Punishment for Seeking Self-Government
The victorious Patriots of 1776 avoided wholesale and vindictive confiscation of Tory property despite British policy toward colonial traitors. Jefferson alluded to this and Lord Dunmore’s emancipation proclamation in his Declaration, stating: "He has incited treasonable insurrections of our fellow citizens, with the allurements of forfeiture and confiscation of our property." General French below compares the actions of the victor’s in two American wars.
Bernhard Thuersam, Executive Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
Post Office Box 328
Wilmington, NC 28402
Punishment for Seeking Self-Government:
"The enactment of the fourteenth amendment to the Constitution of the United States was regarded in the North as a magnanimous exhibition of philanthropy toward the untutored slaves, and it was accepted so by nations; but in reality it was an insidious mode of punishing the Southern people. Two years later (in 1870) the fifteenth amendment to the Constitution was passed. This was the Sin that started the race problem. The freedmen, left to themselves, would have solved the labor question, and their social position and the race issue; but for aggrandizement of power and acquisition of wealth he was dragged into the halls of legislation and flattered into the belief that also socially he was the equal of the whites. From this sprung unmentionable crimes and daily lynchings followed as a remedy.
And here I will show how the voting was done. The Negroes had, previously, been required to take an oath. At my home a table was placed on the gallery, and there the registrars were seated. The Negroes were called up; as many as could touch the Bible were asked if they "had ever held office under the United States or given aid," etc. Some said "No," some said "Yes," and some were silent. At last they were all told to say "No," and registration papers were given them, with the charge not to lose them. There I sat no more a citizen than if I had been born in China, while my Negroes were made eligible to almost any office in the country.
The dominant (Republican) party entertained the belief that the slaves would politically always belong to the party that "confiscated" them….which made them citizens of the United States and the State in wherein they reside.
As vultures sail in long lines from their roost (countless in numbers) to where the carcass is, so came the harpies and political adventurers to the carcass (the South) to embrace the colored citizens; and, hand in hand, cheek by jowl, they entered the political arena and filled the capitols of the South. Every officer in the State from governor to coroner was dismissed, and new appointments made. The legislatures became bacchanalian feasts to divide the spoils of office and increase the debts of the States by selling State bonds to the amount of countless millions. They subsidized everything they could; in short, they ate up or took possession of all that was left after the war ceased; and at last departed with stolen wealth, and the execrations of all the honest people.
This ungenerous revenge taken against a conquered people will ever remain a dark shadow over the generosity and Christian spirit of the Northern people. It, however, must be attributed to uncultured minds and want of knowledge of history. The masses did not know that New England’s ablest statesmen always claimed their right of secession, as the debates in Congress show. When the revolutionary war was ended, and the cry for persecution and confiscation of property of the Tories was raised, our Minister to France, Benjamin Franklin…(plus) Gens. Alexander Hamilton and Nathaniel Greene and other liberal gentlemen declared it would be "an outrage to punish them for holding the same opinion that we all held only a few years ago, before the war commenced." What a contrast between the age of honor and the age thirsting for gold!"
(Two Wars, General Samuel G. French, Confederate Veteran Publishing, 1901, pp. 330-332)