The Joint Committee On Reconstruction,
Or Do You Love Big Brother ?
by Al Benson Jr.
Many Southerners were, quite naturally, bitter after the War of Northern Aggression ended and the Marxist/abolitionist cultural program called "reconstruction" was forced upon them. They’d seen their country pillaged and burned by Marxist Yankees during the war and now they were seeing the last ounce of blood being wrung from it with "reconstruction." Incidentally, the term "reconstruction" is really a Marxist term. When Karl Marx praised Abraham Lincoln, one of the things he praised him for was that he was fighting for "…the reconstruction of a social world." So begin to get it fixed in your minds that "reconstruction" in the South was really Marxism in living colour.
One bitter Southerner was a man named Innes Randolph, who penned the words to a song many of us know and enjoy, entitled "Oh I’m A Good Old Rebel." After mentioning his hate for "the Yankee nation" and it’s flag and founding documents, Randolph closes his song with: "I can’t take up my musket and fight’em (the Yankees) now no more, but I ain’t gonna love’em now, that is certain sure. I don’t want no pardon for what I was and am. I won’t be reconstructed and I don’t give a damn." Whether you totally agree with all of Randolph’s comments and sentiments (many Southerners do not completely) is not the real point. He expressed a viewpoint that was, at least partially, natural to many after the war’s end. The wounds were not healed yet–and "reconstruction" was never intended to heal them.
"Reconstruction was put in place to do two things. First, it was to teach the Southerners that you don’t mess with the central government in the Washinton D.C., because that’s where the power is–for the forseeable future. Second, it was to do exactly as Marx had said–to reconstruct their social world, their culture, their worldview and to remake it over into something in accord with the collectivist mentality in the North. The abolitionist/reconstruction people realised they would have a problem doing that to any extent with the southern soldiers who had just opposed them in the war, and so they didn’t spend much time trying to convert them to the collectivist mindset. Rather, they brought government schools in from the North and went after the "rebels" children."
"The role of the national government is to mold the character of the American people."
That the mover and shakers in Sodom on the Potomoc felt that centralised government was the order of the day is evident from some of their comments. Look at Thaddeus Stevens remarks about the "perpetual ascendency of the party of the Union." If that wasn’t a call for a one-party state then no one ever heard one. And then there was the remark by Senator Justin Morrill where he said: "The role of the national government is to mold the character of the American people." Comments such as these would make any Marxist drool with anticipation–why these men thought along the same lines as good old Uncle Karl! The Washintgon establishment was already heavily addicted to the heady wine of a collectivised central government that would spread its tentacles across the country and run everyone’s life from the seat of central power. You can see why the concept of states rights was anathema to these disciples of Marx, and why Reformed Christianity was, too. These men embraced the Unitarian concept of the highest power belonging not to God, but to the "state" (nation).
In 1866 the congressional Joint Committee on Reconstruction held hearings. Mind you, in many cases, these hearings were conducted within a year or less after the war was over. As with most congressional committees, much of what went on was exercise in irrelevance. I’ve read a fair bit of the testimony presented in these hearings, though I probably need to go through some of it again–but sometime when I have a strong stomach.
If you’ve ever wondered why some congressmen sound like perpetual candidates for a home in la-la land, you can learn why from reading The Report Of The Joint Committee On Reconstruction. My copy is a reprint, printed in 1969 by Negro Universities Press, a division of Greenwood Publishing Corp. in New York. Some of the questions these august legislators asked would lead you to believe they were George Orwell’s spiritual grandfathers.
On February 7, 1866, the committee took testimony from one Charles Douglas Gray of Augusta County, Virginia. Mr. Gray was examined by Mr. Howard, who asked , among other questions: "Do you think that those persons in the county who took up arms against the United States are beginning to regret that they struck Uncle Sam?" Talk about leading questions! As for who "struck" at who first, the Southern perception of that would be much different than the standard abolitionist rhetoric that today passes for "history." But, then, that difference was part of the reason for "reconstruction" wasn’t it ?
Howard further questioned Mr. Gray: "How do rebels that have been pardoned there generally speak of the government of the United States–in terms of respect, or of contumely and defiance?" How did Howard expect ex-Confederates to feel only ten months after hostilities had, in the main, ceased, warm and fuzzy toward their conquerors ?
On February 8th, this same Mr. Howard examined M.D. Corse of Alexandria, Virginia. He put to Mr. Corse the question: "To use a common expression, do you think that the secessionists generally love the government of the United States?" Folks, that has to have been the dumbest question of the decade! Could Howard really expect that secessionists were going to have fallen in "love" with the U.S. government by early 1866 ? That unhappy result wouldn’t come for decades yet and would be the result of "reconstruction’s" mandated government school system in the South. When Dr. J.B. Johnson was asked by Howard: "Does the secession part of the people generally feel kindly toward the government of the United States" Johnson replied "They manifest no opposition." Such an answer was remarkable for its restraint.
As you read through this testimony you find, again and again, that one of the basic questions these "reconstruction" inquisitors asked Southerners was "Do you love (big brother) the government of the United States?" Some of the Southerners questioned thusly must have laughed up their coatsleeves at being touted with such insane questions.
However, some Southern answers to some of the questions were serious and more than a bit revealing. A Jaquelin M. Wood was examined by Mr. Howard on February 9th and was asked the question: "How do they regard Robert E. Lee?" The answer was "They look upon him as the greatest man of the nation, and the best man… They often say they were conquered by numbers, by the influence of foreigners." The question was asked how Southerners felt about the number of Yankee troops in the field. And the reply was "Yes; there was more than they calculated upon in the first place. They account for it by saying that foreigners reinforced the Yankees…" Now who do you suppose those foreigners were, and where did they come from ? You don’t suppose some of them could have been the Marxist/socialist "forty-eighters" from Europe do you ?
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