Who is this patriotic figure commonly known as Uncle Sam and what does he have to do with the Real America? What are his origins? Where does he come from?
“Our popular image of Uncle Sam (As seen in the image on the top of this page) was defined in large part by Thomas Nast, who was one of the most popular artists of the 1800’s. Nast was also responsible for our popular images of Santa Claus, the Republican Elephant, and the Democratic Donkey. Nast’s first illustration of Uncle Sam appeared in the November 20, 1869 edition of Harper’s Weekly.
“While Uncle Sam does not show the top hat and striped pants that we have come to associate with him, he shows something much more important in this image. In this image, Uncle Sam is a symbol of unity and equality. The image shows many people welcomed at Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving table . . . Black, White, Chinese, and Indian, as wall as many others are seen sitting around the table. The image is captioned, “Uncle Sam’s Thanksgiving Dinner; Come One, Come All, Free and Equal.” The image clearly shows that Uncle Sam was originally a symbol of freedom, and equality. Uncle Sam was a unifying symbol.
By 1876, Nast’s Image of Uncle Sam had evolved into one that we would recognize today. The image to the left is the cover of the November 24, 1876 Harper’s Weekly. The image features Uncle Sam with striped pants, a long overcoat, and a top hat. In this image, the top hat also has feathers. This image deals with Reform of the Civil Service System.
While the exact image of Uncle Sam has evolved over the years, one thing remains constant. He is a symbol of the best ideals of the United States. From the earliest days until today, he has stood for Freedom, Equality, and Justice. While as a Nation, we do not always perfectly achieve these ideals, Uncle Sam remains a poignant symbol and reminder of the goal and objective . . . One Nation, Under God, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All.”
Uncle Sam is a super patriotic Yankee who practices social equality. He is a symbol of the Second Republic that was defined in the Reconstruction era by the German immigrant cartoonist Thomas Nast.
In his book Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877, Eric Foner observes that the Radical Republicans were ethnic Yankees, descendants of New England settlers in the Deep North:
“With the exception of Stevens they represented constituencies centered in New England and the belt of New England migration that stretched across the rural North through upstate New York, Ohio’s Western Reserve, northern Illinois, and the Upper Northwest.
Here lay rapidly growing communities of family farms and small towns, where the superiority of the free labor system appeared self-evident, antebellum reform had flourished, and the Republican party, from the moment of its birth, commanded overwhelming majorities.”
Thaddeus Stevens was originally from Vermont.
In 1865, referendums on black suffrage were defeated in Wisconsin (47 percent), Minnesota (45 percent), Connecticut (43 percent) and later in Kansas, Ohio, New York and Nebraska Territory. Iowa and Minnesota granted black suffrage in 1868. The question of black citizenship was far more controversial in the Lower North where the Yankee influence was the weakest.
“Moderates generally represented districts outside the belt of New England migration where Radicalism flourished, or states of the Lower North internally divided (like the nation itself) into northern and southern sections, each with distinct political traditions. Occupying the middle ground in politics was the key to victory in states like Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, and well before 1865, moderates had sought to limit Radicalism’s influence there.”
The Lower North (Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Iowa, Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey) is distinct from the Deep North. Below the New England band of settlement, there are fewer Yankees in the region, and more Scots-Irish, Germans and Irish Catholics.
In American Nations, Colin Woodard argued that “Midlands” and “Greater Appalachia” stretched through the Lower North. The “Midlands” is the band of settlement below Yankeedom that attracted German immigrants. “Greater Appalachia” is the Scots-Irish borderlands in the Ohio River Valley where the Butternuts and Copperheads were predominant.
We have already seen how Scots-Irish women in Southern Indiana who supported the Democratic Party carried banners before elections that said, “Fathers, save us from nigger husbands.” This is the sentiment that made Indiana the premiere Klan state and also made Illinois and Indiana strongholds of the “sundown town” in the “Nadir of the Negro” between 1890 and 1910.
There was major tension during the War Between the States between the ethnic Yankees who were 100% behind the conflict and other groups of settlers and immigrants in the Lower North.
In the movie Glory, Matthew Broderick plays Col. Robert Gould Shaw leading the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment of U.S. Colored Troops:
Shaw was killed at Fort Wagner outside of Charleston.
“A Union officer had asked the Confederates at Battery Wagner for the return of Shaw’s body but was informed by the Confederate commander, Brigadier General Johnson Hagood, “We buried him with his niggers.” Shaw’s father wrote in response that he was proud that Robert, a fierce fighter for equality, had been buried in that manner.” Some things never change.
More than any other factor, it was the war against the Confederacy and the triumph of the Radical Republicans within the Union that set the North down the long road to becoming the integrated multiracial society that is so resented today by White Nationalists. The Jewish historian Eric Foner has a new book about their importance coming out in September called Second Founding: How The Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution.
Here’s an excerpt from Foner’s book Reconstruction about how White racial attitudes were changed in the North during the postwar years:
“Partly because of Congressional measures that applied throughout the country, and partly due to actions at the state and local level, the decade following the Civil War witnessed astonishing advances in the political, civil, and social rights of Northern blacks. The Civil Rights Act of 1866 and postwar amendments voided laws barring blacks from entering Northern states, testifying in court, and voting, and were successfully employed by individuals pressing damaging claims against railroads and streetcars that excluded them altogether or barred them from first-class compartments. Although state courts generally held that segregated facilities, if truly equal, did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment, discrimination in transportation faded in many parts of the North. Pennsylvania’s legislature prohibited streetcar segregation in 1867 and New York Republicans six years later enacted a pioneering civil rights law that outlawed discrimination in public accommodations. Blacks also gained access to public schools in state that had previously made no provision for their education. Some cities with sizable black populations, like New York and Cincinnati, maintained separate schools, but others, like Chicago, Cleveland, and Milwaukee, not only operated integrated systems but occasionally employed a black teacher. In a few states, integrated education now became the norm. Michigan’s legislature outlawed school segregation in 1867 (although Detroit’s school board refused to comply for four years), and the state university admitted its first black students in 1868. And Iowa’s Supreme Court ruled separate schooling a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.” …
Perhaps this was inevitable for a group mostly derived from the tiny black business class and representing a politically marginal constituency (blacks still comprised less than 2 percent of the North’s population). Although black politicos won seats in the Massachusetts and Illinois legislatures, most, with no realistic prospect of elective office, found themselves beholden for position to patronage from white Republicans.
Nonetheless, blacks now found the North’s public life open to them in ways inconceivable before the war. A recognition for their claim to equal civil and political rights had become so much a part of what it meant to be a Republican that no fewer than 90 percent of the party’s voters in New York State supported equal suffrage in an unsuccessful 1869 referendum.”
The North was only 2 percent black when the Radical Republicans passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866 (the first federal civil rights law in American history) which repealed the state laws in Indiana, Illinois and Oregon which excluded or heavily fined the settlement of free blacks.
Before the War Between the States, Southern planters often came to the North to capture fugitive slaves and bring them back to the South. In response, Northern states like Massachusetts (the citadel of abolitionism) passed “personal liberty laws” to nullify the Fugitive Slave Act and keep a small and growing black population in the North.
In the space of twenty years (1860 to 1880), everything from black citizenship to black voting rights to black state legislators to repeal of the anti-miscegenation laws to repeal of the laws that banned free black settlement to integrated public education became the norm in the East and Midwest.
Yankees had won the war. In every conceivable way, they proceeded to reconstruct the Union in their own image. What had previously been a New England regional peculiarity (i.e., black citizenship) was now enshrined in the Constitution in the form of the 14th Amendment.
The constitutional foundation had been laid for the mass migration of African-Americans to the Northern states in the 20th century. For several decades, it seemed as though Reconstruction would survive in the South, but after the Jim Crow system was created in the 1890s and 1900s, millions of blacks would start moving to Northern states like Michigan and Illinois.