Kevin Levin has asked a rhetorical question: How Does Confederate History Mesh With Black History? That question is easy enough to answer.
There were no African-Americans in the Confederacy. Technically, there were no African-Americans in the Union either until the 14th Amendment overturned the Dred Scott decision in 1867.
BRA’s historians (to understand what we mean by “BRA’s historians,” browse the Civil War Memory website to see the deification of blacks) typically prefer to ignore the fact that many Northern Whites later concluded that they had also lost the War Between the States. The Union victory in 1865 set in motion the social forces that ultimately destroyed Yankeedom.
Angelo Guelzo writes in The American Interest:
“However, the most important change in the outline of the postwar American economy was organizational rather than industrial or agricultural, although once again it was difficult to say whether this was a loss or a gain. Before the Civil War, only about 7 percent of American manufacturing existed as corporations. By 1900, corporations accounted for 69 percent of all American manufacturing; between 1897 and 1905 alone, 5,300 small-scale farms were consolidated and reorganized into just 318 corporations; and just 26 trusts controlled 60 percent of major American industrial output.
Standard Oil of Ohio, chartered in 1870, was converted into a trust in 1882, by which time it controlled more than 90 percent of American oil refining. “Now,” warned James J. Garfield, who had ended the war as a Union brigadier general and who would be the second President to be assassinated in office, “a class of corporations unknown to the early law writers has arisen,” turned the Republican political slogan of “free soil, free labor, free men” into “industrial feudalism.” At the end of the war, “I found that I had got back to another world,” said the title character of William Dean Howell’s novel The Rise of Silas Lapham, who had survived a wound at Gettysburg.” The day of small things was past, and I don’t suppose it will ever come again in this country.
The Northern victors who inherited this landscape of loss came to despise their own generation as no other American generation since.
The novelists and poets cried out first, initially in pain but gradually in disgust. Walt Whitman recalled with desperate fondness the nobility of the wounded soldiers he had met while volunteering in Washington’s wartime hospitals. But the vulgarity of the peacetime decades that followed filled him with horror. “Never was there, perhaps, more hollowness at heart than at present, and here in the United States,” Whitman complained in Democratic Vistas in 1871.
The results of the war had made people skeptical of noble causes, and wearily tolerant of stupidity, greed and fraud. Henry Adams, the grandson of John Quincy Adams and great-grandson of John Adams, was enraged at what he saw as the betrayal of the public trust his ancestors had handed down. Adams carried his contempt all the way to the desk of his grandfather and great-grandfather had occupied, that of the President of the United States and the generalissimo of Union victory, Ulysses S. Grant. “Grant’s administration outraged every rule of ordinary decency,” Adams complained; it was corrupt, visionless and helpless. Grant himself was “inarticulate, uncertain, distrustful of himself, still more distrustful of others, and awed by money.” He should, Adams raged, “have lived in a cave and worn skins.”
In addition to costing the lives of around 365,000 Union soldiers, the War Between the States created African-Americans and unleashed the Black Undertow on the North. In 1865, only 2 percent of blacks lived in the North.
The Union soldiers returning home from the Southern battlefields discovered that they had won the Gilded Age. The Yankees had liberated the African negro only to find out that they had lost their own freedom to a corporate plutocracy of millionaires that now owned Congress and the White House.
Here’s the abolitionist Wendell Phillips describing the Yankee’s lost idyllic rural civilization of New England:
“My ideal of a civilization is a very high one, but the approach to it is a New England town of some two thousand inhabitants, with no rich man and no poor man in it; all mingling in the same society … That’s New England as it was fifty years ago … the civilization that lingers beautifully on the hillsides of New England, nestles sweetly in the valleys of Vermont, the moment it approaches a crowd like Boston, or a million men gathered in one place like New York, it rots.”
During the war, Yankeedom had evolved from a racially homogeneous land of small farmers and artisans into a land ruled by the Robber Barons who imported millions of European immigrants to work as wage slaves in their factories.
Between 1880 and 1914, two million Yiddish-speaking Ashkenazi Jews arrived from Eastern Europe. When Lincoln was elected president in 1860, there were around 150,000 Jews in the United States.
Henry Adams would later lament, “We are in the hands of the Jews. They can do what they please with our values.” He advised against investment except in the form of gold locked in a safe deposit box. “There you have no risk but the burglar. In any other form you have the burglar, the Jew, the Czar, the socialist, and, above all, the total irremediable, radical rottenness of our whole social, industrial, financial and political system.”
Here’s another scene which vividly illustrates how Northerners came to regret creating the Black Undertow:
“On the evening of Saturday, October 24, 1908, Charles Francis Adams Jr. rose to address a distinguished audience gathered at the Academy of Music in Richmond, Virginia. His topic was the “Afro-American Race Problem” and the wisdom of Virginia’s policies toward it. In this regard, Adams and Richmond had a special historical connection.
He had entered the city as it lay in flames on April 3, 1865. That was the day after “the night they drove old Dixie down,” when the Union Army forced General Robert E. Lee and President Jefferson Davis to abandon the capital of their Confederate States of America. Adams had been Colonel Charles Francis Adams then – the officer in command of the black troops comprising the Massachusetts Fifth Calvary Regiment. They helped extinguish the fire set by retreating Southern Whites, then joined the city’s freedmen in jubilant celebrations that peaked with the arrival of Abraham Lincoln himself the next day. Adams later recalled his Richmond entry “the one event I should most have desired as the culmination of my life in the Army.”
His desire was understandable. Adams was, as he told his Richmond audience forty-three years later, “an anti-slavery man from my birth.” He was the great-grandson of John Adams, who signed the Declaration of Independence; grandson of John Quincy Adams, who valiantly defeated the House of Representatives pro-slavery gag rule and defended the Amistad slaves before the Supreme Court; son of Charles Francis Adams, Sr., the U.S. ambassador who persuaded the British not to side with the Confederacy during the war. But as he often did in his later years, in 1908 this Adams rose not to praise but to repudiate “the hateful memory of what is known as the Reconstruction period.” The Yankee policies of those years, promoting African-American enfranchisement and equal citizenship, had been, he announced, “worse than a crime.” Henceforth, any solution to “the Afro-American race problem” must be “worked out in the South,” without “external intervention.” Blacks must not “ask to be held up, or protected from outside, in that process.
Everyone knew what Adams meant: the well-advanced process of defeating Reconstruction in the South by disenfranchising blacks and subjecting them to Jim Crow segregation laws should be accepted by the North, by all Americans. And although Adams said he spoke only for himself, he expressed confidence that the “mind of the North is rapidly crystallizing” in a “large and growing, and in the end most influential” consensus in favor of the views he advanced. A “great change” in public opinion and feeling, which he himself had experienced, had been “steadily going on for many years.” The “glittering” beliefs in “the equality of men” had come to seem to most Americans “strangely remote, archaic even.” …
By the time Adams wrote those ugly words, Adams was, by his own report, “a changed intellectual and moral being.” His reservations about black equality had been enormously strengthened by his conversion to what he called the new late-nineteenth-century “scientific” worldview, massively influenced by Darwin’s On the Origins of Species and his The Descent of Man, published in 1871. This science had “broken down” the theory of racial equality, Adams said.
In its place stood the hard lesson that, due to “absolutely fundamental racial characteristics,” African-Americans could “only partially assimilate” and could not “be absorbed” into the white community on an equal basis. These conclusions were reinforced, by examples of black misconduct in Hayti and Jamaica,” as well as by sad experience with the “promiscuous conferring of the ballot” in the United States. Adams was “glad to remember” that he had left the Republican Party when it supported disenfranchisement of men like Robert E. Lee and enfranchisement of blacks.”
Charles Francis Adams, Jr., the grandson of “Old Man Eloquent,” was consumed by doubt following Reconstruction that African-Americans were really his equals. His well known brother Henry Adams detested the Jews and the corrupt political and economic system that emerged in the Gilded Age.
The rise of Darwinism in the late nineteenth century created an intellectual environment in the North that undermined the theory of racial equality. Many Yankees like the Adams brothers concluded that freedom had failed.
This was the prevailing view in America from the 1890s to the 1940s. The Second World War against Nazi Germany, another ideological war against a racial regime, would have a similar destabilizing effect upon White racial attitudes in the Northern states.