loan the railroad companies money. Besides, the war-ravaged railroads across the South needed to be rebuilt, and the region was broke. The only banks were operated by the Northeastern bankers controlled by the Radical Republicans. All ties together huh!?! Land grants were received by railroads, and part of the land was sold to fund railroad construction. And to think President Trump was criticized for ending government overreach and returning government seized lands back to the State of Utah. Ironically many of these land grants to railroad companies were located in former Confederate states as evidenced by the Library of Congress map below.
The railroads were built to help ship Northern goods to rebuild the South that was destroyed by Sherman, Sheridan and the Union Army at Southern expense. Just think about all the billions spent by the U.S. to rebuild Afghanistan and Iraq after U.S. attacks.
Remember that plan about developing the West to be sympathetic to the North? Well it finally manifested itself during Reconstruction. The North expedited the development of the western territories at government expense, more so the people’s expense, with the help of subsidized railroad companies. This allowed the North to indoctrinate the western territories and impose the Northern form of society in what amounts to a territorial conquest. This development was not done by private investment groups or pioneers, but by the government pouring money into development. (More on government directed and funded development in the next part of this series.) In this way, the government could keep the southerners in check and force the Northern form of society on the defeated South. Sounds eerily similar to the Democrats’ plan with illegal immigration today.
Andrew Carnegie has been celebrated as a great industrialist, and he amassed great wealth. Carnegie and other Northern industrialists, such as shipping and railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt, John D. Rockefeller who controlled oil and other derivatives, as well as J. P. Morgan who controlled finance in the North recognized the South’s threat to their Northern interests in the late 1800s. Does JPMorgan Chase & Co. ring a bell? They devised the “Pittsburg-plus” system of charging higher rates to Southerners as opposed to Northern interests. In 1889, when Andrew Carnegie toured the Southern steel industry in Birmingham, Alabama, he declared, “The South is Pennsylvania’s most formidable industrial enemy.”
Ten years later Carnegie’s mills were merged with and became the largest component of Pittsburgh-based U. S. Steel. Six years later U. S. Steel acquired the largest Southern steel mills. Carnegie then imposed what was called the “Birmingham Differential” of $3 per ton over the Pittsburgh quote. To further dampen Alabama steel production, buyers of Birmingham steel were required to pay freight from Birmingham, plus a phantom charge as if the shipments were shipped from Pittsburgh. President Woodrow Wilson’s administration, through the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), investigated the matter and concluded that Birmingham’s steel production costs were the lowest in the country and 26% below those of Pittsburgh. Yet U. S. Steel continued to require a $3 per ton “Birmingham Differential” on Alabama steel, which was raised to $5 after 1920.
It was not until a serious study was conducted in 1939, that rates for the same service in the South were found to be 39% higher than in the North, while those in the Southwestern region (Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas and part of New Mexico) were determined to be 75% higher. The differentials were so discriminatory that remote Northern manufacturers could ship finished goods into the South at lower cost than Southern makers of the same items could distribute them within their own region. Three years later Carnegie demonstrated that racism was not limited to Southerners when he objected to black suffrage by saying, “Blacks were steeped in ignorance of political responsibilities to a degree impossible for northern people to imagine.” [Ezell, 182].
American Sugar, based in New York, controlled 98% of the refined market and sold under the still-familiar Domino brand. They and other companies perpetuated the South’s dependence upon imports, or Northern tariff-protected manufacturers, for finished goods. These are just a few of many industrial and economic schemes to promote the Northern form of society against the South.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines civil war as, “a war between opposing groups of citizens of the same country.” Typically, civil wars are internal wars of the same country for control of government and society. To call the U.S.Civil War a civil war is a miscarriage of justice and history. While both sides had opposing views, only one side was fighting to control and impose its societal view – the North. The South wanted nothing to do with the Union, and desired a peaceful secession, as evidenced in Hayne’s letters to President Buchanan before the War.
The South had an opposing view from the North on many issues…not just one. The South decided there was no compromise attainable and no reconciling of differences with the North, evidenced by many failed attempts. Therefore, the Southern states decided they wanted no part of the Union, no part of that form of society and seceded. I will leave it up to you what to call this war, but the War to Prevent Southern Independence sounds fitting. Or as Sen. Mason of Virginia aptly described it, “A war of sentiment and opinion by one form of society against another form of society.”
I went through a long history of the events surrounding Secession and what many consider the Civil War due to the complexity and general educational misconduct in teaching this era of American history. The modern day educational misconduct is called “contextualizing.” Contextualizing shapes history to fit one’s own narrative. As you read, I like to use records and documented quotes from people “back in the day(s)” and let them speak for themselves. You can say I used the ancestor of Twitter. You can’t delete history, unlike Twitter; you can only overlook what you don’t want to see.
Coming up next: Two Roosevelts, the New Deal Program/TVA, and Civil Rights Era.
Lanny L. Carruthers is from Muscle Shoals, AL. A graduate of Auburn University with a degree in Political Science and also former College Republican Chairman. Carruthers is passionate about the Civil War particularly the political environment before and after the War and how the present is affected. “Trying to be or remain a Republican and (group) text messages will make you lose your religion.” – Lanny L. Carruthers