Crucifixion of the South
For the crime of following in the footsteps of the Founders of the American republic, the South “must be humbled and made respectable or be annihilated…” So decreed the Northern spiritual leaders who felt divine intervention as they played their part in subjugating the land of Washington, Jefferson, Monroe, Madison, Henry and Lee.
Bernhard Thuersam, Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
Crucifixion of the South:
‘The war set the stage for a complete reconstruction of the South. Furious hatred, politics, economic consideration, and a curious conviction that God had joined a righteous North to use it as an instrument for the purging of the wicked South, gave a keen edge to the old reconstruction urge. The victories of bullets and bayonets were followed by the equally victorious attack of tongues and pens. Ministers mounted their pulpits on Easter Sunday, the day following President Lincoln’s tragic death, and assured their sad auditors that God’s will had been done, that the President had been removed because his heart was too merciful to punish the south as God required.
An eminent New York divine assured his audience that the vice-regent of Christ, the new president, Andrew Johnson, was mandated from on high “to hew the rebels in pieces before the Lord…So let us say,” with becoming piety and sweet submissiveness he enjoined, “God’s will be done.” Whether the ministers thought, after they discovered that Johnson was opposed to a reign of terror, that the Lord had made a mistake is not a matter of record. As Professor Paul H. Buck has said, “It was in the churches that one found the utmost intolerance, bitterness, and unforgiveness during the sad months that followed Appomattox.” Henry Ward Beecher, one of the more moderate northern preachers, thought the South was “ rotten….No timber,” said he, “grown in its cursed soil is fit for the ribs of our ship of state or for our household homes.” The newspapers spread abroad the preachers’ gospel of righteous vindictiveness and expounded further the idea that drastic punishment of the South was essential for the security of the Union.
Many unfriendly writers invaded the South, found what they wanted, and wrote books, articles, and editorials that strengthened the conviction that the South must be torn to pieces and made anew. Book, journals and newspapers stimulated the impulse to be vigilant and stern, to repress and purge. A juggernaut of propaganda, stemming from the various sources of public instruction, prepared the way for the crucifixion of the South. The South of slavery and treason, of continuous outrages against the Negroes and northerners, of haughty spirit and stubborn conviction, and of superiority complex, must be humbled and made respectable or be annihilated, so that it could become again a strong factor in national politics.”
(One Hundred Years of Reconstruction of the South, A.B. Moore, page 107, Pursuit of Southern History, Presidential Addresses of the Southern Historical Association, 1935-1963, G. B. Tindall, editor, LSU Press, 1964)