Total War and ‘Civil Rights’
by William Norman Grigg
“The Vendee is no more, my republican comrades…. The streets are littered with corpses which sometimes are stacked in pyramids. Mass shootings are taking place in Savenay because there brigands keep turning up to surrender…. [P]ity is incompatible with the spirit of revolution.”
~ General François-Joseph Westermann, commander of the “infernal column” that slaughtered tens of thousands of Vendean secessionists during the French Revolution
“[F]or five days, ten thousand of our men worked hard and with a will, in that work of destruction, with axes, sledges, crowbars, clawbars, and with fire…. Meridian no longer exists.”
~ Union General William T. Sherman, reporting on the federal destruction of Meridian, Mississippi in 1862
“We must kill three hundred thousand [as] I have told you so often, and the further they run the harder for us to get them….”
“I was satisfied, and have been all the time, that the problem of war consists in the awful fact that the present class of men who rule the South must be killed outright rather than in the conquest of territory….”
~ William T. Sherman, the Union Army’s General Westermann, in separate letters to his wife Ellen and to General Philip Sheridan, as quoted in The Soul of Battle by Victor Davis Hanson
William Sherman’s march to the sea, writes Victor Davis Hanson approvingly, was a war of “terror” intended to destroy an aristocratic Southern culture he hated because of its impudence in resisting the central government’s authority.
Although rarely acknowledged as such, Sherman could be considered America’s first “civil rights” crusader. This isn’t an endorsement of Sherman; it’s an indictment of contemporary “civil rights” ideology.
While it’s true that Sherman never descended to the depths of mass-murdering depravity plumbed by Westermann and his army of berserkers, he was prepared, by his own repeated admissions, to annihilate civilians by the hundreds of thousands in order to vindicate Washington’s supposed authority.
Those who didn’t render immediate and unqualified submission, he warned, would be “crushed like flies on a wheel.”
Following Appomattox, Sherman’s genocidal skill-set proved useful to the corporatist federal railroad combine, which required the removal of the Plains Indians from land that it coveted but couldn’t be troubled to purchase on honest terms. In carrying out that task Sherman abandoned what little restraint he had exercised in dealing with white southerners. In the meantime, the war of federal consolidation and cultural liquidation against the South continued by way of what was euphemistically called “Reconstruction.”
In theory, “Reconstruction” was the process of re-integrating the rebellious states into the One Holy Eternal Union. In practice, it was a reign of terror and plunder swaddled in the rhetoric of righteousness and carried out through the apparatus of military dictatorship.
“After the Civil War, radical Republicans sought to drastically alter the social and political structures of the states of the former Confederacy,” notes historian Benjamin Ginsberg of Johns Hopkins University in his book The Fatal Embrace. “They sought to establish a regime that would break the political power of the planter class that had ruled the region prior to the war.”
The “radical Republicans” to whom Ginsberg refers were Jacobins, not Jeffersonians. The most powerful figure in that cohort was the detestable Thaddeus Stevens, a Pennsylvania Congressman who, in the words of historian Paul Leland Haworth, “possessed much of the sternness of the old Puritans, without their morality.”
Rep. Stevens hated the pre-Lincoln Constitution with a passion eclipsed only by that he nurtured toward the South; the document produced by the 1787 Philadelphia Convention, Stevens once told an associate, was nothing but “a worthless bit of old parchment.”
As co-chairman, with Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner, of the Joint Committee for Reconstruction, Stevens adapted Cromwell’s schematic for military dictatorship in England for use in administering the conquered Confederacy.
“Where Cromwell had divided England up into eleven military districts, each governed by a major general with wide-ranging powers, [Stevens and the radical Republicans] divided the South into five districts, each ruled by a military governor under the overall direction of General Grant,” explains Daniel Lazare in his book The Frozen Republic:
“The military authorities banned veterans’ organizations and other groups deemed threatening to the new order, fired thousands of local officials and half a dozen governors, and purged state legislatures of pro-Confederate elements as well. A twenty-thousand-strong army of occupation, aided by a black militia, enforced order…. Political rights were withdrawn from thousands of Confederates who had been granted executive clemency by the President, and all told some one hundred thousand white voters were stricken from the rolls.”
As Dr. Haworth observed in his 1912 study Reconstruction and Union, military governors on the occupied South “proceeded to create a new electorate and through it new civil governments.” Those “civil governments,” predictably, used patronage and officially sanctioned plunder to entrench themselves.
When federal subsidies and confiscation of private wealth proved inadequate, the Reconstruction governments turned to deficit financing, driving the states they misruled into even deeper economic misery.
The Reconstruction regime, writes Haworth, was built on a “sinister alliance” between military governors, their political satraps, and state-allied secret societies within the “Union League” (also known as the “Loyalty League”). Those criminal cabals were used to enforce political discipline and carry out covert acts of terrorism against dissenters. For example, notes Haworth, League members “resorted to whipping or otherwise maltreating Negroes who became Democrats.”
In South Carolina governor Franklin Moses, a “scalawag” (that is, southern Quisling) sold tens of millions of dollars’ worth of junk state securities while he and his cronies pilfered everything of value.
Moses, who became known as the “Robber Governor,” enforced his will through a 14,000-man militia “composed mainly of black troops … led by white officers,” recounts Dr. Ginsberg. That Praetorian Guard protected Moses against enforcement of legal judgments and was deployed to harass, intimidate, and threaten potential political rivals in the 1870 election.
Similar conditions prevailed elsewhere in the prostrate South. In Louisiana, for instance, “wholesale corruption, intimidation of new voters by the thousands and tens of thousands, political assassinations, riots, revolutions – all of these were the order of the day,” records Dr. Haworth.
State-sponsored terrorism in the occupied South precipitated the creation of the Ku Klux Klan – a development that could be considered the first recorded example of “blowback.”
In both its ritualized, oath-bound organizational structure and the terrorist tactics it employed, the KKK was morally indistinguishable from the terrorists whose depredations inspired the Klan’s creation. Unlike the Union League-aligned terrorists, however, the Klan operated without federal sanction. Thus in 1870 and 1871, Congress passed two Enforcement Acts (the second commonly called the “Ku Klux Klan Act”) under which President Grant deployed troops to suppress “rebellion” in the occupied South.
The use of active-duty federal troops as a post-war domestic “peacekeeping” force “represented, from a military standpoint, the darkest days in the history of the Army,” writes Professor James J. Schneider of the Army Command and General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth. “The Reconstruction activities of Army units were unprecedented in their time, and they sound remarkably familiar today.”
The occupied South was where Washington field-tested methods later used to “liberate” and “pacify” the Philippines, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries through mass slaughter and military dictatorship.
By January 1877, embattled southerners had managed to gain sufficient political traction to extract an end to the military occupation as the price of supporting a compromise awarding Rutherford B. Hayes the electoral votes he needed to prevail over Samuel Tilden (whose popular vote tally exceeded that of Hayes by roughly 164,000 votes).
Two months after Hayes was inaugurated, federal troops were withdrawn, and the Reconstruction plunderbund dissolved. A little more than a year later, Congress passed the Posse Comitatus Act forbidding the use of the Army as a domestic law enforcement body.
Jim Crow could be considered – at least to some extent – another example of “blowback” from Reconstruction, which did much more to exacerbate than alleviate racial hostilities in the South. Like all measures intended to restrain the Regime’s powers, the Posse Comitatus measure is ignored at the whim of our rulers. Thus on more than one occasion since 1878, troops have been deployed to the South to enforce federal decrees intended to break down systems of government-imposed segregation at the state and local level.
Although the post-war military dictatorship in the South ended in 1877, the 1964 “civil rights” act is a continuation – and expansion – of Reconstruction. That act was designed and intended to make every private institution, transaction, and relationship subject to federal scrutiny in the name of abolishing “discrimination.”
In principle, and sometimes in practice, the federal “civil rights” apparatus is literally making war upon Americans whose hiring policies, business practices, and private associations don’t find favor with the exalted beings who have made themselves the arbiters of acceptable attitudes and social outcomes.
Those numinous creatures – as wise as the overseers of Plato’s ideal Republic, as omniscient as the Guardians of Oa – are somehow exempt from the prejudices and unworthy passions to which we lesser beings are heir. They are thus suited to the task of micro-managing social affairs and compelling the rest of us to live according to their decrees, lest we be crushed “like flies on a wheel,” as their predecessor “Uncle Billy” Sherman put it.
The most candid and compelling summary of this perspective doesn’t come from a right-wing revisionist, but rather from Columbia Law School Professor George P. Fletcher, an establishment academic of an unabashedly Marxist bent.
In his valuable book The Secret Constitution, Fletcher acknowledges that the war waged by Abraham the Annihilator was not an effort to “preserve the Union,” much less to restore the pre-war constitutional order. Instead, that war was intended to consolidate the united States into a unitary state governed by what Fletcher calls a “New Constitutional Order.” In the New Order, writes Fletcher, the founding premise is that “the federal government, victorious in warfare, must continue its aggressive intervention in the lives of its citizens.” (Emphasis added.)
There is nothing hypothetical about the federal aggression Fletcher correctly identifies as the central feature of the post-Lincoln Soyuz (the term “union” is inapposite here). Since, from the perspective Fletcher represents, Lincoln’s war supposedly settled the question of the central government’s “authority” to kill Americans in any quantity necessary to reconfigure society, there are no limits to what it can do in the interest of establishing “social justice.”
“Civil rights,” as the term is used today, has nothing to do with the rights of individuals apart from the role played by some members of designated classes as a pretext for federal violations of the property rights of others not granted such protected status. Melissa Harris-Lacewell, an associate professor at Princeton and self-appointed watchdog of the “radical right,” makes that point with the eager earnestness of someone who assumes that her political opponents aren’t listening.
According to Harris-Lacewell, the 1960s civil rights movement was valuable because it was a tool to expand and consolidate federal power.
Because of southern resistance to Washington’s demands, the “legitimacy of the central state was challenged,” she writes in The Nation. “[This] is why the Civil Rights Movement was so powerful. The overt abuse of state power evidenced by the violence of Southern police called into question their foundational legitimacy. The federal government had to act or risk losing its authority as a state altogether.”
This is to say that the chief accomplishment of the civil rights movement was not the validation of the individual rights of those victimized by government-imposed discrimination, but rather the validation and enhancement of federal power.
For Harris-Lacewell and other acolytes of the unitary totalitarian state, Reconstruction continues to this day. The genuine outrage is not that the South was ruled for a decade by a military kleptocracy, but rather that the military dictatorship was brought to an end through what she calls “the unholy Hayes-Tilden compromise of 1877.” And the chief task for the forces of “tolerance” today, she insists, is to “guard against the end of our new Reconstruction” – a system Ronn Neff perceptively describes as “polite totalitarianism,” in which the 1964 Civil Rights Act is an indispensable pillar.
That measure, it should be remembered, was enacted by a government that was in the early stages of its war of aggression against Vietnam – a conflict in which, as Stokely Carmichael aptly put it, “white people [drafted] black people to make war on yellow people [supposedly] to defend land stolen from red people.” The government in charge of enforcing that Act today is slaughtering “people of color” in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and (lest we forget) Detroit, and looking for an excuse to inflict its lethal humanitarianism on Iran and North Korea.
And yet, as we see in the contrived controversy over Rand Paul’s views of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, it is a grave civic blasphemy even to suggest that the Regime responsible for such murder and mayhem shouldn’t have the power to scrutinize and regulate every aspect of private life.
May 29, 2010