Historical Sins of Omission and Commission
October 22, 1915 — Civic Auditorium Hall, San Francisco CA
At the Savannah Convention last year you will remember that the wrongs of history were stressed, and a hope expressed that the omissions in history would be taken care of in future years.
Your historian realizes, however, that more textbooks of American history are being written today than ever before, and that it behooves us of the South to demand that the historical sins of omission shall be noted now, as well as the sins of commission. Especially is this important as it is earnestly hoped that the Chairman of the Textbook Committee, with sub-committees in every State, will examine all textbooks, not only of American history, but American literature, as well as the geographies and readers for primary and academic grades used in our Southern schools; and also inquire into texts used in the colleges in the North to which our Southern girls and boys are being sent. This is not with the expectation, or hope even, of having all of these textbooks changed, but simply to publicly note the injustices therein contained, as many teachers using these books are not themselves conscious that they are unjust, and some one must tell them about it.
SUPREMACY OVER FRANCE. I have been a student of history and literature for many years, yet I must confess that it came to me as a real surprise, while in London a few years ago, to learn that to a Southern man is due the English supremacy over the French in North America today.
Horace Walople said: “A volley fired at Great Meadows in 1754 by a young American from the backwoods of Virginia set the whole world on fire. Not only England and France were affected by it, but every country in Europe was touched, and it settled forever the supremacy of the English over the French on America’s soil.”
William Makepeace Thackeray even went further than this. He said: “It is strange that in a savage forest a young Virginia officer should fire a shot and wake up a war which was to last sixty years and cost France all of her American colonies, and sever all of ours from us, and indeed create a great Western Republic,” and later added that “George Washington was the most conspicuous character in American history.”
Samuel White, another English writer, said: “In the wilds of America was raised a hero that eclipsed the glory of the Alexanders of Greece, the Cæsars of Rome, and the Hampdens of Britain,”
Bradley, in his Fight with France for North America, published by Constable & Co., London, gives a full account of this event in history and the results which followed the battle of Great Meadows.
Governor Dinwiddie, of Virginia, in 1754 learned that the French were encroaching upon Virginia’s territory along the Ohio River. He sent George Washington, of Fredericksburg, Va., to demand that the French withdraw their forces. They refused, and Washington was then sent to force them. He surprised them at Great Meadows, killed their leader, Jumonville, and captured all of his men. Upon Jumonville’s body were found important papers which caused England and France to take definite action.
This battle of Great Meadows was in reality only a skirmish, but see the results. Fort Duquesne fell, Niagara and Ticonderoga were taken, the Acadians were driven from Nova Scotia, Lake George was cleared, Crown Point strengthened, Montcalm defeated at Quebec, Montreal fell, and the Peace of Paris signed in 1763.
What did the English gain? Canada, Nova Scotia, Cape Breton Island, the islands in the St. Lawrence, the river and harbor of Mobile, all disputed territory between the Alleghanies and the Mississippi, and free navigation of the Mississippi River¾and that volley was fired by our George Washington of Virginia.
I certainly call this one of the historical sins of omission. Why? Because our American historians give this credit to an Englishman, Wolfe, at the Heights of Abraham.
Parkman says, “The victory of Wolfe marks an epoch than which none is more fruitful of grand results.”
Knox says, “The victory of Wolfe was the most important event in modern history.”
Fiske says, “The victory of Wolfe marks the greatest turning point as yet discovered in modern history.”
Jones, in the History of North America, certainly gives Washington no credit. Nor do Dinwiddie, Ridpath, Hale Barnes and others.
Even Green says, “With the triumph of Wolfe on the Heights of Abraham began the history of the United States.”
Of all American histories that I have examined, Woodrow Wilson in his History of the American People, is the only one who gives the credit to George Washington, and Mr. Wilson, too, must have gone to English sources.
It was another Virginian, Thomas Jefferson, who secured the Louisiana Purchase from the French. What was gained by that transaction? All the territory from the Gulf of Mexico on the south, and the Mississippi River on the east, to the Rocky Mountains on the West. The “Father of Waters” was left to flow unhindered to the sea.
Just here is an opportunity to pay tribute where tribute is due. It was a Northern man, not a Southern man, Robert R. Livingston, of New York, with James Monroe, of Virginia, who manipulated this Louisiana Purchase with Talleyrand in France, and made it possible for Thomas Jefferson to complete it.
Supremacy over Spain. Still another historical sin of omission that must not be overlooked. How did we gain supremacy over Spain in North America if not through Southern statesmen? The first permanent settlements were of course by the Spaniards; the second were made by the French, and the third by the English. Therefore to Spain belongs the credit of the oldest city in the United States, St. Augustine in Florida, the oldest church in Pensacola, Florida, and the oldest house in the United States in Sante Fe, New Mexico.
The Spaniards in Florida became very troublesome to the Carolinas and to Georgia in Colonial days. Finally, in 1742, and that was much earlier than the Battle of Great Meadows, they determined to take possession of all of the land on the eastern shore from the boundary of Florida on the south to the St. Lawrence River on the north, from sea to sea, which included all land claimed by the thirteen colonies. Their plan was to conquer colony by colony, and this would not have been difficult, and the colonists knew it, for they were weak in military strength, and also weakened constantly by repeated attacks from the Indians. So with fifty-six vessels well-armed and well-provisioned, and 5,000 well-equipped men the Spaniards started out with a feeling of absolute victory. The “Baby Colony,” Georgia, was nearest and weakest. The first attack was at Frederica on St. Simon’s Island.
Oglethorpe had only two poorly armed and provisioned ships, but he had 682 brave Georgians and they taught the Spaniards a lesson that day at Bloody Marsh which they never forgot. These Georgians trailed in the dust the Spanish flag for the first time on America’s soil, and never again did Spain trouble the colonies along the eastern shores. To James Oglethorpe, Noble Jones, and two brave Scotch Highlanders, Sutherland, and Mackay, is due the credit of this victory. Bloody Marsh is one of the decisive battles of modern history, for it unquestionably turned back the tide of Spanish invasion and gave the Anglo-Saxon race supremacy in North America. With what result? THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA — for, but for that victory there would possibly have been no colonies to declare their independence Yet we find that battle but slightly noticed outside of the local history of the State.
Then the Treaty at Coleraine in 1796, secured through Governor James Jackson of Georgia, all of the territory now included in Alabama and Mississippi, from Spanish rule. Think what Alabama and Mississippi mean to us!
The Mexican Cession by Nicholas Trist of Virginia in 1848, and the Gadsden Purchase by James Gadsden of South Carolina in 1853 included more land than was in the Louisiana Purchase. It extended from the Rockies to the Golden Gate and opened up all of the Pacific Coast. We who are here this evening truly rejoice that it is not a part of Mexico today.
Then Oregon was added to the United States under a Southern President, James K. Polk. What was secured? A tract of land 300,000 square miles in extent, including Idaho, Oregon, Washington, parts of Montana and Wyoming, and the Puget Sound. Think of all that the Puget Sound has meant to us in Oriental trade! Here again we must do justice. It was Dr. Marcus Whitman, a Presbyterian missionary from one of the Northern States who traveled 3,500 miles to intercede with President Polk, and that, possibly, was the strongest influence in bringing about this purchase.
Canada would undoubtedly have been annexed to the United States in 1812 had it not been for New England opposition.
You may ask, why were Southern men most interested in territorial expansion? Northern historians will tell you it was for slavery extension only, but the slave-holders of the South never dreamed of putting their slaves in deserts and ice-bound lands, free or not free. They know they could not stand a cold climate. The truth is they had caught the vision that materialized in the Monroe Doctrine that unless Americans should secure America for Americans only, they would be like Europe is today made up of small monarchies and republics of all sorts of nationalities.
Northern statesmen did not see any commercial advantage in taking care of such “wastes of land.” Daniel Webster, the greatest of their statesmen, and we may add one of the greatest of all statesmen, thought it unwise. He said: “What do we want with this vast worthless area, this region of savages and wild beasts, of deserts, of whirling sands and whirlwinds of dust, of cactus and prairie dogs? To what use could we ever hope to put these great deserts, or those endless mountain ranges, impenetrable and covered to their very base with eternal snow? What can we ever do with the Western coast of 8,000 miles, rockbound, cheerless, uninviting, and not a harbor on it? Mr. President, I will never vote one cent from the public treasury to place the Pacific one inch nearer to Boston than it now is.”
Was it not Jefferson Davis of Mississippi, to whom we are indebted for the first suggestion of the trans-continental railroad? How could we have been here this evening but for that!
Again, what does that cross mean that stands yonder in the Golden Gate Park, but that an English explorer came over as early as 1579 and laid first claim to this land.
And did not John C. Calhoun, as Secretary of State under President Polk, plan to have the Republic of Texas taken from Spanish rule and placed under the protection of the United States? Think what Texas means to us today!
Would not Florida, our “Land of Flowers,” be possibly under Spanish rule today had not James Monroe, at the psychological moment, arranged to have it bought by the United States? Nearly 59,000 square miles secured at 13 cents per acre because Ferdinand VII. was in financial straits.
And was it not through Lewis and Clark, two Southern explorers, that the Yellowstone was discovered and the Bible introduced to the Indians in the West?
Was it not Andrew Johnson of North Carolina, who secured Alaska from Russia? However, justice here must be done, for it was a Northern man who urged it, William H. Seward. Alaska is now destined to be one of the greatest assets of the United States, yet many Northern statesmen opposed its purchase, and said, “It is a country fit only for a polar bear garden.”
These omissions must enter history, and we of the South are the ones to see to it.
War of 1812. The history concerning the War of 1812 has always been most unjust to the South. Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, R. M. Johnson, and other Southern men saw the necessity for that war; Southern men planned it; Southern men urged it, and Southern men largely fought it.
You may recall that at New Orleans in my “Thirteen Periods of United States History” I called attention to this fact. I have recently read an article, “The Divine Purpose of the War of 1812,” written by the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of American History, Frank Allaben, which makes me feel that I must again stress this wrong to the South. While I cannot read the article, nor quote from it is full, I shall make copious extracts from it. It is fine! Read it, if you can, for yourselves.
The writer said that the things we fought for, and the gains we stipulated are not even mentioned, much less included, in that Treaty of Ghent which ended this war, but in spite of that, they are written in golden fire across the face of Heaven.
By that war, God taught England that we were free. She did not seem to know this before. She had hoped to confine us to that narrow strip of land on the eastern shore; she hoped some day she would resubjugate us, and not until our little navy beat her large navy at her own game in this War of 1812 did she realize that our freedom was a fact, and a fact that we demanded must be respected. Bolling Hall of Georgia, a member of Congress in 1812, wrote to his friend Zach Lamar of Milledgeville, Ga.: “England up to this time has captured and condemned 917 American vessels with their cargoes, and impressed over 5,000 American seamen. She should be compelled to grant what she has hitherto refused. It is the opposition of New England that keeps the British government from doing us justice.” Southern statesmen you see wanted war.
By that war, God preserved our Union by ascending the control of the Great Lakes and the Northwest, which England was holding for her Indian allies. We must be just here, and give credit for winning the control of Lake Erie where credit is due, not to a Southern man, but to Oliver Hazard Perry of Rhode Island, and the control of Lake Champlain not to a Southern man, but to Thomas Macdonough of Delaware.
By that war, God prevented the Union from being dissolved, for you remember that the New England States at that Hartford Convention were planning to secede, and an agent was there arranging for an alliance with England again, and the formation of a Northern Confederacy was only prevented by the declaration of peace.
By that war, God made our struggle the decisive war of history in vindicating the rights of international peace. Up to this time, it had been the custom, if two nations came to blows, all other nations must take sides and join one or the other.
Heaven had already inspired our George Washington to see that our path of safety lay in steering clear of entangling alliances. He then planned our treaties of neutrality. He appointed Edmund Randolph of Virginia, to draw up a Proclamation of Neutral Laws in 1793. This paper is one of the milestones in the progress of civilization. It is true that it was ridiculed by foreign nations, and it was disregarded at home, but British statesmen have since declared that the principles therein set forth “represented the high water mark of international law.” This document was rewritten in the time of Madison, and enacted by Congress, and is today the law of the land, and indeed the law of the civilized world. It is back of this law that our President is standing today, and if we will let him alone he can enforce that law and not bring a clash of arms as we were compelled to do in 1812.
You remember that Washington declined to give aid to France when the French Revolution came on, and he was declared ungrateful because France had aided us in our Revolution, not only by personal volunteer service but by loans of money. By the way, Benjamin Franklin in history gets the credit of negotiating this loan for us, but French history gives the credit to John Laurens of South Carolina, which is another omission in our history. Washington, however, was too wise to get a young Republic involved in foreign disputes, so when Louis XVI. was executed in 1793, or thereabout, he brought forth our treaty of neutrality. Guizot, the French historian says: “Washington did two of the greatest things which in politics it is permitted man to attempt. He maintained by peace the independence of the country which he had conquered by war.”
England growled and winced, but bided her time. Afterwards when England and France were locked in arms for world supremacy, and infamous Orders in Council came from London, and perfidious Decrees from Berlin and Milan, England and Napoleon said any nation remaining neutral at that time should forfeit her rights on the sea, and subject her ships and commerce to confiscation.
Our flag then floated over every sea, and we were an object lesson to the world. France and England envied and feared us, and set their mighty powers to grind us between them.
Mr. Allaben goes on to say, “Then came forth a ruddy little David (the United States) against these two Goliaths (England and France), and taking three little stones (Jefferson, Madison and Monroe) from the brook of Freedom, defended our rights, and established the principle that a nation could remain neutral and at peace.” No such civilizing documents as these three men are responsible for, defining the rights of neutrals, can be found in the archives of any other nation on the face of the globe, and they show that we have the right to quarantine war just as we would any other pest and thus keep our country at peace.
When the Hague treaties were signed a few years ago, (you will see this in the May number of the North American Review of that year), the Monroe Doctrine was then and there safeguarded, and that means non-interference with foreign politics on our part, and non-interference on this hemisphere with our affairs on the part of foreign nations.
Yes, the history of the War of 1812 must be rewritten, and full justice given to us of the South.
ROMANCES OF HISTORY. Other omissions, but of far less historical importance, should also be noticed. I refer to the romances of Southern history, for romances have always had a powerful effect upon the youthful hearts and minds of our land.
One would suppose from reading history as written today that Paul Revere was the only hero of the Revolutionary days. It is true, he did ride a fine horse twenty miles over a fine road, in fine weather, not to warn the Americans of the British approach, (for they knew that already) but simply to tell whether they would come by sea or land. I have heard he was paid to do this, and the receipt for the money is in one of the museums in Boston.
How far more heroic was the ride of John Jouett of Virginia, who when he learned that Tarleton’s men were planning an attack upon the Virginia Assembly at Charlottesville, rode forty miles between midnight and daybreak to carry the news. With what result? Monticello would be in ashes today, and we might have had no Patrick Henry to be the “Father of State Rights,” and no Thomas Jefferson to be the founder of the University of Virginia, or to plan the Louisiana Purchase, and probably no James Madison to write the United States Constitution.
Nor is Paul Revere’s ride as heroic as that of Edward Lacy of South Carolina, who when he learned that Ferguson’s men were planning an attack on King’s Mountain, rode thirty miles after midnight to warn Shelby, Sevier and Campbell. With what results? King’s Mountain was an American victory, not an English, and that was said to have been the turning point of the American Revolution.
Nor can it compare with the ride of Sam Dale of Mississippi. The Secretary of War sent to the Governor of Georgia at Milledgeville a dispatch to be delivered at once to General Andrew Jackson at New Orleans. Dale offered to deliver it. He mounted Paddy, a little Georgia pony, and rode 500 miles in eight days to New Orleans. The great battle was then raging and he was not able to see General Jackson until after midnight. “The answer must be returned tomorrow,” he said. “I will take it,” replied Dale. The General ordered relays of horses for his use but Dale refused, saying, “I will ride my Georgia pony, Paddy.” And he did ride the 500 miles in eight days, but was so nearly frozen when he reached Milledgeville that he had to be literally lifted from his pony. That is what I call heroism!
Nor can Revere’s ride compare with the ride of Ruth Sevier, the daughter of “Bonny Kate” Sherrill, who when she learned from an Indian playmate that the Indians and Tories were planning an attack upon the Wautauga Settlement, mounted a one-eyed, sore-back horse, and with only a rope for a bridle, rode miles through dark forests, waded deep creeks, and passed British spies, and thus saved Tennessee in her hour of danger.
Nor is Paul Revere’s ride equal in heroism to that of Agnes Hobson, who carried important dispatches from Governor Heard of Georgia to General Nathanial Greene in South Carolina. Hiding these papers in her hair, and disguising herself as an old country woman, she mounted Silverheels, the Governor’s horse, and for three days, spending the nights at farm houses in the enemy’s territory, she actually took her life in her hands for love of her country, and safely delivered the dispatches to our American commander. Then what about Emily Geiger of South Carolina? When they sent for a woman to search her she read the dispatches, chewed up the papers and swallowed them.
To read history as it is written today one would think that the freckle-face Molly Pitcher was the woman who ever performed any heroic deed in time of war. She was heroic and was made a sergeant in the U. S. Army, an unusual honor for a woman. But did we not have a Captain Sally Tompkins in our War Between the States, and yet nothing is told about her? She maintained a hospital in Virginia at her own expense and cared for over 1300 Confederate soldiers.
Except in local history we do not hear of our red-headed, cross-eyed Nancy Hart of Georgia. She not only poured a ladle of boiling lye soap into the eyes of a peeping Tory, but she held six at bay with one of their own guns (they did not know where she was looking) until her husband and sons had been called from the field. The bones of these six Tories were found a few years ago near her home in Elbert county, and yet it is recorded in history that she was a myth. Four of her relatives are members of our D.A.R. Chapter.
Why not tell of Kate Barry and Kitty Carleton and their faith in prayer, and of many others truly as heroic.
Lovett’s Land of Used-to-Be would made a charming reader for our Southern schools. Too little is known of our Indian legends, for the story or our Nacoochee and her lover would be as thrilling as any Hiawatha and his old Nakomis, if only a Longfellow would write in poetic strains about them. Nowhere are Indian names and legends as wonderfully entrancing as in the land of the Cherokees, the Creeks, the Seminoles, the Chickasaws, the Choctaws and the Catawbas. Mrs. Foster, of the D.A.R., has a fine Revolutionary Reader that should be in our Southern schools. Lucian Knight, the State Historian of Georgia, has done so much to place these romances of history ready for our use, and Dr. B.F. Riley’s Romances of Alabama gives a great deal of Indian history.
Then the Camp Fire Stories by Marie Bankston, of New Orleans, and On the Field of Honor, by Annah Robinson Watson, of Memphis, Tenn., give the touch to Confederate days. Where in all history can be found braver deeds than were performed by our Confederate heroes? Every man and woman in those days did heroic deeds.
Our faithful slaves were heroic, too. Why not tell of Mammy Kate, who carried in her clothes basket her young master from his prison cell, and of Daddy Cyrus, who placed his “old Marster’s” beat wine before the Tories while he slipped out to cut the ropes which bound his master ready for the gallows?
COLONIAL DAMES AND D.A.R. I must pause here to commend the work that is being done and has been done by the Colonial Dames and Daughters of the Revolution. They have unearthed more Southern history than can be estimated, by delving into old letters, court records, and family wills and deeds, searching for ancestral connections. I never hear of their marking historic spots that I do not feel a spirit of thanksgiving for these noble organizations. Historical tradition and historical memories, if noble, are worthy to be commemorated.
While it is true they are dealing with past history, they are not sitting by any means with folded hands weeping over their dead ancestors, but are fully alive and alert and like the Federation of Women’s Clubs and Daughters of the Confederacy are looking after the education of our needy sons and daughters of the South.
But to return to the omissions. I have never seen the justice in making so much of the Boston Tea Party where men at night disgusted as Indians threw the chests of tea overboard, and little outside of local history said of the 257 chests of tea thrown overboard at Charleston, S.C., by men without disguises in broad daylight. And this happened at other places too, in the South. Why has not that Edenton Tea Party in North Carolina entered history? Fifty-one women met at Mrs. Elizabeth King’s home and organized the “Daughters of Liberty,” the first patriotic organization for women in the world, and resolved to drink no tea nor wear clothes that came from England until the obnoxious tax on tea was withdrawn.
Where except in local history is found the notice of the “Peggy Stewart,” whose owner, Anthony Stewart, burned the vessel with its entire cargo in the presence of his daughter, Peggy, for whom the vessel was named, because some of the obnoxious tea was aboard? This took place at Annapolis, Maryland.
Where, too, do we find the “Diligence” and “Viper,” bearing the hated stamps, were not allowed to land, and what Governor was buried in effigy because he planned to store in his house the hated stamps? Had these things transpired in New England every line of history would have been well presented long ago. And New England is right to keep her history straight. Too long have we allowed these romances of history to be overlooked and omitted. We must not allow it longer.
Sins of Commission. Let us turn now to some of the historical sins of commission, some wrongs that still need to be righted.
I did not have time in Savannah to speak of the wrongs concerning the Sumner-Brooks difficulty, the Hampton Roads Conference, and the truth concerning the Merrimac and Monitor, so we will take these first.
SUMNER-BROOKS CONTROVERSY. Now what about that Sumner-Brooks controversy? “In the Senate Chamber May, 1856, Charles Sumner of Massachusetts for six days heaped abuse upon abuse upon Andrew Pickens of South Carolina about the slavery question.
Preston Brooks, a representative from the same State, a relative of Judge Butler, heard of this attack and waited until the Senate adjourned to call Mr. Sumner to account for his statements. Not finding him, he returned to the Senate Chamber, where he found him in conversation with some lady friends. Taking his seat in full view of Mr. Sumner, he waited until the ladies retired, then he deliberately rose and approaching the Senator said: “I have read your speech and I have come to the conclusion that you were guilty of a gross libel upon my State and have wantonly insulted my absent gray-haired relative, Judge Butler, and I feel myself under obligation to inflict upon you a punishment for this libel and insult.” (This does not look like “a sly and cowardly attack from the back,” as has been represented in history.)
“Sumner attempting to rise, Brooks struck him on the head with his gutta percha cane, and continued to strike until the cane was broken by the blows. Sumner trying to dodge the blows fell to the floor, then Brooks discontinued to strike. When Sumner’s friends rallied around him, Brooks withdrew, but did not leave the Senate Chamber until Sumner had been removed to an afternoon.”
This is the story as it appeared in The Washington Star the next day.
Let us see how it has come down to us through history and literature. Smyth in his American Literature says, “Brooks beat Sumner over his head with a bludgeon.” The Encyclopedia Brittanica says, “Brooks dealt almost death blows from which Sumner never fully recovered.” Lyman Abbott referred to it as “a brutal assault, dastardly and cowardly/ For an armed man to attack an unarmed man in my opinion is contrary to any code of morality.”
Brooks was not armed except with a cane. Sumner was his superior in weight and strength. Did the provocation justify the chastisement?
Lewis Cass, of Massachusetts, the “Nestor of the Senate,” declared that Sumner’s speech was, “the most un-American and unpatriotic speech that ever grated on the ears of any members of that high body.” Dargan, the historian, says, “Sumner’s speech was full of the vilest vituperation.” Brooks said, “I would have forfeited my own self respect, and the good opinion of my countrymen had I failed to resent his insults.”
Rhodes, the historian, says: “Brooks’ conduct in the House of Representatives for three years had been that of a gentleman. He was courteous, accomplished, warm hearted, hot-blooded, dear as a friend, but fearful as an enemy.”
There is no doubt that Sumner’s political friends used this attack to further his advancement. Richardson in his American Literature says, “This assault of Brooks made Sumner more prominent in the anti-slavery contest.” George Lunt, a Massachusetts Senator, said: “The unlucky blow, afterwards inflicted by Mr. Brooks of South Carolina upon Mr. Sumner in the Senate Chamber, gave a prominence which there is no reason to suppose that he would otherwise have acquired. It elicited sympathy enough to receive an indulgence to his extreme views from persons to whom these views had hitherto been most repulsive. Except for that blow there is every ground for believing that Mr. Sumner’s official career would have ended with the first senatorial term.” A Harvard professor said, “Mr. Sumner’s vituperation was intolerable.”
A resolution was offered in the House to expel Mr. Brooks for this attack. Howell Cobb, of Georgia, defended him on the ground that the attack was not made while the Senate was in session, and that the Constitution gave authority to deal with members only under these circumstances, and that being a member of Congress did not throw an egis of protection about any member out of Congressional hours.
Messrs. Keitt and Edmondson were threatened with expulsion also because they knew that Mr. Brooks was to make this attack and did not warn Mr. Sumner of it. Mr. Cobb argued that it was not incumbent upon these gentlemen to betray a breach of confidence.
If I remember correctly, Mr. Brooks was allowed to make a speech in his own defense, then taking up his hat he walked out of the House never to return unless recalled. He was later recalled.
HAMPTON ROADS CONFERENCE. Let us look into that Hampton Roads Conference. Mexico was giving trouble in 1865, and Francis P. Blair, Sr., conceived the idea that if peace could be declared between the North and the South, and both armies marched against Mexico the two sections could thus be sooner brought together by having a common interest. At his suggestion President Davis and his Cabinet appointed three Commissioners, Alexander H. Stephens of Georgia, R.L.M. Hunter of Virginia, and John Campbell of Alabama, to meet with President Lincoln and Mr. Seward to discuss terms of peace. President Lincoln would not consent for the Commissioners sent by the Confederate government to come to Washington City, for that would be an acknowledgement of the Confederacy. Therefore it was agreed that they should meet at Hampton Roads, February 3rd, 1865. President Lincoln and Mr. Seward came on the “River Queen” to meet the delegation from the Confederate States. The Commissioners were given no authority to accept terms of unconditional surrender, they demanded a recognition of the Confederate States. Lincoln’s only terms were unconditional surrender. There was no discussion about slaves and payment for them, nor about Union, nor that other things would be granted. Mr. Stephens said in a letter to his friend, Stephen W. Blount, of Texas: “How can any sane person be expected to believe that any such proposition was made by President Lincoln to the Confederate Commissioners, or was submitted to the Confederate government and rejected by either?”
The Conference was informal, no official reports were made of it. It was short and had no practical results. In The Richmond Dispatch dated February 8th, 1865, is this item of news: “President Davis yesterday submitted to Congress the report of the peace Commissioners. The report is brief. Lincoln offered no terms that could be listened to for a moment, in fact nothing short of unconditional submission.”
It has been stated by many eminent men of the South that Mr. Stephens told them personally that Mr. Lincoln said, “Write Union and I will make any other terms you suggest,” and also told them that “he would pay $400,000,000 for the slaves of the South.” I have in my library a copy of Judge Reagan’s testimony refuting this. He was the last surviving member of the Confederate Cabinet, and was present when the Commissioners made their report.
I have a copy of the testimony of Senator Vest of Missouri, denying that any such report was made by the Commissioners. He was the last surviving member of the Confederate Senate. I have copies of Alexander Stephens’ denial over and over again, to Governor Garland of Arkansas, to Senator Orr of South Carolina, to Representative Sexton of Texas, and others, that any such offer was made to the Commissioners. The matter was agitated evidently by enemies of President Davis to arouse prejudice against him. Lincoln did propose an amendment to pay for slaves, but it was for the slaves in the border States. It never reached Congress because of Lincoln’s death.
The misunderstanding in regard to Mr. Stephens must have arisen from repeating some private interview with President Lincoln later. It certainly was not at Hampton Roads Conference.
Francis Thorpe, the historian, says that President Lincoln did not intend to go to that Conference until General Grant telegraphed him that the intentions of the Confederate Commissioners were good and their desires sincere to restore peace and Union. He had fully instructed Seward what to say: “Do not assume to definitely consummate anything.”
“Make known three things as indispensable:
1st. The complete restoration of National authority.
2nd. No receding from the slavery question as assumed in my late annual message, and in preceding documents.
3rd. No cessation of hostilities short of end of war and disbanding of hostile troops.”
The Confederate Commissioners would not agree to these terms. Lincoln reiterated that it was an impossibility for the United States to enter into any agreement with parties in arms against it. Mr. Stephens reminded the President of the doctrine of State Sovereignty and the right of the States to secede. The President advised him to go back to Georgia and ratify the proposed Thirteenth Amendment.
Pollard said: “It was merely a device hit upon by Governor Vance and President Davis to reawaken the military passions of the South, in order that a desire to continue the war would be strengthened, and that President Davis really wished the demands for peace to be rejected.” And Pollard goes on to say that when President Davis heard the report from the Commissioners he burst into threats against Lincoln, saying that the Confederacy in less than twelve months would compel the Yankees to sue for peace on Confederate terms. Those who knew President Davis know the falsity of such statements. No, we have too long and too patiently borne the misrepresentations regarding this matter, and must demand that they be righted.
WHAT ABOUT THE MERRIMAC AND THE MONITOR? History is all wrong about this matter. The idea of an ironclad vessel originated in the brain of John L. Porter of Portsmouth, Va., in 1846. There had been ironclad floating batteries before this time, but no self-propelling ironclad vessel. In 1861 Secretary Mallory of the Confederate Navy ordered a board of engineers, Porter, Williamson and Brooke, to decide upon the feasibility of building a vessel after Porter’s plans. Friends of Lieutenant Brooke claimed that his plans were the ones accepted, and Pollard’s history has also been misleading along this line.
The Merrimac was converted into an ironclad at Engineer Williamson’s suggestion according to John L. Porter’s plans. She had been raised by the State of Virginia because of obstructed navigation. When she was ready to be floated the name was changed to Virginia be the Secretary of Navy, but to avoid confusion I shall continue to speak of her as the Merrimac.
Captain Buchanan was placed in command. On the 8th of March she steamed from the Navy Yard to attack the vessels in Hampton Roads. She looked like a sunken house with the roof above the tide. From Hampton Roads she steamed to Newport News. The Congress first fired upon her, then the Cumberland. She made directly for the Cumberland, striking her a deadly blow with her ram, opening a large hole in her side, then demanded the surrender of that ship. A small leak was in the Merrimac, but she speedily turned upon the Congress and the shells from the ironclad soon disabled her. After an hour’s fire from the Merrimac, she too was forced to surrender. The Raleigh, the Henry, the Jamestown and the Teaser were the Merrimac’s wooden helpers. The flag of truce was raised and hostilities ceased.
While under the flag of truce and both sides were looking after the wounded, the Federals on shore fired and wounded Captain Buchanan and Lieutenant Minor. Lieutenant Catesby Jones then assumed command of the Merrimac, and Captain Buchanan instructed him to set fire to the Congress. Darkness coming on, the Merrimac anchored at Sewall’s Point for the night.
When the news reached the North consternation seized the minds of the people, and they felt the crisis of the war was at hand. “The enemy,” they said, “have a vessel impervious to shot and which can go where she pleases.”
Lincoln called a Cabinet meeting. Mr. Stanton said: “The Merrimac will change the whole course of the war. She will destroy every vessel of our navy. It is not unlikely that a cannon ball from one of her guns will fall upon the White House before we leave this room.” Lincoln did not share Stanton’s extravagant apprehensions, but there is no doubt it was a night of anxiety, of terror, of bewilderment, seldom witnessed before.
On that night there steamed into Hampton Roads a curious looking vessel called the “Yankee Cheese Box.” It was the Monitor from New York.
On the next day, March 9th, the Commander of the Merrimac decided to complete the destruction of the Minnesota, when suddenly the Merrimac grounded and remained so for some time. The Monitor was advancing upon her when the Merrimac opened fire but with no effect. Straight on she came, throwing heavy missiles against the Merrimac’s sides as she circled around her. For hours the vessels, almost touching each other, continued to pour broadside after broadside into each other without effect. The Monitor fired shot and shell, but the Merrimac had only shell. Both vessels seemed invulnerable. There is no doubt that the Monitor fought bravely. The Merrimac ran aground again, but soon floated and tried to run down the Monitor. Once her bow was pressing against the Monitor’s side, but she careened, and by a caprice of fortune, as it seemed, the engines of the Merrimac instead of pressing on were reversed and the two vessels separated. A shell from the Merrimac struck the pilot house of the Monitor, and disabled her commander, Lieutenant John L. Worden, then the Monitor withdrew to shoal water and the Merrimac could not follow and waited. But the Monitor never again offered or accepted a challenge to fight the Merrimac, and two or three times later the challenge was sent. The Merrimac waited for about an hour, and as no Monitor came, she steamed to the Navy Yard for fear later she could not cross the bar. She withdrew amid the applause of thousands as testified by those who witnessed the triumph.
The Captain of the Minnesota, G.J. Van Brunt, in his official report says: “The Monitor steamed out of range of shot towards Old Point Comfort, and the Virginia, having waited in vain for three-quarters of an hour for her antagonist to return, retired to Norfolk.”
Captain E.V. White, an engineer on board the Merrimac said: “We wished to repeat the battle, but the Monitor withdrew from the field and refused to fight again, and I say this in positive contradiction of those statements made in the school histories of today.” Then he further stated that while attending a Cyclorama in New York, the manager made statements that were untrue, and he interrupted him, saying that he was an officer on board the Merrimac and knew that his statements were untrue. At the close of the entertainment the manager asked for a private interview with him and acknowledged that his statements were false, but said to make his show popular at the North he was forced to say what he did.
It was April before the Merrimac had completed some alterations, then she steamed down to Hampton Roads under Commodore Tatnall to engage and capture the Monitor. She was afraid to go too close to shallow water, but dared and challenged the Monitor to come out and fight. Not even the capture of two brigs and a schooner, the Thomas Jefferson, and the hoisting of the Confederate flag on these captured ships, which must have been a humiliation to her, would tempt the Monitor to move. Had she taken the dare, she would undoubtedly have been captured, and she knew it. She had received orders from Washington not to risk another encounter. Twice she refused the challenge from the Merrimac. Seeing there was no chance for a fight, the Merrimac returned to Sewall’s Point and anchored.
The truth of this can be testified to by both English and French men-of-war anchored at Hampton Roads. They witnessed the whole affair. The Vanderbilt, a fast merchant vessel near the Monitor, also remained inactive.
Captain Eggleston’s testimony was that, “The Monitor was worsted and fled for safety to shallow water, and sought protection under the guns of Fortress Monroe.”
J. William Jones, the historian, says: “The Confederates were obliged to destroy the ironclad Merrimac, which had won so signal a victory at Hampton Roads.”
The Federal Government offered large rewards to any one who would destroy the Merrimac. The U.S. Navy blocked the Potomac to keep her from going to Washington. When May 1st an order came for the Confederates to evacuate Norfolk, Commodore Tatnall tried to make her sea-worthy in stormy weather and take her to the Georgia coast, but finding he could not, he decided to blow her up rather than allow her to fall into the enemy’s hands. Whether this was wisest or not is a question, but the Confederate government exonerated Commodore Tatnall from all blame.
It becomes our duty to see that the truth of this is put into the books our young people are studying, and the Cyclorama and moving picture shows falsely representing this event should be forced to correct the falsehoods portrayed, or not allowed to present it.
That contest marked a new era in maritime warfare. The great naval battles of the world heretofore had been fought with wooden vessels, but the ironclad principle embodied in the Merrimac is now used in all the navies of the world.
Think of all accomplished by the Merrimac and her wooden helpers in two days, March 8th and 9th, 1862. She encountered, defied and defeated 2,890 men and captured 230 guns. She burned the Congress, sunk the Cumberland, riddled the Minnesota, drove off the Roanoke, peppered the St. Lawrence, disabled three gunboats, silenced the Fortress Monroe, challenged the Monitor and kept her under the guns of Fortress Monroe. Had she been able to go up the James River McClellan could not have changed his base at Harrison’s Landing, and his army would have been at the mercy of the Confederate forces.
The Monitor did not long survive the Merrimac. She went to sea after her rival was blown up and foundered off the coast of Cape Hatteras.
HISTORY OF THE NAVY. The history of the Navy and the part Southern men had in it should be classed as historical sins of omission to be righted. Did not John Paul Jones of Fredericksburg, Va., on July 4th, 1777 hoist on his ship “The Ranger,” the first American flag to float over an American war vessel?
Did not Stephen Decatur of Maryland return with the first prize captured from the French in 1798, and did not this act inspire confidence in creating a Federal Navy? Was not Benjamin Stoddard of Maryland the first Secretary of that Navy?
Where in all naval history do you find a greater hero than William Lewis Herndon of Fredericksburg, Va.? The story of the Titanic set the minds of the world wild with consternation. Why has so little been said of the sinking of the “Central America” in 1857? On the way to Havana with 501 passengers on board, crew included, a storm was encountered, and 426 went to a watery grave, Captain Herndon among them. The Titanic was three hours sinking, the Central American three days and three nights. There was no wireless telegraphy then. The only hope was a passing vessel. Captain Herndon’s cheerful spirit never left him. He kept everyone on board buoyed up with the hope of a passing boat. This kept the women and children brave. The women begged to relieve the tired and exhausted men. There was not the slightest disorder when on the third day a brig was signalled, the life boats were lowered and into them the women and children were put to buffet, it seemed in vain, against the tempestuous waves. They did reach the shore in safety.
Captain Herndon, after the life boats had been lowered, sent by the last one to leave the boat his watch to his wife as the only legacy in earthly possessions, donned his full uniform and calmly awaited death. Some few were saved from the wreck, and testified that perfect order reigned on board to the last. Truly that was
The knightliest of the knightly race,
That since the days of old,
Have kept the lamp of chivalry
Alight in hearts of gold.
The Congressional Records will give you Senator Benjamin’s report, Congress’ action and Seward’s resolution. His fellow officers erected a monument at Annapolis to his memory.
One of Captain Herndon’s children became the wife of a President of the United States, Chester A. Arthur, and Herndon himself was brother-in-law to our Matthew Fontaine Maury.
In 1862 the “Ariel,” owned by Commodore Vanderbilt was seized by the Alabama off the coast of Cuba. She had on board 140 Federal officers and men, a battalion of marines, besides 300 other passengers, among them many women and children. Raphael Semmes was the commander of the Alabama. He could not take the “Ariel’s” passengers on board the Alabama. The idea of sinking the vessel was never thought of. He sent word to the women and children that no harm should be done, as they were greatly frightened because they were told that they had fallen into the hands of a pirate. He promised that not an article belonging to any passenger should even be touched. The soldiers were paroled, and the “Ariel” released under bond from Commodore Vanderbilt, a bond that was never paid, however, and then the Alabama steamed away. How different was this policy from present day war policy.
The first successful submarine that was ever constructed was in Charleston Harbor, February 17th, 1864. This was the “Little David” of Hundley. It was cigar shaped, 30 or 35 feet long, and 7 1/8 feet deep. She torpedoed the “Housatonic” and sunk her. Then the “Little David” sank too, the cause unknown. Years after she was found and raised.
What cruiser can show a record like the Shenandoah? She was in the Arctic Ocean when the surrender came. In eight months she captured 38 vessels, valued at $1,000,000. Six were released on bond and 32 destroyed. She visited every ocean except the Antarctic, and was the only vessel that carried the Confederate flag around the world, and floated that flag six months after the surrender. She fired the last gun of the Confederacy, June 22nd, 1865. She went 58,000 miles in thirteen months without a serious mishap. She first learned of the surrender August 2nd, 1865. She decided then to go to England, and November 6th, 1865, she steamed up the river Mersey with the Confederate flag flying and gave herself up to the British Government.
The Sumter under our Raphael Semmes captured in two days seven ships loaded with sugar and molasses, and in twenty-eight days captured nine more.
When Admiral Semmes took charge of the Alabama the Sumter was sold to England and remained at Gibraltar.
No, there is such ignorance of the South’s Navy, and what was accomplished by it, that it reflects upon the South, as well as the North. I wonder how many here present know that the Navy Yard was once in Charlotte, N.C. Yes, in an inland city, far away from the sea, where no ships could land or be repaired, and yet in that Navy Yard guns were cast, and gun carriages and other implements of war constructed for the land forces, as well as for the Navy. When Norfolk surrendered this move seemed necessary. I wish that we could put Scharff’s History of the Navy into every library of the South.
Last year I asked for sketches of Confederate surgeons for that volume of history, and some of you never heeded the request. Now this year I ask for sketches of men of the Navy for another volume, and I hope to be more successful. Do not allow one heroic deed to pass unrecorded.
WHO BURNED COLUMBIA? Historians still continue unblushingly to quote Sherman’s official report in regard to this matter, in spite of Sherman’s own acknowledgement that he falsified in making this report. He first said: “I disclaim on the part of my army any agency in the fire, but on the contrary claim that we saved what of Columbia remained unconsumed. And now without hesitancy I charge Wade Hampton with having burned his own city of Columbia.” Men and women who were in Columbia at the time declared this was absolutely false, and were laughed at for their denial. The Federal troops came into the city early, at 3 a.m. February 17th, 1865, and the Confederate troops withdrew. There was no sign of burning cotton, anywhere as had been charged. One of General Hampton’s officers, Lieutenant Milford Overby, 9th Ky. Cav., saw General Hampton’s order to his men that no cotton should be fired for fear of burning the city. He said he could testify that he was the last Confederate soldier in the city and no cotton was burning when he left.
Dr. Joseph LeConte, in his autobiography, said: “While General Sherman had promised protection to the city, a Colonel quartered in my brother John LeConte’s house, hinted that rockets would be the signal for the destruction of the city, and others so testified. At 7 p. m. the rockets were fired and the burning of Columbia began.” Sherman’s aide-de-camp, Major Nichols, in his diary said that the city was not fired until evening. Now that was fifteen hours after every Confederate had left.
In spite of these testimonies statements continue to be made that Sherman’s troops did not burn Columbia. In 1875 General Wade Hampton demanded that the United States Senate should investigate the matter, and General Sherman did not wish such investigation, but made another official statement, which should have put forever at rest any other statement to the contrary. He said: “In my official report of the conflagration I distinctly charged it to General Wade Hampton, and now confess I did so pointedly to shake the faith of his people in him, for he was in my opinion a braggart and professed to be the special champion of South Carolina.” This is found in General Sherman’s book published in 1875. Later he added, “Columbia was burned rather by accident than design,” but how does he account for the sky-rockets?
The truth of the matter is that British subjects began to demand payment for their cotton. If Federal troops burned it, the United States government would have to pay for that cotton. If Confederates burned it South Carolina would be responsible. When an investigation was urged the matter was dropped upon Sherman’s confession. It has never been ascertained if Britain’s cotton was ever paid for, but it can be stated South Carolina was never asked to do it.
Whitelaw Reid, of Ohio, editor of The New York Tribune, said, “The burning of Columbia was the most monstrous barbarity of Sherman’s barbarous march.”
RECONSTRUCTION IN THE SOUTH. I come to a period of history about which the South still feels sore, and a period I fain would pass without a comment. I refer to the Reconstruction Period following the War between the States. But since so many are writing to your Historian to ask how far the story of that period is truthfully represented in the new play “The Birth of the Nation,” she feels it is best to give authentic facts. Thomas Dixon in his Clansman has been brave enough to faithfully give the picture of the conditions then, and for this he has been greatly maligned, but the half he has never told. Thomas Nelson Page in his Red Rock has given but a faint picture of those days.
“The Birth of the Nation,” is not altogether a true presentation of Reconstruction Days, for it does not tell the half of the story. The humiliation and mortification endured by the men and women of the South at that time can never be told by a picture film. Still it is teaching history. I feared to see it, for I did not wish to live over again those awful experiences even through a moving picture show. I never heard of a Ku Klux being killed, especially by a negro. Their superstitious fear lest they should forever be haunted by his spirit would have made them afraid to do it. In this respect the representation is misleading, but the South owed a debt of gratitude to Mr. Griffeth for having the South’s side presented in this period of our history. This presentation is opening the eyes of the North.
Lest our Northern friends may think we have taken advantage of this opportunity to give vent to our feelings from the Southern point of view and what we may say will seem to be from prejudice, I shall only quote from fair-minded men of the North, not of the South, nor will I even tell you the worst things these men of the North have said.
I shall first quote from Walter Henry Cook, a professor in the Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, a Northern man by birth and education, one who is trying to read history with his heart as well as his eyes: “The Northern soldier returned to his home to find every comfort and convenience. The North was more prosperous than when the war began. Manufactures had increased; railroads had opened up the West; immigrants were supplying labor for factory and farm, and while the most destructive war in the history of the world had taken place yet an increase in wealth, population and power had been the result.
“What a contrast to the South! The Southern soldier returned defeated, sorrowful, ill-clad, ill-fed, sick in mind and body, to find the South desolate and prostrate. The whole economic system had been destroyed or confiscated. Factories in ashes, railroads in ruin, bonds useless, currency valueless, a pitiable condition!
“A new economic system could have been built up by the men and women of the South with freed slaves had they been let alone. The policy of Thad Stevens and Charles Sumner after Lincoln’s death stirred up ex-slaves to hate the white men of the South, especially when they preached a gospel of social equality for which the men of the South would not stand under any circumstances.”
The next quotation is from Dan Voorhees, Representative for many years, and later a United States Senator from Indiana. In his speech “Plunder of Eleven States,” made in the House of Representatives, March 23rd, 1872, he pictures well the animus of Reconstruction. He said, “From turret to foundation you tore down the government of eleven States. You left not one stone upon another. You not only destroyed their local laws, but you trampled upon their ruins. You called Conventions to frame new Constitutions for these old States. You not only said who should be elected to rule over these States, but you said who should elect them. You fixed the quality and the color of the voters. You purged the ballot box of intelligence and virtue, and in their stead you placed the most ignorant and unqualified race in the world to rule over these people.” Then taking State by State he showed what Thad Stevens’ policy had done.
“Let the great State of Georgia speak first,” he said. “You permitted her to stand up and start in her new career, but seeing some flaw in your handiwork, you again destroyed and again reconstructed her State government. You clung to her throat; you battered her features out of shape and recognition, determined that your party should have undisputed possession and enjoyment of her offices, her honors, and her substance. Then bound hand and foot you handed her over to the rapacity of robbers. Her profile and unbounded resources inflamed their desires.
“In 1861 Georgia was free from debt. Taxes were light as air. The burdens of government were easy upon her citizens. Her credit stood high, and when the war closed she was still free from indebtedness. After six years of Republican rule you present her, to the horror of the world, loaded with a debt of $50,000,000, and the crime against Georgia is the crime this same party has committed against the other Southern States. Your work of destruction was more fatal than a scourge of pestilence, war or famine.
“Rufus B. Bullock, Governor of Georgia, dictated the legislation of Congress, and the great commonwealth of Georgia was cursed by his presence. With such a Governor, and such a Legislature in perfect harmony, morally and politically, their career will go down to posterity without a rival for infamous administrations of the world. That Governor served three years and then absconded with all of the gains. The Legislature of two years spent $100,000 more than had been spent during any eight previous years. They even put the children’s money, laid aside for education of white and black, into their own pockets.”
When Senator Voorhees came to South Carolina, the proud land of Marion and Sumter, his indignation seems to have reached it pinnacle.
“There is no form of ruin to which she has not fallen a prey, no curse with which she has not been baptized, no cup of humiliation and suffering her people have not drained to the dregs. There she stands the result of your handiwork bankrupt in money, ruined in credit, her bonds hawked about the streets at ten cents on the dollar, her prosperity blighted at home and abroad, without peace, happiness, or hope. There she stands with her skeleton frame admonishing all the world of the loathsome consequences of a government fashioned in hate and fanaticism, and founded upon the ignorant and vicious classes of manhood. Her sins may have been many and deep, and the color of scarlet, yet they will become as white as snow in comparison with those you have committed against her in the hour of her helplessness and distress.”
Then he took in like manner State after State, and wound up with this: “I challenge the darkest annals of the human race for a parallel to the robberies which have been perpetrated on these eleven American States. Had you sown seeds of kindness and good will they would long ere this have blossomed into prosperity and peace. Had you sown seeds of honor, you would have reaped a golden harvest of contentment and obedience. Had you extended your charities and your justice to a distressed people you would have awakened a grateful affection in return. But as you planted in hate and nurtured in corruption so have been the fruits which you have gathered.”
I return now to quote from Walter Cook in regard to Reconstruction graft. Governor Warmouth of Louisiana accumulated one and a half million in four years on a salary of $8,000 a year. Governor Moses of South Carolina acknowledged that he had accepted $65,000 in bribes. Governor Clayton of Arkansas said he intended to people the State with negroes. The carpetbag government of Florida stole meat and flour given for helpless women and children. In North Carolina and Alabama negro convicts were made justices of the peace, men who were unable to read or write. In the South Carolina Legislature 94 black men were members. The Speaker of the House, the Clerk of the House, the doorkeeper, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, and the Chaplain, were all black men and some of them could neither read nor write.”
The next is an extract from The Chicago Chronicle, written by a Northern man:
“The Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution grew out of a spirit of revenge, for the purpose of punishing the Southern people. It became a part of the Constitution by fraud and force to secure the results of war. The war was not fought to secure negro suffrage.
“The history of the world may be searched in vain for a parallel to the spirit of savagery which it inflicted upon a defeated and impoverished people, the unspeakably barbarous rule of a servile race just liberated from bondage. Negro suffrage was a crime against the white people of the South. It was a crime against the blacks of the South. It was a crime against the whole citizenship of the Republic. Political power was never conferred upon a race so poorly equipped to receive it.“
Now a last quotation from Charles Francis Adams, the grandson of John Quincy Adams: “I have ever been one of those who have thought extremely severe measures were dealt the Southern people after the Civil War, measures of unprecedented severity. The Southern community was not only desolated during the war but $3,000,000,000 of property confiscated after the war. I am not aware that history records a similar act superadded to the destruction and desolation of war.”
Again: “Their manumitted slaves belonging to an inferior and alien race, were enfranchised and put in control of the whole administration. Is there a similar case recorded in history? If so I have never heard of it. It was simply a case of insane procedure, and naturally resulted in disaster. We stabbed the South to the quick, and during all the years of reconstruction turned the dagger round and round in the festering wound. If the South had been permitted to secede slavery would have died a natural death.”
The United States government is the only government that ever freed her slaves without giving just compensation for them.
Dr. Wyeth in his With Sabre and Scalpel, published by Harper & Brothers, New York, says, “None but those who went through this period have any conception of it. Defeat on battlefield brought no dishonor, but all manner of oppressions, with poverty and enforced domination of a race lately in slavery brought humiliation and required a courage little less than superhuman.”
The North said the Freedman’s Bureau was necessary to protect the negro. The South said the Ku Klux Klan was necessary to protect the white woman.
The trouble arose from interference on the part of the scalawags and carpetbaggers in our midst, and they were the ones to be dealt with first to keep the negroes in their rightful place.
Mrs. Rose’s Ku Klux Klan is authority on this subject. Put that book into your schools.
TEXTBOOKS. Why should we be so insolent upon the truth of history being put into the textbooks taught in our schools? Because history as now written is stirring up discord and causing bitterness. It is stated upon good authority that in private schools in the South 81 per cent. use histories which misrepresent the South, 17 per cent. of these omit most important history pertaining to the South. The South resents these falsehoods, and that part of the North ignorant of our side resents our resentment. Peace can be brought into the hearts of both only when a clear, plain, fair, truthful and unprejudiced history shall be given, and that is what we as U.D.C. are trying to give.
It is the custom of your historian to publish in local papers bits of history as gathered, especially disputed points in history, inviting criticisms and correction, so that the mistakes can be corrected during the lifetime of those who have made the history. Every historian is liable to mistakes. I have made many myself, but gladly have I welcomed the corrections when proofs accompanied the correction.
One may ask, “Have any histories true to the South been written by Northern historians?” How glad I am to say “Yes,” and I wish I had the means to place copies of these in our Southern as well as Northern schools. George Lunt, of Boston, Mass., in “The Origin of the Late War,” written in 1865, and published by D. Appleton & Co., of New York, has given as fair and just a presentation of the causes leading to our War between the States as any Southern person could desire. He was opposed to slavery, but he did not hesitate to show that by the Constitution the North had no right to interfere, and that it was a question that the slaveholders themselves only could settle. He showed how the South’s rights had been interfered with in the Tariff Acts and by other unjust discriminations, and was honest enough to fairly present both sides of the causes that forced the South to secede. General John W. Tench, of Florida, allowed me to see a copy of this book. I fear it is out of print. Dan Voorhees, of Indiana, in his speeches has righted the South in Reconstruction history. Charles Francis Adams has tried to do us justice in regard to our Constitutional rights. Hamilton Mabie has done much to right the injustice to the South in literature.
It was a Northern historian who said: “Eliminate the achievements of Virginia’s great men, and you nearly unmake American history. Theirs were the brains that conceived, theirs the hands that constructed our National system, and formed the foundation upon which have been builded American greatness and glory.” Why is it these men have done the South justice? Because they have taken the trouble to investigate the truth concerning us.
Patriotic men and women of the North as well as of the South are demanding true history, and our sectional differences will disappear when we succeed in getting down to the truth of history.
The trouble with most of the textbooks on history is that they treat mainly of current events preceding and during the War between the States, hence they are records of excited passions, embittered prejudices, and extravagant utterances of the masses of people on both sides, and few go into a philosophical review of the causes leading to the war, and how that war might have been prevented. The historians of today desirous of steering clear of those questions which embitter, omit so much that should be there, and the injustice to the South is more now in these omissions than what is really said against us.
Horace Greely, considered the fairest writer to the South of his day, in his American Conflict, stresses the war as “a culmination of a strife for more than a century over negro slavery.” That is not true. Slavery may have been, and undoubtedly was, an occasion of war, but it was not the real cause, The real cause was a different and directly opposite view as to the nature of the government of the United States. The Southern States withdrew for better protection, which the government was not giving as guaranteed by the Constitution. Then the Federal government denied their right to withdraw, and the war was to coerce them back into the Union. The South resisted then in defense of rights given them not only by the United States Constitution but by the Declaration of 1776. There really were more slave-holders in the Northern army than in the Confederate army.
Dr. Curry, in his Southern States of the American Union, says, “History, poetry, romance, art, and public opinion have been most unjust to the South. If the true record be given, the South is rich in patriotism, in intellectual force, in civic and military achievements, in heroism, in honorable and sagacious statesmanship, but if history as now written is accepted it will consign the South to infamy.” Shall we accept it? I say we must not.
One college in the South had students who were too patriotic to study history unjust to the South. They were the children of Confederate heroes. The textbook in use said, “Jefferson Davis was a man of small calibré and should have been hanged as a traitor.” They sent a committee to the teacher to request that the textbook be changed. She refused on the ground of expense. They preferred the request to the President of the college, and he refused. They then applied to the Trustees and they refused. In a quiet, dignified manner, with no spirit of insubordination, they kindled a bonfire on the campus and into it every copy of that history was thrown. The authorities were taught a lesson¾not one member of that class was expelled.
A grandmother teaching a grandson his geography lesson discovered in that lesson that her own brother was called a traitor because of his prominence in secession, and the statement made that he and all other rebels like him should have been hanged. She appealed to the Board of Education to exclude the book from the school, but the answer came that the expense to parents would be too great, but they ordered that particular leaf in the textbook to be cut out. Was that grandmother satisfied? Not at all.
A textbook now used largely in Southern schools contains this statement: “It is impossible for the student of history today to feel otherwise than that the cause for which the South fought was unworthy.” Do you think such teaching as that is calculated to make our young people true to the cause for which their fathers and grandfathers fought?
A veteran came to me with tears streaming from his eyes, saying: “What can we do? My granddaughter came home from school and said, ‘Grandpa, our teacher said today that the slaveholders beat their slaves until the blood fairly gushed out of their backs, and I was ashamed to tell them my grandfather owned slaves.’”
While traveling in the West I met a gentleman who said to me, “Miss Rutherford, my father was a Confederate soldier. He was killed at Shiloh, but had he lived I am sure he would have regretted having fought on the wrong side.” My answer was, “Far more probably he would regret having a son so disloyal to the principles for which he was willing to give his life.”
Imagine the indignation of a party of Southern tourists when they found in a London hotel in a copy of The British Weekly, giving James Russell Lowell as authority, the following statement: “The aristocracy of the South has added nothing to the requirements of civilization except the carrying of bowie knives and the chewing of tobacco, the hightoned Southern gentleman being not only quadruminous, but quidruminant.” And again quoting from the same authority, also found in The British Weekly: “During the late American war, the Southern women wore personal ornaments made of the bones of their buried foe, and the prisoners were starved that their scalps should be used as trophies.”
Matthew Maury’s name is omitted from the list of great scientists found in the Congressional Library. Why? Because he espoused the Confederate cause.
In a textbook on history is found this statement: “The Confederacy was now placed before the civilized world as the champion of the detested institution of slavery. The Southern people under this institution were daily growing morally, mentally and physically weaker.”
Another textbook refers to “the clemency of the North in not hanging Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis.” The names of the authors of these books are not given because of the advertisement. A lesson was learned when we attacked a certain history by name several years ago.
Let me assure you that we are not demanding textbooks written wholly, nor printed wholly by Southern writers; but we do recommend, where Southern men have invested their capital in publishing houses for southern textbooks, as the B.F. Johnson Co., in Richmond, and can compete in quality and price with northern firms, that Boards of Education in the South should give preference to the southern publishers. We shall not be free in the South so long as we are bound hand and foot by the Book Trust, and so long as there are men living amongst as willing to be bribed.
When I attacked the Book Trust in Washington City, in 1912, a gentleman wrote to me offering his aid in investigating this question of bribery. He said: “With your permission I wish to lay before you the root of the trouble as I see it. The teachers and officials are not so much to blame as certain big lawyers and politicians in the South. Some of these are sons of Confederate soldiers, I am sorry to say, but they are employed by the Book Trust to continue the use of books unjust to the South, because those books having been condemned thirty or forty years ago, no royalty is paid upon them, and the cost of manufacture is very small. This is kept a secret of course, and these lawyers and politicians stultify themselves by accepting large fees, in reality they are bribes, to keep these books in the schools, and I have proof in hand where from $5,000 to $40,000 have been paid for such service. Of course, all of this can only be stopped when a responsible body like the Daughters of the Confederacy or Confederate Veterans take it in hand. When they do, there is a great cloud of witnesses that can be produced.” Now this is the work our Textbook Committee must take in hand next year.
If you will look into the compilations of American Literature in your libraries you will find that the Southern writers have never had their due. For instance in Stedman’s and Hutchinson’s Library of American Literature fifty pages are given to Walt Whitman, and five lines to our Henry Timrod. Richardson in his American Literature gives forty pages to Fenimore Cooper, and only four pages to our William Gilmore Sims. Pattee in his literature gives as many pages to William Dean Howells as he does to Paul Hamilton Hayne, Joel Chandler Harris, the Uncle Remus unique in literature, and George W. Cable, and he does not even mention Father Ryan and James Barron Hope. Pancoast gives page after page to E.P. Roe, and does not mention James Lane Allen and Robert Burns Wilson. John R. Thompson, the intimate friend of Thackeray and Tennyson, is rarely found in any American political compilation. In Masterpieces of American Literature, published by Houghton, Mifflin & Co., no mention is made of Edgar Allen Poe, “the master of style and literary imagery,” while much space is given to O’Reilly’s Puritan.
Now in your libraries also are textbooks and books of fiction equally as unjust to the South and you do not know it. We must know our own history and literature. If we of the South are not sufficiently interested in the history of the South to see that it is taught correctly we will continue to be misrepresented. The newspapers and magazines of the North and West are now daily misrepresenting us. Just a few weeks ago The Chicago Tribune said: “The South is a region of illiteracy, blatant self-righteousness, and until better blood is introduced the South will remain a reproach and a danger to the American republic.”
Many histories now in use stress three things which they call “salient facts” ¾ we fought to hold our slaves; we were brutal to the Andersonville prisoners; and we were whipped.
The sooner we know our own history and teach it, the sooner will such misrepresentations cease. While we pity the ignorance which brought forth these statements we cannot rely upon pity to correct them. We of the South must do it, and do it quickly. Is not this argument sufficient to show the need of a Chair of Southern History and Literature in our Teachers College?
The fairminded North will be glad to know the truth concerning us. Then let us give it to them. You may ask, “How can this best be done?” I reply, “Only by a systematic study of our own history and conditions.”
May I urge that in your libraries, public and private school and university, two sets of books be placed? Only in this way can your children know what the South may claim. These books are in several volumes, and you cannot expect to get something for nothing, but they will not cost you as much as those histories and encyclopædias there in your libraries today that are teaching untruths concerning the South. These two sets of books I wish you to place in your homes are The South in the Building of a Nation, by J. S. Clark, Birmingham, Ala., and The Library of Southern Literature, sold by Martin, Hoyt & Company, of Atlanta. One supplements the other.
The writing of essays on subjects pertaining to Southern history has been of untold advantage. I can speak for my own State, where nearly 7,000 school children have been reached this year by the subject, “The Causes that Led to the War Between the States.”
THINGS THAT MAKE FOR PEACE. Among my volumes of U.D.C. history is one called The Things that Make for Peace. In this volume is placed everything beautiful and magnanimous that I find said or done by one side for the other side.
For instance, Col. James Sample, of the Grand Army of the Republic, has sent me copies of articles that he has written, one refuting the charge that President Davis was arrested in woman’s clothes, the other refuting the charge that Senator Hepburn made in the United States Senate in regard to General Lee’s acceptance of pay from the United States government after he had cast his lot with the Confederate cause.
I have in this volume all of the data regarding the monument that our Mr. Cunningham was instrumental in having erected to Mr. Owen, the officer who was kind to him and other prisoners when in a Northern prison.
I have the testimony of the Vermont teacher, who said her pastor had urged her to accept a position in the South that she might be a missionary to the benighted blacks of the South, but she was returning now to be a missionary to the benighted whites of Vermont.
I have in it also the tributes to Captain Wirz from soldiers that were in Andersonville Prison, testifying to his uniform courteous treatment of them. I have a copy of the letter accompanying the watch they presented to him for his kindness.
I have also an account of one of President Davis’ old political enemies, one prominent in the John Brown affair, being received as a guest at Beauvoir, and a copy of a letter from him testifying to the injustice that had been done to President Davis.
I have the tribute to the Southern gentleman by one of the Federal generals who was placed in Georgia when the South was under military rule. He said he had asked to be placed in the South in order to humiliate those slave-drivers of the South, but he wished now to testify that he had found those slaveholders types of the finest Christian manhood.
I have Henry Grady’s New England speech, and Henry Watterson’s tribute to Abraham Lincoln, General John B. Gordon’s tribute to Northern valor, and many others of like spirit.
I have Lee’s reply when the mother requested him to teach her boy to hate the Yankees. “Madam, take your boy home. We do not teach our boys to hate.”
I have letters from many G.A.R. men commending the spirit of “Wrongs of History Righted,” and offering to aid me in righting other wrongs.
I have requests from negro teachers at the head of schools asking for copies of “Wrongs of History Righted” to give to their teachers. I never open that book that I do not feel that the spirit of Sumner Cunningham is brooding about me. Are you taking his Veteran?
I have great faith to believe that all will be well in the end, and my faith is greatly strengthened as I see a growing desire on the part of our own people to study history and find out the truth of history. Bitterness and sectionalism will pass away when the whole truth is known.
Let us have patience and have faith in our Nation. Let us believe that liberty is a God-given gift and cannot fail. Let us have faith in the loyal natural heart of America, and believe that sooner or later all wrongs will be righted, all evil will be uprooted.
Clouds will cross the heavens, but let us not forget that the sun still shines.
Society is out of joint. Things do need adjustment, threatening evils, social and political are near, but let us be patient, for if honest hearts are aroused against these evils they must give way before an indignant people, and order and peace will be restored under the guiding hand of a great and loving Jehovah.
Source: Four Addresses, by Mildred Lewis Rutherford (Birmingham, AL: The Mildred Rutherford Historical Circle) 1916, pp. 85-119.