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Reconstruction unbound: American worldviews in a periodof promise and conflict, 1865–1874

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RECONSTRUCTION UNBOUND: AMERICAN WORLDVIEWS IN A PERIOD OF PROMISE AND
CONFLICT, 1865-1874
by
David Prior
Bachelor of Arts
Hamilton College, 2001
Master of Arts
University of South Carolina, 2006
______________________________
Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements
For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in
History
College of Arts and Sciences
University of South Carolina
2010
Accepted by:
Mark M. Smith, Major Professor
Kendrick A. Clements, Committee Member
Bobby J. Donaldson, Committee Member
Don H. Doyle, Committee Member
Eric Foner, Committee Member
James Buggy, Dean of The Graduate School
UMI Number: 3402822
All rights reserved
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a note will indicate the deletion.
UMI 3402822
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© Copyright by David Prior, 2010
All Rights Reserved.
ii
DEDICATION
For Tiffany
iii
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
I could not have written this dissertation without the intellectual and professional
support of several people and institutions. On all accounts, I owe more to the University
of South Carolina than I can describe here. From the early stages of the application
process up through my final months as Ph.D. candidate, the Graduate School and the
faculty of the Department of History have shown a constant commitment to my
development as a scholar. This support has reached far beyond what I ever anticipated,
and I can only hope that my own efforts serve to express my appreciation.
Several faculty members and graduate students have been particularly kind in
offering me mentorship, critical feedback and, not infrequently, friendship. Graduate
courses with Drs. Mark Smith, Ken Clements, Bobby Donaldson, Don Doyle, Lacy Ford,
Larry Glickman, Carol Harrison, Ann Johnson, Dan Littlefield, and Patricia Sullivan all
pushed me to sharpen my skills and broaden my range of knowledge. A number of
professors at the University of South Carolina, including Tom Brown and Gerasimos
Augustinos, also took the time to read portions of my work and discuss research with me.
Of the several graduate students who have entertained me and my arguments, I owe a
particular thanks to Kathryn Silva Banks, Josh Burgess, Wesley Joyner, Meeghan Kane,
Justin Liles, Eric Rose, Chris Scott, and Michael Woods. Three recent Ph.D.s, Kathy
Hilliard, Aaron Marrs, and Melissa Jane Taylor, were kind enough to continue to offer
me critiques, advice, and the occasional meal after moving on to the next step in their
iv
careers. The graduate program’s ability to offer an environment that is both serious and
friendly is not attributable solely to this short list of people, but to fail to mention them
would be remiss on my part. I have been fortunate enough to have a dissertation
committee with five incredible scholars and teachers, and am grateful that Drs. Clements,
Donaldson, and Doyle have invested their own energies in my work as committee
members. I also need to thank Dr. Eric Foner for not only agreeing to serve as the
outside member on my committee, but flying down from Columbia University to
participate in person at the defense. Most of all, I have to thank Dr. Mark Smith for
being a patient and supportive dissertation director with the highest standards and a
boundless capacity to provide trenchant advice, often on short notice.
I also am grateful for support from several scholars from beyond Gambrell Hall.
Drs. Scott Kaufman, Justin Nystrom, David Quigley, and Elliott West, graciously served
as panel commentators at various conferences, and the Van Leer Institute’s 2008
conference on America and the Mediterranean World and the Richards Center’s 2009
conference the Civil War Era in Global Context provided wonderful opportunities to talk
through ideas. A number of other scholars have also read chapters or merely offered
some of their limited time to discuss my research. Here, thanks are due to Drs. Daniel
Feller, Michael Fitzgerald, Susan-Mary Grant, Amy S. Greenberg, Philip Katz, Paul
Kramer, Karen Leroux, Mark Neely, Jr., and Walter L. Williams. Many others have
simply encouraged me along the way, and I hope they know their kind words are very
much appreciated. I also owe several teachers, both in high school and college, and need
to thank Michael Ardantz and Dr. Doug Ambrose in particular.
v
I could never have gotten through graduate school without my family and my
friends. I can only hope that those who know me best understand the depth of my
gratitude and affection. From college, my friends Andrew, Peter, Emily, David, Tony,
Irene, Marcus, Amy, and Aleem have been very kind in hosting me on various research
trips and in simply enriching my life. My visits home to California have rarely had
anything to do with archives or conferences, but have nonetheless been essential to
preserving the careful equilibrium between sanity and insanity necessary to writing a
dissertation. I see no need to list individuals here as these people know who they are and
how much gas money they owe me from high school. To my family and to Tiffany,
thank you for all the love and support.
vi
ABSTRACT
In studying the United States’ Reconstruction, historians have long devoted their
energies to examining conflicts in and about the southern states. These conflicts, and the
often brilliant literature devoted to them, cannot and should not be trivialized in
understanding U.S. history during and after the Civil War. The focus on the South has,
however, inadvertently led scholars to misrepresent how two leading political factions,
Democrats and northern Republicans, thought about and argued over Reconstruction.
Democrats and northern Republicans, despite all their disagreements with each other,
both attempted to situate the reconstruction of the southern states in a context that was at
once national and global. In particular, Democrats and northern Republicans approached
developments in and policies towards the South as part of “America’s” engagement with
historically-transcendent struggles of civilization against barbarism and republicanism
against despotism and aristocracy. For northern Republicans, the abolition of slavery,
Union victory in the Civil War, and policies towards the South constituted one of
America’s great contributions to the onward march of freedom and progress across the
globe. For their Democratic critics, including many former Confederates, this was a
catastrophic period in which northerner Republicans destroyed America’s ability to
embody and protect civilization and freedom by assaulting white supremacy. Yet, in
order to bolster their arguments about the South, Democrats and northern Republicans
each had to also demonstrate that they, and not their rivals, best understood the sources
vii
of, possibilities for, and threats to civilization and republicanism. Here, they found it
both natural and necessary to look beyond the South even as they remained concerned
with it. In recovering the ways in which these two groups maintained outlooks that were
simultaneously sectional, national, and global, this dissertation sheds new light on the
political and ideological conflicts of the Civil War Era, the study of modern nationalism,
and the transnational turn in historical scholarship.
viii
TABLE OF CONTENTS
DEDICATION………………………………………………………………………………iii
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS……………………………………………………………………iv
ABSTRACT………………………………………………………………………………..vii
LIST OF FIGURES…………………………………………………………………...............x
1. INTRODUCTION…………………………………………………………………………..1
2. “CRETE—THE OPENING WEDGE”……...………..……………………………………..34
3. THE FORGOTTEN RECONSTRUCTION OF MORMON UTAH..……………………………..72
4. THE STRANGE CAREER OF PAUL DU CHAILLU…..……………………………………108
5. RACIAL EQUALITY AND THE PROMISE OF PROGRESS…………………………...…….147
6. CONCLUSION..……………………………………………………………………...…174
REFERENCES…………………………………………………………………………….180
ix
LIST OF FIGURES
Figure 2.1. “The War in Crete”…………………………………………………………..50
Figure 2.2. “Which is the Infidel?”………………………………………………………55
Figure 3.1. “The Mormon Tabernacle”……......................................................................83
Figure 3.2. “City and Valley of the Great Salt Lake”……………………………………96
Figure 4.1. Paul Du Chaillu…………………………………………………………….146
x
CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION
On April 9, 1867, the Avalanche, a Democratic newspaper in Memphis,
Tennessee, announced to its readers the opening of its new home in “a five-story printing
establishment on one of the great thoroughfares of the city.” About a year ago, the paper
pointed out, it had been resuscitated from its pre-war days and resumed business with
little more than its principles and a reputation for upholding them. At first located in “a
dingy one-story house built amid the surroundings of an obscure alley,” the paper had
quickly risen to prominence by defending the honor and values of the former
Confederacy. A reflection of its success, its new building was “built in the most
substantial and artistic manner… with an eye to all the requirements of a first-class daily
newspaper.”1
Yet the design of the building, which the paper described as “an ornament to the
city and street,” did not evoke the former Confederacy or its fallen soldiers. Instead, the
building’s exterior, still awaiting its final pieces of art, was meant to depict the
Avalanche’s understanding of the world at large. Above and to the right of a projecting
window on the second floor would be a life-size statue of a woman representing
“America” and the “savage and nomadic condition of her people before Anglo-Saxon
civilization came to her.” Nude to the waist, wearing a “barbaric headdress,” armed with
a bow, and holding a cornucopia, “America” would stand in full savage display beside a
1
No title, Memphis Daily Avalanche, 9 April 1867, p. 2.
1
crocodile. To the left of the window would be “Africa,” helmeted and holding a hunting
horn and bow with a lion crouched at her feet, looking “as classic as the negro’s features
can be made.” Above them, on the fourth floor, a central window would be flanked by
two more statues. “Europe” would stand on the left, “fully draped,” with “Intelligence
and Civilization regnant upon her coronetted brow,” and holding a book and laurel
wreath to crown her wisdom. At her feet would be a knight’s helmet, showing that force
had been subordinated to “the behests of intelligence and peace,” while in her right hand
she would hold “the scepter of power with which she has for years ruled the destinies of
the world.” To her right would be Asia, wearing a turban “clasped with a cluster of
jewels, emblematic of the richness of the East,” which the sovereigns of the world had
long desired to control. Yet Asia, “to express the semi-civilization of her people,” would
be half-nude, and adorned from her neck to her hips with “a costly chain,” showing that
her wealth was ultimately “barbaric.” By her feet would be a lamp, “symbolizing the
light she has shed upon the world,” but also another chain indicating “the present
condition of her millions of people.” Above them all would be one final piece,
“appropriate to the building, the country and the age,” stretching over the fourth floor
windows. At its center would be “a globe girdled with telegraph wires,” above which
would hang a golden “star of empire,” shinning its light on two wreaths representing “the
reward of merit, industry, and art.” To the side of these would be two more cornucopias
signifying the wealth and prosperity that had blessed the country “before Abe came and
let slip the dogs of war,” and that would return once true peace was restored. 2
2
Ibid.
2
Considering itself the spokesperson of the defeated South, the Avalanche had
nonetheless erected its new building “for the purpose of gathering news from the four
quarters of the globe, and in turn disseminating it.” Paradoxical though this may seem,
the Avalanche expressed no concern that its outward focus might detracted from its
ability to give voice to the views of former Confederates. Instead, like other newspapers,
magazines, public lecturers, and politicians in the United States at the time, the
Avalanche presumed that it would find validation for its arguments at home in
developments from across and beyond the United States. By no means content to simply
report news, the Avalanche, like most of its contemporaries, was an interpretive
enterprise, and the “sanctum sanctorum” of its new building was a comfortable and richly
decorated editorial office. Equipped with paintings, including some of colleagues lost to
the war, and a small library “of choice gems of literature and references,” it was here that
“the intellectual” was allowed “to have full play.”3 These “intellectuals,” like those
across the postbellum United States, helped to constitute a now-forgotten world of
Reconstruction politics.
Over the last five decades, a tremendous volume of historical literature has, with
great care and insight, examined continuities and changes within the South from
emancipation to the rise of Jim Crow, as well as concerns about these developments in
Washington, D.C. and the northern states. This research has accomplished nothing less
than a revolution in our understanding of Reconstruction, once treated more as a
melodrama than a complex series of historical processes.4 Yet, by focusing so
3
Ibid.
4
Excellent guides to changing interpretations of Reconstruction include Bernard A.
Weisberger, “The Dark and Bloody Ground of Reconstruction Historiography,” Journal
3
relentlessly on relationships within and between the South and North, this scholarship has
tended to present the conflicts at the heart of Reconstruction as marked by an inward
focus on the former Confederacy. In contrast, drawing upon insights from a handful of
studies from the last ten years, this dissertation demonstrates that the sectional and
partisan disputes over Reconstruction actually impelled attention outwards, often to
developments that mainstream U.S. historiography has completely ignored.5 This
interest, moreover, cannot be explained solely in terms of the significant diplomatic,
economic, intellectual, and personal connections that connected the key theaters of the
Civil War and Reconstruction to the rest of the United States and the world.6 In fact, as
of Southern History 25 (Nov. 1959): 427-447; Kenneth M. Stampp, The Era of
Reconstruction, 1865-1877 (New York: Random House, 1965), chapter 1; Eric Foner,
“Reconstruction Revisited,” Reviews in American History 10 (Dec. 1982): 82-100;
Thomas J. Brown, ed., Reconstructions: New Perspectives on the Postbellum United
States (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006); and “Part III” of Lacy K. Ford, ed., A
Companion to the Civil War and Reconstruction (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005).
5
For one of the first calls for historians to explore interest in the wider world during
Reconstruction, see Eric Foner’s discussion of Thaddeus Stevens and Russian
emancipation in his, Nothing but Freedom: Emancipation and its Legacy (Baton Rouge:
Louisiana State University Press, 1983), 8-9. For the most sophisticated and original call
for historians of Reconstruction to look beyond the South and the United States, see Mark
M. Smith, “The Past as a Foreign Country: Reconstruction, Inside and Out,” in Brown,
ed., Reconstructions, 117-40. Another pioneering study is Philip Katz, From Appomattox
to Montmartre: Americans and the Paris Commune (Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press, 1998), although its focus on a single international development leaves
much to be done.
6
On these topics there is a larger, if by no means exhaustive, volume of helpful research
covering the postbellum years. On diplomacy, see James Burke Chapin, “Hamilton Fish
and American Expansion” (Ph.D. diss., Cornell University, 1971); Dale Roger Steiner,
“’To Save the Constitution’: The Political Manipulation of Foreign Affairs during
Reconstruction” (Ph.D. diss., University of Virginia, 1973); Jay Sexton, “Toward a
Synthesis of Foreign Relations in the Civil War Era, 1848-1877,” American Nineteenth
Century History 5 (Fall 2004): 50-77; Sexton, Debtor Diplomacy: Finance and American
Foreign Relations in the Civil War Era, 1837-1873 (New York: Oxford University Press,
2005); Sexton, “The United States, the Cuban Rebellion, and the Multilateral Initiative of
1875,” Diplomatic History 30 (Jun. 2006): 335-365; Steven McCullough,
4
this dissertation will demonstrate, Democrats, including ex-Confederates, and northern
Republicans routinely took interest in peoples, places, and events that they had no
palpable connection to or stake in. In fact, in some cases, the obscurity, remoteness, or
unfamiliarity of a place, event, or people could become integral to prompting interest on
the part of Democrats and northern Republicans. Not all of the groups involved in
Reconstruction, however, had either cause or opportunity to participate in the wide
ranging, and sometimes farfetched, arguments common among the established political
factions. Especially noteworthy here were southern freedpeople and poor whites,
especially in rural areas, who could rarely afford to divert their energies from their
concerted and often desperate struggles for subsistence, autonomy, and rights.
These telling silences notwithstanding, this outwards focus was integral to the
culture of Reconstruction politics, especially on the federal level. This was because,
deeply divided though they were, Democrats and northern Republicans shared a handful
of concepts that lent common contour to their thinking. Specifically, these
“Foreshadowing of Informal Empire: Ulysses S. Grant and Hamilton Fish’s Caribbean
Policy 1869-1877” (Ph.D. diss., University of Alabama, 2007); and several older sources
addressed in Smith, “The Past as a Foreign Country.” On the related topic of American
interest in major geopolitical developments during Reconstruction, see Katz, From
Appomattox to Montmartre; and John G. Gazley, American Opinion of German
Unification, 1848-1871 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1926), chapters 6-9. On
the extensive correspondence between a small number of northern intellectuals and
British counterparts, see Leslie Butler, Critical Americans: Victorian Intellectuals and
Transatlantic Reform (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007). On
German immigrants, Reconstruction politics, and developments in Europe, see Alison
Efford, “New Citizens: German Immigrants, African Americans, and the Reconstruction
of Citizenship, 1865-1877,” (Ph.D. diss., The Ohio State University, 2008). On the
economic connections of the world cotton market, see Gavin Wright, “Cotton
Competition and the Post-Bellum Recovery of the American South,” Journal of
Economic History 34 (Sept. 1974): 610-35; and Sven Beckert, “Emancipation and
Empire: Reconstructing the Worldwide Web of Cotton Production in the Age of the
American Civil War,” American Historical Review 109 (Dec. 2004): 1405-38.
5
Reconstruction partisans thought of themselves as civilized, republican, and American,
and the ideas that gave meaning to these identities proved critical in shaping how they
interpreted much of what took place around them. These concepts were foundational to
Democratic and northern Republican thinking for two reasons. First, they contained
widely recognized core definitions that shaped how these groups thought about society,
history, and identity. At the same time, however, they proved to be pervasive in public
discourse in good part because they were also open to appropriation and redefinition.
Through both their core and contested meanings, therefore, these broad and basic ideas
proved to be the ubiquitous units of intellectual and polemical exchange in the years
immediately following the Civil War.7 In fact, disagreements about labor and gender
relations, economic change, cultural and religious differences, the policies and power of
the federal government, and imagined racial distinctions were all elaborated through and
a part of competing attempts to lay claim to these ideas. Unpacking what Democrats and
northern Republicans meant when they invoked these terms, therefore, is critical to
understanding how they were thinking about themselves, the United States, and the world
as they argued about Reconstruction.
With “civilization,” most Democrats and northern Republicans agreed, one found
a term that provided the most capacious rubric by which to evaluate the history,
condition, and future of human societies. Civilization, nearly all concurred, referred to a
stage of development distinguished by its qualitative and continuing advancement from
7
My analysis here draws on the concept of “contested keywords” developed by a number
of scholars. Within U.S. historiography, see, for example, Daniel T. Rodgers, Contested
Truths: Keywords in American Politics since Independence (New York: Basic Books,
1987); and Eric Foner, The Story of American Freedom (New York: Norton, 1998). For
an older work that anticipates these studies, see Arthur Alphonse Ekirch, Jr., The Idea of
Progress in America, 1815-1860, (New York: Peter Smith, 1951), especially 37.
6
an earlier, harsher, and simpler form of life commonly called “savagery” or “barbarism”
and associated with nomadism. The essential characteristic of civilization was progress,
which most expected to entail improvements to material conditions as well as the moral
character of individuals and institutions. Although a society could, most agreed, be
settled but stagnant, such cases were usually termed “semi-civilized” or “semi-barbarous”
and considered aberrant from the spirit of modern times. The distinction between
civilization and barbarism, of course, was hardly the exclusive possession of Democrats
and northern Republicans, and its core and contested meanings shaped values,
expectations, and identities across Europe and beyond.8 It was, in fact, enlightenment
thinkers in Western Europe who had formulated this distinction by reworking still older
concepts whose lineages ran back from early modern Europe to the classical
Mediterranean.9 It is not surprising, then, that Democrats and northern Republicans often
made a number of additional presumptions that reflected the evolution of these ideas.
Many, for example, took it for granted that the advance of civilization entailed the
expansion of “commerce,” the waning of religious “fanaticism” before reason and
science, technological innovation, and the triumph of the rule of law over the principles
8
See, for example, Gerrit W. Gong, The Standard of “Civilization” in International
Society (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984).
9
On the lineage of the idea of civilization, see Bruce Mazlish, Civilization and its
Contents (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004), chapter 1; on its duel meanings as
both a stage and process of advancement, see Bruce Bowden, The Empire of Civilization:
The Evolution of an Imperial Idea (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009), 23-34;
and Raymond Williams, Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society (New York:
Oxford University Press, 1985, rev. ed.), 57-60. For a work that covers the intellectual
formulations of progress from Medieval Europe into the 20th century, see Charles Van
Doren, The Idea of Progress (New York: Praeger, 1967). On the impact of European
writers on the ideas of civilization and progress in America, see Ekirch, The Idea of
Progress in America, 13-25.
7
of personal vengeance and divine right.10 Yet, these points were not above reproach, and
pervasive though the idea of civilization was, its precise meanings tended to evolve along
distinctive trajectories based on the needs, beliefs, and preoccupations of different groups
of people.
Few Democrats and northern Republicans could think of the progress of
civilization without making reference to “republicanism,” another keyword with a
transatlantic lineage. Here, most concurred that republics were societies where a people
ruled themselves as citizens instead of living as the subjects of despots and aristocrats.
The “ism,” in the parlance of the time, denoted not simply an ideology or worldview, but
a matrix of values, relationships, and institutions that were held to make republican
freedom possible. As such, when Reconstruction partisans spoke or wrote of
“republicanism” confronting “despotism” and “aristocracy,” as they often did, they meant
less the clash of competing doctrines or social philosophies and more the confrontation of
the forces of freedom and unfreedom.11 As with civilization and barbarism, the long
10
For a fascinating discussion of late-18th- and early-19th-century debates over the
relationships between commerce, manners, civilization, and the slave trade, see Philip
Gould, Barbaric Traffic: Commerce and Antislavery in the 18th Century Atlantic World
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003). On technology, see Michael Adas,
Dominance by Design: Technological Imperatives and America’s Civilizing Mission
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006). For a study that explore changing
opinions towards vengeance and the rule of law within the United States, see J. M. Opal,
“Vengeance and Civility: A New Look at Early American Statecraft,” The Journal of the
Historical Society, 8 (Mar. 2008): 61-83.
11
Much of what we know about this keyword in American history comes from works
that frame themselves as studies of two distinctive and antithetical ideologies:
republicanism and liberalism. This approach has led scholars to define republicanism as
an integrated way of thinking about the world, which liberalism eventually replaced. In
this approach, republicanism is taken to denote the interconnected beliefs that: republics,
as free societies, depend on the virtue of their citizenry for survival; that only people with
economic independence can exercise such virtue on behalf of a public good; that
commitment to such a public good can develop only among people with a sense of shared
8
community and fate; that as a result, republics were traditionally smaller than empires;
that both mass poverty and excessive luxury imperiled republics; that those with power
tended to conspire to destroy republican freedoms; and that, because of these
vulnerabilities, republics had a history of collapsing as they gained power and wealth.
Historians of colonial North American and the United States have defined liberalism as a
rival set of integrated beliefs that: a free society was one in which the people were able to
pursue their own interests; the pursuit of individual interest contributed to or at least
could be reconciled with the public good; that freeing men from traditional hierarchies
would unleash forces of progress; and that freedom and progress could reinforce each
other and give some societies a history with a persistently upward trajectory. This
approach, however, has come under considerable criticism from several scholars,
including some who initially contributed to the study of the transition from republicanism
to liberalism. Daniel Walker Howe, “The European Sources of Political Ideas in
Jeffersonian America,” Reviews in American History, 10 (Sep., 1982), pp. 28-44; and
Daniel T. Rodgers, “Republicanism: The Career of a Concept,” Journal of American
History 79 (Jun. 1992): 11-38, have demonstrated that the dichotomy between
republicanism and liberalism understates the diversity of ideas shaping political and
cultural life in North America. Gordon S. Wood, “Ideology and the Origins of Liberal
America,” William and Mary Quarterly, 44 (Jul., 1987): 628-40; and Lance Banning,
“Jeffersonian Ideology Revisited: Liberal and Classical Ideas in the New American
Republic,” William and Mary Quarterly, 43 (Jan., 1986): 3-19, accept republicanism and
liberalism as distinctive intellectual traditions, but argue that Americans, at least during
the American Revolution and Early Republic, did not recognize them as such and did not
hesitate to combine ideas from both traditions. Wood adds, moreover, that the precise
meanings and implications of either tradition were, at the time, subject to contestation.
James T. Kloppenburg, “The Virtues of Liberalism: Christianity, Republicanism, and
Ethics in Early American Political Discourse,” Journal of American History 74 (Jun.
1987): 9-33, similarly recognizes republicanism and liberalism as distinctive traditions of
thought, but suggests that they were more similar than different, and could easily coexist
in the minds of individuals. More recently, J. M. Opal, “The Labors of Liberality:
Christian Benevolence and National Prejudice in the American Founding,” Journal of
American History, 94 (Mar. 2008): 1082- 1107, has gone further by demonstrating that
the terms “liberalism” and “liberal” were not prominent during what many have taken to
be the key transition period between the two ideologies. Instead, Revolutionary and postRevolutionary Americans spoke and wrote more often of “liberality,” a term which
denoted enlightened benevolence and not the pursuit of individual interest. Likewise,
Butler, Critical Americans, 8-12, suggests based on a close look at a handful of American
intellectuals that “liberalism” was not, in the mid-19th century, a formulaic doctrine
concerned with government interference with individual self-interest, but instead a more
expansive set of ideas that could easily be reconciled with those traditionally associated
with “republicanism.” The most dramatic criticisms are found in Rodgers,
“Republicanism,” which argues that scholarly emphasis on republicanism, liberalism, and
the transition between the two constitute Kuhnian paradigms driven more by scholars’
interpretive needs than actual evidence. The paradigmatic nature of “republicanism” and
“liberalism,” Rodgers asserts, explains why scholars maintained a rigid dichotomy
9
career of the idea of the republic from Mediterranean antiquity on put into circulation
within the United States a number of additional presumptions that often accompanied this
core definition.12 Many, for example, took it for granted that full membership in a
republic required a capacity to make sacrifices for the common good, and that not
everyone within a republic was capable of such virtue. Throughout the 19th and 20th
centuries, this belief shaped battles over who within the United States was entitled to the
rights and privileges of full citizenship. Many also maintained a conspiratorial mindset
that fixated on concentrated power as a threat to popular liberties. As with “civilization,”
however, the vagueness of this core definition and these associated beliefs afforded
considerable room for interpretation. By the time of the Civil War, in fact, the concepts
between these concepts while perpetually adjusting their definitions of them to fit
different bodies of evidence. Even if one finds Rodger’s emphasis on Kuhnian
paradigms critique a bit too ungenerous, the cumulative impact of these criticisms is to
underscore that, despite an early warning in Robert Shalhope, “Toward a Republican
Synthesis: The Emergence of Republicanism in American Historiography,” William and
Mary Quarterly 29 (1972): 74, “republicanism,” and one would add “liberalism,” became
both a “catchall” and an interpretive “straightjacket” for historians. As a result, while this
dissertation underscores the importance of republicanism in postbellum politics and
culture, it wishes to qualify our understanding of the term. On the one hand,
Reconstruction partisans took the term to mean something more than just an ideology.
On the other, given their disagreements concerning the exact nature of republicanism, it
is best approached as a contested idea instead of a coherent and integrated way of
understanding the world. Much of the same is true for the words “liberal” and
“liberalism,” which were in wide circulation by the middle of the 19th-century, but were
rarely if ever taken to be in some way antithetical to republicanism. In fact, most
Americans in the mid-19th century often either loosely equated “republicanism” and
“liberalism,” or took the two to be allied forces in the struggle against despotism.
12
On the classical and early modern meanings of this idea, see Paul Rahe, Republics
Ancient and Modern: Classical Republicanism and the American Revolution (Chapel
Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992); J. G. A. Pocock, The Machiavellian
Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1975).
10
of civilization and republicanism had been appropriated by so many that they embodied
and sustained disagreements rather than prompting accord.13
The same was true for one final contested concept: American identity. Democrats
and northern Republicans thought of themselves as the representatives of a handful of
essential, defining American values and traditions, yet disagreed about what exactly these
were and what they entailed. In identifying themselves as American, these
Reconstruction partisans drew on the belief, increasingly common across the globe
during the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, that people were members of coherent and
distinctive populations that found fulfillment through political and cultural autonomy.
Such populations, moreover, were thought of as transcending individual localities and yet
meant to occupy specific areas of the globe as they moved through time together. This
conflation of culture, territory, government, history, and identity found expression in the
modern idea of the nation, which like civilization and republicanism had been
reformulated from ancient concepts. Through a series of processes that scholars still
disagree about, growing numbers of people across the world came to think of themselves
as national and to invest the distinction between things “foreign” and “domestic” with
ever greater meaning.14 Consequently, in the years immediately following the Civil War,
13
It should be noted that early works addressing republicanism as an ideology did not
presume that its pervasiveness in revolutionary North American and the early United
States necessarily produced consensus or tranquility. In fact, as Robert Shalhope
suggested long ago, because the ideology of republicanism entailed a deeply suspicious
mindset, it helped create a political atmosphere in which rival factions thought of each
other as aspiring tyrants out to subvert republican freedom. See Robert E. Shalhope,
“Toward a Republican Synthesis: The Emergence of an Understanding of Republicanism
in American Historiography,” William and Mary Quarterly 29 (1972): 49-80, especially
72-3.
14
The literature offering historical and theoretical analyses of the rise of modern nations
and nationalism is now vast. For an invaluable introduction to the field, see Anthony
11
the heated exchanges over Reconstruction expressed themselves through competing
Smith, “Shifting Landscapes of ‘Nationalism,’” Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism 8
(2008): 317-330; and Paul Lawrence, Nationalism: History and Theory (London:
Pearson, 2005). For an analysis, albeit focused on Europe, of why growing numbers of
people increasingly tied their identity to culture, as opposed to locality, work, and social
rank, see Ernest Gellner, Nations and Nationalism (Ithaca: Cornell University Press,
1983), especially chapters 1-3. On the conflation of territory with identity, see Eric
Kaufman, “’Naturalizing the Nation’: The Rise of Naturalistic Nationalism in the United
States and Canada,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 40 (Oct. 1998): 666695. On the importance of traditions, mostly invented, in creating a sense of national
identity, see Eric Hobsbawm and Terrence Ranger, eds., The Invention of Tradition
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983); but see also Craig Calhoun,
Nationalism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), 33-35. On the nation
as a group of people moving through history together, see, of course, Benedict Anderson,
Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (New
York: Verso, 2003, revised edition), but also Thomas M. Allen, A Republic in Time:
Temporality and Social Imagination in Nineteenth-Century America (Chapel Hill:
University of North Carolina Press, 2007), especially its introductory essay. For a work
that underscores the importance of the distinction between things “foreign” and
“domestic,” but has little engagement with the study of modern nations and nationalism,
see Amy Kaplan, The Anarchy of Empire in the Making of U.S. Culture (Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press, 2002). Helpful on the evolution of the meaning of the
word “nation,” is Guido Zernatto and Alfonso G. Mistretta, “Nation: The History of a
Word,” The Review of Politics 6 (Jul. 1944): 351-366; and Nicholas Hudson, “From
‘Nation’ to ‘Race’: The Origin of Racial Classification in Eighteenth Century Thought,”
Eighteenth-Century Studies 29 (Spring 1996): 247-264. As a terminological aside, it
should be noted that a number of scholars have argued that “patriotism” as a concept
should be distinguished from “nationalism,” with the former referring to the ethos of
civic virtue associated with republican thought in the classical and early modern periods,
while the latter refers to a more stringent and exclusive form devotion that took root in
the late 19th and 20th centuries. See, for example, Juliane Engelhardt, “Patriotism,
Nationalism, and Modernity: the Patriotic Societies of the Danish Conglomerate State,
1769-1814,” Nations and Nationalism 13 (Apr. 2007): 205-224; and Mary G. Dietz,
“Patriotism, a Brief History of the Term,” in Igor Primoratz, ed., Patriotism (New York:
Humanity Books, 2002): 201-216. More often, however, scholars extend the concept of
nationalism back before it actually came into popular usage, attending to its less
restrictive beginnings by distinguishing its later “ethnic” variant from an earlier “liberal”
or “civic” version. Hobsbawm, for example, notes that the term “nationalism” was still
novel at the start of the 20th century, but nonetheless refers to it throughout his, Nations
and Nationalism since 1780: Programme, Myth, Reality (New York: Cambridge
University Press, 1990); see especially 121. For a discussion of the analytical value of
the concepts of republican patriotism and civic nationalism, see Anthony Smith, The
Nation in History: Historiographical Debates about Ethnicity and Nationalism (Hanover,
NH: University Press of New England, 2000), 15-20.
12
claims over who best embodied the traditions and values that allegedly defined a unitary
“America.” Certainly, there were ambiguities and tensions in this discourse. Priding
themselves on the federal, constitutional, and elective nature of their government, some
took exception to describing the United States as a “nation,” believing the term suggested
a degree of political consolidation antithetical to freedom.15 Likewise, within the Union
and the Confederacy, a sense of patriotic devotion was often undercut by an emphasis on
the rights and prerogatives of individuals, families, and communities, although these
obligations were not irreconcilable.16 Finally, some northerners and southerners so
exalted a sense of their own distinctiveness and superiority that they spurned the concept
of an “American” identity, if not the principle of national identity itself. More often,
however, different groups, including Confederates, sought to position themselves as the
15
On opposition to describing the American people as part of a nation, consider, for
example, “Disintegration,” Richmond Enquirer & Sentinel, 4 November 1867, p. 2. Just
as often, however, concerns about state centralization actually served to affirm a sense of
American distinctiveness, which could often find expression through discussions of
American nationality. Here, consider, Peter Parish, The North and the Nation in the Era
of the Civil War (New York: Fordham University Press, 2003), 60-1, 62-3; David
Donald, Liberty and Union (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1978), 214-19; and
Timothy M. Roberts, “’Revolutions Have Become the Bloody Toy of the Multitude’:
European Revolutions, the South, and the Crisis of 1850,” Journal of the Early Republic
25 (Jun. 2005): 259-283, especially 269-70, which points out that such sentiments were
apparent in the southern and the northern states during the antebellum years. On the use
of the term “nation” to describe America, see Dorothy Ross, “’Are We A Nation?’: The
Conjuncture of Nationhood and Race in the United States, 1850-1876,” Modern
Intellectual History 2 (Nov. 2005): 327-60.
16
For one study that argues that liberal individualism and nationalism can and should be
reconciled, see Yael Tamir, Liberal Nationalism (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University
Press, 1993). Yehoshua Arieli, Individualism and Nationalism in American Ideology
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1964) remains a helpful if increasingly dated
historical analysis.
13
true Americans while impugning their rivals.17 For this reason, if those within the United
States actually shared some underlying attributes that made them part of a coherent and
distinctive population, they did so in spite of Democratic and northern Republican
17
For arguments that Confederates considered themselves to be the true Americans, see
Drew Gilpin Faust, The Creation of Confederate Nationalism: Ideology and Identity in
the Civil War South (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1988), 14. For
similar arguments about southern whites during the Antebellum period, see John Hope
Franklin, “The North, the South, and the American Revolution,” Journal of American
History 63 (June 1975): 5-23; Susan-Mary Grant, “Making History: Myth and the
Construction of American Nationhood,” in Geoffrey Schöpflin and George Hosking, eds.,
Myths and Nationhood (New York: Routledge, 1997); Parish, The North and the Nation
in the Era of the Civil War, 129-44; and Michael A. Morrison, “American Reaction to
European Revolutions, 1848-1852: Sectionalism, Memory, and the Revolutionary
Heritage,” Civil War History 49 (June 2003): 111-32, especially, 115-6. For an
explanation of why southern whites could, with some justification, believe that it was the
North that was breaking from tradition, see James McPherson, “Antebellum Southern
Exceptionalism: A New Look at an Old Question,” Civil War History 29 (Sept. 1983):
230-44. For a work that charts the spread of the idea that the South should be a separate
nation, see John McCardell, The Idea of a Southern Nation: Southern Nationalists and
Southern Nationalism, 1830-1860 (New York: Norton, 1979). For instances of southern
whites rejecting the premise that northerners and southerners had ever constituted a
common people, consult McPherson, Is Blood Thicker than Water? Crises of Nationalism
in the Modern World (New York: Vintage Books, 1998); and Paul Quigley,
“Independence Day Dilemmas in the American South, 1848-1865,” Journal of Southern
History 75 (May 2009): 235-266, which suggests that Confederates were more hesitant to
embrace traditional emblems of American nationalism, including especially the 4th of
July, than earlier scholars have claimed. In general, there has been relatively little
analysis of the role and transformation of national identity among former Confederates as
they re-entered the United States. For one brief argument, which suggests that the
transition was relatively quick and easy, see David M. Potter, “The Historian’s Use of
Nationalism and Vice Versa,” in his, The South and the Sectional Conflict (Baton Rouge:
Louisiana State University Press, 1968), 34-83, especially 77-79; and also David M.
Potter, The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861 (New York: Harper & Row, 1976), 449, 451,
471-4. For a rare and unfortunately brief argument that the South was a distinctive
nation, and that this helps explain the failure of northern attempts to reconstruct it after
the Civil War, see Otto H. Olsen, “Southern Reconstruction and the Question of Self
Determination,” in George Frederickson, ed., A Nation Divided: Problems and Issues of
the Civil War and Reconstruction (Minneapolis: Burgess Publishing, 1975), 113-142.
For one study that suggests that Confederates cultivated a separate national identity
whose hold was so strong that it could supersede even their commitment to slavery, see
Anne Sarah Rubin, A Shattered Nation: The Rise and Fall of the Confederacy, 1861-1868
(Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005).
14
understandings of who was an American and why. To judge by their own statements,
these Reconstruction partisans were Americans due more to their common arguments
over the meaning of the idea than to any underlying and unique similarities.18
Although Democrats and northern Republicans fiercely disagreed about who
represented American traditions and values, they concurred that the United States was
supposed to exemplify civilization and republicanism as these forces struggled against
barbarism, despotism, and aristocracy across the world. Far from prompting accord,
however, the interplay of these ideas served mostly to shape the ways in which
Democrats and northern Republicans argued about Reconstruction. By imagining
America in a global context of civilization and republicanism, these Reconstruction
partisans faced a common challenge of explaining why they represented causes that they
held to both define and transcend their country. This issue, it should be noted, was not
limited to those who believed America was defined by a commitment to universal human
equality, as William Leuchtenburg pointed out decades ago, or those with a limitless faith
in American expansionism, as Amy Kaplan has argued.19 Rather, everyone who took the
forces of freedom and progress to be the benchmarks by which to evaluate the characters
of different nations faced the question, often evaded, of why their own distinctiveness
was not ultimately superficial or unfortunate.
18
For the reader’s ease, this dissertation will occasionally refer to Democrats, northern
Republicans, and others collectively as Americans, or self-identifying Americans. In
doing so, it does not mean to imply that, because these groups thought of themselves as
part of a nation, one therefore has to presume that nation actually existed.
19
See William Leuchtenberg, “Progressivism and Imperialism: the Progressive
Movement and American Foreign Policy, 1898-1916,” Mississippi Valley Historical
Review 39 (Dec., 1952): 483-504, especially 503-4; and Kaplan, The Anarchy of Empire,
especially, 16.
15
The interplay of these ideas produced an understanding of the world markedly
different from that embodied in the late 20th-century system of nation-states, which takes
the world to be, with a few exceptions, divided among established states exercising
exclusive sovereignty over clearly demarcated territories.20 Democrats and northern
Republicans, in contrast, imagined civilization and republicanism to be struggling within
and across individual sovereignties, and the formal borders between established states,
where they existed, therefore captured only part of the picture. Accordingly, as these
Reconstruction partisans sought to explain why it was they, and not their rivals, who
represented freedom and progress, they contrasted themselves with allegedly barbaric,
despotic, and aristocratic others both in and beyond the territorial limits of the United
States. Both Democrats and northern Republicans, moreover, presumed that their
struggles with each other took shape from the same basic forces operating across the
country and the globe. They had few qualms, therefore, about discussing distant and
unrelated developments together and expressing sympathy and revulsion towards people
whom they had little or no firsthand contact with. Together, the core meanings of
civilization and republicanism both informed how Democrats and northern Republicans
thought of themselves as American, and yet implied a world in which foreign and
domestic arenas were dynamic and interrelated spheres of interpretation and action.
Postbellum arguments over these ideas were fed by a highly competitive and
politicized print industry that was most robust in the North, but formed a part of daily life
across the United States. Through newspapers, magazines, books, and pamphlets,
Reconstruction partisans produced and consumed an unceasing stream of news on and
20
For one helpful introduction to the rise of the world-system of nation-states, see
Calhoun, Nationalism, 118-122.
16
editorializing about a wide range of issues. In an era before the rise of a professional
academia and technical research methodologies, topics included not only individual
policies, but the proper order of the world. If such questions have never disappeared
completely from public debate within the United States, they were nonetheless addressed
by Democrats and northern Republicans with a routine confidence that would seem out of
place today. Believing that the struggles of civilization and republicanism shaped events
across the globe, few Democrats or northern Republicans evinced much doubt that they
understood the workings of their own society, as well as those across geographical,
historical, and linguistic divides.21 Discussions of these issues, moreover, tended to
transcend individual localities. Although newspapers, for example, operated out of
specific cities, many papers sold popular weekly editions over a much broader area, with
some available across the country. Just as important as their own marketing networks
was a system of exchanges among publications that allowed news and opinions to
circulate widely. Editors could and did excerpt material from other publications on a
regular basis, and often engaged in running arguments with their ideological rivals.22
Debate was further fueled by the magazine industry, which expanded rapidly after the
Civil War, did away with the turgid prose of the antebellum years, and began openly
discussing politics.23 These serial publications were complemented by more erratic
21
For a helpful essay that illuminates the divergent trajectories of historical thought in the
United States and Europe during the middle of the 19th-century, see, Dorothy Ross,
“Historical Consciousness in Nineteenth-Century America,” American Historical Review
89 (Oct. 1984): 909-928.
22
On these points, see Mark Summers, The Press Gang: Newspapers and Politics, 18651878 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994), especially chapters 1-4.
23
See Frank Luther Mott, A History of American Magazines, 1865-1885 (Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press, 1957), 3-22, 280-282.
17
offerings, including printings of isolated essays and speeches. Travel narratives, often
assembled from the letters of a growing corps of newspaper correspondents, proliferated
as people visited the far reaches of the United States and the world. Finally, public
lecturing, long an important part of intellectual life within the United States, increasingly
became a business in its own right, with advertising campaigns and multi-city tours
featuring writers, politicians, and scientific types.24 Never exclusively political, these
writers and lecturers nonetheless sought to bring a growing volume of information, and
misinformation, from across the world into conformity with their understanding of what
was possible and what was good in the realm of society and politics.
Collectively, these enterprises allowed large numbers of people within the United
States to engage in expansive discussions about the direction of America as a nation and
its place in the world. This is not to say, however, that all people were given equal
representation. Working-class voices, for example, failed to get much attention in the
major newspapers of the day, having only the New York Sun as a reliable ally.25
Likewise, while Democrats and northern Republicans found their views expressed by
literally hundreds of newspapers, woman suffragists and southern freedpeople often,
though not always, lacked the investment capital, political patronage, and subscription
networks to sustain daily and weekly publications. The most prominent suffragist paper
during the immediate postbellum period, for example, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan
B. Anthony’s The Revolution, depended on funding from George Francis Train, an
24
On this process, consider J. B. Pond, Eccentricities of Genius: Memories of Famous
Men and Women of the Platform and Stage (New York: G. W. Dillingham Company,
1900).
25
Summers, The Press Gang, 18, 72-3.
18
eccentric racist from the opposite end of the political spectrum.26 Similarly, papers
dedicated exclusively to and run exclusively by southern freedpeople were intermittently
active in the southern states during Reconstruction, facing not only financial constraints
but also violence.27 Hardly wanting for dedication, talent, or political savvy, these
constituencies nonetheless held a marginal position within the realm of postbellum public
opinion-making.
To understand the ways in which the print industry facilitated the braiding of
regional, national, and international affairs into common conversations about civilization
and republicanism, consider for example a brief contrast. Michael Billig, in his original
and insightful Banal Nationalism, argues that, while people in the late-20th-century
United States and Western Europe have expressed growing reservations about the
violence spawned by nationalist movements, they nonetheless continue to think in
national terms. In large measure, according to Billig, this is because Western Europeans
and Americans are inculcated with a sense of their own nationality by daily encounters
with “unwaved flags” as mundane as postage stamps and national currencies. For Billig,
daily newspapers, because of their division of news into foreign and domestic sections,
26
Foner, Reconstruction, 313.
27
For a comprehensive overview of southern African American papers, including their
generally short lifespans during Reconstruction, see Armistead Scott Pride, “A Register
and History of Negro Newspapers in the United States: 1827-1950,” (Ph.D. diss.,
Northwestern University, 1950), 18-32, 47-52, 54-58, 65-67-80, 95-104, 111-114, 132134, 145-155, 157-162, 164-165. Also helpful are I. Garland Penn, The Afro-American
Press and its Editors (New York: Arno Press and The New York Times, 1969, reprint)
100-115; and Frederick G. Detweiler, The Negro Press in the United States (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1922), 44-46. On the African American press in the 19thcentury United States, see also the introduction to Martin E. Dann, ed., The Black Press,
1827-1890 (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1971), 1-23; and chapter two of Roland E.
Wolseley, The Black Press, U.S.A. (Ames, IA: Iowa State University Press, 1990, 2nd
ed.).
19
play a vital role in perpetuating the national idea in popular consciousness.28 In
postbellum newspapers, however, the organization of news was far less rigid. Often,
brief notes from across the United States and the globe were filed under a common
section, while longer news stories were interspersed across the front page. Letters from
correspondents, whether at home or abroad, might be placed up front or saved for the
back pages, but were hardly separated away from other news. The editorial page, often
the most popular among readers, not only routinely interpreted regional, national, and
international developments next to each other, but often within the same essay. This,
however, hardly suggests that postbellum Americans did not think of the world in
national terms, with a clear sense that there were foreign and domestic people, places,
states, and affairs. Instead, the difference lay in how postbellum Americans considered
those arenas to be linked together through their connection to the broader struggles for
civilization and republicanism. It made perfect sense, in this view, to discuss
developments in Hungary alongside those in the South, or to lump allegedly barbarous
people from across the world together in a few hundred words.
Unfortunately, to date scholars have paid relatively little attention to the ways in
which these ideas informed perspectives in the United States immediately after the Civil
War. In part, this neglect likely reflects understandable scholarly concerns with a number
of other topics including: the dramatic social and economic changes taking place during
the postbellum years; popular attitudes about race and political economy; and the period’s
rampant political corruption. Yet the presence of similarly dramatic transformations and
no less serious bouts of graft and office-seeking have hardly impeded the analyses of
28
Michael Billig, Banal Nationalism (Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 1995).
20
these contested keywords for other periods. One might suspect, therefore, that the failure
of scholars to fully address the significance of these ideas for the pivotal years of
Reconstruction policy-making reflects the chronological compartmentalization of
historical research. Historians of the American Revolution, the Early Republic, and the
Antebellum Period, for example, have invested heavily in analyzing the evolution of
republicanism, but have less often taken their analyses forward to cover the postbellum
years.29 Similarly, scholars of the decades before and after Reconstruction have offered a
number of insightful studies of the distinction between civilization and barbarism, but
rarely explore how the debates over Reconstruction drew upon and informed
understandings of these ideas.30 Likewise, we have an impressive and developing body
29
For helpful historiographical overviews of the literature on Republicanism, see
Rodgers, “Republicansism,” and Robert Shalhope, “Republicanism and Early American
Historiography,” William and Mary Quarterly, 39 (Apr. 1982): 334-256. For a rare study
that addresses republican ideas, especially concerning political economy, starting from
the American Revolution and running through the entire 19th century, see James L.
Huston, “The American Revolutionaries, the Political Economy of Aristocracy, and the
American Concept of the Distribution of Wealth, 1765-1900,” American Historical
Review, 98 (Oct. 1993): 1075-1105.
30
Here, there is no historiographical essay comparable to those available on
republicanism. Helpful studies that treat this distinction for the period after
Reconstruction include Walter L. Williams, “The United States Indian Policy and the
Debate over Philippine Annexation: Implications for the Origins of American
Imperialism,” The Journal of American History 66 (Mar. 1980): 810-831; David Axeen,
“’Heroes of the Engine Room’: American ‘Civilization’ and the War with Spain,”
American Quarterly 36 (Autumn 1984): 481-502; Frank Ninkovich “Theodore
Roosevelt: Civilization as Ideology,” Diplomatic History 10 (Summer 1986): 221-245;
Gail Bederman, Manliness & Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the
United States, 1880-1917 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995); Matthew Frye
Jacobson, Barbarian Virtues: The United States Encounters Foreign Peoples at Home
and Abroad, 1876-1917 (New York: Hill and Wang, 2000); Kathleen Ann Clark,
Defining Moments: African American Commemoration & Political Culture in the South,
1863-1913 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005), which addresses the
years immediately following the Civil War, but does not explore the idea of progress
among African Americans in depth until the post-Reconstruction period; and David
Sehat, “The Civilizing Mission of Booker T. Washington,” Journal of Southern History
21
of studies addressing the growth and transformation of national identity and patriotism
during the Antebellum Period and the Civil War, as well as a number of impressive
studies covering the late 19th and 20th centuries.31 Few of these works, however, focus on
73 (May 2007): 289-323. Two works, Joseph Henning, Outposts of Civilization: Race,
Religion, and the Formative Years of American-Japanese Relations (New York: New
York University Press, 2000); and Gordon H. Chang, “Whose ‘Barbarism’? Whose
‘Treachery’? Race and Civilization in the Unknown United States-Korean War of 1871,”
Journal of American History, 90 (Mar. 2003): 1331-65, cover the period immediately
following the Civil War but do not address the contested meanings of these terms within
the United States. For the decades before Reconstruction, see Roy Harvey Pearce, The
Savages of North America: A Study of the Indian and the Idea of Civilization (Baltimore:
The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1965); Ekirch, The Idea of Progress in America;
Ronald G. Walters, The Antislavery Appeal: American Abolitionism after 1830
(Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978), chapter 5; Ronald Takaki, “The
Tempest in the Wilderness: the Racialization of Savagery,” Journal of American History,
79 (Dec. 1992): 892-912; Eugene Genovese and Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, The Mind of
the Master Class: History and Faith in the Southern Slaveholders’ Worldview (New
York: Cambridge University Press, 2005), which has considerably expanded our
understanding of these ideas in the antebellum slave states; and Gregory D. Smithers,
“The ‘Pursuit of the Civilized Man’: Race and the Meaning of Civilization in the United
States and Australia, 1790s-1850s,” Journal of World History 20 (June 2009): 245-272.
For a call for greater attention to the concept of civilization by one prominent historian of
the Civil War Era, see David Donald, Charles Sumner and the Rights of Man (New York:
Da Capo Press, 1996), iv. For a rare but all too brief study that explores the idea of
progress during Reconstruction, see Mitchell Snay, “Freedom and Progress: The
Dilemma of Southern Republican Thought during Radical Reconstruction,” American
Nineteenth Century History 5 (Spring 2004): 100-114.
31
Key studies on nationalism before and during the Civil War include Potter, “The
Historian’s Use of Nationalism and Vice Versa”; Kenneth Stampp, “The Concept of
Perpetual Union,” in his The Imperiled Union: Essays on the Background of the Civil
War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980); Peter Parish, The North and the Nation
in the Era of the Civil War; Susan-Mary Grant, North over South: Northern Nationalism
and American Identity in the Antebellum Era (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas,
2000); Melinda Lawson, Patriot Fires: Forging a New American Nationalism in the Civil
War North, (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2002); Alice Fahs, The Imagined
Civil War: Popular Literature in the North and South, 1861-1865 (Chapel Hill:
University of North Carolina Press, 2001); Faust, The Creation of Confederate
Nationalism; and Rubin, A Shattered Nation; and Quigley, “Independence Day Dilemmas
in the American South.” Mitchell Snay, Fenians, Freedmen, and Southern Whites: Race
and Nationality in the Era of Reconstruction (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University
Press, 2007), offers a highly original and valuable contribution to our understanding of
nationalism during Reconstruction, although its discussion of “civic” and “ethnic” strains
22
the influence of the idea of the nation for the years immediately following the Civil
War.32 Certainly Reconstruction scholars have been aware of these concepts and at times
devoted substantial attention to them.33 Collectively, however, we have an extensive
literature that demonstrates that these ideas were integral to politics and culture within the
United States during the 19th century, but much less of a sense of their importance and
evolution during the period immediately following the Civil War.
One can, however, identify a number of issues and identities that motivated and
shaped debates over these ideas after the war much as they had before it. First, if the
of nationalism is unnecessarily dichotomous. For the later period, see especially Gary
Gerstle, American Crucible: Race and Nation in the Twentieth Century (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 2001). Robert Wiebe’s Who We Are: A History of Popular
Nationalism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002) and Liah Greenfeld,
Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press,
1992), place the United States in broader historical and comparative perspectives, but do
not discuss Reconstruction in any depth.
32
Of the sources above, Rubin, A Shattered Nation stands out for its more detailed
treatment of Reconstruction. Works like, Edward J. Blum, Reforging the White Republic:
Race, Religion, and American Nationalism, 1865-1898 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State
University Press, 2005); and Cecilia O’Leary, To Die For: The Paradox of American
Patriotism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999) are also helpful. Both of these
works, however, in part because of their broader chronological focus, tend to be selective
in their handling of the period covered by this dissertation. Ross, “’Are We A Nation?’”
provides a much needed discussion of different understandings of American nationhood
on the part of a number of influential intellectuals.
33
Charles Calhoun, Conceiving a New Republic: the Republican Party and the Southern
Question, 1869-1900 (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2006), for example, offers a
much needed analysis of the concept of republicanism after the Civil War. Also helpful
is Snay, Fenians, Freedmen, and Southern Whites. Heather Richardson, perhaps more
than any other scholar, has underscored the ways in which Reconstruction-era political
debates were shaped by and concerned with the idea of America as a nation, although the
bulk of her analyses focuses on competing understandings of political economy; see her,
The Death of Reconstruction: Race, Labor, and Politics in the Post-Civil War North,
1865-1901 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001); and West from
Appomattox: The Reconstruction of the America after the Civil War (New Haven: Yale
University Press, 2007).
23
state and federal governments of the United States were weak relative to those in many
other parts of the world, they nonetheless constituted loci of political power and
patronage that different groups of Americans sought to control. Although peoples across
the United States had myriad interests and concerns, the winner-take-all electoral system
operating in state and federal politics created an overwhelming incentive to form
coalitions that could hope to win a plurality of votes in a majority of elections.
Consequently, Americans tended to identify with one of a handful of political parties that,
for all their diversity, formulated statements of common values and interests.34 In doing
so, these parties regularly invoked, attempted to define, and asserted ownership of the
meanings of civilization, republicanism, and American identity. Democrats, Whigs, and
then Republicans, for example, claimed that their party organization embodied and
protected America’s freedoms while their opponents represented the insidious forces of
despotism and aristocracy.35 Likewise, each of these parties sought to justify why it, and
not its rivals, embodied the potential or actual harmony between economic and moral
progress. If the Second Party System collapsed before the Civil War, it nonetheless had
34
For essays that debate just how important the divisions between the major political
parties were in culture, identity, and policy-making in the 19th-century United States, see
Glenn C. Altschuler and Stuart M. Blumin, “’Where is the Real America?’ Politics and
Popular Consciousness in the Antebellum Era,” American Quarterly 49 (Jun. 1997): 225267; Ronald P. Formisano, “The ‘Party Period’ Revisited,” Journal of American History
86 (Jun. 1999): 93-120; and Michael F. Holt, “The Primacy of Party Reasserted,” ibid.,
151-57.
35
On the importance of such claims in antebellum politics, see Major Wilson,
“Republicanism and the Idea of Party in the Jacksonian Period,” Journal of the Early
Republic 8 (Winter 1988): 419-442; and Michael F. Holt, The Political Crisis of the
1850s (New York: Wiley, 1978). For an article that explores the ways in which the rise
of the Second Party System transformed understandings of republicanism from the period
of the American Revolution, see Marc W. Kruman, “The Second Party System and the
Transformation of Revolutionary Republicanism,” Journal of the Early Republic 12
(Winter 1992): 509-17.
24
an impact on politics in the postbellum years. The Democratic Party continued to be
devoted to stringent and pronounced white supremacy, limited government, free trade,
and tolerance towards Catholics.36 The northern branch of the Republican Party, if a
diverse coalition of anti-slavery and anti-southern politicians, nonetheless tended to echo
the Whig Party in promoting protective tariffs, internal improvements, and a social and
economic vision rooted in the prosperous regions of the rural North.37
Second, the spread of chattel slavery across the southern United States and its
decline as a social, economic, and cultural system in the northern states, along with the
dramatic economic and geographic expansion of both regions, provided the backdrop for
a growing sense of sectional difference. As research has shown, neither “northerners” nor
“southerners” were united among themselves about whether slavery was an intolerable,
unfortunate, necessary, or positive institution.38 Likewise, the nominally uniform
systems of chattel slavery and free labor in fact each changed over time and varied across
36
See Joel Silbey, A Respectable Minority: the Democratic Party in the Civil War Era,
1860-1868 (New York: Norton, 1977); Foner, Reconstruction, 31-2.
37
See, of course, Eric Foner, Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the
Republican Party before the Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995, rev.
ed.). Still helpful on this topic is W. R. Brock, An American Crisis: Congress and
Reconstruction, 1865-1867 (New York: Harper & Row, 1963), 246-49. In addition to
Foner Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men, helpful on the ex-Democratic minority of the
Republican Party is Colin McCoy, “Jackson Men in the Party of Lincoln,” in Daniel
McDonough and Kenneth W. Noe, eds., Politics and Culture of the Civil War Era:
Essays in Honor of Robert W. Johannsen (Selinsgrove: Susquehana University Press,
2006), 178-198.
38
On the differences among northerners, consult Foner, Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men.
For the quickest guide to differences among southerners, see Lacy K. Ford,
“Reconfiguring the Old South: ‘Solving’ the Problem of Slavery, 1787-1838,” Journal of
American History 95 (Jun. 2008): 95-122; William W. Freehling, “The Divided South,
Democracy’s Limitations, and the Causes of the Peculiarly North American Civil War,”
in Gabor S. Boritt, ed., Why the Civil War Came (New York: Oxford University Press,
1996), 125-176.
25
regions, sometimes leading to substantially different relationships between coercion,
production, and social life.39 Finally, both chattel slavery and free labor could be
reconciled and articulated with other modes of production.40 None of this, however,
prevented a growing number of self-identifying Americans from thinking of their country
as divided between two distinctive and even antithetical regions defined by the presence
and absence of slavery.41 As a result, debates over slavery, and its relationship to
America, republicanism, and civilization, increasingly defined politics and culture within
39
On the differences in the nature of slavery in the South, see for example, Christopher
Morris, ”The Articulation of Two Worlds: The Master-Slave Relationship
Reconsidered,” Journal of American History 85 (Dec. 1998): 982-1007; and Steven F.
Miller, “Plantation Labor Organization and Slave Life on the Cotton Frontier: The
Alabama-Mississippi Black Belt, 1790-1860,” in Ira Berlin and Philip D. Morgan,
Cultivation and Culture: Labor and the Shaping of Slave Life in the Americas
(Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1993), 155-169. On this topic, as well as
slavery’s evolution over time within North America, see Philip D. Morgan, Slave
Counterpoint: Black Culture in the Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake and Low Country
(Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998); and Ira Berlin, Generations of
Captivity: A History of Afro-American Slavery (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Press, 2003). On the differences within the free labor North, consider the variety of and
change in non-slave labor economic relationships in antebellum cities, towns, and farms.
See, for example, Steven Hahn and Jonathan Prude, eds., The Countryside in the Age of
Capitalist Transformation (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1985), part I;
Bruce Laurie, Artisans into Workers: Labor in Nineteenth-Century America (New York:
Hill and Wang, 1989), chapter 1-2. On the ways in which the concept of “free labor”
masked important differences, including between individual proprietorship and wage
labor, see Eric Foner, Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men, x-xi.
40
Although it does not address the United States, Alan Richard, “The Political Economy
of Gutwirtschaft: A Comparative Analysis of East Elbian Germany, Egypt, and Chile,”
Comparative Studies in Society and History 21 (Oct. 1979): 483-518 offers a helpful reconceptualization of labor relations.
41
Although not without its flaws, Howard R. Floan, The South in Northern Eyes, 18311861 (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1958), is helpful on the ways in which antislavery forces
in the North conflated slavery with the whole of southern society. For a discussion of the
ways in which proslavery southerners took the North to be a coherent society that was
quickly deviating from traditional social mores, see McPherson, “Antebellum Southern
Exceptionalism.”
26
the United States, much to the dismay of sectional moderates. Here, a complex series of
processes reaching back to the 18th century profoundly altered attitudes towards slavery
within the United States. Although it is impossible to weigh the relative importance of or
untangle the relationships among these developments in this dissertation, it is clear from
existing studies that they included: the disappearance of chattel slavery from those
regions marked by the most dramatic industrialization, especially the northern United
States and northwestern Europe; a removal of commodity production from the household
across much of these industrializing regions;42 the gradual supplanting of patriarchy by
sentimental and affective familial norms across much of the United States;43 a
valorization of manual labor and a growing intolerance for physical suffering as a part of
everyday life;44 the fraying of Calvinist orthodoxy and the transformation of
Protestantism in the northern states;45 rising confidence that inherited institutions and
values could be changed for the better; an increasingly common sense that physical
distance between people did not necessarily absolve them of responsibility for each
42
Here, consider John Ashworth, “The Relationship between Capitalism and
Humanitarianism,” in Thomas Bender, ed., The Antislavery Debate: Capitalism and
Abolitionism as a Problem in Historical Interpretation (Berkeley and Los Angeles:
University of California Press, 1992), especially 190-198.
43
See, for example, Paul E. Johnson and Sean Wilentz, The Kingdom of Matthias: A
Story of Sex and Salvation in 19th-Century America (New York: Oxford University Press,
1994), 6-11; and on the South, Morgan, Slave Counterpoint, 273-96.
44
See Gordon Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution (New York: Random
House, 1991); Karen Halttunen, “Humanitarianism and the Pornography of Pain in
Anglo-American Culture,” American Historical Review 100 (Apr. 1995): 303-334.
45
On these points, consider, for example, Elizabeth B. Clark, “’The Sacred Rights of the
Weak’: Pain, Sympathy, and the Culture of Individual Rights in Antebellum America,”
Journal of American History 82 (Sept. 1995): 463-93; and Johnson and Wilentz, The
Kingdom of Matthias, 6-11.
27
other;46 and the growing popularity and rigidity of racial ideologies and identities. While
it is impossible to review these processes in full here, one can note that they shifted the
ground upon which slavery stood. Originally presumed to be a Christian institution that
promoted economic progress and made possible the freedom and equality of non-slaves,
slavery had long been considered legitimate and necessary. From the late 18th to the mid
19th century, however, a growing number of people thought of southern slavery as
variously sadistic, antiquated, aristocratic, and, in some cases, inherently sinful. During
this period, many also came to resent slaveholding for cursing the country with what they
considered to be a large, dangerous, and racially inferior population.47 In a remarkable
concession, many proslavery ideologues within the United States came to accept that
England and the North were, due to wage labor and industrialization, progressing more
quickly than the South. They warned, however, that these forces threatened to dissolve
the social and racial restraints that made civilization possible, bringing anarchy and then
despotism. Into the last decades before the Civil War, southern planters increasingly
expressed the hope that slavery would actually moderate progress and freedom, making
their growth less erratic and threatening.48
46
On these points, consider Walters, The Antislavery Appeal, chapter 10, which stresses
the importance of nationalism; and Thomas Haskell, “Capitalism and the Origins of the
Humanitarian Sensibility,” Parts 1 and 2, in Bender, ed., The Antislavery Debate,
chapters 4-5. Although several of the authors here and in the footnotes above disagree
with each other, sometimes sharply, this overview holds that their views are not actually
mutually exclusive.
47
For a discussion of this racial strain of nationalism in the northern states, see George
Frederickson, “White Nationalism: “Free Soil” and the Ideal of Racial Homogeneity,” in
his The Black Image in the White Mind: The Debate on Afro-American Character and
Destiny, 1817-1914 (Hanover, N.H.: Wesleyan University Press, 1987), chapter 5.
48
See Ekirch, The Idea of Progress in America, chapter 8; Joyce Chaplin, An Anxious
Pursuit: Agricultural Innovation & Modernity in the Lower South, 1730-1815 (Chapel
28
Lastly, the genuine diversity and manifold prejudices of people within the United
States further fueled arguments over these contested keywords. Religion, culture, race,
class, and gender created a series of intersecting and overlapping distinctions that selfidentifying Americans variously imbibed, contested, perpetuated, and appropriated. As a
result, individuals could find themselves sharing common experiences with or presumed
connections to multiple groups of people and yet have difficulty forming communities
and associations that did not have their own internal divisions. If few nineteenth-century
Americans outright rejected the relevance of these categories of difference, they did
frequently argue over their implications. Few, for example, thought that the distinction
between men and women to be one of simple physiology. Many, however, disagreed
over how relationships between the sexes should be ordered, and in doing so regularly
appealed to, positioned themselves as representatives of, and sought to establish authority
over the nature of America, civilization, and republicanism.49
***
From 1865 to 1874, no single debate defined the contest over the meaning of
these ideas within the United States. Two closely connected sets of issues did, however,
exert a sustained and powerful hold on a vast number of people in the northern states and
the former Confederacy. First, though the Civil War was over, the reunification of the
Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993), especially 23-65, 114-116, 182-84, 355;
Eugene Genovese, The Slaveholders’ Dilemma: Freedom and Progress in Southern
Conservative Thought, 1820-1860 (Columbia: University of South Carolina, 1992); and
Elizabeth Fox-Genovese and Eugene Genovese, The Mind of the Master Class: History
and Faith in the Southern Slaveholders’ Worldview (New York: Cambridge University
Press, 2005), Parts 1-3.
49
The literature documenting these categories of difference and analyzing their
significance in politics and culture within 19th-century United States is too vast to be
cited in full here.
29
United States did little to attenuate the sectional and partisan animosities fired by it.
Instead, at least into the middle of the 1870s, reunification aggravated tensions while
drawing different groups of northerners and southerners back into a common but heated
conversation with each other. Second, congressional Reconstruction reinforced these
divisions while foregrounding, even more than before, questions concerning the
relationships between the power of the federal government, imagined racial differences,
and political rights. This is not to say that there were not many self-identifying
Americans who wished to simply turn their back on the war or who had little genuine
concern about the status and future southern freedpeople. On the whole, however, it was
these issues that distinguished the political parties from each other and fueled two
distinctive understandings of what it meant to be American, republican, and civilized.
After 1874 these issues continued to carry weight, but the dramatic financial panic of
1873 and the electoral turnover that followed both limited attention to and changed
perceptions of them.
Before then, however, many in the North were confident that, with Union victory
and the abolition of slavery, America now embodied the causes of freedom and progress.
Although marked by a profound sense of loss, the end of the war therefore inspired
optimism among many. Northern Republicans, in particular, found validation in victory,
becoming all the more convinced that an idealized version of their own section best
represented what America could and should be. Certainly, northern Republicans were
not without their reservations about the vices of urban life, the growing hold of
materialism, and, for those committed to African American equality, the continuing
presence of prejudice. But in the bustling towns and farms of the northern countryside,
30
many northern Republicans believed, one found a matrix of institutions and values that
brought individual freedom, collective progress, and national greatness into harmony
with each other. These institutions and values included not only electoral democracy,
Protestantism, and free labor, but also a humanitarian concern for the suffering weak,
sentimental family life, public education, a free press, technological development, and
commerce. Parochial in their presumptions but cosmopolitan in their sympathies,
northern Republicans thought it an enlightened, humanitarian, and Christian enterprise to
extend their own ways to other parts of the United States and the world. Throughout this
period, the corruption and factionalism of Republican political leaders dampened popular
enthusiasm. Up until the debilitating financial panic of 1873 and the Republican
congressional losses of 1874, however, this enthusiasm continued to serve as a rallying
point for a party that, in actuality, was far from unified over the relationships between
imagined racial differences, federal and state authority, and citizenship.
In contrast, Democrats, including those in the North and ex-Confederates, often
railed against what they took to be the cultural and political imperialism of northern
Republicans. In doing so, they oscillated between a fatalistic belief that the United States
was degenerating into despotism and barbarism and confidence that popular revulsion on
the part of true Americans would soon throw Republicans from power. Of central
concern to Democrats was the northern Republicans’ willingness to alter the traditional
balance of power between the federal government and the states for the sake of extending
political rights to African-American ex-slaves in the southern states. Although northern
Republicans were in fact deeply divided over congressional Reconstruction, Democrats
31
treated their policies as a deliberate attack on what they took to be the foundation of
social order and American character: white supremacy.
A comprehensive history of these ideas during the postbellum years is not
possible within the confines of this dissertation. As a result, several groups and issues of
vital importance to the history of this period, including southern freedpeople, class
conflict, and the currency question, will unfortunately not feature prominently in its
analysis. What this dissertation offers instead is four cases studies that together serve to
illuminate how the interplay of these contested ideas impelled attention outwards, even as
conflicts in and about the South drove debates over them. In doing so, it hopes to shed
new light on the ways in which these groups were thinking about and arguing over
Reconstruction. Indeed, these Americans, including some of the most adamant defenders
and opponents of African American political equality, thought it not only natural but
necessary to attend to developments from beyond their own immediate conflicts.
Consequently, Democrats and northern Republicans often, as the following chapters
demonstrate, turned their attention to developments that had little or no palpable
connection to Reconstruction, or, for that matter, any other affairs of state. Although
certainly any number of more immediate concerns – diplomatic, economic, or otherwise
– also drew American interest, focusing on them risks conflating the forces that impinged
upon Reconstruction politics with the worldviews arrayed against each other therein. For
this reason, this dissertation focuses on peoples, places, and events that, due to their lack
of a tangible connection to conflicts in and about the South, have been overwhelmingly
ignored by Reconstruction historiography. To help recapture the wide-ranging, if often
shallow and unreflecting, nature of Democratic and northern Republican interest, the
32
dissertation has avoided focusing on a single issue or episode. Instead, it examines
multiple points where, to contemporary minds, the forces of civilization and
republicanism came up against barbarism, despotism, and aristocracy.
33
CHAPTER 2
“CRETE THE OPENING WEDGE”: NATIONALISM AND INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS IN THE
POSTBELLUM UNITED STATES
“Thou sobbing captive in a sea of smiles,
Whose fairy sails on sunny errands flee,
Shall the blue waves that bless thy sister isles
Bind on thy brow the curse of slavery?”
--Unattributed1
“Oh! what were the projects you made, Mrs. Howe,
When you went where the Cretans were making a row?
Emancipation—civilization—redintegration of a great nation,
Paying no taxes, grinding no axes—
Flinging the Ministers over the banisters.
These were the projects of good Mrs. Howe
When she went where the Cretans were making a row.”
--Julia Ward Howe2
From August of 1866 to February of 1869, an insurrection against Ottoman
imperial rule by Greek Orthodox Christians on the island of Crete drew the attention of
Americans from California to Canea and from Massachusetts to Memphis. Although the
Cretan Insurrection, as it was often called, may now seem an obscure and trivial foreign
1
Excerpt from an unattributed, undated poem, titled “Crete,” available in a pamphlet by
Samuel Howe. The Brown University Library notes that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
donated the pamphlet, but he is unmentioned in the document itself. Samuel Gridley
Howe, “Appeal” (n.p., 1867). Portions of this chapter first appeared in David Prior,
“’Crete the Opening Wedge’: Nationalism and International Affairs in the Postbellum
United States,” Journal of Social History 42 (Summer 2009): 861-888.
2
Excerpt from an untitled, undated poem by Julia Ward Howe, available in, Laura E.
Richards and Maud Howe Elliot, Julia Ward Howe, 1819-1910 (Boston and New York:
Houghton Mifflin Company, 1916), 281-2.
34
affair, postbellum Americans readily discussed it and easily invested it with meaning.3
They did so, moreover, lacking any substantive connection to the island through trade,
diplomacy, or immigration. Instead, different groups of Americans, especially
Democrats and northern Republicans, turned their attention to Crete because they
believed the rebels there were fighting for freedom and progress against the barbaric rule
of a despotic Empire. This point of agreement, however, hardly generated accord
between Democrats and northern Republicans. Instead, both groups offered their own
interpretation of the insurrection and, just as importantly, how it spoke to their struggles
against despotism and barbarism within the United States.
The Cretan Insurrection was evocative to different groups of Americans because
it seemed to affirm their expectations about what struggles for republicanism and
civilization would look like. In part, this reflected the erroneous but widespread belief
that, because Americans lived in a republic born in a rebellion against a monarchical
empire, they naturally understood other struggles within and against similar empires. As
a result, Democrats and northern Republicans shared a tendency to wash over
3
Scholars have yet to offer a thorough investigation of the extent and causes of American
interest in the Cretan insurrection. Although its comparison of American reactions with
the generally less sympathetic British response is helpful, Emmanuel E. Marcoglou’s,
The American Interest in the Cretan Revolution, 1866-69 (Athens: National Center of
Social Research,1971) explores a limited stock of writings and has but a slight grasp on
the cultural and political currents shaping American perceptions. A. J. May, “Crete and
the United States, 1866-1869,” Journal of Modern History 16 (Dec. 1944): 286-93;
James A. Field, Jr., America and the Mediterranean World, 1776-1882 (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1969), 317-23; and Harold Schwartz, Samuel Gridley Howe:
Social Reformer, 1801-1876 (Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press, 1956), 282-87,
all focus on Americans in the Eastern Mediterranean. Although Angelo Repousis,
“Greek-American Foreign Relations from Monroe to Truman,” (Ph.D. diss., Temple
University, 2002), 186-230, offers the most thorough account of American relations with
Greece during the Cretan Insurrection, it fails to situate American discussions of the
insurrection in their domestic cultural and political context.
35
dissimilarities between various movements for national independence and republican
government, even as they argued about their meaning. Indeed, by the time of the Civil
War, the ethnic groups, leadership, and battlegrounds associated with a number of
liberation and reform movements were well-known in the United States. Men like
Giuseppe Garibaldi, Lajos Kossuth, and John Bright, for example, were household names
across much of the United States, and their doings were regularly followed in newspapers
and magazines in the United States. Places like Poland and Hungary, moreover, which
had seen national independence movements crushed earlier in the 19th century, were
routinely referenced by Democrats and northern Republicans. Imperial dynasties and the
generals who served them, not surprisingly, were reviled across much of the United
States.4 Even an Austrian general active in repressing the European revolutions of 1848,
4
Historians of the United States have long taken interest in American reactions to foreign
struggles against monarchical empires. See Eugene N. Curtis, “American Opinion of the
French Nineteenth-Century Revolutions,” American Historical Review 29 (Jan. 1924):
249-270; John Gazley, American Opinion of German Unification, 1848-1871 (New York:
Columbia University, 1926), chapters 2-3; Merle Curti, “George N. Sanders –American
Patriot of the Fifties,” South Atlantic Quarterly 27 (Jan. 1928): 79-87; John W. Oliver,
“Louis Kossuth’s Appeal to the Middle West—1852,” Mississippi Valley Historical
Review 14 (Mar. 1928): 481-495; Charles M. Wiltse, “A Critical Southerner: John C.
Calhoun on the Revolutions of 1848,” Journal of Southern History 15 (May 1949): 299310; Merle Curti, “The Impact of the Revolutions of 1848 on American Thought,”
Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 93 (Jun. 1949): 209-15, which is
particularly helpful on the ways in which Americans tended to conflate movements for
national independence with those for republican government; Thomas J. Pressly, “Bullets
and Ballots: Lincoln and the ‘Right of Revolution,’” The American Historical Review, 67
(Apr. 1962): 647-662; Cushing Strout, The American Image of the Old World (New
York: Harper & Row, 1963), chapter 3; Donald S. Spencer, Louis Kossuth and Young
America: A Study of Sectionalism and Foreign Policy 1848-1852 (Columbia, MO:
University of Missouri Press, 1977); Philip M. Katz, From Appomattox to Montmartre:
Americans and the Paris Commune (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998);
Dennis Berthold, “Melville, Garibaldi, and the Medusa of Revolution,” in Larry J.
Reynolds and Gordon Hunter (eds.), National Imaginaries, American Identities: The
Cultural Work of American Iconography (Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2000);
Elizabeth Fox-Genovese and Eugene Genovese, The Mind of the Master Class: History
36
Julius Jacob von Haynau, could, for example, be referenced in the middle of a postbellum
newspaper editorial without any accompanying explanation of who he was or why he
mattered.5 The paper simply assumed that readers already knew.
This is not to say that Democrats and northern Republicans had uniform faith in
the prospects of various struggles against monarchical empires. Many in the North and
the South, for example, worried that the class antagonisms that marked social life in
much of Europe would turn movements for either national independence or republican
government into blood-drenched revolutions.6 Indeed, those Europeans republicans who
espoused more radical doctrines, including socialism, were often met with ambivalence
by Americans.7 Similarly, many northern Republicans, although by no means all, had
reservations grounded in notions of cultural differences between Protestants and
Catholics, which could considerably limit their sympathy for Irish resistance to British
and Faith in the Southern Slaveholder’s Worldview (New York: Cambridge University
Press, 2005), chapter 2; Paola Gemme, Domesticating Foreign Struggles: The Italian
Risorgimento and Antebellum American Identity (Athens: University of Georgia Press,
2005); Michael A. Morrison, “American Reactions to European Revolutions, 1848-1852:
Sectionalism, Memory, and Revolutionary Heritage,” Civil War History 49 (Jun. 2003):
111-132; and Timothy M. Roberts, “’Revolutions Have Become the Bloody Toy of the
Multitude’: European Revolutions, the South, and the Crisis of 1850,” Journal of the
Early Republic 25 (Jun. 2005): 259-283. On German unification, another geopolitical
development that elicited American discussion, see Gazley, American Opinion of
German Unification, and Merle Curti, “John C. Calhoun and the Unification of
Germany,” American Historical Review 40 (Apr. 1935): 476-78.
5
See “Ease and Ignominy,” Richmond Enquirer & Sentinel, 25 July 1867, p. 2. For more
background on Haynau, see Gazley, American Opinion of German Unification, 102-3,
109.
6
See Curti, “The Impact of the Revolutions of 1848 on American Thought”; Wiltse, “A
Critical Southerner”; and Roberts, “’Revolutions Have Become the Bloody Toy of the
Multitude’” for an argument that points to such sentiments in the North and South.
7
See, for example, the discussion of Mazzini in Berthold, “Melville, Garibaldi, and the
Medusa of Revolution.”
37
rule. Democrats had their own concerns, especially concerning race, which was readily
apparent in their often contemptuous attitudes towards the causes of Cuban and Mexican
independence. Civil War diplomacy also shaped American attitudes towards individual
sovereignties. Because the Russian imperial government had been the only power in
Europe to be openly friendly to the Union during the Civil War, many northern
Republicans overlooked its autocratic government and its history of repressing rebellions
in Poland. Great Britain, however, because its government had recognized Confederate
belligerency and allowed for the construction of a handful of Confederate merchant
raiders within its borders, was loathed with particular vehemence by northern Unionists.
In addition to these specific reservations, the Civil War left a great many ex-Confederates
and northern Democrats pessimistic about the future of freedom and progress at home
and abroad.8 Northern Republicans, in contrast, most often expressed a faith, at least in
the years immediately following Appomattox, that with the forces of reaction defeated at
home, freedom and progress would now radiate outwards from the United States.
Few of these reservations, however, operated with much force on Democratic and
northern Republican opinions of the Cretan Insurrection, as it was often called. Because
the Cretan rebels were Christians fighting against a theocratic Muslim empire, and
because “the Turks” were “Asiatic” while the Greeks were supposedly European and
white, race and religion did relatively little to dampen sympathy for the Cretan rebels. It
helped, moreover, that the Cretan rebels sought union, or Enosis, with Greece proper,
8
On the presence of a similar air of pessimism among many northerners and southerners
after the failure of the European Revolutions of 1848, see Strout, The American Image of
the Old World, 60-61, although his work neglects to note the ways in which Union
victory in the Civil War renewed hope for the causes of freedom and progress among
northern Republicans.
38
which some in the United States still erroneously considered the heir of ancient
democracy. When it came to Crete, in fact, northern Republicans and Democrats focused
mostly on fighting over the right to sympathize with the insurrection, and on explaining
what such sympathy said about conditions within the United States.
***
The causes of the Cretan Insurrection have been subject to passing disagreement
among historians of modern Greece and American diplomacy.9 What is clear, however,
is that by the spring of 1866 an assembly of Greek Orthodox Cretans had remonstrated
against the governor of Crete, Ismael Pasha, in an appeal to the Ottoman imperial
government. Confronting this challenge to his authority and mounting tensions between
the island’s Greek Orthodox and Muslim populations, Ismael Pasha appears to have
opted to confront the assembly of Greek Orthodox Cretans while calling the island’s
Muslim population into its walled cities for protection.10 Tensions quickly boiled over
into panic and violence. In late August and early September of 1866, the Cretan
assembly declared the island’s independence and shortly thereafter union with Greece
9
The two contemporary accounts of the insurrection published in English are William J.
Stillman’s The Cretan Insurrection of 1866-7-8 (New York: Holt and Co., 1874) and
J.E.H. Skinner’s Roughing it in Crete in 1867 (London: R. Bentley, 1868), which differ
on the causes and significance of the insurrection. See especially Stillman, Cretan
Insurrection, 36-7, 41-49, and Hilary, Roughing it in Crete, xxii-xxiv. More recent
studies continue to disagree. For a brief but useful synthesis of the French and Greek
historiography, see George Georgiades Arnakis’s introduction to his edited version of
Stillman’s Cretan Insurrection, published as American Consul in a Cretan War (Austin,
1966), 13-18; and May, “Crete and the United States, 1866-1869,” 287. On European
diplomacy and the start of the revolution, see Domna N. Dontas, Greece and the Great
Powers, 1863-1875, (Thessalonike: Institute for Balkan Studies, 1966), 63-68; and
Douglas Dakin, The Unification of Greece, 1770-1923 (London: Ernest Benn 1972), 107110.
10
See Stillman’s less neutral, Cretan Insurrection, 50-51, 55; and Dakin, The Unification
of Greece, 109-110.
39
proper. The Ottoman Empire, along with its quasi-independent ally Egypt, blockaded the
island and sent large armies to subdue the insurrection. The poorly prepared and lightly
armed rebels proceeded to fight an off-and-on guerilla war for two and half years before
the insurrection unraveled. While pitched battles did occur, so too did long interludes as
the Ottoman and Egyptian forces remained near cities in the coastal perimeter while the
rebels occupied the mountainous interior. Starting with the outbreak of the war,
thousands of Greek Orthodox Cretans11 fled to mainland Greece, the surrounding islands,
and nearby mountains.12
Despite the intermittent nature of fighting on Crete, a lack of reliable information,
and repeated reports of the insurrection’s demise, Crete garnered substantial northern
Republican interest.13 Certainly, there were northern Republicans who hesitated to
embrace the cause of the Cretan rebels and others concerned with developments
11
For brevity’s sake, hereafter referred to merely as Cretans.
12
Arnakis, American Consul in a Cretan War, 17-21.
13
On the lack of reliable information, see M.D. Kalipothakes to Hermann J. Warner,
Aug. 27, 1867, #148, and Phillips Brooks to Greek Relief Committee, Oct. 27, 1867,
#153, in The Cretan Letterbook, Samuel Gridley Howe Papers, Perkins Institute,
Watertown, Mass.; George Mountfort to Frederick William Seward, Feb. 11, 1868,
William Henry Seward Papers, University of Rochester, Rush Rhees Library; “Foreign,”
Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, Jan. 19, 1867, p. 275; “The East,” New York
Times, Feb. 5, 1867, p. 8; and E. Joy Morris to Secretary of State Seward, 28 Nov. 1866,
in U.S. Congress, House of Representatives Executive Documents, no. 38, Revolution in
Candia, 39 Cong. 2 sess., p. 17. On reports that the insurrection had ended, see, “The
Cretan War,” New York Times, June 11, 1867, p. 1; “Foreign News,” Harper’s Weekly,
Aug. 17, 1867, p. 515; “Cretan War Ended!” The Cretan, Dec. 1868, p. 3. With no
telegraph lines running to Crete, news often trickled in through the mail; see, for
example, Chicago Tribune, Feb. 18, 1868; 3 April 1868; May 26, 29, 1868; and June 10,
1868, all on the front page.
40
elsewhere.14 Public interest in the insurrection, moreover, was not so potent as to move a
bedraggled Congress into extended policy debates. The only lengthy speech on the
insurrection in Congress was Representative John Shanks’s (Republican-Indiana) failed
request for official recognition of the Cretan provisional government. Instead, Congress
took only the cautious step of issuing Republican-sponsored statements of sympathy for
the Cretans.15 Yet given the burdens of routine business, the consuming battle between
congressional Republicans and President Andrew Johnson over Reconstruction, the
Ottoman Empire’s friendliness toward the North during the Civil War, and the American
tradition of non-intervention in European power politics, it is noteworthy that Congress
took action at all.16 What is most telling, however, is the confidence with which northern
Republicans presumed a connection between their own allegedly national values and the
Cretans’ struggle.17
14
Groups in Cincinnati, Milwaukee, and Lowell, Massachusetts, for example, politely
declined invitations to start fundraising committees to aid Cretan refugees; see S. Davis
Soles to N. G. Chapin, February 8, 1867, #17; Isley to N. G. Chapin, February 8, 1867,
#16; and Richardson to Warner, February 7, 1867, #12; all in the Cretan Letterbook.
Other foreign affairs also captured Republican attention; see for example Butler, Critical
Americans, 103-105, 106-109.
15
Congressional Globe, 40 Cong., 1 sess., July 19, 1867, p. 727; ibid., 2 sess., July 20,
1868, p. 4253, July 21, 1868, p. 4283, July 25, 1868, p. 4488; and May, “Crete and the
United States, 1866-1869,” 290-292. For criticism of the limited Congressional support,
see The Cretan, “Crete and Congress,” July 1868, 1; “The Subjugated Nationalities of
European Turkey,” 2; and “The Senate Cretan Resolution,” ibid., Aug. 1868, 2-3. A
short summary of Shanks’s speech is available in Marcoglou, The American Interest in
the Cretan Insurrection, 106-109.
16
Marcoglou, The American Interest in the Cretan Revolution, 31-37; Field, America and
the Mediterranean World, 318 ; Congressional Globe, 40 Cong., 3 sess., January 7, 1869,
p. 246; and also, ibid., 2 sess., June 22, 1868, p. 3363.
17
That Republican perceptions drew on longstanding facets of American culture is
apparent in some of the continuities between their reactions to the Cretan Insurrection
41
A handful of northern Republicans became deeply concerned with the uprising.
Particularly active was the American Consul on Crete, the impulsive and hapless William
J. Stillman. Stillman had long supported the causes of European liberation movements
and had once run a botched secret mission for Lajos, or “Louis,” Kossuth, the
unsuccessful Hungarian rebel against Austrian rule. Stillman’s route to Crete began
when he returned from Europe at the start of the Civil War to volunteer for the Union
Army. Failing the necessary medical examination, Stillman proceeded to secure a
diplomatic post in Italy, but after a brief stint in Rome found himself transferred to Crete.
There he quickly fell into antagonisms with local Ottoman officials.18 From the start of
the insurrection on, the defiant but increasingly beleaguered Stillman wrote numerous
dispatches to the State Department and penned articles for The Nation and Atlantic
Monthly. Stillman finally took a leave of absence from Crete in September of 1868 to
recover his nerves and take his family to safety, only to see politicking in Washington
cost him his post. By the time he left the eastern Mediterranean in the summer of 1869,
he was not only impoverished but had lost his wife to suicide, which he attributed to
childbirth, stress, and grief for the Cretans. He wrote The Cretan Insurrection in 1870 –
published in 1874 – and later devoted two chapters to Crete in his Autobiography of a
Journalist.19
and American responses to the Greek War of Independence (1821-1828); see Repousis,
“Greek-American Foreign Relations from Monroe to Truman,” chapters 2 and 5.
18
See Stillman, Autobiography of a Journalist, vol. 1, pp. 142-162, 331-332, 372-74; vol.
2, pp. 377-81, 383-386. Stillman’s stance on southern slavery is difficult to ascertain, but
by the time he wrote his autobiography he oscillated between romanticizing it and
condemning it; see ibid., vol. 1, pp. 284, 288-9.
19
Autobiography of a Journalist, vol. 2, 449-50, 454-56, 457-8, Stillman to Seward,
September 22, November 16, December 6 and 31, 1868, and March 6, June 10, and July
42
Equally prominent was the Boston couple Samuel Gridley Howe and Julia Ward
Howe. Samuel, a renowned northern reformer and longstanding philhellene who had
served as a doctor and soldier in the Greek War of Independence (1821-1828), assumed
the formal leadership of American relief efforts.20 Despite tensions with her husband,
Julia played an active and influential role, especially in mobilizing and organizing relief
support. Like Samuel, Julia had an established interest in European liberal movements,
and, as author of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” she, like her husband, was a
leading opponent of slavery and southern secession.21 The Howes’ efforts on behalf of
the Cretans began with speeches, a pamphlet, and the organization of fundraising
committees in Boston and New York that mustered $37,000 in donations, over 20 cases
of supplies, and nearly 400 breech loading rifles. The Howes then sailed to Greece and
distributed this aid. Returning to Boston, Julia tried her hand at some poems for Crete
and organized another relief fair while the couple published a nearly-monthly magazine,
The Cretan.22
11 and 19, 1869, all available in Arnakis, Articles and Despatches from Crete; and
Stillman, Cretan Insurrection, 59-60. In the 1890s Stillman developed negative racial
attitudes towards Greeks and other Southern Europeans; see ibid., 431-2; and Gemme,
Domesticating Foreign Struggles, 156-162.
20
See Schwartz, Samuel Gridley Howe, 43-48, and chapters 2, 3, 5, and 6. Samuel Howe,
it should be noted, endorsed scientific theories of racial difference, see George
Frederickson, The Black Image in the White Mind, 160-64.
21
Julia Howe, Reminiscences, 218-19, 228-30, 252-59, 261-63, 264-7, 269-77.
22
The American diplomats, humanitarians, and naval officers who visited Greece and
Crete during the insurrection warrant further study. A good starting point is Repousis,
“Greek-American Foreign Relations from Monroe to Truman,” 186-230. On the initial
fundraising, see “Aid for the Cretans,” New York Times, Jan. 27, 1867, p. 8; “The Cretan
Refugees and their American Helpers,” The Cretan, April 1868, p. 2; Julia Ward Howe,
Reminiscences, 1819-1899, 312-3. On the rifles, see Amos A. Lawrence to S. G. Howe,
Feb. 23, 1867, #86, The Cretan Letterbook; S. G. Howe to A. A. Lawrence, Feb. 20, 1867
43
The Howes’ fundraising efforts tapped into a broad base of humanitarian
sympathy most evident in the prosperous and developing Republican strongholds of New
England, New York, western Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and the upper Northwest.23 In
contrast to a business- and Greek-dominated relief fund in London, donations to the
Howes’ Boston committee came overwhelmingly from individuals with no apparent ties
to Crete or Greece.24 Such noteworthy abolitionists as Gerrit Smith, Henry Wadsworth
Longfellow, and the committee’s treasurer Amos A. Lawrence made contributions of
$500, $25, and $200. Less radical Unionists also pitched in. Henry Bellows, a leading
(two letters) and March 1, 4, 6, 1867 and A. A. Lawrence to the Subscribers of the
Greene Rifles, Feb. 22, 1867, Box 21, Papers of Amos A. Lawrence, Massachusetts
Historical Society, Boston. On the distribution of the aid in Greece, see, S. G. Howe to
Peter Ralli & Co, May 11, 1867, Autograph Notes on a Journey to Greece: Rome, 17 Apr
1867-Boston, 11 Feb 1868, vol. 1, Howe Family Manuscripts, Harvard University
Library, Houghton. Julia Howe’s poems are available in, Richards and Elliot, Julia Ward
Howe, 1819-1910, pp. 281-2; and “At Sea – Homeward,” no date, Box 16 of 21, Poems,
Julia Ward Howe Papers, Harvard University Library, Houghton. On the Julia Howe’s
charity fair, see her Reminiscences, 320-321; “Appeal for the Cretan Fair,” The Cretan,
May 1868, p. 4; and Julia Ward Howe Diary, Oct. 30, 1867, Nov. 20, 29, 1867, Dec. 7,
31, 1867 (vol. 4), and Jan. 24, Feb. 14-16, 21, 24, March 1, 17, and April 6, 11, 14, 18
(vol. 5). There is little on the production of The Cretan, but see Julia Ward Howe Diary,
Feb. 21, 1868 (vol. 5).
23
On the geography and social foundation of Republican Party strength, see Foner, Free
Soil, Free Labor, Free Men, 11-39, 106-7; and William Brock, An American Crisis, 24248.
24
Data on donations to the London relief fund are available in “Candian Refugees Relief
Fund”, #74, Cretan Letterbook. Even a conservative estimate of Greek donations to the
London fund, based on the donors’ names, has the Greek share of the total revenue (in
pounds) at 51 percent (3669/7172), with non-Greek business donations constituting
another 24 percent of the total (1713/7172). Samuel Howe commented on the
predominance of Greek merchants in the London relief fund; see his, The Cretan
Refugees and their American Helpers (Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1868), 12. Data on
donations to the Boston and New York City relief funds, discussed below, are available
in ibid., 53-64.
44
conservative clergyman, warmly offered to give Samuel Howe what help he could.25
George Bancroft, who voted for Lincoln in 1864 but remained at least a nominal
Democrat, helped organize fundraising efforts in New York City.26 Support reached
beyond these few notables. The overwhelming majority of donations (roughly 460 out of
571) and over half of the $24,900.41 raised by the Boston committee came from
individuals or small groups of individuals, with donations running from thirty five cents
to Gerrit Smith’s $500 and with a median donation of $10. Many donors to the Boston
fund provided their initials or names, but others merely wrote humble or sympathetic
messages like “A mite for the Cretans” ($10) and “From one who is well and
comfortable” ($20) alongside their donations. Many organized their own charitable
events, including a “Concert of the Ladies of Newport,” ($526.90) and a “Concert in aid
of the Cretans, Harvard Music Asso’n” ($2249.22). With an established role in reform
movements, it is no surprise that women featured prominently in these fundraising events
as well as on Boston’s donor rolls.27 Upon returning from distributing aid in Greece,
Samuel Howe gladly noted the thankfulness of Cretan refugees as they received clothing
made and donated by “thousands of New England women and girls.”28 Other donations
25
Henry W. Bellows to S. G. Howe, January 11, 1867, #45, Cretan Letterbook.
26
Repousis, “Greek-American Foreign Relations from Monroe to Truman,” 200-1;
Lilian Handlin, George Bancroft: The Intellectual as Democrat (New York: Harper &
Row, 1984), pp. 268-281; and “Help for the Cretans,” New York Times, January 20, 1867,
p. 8
27
Julie Roy Jeffrey, The Great Silent Army of Abolitionism: Ordinary Women in the
Antislavery Movement (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998). Even if
one presumes all anonymous or initialized donation came from males, roughly one out of
eight (79/571) donations to the Boston committee came from women or groups of
women, compared to roughly one out of twenty (12/204) for the London committee.
28
Samuel Howe, The Cretan Refugees and their American Helpers, 41.
45
came from churches, schools, towns, an orphanage, and from as far away as McKendree
College in Illinois ($26) and Milwaukee ($25). Though lacking a formal committee,
Philadelphia contributed $1739.54 to the Boston fund. Boston’s sister committee in
America’s commercial capital of New York City not surprisingly drew more heavily on
businesses.29 Again, however, small donations made their way in from individuals, a
church, a school, and from as far away as Rochester, New York, Fairfield, Ohio, and
Dodgeville, Wisconsin.
Northern Republican interest in the Cretan Insurrection reached further still with
the help of newspapers, magazines, and lectures. Initially motivated in part by the
insurrection’s geopolitical significance, Republican papers including the New York
Times, the New York Tribune, the Chicago Tribune, and the Sacramento Daily Union all
offered front-page coverage when news was available. Leading papers in a business that
was vital to American politics and culture, these opinionated dailies quickly integrated
discussions of Crete into their constant editorializing.30 Similarly, prominent magazines
including The Nation, Harper’s Weekly, and The Atlantic Monthly, covered the
insurrection and sought to explain its meaning. Finally, there were the public speeches.
Wendell Phillips and Samuel Howe were among the more notable to give speeches in
Boston in January, 1867 and March, 1868, while Henry Ward Beecher spoke in New
29
Nearly 70 percent of the $12,364.01 came from 60 different businesses, a small
number of which appear to be Greek.
30
On the importance of newspapers in political and cultural life in the postbellum United
States, see Mark W. Summers, The Press Gang: News and Politics, 1865-1878 (Chapel
Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994), 1-6, 9-21.
46
York City in January, 1867.31 When English author and visitor to Crete J.E.H. Skinner
lectured in Chicago in 1868, the Chicago Tribune reported that “Everyone” in his full
audience had “read and heard of” the most dramatic event of the insurrection, the Turkish
attack on the Orthodox monastery of Arkadi in November of 1866.32 Similarly, Stewart
L. Woodford, the Lieutenant Governor of New York, gave an “interesting and eloquent
lecture on Crete” in Steinway Hall, also in April of 1868, and “was listened to with deep
attention by the large audience present.”33
But it was Stillman who sounded the earliest note of what would be a mounting
chorus of Republican sympathy. At the beginning of the insurrection, the Cretan rebels
delivered to Stillman an appeal addressed to President Andrew Johnson, which he then
sent on to Secretary of State William Seward. Despite Stillman’s expectation that the
insurrection would prove futile, he stressed to Seward that “every word” of the appeal
was “wrung from patriotic hearts by bitter and most unmerited oppression.” Stillman
added that, if “the people of America” could only see how “a barbarous and licentious
soldiery,” drove Cretans from their homes, destroyed churches, and “paralyzed” industry,
31
“The Cretan Refugees and their American Helpers,” 2-3; “Intervention,” The Cretan,
May 1868, p. 2; Richards and Elliot, Julia Ward Howe, 260-61; Samuel Howe, “An
Appeal to the People of the United States to Relieve from Starvation the Women and
Children of the Greeks of the Island of Crete,” (Boston: n.p., 1867); and “Aid for the
Cretans,” New York Times, Jan. 27, 1867, p. 8. The Howes also spoke at the Cooper
institute in New York on January 26, 1867, see “The Cretan Meeting” New York World,
January 26, 1867, p. 4.
32
“The Island of Crete,” Chicago Tribune, April 18, 1868, p. 2.
33
“Crete,” New York Times, April 24, 1868, p. 5; Stewart L. Woodford, Crete: An
Address (Albany: Weed, Parsons, and Company, 1868).
47
they could not help but be moved.34
In December of 1866, Stillman again described to
Seward how the insurrection had been “conducted with so much heroism and constancy
on one side and savage barbarity on the other.” Stillman explained: “The sympathy I
ought to feel for a people aspiring to freedom was, thus, much increased by the injustice
of the Government and still more by its subsequent barbarity and excessive cruelty.”35
Stillman did not hesitate to conclude that he was moved to sympathy for the rebels
because of his “American instincts.”36
Northern newspapers and magazines similarly stressed the “barbarity” of Ottoman
rule and their sympathy for Cretan independence. The Ottoman attack on Cretan soldiers
and civilians in the monastery of Arkadi in November of 1866 became the most infamous
episode of supposed savagery. In its February 2, 1867 edition, Harper’s Weekly provided
an overview of the insurrection that dwelt on Arkadi. The Cretans, argued Harper’s,
34
William J. Stillman to William Seward, Aug. 18, 1866, available in Arnakis, Articles
and Despatches from Crete, 35-7.
35
William J. Stillman to William Seward, Dec. 29 1866, no. 35, p. 3, 5, Despatches from
Crete, General Records of the Department of State, RG 59, National Archives,
Washington, D.C. See also, “Letter from Dr. Howe,” The Cretan, April 1868, p. 8.
36
See William J. Stillman to Wiliam Seward, Aug. 18, 1866, available in Arnakis,
Articles and Despatches from Crete, 35. Edward Morris, a former Whig Congressmen
and the American Minister to Constantinople during the insurrection, as well as A.S.
York, the American Consul on the Greek island of Zante, and Mr. Rousseau, an
American diplomat in Vienna, expressed similar sentiments; see Morris to Seward, Aug.
28, 1866 and Nov. 2, 1866, House of Representatives Executive Document, Revolution in
Candia, 7-8, 13; A.S. York to William Seward, Jan. 11, 1867, Despatches from Zante,
General Records of the State Department, RG 59; and “Foreign,” Daily Memphis
Avalanche, Jan. 17, 1867, p. 2; Repousis, “Greek-American Foreign Relations from
Monroe to Truman,” 186-230; May, “Crete and the United States,” 289-91. U.S. naval
officers visiting Greece also demonstrated “American” sympathy, see James E.
Montgomery, Our Admiral’s Flag Abroad. The Cruise of Admiral D.G. Farragut,
Commanding the European Squadron in 1867-68, in the Flag-Ship Franklin (New York:
G.P. Putnam & Son, 1869), 412-14, 432-3; and May, “Crete and the United States, 18661869,” 292.
48
were motivated not only by “a common patriotic desire that Crete should be governed by
Cretans,” but also by a “system of continued cruelties” that had “few parallels on record.”
Harper’s claimed that while both sides fought with intense hatred in the current struggle,
it was the Turkish Muslims who were guilty of “slaughtering without mercy to wreak
their vengeance.” As Harper’s explained, the Cretans were “enduring great suffering,
and even ending their own lives” to avoid being “borne away as captives of the infidel
Moslem.” Harper’s then added that “The most tragic event” in this war was the attack on
Arkadi and included an account thereof from the Levant Herald – an English language
paper in Istanbul. The Herald reported that a much larger Turkish force bombarded the
monastery and its resilient rebels and refugee women and children for four days. When
the attackers finally breached Arkadi’s outer walls, the rebel soldiers put up a desperate
fight in the courtyard before taking refuge in the cellars, while hundreds of women and
children barricaded themselves in the refectory. With these last defenses collapsing,
reported the Levant Herald, the remaining insurgents resolved to destroy the monastery,
their attackers, and themselves by igniting their store of powder.37
Harper’s Weekly drove home this depiction of rebel dignity with a “vivid sketch”
from a Cretan resident of Istanbul familiar with the monastery (see Figure 2.1). In it,
Cretan soldiers fight in the background while men and women together strain to hold shut
the last door between themselves and the Ottoman forces, represented by only an axe
blade and a spear point. At the center of the illustration a Cretan woman clutches a naked
babe to her body and defiantly stares at the door while Orthodox priests standing near her
37
“The War in Crete,” 68-9; see also “Home and Foreign Gossip,” Harper’s Weekly.,
June 6, 1868, p. 363. For a brief statement that describes the decision as more impulsive,
see “A Cretan Blockade-Runner,” New York Times, Jan. 6, 1867, p. 4.
49
carry out the decision to ignite the powder. Original authorship of the sketch
notwithstanding, its message to Harper’s readers was clear. Faced with an unrelenting
Turkish onslaught, the Cretan rebels fought bravely and unceasingly. When
overpowered, they preferred death to having their women and children fall into the hands
of the Turks, long maligned as lustful and cruel. At approximately the same time as
Figure 2.1: Titled “The War in Crete—the Attack on the Monastery of Arcadi—[From an
Original Sketch],” this illustration appeared in Harper’s Weekly (February 2, 1867, p.
68).
Harper’s article on Akardi, the New York state legislature passed a concurrent resolution
expressing “sympathy for the Greeks, who are now struggling for freedom,” and urging
“our national government to protest against the barbarous and inhuman system of warfare
50
adopted by the Turks.”38 For many Republican sympathizers, Arkadi was a definitive
statement, or as Stewart Woodford described it, “the cry of all Crete for liberty or
death.”39
The fame of Arkadi in America could compel coverage even among skeptics.
Although Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper had an insatiable fascination with foreign
developments and cultures, it initially derided American interest in the Cretan
Insurrection. Leslie’s rejected the thought of Protestant sympathy flowing to Greek
Orthodox Cretans and argued that, at any rate, America’s tradition of non-intervention in
European diplomacy left little room for action.40 Its wariness, however, did not prevent
Leslie’s from repeatedly covering Arkadi, nor from conceding that the insurrection was
“exciting great attention all over the civilized world.”41 Nor did Leslie’s abandon
coverage of the insurrection after the attack. As it explained nearly a year later, Crete had
so “engrossed the attention and enlisted the sympathies of the public” that the paper was
“induced” to better cover the insurrection.42
38
U.S. Congress, House of Representatives Miscellaneous Documents, Sympathy for the
Greek: Concurrent Resolution of the Legislature of New York, expressive of Sympathy for
the Greeks, who are now struggling for freedom, no. 58, 39 Cong., 2 sess; see also, ibid.,
Resolutions of the legislature of Maine expressing sympathy for the Cretans in their
struggle for independence, no. 9, 40 Cong., 2 sess.
39
Woodford, Crete, 18.
40
See “Our Interest in the Levant,” Frank Leslies Illustrated Newspaper, Oct. 20, 1866,
p. 66.
41
“Attack upon the Convent of Arkadi, Crete,” ibid., March 2, 1867, p. 372; see also
“The Convent of Arkadi, Crete, at the moment of the assault and explosion,” ibid., Feb.
16, 1867, pp. 340-1.
42
“The Cretan Question,” ibid., Oct. 12, 1867, p. 50; see also “Mexico and the United
States,” Putnam’s Monthly Magazine, May 1869, pp. 618-21.
51
In their discussions of the insurrection, northern Republican also tapped into their
faith in commerce, technology, domesticity, and free labor. Writing for Atlantic Monthly,
Stillman repeatedly measured Ottoman misrule through the island’s poverty and lack of
modern infrastructure. He explained how towns such as Canea suffered from
“dilapidation and decay,” while “wretchedness of the roads” and “benighted restrictions”
on cabotage stifled farmers.43 When Stillman came across a bridge that had fallen into
disrepair he opined, “Under the Turks, nothing but decay obtains.”44 Stillman similarly
argued that once the “Mohammedan blight” was removed from the rural plain of
Cydonia, the “prosperity and security” of classical days would return, for only “freedom
is wanting now to restore both.”45 The height of the Howes’ revulsion was reserved for
the alleged Turkish disregard for the sheltering ties of sentimental family life. As Samuel
Howe explained it, Turkish treatment of “boys, girls, and women,” violated civilized
norms and was “often so cruel and so abominable that one can hardly find
comprehensible language in which to speak of it.”46 Free labor was apparent in the New
York Times’s characterization of the Ottoman Muslims as “vapid and indolent” and
43
“Cretan Days,” Atlantic Monthly, Nov. 1867, pp. 533-39; ibid., Mar. 1868, p. 326-27;
see also “The Cretan Refugees and their American Helpers,” 2-3.
44
“Cretan Days,” ibid., Aug. 1868, p. 226; see also “The Subjugated Nationalities of
European Turkey,” 1-2.
45
“Cretan Days,” Atlantic Monthly, Nov. 1867, pp. 533-535, 538–539. See also ibid.,
Aug. 1868, p. 222; and “Cretan Liberty and Cretan Commerce,” The Cretan, May 1868,
p. 7.
46
“Letter from Dr. Howe,” 8; see also “The Subjugated Nationalities of European
Turkey,” 2-3; “The Turks and the Cretans,” New York Times, Aug. 11, 1867, p. 4; “The
Cretan War,” New York Tribune, reprinted in the Sacramento Daily Union, Oct. 1, 1867,
p. 3; Kaplan, The Anarchy of Empire in the Making of U.S. Culture, 23-50.
52
Stillman’s claim that the Christian Cretan was the island’s “only industrious citizen.”47
The Ottomans, in these depictions, destroyed the emotional and economic bonds that
drove progress.
The insurrection’s geopolitical implications also piqued northern Republican
interest. As northern Republicans were well aware, the Ottoman Empire’s grasp on its
European provinces was tenuous. In an article titled, “The Eastern Question—Crete the
Opening Wedge,” the New York Times informed its readers of the “growing significance
of the Cretan outbreak,” which it believed would spread revolution throughout the
Ottoman Empire.48 A later article, “The Clouds Accumulating–Turkey About to Fall to
Pieces,” argued that the backwards, theocratic empire would soon collapse before the
age’s “irresistible spirit of progress.”49 The New York Tribune similarly boasted how its
foreign correspondents roamed from the capitals of Europe to “Constantinople, where an
effete Mohammedanism struggles in vain against the aggressive spirit of Christian
civilization.”50
Yet northern Republicans also realized that Great Britain and France, seeking to
prevent Russian expansion towards the Mediterranean, were powerful backers of
47
“The Clouds Accumulating—Turkey About to Fall to Pieces,” New York Times,
January 31, 1867, p. 4; “Cretan Days,” Atlantic Monthly, Aug. 1868, p. 224. For a more
critical view, see Karl Blind, “Hellenic Nationality in the East,” Putnam’s Magazine,
Nov. 1869, p. 568.
48
“The Eastern Question—Crete the Opening Wedge,” New York Times, Oct. 16, 1866,
p. 4.
49
“The Clouds Accumulating—Turkey About to Fall to Pieces,” 4. See also “Foreign
News,” Harper’s Weekly, April 20, 1867, p. 243 and ibid., “The Eastern Question,” Jan.
18, 1868, p. 35.
50
“Our Foreign Correspondents,” New York Tribune, Oct. 16 1866, p. 4.
53
Ottoman territorial integrity.51 Republican sympathizers, therefore, were quick to
ridicule Great Britain and France as callous global powers. Samuel Howe argued that
Crete had originally been denied independence alongside Greece because European
powers, acting like “Asiatic despots,” had heartlessly “sacrificed” the island “to propitiate
Turkey.”52 The English became the target of much northern Republican ire, in part no
doubt because of traditional American Anglophobia and Great Britain’s ongoing
diplomatic quarrels with the Union.53 The Sacramento Daily Union asserted that the
English elite had a “habitual indifference to moral and human considerations” and would
help sustain “A loathsome, heathen despotism” to prevent Russian expansion.54
Similarly, when the Sultan went on a diplomatic tour of Europe, a correspondent for the
New York Tribune referred to it as a “magnificent farce,” in which “enthusiastic
Englishmen” had sullied themselves by stooping “down on their knees in the mud before
him.” 55 Once again Harper’s Weekly gave graphic expression to northern Republican
sentiment (See Figure 2.2). Responding to the Sultan’s diplomatic visit to England,
51
A. J. May, “Crete and the United States, 1866-1869”; and Dontas, Greece and the
Great Powers, 1863-1875; Abbott, “The Eastern Question,” 456-65; “The Appeal of
Crete,” Harper’s Weekly, Feb. 2, 1867, pp. 66-67, and “Europe Ready for an Explosion,”
Sacramento Daily Union, Oct. 7, 1867, p. 4.
52
“The Cretan Refugees and their American Helpers,” 2-3; see also “The Clouds
Accumulating—Turkey About to Fall to Pieces,” 4; Congressional Globe, 40 Cong., 3d
sess., January 7, 1869, p. 244. The Great Powers did, in fact, make some effort at
mediation; see Maureen M. Robson, “Lord Clarendon and the Cretan Question, 1868-9,”
The Historical Journal, 3 (1960): 38-55.
53
William Brock “The Image of England and American Nationalism,” Journal of
American Studies, 5 (Dec. 1971): 225-245.
54
“The Eastern Question,” The Sacramento Daily Union, Nov. 3, 1866, p. 2.
55
“The Cretan War,” republished in Sacramento Daily Union, Oct. 1, 1867, p. 3.
54
Figure 2.2.: “Which is the infidel?” asks this cartoon from Harper’s Weekly (August 17,
1868, p. 528).
Harper’s issued a political cartoon portraying John Bull stooping to kiss the hand of the
Sultan and singing “God preserve thee, Sultan, long;/Ever keep thee from all woes:/May
the State and thee be strong,/To dismay and resist thy foes!” The Sultan, meanwhile,
whispers to his Grand Vizier, “These infidel John Bulls don’t see those little Massacres
of their Christian brethren in Crete,” while Turkish flags float over a hillside attack on
Cretan Christians in the background.56
56
“Which is the Infidel,” Harper’s Weekly, Aug. 17, 1867, p. 528; see also “The Tragedy
of Crete,” Aug. 31, 1867, p. 547. For a more nuanced analysis of British opinion, see Ann
Pottinger Saab, “The Doctors’ Dilemma: Britain and the Cretan Crisis, 1866-1869,”
Journal of Modern History 49, supplement, (1977): D1383-D1407. In 1876, of course,
55
Set against England, the Ottoman Empire, and Great Power diplomacy was the
United States. Stillman, for one, stepped beyond his limited consular duties to ask
Secretary of State Seward, “May the friends of humanity not hope that America will lead
off in a question where no political interest can stain the purity of her motives?”57 Going
further, The Cretan argued that prompt recognition of Cretan independence would
“diffuse the lesson throughout Christendom” that America remained an uncompromising
and unmatched defender of “freedom, civilization, virtue, and Christianity.”58 Although
the Times, like Frank Leslie’s, warned against formal American entanglement in the
“Eastern Question,” it also argued, offering Crete as an example, that America had a
unique obligation to master diplomacy. “Untrammeled by the traditional and selfish
policy of the old dynasties,” claimed the Times, “the friends of freedom and progress
throughout the world justly expect from the United States an attitude of intelligent
sympathy toward them.”59 The Sacramento Daily Union was more ambitious. It
suggested that Europe recognized the Union’s newfound strength and reminded readers
that European monarchs had long interfered in American affairs. “What if,” asked the
Union, “the republic should venture to retaliate, and begin to exercise an intervening
William Gladstone became a leading critic of Ottoman suppression of Bulgaria; see
Robert Kelley, The Transatlantic Persuasion: the Liberal-Democratic Mind in the Age of
Gladstone, (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1989), 218-220. Some
Republicans lauded Russia, a Union ally and Ottoman rival; see, for example, “The
Prayer of the Greeks,” Sacramento Daily Union, Oct. 2, 1866, p. 2, “The Aggressive
Powers,” ibid., Oct. 18, 1866, p. 2; and “What May Happen in Europe,” ibid., Oct. 10,
1867, p. 2.
57
William J. Stillman to Seward, Dec. 29, 1866, Despatches from Crete, General Records
of the Department of State.
58
“Cretan Liberty and Cretan Commerce,” 6.
59
“American Diplomacy,” New York Times, Sept. 19, 1868, p. 4.
56
influence in European affairs in favor of free institutions?” Surely, claimed the Union,
this could bring American diplomacy in line with “the strength and mission of the
republic,” without necessarily leading to war.60
Though the American government declined to take such bold action, northern
Republicans continued to profess national sympathies for the Cretans. The Cretan took
President Andrew Johnson, an increasingly bitter opponent of Republican domestic
policy, to be the villain behind diplomatic inaction. An address to Congress published in
The Cretan argued that supporters of the insurrection had “the right to expect and
demand, that, as soon as the existing administration is overthrown, there shall be a radical
change of our foreign policy.”61 The Cretan similarly lambasted Johnson’s Secretary of
State William Seward, a moderate Republican who actually had some sympathy for the
Cretans, for failing to recognize the provisional government of Crete.62 Scorning the
administration, the Howes found consolation in their belief that the Cretan rebels were
“virtually” recognized “by the American people.”63 “America can save Crete,” The
Cretan once quipped, “even if Mr. Seward does not buy it.”64
60
“The Prayer of the Greeks,” 2.
61
“To Members of Congress,” The Cretan, April 1868, p. 1.
62
On Seward, see Field, America and the Mediterranean World, 318; “Our Government
and the Cretans,” New York Times, February 6, 1867, p. 4. On The Cretan’s criticism, see
also “Policy vs. Statesmanship. –Diplomacy vs. Wisdom.—Government vs. Justice,”
May 1868, p. 1; “The Subjugated Nationalities of European Turkey,” 2; “Crete and
Spain,” Dec. 1868, p. 2.
63
“Crete and Spain,” 2; see also “American Influences Abroad,” The Cretan, Nov. 1868,
p. 3.
64
“The Cretan Refugees and their American Helpers,” 2-3.
57
This was wishful thinking. Not only would America fail to save Crete, but
Andrew Johnson was not to blame. Johnson, in fact, had put up no apparent opposition
to congressional statements of sympathy for the Cretans; although according to his
Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles, he signed at least one of them only through
inattention.65 The Howes faced more fundamental difficulties. As with French imperial
rule of Mexico (1861-1865) and the Ten Years’ War in Cuba (1868-1878), northern
Republicans disagreed over policy and in some cases basic points of interpretation.66
Republicans like Samuel Howe were willing to abandon a tradition of non-intervention in
European diplomacy and throw America’s weight, whatever it was, behind Cretan
independence. One former Union cavalryman with ties to the eastern Mediterranean,
Sidney DeKay, even joined the insurrection, where he led a failed attempt to blow a hole
in the hull of an anchored Turkish frigate.67 But while moderate Republican newspapers
like the New York Times might laud such valor, they spurned formal American
involvement.68 Congress, likewise, was unresponsive to Representative Shanks’s
ambitious call for recognition of Cretan independence. Without constant, reliable, and
promising news from Crete, moreover, it was difficult for popular opinion to become
65
See July 23, 1867, in Diary of Gideon Welles: Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln
and Johnson, 3 vols. (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1911) vol. 3,
138-9, and Sept. 1, 1868, ibid., 425.
66
Glyndon Van Deusen, William Henry Seward (New York: Oxford University Press,
1967), 489-91, 496; Thomas Bailey, A Diplomatic History of the American People (New
York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1969), 351-55; Sexton, “The United States, the Cuban
Rebellion, and the Multilateral Initiative of 1875,” 338-45.
67
Skinner, Roughing it in Crete, 207-211, 212-15; Field, America and the Mediterranean
World, 319. DeKay was accompanied by L. D. Rodokanachis, a Greek-American who
had served in the Union navy.
68
“An American Officer Fallen in Crete,” New York Times, Oct. 7, 1867, p. 4.
58
more invested in the insurrection. Yet what is remarkable is that northern Republicans
showed no hesitation in discussing Crete, even in the midst of intense domestic political
and social strife. This was because the struggles for civilization and republicanism
allegedly at the heart of their own nation were themselves held to defy borders. The
absence of a simple and rigid divide between foreign and domestic affairs was most
apparent in the border-crossing analogies northern Republicans made as they discussed
Crete.69
Northern Republicans were quick to refer back to domestic stereotypes and
historical memories when discussing the Cretan Insurrection. Interpretations of the Civil
War, for one, came into play. Stillman, for example, stressed the connection to Seward
by explaining that he had followed developments in Crete “with no less anxiety than that
I felt during our own struggle with the criminal organization of the enemies of
Freedom.”70 Likewise, Stewart Woodford, in his speech in New York City, argued that
the Cretans were motivated by the same spirit as Garibaldi’s Italians and the Union’s
“citizen soldiery.”71 Similarly, the Howes explained, tersely, that reports of the
insurrection’s demise had the “internal marks of having being [sic] written in
Constantinople, by a copper-head employee of a republican government,” who had
69
On border crossing analogies, see also Gemme, Domesticating Foreign Struggles, 11624.
70
William J. Stillman to Seward, Dec. 29, 1866, Despatches from Crete, General Records
of the Department of State; see also, A.A. Lawrence to the subscribers for the Green
rifles, Feb. 22, 1867 box 21, 1867, Papers of Amos A. Lawrence.
71
Woodford, Crete, 14.
59
espoused “anti-American and despotic ideas.”72 The alleged disregard of the “Turks” for
the affective bonds of the sentimental family found expression through comparisons to
the Confederate prison of Andersonville. As the New York Times declared, “We are
accustomed to shrink from contemplating the miseries of Andersonville; but they were
perpetrated upon men—soldiers who had braved the horrors of war.” The Times
demanded to know, “Shall such horrors go on, and the Christian world stand mute and
unprotesting?”73
Analogies ranged as far as Mormon Utah and conquered Poland and as near as the
South. Samuel Howe wrote that, while Cretan Christians could appeal to local officials,
“so might once the unhappy negro in the center of Alabama (may perhaps again) apply to
a white justice of the peace against his master!” Likewise, the Turkish rulers suffered
under “the curse which slavery brought upon our Southern slavocrats; to wit, the power
to make other men do their sweating.” 74 To those who thought Crete too distant to be of
interest, Harper’s Weekly countered that many had once felt similarly about southern
slavery.75 Differences mattered too. Stillman, focusing on prosperity, lamented a Cretan
waterfront that resembled New York harbor but supported only a “tumble-down town.”76
72
“Cretan War Ended!” 3; see also “The Turks and the Copperheads,” New York Times,
Jan. 23, 1867, p. 4.
73
“The Turks and the Cretans,” 4; see also, “Crete,” Harper’s Weekly, Jan. 23, 1869, p.
51.
74
“The Subjugated Nationalities of European Turkey,” 1, 2.
75
“Crete,” Harper’s Weekly, Jan. 23, 1869, p. 51.
76
“Cretan Days,” Atlantic Monthly, Aug. 1868, p. 222; see also “Cretan Liberty and
Cretan Commerce,” The Cretan, May 1868, p. 7; and “The Clouds Accumulating—
Turkey About to Fall to Pieces,” 4.
60
The Cretan routinely equated the “Turks,” with their allegedly insatiable lusts and disdain
for the family, with Mormons.77 It claimed, for example, that “The English Government,
the quondam champion of the slave Confederacy, sees fit to be also the champion of a
Mormon Empire.”78 And The Cretan could only hope that America would cease indirect
support for the “Mohammedan and Mormon slavocrats in the east” as it had its support
for the “Southern slavocrats.”79 Then there were comparisons to other European
nationalist movements and to Native Americans. When explaining how the “barbarous
nature of Turkish warfare” had produced so many Cretan refugees, Samuel Howe noted
that, “Even the Polish peasant did not thus fly before Russian armies; and the only
parallel is to be found among barbarians, or savages on our own frontier.”80
Representative Shanks went further and argued that the Ottoman forces, desperate to
subdue the Cretans, massacred them with a “cruelty of which is without parallel even
among the annals of the Apache.”81
Paradoxically, even as these analogies blurred the distinction between things
foreign and domestic, they reaffirmed the northern Republicans’ sense of national
mission. So assured of their purpose in the world, northern Republicans rarely
77
On the equation of Mormons, Turks, and slaveholders, see also chapter 3 below.
78
“The Situation in Crete,” 7; see also, “The Cretan Cause,” The Cretan, July 1868, p. 4;
“Mormonism in Turkey,” ibid., p. 5; “The Pursuit of a Fair Under Difficulties,” ibid., p.
6; “Turkish Massacres.—Official Statistics,” ibid., Oct. 1868, p. 2; and Congressional
Globe, 40 Cong., 3 sess., January 7, 1869, p. 246.
79
“Prospectus of the Cretan,” The Cretan, Aug. 1868, p. 4.
80
“The Cretan Refugees and their American Helpers,” 3; see also “Schuyler Colfax and
His Fenian Friends,” New York Times, May 8, 1867, p. 5.
81
Congressional Globe, 40 Cong., 3 sess., January 7, 1869, p. 244
61
questioned whether there were alternative paths to freedom, progress, or human welfare
in general. The result was a tension within their own beliefs concerning the foreignness
of the Greeks. Certainly, there was little doubt about the Turks, who, as the supposed
embodiment of barbarism, were despicably foreign to northern Republicans’ allegedly
national instincts. Describing the Greeks as independent, diligent, intelligent, and
cultivated, northern Republicans rarely took Greek particularities as manifestations of
barbarism.82 Instead, as leading abolitionist Wendell Phillips argued, Cretan
distinctiveness merely underscored claims to independence and union with Greece
proper. As he asserted before a sympathetic Boston audience, “Crete stretches her arm
across the Atlantic, and asks us to protest against Europe, and to advocate the American
idea that every nation has the right to govern itself.”83 Yet, occasionally northern
Republicans undercut their own presumed affinities with the insurrection by criticizing
the Greeks, especially for having a Monarch and an established, non-Protestant church.84
It was none other than Julia Howe who upon returning home jokingly mentioned her
82
“Cretan Days,” Atlantic Monthly, Aug. 1868, p. 224; “The Subjugated Nationalities of
European Turkey,” 1; Edward J. Morris to Secretary of State Seward, Sept. 29, 1866,
House of Representatives Executive Documents, Revolution in Candia, 10-11.
83
“Intervention,” 2. See also, “Actual Condition of the Cretan Struggle,” The Cretan,
May 1868, p. 3; “The Greek Race,” ibid., July 1868, p. 3; Edward. Morris to Secretary of
State Seward, Sept. 29, 1866, in House of Representatives Executive Documents,
Revolution in Candia, 10-11.
84
See Julia Howe, From the Oak to the Olive. A Plan of a Pleasant Journey (Boston:
Lee & Shepard,1868), 173-4, 222-233; Julia Ward Howe Diary, vol. 5, February 7, 1868,
Howe Family Papers, Harvard University Library, Houghton; and S.G.W. Benjamin,
“Historical Sketch of Crete,” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, May 1867, 758-64.
Harper’s Weekly once described the Greek Orthodox Cretans as “semi-barbarous,” but
blamed Ottoman oppression; see “Crete,” Harper’s Weekly, Jan. 23, 1869, p. 51.
62
work “Flinging the Ministers over the Banisters.”85 One cannot help but wonder whether
some Greeks similarly doubted the depth of ideological accord when Samuel Howe used
relief funds to establish industrial schools where refugees would be saved from
idleness.86 Yet even in the face of cultural differences, northern Republicans maintained
a faith in the Greek potential for American progress. As The Cretan wrote of refugee
children at those American-run schools:
they will be imbued to some extent with American ideas. Every scholar will
grow up with a knowledge of, and partiality for, our people and for our
institutions. They will be half Americans. They will be native missionaries
from this generation to succeeding ones.87
Given such beliefs, it is not surprising that at least a few northern sympathizers
figured that American control of Crete would serve just as well, if not better, than its
union with Greece. A flyer addressed to “the people of the United States” by one
New York National Reconstruction Club proposed exactly this. Following the not
uncommon practice of referring to Crete by its old Venetian name Candia, it urged
the United States to acquire the island. Doing so would provide a naval and
commercial outpost in the Levant, which, the flyer argued, would soon be largely
free from Ottoman control. Acquisition of the island would also mean a territory “in
which we may establish American Institutions.” Believing erroneously that the
Ottoman government could not defeat the insurrection, the Club asserted that it
85
Richards and Elliot, Julia Ward Howe,281-2.
86
“The Cretan Refugees and their American Helpers,” 3-4; “The Cretan Industrial
Schools at Athens,” The Cretan, July 1868, p. 7; “Our Schools in Athens,” ibid., August
1868, p. 5-6.
87
“American Influences Abroad,” 3.
63
would be glad to sell the island. “Let us acquire Candia,” the flyer confidently
suggested, “our commerce requires it, our mission among the Nations demands it.”88
***
Democrats, North and South, also interpreted the Cretan Insurrection and
particularly northern Republican interest in it. The Constitution of Atlanta, the New York
World, the Richmond Enquirer and Sentinel, and the Daily Memphis Avalanche were
among those who challenged northern Republican understandings of the insurrection.
For Democrats, Crete became a means of expressing both their sectional grievances –
particularly against Radical Republicans – and a rival strain of nationalism that wedded
ideals to a rigid and pronounced understanding of race. While northern Republicans no
doubt harbored racial prejudices, the concept of race generally remained loosely defined
and latent in their discussion of the insurrection. Democrats, in contrast, stressed the
irrevocable superiority of specific peoples and the obligations of northerners to their
fellow “whites” in the South.
The Constitution was a particularly spirited critic, focusing its derision on
“Yankee” humanitarian sympathy. When Charles Sumner introduced a congressional
resolution expressing sympathy for the Cretans, The Constitution described his Senate
foreign relations committee as having, “resolved itself into a universal sympathetic
society.” The “Radical party,” it further complained, “sheds tears over the down-trodden
everywhere, and its wailings for the distressed go forth into the uttermost parts of the
earth.” The Constitution lamented that underlying this sympathy was a belief that, “all
88
Available in Charles Keating Tuckerman to Frederick William Seward, Jul. 1, 1867,
William Henry Seward Papers, University of Rochester, Rush Rhees Library. On postbellum Republican expansionism, see Foner, Reconstruction, 495.
64
are bound by a common brotherhood.” “No stretch of distance,” argued The
Constitution, “can annihilate [the Radical party’s] tender feelings for suffering
humanity.”89 The Constitution further accused the Radical Republicans of moralistic
arrogance. At the heart of the Radicals’ “transcendental faith” was its claim “to be the
missionary through which the world shall be converted from heathenism to its
progressive ideas.”90 Boston, home of the Howes, attracted a heavy dose of criticism.
She was, claimed The Constitution, “the center of this great moral solar system,” and
“arrogates to herself the lead in all schemes” to uplift the oppressed people of the world.91
As The Constitution described it, Boston’s perspective was that, “she being the center of
the universe, all must obey.”92 The New York World similarly criticized what it saw as
the self-righteous grandstanding of the “Cretan Committee” in New York City. It
suggested that the committee forgo the cause of Crete and instead raise funds to save a
group of now-destitute missionary settlers who had left Maine for Palestine in 1866.
While mocking these “Main-iacs who left the land of lumber” as religiously fanatical
“Yankees of the Yankees,” the New York World still believed that as fellow white
Americans, the “Main-iacs” deserved aid. The World, however, doubted that
Republicans would take up an issue that was “not a tempting one for orators.”93 Over a
89
“Canting Sympathies,” Constitution, July 31, 1868, p. 2. See also “Foreign versus
Home Philanthropy,” Constitution, June 19, 1868, p. 2. On the antebellum origins of
such accusations, see Joel Silbey, The Partisan Imperative: The Dynamics of American
Politics before the Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985), 166-189.
90
“Foreign versus Home Philanthropy,” 2.
91
Ibid.
92
“Canting Sympathies,” 2.
93
“Work for the Cretan Committee,” New York World, Feb. 1, 1867, p. 4.
65
year later the World argued that Bostonians were too in love with themselves to grasp the
complexities and dangers of the Cretan insurrection.94
Democrats further alleged that northern Republicans were hypocritical. Most
obviously, they now supported an act of rebellion. After explaining to its readers that
Boston was now home to “a paper devoted to the cause of the rebel Cretans,” The
Constitution cautioned its readers not to be alarmed. Even “cold and stoic Boston,” The
Constitution explained with derision, “has a heart; and even rebels are touching it to
tenderness and tears.”95 Like northern Republicans, Democrats explained Crete through
analogies to their domestic experiences. The New York World, for one, suggested that,
“Being copperheads in respect to Crete,” Republicans sympathizers should “show
consistent courage in their opinions, and become copperheads also in respect to the
South.”96
Yet the perceived hypocrisy ran deeper still, for northern Republicans not only
sympathized with rebels but did so despite their domination of the South, which
purportedly matched and exceeded Turkish tyranny and cruelty. The Daily Memphis
Avalanche was sure that even the Radical Republicans could not honestly expect the rest
of the world to ignore “the fact that the North is doing to the South of this country just
what Turkey is trying to do to Greece.” Like Turkey, claimed the Avalanche, the North
sought to “strip a gallant race of the rights of self-government” and impose its own ideas
94
“A Bostonian War in the East,” ibid., June 10, 1868, p. 4.
95
“Foreign versus Home Philanthropy,” 2. The Howes and others countered that such
accusations were superficial; see “Cretan Liberty and Cretan Commerce,” 6; and
Congressional Globe, 40 Cong., 3 sess., January 7, 1869, p. 244
96
“The Cretan Meeting,” 4.
66
at bayonet point.97 The New York World mocked the northern Republicans' attempts to
get Americans “to discriminate in a question of legitimate rule between New Englanders
in black satin waistcoats holding sway in Washington, and Turks in green silk Turbans
exercising dominion at Constantinople.”98 The Richmond Enquirer & Sentinel went
further, alleging that, despite all the “usual gabble about the inhumanity of Russia to the
Poles, the Turks towards the Greeks and the Cretans, &c., &c.,” only the Radicals had
been so cruel as to surrender a conquered people to mercies of their former slaves.99
Democrats claimed that they, and not northern Republicans, shared a bond with
the Cretan rebels. Responding to the call for aid from The Cretan, The Constitution
noted that southerners could not help but sympathize with the Cretans, for “Their
condition is too much like our own.” Both had fought long, brutal wars for their
independence, and both remained under the control of another power. Referring to a
Turkish military commander in Crete, The Constitution asserted that, “A dozen or so
Oma Pachas came upon us from their Turkish strong-holds, a few years since, with fire
and sword, reducing us to skin and bones, until we languish in our native nudity.”100 And
surely, The Constitution later surmised, the Senate’s statement of sympathy would meet
with disregard from the Ottoman Empire. Focusing on the prominent Radical Charles
Sumner much as the Howes vilified Andrew Johnson, The Constitution argued that
97
“Editorial,” Memphis Daily Avalanche, Feb. 21, 1867, p. 2.
98
“The Cretan Meeting,” 4.
99
“Unparalleled Cruelty,” Richmond Enquirer & Sentinel, Nov. 18, 1867, p. 2; see also
“The Effects of Reconstruction,” ibid., Dec. 17, 1867, p. 2.
100
“Foreign versus Home Philanthropy,” 2. See also “The Cretan Meeting,” 4. Southern
whites continued to refer to the insurrection months after its collapse; see “Editorial,”
Memphis Daily Avalanche, Nov. 20, 1869, p. 2.
67
Turkey would no doubt “delicately direct the attention as well as the sympathies of Mr.
Sumner” to the South. For it was in Sumner’s own country, claimed The Constitution,
where “insults and outrages, tyrannies and oppressions of which the [sic] Crete never
dreamed” continued.101 The New York World, referring to the congressional
Republicans’ assertion of control over Reconstruction, went even further once the
Ottoman Empire offered clemency in mid 1868. “In what striking contrast is this action
of the Grand Turk,” exclaimed the World, “to that of the Rump Congress with their
insurrection.”102
Of particular concern to Democrats was the seeming disregard of northern
Republicans, especially Radicals, for racial hierarchies.103 According to The
Constitution, Boston’s “generous nature was such” that she anticipated “that period when
some of the lower orders of being, through her benign influences, shall assume a place in
the family of man.”104 The Constitution was convinced that this “meddlesome
disposition of the Radical” underlay interest in both the Cretan Insurrection and the
Reconstruction of the South. The Constitution described how, “Whilst expressing in one
breath the canting, sycophantic sympathy for the [sic] poor Crete, in the very next they
propose a dark and damning scheme for the introduction of civil war in the South, by the
arming of negroes against the whites.” The Radicals, The Constitution claimed, would
continue to interfere with racial hierarchies until they made “the chain of brotherhood
101
“Canting Sympathies,” 2.
102
“Turk or Christian,” New York World, May 9, 1868, p. 4.
103
See also Rubin, A Shattered Nation, 162-3.
104
“Foreign versus Home Philanthropy,” 2.
68
universal” and gathered “into its welded links all the different races of men, giving them
the same cast, language, law, government.”105
For Democrats, northern Republican sympathy for Crete was most aggravating
because it underscored this lack of racial fidelity. In contrast to Ottoman rule of Crete,
The Constitution stressed that southern whites suffered from wrongs that were “offered
to, visited upon, and erected over a people of the same race” as and “kindred in tongue”
with their oppressors.106 The Daily Memphis Avalanche decried how the same people
“who would enslave eight millions of their own race and color in order to control the
votes of three millions of blacks who know nothing of liberty… are shedding tears over
the struggle of Greece!”107 Similarly, the New York World, in reference to the missionary
settlers in Palestine, stated its suspicion that Radicals in Congress would not come to
their aid precisely because they were white.108
Distant though it was, Crete became a part of Democratic interpretations of the
United States and their place in it. It allowed Democrats to lament the destruction of the
Old South and deride what they understood to be contradictory and self-righteous
nationalism of northern Republicans, especially Radicals. Democrats believed,
moreover, that the northern Republican desire to remake the South in accordance with its
own ideals reflected an ideology whose boundless ambitions were clearly evident in
sympathy for Crete. Most worrisome to Democrats was the apparent northern
105
“Canting Sympathies,” 2.
106
“Canting Sympathies,” 2.
107
“Editorial,” Memphis Daily Avalanche, February 21, 1867, p. 2. See also “Editorial,”
ibid., February 22, 1867, p. 2.
108
“Work for the Cretan Committee,” 4.
69
Republican disregard for the racial hierarchy that was the foundation of the old southern
social order, Democratic identity, and – according to the Democratic press – the nation.
The sense of betrayal was intense enough that The Constitution felt it could justly “warn”
Bostonians that “as their eyes wander sorrowfully and their hearts heave pathetically
towards the distant Cretes,” they should “remember, occasionally, their own self-created
Crete in our midst.”109
***
The Civil War left an enthusiastic faith among many northern Republicans that
the United States now embodied the twin goals of freedom and progress. Far from
asserting that different peoples might pursue these in distinctive ways, postbellum
northern Republicans found the embodiment of republicanism and civilization in an
idealized understanding of their own society. The result was a genuine but often
unreflecting concern over barbarism and despotism, which northern Republicans could
perceive whether looking to the South, the West, or abroad. Northern Republicans,
moreover, not only looked outwards but explicitly connected these regions through
analogies that elaborated their sense of what it meant to be northern, American, civilized,
and republican.
Democrats countered northern Republicans by asserting their own sympathy for
the Cretan Insurrection. In the process, they claimed that the United States was a country
dedicated to liberty but delimited by race. In their interpretation, the Cretans and the
former Confederates were racially superior rebels who sought freedom from the
imperious sway of outsiders. For Democrats, however, the former Confederates faced a
109
“Foreign versus Home Philanthropy,” 2.
70
more galling situation, for their oppressors had supposedly betrayed and subordinated a
portion of their own race and nation for the sake of destroying a distinction foundational
to the survival of civilization. Democrats, like northern Republicans, found in Crete the
means to articulate and affirm their understanding of their nation and their place in it.
71
CHAPTER 3
NORTHERN REPUBLICANS AND THE FORGOTTEN RECONSTRUCTION OF MORMON UTAH
“Sherman’s dashing Yankee boys will never make the coast!”
So the saucy rebels said and ‘twas a handsome boast,
Had they not forgot, alas! to reckon with the Host,
While we were marching through Georgia
-- Verse from the Union soldiers’ song, Marching through Georgia
“Orland’s boys with carpet bags will never take Salt Lake!”
So the royal families said, but that was their mistake,
We’ll show them at the ballot boxes who will “take the cake,”
While we go marching through Zion
-- Verse from Utah’s Liberal Party’s song, Marching through Zion1
The reconstruction of Mormon Utah is one of the most fascinating episodes in the
political and cultural history of the Civil War-era United States. Yet, while several
detailed and insightful analyses of this prolonged confrontation exist, it has been almost
entirely neglected by mainstream Reconstruction historiography.2 This is unfortunate, for
1
The Liberal Party of Utah, organized in 1870, represented the vociferous but
outnumbered “Gentiles,” or non-Mormons, of the territory into the 1890s. A number of
excommunicated Mormon businessmen also helped found the party. Defined primarily
by their opposition to Mormon control of the territory, the Liberal Party associated itself
with the Republicans. The quotation for “Marching through Zion” (undated), comes
from “Political Parties,” Heart Throbs of the West 10 (Salt Lake City: Daughters of the
Utah Pioneers, 1949), 18.
2
Eric Foner’s magisterial Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877
(New York: Harper & Row, 1988), to offer but one example, touches on the subject
indirectly and in passing, though it also helpfully points to one instance in which the
racist New York World attempted to slander southern freedmen by equating them with
Mormons; see 474, 217. In her excellent study exploring the connections between the
North-South sectional conflict, the Gilded Age, and the conquest of the American West,
Heather Richardson treats Mormon Utah with similar brevity, see West from Appomattox:
The Reconstruction of America after the Civil War (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 2007),
106, 128.
72
this scholarly isolation has obscured what many postbellum Americans, especially the
politically powerful northern Republicans, considered to be important and obvious
connections between Mormon Utah, the South, and the future of the United States. As
such, recovering these perceived linkages affords an opportunity to gain new insights into
the Republican Party and the political culture of the Civil War Era. In particular, most
research on postbellum northern Republicans has focused on their economic beliefs, their
internal divisions over southern policy, and their leadership’s increasingly debilitating
On the social, political, and constitutional conflicts involved in the reconstruction
of Mormon Utah, see Robert Dwyer, “The Gentile comes to Utah: a Study in Religious
and Social Conflict,”(Ph.D., The Catholic University of America, 1941); William
Mulder, “Immigration and the ‘Mormon Question’: An International Episode,” The
Western Political Quarterly 9 (June 1956): 416-433; Richard D. Poll, “The Political
Reconstruction of Utah Territory, 1866-1890,” Pacific Historical Review 27 (May 1958):
111-126; Everett L. Cooley, “Carpet-bag Rule—Territorial Government in Utah,” Utah
Historical Quarterly 26 (April 1958): 107-129; Mark W. Cannon, “The Mormon Issue in
Congress 1872-1882: Drawing on the Experience of Territorial Delegate George Q.
Cannon,” (Ph.D., Harvard University, 1960); Thomas G. Alexander, “Federal Authority
versus Polygamic Theocracy: James B. McKean and the Mormons, 1870-1875,”
Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 1 (August 1966): 85-100; Alan Haynes, “The
Federal Government and its Policies Regarding the Frontier Era of Utah Territory, 18501877,” (Ph.D., The Catholic University of America, 1968); Gustive O. Larson, The
“Americanization” of Utah for Statehood (San Marino, CA: Huntington Library, 1971);
Richard D. Poll, ed., Utah’s History (Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1978),
chapters 13, 14, and 21; Leonard J. Arrington and Davis Bitton, The Mormon
Experience: A History of the Latter-day Saints, 2d ed. (Urbana: University of Illinois
Press, 1992), chapter 9; Stephen Cresswell, Mormons & Cowboys, Moonshiners &
Klansmen: Federal Law Enforcement in the South & West, 1870-1893 (Tuscaloosa:
University of Alabama Press, 1991), chapters 1 and 3; B. Carmon Hardy, Solemn
Covenant: The Mormon Polygamous Passage (Urbana: University of Illinois Press,
1992), chapter 3; Sarah Barringer Gordon, The Mormon Question: Polygamy and
Constitutional Conflict in Nineteenth Century America (Chapel Hill: Universtiy of North
Carolina Press, 2002); and W. Paul Reeve, Making Space on the Mormon Frontier:
Mormons, Miners, and Southern Paiutes (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2006).
Scholars interested in Mormon historiography should consult Jan Shipps, “Richard
Lyman Bushman, the Story of Joseph Smith and Mormonism, and the New Mormon
History,” and Richard Lyman Bushman, “What’s New in Mormon History: A Response
to Jan Shipps,” Journal of American History 94 (September 2007): 498-515 and 517-521.
73
corruption.3 Without dismissing this impressive body of scholarship, this examination of
northern Republican discussions of Mormon Utah emphasizes that a widely-shared
complex of presumptions and ideas did lend some consistency to how members thought
about themselves, the nation, and the world. It also underscores the value of recent
research on the connections between Reconstruction and the American West and offers
insight into related but longer running challenges concerning how to balance the South
and the nation in the study of Reconstruction.4 As northern Republican concern over
Mormon Utah demonstrates, if the South absorbed Congressional energies, shaped
electoral politics, and served as the setting of a violent tragedy, it hardly delimited the
landscape of American social and political thought. In fact, consuming though they were,
3
For two invaluable overviews, see Michael Fitzgerald, “Reconstruction Politics and the
Politics of Reconstruction,” in Thomas J. Brown, ed., Reconstructions: New Perspectives
on the Postbellum United States (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), and
Michael Perman, “The Politics of Reconstruction,” in Lacy K. Ford, ed., A Companion to
the Civil War and Reconstruction (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2005).
4
On the West, see Richardson, West from Appomattox; Elliott West, “Reconstructing
Race,” Western Historical Quarterly 34 (Spring 2003): 7-26; and D. Michael Bottoms,
“’An Aristocracy of Color’: Race and Reconstruction in Post-Gold Rush California,”
(Ph.D., UCLA, 2005). On the nation and the South in Reconstruction historiography, see
Heather Richardson “Reconstruction and the Nation” in Ford, ed. A Companion to the
Civil War and Reconstruction, and the different geographic frameworks adopted by
major interpretive syntheses, including: William Dunning, Reconstruction: Political and
Economic, 1865-1877 (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1907); E. Merton Coulter The
South During Reconstruction, 1865-1877 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University
Press, 1947); Kenneth Stampp, The Era of Reconstruction, 1865-1877 (New York:
Knopf, 1965); Rembert Patrick, The Reconstruction of the Nation (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1967); William Gillette, Retreat from Reconstruction (Baton Rouge:
Louisiana State University Press, 1979); Foner, Reconstruction; Steven Hahn A Nation
under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South, from Slavery to the Great
Migration (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003); Heather Richardson, The
Death of Reconstruction: Race, Labor, and Politics in the Post-Civil War North, 18651901 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001); and Richardson, West from
Appomattox.
74
the sectional and partisan conflicts that did much to define Reconstruction actually
impelled attention outwards.
Although not without their anxieties, northern Republicans tended to enter the
postwar years confident that, with the southern slaveholders defeated and the Union
secured, freedom and progress would now emanate outwards from an idealized North
that they believed exemplified America. If their leadership certainly lacked unity and
purity, northern Republicans nonetheless drew strength from a faith that, as the true
Americans, they could not help but identify and condemn the barbaric, despotic, and
aristocratic reactionaries that still existed within and beyond the United States.
***
Northern Republicans turned their attention to Utah because they believed that,
with polygamy, the Mormons had resuscitated a barbaric form of marriage that gave
reign to male lust and made victims of innocent women and children.5 Rooted in a set of
gender conventions that exalted manly restraint in place of the masculine virility and
prerogative often championed by their political opponents, northern Republicans labeled
polygamy “patriarchal” and presumed it to therefore be inherently and irresistibly
exploitative.6 The result, they believed, was that the household was warped from a
5
As is often noted, the more precise designation for Mormon marriage practices is
polygyny, which refers to the marriage of one man to multiple wives, as opposed to
polygamy, which indicates marriages involving multiple spouses. It is important to note,
moreover, that condemnations of what the Mormons often called “celestial marriage”
routinely failed to understand the practice, or its theological and social underpinnings.
For a concise discussion and leads to further readings, see Larson, “Americanization” of
Utah for Statehood, chapter 2; and O. Kendall White, Jr. and Daryl White, “Polygamy
and Mormon Identity,” Journal of American Culture 28 (June 2005): 165-177.
6
Hardy, Solemn Covenant, 41-2; on manliness, masculinity, and Civil War-era political
parties, see Amy S. Greenberg, Manifest Manhood and Antebellum American Expansion
(New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 11-13, 161.
75
nurturing home that contributed to progress by raising girls into caring mothers and boys
into diligent workers to a place of misery.7 In its essence, northern Republicans thought,
polygamy was akin to another exploitative and retrogressive institution: slavery. Such
conclusions built upon popular anti-Mormon novels from the mid-1850s, which came off
the presses shortly after and drew heavily upon the depictions of female servitude in
antislavery novels. These novels also featured depictions of Mormon fathers as lustful,
violent slave owners and Mormon proselytizers as slave procurers.8 As early as their first
national platform in 1856, Republicans had declared polygamy and slavery to be “twin
relics of barbarism” and vowed to prevent their expansion into the territories of the
American West.9 In fact, the accusation that polygamy was, like slavery, an unAmerican barbarism constituted, as J. Spencer Fluhman has recently shown, an important
transformation in anti-Mormon sentiment.10
7
Mark Cannon, “The Mormon Issue in Congress,” 123-4, 307-8; on the role of gendered
notions of domesticity in the process of othering, see Amy Kaplan, The Anarchy of
Empire in the Making of U.S. Culture (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002),
chapter 1.
8
Nancy Bentley, “Marriage as Treason: Polygamy, Nation, and the Novel,” in Donald E.
Pease and Robyn Wiegman, eds., The Futures of American Studies (Durham: Duke
University Press 2002), pp. 341-370, especially, 345-347; Bruce Burgett, “On the
Mormon Question: Race, Sex, and Polygamy in the 1850s and the 1990s,” American
Quarterly 57 (March 2005): 75-102, especially 76-7; Arrington and Haupt, “Intolerable
Zion” 246, 248; Gordon, The Mormon Question, 47-9.
9
See Kirk H. Porter and Donald Bruce Johnson, comp., National Party Platforms, 18401956 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1956), 27; Foner, Free Soil, Free Labor, Free
Men: Ideology and the Republican Party before the Civil War (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1970), 130, 132-3.
10
J. Spencer Fluhman, “Anti-Mormonism and the Making of Religion in Antebellum
America,” (Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2006), chapter 4. On AntiMormonism, see also David Brion Davis, “Some Themes of Counter-Subversion: An
Analysis of Anti-Mason, Anti-Catholic, and Anti-Mormon Literature,” The Mississippi
Valley Historical Review 47 (September 1960): 205-224; Leonard J. Arrington and John
76
If Democrats and southern Whites had little love of Mormon polygamy, it was
northern Republicans who expected to oversee the abolition of this other peculiar
institution.11 In 1862, early in their congressional ascendancy, Republicans passed the
Morrill Act proscribing polygamy. While Abraham Lincoln prudently decided it was
best not to antagonize the Mormons in the midst of a civil war, Union victory brought
renewed attention to the territory. Fueled by hopes of “civilizing” the western
“wilderness,” growing immigration to the territory, the completion of the transcontinental
railroad, and the actions of the Mormons themselves, congressional Republicans debated
numerous bills to weaken the Mormon Church, pressure polygamists, and strengthen the
hand of federal officials and “Gentiles” living in the territory.12 It would take years of
corrupt leadership, the debilitating financial crisis of 1873, and the election of 1874 to
dampen northern Republican optimism, limit their political power, and delay further
efforts to reconstruct Utah into the 1880s.13
Haupt, “Intolerable Zion: The Image of Mormonism in Nineteenth Century American
Literature,” Western Humanities Review, 22 (Summer 1968): 243-60; Leonard J.
Arrington, “Kate Field and J.H. Beadle: Manipulators of the Mormon Past,” (American
West Lecture, Salt Lake City, March 31, 1971); Charles A. Cannon, “The Awesome
Power of Sex: The Polemical Campaign Against Mormon Polygamy,” Pacific Historical
Review 43 (February 1974): 61-82; Nancy Bentley, “Marriage as Treason.”
11
On southern White attitudes towards Mormons and polygamy, see Hardy, Solemn
Covenant, 39-40; and Fox-Genovese and Genovese, Mind of the Masterclass, 764-5.
12
On Congressional debates concerning Mormon Utah, which generally revolved around
northern Republican initiatives, see especially Mark Cannon, “The Mormon Issue in
Congress,” especially, 38-106; B.H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Century I, vol. 5 (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young
University Press, 1965), 225-231, 433-439; and Poll, ed., Utah’s History, 250-51.
13
While Sarah Barringer Gordon has suggested that anti-Mormon campaigns accelerated
after, and in part because of, the collapse of Reconstruction, it is also worth noting that:
attempts to reform Utah were active during the formative years of southern
reconstruction; that northern Republicans maintained at least some concern for southern
77
Both the phrase “twin relics of barbarism” and the linking of slavery and polygamy
featured prominently in postbellum Republican criticisms of Utah. John Beadle, a
Republican and one of the most prolific and popular Reconstruction-era critics of
Mormon Utah, attempted to describe the similarity between “Slavery and polygamy” as
“‘twin relics’” in his introductory essay to a jailhouse confession by Bill Hickman, one of
Brigham Young’s alleged “Danite” assassins.14 Both institutions, according to Beadle,
prompted an all-consuming selfishness among men. In the case of polygamy, claimed
Beadle, a patriarch’s willingness to bring open shame upon his first wife and unnatural
misery upon the women of his household moved him “a long way on the road towards
doing any other mean thing which will give him an advantage over his fellow-men.”15
Leading abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe, in a triumphal preface to an autobiographical
exposé of Mormon life by Fanny Stenhouse, took it for granted that polygamy was a form
of slavery. Lauding the “glorious breaking of fetters” that came with emancipation and
Union victory in the Civil War, Stowe asked her readers:
Shall we not then hope that the hour is come to loose the bonds of a cruel
slavery whose chains have cut into the very hearts of thousands of our
freedpeople and contempt for southern Whites after the conventional 1877 end date of
Reconstruction; and that legislation concerning both the South and Utah were checked by
the decline of Republican political power in the late 1870s. On these points, see Gordon,
The Mormon Question, 119-20; Heather Richardson, Death of Reconstruction, chapter 5;
and Charles Calhoun, Conceiving a New Republic: The Republican Party and the
Southern Question, 1869-1900 (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2006).
14
Arrington, “Kate Field and J. H. Beadle,” 16; John H. Beadle, Brigham’s Destroying
Angel: Being the Life, Confession, and Startling Disclosures of the Notorious Bill
Hickman, the Danite Chief of Utah (New York: G. A. Crofutt, 1872). Because of the
uncertain accuracy Hickman’s published confession, citations here refer to Beadle’s
introduction and appendixes. On Hickman, see Ronald W. Walker, et. al., Mormon
History (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2001), 13.
15
Beadle, Brigham’s Destroying Angel, 13-14.
78
sisters—a slavery which debases and degrades womanhood, motherhood, and
the family?16
By the end of the Civil War, in fact, the belief that polygamy was a form of
patriarchal slavery was widely familiar, and could be referenced briefly. In his weekly
travel article “Across the Continent. Overland Scenes” in the popular New York weekly,
Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, Thomas W. Knox, a Republican newspaper
correspondent, invoked northern stereotypes when describing the trip of a Mormon farm
family to Salt Lake City.17 Portraying the family’s husband as evincing “an air of
determination” that “convinces the beholder that his will is law,” Knox explained that,
instead of lingering in the market to allow his wives to “inspect the fineries,” the husband
merely did his business and then loaded up his ox-wagon with his “animate and
inanimate goods and chattels” to return home.18 Frank Leslie’s itself seemed to take the
equation of the two for granted when, in a subsequent editorial, it casually referred to
polygamy as the Mormon’s own “’peculiar institution’” and “’partriarchical institution,’”
and claimed that the Mormons had hoped to see Confederate victory ensure state rights.19
16
Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Preface” in T.B.H. Stenhouse, "Tell it all": The Story of a
Life's Experience in Mormonism (Hartford: A. D. Worthington & Co., 1874), vi.
17
On Knox’s controversial career during the Civil War and his politics, see J. Cutler
Andrews, The North Reports the Civil War (Pittsburg: University of Pittsburg Press,
1983, rpt), 380-83; and John F. Marszalek, Sherman’s other War: The General and the
Civil War Press (Kent: Kent State University Press, 1999), 141-63.
18
“Across the Continent. Overland Scenes,” Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, Feb.
5, 1870, pp. 353-4.
19
“A Mormon Nation—A Polygamic Polynesian Kingdom,” Frank Leslie’s Illustrated
Newspaper, June 25, 1870, p. 226; “Monogamy v. Polygamy,” ibid., Aug. 27, 1870, p.
371. During the Civil War, the Mormon leadership at times condemned both the North
and the South, anticipated the final dissolution of the United States, but also claimed the
Mormons to be the true defender of the Constitution, including the principle of freedom
79
Even when they wrote about polygamy in greater length, northern Republicans
often took their conclusions for granted. Consider, for example, the writings of Samuel
Bowles, the influential editor of the Springfield Republican who, along with Schuyler
Colfax, the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Albert D.
Richardson, a radical Republican correspondent for the New York Tribune, made their
way across the West by overland stage in 1865.20 Bowles, although he wrote pages about
the Mormons, could condemn polygamy without feeling much need to justify his
arguments, as when he asserted that, under it, a wife “becomes simply a servant and serf,
not the companion and equal of man; and the inevitable influence of this upon all society
need not be depicted.”21 Another Republican, General James F. Rusling, was similarly
confident in his 1867 Army Quartermaster’s report to the House of Representatives.22
Based on his three weeks inspecting the U.S. Army fort overlooking Salt Lake City,
Rusling concluded that, “‘Peculiar Institutions,’ whether slavery or polygamy, breed the
same results, whether in South Carolina or Utah,” presenting outsiders with a choice
between “acquiescence or emigration.” When Rusling turned to the impact of polygamy
on domestic relations, he argued that it led Mormon patriarchs to refer to women as
of religion; see Roberts, A Comprehensive History, vol. 5, 11-12; and Poll, ed., Utah’s
History, 244-6.
20
On Bowles, including his later work with the Liberal Republican Party, consult
Andrew Slap, The Doom of Reconstruction: The Liberal Republicans in the Civil War
Era (New York: Fordham University Press, 2006).
21
Samuel Bowles, Across the Continent: A Summer’s Journey to the Rocky Mountains,
the Mormons, and the Pacific States, with Speaker Colfax (Springfield: Bowles & Co.,
1865), 107.
22
For Rusling’s politics, consider p. 107 of his The Great West and the Pacific Coast
(New York: Sheldon & Company, 1877).
80
though they were domestic animals, “or as our southern slave lords used to speak of their
‘likely young niggers.’” Here, Rusling, like Bowles, felt no need to elaborate, concluding
that “nothing more need be said than that the whole thing is simply an organized insult to
Christianity and an outrage against the civilization of the age—in very truth,” polygamy
was “slavery’s hideous and exquisite ‘twin relic of barbarism.’”23
Republican descriptions of Mormon wives and children highlight their belief that
polygamy corroded the affective, gendered relationships that supposedly made northern
households nurturing homes. When “Carleton,” writing for Boston’s moderate
Republican Journal, visited Salt Lake City in the months before the completion of the
transcontinental railroad, he claimed that the Mormon Church taught women that
“concubinage is ordained by God,” and that to reject the advances of even an “old,
hateful,” and “repulsive” polygamous husband would be heresy. The result was that,
when in Salt Lake City, “You see nature’s protest in the sad and care-worn countenance
of every woman you meet.”24 Schuyler Colfax echoed these sentiments, believing, as did
others, that lustful Mormon patriarchs were totally unrestrained. Unable to escape their
“remote” and “mountain-walled” society, Colfax claimed that Mormon women faced
“marriages of 3 sisters to one husband – of a mother & all her daughters – of nieces –
even of one’s own half sister.” Nor could wives stop their husbands from abandoning
23
Miscellaneous House Documents, No. 153, “Affairs in Utah and the Territories,” 25,
27.
24
Boston Journal, reprinted in “Home and Foreign Gossip,” Harper’s Weekly, Mar. 6,
1869, p. 151. On the Boston Journal’s politics, see Blue & Gray in Black & White:
Newspapers and the Civil War (Washington: Brassey’s Inc., 1999), 15-16.
81
them for girls “in the first bloom of maidenhood.”25 Not surprisingly, it was two
Republican territorial officials appointed by Ulysses S. Grant, a reliable opponent of the
Mormons, who supported Ann Eliza Young, one of Brigham Young’s wives, in her
efforts to secure a divorce and publicly denounce polygamy. Likewise, James B. Pond, a
militant abolitionist who served as an editor of the anti-Mormon Salt Lake City Tribune,
managed Ann Eliza’s early public speaking career and accompanied her to Washington,
D.C. in 1874. There, her speech before Congress helped inspire the Poland Act
strengthening the hand of federal officials in the territory.26 An illustration of
communion in the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City in Harper’s Weekly gave
graphic expression to these concerns (see Figure 3.1).27 In it, wives and their children
occupy the foreground, surrounded by shaded rows of older men and stern looking
Mormon patriarchs distributing communion water. In the lower left-hand corner, the
viewer confronts the faces of a young girl in peaceful repose, a Mormon mother, and,
over their shoulder, two leering, gruff Mormon men, one of whom stares back at the
reader. In the center, the shadowed face of a long-haired Mormon man looms over a
young child too weak to lift a communion cup. If not a depiction of overt exploitation,
the illustration’s juxtaposition of youthful innocence and patriarchal control would have
nonetheless resonated with northern Republican understandings of Mormon society.
25
Colfax, Across the Continent by Overland Stage in 1865, p. 34-5; see also Albert D.
Richardson, Beyond the Mississippi: From the Great River to the Great Ocean (Hartford:
American Publishing, 1867), 344. For one analysis of why Mormon polygamy
sometimes entailed one man marrying multiple sisters, see Larson, The
“Americanization” of Utah for Statehood, 45-6.
26
See James B. Pond, Eccentricities of Genius: Memoirs of Famous Men and Women of
the Platform and Stage (New York: G.W. Dillingham, 1900), xvii-xxvi.
27
“The Mormon Tabernacle,” Harper’s Weekly, Sep. 30, 1871, pp. 912-14.
82
Figure 3.1: “The Mormon Tabernacle,” Harper’s Weekly, Sep. 30, 1871, pp. 912-14.
83
Underlying Republican equations of polygamy and slavery was not only a disdain
for what they held to be exploitative patriarchy, but a presumption that barbarisms
manifested the same spirit and had the same effects whether in the South, the West, or
abroad. This was evident in the northern Republicans’ willingness to make comparisons
and analogies that annihilated space and time. Based on the version of his travel journal
edited and published by his daughter, William Seward, a prominent if controversial
Republican, was among the many inclined to sweeping judgments. When the two visited
Salt Lake City in August of 1870, William argued that “Polygamy is antagonistic to, and
incompatible with, the existence of the family.” These two institutions, he added were on
the brink of an “irrepressible conflict” that had already played out “in all the nations of
the East,” where the harem had triumphed, leading “not merely to the degradation but the
enslaving of women, and the demoralization and corruption of the entire social body.”28
Herman Snow, writing for the travel magazine Overland Monthly, argued that just as
polygamy gave “to the Turk his stolid self-conceit, as he indolently surveys his extensive
harem of human toys,” and filled “the American Indian with haughty vanity, as he stalks
along in paint and feathers” with his laboring squaws behind him, so to did it cause the
Mormon patriarch “to vaunt himself with outrageous self-conceit.”29
References to slaveholders, Native Americans, and Turks were only the start for
some. Catherine Waite, who moved to the territory when her husband Charles, a Chicago
Republican, was appointed associate justice of the territory in 1862, offers one clear
28
Olive Risley Seward, ed., William H. Seward’s Travels Around the World (New York:
D. Appleton and Co., 1873), 23.
29
“Plurality of Wives,” Overland Monthly and Out West Magazine, Dec. 1871, pp. 55158, quotation from 552-53. On comparisons between Mormons and Turks, see Arrington
and Haupt, “Intolerable Zion,” 247-8.
84
example. Her The Mormon Prophet and his Harem, which went through at least five
editions from its first publication in 1866 to 1868, argued that misogyny and polygamy
were endemic to heathen and otherwise degraded nations, pointing to Muslims, Jews,
Native Americans, Hungarians, and some earlier Christians for evidence. Shortly
thereafter, she claimed that whether one looked at the ancient or modern world, one
found that “the most enlightened and prosperous nations” revered women and practiced
monogamy, that the “practice of polygamy is adverse to free institutions,” and that “[t]he
love of the home” strengthened “the love of country and of liberty.”30
John Beadle offered a similarly wide-ranging analysis. Marriage, according to
Beadle, existed for three reasons: reproduction, companionship, and, most nobly of all, so
people could love divinely through “a complete intercommunion of soul and interchange
of pure affection.” The polygamous, however, only exercised animalistic lusts tied to
reproduction.31 Beadle attempted to prove his assertions “by a comparative view of
polygamous and monogamous nations.” The “Indian and native African,” wrote Beadle,
“know nothing of the softer sentiments,” and understood women to be merely “a superior
beast of burden.” The “Hindoo,” among the “partially civilized races,” considered
women’s lot in life so poor that “it is thought no particular harm to drown a female
infant.” Meanwhile, the “Mohammedan races, generally” had no institution of “Home, as
known by us,” and instead kept harems. Only the practice of monogamy, argued Beadle,
could allow for all three forms of attachment, and only with them would men begin to
30
Catherine V. Waite, The Mormon Prophet and his Harem; or An Authentic History of
Brigham Young, his Numerous Wives and Children (Cambridge, MA: Riverside Press,
1866), 215-16, 224. On the Waites, see Dwyer, “The Gentile comes to Utah,” 8, 17-8.
31
Beadle, Life in Utah, 355-57. See also Bowles, Across the Continent, 115; and Waters,
Life among the Mormons,133-34, 143.
85
value women as anything other than objects of lust. Beadle’s analysis then probed
history to demonstrate that, “In the march of progress,” polygamous nations had been and
remained unable to compete with “the hardy vigor of Western Christians.” The preChristian Greeks, with their “fixed principle” that “the dignity of woman is the strength
of the state,” had “overran” the “effeminate Persians and Hindoos.” Likewise, the
Romans had reigned supreme until conquered peoples within their realm eroded a six
hundred year old tradition of matronly honor and dignity. Then, Rome, “in turn, fell
before the hardy monogamists of Northern Europe.” Later still, when the conquering
“Mohammedans” turned to Europe, the Germans “left the plains of Poictiers covered
with the corpses of three hundred thousand polygamists.” Yet Mormon polygamy was
worse than all of these, for in addition to the common baseness of “that of the Jews,
Turks, and Hindoos,” it “consists in the grosser forms of incest, the intermarriage of near
relations.” If the Mormons drew any inspiration from their contemporaries, believed
Beadle, they must have done so from “the Utes and Shoshonees who surround them.”32
Northern Democrats and ex-Confederates were hardly open advocates of
Mormonism or polygamy. In one case, however, the eagerness of northern Republicans
to oversee the abolition of this other peculiar institution did prompt a qualified defense
from a southern paper. In one wide-ranging editorial that touched on race, states’ rights,
and the degenerate character of the North, the Memphis Avalanche both distanced itself
32
Beadle, Life in Utah, 357, 358, 365, see also 359; and Bowles, Across the Continent,
pp. 123-4. In his table of contents, Beadle described the subject of this section as “Turk,
Persian and African vs. the Christian White,” demonstrating that racial identities played a
role in shaping northern Republican attitudes towards polygamy and the Mormons. For
other instances of Republican commentators invoking racial distinctions, consider
William Hepworth Dixon, New America, (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1867),
244, and “The Mormon Tabernacle,” Harper’s Weekly, Sep. 30, 1871, pp. 912-14.
86
from the Mormons and yet defended their rights to manage their own domestic
institutions. In the Avalanche’s embittered words, the North:
... is restless without progress, even though this may not be improvement. Her
passion is, not to do what she ought, but to teach others to do what they ought
to do. She is intolerant: hence her meddling with all the domestic relations
and laws of other States. She would have the world look through her glasses,
though mouldy with prejudice and conceit.33
***
Connected to polygamy, in northern Republican condemnations, was the alleged
theocratic despotism that the Mormon Church had created in the territory.34 This
despotism, Republicans asserted, was a monstrosity not only for its particular religious
doctrines, but also because it eroded the distinction between church and state and
concentrated power into the hands of a power-hungry, aristocratic priesthood.
Republican journalists, jurists, and politicians heaped scorn upon the allegedly
despotic Mormon leadership and its deluded following. Although Catherine Waite
framed her The Mormon Prophet and his Harem as a balanced but critical investigation
into polygamy, she nonetheless dedicated over a third of it to the political history of
Mormonism in hopes of alerting America to “the dangerous character of this monarchy
growing up in the midst of the Republic.”35 Longstanding New York Republican James
McKean, appointed as Chief Justice of Utah in 1870 by President Grant for the direct
purpose of challenging Mormon control of the territory, captured the intensity of
revulsion. Near the start of his confrontational, four-and-a-half-year tenure at the post, he
33
Editorial, Daily Memphis Avalanche, 22 November 1866, p. 2.
34
Hardy, Solemn Covenant, 57-9.
35
Waite, The Mormon Prophet and his Harem, iv.
87
exclaimed, “Utah is a Theocracy, a spurious Theocracy in the heart of the Republic!”36
Similarly, Robert Baskin, an Ohio lawyer long active in anti-Mormon political efforts
within Utah and Washington, D.C., wrote in his reminiscences that the “sole motive”
behind the founding of Utah’s Liberal Party in 1870 had been “to correct the abuses
prevalent in Utah, and to establish republican American rule in place of the usurped rule
of the priesthood of the Mormon church.”37 John Beadle, not surprisingly, also
condemned Mormon despotism. As he explained in his first popular book on the
Mormons, Life in Utah, the fundamental preconditions necessary for the Mormon Church
to stand “forth complete as a theocratic absolutism” had been met in Utah by the creation
of an all-powerful Mormon priesthood and an ignorant laity.38 Two years later, Beadle
accused Mormon leaders of holding multiple political posts and quipped that, “A
plurality of offices as well as of wives obtains in Utah.”39
Many Republicans criticized the followers of the Mormon Church. The New York
Times, for example, blamed the Mormons’ troubled past on their hive mentality when
describing “The Mormonism of Salt Lake” as “a despotism growing up in the midst of a
free state,” and “an autocracy confronting a society where the will of the people is
36
James B McKean, reported in the Salt Lake City Tribune, 8 October 1874; quoted in
Alexander, “Federal Authority versus Polygamic Theocracy,” 99-100. See also Haynes,
“The Federal Government and its Policies Regarding the Frontier Era of Utah Territory,”
197-98.
37
Robert Baskin, Reminiscences of Early Utah (Salt Lake City: Tribune-Reporter, 1914),
23-4.
38
John H. Beadle, Life in Utah, 382; Arrington, “Kate Field and J.H. Beadle,” 17.
39
Beadle, Brigham’s Destroying Angel, 204.
88
supreme.”40 William Elkanah Waters, a Union army officer who visited Salt Lake City
while inspecting conditions at nearby Camp Douglas, took a relatively cautious position.
Perhaps because he was not as radical as some Republicans, he was inclined to view the
more sensationalist renderings of Mormon society critically.41 Yet he still shared the
basic beliefs of most Republican anti-Mormon writers, and repeatedly described the
Mormons as deluded, fanatical, and ignorant.42 George L. Woods, one of the founders of
the Republican Party in Oregon and the territorial governor of Utah for five years during
the Grant administration, argued that while he supported woman suffrage in theory, he
could not endorse it in Mormon Utah. There, where the Mormon-dominated territorial
legislature extended suffrage to women in 1870 as a symbolic response to proposed
congressional legislation, Woods found it to be largely irrelevant, since, “by the order of
the priesthood all Mormons vote as directed by the Church.” “[I]t is a common thing,” he
added, “to see a Mormon priest with 6, 8, 10 & sometimes more wives & concubines go
to the polls to vote together.”43
40
“King Young,” New York Times, Aug. 29, 1870, p. 4.
41
William Elkanah Waters, Life Among the Mormons, A March to their Zion: To which is
Added a Chapter on the Indians of the Plains and Mountains of the West (New York:
Moorhead, Simpson & Bond, 1868), 97, 106-7, 121, 184-7; on his politics, consider, 109,
154, 172-3.
42
Ibid., 74-5, 79, 111, 131-133, 155, 159, 181, 183, 192, 195.
43
George L. Woods, “Recollections by George L. Woods,” unpublished manuscript,
Bancroft Library, Berkeley, 4-5, 10-11, 58-9, 67-8. On the broader significance of
Utah’s woman suffrage, see Sarah Barringer Gordon, “’The Liberty of Self-Degradation:’
Polygamy, Woman Suffrage, and Consent in Nineteenth-Century America,” Journal of
American History 83 (December 1996): 815-847; and Allison Sneider, Suffragists in an
Imperial Age: U.S. Expansion and the Woman Question, 1870-1929 (New York: Oxford
University Press, 2008), 73-86.
89
As the alleged despot of this theocracy, Brigham Young often elicited ridicule
from Republicans. Some, such as Harper’s Weekly, drew attention to how Young won a
fanatical loyalty from his followers. Describing services at the Mormon Tabernacle in
Salt Lake City, Harper’s explained how Young, in his sermons, “as in private,” wielded a
“strange magnetic influence” on “his disciples.”44 The rise of Brigham Young was a
pivotal moment in the history of the Mormons according to John Hay, one of Abraham
Lincoln’s two private secretaries during the Civil War and a Reconstruction-era diplomat
and editorialist. Writing on Joseph Smith’s 1844 execution for Atlantic Monthly, Hay
concluded by briefly describing the succession of Brigham Young. As he put it, Young
“exerted himself to gather all the reins of government into his own hands; and there was
not in all the slavish East a despot more absolute than he,” when the Mormons fled mob
violence “into the vast and tolerant wilderness.”45 Jacob Boreman, another Grantappointed federal judge in Utah, found Young to be the general ‘boss’ of,” Salt Lake City
in religious and especially temporal matters. “The people,” he believed, “appeared to
look to him with fear and as if he were an iron ruler.”46
Some who met Young, like
Schuyler Colfax, thought despotism permeated his being. According to Colfax, Young
44
“The Mormon Tabernacle,” Harper’s Weekly, Sep. 30, 1871, p. 914.
45
“The Mormon Prophet’s Tragedy,” Atlantic Monthly, December 1869, pp. 669-679;
quotations from 679.
46
Selections of Boreman’s reminiscences, likely written around 1895, are published with
a biographical overview in Leonard J. Arrington, “Crusade against Theocracy: the
Reminiscences of Judge Jacob Smith Boreman of Utah, 1872-1877,” The Huntington
Library Quarterly 24 (1960-1961): 1-46; for comments above, see 3-4; quotation from 8.
90
had “a short & powerful neck, & a chin & lips that betoken commanding will, inflexible
determination, & an exaction of submission to his authority & demands.”47
Republicans often questioned whether the Mormon Church could survive without
Brigham Young’s controlling leadership. Upon rumors that he had fled Salt Lake City in
1871 to escape federal prosecution, Harper’s Weekly anticipated troubles for the church.
Harper’s suggested that either the Mormons would follow Young in another “hegira” or
disperse, for there seemed “to be no successor of Young who can command the people by
his personal power.”48 Republican’s who moved to the southern states during
Reconstruction could take their anti-Mormonism with them, and the editor of the
Morning Republican, of Little Rock, Arkansas, concurred with Harper’s. Believing that
Young was well on his way to Mexico, the Morning Republican asserted that “His
retreating from his stronghold… has solved the problem of polygomy [sic] on the
American continent.”49 Others, however, were not so optimistic. Fred W. Loring, a New
Englander traveling through Salt Lake City on the Union Pacific, asked in Appleton’s
Journal, “But, after Brigham Young, what?” Would polygamy and Mormonism survive
the passing of a man Loring described as a corpulent tyrant? Uncertain, he concluded
that “time only can decide.”50 In February of 1867, Union General William B. Hazen,
who had close ties to Ohio Republican James Garfield, reported on federal military power
47
Schuyler Colfax, Across the Continent by Overland Stage in 1865, 31. For similar
descriptions, see Bowles, Across the Continent, 86, 113.
48
“Mormon Trials,” Harper’s Weekly, Nov. 18, 1871, p. 1075.
49
“The Mormon Problem,” Morning Republican, Nov. 16, 1871, p. 2.
50
Fred W. Loring, “A Glimpse of Mormonism,” Appleton’s Journal, 19 Aug., 1871, pp.
214-5.
91
in Utah to the House Committee on Territories. In doing so, Hazen discussed the
Mormons, alleging that Young drew power from his “perfect organization, religious
fanaticism, and despotic power.” Unlike others, however, he suggested that the Mormons
were not about to disappear. “The same thing was believed when Joe Smith died,”
pointed out Hazen, “but look at the results.”51
As with the barbaric patriarchy of polygamy, Republicans felt at ease ranging
across the globe and history when discussing Mormon despotism and fanaticism. John
Beadle, for one, compared the fate of the Mormon Church to that of the Papacy in
recently unified Italy, arguing that they were both prone to fall before the onward march
of progressive nations. As he explained it, “as the Pope’s temporality could not continue
in the middle of Victor Emanuel’s kingdom, so an ecclesiastical organization like that of
the Mormon Church cannot peaceably continue in America.”52 Charles H. Brigham, in a
fourteen page article for Boston’s Old and New, evaluated the prospects of the “Mormon
State,” and found that on balance its future looked dim. For while the “Mormon power”
could count on a number of strengths, Brigham argued, it was, ultimately, “an absurdity
and an anomaly in this age and country.” In the course of his overview, Brigham found
space to equate the Mormon Church, in its disdain for outside civilization, to the Roman
Catholic Church, its “tribunals” to the “Inquisition of the Middle Ages,” Brigham Young
to a domineering Napoleon, the educational philosophy of the “Mormon priesthood” to
that of the “Roman priesthood,” and its members to fanatical “Huguenots of France,”
51
Miscellaneous House Document No. 75, “Utah Territory,” 39th Congress, 2d. session,
p. 5, 4. On Hazen and Garfield, see “William Hazen Babcock,” in David S. Heidler and
Jeanne T. Heidler, eds., Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Political, Social, and
Military History (New York: Norton, 2000), 959-60.
52
Beadle, Brigham’ Destroying Angel, 16.
92
“Covenanters of Scotland,” and “Moslems of Damascus,” as well as eccentric “Shakers,
and Mennonites, and Second Adventists.”53
***
Given the diversity of the Republican coalition and the strains it underwent in the
decade following the Civil War, it is hardly surprising that there was occasional discord
among northern Republicans concerning Mormon Utah. Such differences developed
around questions concerning gender relations in the rest of the United States, the role of
the Mormons in settling the West, their future in the United States, and what measures
could and should be applied against polygamy and the Church’s temporal authority. Yet,
genuine though they were, these disagreements developed within and ultimately highlight
the common framework through which northern Republicans interpreted Mormon Utah.
They judged Mormon Utah relative to an idealized version of northern society and in the
context of America’s allegedly defining commitment to freedom and progress.
Some woman suffragists, for example, agreed with standard northern Republican
condemnations but turned them toward a critique of gender conventions in American
society. Anna Dickinson, an abolitionist, suffragist, and one of the most popular proUnion public speakers during the Civil War, demonstrated as much in her postbellum
anti-Mormon speaking tour. Dickinson echoed other northern Republicans in
condemning Brigham Young as a despot and polygamy for replacing the nurturing power
of the home with the lusts of patriarchs. But Dickinson concluded by arguing that
women in Utah and the rest of the United States shared the common fate of being
53
Charles H. Brigham, “The Mormon Problem,” Old and New, May 1870, 628-641.
93
confined to living only as mothers and wives.54 Another suffragist, Abigail Scott
Duniway, made a more round-about connection. She argued that the introduction of
female voting rights in the Wyoming Territory had driven out prostitution, suggested that
exclusive male voting rights coincided with the exploitation of women, and asked readers
of her Portland newspaper, The New Northwest, “Isn’t Brigham Young a fit example of
the dire consequences of man suffrage?”55
Northern Republicans also divided over how to explain Mormon success in
settling what they considered to be a remote and difficult portion of the American
“frontier.” Here, they found a genuine interpretive snare, for while they considered
Mormon practices and beliefs to be retrogressive, such “civilizing” of the western
“wilderness” was integral to their understanding of America’s national mission.
Confronting this quandary, some Republicans gave credit to the Mormons, while others
sought to downplay their accomplishments.
Praise for Mormon achievements, in fact, was hardly rare among Republicans.
Writing in August of 1866, Harper’s Weekly, despite its revulsion at polygamy, provided
its readers with a description and accompanying illustration of the successes of the
Mormons in Salt Lake City. These included an affordable school system some
substantial buildings, a number of well-established stores, a theatre, gardens, and a lifegiving irrigation system. Their esteem for this orderly and prosperous society is apparent
54
See “Anna E. Dickinson in Boston,” The Revolution, Oct. 21, 1869, p. 1-2; and
Gordon, “’The Liberty of Self-Degradation,’” 819.
55
“Wyoming’s Noble Position,” The New Northwestern, July 12, 1872, reprinted in Jean
M. Ward and Elaine A. Maveety, eds., “Yours for Liberty”: Selections from Abigail Scott
Duniway’s Suffrage Newspaper (Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 2000), 76; see
also 23, 138. On Duniway’s support for Grant in 1872, see ibid., 18.
94
in their illustration, which depicts a cityscape centered on a broad, active, and straight
street surrounded by the neat angular rooftops of Mormon buildings and leafy tree
canopies. Above the cityscape, portraits of well-attired Mormon leaders look forward
without any apparent malice, while to their sides are sketches of prominent Mormon
buildings (see Figure 3.2). As Harper’s noted in conclusion, whatever one thought about
the Mormon religion, “the great virtue of labor can not be denied to the Mormon
population.” Harper’s also praised Brigham Young, arguing that it was his “executive
ability,” that had “redeemed the wilderness, made it a fruitful field, and ‘made the desert
to blossom as a rose.’”56 Similarly, Samuel Bowles, in 1865, optimistic that the Mormon
Church would abandon polygamy, at one point positively gushed over the Mormons’
leadership and achievements. Surely the Mormons had had “great worldly wisdom”
presiding over them, with their leaders showing “tact and statesmanship.” Among the
Mormons at large, he continued, “there have been industry, frugality and integrity” that
had produced “such progress, such wealth, such varied triumphs of industry and
ingenuity and endurance.”57 The New York Times, while condemning Brigham Young,
claimed the Mormons as a people were “mainly thrifty, industrious, full of enterprise and
vigor,” had contributed to the wealth of the country, and had “taught us what could be
done with the far deserts.”58 William Seward was to the point: “In the aspect of political
56
“City and Valley of the Great Salt Lake,” Harper’s Weekly, Aug. 18, 1866, pp. 513514, for illustration, see 520-21. Harper’s like many others, borrowed the phrase from,
Isaiah 35:1.
57
58
Samuel Bowles, Across the Continent, 80.
“The Mormon Question,” New York Times, Feb. 21, 1870, p. 4.
95
economy, Utah is a wonderful success.”59
Figure 3.2: “City and Valley of the Great Salt Lake,” Harper’s Weekly, Aug. 18, 1866,
pp. 520-21.
59
Seward, William Seward’s Travels around the World, 23.
96
Some, however, read Mormon achievements as a product of despotism and
fanaticism. General William Hazen, for one, seemed to waver, describing Mormon
laborers as “probably the most universally industrious” people in America, while warning
that the Church hierarchy “extends to every hamlet, and controls the actions and
influences the thoughts of every individual,” regarding agriculture, religion, and politics.
As he said in reference to the Church’s leadership, “Implicit obedience is their first
rule.”60 Four years after initially singing the praises of Mormon energies, an embittered
Samuel Bowles described how visitors to Utah would be impressed not by the merits of
Mormon efforts and ingenuity, but by the “power of a religious fanaticism, directed by a
lordly will and organizing a faithful, simple industry.” If these fanatics “set in motion
many of the elements of progress and civilization,” they could not be said to embody
them.61 When Mormons built thirty four miles of railroad to connect Salt Lake City to
the transcontinental line, Thomas W. Knox argued that they did so under the command of
Brigham Young. As he stated it, “The Mormons are not without energy, driven as they
are by the spiritual whip of their prophet and chief, Brigham Young.”62
Some downplayed Mormon accomplishments. Considering public education to
be a key source of progress, it is not surprising that, contrary to Harper’s passing
compliment, northern Republicans more often expressed concern for and criticism of
60
Miscellaneous House Document No. 75, “Utah Territory,” 39th Congress, 2d. session,
p. 2, 3.
61
“The Pacific Railroad – open. II,” Atlantic Monthly, May 1869, pp., 617-625, quotation
from 619.
62
Thomas W. Knox, “Across the Continent. Overland Scenes,” Frank Leslies’
Illustrated Newspaper, Jan. 22, 1870, p. 326. In a later article, however, Knox briefly
described Mormons as “an industrious and temperate people,” without adding any
qualifications; ibid., Feb. 12, 1870, p. 372.
97
Mormon-run schools in Utah.63 Some, like John Beadle, claimed that Mormon industry
was largely a myth, and alleged that Mormon farmers had “built houses, barns and
fences, but such as they were absolutely forced to have in order to live at all.”64 Fred W.
Loring, on his transcontinental railroad trip, began his article on Salt Lake City by
expressing relief at finally having reached an oasis of civilized comfort. But in the
evening, away from the main hotel, Salt Lake City’s dimly lit buildings appeared shabby,
its theatre “cheerless and dingy in the extreme,” and its actors of “unrivaled badness.”
The following morning his impressions only worsened. Echoing others, Loring also
added that Brigham Young kept the Mormon people “ignorant” and that if they practiced
“habits of industry and thrift,” this spoke to Young’s tyranny and not their own virtues.65
Catherine Waite took a slightly different tact, accusing Brigham Young of disrupting the
concord between labor and capital that sat at the heart of free labor ideology when he
“misjudged human nature” and sparked class antagonisms in his “already inharmonious
kingdom” by attempting to fix prices over the protests of mechanics and laborers.66
When Republicans did find merit in the Mormons’ industriousness, the result was
ambivalence, which sometimes manifested itself in descriptions that presented Mormon
63
See Ekirch, The Idea of Progress in America, chapter 7; Baskin, Reminiscences of
Early Utah, 198-203; Bowles, Across the Continent, 115-116, 398; William Waters, Life
among the Mormons, 179-80; Cooley, “Carpetbag Rule,” 117-18; Dwyer, “The Gentile
comes to Utah,” 40-41; Larson, The “Americanization” of Utah for Statehood, 54-55;
and Cresswell, Mormons & Cowboys, Moonshiners & Klansmen, 131-2.
64
Beadle, Life in Utah, 466-67. See also Beadle, Brigham’s Destroying Angel, 15.
65
“A Glimpse of Mormonism,” Appleton’s Journal, Aug. 19, 1871, pp. 214-5. See also
Harper’s Weekly’s description of the Mormon Tabernacle in ““The Mormon
Tabernacle,” Harper’s Weekly, Sep. 30, 1871, p. 914.
66
Waite, The Mormon Prophet and his Harem, 276-77.
98
Utah as in but not of the civilized world. In one editorial, for example, the New York
Times conceded that the Mormons were a “civilized community,” but then condemned
them as the only one of “the present day” that practiced polygamy, which it claimed
outraged “the decencies of modern civilization.”67 Similarly, Schuyler Colfax described
how Utah had become the Mormons’ home because it was the only place in the “civilized
world” where they could practice polygamy. Yet, a few pages later, Colfax recounted
that he had told Brigham Young in a frank but open meeting that polygamy had “arrayed
the civilized World against” the Mormons.68
Northern Republicans differed further over how to explain and address the rise of
a polygamous and theocratic society within the United States. How could they explain
the flourishing of barbarism and despotism, of all places, on the American frontier?
Some northern Republicans skirted this question by focusing on the high number of
foreign émigrés among the Mormons. John Beadle argued that “at least seven-eighths”
of the Mormons were foreigners, and that they came from the “lowest and most ignorant
classes” of Europe straight to Utah. Such people, claimed Beadle, were not Americans,
and could not become Americans, because they were people who merely had
“Mormonism grafted onto Europeanism.”69 In a similar vein, Samuel Bowles, in 1865,
claimed that, while there were a few attractive women and “strong-headed” men apparent
67
“Don Quixote in Utah,” New York Times, Aug. 23, 1870, p. 4.
68
Schuyler Colfax, Across the Continent by Overland Stage in 1865, unpublished
reminiscence, 1865, pp. 29, 32.
69
Beadle, Life in Utah, 301. See also Beadle, Brigham’s Destroying Angel, 24. Many
Mormons were in fact immigrants from the laboring classes of Europe; see Gustive O.
Larson, “The Mormon Gathering,” in Poll, ed., Utah’s History,175-191. On Republican
efforts to limit the immigration of Mormon polygamists, see Mulder, “Immigration and
the ‘Mormon Question.’”
99
in a Mormon service he attended, the “great mass” were destitute foreigners who ranked
below even the most impoverished of the East Coast working classes in appearance and
condition.70
At other times, however, it mattered less where the Mormons were from and more
that their institutions were offensive to the nation’s honor and spirit. Schuyler Colfax had
hoped, in 1865, that strong enforcement of federal laws and non-Mormon immigration to
Utah would bring an end to the “illegal, barbaric & woman degrading Institution, which
now stains our National escutcheon.”71 Likewise, when Harper’s Weekly heard rumors
that Young had fled Utah in 1871, it hoped that his exit promised the death of that
“‘peculiar institution’ which made Utah a plague-spot on the map of our country.” 72
Similarly, Fred W. Loring described Brigham Young’s rumored wealth as “a disgrace to
our government, and a blot on our fair fame as a nation.”73 Though Samuel Bowles had
earlier mentioned the poor condition of European Mormon immigrants, when he traveled
across America again in 1869, he offered the readers of Atlantic Monthly a more concise
and moralistic indictment of Mormon Utah. While travelers might be charmed by Salt
Lake City, Bowles assured his readers that no organization, of any stripe, in Europe or
America, was as “foreign to all our principles of life and growth,” as Brigham Young’s
Church. Even a little knowledge of “our national instincts and faith in progress,” claimed
Bowles, would allow an observer to see the inevitable collapse of the Church before “the
70
Bowles, Across the Continent, 117.
71
Colfax, Across the Continent by Overland Stage in 1865, 38.
72
“Troublous Times in Utah,” Harper’s Weekly, Nov. 25, 1871, p. 1108.
73
“A Glimpse of Mormonism,” Appleton’s Journal, Aug. 19, 1871, pp. 214-5.
100
advancing tide of American emigration and American civilization.” Both the “theories
and practices” of the “autocracy” in Utah, he argued, outraged “our American
fundamentals.”74
Confronted with what all agreed was a national problem, Republicans varied in
what they thought the optimal response. Several Republican-sponsored bills proposed
during Reconstruction, often by Radical Republicans like James Ashley and Ben Wade,
opposition to the seating of the polygamous George Q. Cannon as Utah’s territorial
representatives to Congress, and repeated rejections of Utah’s application for statehood
attest to a willingness of some, but not all, to flex the power of the federal government.75
Some, like General James Rusling, found the Mormons to be not only un-American, but
74
“The Pacific Railroad – open. II,” The Atlantic Monthly, May 1869, p. 619.
75
The first round of proposed bills subsequent to the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act of 1862
began in 1866 and lasted until 1870. In June of 1866, Benjamin Wade introduced to the
Senate a bill that would have asserted federal control over the Utah militia and jury
selection, prohibited Church officers from officiating marriages, and removed territorial
tax exemptions for the Church. It failed to pass and was followed by the proposed Cragin
Bill of 1867, re-introduced in 1869, which went further and called for the abolition of
jury trials for bigamy cases. Representative Shelby Cullom’s slightly less drastic 1869
bill passed through the House of Representatives but floundered in the Senate.
Representative James Ashley proposed dividing much of Utah’s land among the
surrounding territories, only to prompt concerns that the Mormons would thereafter
manage to increase their influence. A second round of proposed legislation then started
in 1872, with a multitude of bills coming mostly from Republicans such as John Logan
and Frederick Frelinghuysen in the Senate and William Wheeler in the House of
Representatives. Daniel Voorhees was an aberrant Democrat in the mix, and James Blair
a stray Liberal Republican. With the exception of the Poland Act of 1874, these bills
failed to pass, in part because a faith that the completion of the Pacific Railroad made
them superfluous and uneasiness from conservative Republicans and Democrats over the
expansion of federal power. Proposals for anti-Mormon legislation largely came to a stop
between 1874 and 1880, a period of diminished Republican power in Washington, D.C.
See Mark Cannon, “The Mormon Issue in Congress,” especially pp. 38-106; B.H.
Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
Century I, vol. 5 (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1965), 225-231, 433439; and Poll, ed., Utah’s History, 250-51.
101
downright seditious, and called for more than legislation. He confessed to having “great
faith in the moral power of bayonets, when exhibited on the right side.” Rusling
explained his rationale, linking slavery and polygamy in the process:
The nation found it necessary to invoke [bayonets] against slavery when
nothing else would suffice, and I am not clear that we shall not yet have to
invoke them against polygamy, the other “twin relic,” before we are well quit
of that diabolism.76
Others, however, cautioned against such brash measures. General Hazen, in a report
from the previous year, warned against the use of military force. He found the Mormons
to be “in spirit a separate and distinct nationality” from Americans, and claimed that “No
one can be in Utah long without feeling that they are among a foreign people.”77 Yet he
found that they were too shrewd to do anything overtly hostile, that they were “too
valuable a portion of the nation to be destroyed if they can be utilized,” and that
“extermination” could not be a viable option at “our age of civilization.” Hazen hoped
that the federal government would strengthen its authority in Utah gently, while reaching
out to the Mormons, educating them, and hopefully making them “feel that they are a part
of us.”78
Some believed that Mormon polygamy could be brought to an end through
theological debate, but most focused on secular issues even as they condemned a society
defined by religious belief. In 1870, John Phillip Newman, the chaplain of the Senate
76
House Miscellaneous Documents, No. 153, “Affairs in Utah and the Territories,” 40th
Congress, 2d. session, p. 27.
77
Hazen, however, even while he noted that many Mormons were immigrants, pinned the
foreignness of the Mormons on their disdain for American laws and their peculiar
religion. Language, he argued, did not distinguish the Mormons from Americans.
78
House Miscellaneous Documents, “Utah Territory,” 39th Congress, 2d. session, p. 4-5.
See also, Cannon, “The Mormon Issue in Congress,” 195-202.
102
during Ulysses S. Grant’s presidency, traveled to Utah to challenge the biblical
justification of Mormon polygamy. In three hours spaced out over three days, Newman
publicly debated Orson Pratt, one of the Mormon Church’s twelve apostles.79 Northern
Republican reactions, however, were mixed at best. The New National Era, edited by
Frederick Douglass, a leading African-American abolitionist and dedicated Republican,
and his sons, argued that such efforts were pointless. “Polygamy like slavery,” argued his
paper, “is not to be disposed of by quotations from the Bible,” which, the paper pointed
out, could easily be interpreted as supporting the practice. The paper reiterated, “As with
slavery so with polygamy,” and argued that the institution needed to be “brought to the
bar of reason and science,” and that “The whole advancing force of civilization, culture,
refinement, and moral purity must be marshalled against it.”80 The New York Times
similarly suggested that Biblical exegesis would prove ineffective and largely missed the
point that it was the progressive nature and “decencies of modern civilization,” not the
ancient world of the Old Testament, that polygamy outraged. 81 Even William Waters,
who was a friend of Newman’s, wrote about his time in Utah upon Newman’s request,
and dedicated his resulting book to Newman, addressed Mormon theology briefly while
stressing Brigham Young’s despotism and the “practical” problems with polygamy.82
79
The debates are available in Orson Pratt and John P. Newman, Great Discussion! Does
the Bible Sanction Polygamy! (Milwaukee: n.p., 1875).
80
“Polygamy,” New National Era, Sep. 8, 1870, p. 2. See also, “Fruit of Dr. Newman’s
Labors,” ibid., Sep. 22, 1870, p. 2, which contains an excerpt from a letter by Newman to
a Washington, D.C. newspaper on the trip’s success.
81
“Don Quixote in Utah,” New York Times, Aug. 23, 1870, p. 4.
82
William Elkanah Waters, Life among the Mormons, 117-123.
103
Many northern Republicans expressed a sanguine belief that freedom and
progress were already operating under their own steam, and that the defeat of Mormon
polygamy and theocracy was inevitable. Harriet Beecher Stowe, in her brief introduction
to Fanny Stenhouse’s autobiographical exposé, encouraged the women of America to
express humanitarian concern to help “free her sisters from this degrading bondage.”
Before “enlightened sentiment and sympathy,” promised Stowe, “every form of injustice
and cruelty must finally go down.”83 Moderate Republicans uncomfortable with the
expansion of federal power no doubt welcomed the idea that republicanism and
civilization would advance on its own. The New York Times, for one, condemned calls
for military force or stern legislation because it believed that they were unnecessary.
Commerce and technology, embodied in the Pacific Railroad, would soon liberate
previously isolated Mormons by bringing them “a stream of penetrating and
disenchanting light.”84 Yet such optimism, if expedient for some, was pervasive in the
immediate postbellum period. John Beadle found the future of the Mormon Church, as
an autocratic institution, to be inherently doomed in a democratic society. Mormon
religion could only persist because of the “previous mental slavery” of its followers and
could not thrive amidst “free institutions and free thought.”85 Like Beadle, Frank
83
Stenhouse, "Tell it all": the story of a life's experience in Mormonism, p. vi.
84
Quotation from, “The Mormon Question,” New York Times, Feb. 21, 1870, p. 4, but
see also “Mr. Cullom’s Utah Bill,” New York Times, Feb. 18, 1870, p. 4. The New York
Times also suggested that gold prospecting and territorial reapportionment by Congress
would resolve the Mormon problem, see “The Mormon Question – Its Easy and Peaceful
Solution,” New York Times, Nov. 28, 1865, p. 4. On analogous debates over the necessity
of federal action in ending slavery among antebellum Republicans, see Foner, Free Soil,
Free Labor, Free Men, 207-8.
85
Beadle, Brigham’s Destroying Angel, 11.
104
Leslie’s believed that the Mormon merging of Church and State could not survive contact
with outsiders, and like the Times believed that the Pacific Railroad would soon inundate
Utah with non-Mormons. But instead of merely dissolving, Frank Leslie’s thought that
Brigham Young would direct his persevering followers to escape with their substantial
financial resources and establish an “independent Polynesian polygamic kingdom or
empire” in the Pacific, where Mormon missionaries already had a presence.86 Noting that
“Mormonism must soon give way before the advancing tide of American civilization,”
Catherine Waite also contemplated a Mormon exodus to the Pacific.87 Samuel Bowles,
however, had disavowed such an idea as early as 1865. “Ultimately,” claimed Bowles,
“before the influences of emigration, civilization and our democratic habits, an
organization so aristocratic and autocratic as the Mormon church now is must modify its
rule.” First to go would be its “most aristocratic and uncivilized incident or feature of
plurality of wives,” broken down by the arrival of “mails, daily papers, railroads and
telegraphs.” Although “A kingdom in the sea,” might perpetuate polygamy temporarily,
“commerce and democracy would ultimately follow it” there too. Already, Bowles heard
the “click of the telegraph and the roll of the overland stages” sounding polygamy’s
“death-rattle.” Within a matter of years, he claimed, “the first whistle of the locomotive
will sound its requiem; and the pick-ax of the miner will dig its grave.”88
Ultimately, Republicans might compromise on the means as long as they achieved
their ends. One English traveler, William Hepworth Dixon, recorded his attempts to
86
“A Mormon Nation—A Polygamic Polynesian Kingdom,” Frank Leslie’s Illustrated
Newspaper, June 25, 1870, p. 226.
87
Waite, The Mormon Prophet and his Harem, 280.
88
Bowles, Across the Continent, 108.
105
convince a handful of militantly anti-Mormon Republicans that, when it came to matters
of conscience, persuasion was preferable to coercion. Pressed, one of his Republican
interlocutors, with manifest confidence, brought the conversation to an end:
Well, while we are divided in opinion, perhaps, as to the use of physical force,
we are all in favor of moral force… Union is our motto, equality our creed.
Boston and Salt Lake must be got to shake hands, as Boston and Charleston
have already done. If you can persuade Brigham to lie down with Bowles, I
am willing to see it…. And now pass the wine.89
***
Geographically isolated from the key theatres of the sectional conflict, Mormon
Utah nonetheless spoke directly to northern Republican understandings of themselves,
their nation, and the world. In Mormon polygamy and the temporal authority of the
Mormon Church, northern Republicans believed they had found manifestations of the
retrograded and oppressive forces of barbarism and despotism. These forces, northern
Republicans believed, had operated throughout history, and northern Republicans showed
no compunction about situating Mormon Utah in a global context through an eclectic and
sometimes elaborate series of comparisons. Yet, northern Republican understandings of
republican freedom and civilized progress were also grounded in an idealized version of
their own section, which they held to be the purest embodiment of American character.
Not only free labor, and representative government, but also free schools, a free press,
commerce, technology, humanitarian sympathy, and sentimental family life were held to
mark the presence of and serve as agents in the onward march of civilization in its
struggle with barbarism and republican freedom in its struggle with despotism and
aristocracy. If northern Republicans were far from unanimous in their opinions about
89
Dixon, New America, 247.
106
Mormon Utah, let alone the pressing issues tied to southern reconstruction, political
corruption, and industrialization, they nonetheless tended to approach it from within this
common framework.
Yet, northern Republican interest in Mormon Utah was also emblematic of the
broader cultural milieu of the Civil War Era’s sectional and partisan conflicts. While the
period’s political and social vocabulary was rich, few concepts proved as ubiquitous and
capacious as those of national identity, civilization, and republicanism. As pervasive and
contested as these terms were, they were far from perfectly malleable. Instead, each was
centered on a widely recognized core definition that provided a foundation upon which
subsequent disagreements took place. Together, these ideas led competing groups to
think not only nationally but internationally as they searched far afield for instances of
despotism and barbarism that they could construe as affirming their arguments at home.
If Democrats hesitated to defend the Mormons, this hardly suggests that the intense and
often bloody struggles of the period turned their focus exclusively inwards.
Demonstrating this does not, moreover, necessitate a broad conceptualization of what
Reconstruction was. Even if, for example, scholars choose to treat topics such as the rise
of big business, international immigration, and the conquest of the American West as part
of a broader Gilded Age that exerted influence upon but was distinctive from the
processes of Reconstruction, one can still find cause for incorporating the West into our
understanding of Reconstruction. If the experiences of Mormon wives were profoundly
different from southern slaves, northern Republicans believed that the uniform character
of barbarism linked the two together, and that, as the true Americans, they could not help
but take action.
107
CHAPTER 4
DEMOCRATIC “CIVILIZATION,” AFRICAN “BARBARISM,” AND THE STRANGE CAREER OF
PAUL DU CHAILLU
“Any Democrat who did not manage to hint that the negro is a degenerate gorilla would
be considered lacking in enthusiasm.”
-- Georges Clemenceau1
At the heart of Reconstruction were questions concerning the status and rights of
four million former slaves living in the South. To 19th-century Americans, these were
questions that could not be addressed outside the context of imagined differences
between “black” people who could trace at least some of their ancestry to sub-Saharan
Africa and “white” people who were taken to be of exclusively European descent. In
spite of manifest human and cultural similarities, widespread social contact, and several
generations of biological intermixing, the majority of Americans believed that the
continental origins of the New World’s “black” and “white” populations continued to
represent the differences between two distinct “races.” But around this widely shared
presumption, Americans confronted a long-accumulating stock of varied and sometimes
conflicting stereotypes and theories. As a result, there was no consensus, and at times
fierce disagreement, over how and why “blacks” and “whites” differed.2 During and
1
George Clemenceau, American Reconstruction, 131, quoted in Eric Foner,
Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877 (New York: Harper &
Row, 1988), 32.
2
On the pervasiveness, variety, and transformation of racial ideas in the nineteenthcentury United States, see George Frederickson, The Black Image in the White Mind: The
Debate on Afro-American Character and Destiny, 1817-1914 (Hanover, NH: Wesleyan
University Press, 1987, reprint), chapters 1-6; William Stanton, The Leopard’s Spots:
Scientific Attitudes toward Race in America, 1815-1859 (Chicago: University of Chicago
108
after the Civil War, debates over the nature of black-white racial difference centered on
the question of how “black” people, often referred to collectively as “the negro,” would
respond to emancipation, citizenship, and suffrage.
Within these debates, the bitterest criticisms of congressional Reconstruction
came from those who believed that “the negro” was uniformly and dramatically inferior
to the white race. These white supremacists, including large numbers of northerners and
ex-Confederates, found the Democratic Party to be the most reliable proponent of their
views. Taking northern Republican sympathy and support for southern freedpeople as
evidence of a total lack of regard for racial distinctions, Democrats often derided their
opponents as “Black Republicans.” The racial attitudes of most northern Republicans,
Press, 1960), and Reginald Horsman, Race and Manifest Destiny: The Origins of
American Racial Anglo-Saxonism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press). Even many
African Americans in the free states, for example, routinely posited racial distinctions
between European and African peoples, arguing that white people had negative
characteristics and black people positive ones; see Mia Bay, The White Image in the
Black Mind: African-American Ideas about White People, 1830-1925 (New York:
Oxford University Press, 2003), chapters 1-3. Some Americans, especially abolitionists,
did disavow the idea of race. Just as often, however, abolitionists advanced arguments
that, however benign compared to white supremacy, were nonetheless racial in nature.
On a more personal level, white abolitionists were often condescending towards African
American abolitionists. On these points, see William H. Pease and Jane H. Pease, eds.,
The Antislavery Argument (New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1965), pp. lxviilxxiv; Lawrence J. Friedman, Gregarious Saints: Self and Community in American
Abolitionism, 183-1-1870 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982), chapter 6. On
the abolitionists and race more generally, consider also James Brewer Stewart, “The
Emergence of Racial Modernity and the Rise of the White North, 1790-1840,” Journal of
the Early Republic 18 (Summer 1998): 181-236. On the differences in racial thought
among northern Democrats and northern Republicans, see Eric Foner, Free Soil, Free
Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party before the Civil War (New York:
Oxford University Press, 1996 [2nd ed.]), chapter 8; and Kenneth Stampp, The Imperiled
Union: Essays on the Background of the Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press,
1980), chapter 4. As one possible exception to this general acceptance of racial
categories throughout the United States, Mia Bay has suggested that although southern
slaves referred to people as black and white, they rarely invested these categories with
biological or ethnological meaning; see Bay, The White Image in the Black Mind,
chapters 4 and 5.
109
however, fell between universal racial equality and white supremacy, and were often
marked by uncertainty about the ability of “negroes,” especially those raised in slavery,
to fulfill the duties of citizenship. Indeed, the majority of northern Republicans would
have certainly balked at the rapid expansion of citizenship to African Americans and
suffrage to African American men if it had not been for a number of factors, including:
the service of 200,000 African Americans in the Union armed forces; the brazen attempts
of the southern planters to defy defeat by resurrecting slavery; President Andrew
Johnson’s obstinate refusal to compromise with even moderate congressional
Republicans; and a general skittishness about creating an entrenched bureaucracy to
oversee the transformation of the South.3
Although Americans disagreed about much concerning race, including the
authority of different pseudo-scientific theories, biblical interpretations, and moral
principles, they shared a common if contested social and political vocabulary for debating
the nature of “the negro.” Of central concern, most agreed, was whether the slaves, once
freed, would master civilized and republican life. In fact, the Democratic rhetorical
assault on congressional Reconstruction relied heavily on the argument that the extension
of republican freedom to “the negro,” by removing the restraints of slavery, left
unchecked his inherent inclinations towards barbarism. The result, white supremacists
argued, would be to spark a bloody race war between former slaves and the civilized
white South. Often, Democrats added, this war, or sheer barbarian incompetence, would
doom “the negro” to extinction just, they believed, like the Indian before him.4 At other
3
On these points, see Eric Foner, Reconstruction, chapters 5-6.
4
The popularity of comparisons to Native Americans, see, for example, Forrest G.
Wood, Black Scare: The Racist Response to Emancipation & Reconstruction, 5-10; Dan
110
times, Democrats warned that Reconstruction, by removing all control from “the negro,”
would destroy civilized order in the South and thereby “Africanize” it.5 Such arguments
operated on several levels, allowing Democrats to variously present themselves as the
protectors of former slaves, posture as the true defenders of America’s republican
civilization, and suggest that the extension of citizenship to African Americans actually
made them more foreign to the nation.
Yet if, as scholars have long recognized, the distinction between civilization and
barbarism became wrapped up with the elaboration of racial ideologies, its meanings
never became exclusively racial. A great many northern Republicans who had doubts
about African Americans, for example, were perfectly willing to accuse fellow “whites,”
including slaveholders, Mormons, and European aristocrats, of being sunk into
barbarism. For many in the North, moreover, the heart and soul of civilization lay not in
biology but in institutions and values, including Christianity, which many believed could
be extended to backwards and even inferior peoples. Many Republicans thought that, if
“the negro” remained uncivilized in the South, this was because he had suffered under
what Charles Sumner once called “the barbarism of slavery.”6 For these reasons,
Democrats, although they might take “the negro’s” inherent tendency towards barbarism
T. Carter, When the War was Over: The Failure of Self-Reconstruction in the South,
1865-1867 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1985), 166-67; Joel
Williamson, After Slavery: The Negro in South Carolina during Reconstruction, 18611877 (New York: W. W. Norton Company, 1965), 245-252.
5
On claims that congressional Reconstruction would “Africanize” the South, see also
Claude H. Nolen, The Negro’s Image in the South: The Anatomy of White Supremacy
(Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1967), 59, 62.
6
Charles Sumner, The Barbarism of Slavery (New York: The Young Men’s Republican
Union, 1863).
111
for granted, could not presume that other Americans would agree with their particularly
rigid and negative views. Democrats, therefore, looked for evidence that they could
manipulate to both bolster their arguments about race and civilization and, at least as
often, insult their political rivals.
Because their understanding of civilization centered on black-white racial
categories, Democrats were particularly concerned with not only the Caribbean islands,
as a number of scholars have already noted, but also Africa.7 Indeed, while the fall of
7
There are now several works that analyze the attitudes of different groups of Americans
towards developments in various parts of the Caribbean. On American interest in and
opinions about developments in Haiti, including of course the lengthy and multisided
struggles over slavery and imperial control of the island, see especially: Winthrop Jordan,
White over Black: American Attitudes Towards the Negro, 1550-1812 (Chapel Hill:
University of North Carolina Press, 1968), 375-402, which notes the power of the Haitian
Revolution to stifle antislavery sentiment and inspire fear among slaveholders in the
United States; Tim Matthewson, “Abraham Bishop, ‘The Rights of Black Men,’ and the
American Reaction to the Haitian Revolution,” Journal of Negro History 67 (Summer
1982): 148-154, which analyzes and reprints the writings of what was one of the most
outspoken North American supporters of the Haitian slaves; Matthewson, “George
Washington’s Policy toward the Haitian Revolution,” Diplomatic History 3 (Summer
1979): 321-336, which explores the Washington administration’s and especially
Jefferson’s attempts to support the French planters; Donald R. Hickey, “America’s
Response to the Slave Revolt in Haiti, 1791-1806,” Journal of the Early Republic 2
(Winter 1982): 361-379, which is particularly helpful on Federalist and Jeffersonian
policies following the Washington administration; Simon P. Newman, “American
Political Culture and the French and Haitian Revolutions: Nathaniel Cutting and the
Jeffersonian Republicans,” in David P. Geggus, ed., The Impact of the Haitian Revolution
in the Atlantic World (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2001), 72-92,
which argues that the Haitian Revolution and the radical turn of the French Revolution
together helped make the Jeffersonian Republicans far more conservative than their own
campaign rhetoric and or earlier stances during the American Revolution would suggest;
Alfred Hunt, Haiti’s Influence on Antebellum America: Slumbering Volcano in the
Caribbean (Baton Rouge, 1988), chapters 3-5, which looks at the legacy of the Haitian
revolution in antebellum debates over slavery; J. Michael Dash, Haiti and the United
States: National Stereotypes and the Literary Imagination (New York: St. Martin’s Press,
1988), chapter 1, which helpfully explores a handful of antebellum publications; James
Sidbury, “Saint Domingue in Virginia: Ideology, Local Meanings, and Resistance to
Slavery, 1790-1800,” Journal of Southern History 63 (Aug. 1997): 531-552, which
analyzes the importance of the Haitian Revolution among white and Afro-Virginians;
112
racially-defined plantation slavery in much of the Caribbean before the U.S. Civil War
James Alexander Dun, “Dangerous Intelligence: Slavery, Race, and St. Domingue in the
Early American Republic,” (Ph.D. diss., Princeton University, 2004), which explores the
reception of and reactions to news of Haitian developments in Philadelphia during the
late 1780s and early 1790s; Mitch Kachun, “Antebellum African Americans, Public
Commemoration, and the Haitian Revolution: A Problem of Historical Mythmaking,”
Journal of the Early Republic 26 (summer 2006): 249-273, which offers a helpful
corrective to the scholarly claim, increasingly common over the last forty years, that
antebellum African Americans publicly commemorated the Haitian Revolution and
independence; and Matthew Clavin, “A Second Haitian Revolution: John Brown,
Toussaint Louverture, and the Making of the American Civil War,” Civil War History 54
(Jun. 2008): 117-145, which counters that Toussaint Louverture did feature in American
and British abolitionist writings throughout much of the Antebellum Period. On British
West Indian emancipation and the subsequent Morant Bay Rebellion in Jamaica in 1865,
see Joe B. Wilkins, “Window on Freedom: The South’s Response to the Emancipation of
the Slaves in the British West Indies, 1833-1861,” (Ph.D., University of South Carolina,
1977), which is fairly thorough in its research; Nichola Clayton, “Managing the
Transition to a Free Labor Society: American Interpretations of the British West Indies
during the Civil War and Reconstruction,” American Nineteenth Century History 7 (Mar.
2006): 89-108, which is particularly helpful on the changing attitudes in the North
leading up to and following the Morant Bay Rebellion; Leslie Butler, Critical Americans:
Victorian Intellectuals and Transatlantic Liberal Reform (Chapel Hill: University of
North Carolina Press, 2007), 103-105, 106-109, which looks at the correspondence of a
handful of northern elites with fellow British liberals; and Edward Bartlett Rugemer, The
Problem of Emancipation: The Caribbean Roots of the American Civil War (Baton
Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2008), which offers a provocative look at a
wide range of American attitudes towards post-emancipation society in Haiti and the
British West Indies up through the Morant Bay Rebellion. For a work that explores the
different meanings that Cuba and Haiti held for southern slaveowners, see Matthew Pratt
Guterl, American Mediterranean: Southern Slaveholders in the Age of Emancipation
(Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2008). For an older work that notes the
place of Caribbean emancipation in southern racial thought, see Nolen, The Negro’s
Image in the South, 23-24. For one of the first works to offer a modern comparative
analysis of emancipations in the Caribbean and United States, see Eric Foner, Nothing
but Freedom: Emancipation and its Legacy (Baton Rouge, 1983), chapter 2.
On 19th-century American attitudes towards Africa, one finds a smaller number of
works. See, the helpful but hardly exhaustive, Felix N. Okoye, The American Image of
Africa: Myth and Reality (New York: Black Academy Press, 1971); and Michael
McCarthy’s thoughtful, Dark Continent: Africa as Seen by Americans (Westport, CT:
Greenwood Press, 1983), which focuses on the writings of a small number of Americans
who traveled to Africa in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Both works, unfortunately,
leave unaddressed the ways in which American discussions of Africa were fueled by the
sectional and partisan conflicts of the Civil War Era. On the 20th Century, see Dennis
Hickey and Kenneth C. Wylie, An Enchanting Darkness: The American Vision of Africa
in the Twentieth Century (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1993).
113
made the region of obvious relevance to Americans contemplating what emancipation
would look like in the southern states, it was Africa that served as a polemical and
intellectual starting point for Democrats. Granted, information from and about Africa
was relatively scarce in the United States, but in certain circumstances this only made it
more valuable to Democrats as they railed against northern Republicans and southern
freedpeople.
For all the venom of Democratic arguments, they often elicited a relatively
limited number of mixed responses from northern Republicans. In part, this stemmed
from the ambivalence of many moderate Republicans about “the negro,” but even those
committed to racial equality often registered little concern. Here, it should be noted,
radicals could, if they chose, accept arguments that Africa was sunk into barbarism while
still holding that “the negro’s” character was more malleable than Democrats asserted.8
This is not to say, however, that those outside of the Democratic Party failed to take
interest in either Africa or white supremacist arguments about it. Instead, like many in
Europe, Americans from across the political spectrum were fascinated by accounts of a
continent that was still being explored by outsiders, and regularly took interest in
everything from waterfalls to anteaters. At times, moreover this popular interest was
complemented by more positive appraisals of Africa, especially on the part of northern
evangelicals committed to missionizing the continent. Finally, northern Republicans did,
at points, seek to refute negative depictions of Africa, sometimes asserting that “the
negro” was capable of civilization both there and in the United States.
***
8
On this point, consider also Nolen, The Negro’s Image in the South,18-19.
114
Because most of Africa had yet to be connected to Europe and America by
telegraph lines, news from the continent arrived from a variety of sources, including
missionary correspondence, European settlements in southern Africa, military
expeditions, Americo-Liberian settlements in West Africa, and European and American
merchants trading in ports in Africa. But the greatest attention went to Europeans and
Americans who, leaving behind their own societies and cultures, made deliberate efforts
to explore the interior of Africa. Understood across Europe and the United States as men
who had left “civilization” at their own risk for the promotion of knowledge, Christianity,
and progress, these explorers were widely revered. Along with Victorian scientists, they
formed a network that was widely recognized within the United States as the authority on
African geography, flora, fauna, and people. American interest in the exploration of
Africa, in short, cannot be explained solely by postbellum debates over the relationship
between race and civilization. The two, however, were bound to get wrapped up
together.
At times, in fact, American interest in African exploration seemed to have little to
do with arguments over congressional Reconstruction. The constant American press
coverage of David Livingstone’s expedition to find the source of the Nile, for example,
focused more on the human drama of his perseverance, reported death, and rediscovery
by a Welsh-born correspondent for the New York Herald, Henry Morton Stanley. While
certainly the myth of African savagery contributed to popular understandings of
Livingstone’s explorations, editorialists and politicians made only rare and brief
references to him while the front pages of newspapers often ran with any snippet of
115
information they could get concerning his fate.9 Similarly, Stanley’s widely-read letters
to the Herald were full of condescension for the population of East Africa, but neither
offered nor sparked editorializing on the future of “the negro” and Reconstruction.10
Instead, his letters dwelt more on the personal danger involved in traversing an unfamiliar
land filled with warring groups, his struggles with recalcitrant porters and guards,
hunting, and descriptions of his travel route.11 It hardly helped Democrats that
Livingstone and Stanley, if not saints, at the time of Reconstruction rejected the more
virulently racist arguments about African inferiority. In fact, when Livingstone stated
before a missionary meeting that the people of Central Africa were “far from being
savages,” were often “quiet mild and hospitable,” farmed instead of hunted, and were
skilled workers of iron and copper, the San Francisco Elevator, an African-American
paper, excerpted his comments on its front page.12 Yet even among African American
and radical Republican newspapers, it was often geographic exploration, especially of the
Nile, that garnered attention. The Elevator, for example, later ran a piece that simply
9
For brief and often speculative reports, which were common in newspapers across the
ideological spectrum, see, for example, the untitled notices in Richmond Enquirer, 8 June
1867, p. 1; 14 June 1867, p. 1; 13 July 1867, p. 2; and the following from the New York
World: “Safety of Dr. Livingtone,” 23 November 1867, p. 3; 28 November 1867, p. 4; 5
December 1867, p. 5; “Dr. Livingstone,” 9 December 1867, p. 1; 11 December 1867, p.
8; “Positive Advices of the Safety of Dr. Livingstone,” 3 January 1867, p. 1; “Dr.
Livingstone,” 21 January 1867, p. 5; “Dr. Livingstone,” 4 February 1868, p. 8; “Africa,”
9 April 1868, p. 1.
10
On the letters’ wide readership, see, Mark Summers, The Press Gang, 16; and Norman
Bennett, Stanley’s Despatches to the New York Herald, 1871-1872, 1874-1877, pp. xixxxv.
11
For a version of the letters with helpful annotations, see Norman Bennett, Stanley’s
Despatches to the New York Herald, Part I.
12
“The Central Africans,” San Francisco Elevator, 1 December 1865, p. 1
116
noted the contributions of several explorers in opening Africa to civilization before
turning to two excerpts concerning the Nile explorations of Sir Samuel Baker.13 The
Mobile Nationalist, a radical Republican paper in Alabama, reprinted the piece six weeks
later.14
At times, competing interpretations of “the negro’s” capacity for civilization were
more manifestly at play in American interest in the exploration of Africa, although not
always in ways that explicitly dovetailed with sectional and partisan disputes over
Reconstruction. This was particularly evident in support for a Liberian exploratory
mission conducted in 1868 by Benjamin Anderson, a talented and ambitious free-born
African American who had immigrated to Liberia in 1851, at the age of 16, to avoid
constant racial harassment in Baltimore, Maryland. The expedition had its origins in
Liberia’s political leadership’s desire to chart a route to, establish contact with, and
hopefully open trade with the once-rich city of Musadu, or Musardu, located in the
interior of what were then the country’s more extensive borders. First, however, funding
was needed, so Anderson returned to the United States in search of financial support.
Here, he received a crucial two hundred dollars from New Yorker Henry Schieffelin, one
of the most reliable benefactors of Liberia and a firm believer in the possibility of
spreading civilization to native Africans. A prominent member of the American
Colonization Society (ACS), in 1865 Schieffelin became Liberia’s Chargé d’Affaires to
the United States and a board member of the New York Colonization Society, which was
13
“Discoveries in Africa”, San Francisco Elevator, 26 October 1866, p. 1.
14
“Discoveries in Africa,” Mobile Nationalist, 6 December 1866, p. 1.
117
devoted to supporting voluntary African American migration to Liberia.15 In addition to
his philanthropy, Schieffelin assembled and published in 1871 a collection of writings to
demonstrate African accomplishments in civilization and Arabic learning and thereby
encourage American support for missionary work in Africa.16 After Anderson returned
to Monrovia from his successful, albeit anti-climatic, exploratory journey to a greatly
diminished Musadu, Schieffelin had his narrative of the expedition published through the
Smithsonian Institution.17 Here, however, the support offered by the president of the
Smithsonian, Joseph Henry, who was also a member of the ACS, derived from a much
more pessimistic view. Believing that people of African descent could not compete
against Anglo-Saxons in the cooler temperate zones of the world, he saw little hope for
their survival in most of the United States. He also, as he once wrote to a colleague, had
“little hope that the black man can ever be civilized,” except maybe by a process of
selection over a period stretching across “geological periods.” It was from this negative
estimation of “the black man” that Joseph Henry concluded that the United States might,
as a sort of “experiment on a grand scale,” attempt a mass migration of American ex-
15
On the history of the American Colonization Society, including the waning influence
of slaveholders within it during the Antebellum Period, see, Eric Burin, Slavery and the
Peculiar Solution: A History of the American Colonization Society (Gainesville:
University of Florida Press, 2005).
16
See Khalil Mahmud, ed., The People of Africa: A Series of Papers on their Character,
Condition, and Future Prospects (Ibadan University Press, 1974, originally 1871).
17
For the above points on Anderson and Schieffelin, see James Fairhead, et. al., AfricanAmerican Exploration in West Africa (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003), 5159, and 63-91 on Anderson’s subsequent efforts at exploration. Also of use is the “New
Introduction,” to Humphrey Fisher, ed., Journeys to Musadu (London: Frank Cass and
Company, 1971).
118
slaves to Liberia.18 Emblematic of the larger American divisions over the relationship
between race and civilization, the differences between Schieffelin and Joseph Henry
nonetheless played out in a movement that was largely marginalized from the central
debates concerning Reconstruction. Anderson’s expedition, moreover, failed to generate
much interest in America, mostly because the Smithsonian published only 500 copies of
his A Journey to Musardu, 400 of which Schieffelin sent to Anderson in Liberia.19
For information on the exploration of Africa to become integrated into the
Democrats’ polemical assault on Reconstruction, it had to both be readily available and
conceivably relevant to their belief that “the negro,” wherever he was, was inclined
towards barbarism. For this reason, far more successful at garnering public attention and
inspiring debate was another explorer of Africa who, though famous in his own time, is
now largely forgotten. An enigmatic character who welcomed and at times encouraged
beliefs that he was born in New Orleans, New York, and Charleston, Paul Du Chaillu in
fact did not set foot in America until 1852, probably at the age of 21.20 The son of a
18
See The Papers of Joseph Henry, Volume 10, pp. xxiv-xxvi, 178-89, 183-84 (for
quotations), and Volume 11, pp. 380-81 note 2.
19
On the printing of A Journey to Musardu, see Humphery Fisher, ed., Journey’s to
Musadu (London, 1971), pp. vii-viii; and Fairhead, et. al., African-American Exploration
in West Africa, 57. Anderson’s expedition and his A Journey to Musardu, for example,
went almost completely unnoticed in the American press. Harper’s Monthly briefly
mentioned the publication of A Journey to Musardu by the Smithsonian Institute,
complimented its “plain, simple, and unostentatious story,” and noted that Anderson was
“a pure-blooded negro,” but also suggested that most Americans, lacking a detailed
knowledge of the region, would have difficulty following the narrative. See, Harper’s
Monthly, “Editor’s Literary Record,” October 1870, pp. 783-4. For a brief reference to
Anderson in a letter republished by a newspaper, see “Missionaries Wanted,” American
Union, 30 July 1869, p. 2.
20
For evidence of the uncertainty over Du Chaillu’s place – and date – of birth, see
Michel Vaucaire, Paul Du Chaillu: Gorilla Hunter (New York and London: Harper &
Brothers Company, 1930), pp. 1-5; “Paul Du Chaillu Dead,” New York Times, 1 May
119
French merchant, Paul had spent his adolescence on the coast of modern day Gabon, in
equatorial West Africa, where his father was in charge of provisioning a small colony and
some French naval installations.21 Like the Welsh-born Henry Stanley who spent his
early years in poverty and Benjamin Anderson who left for Liberia to escape constant
racial intimidation in Baltimore, Du Chaillu appears to have emigrated in search of
broader horizons.22 When he decided to do so, his close relationship with John and Jane
Wilson, a missionary family from South Carolina working near the Gabon River, directed
him towards the United States. In 1852, Du Chaillu arrived in New York with a
reference from the Wilson’s that helped him secure a job teaching French at Drew
Seminary for Young Ladies in Carmel, New York. Within only a few years, however,
Du Chaillu had found a better outlet for his energies by securing financial support for a
return trip to equatorial West Africa. There, he proposed to use the personal connections,
hunting skills, and language competency developed in his adolescence to explore a region
about which Europeans and Americans knew little. In December of 1855, he arrived at
the banks of the Gabon River and began the first of two lengthy stays that would make
him one of the best known and most controversial explorers of Africa.23
1903, p. 9. For evidence that Du Chaillu encouraged these various beliefs, see Edward
Clodd, Memories (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1916), p. 71 On both topics, see
Lysle E. Meyer, The Farther Frontier: Six Case Studies of Americans and Africa, 18481936 (Selinsgrove, PA: Susquehanna University Press, 1992), 33-4.
21
On Paul’s father and their time in the region of the Gabon estuary, see Henry Bucher,
“Canonization by Repetition: Paul Du Chaillu in Historiography,” Revue Francais
d’Historie d’Outer-Mer 66 (1979): 15-32, especially 16-17.
22
On Stanley’s early life, see Richard Hall, Stanley: An Adventurer Explored (Boston:
Houghton Mifflin Company, 1975), chapter 5.
23
On these points, see Bucher’s carefully researched and immensely helpful
“Canonization by Repetition”; and Lysle E. Meyer, The Farther Frontier: Six Case
120
At the heart of Du Chaillu’s resulting prominence were his novel discoveries in
Africa, his sensationalistic descriptions of them, sharp criticism from scientists and
fellow explorers, and his ability to capitalize on attention. The major achievements of his
first voyage included offering Europeans and Americans detailed accounts of African
fauna, describing several local African groups, including the Fan, who practiced
cannibalism, and exploring an area of equatorial rain forest largely untraveled by nonAfricans. With each of these feats, however, Du Chaillu demonstrated an egregious
tendency to embellish his descriptions and, in some cases, borrow without attribution
material from other authors. His most famous accomplishment, offering the first detailed
description of living gorillas to a European audience since Hanno the Carthaginian (400
B.C.E.), is a point in case. While his descriptions were certainly of some scientific value,
they also presented what were generally timid herbivores as wild, violent, incensed beasts
with sharp teeth and destructive inclinations. It is not surprising, then, that while
reactions to his work in British scientific circles were initially celebratory, they quickly
became mixed and often sharply negative as rival experts began to question his findings
and uncover his occasional acts of plagiarism. At one scientific meeting in England,
matters became so heated that Du Chaillu spat at one of his critics. An English novelist,
Winwood Reade, went so far as to travel to equatorial West Africa to challenge his
claims. None of this, however, limited the appeal of Du Chaillu’s first book,
Explorations and Adventures in Equatorial Africa (1861). By 1863, in fact, he was able
Studies of Americans in Africa, 1848-1936 (Selinsgrove, PA: Susquehanna University
Press, 1992), 33-38. Less helpful on Du Chaillu’s early life is K. David Patterson’s “Paul
B. Du Chaillu and the Exploration of Gabon, 1855-1865,” International Journal of
African Historical Studies 7 (1974): 647-667, which relies heavily on Michel Vaucaire’s
helpful but flawed, Paul Bu Chaillu: Gorilla Hunter (New York, 1930).
121
to fund a more expensive second expedition with the revenues from this bestselling book
and financial support from his publisher. Returning to the region around the Gabon River
in a chartered ship, and now trained in the use of and equipped with a collection of
scientific instruments, Du Chaillu sought to defend his reputation and, on some points,
managed to do so.24
While Du Chaillu did establish some legitimacy among Victorian scientists,
especially the more racist among them, his talent was as an entertainer and his greatest
success would come through parlaying his alleged expertise on Africa into a collection of
anecdotal travel narratives targeted towards broader audiences in the United States.25
When he returned to England in 1865 and then America in April of 1867, Du Chaillu
remained popular precisely because he again offered engaging and exaggerated stories
about gorillas, cannibalism, and now also the “Obongos or Dwarf Negroes” who lived in
the equatorial West African interior. In fact, his second expedition, and the welladvertised talks and publications that followed, much like Stanley’s search for
Livingstone on behalf of the New York Herald, constituted a commercialization of
African exploration for popular consumption as much as, if not more than, scientific
exploration.26
24
Bucher, “Canonization by Repetition,” 19-28; Meyer, The Farther Frontier, 38- 52;
Patterson, “Paul Du Chaillu and the Exploration of Gabon,” 650-657; Vaucaire, Paul Du
Chaillu, 125-141, 207-219.
25
On Du Chaillu’s place in the debates over race among Victorian anthropologists, see
Ter Ellingson, The Myth of the Noble Savage (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of
California Press, 2001), 212, 252-53, 308-309.
26
For advertisements of Du Chaillu’s books and lectures, see, for example, “M. Du
Chaillu’s Second Expedition,” New York Times, 6 April 1867, p. 5; and “From Dayton,”
Cincinnati Daily Gazette, 12 December 1868, p. 3.
122
Du Chaillu’s popularity was bolstered by his second book, A Journey to AshangoLand, which mixed derision towards equatorial West African religious practices with
detailed and sometimes praiseful descriptions of social and cultural life in the region and
warm sentiments towards a handful of local friends.27 The Albany Journal said of it that
no other recent travel narrative, not even those of Livingstone, appeared “so well
calculated to please and instruct.”28 The New York Times was more restrained, but
nonetheless called the volume “a valuable and most interesting addition to the steadily
increasing literature of African travel.”29 The San Francisco Bulletin said that it was
“intensely interesting, abounding in curious and sprightly sketches of African
character.”30 The Cincinnati Gazette, in an review picked up by the Nationalist of
Mobile, Alabama, described Du Chaillu as one of “the most famous explorers of Africa,”
and argued after a brief summary that his A Journey to Ashango-Land “makes one of the
27
For Du Chaillu’s interest in local African customs and beliefs relative to other
explorers, see Du Chaillu, A Journey to Ashango-Land, xiii; Patterson, “Paul B. Du
Chaillu and the Exploration of Gabon,” 659-661, 664-665, 666; Meyer, Farther Frontier,
59; Norman Robert Bennett, “David Livingstone: Exploration for Christianity,” in Robert
I. Rotberg, ed., Africa and Its Explorers: Motives, Methods, and Impact (Cambridge,
Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1970), 51-52, 56-57. For his obsessive concern with
West African fetish rites and superstitions, see, A Journey to Ashango-Land, 12, 17, 18,
22, 26, 27-8, 31, 32-35, 36, 38, 41-2, 51-53, 72, 79, 86, 89, 100, 101-102, 110, 115, 12122, 131, 149-151, 167, 169, 170-71, 173-7, 186, 192, 199-201, 231, 232, 238-9, 273, 283,
293, 294-5, 309-310, 313-14, 370, 384. For Du Chaillu’s routinely condescending but
nonetheless occasionally positive and ambivalent descriptions of individual people and
towns, see ibid., 18, 23, 27, 31, 76, 116, 119, 125-26, 127, 128, 132, 134, 143, 157-8,
164-5, 230, 234-5, 258, 275, 285, 288, 289-90, 322, 362, 379, 404-405.
28
“New Publications,” Albany Journal, 22 April 1867, p. 2.
29
“Du Chaillu’s African Explorations,” The New York Times, 28 April 1867, p. 3.
30
“New Publications,” San Francisco Bulletin, 11 May 1867, p. 1.
123
most remarkable cases of the contest of an author with is critics, and of his complete
victory.”31
In addition to the popularity of his travel narrative, Du Chaillu made a name for
himself in America as one of a growing number of speakers working a developing lecture
industry. After arriving in New York around April 10, 1867, Du Chaillu rested for a
month but then began making public appearances, beginning with one before a “select
audience of ladies and gentlemen assembled, by invitation,” at the city’s Traveler’s
Club.32 A presentation for the Society for the Advancement of Science and Art at the
city’s prestigious Cooper Institute, which drew approximately one thousand audience
members, soon followed.33 Public interest, in fact, was so intense that Du Chaillu
quickly organized what would be his first of several multi-state speaking tours.34 As a
lecturer, it may have helped that Du Chaillu cut a distinctive figure. In its account of his
speech on Fan cannibalism, for example, the New York World described Du Chaillu, “the
celebrated African traveller,” as “a small sized, dark complexioned, gentlemanly man”
who “spoke with a French accent, and not very fluently, but in a simple, direct and
pleasing manner.”35 At the heart of his success was his ability to connect to audiences.
The Daily Press of St. Paul, Minnesota, like the World, noted that Du Chaillu was “a
31
“Explorers in Africa,” Mobile Nationalist, 28 March 1867, p. 1.
32
“Equatorial Africa,” New York Times, 9 May 1867, p. 8.
33
“African Explorations,” New York Times, 15 May 1867, p. 5; “The Gorilla,” New York
Times, 18 May 1867, p. 8.
34
No title, Philadelphia Public Ledger, 10 December 1867, p. 2.
35
Excerpted in the Des Moines, Iowa, Daily State Register, “Cannibals—Narrative by M.
Du Chaillu,” 6 March 1868, p. 3.
124
dapper little French gentleman, with a bald head,” who spoke “very broken English,” but
concluded that his “narrations… were so unique and dissimilar from the usual routine of
lectures that we doubt whether the whole course [of lectures for the season] will present
anything of more engrossing interest.”36 Perhaps having further honed his skills, in 1869
the New York Herald commented that Du Chaillu’s “lectures on the gorilla country” had
given him “a wide reputation for eloquence, keen wit and vivid description.”37 Boston’s
Zion’s Herald, a Methodist paper, was critical of Du Chaillu but nonetheless
acknowledged his skills. Du Chaillu, it noted, was unsurpassed when it came to young
audiences, who were drawn in by the “fresh and natural” style that made his presentations
personable and seemingly effortless. Yet he could also, the paper added, play the part of
a “sober lecturer,” becoming “as automatic as a Harvard Professor” before a scientific
audience.38 In 1870, when Du Chaillu announced a national lecture tour, the New York
Herald predicted its success, especially in the West, commenting that “No lecturer of the
time has such an abundance of novel and interesting matters as Mr. Du Chaillu,” and that
both the “scientific man” and the “boys and girls of the schools” would benefit from his
lectures.39 At one point, according to an English friend, Edward Clodd, when Du Chaillu
neglected to discuss the gorilla when speaking “in a Baptist pulpit in the backwoods of
America, where he was on a lecturing tour,” his audience implored him. According to
Clodd, Du Chaillu explained that he had avoided the topic because it was a Sunday. At
36
“Mons. Du Chaillu’s Lecture,” Daily Press, St. Paul, Minnesota, 19 December 1868, p.
4.
37
“Du Chaillu Last Lectures,” New York Herald, 7 June 1869, p. 5.
38
“Du Chaillu as Prophet,” Zion’s Herald, Boston, 18 March 1869, p. 126.
39
“The Lecture Season,” New York Herald, 7 November 1870, p. 7.
125
this point, one of the deacons of the Church interjected, asking “’Brother Paul, did not the
Lord make the gorilla, and can it be wrong to talk about His works in His House and on
His own Day?’” Happy to please his audience, Du Chaillu proceeded to offer a narration
of his various adventures, offering an account that Clodd’s children had once been
entertained with. Complete with a frightful and “vivid imitation” of the animal’s awful
roar and chest thumping, it was, Clodd noted, difficult to forget.40
Du Chaillu’s prominence was further aided by newspapers, which regularly
reprinted or summarized not only talks in their own cities, but also material available
from more prominent papers. For but a few examples: the Cincinnati Gazette
republished his talk on gorillas before the Long Island Historical Society; the Daily
Enquirer of Columbus, Georgia, reprinted via the New York Times his talk before the
Traveler’s Club; the State Register of Des Moines, Iowa, reprinted from the New York
World a talk before Steinway Hall; and the Baltimore Sun reprinted several long
quotations from Du Chaillu on the gorilla.41 Even before he returned to the United
States, in fact, American papers had reported on his address to the Royal Geographic
Society in London, noting that his second expedition had bolstered his legitimacy as an
explorer.42 Seeking to cash in on public interest, Du Chaillu quickly turned his energies
40
Edward Clodd, Memories (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1916), 72.
41
For newspaper coverage of in-town talks, see, “Mons. Du Chaillu’s Lecture,” Daily
Press, St. Paul, Minnesota, 19 December 1868, p. 4; for excerpts from other papers, see,
“Du Chaillu on Africa and the Gorilla,” Cincinnati Gazette, 15 May 1867, p. 4;
“Equatorial Africa,” Daily Columbus Enquirer, 16 May 1867, p. 2; “Cannibals—
Narrative by M. Du Chaillu,” Daily State Register, Des Moines, Iowa, 6 March 1868, p.
3; “The Gorilla,” Baltimore Sun, 28 May 1867, p. 5.
42
See, for example, “M. Du Chaillu, the Great Explorer,” Philadelphia Enquirer, 29
January 1866, p. 2; “M. Du Chaillu’s Last Expedition,” San Francisco Bulletin, 6 March
126
to writing popular adventure books for young adults.43 Tailoring his writings and
speeches to appeal to his audiences, Du Chaillu struck a chord with American consumers.
As the San Francisco Bulletin noted in 1871, when Du Chaillu first offered his
descriptions of the gorilla he was mocked as a fraud. Now, however, New York
taxidermists were using cowhide to make stuffed gorillas, of “the most gigantic size and
hideous features,” in such numbers that “every family can have one.”44
This popular but inaccurate image of the gorilla as a wild and violent creature
had, by the time Du Chaillu returned from his second expedition, already started to
transform racial discourse in the United States and elsewhere. The full history of the
evolution of the idea that “negroes” were gorillas cannot be traced here, but a few points
should be made. First, although Du Chaillu often expressed negative views of African
culture and society, he did not, as others would, describe Africans as closely related to or
acting like gorillas.45 As a result, the transformation of Du Chaillu’s gorilla into a
commonplace expression of “negro” inferiority required an act of appropriation. Second,
if the association between “negroes” and primates predated the Civil War and
Reconstruction, Du Chaillu’s gorilla, in particular, had distinctive symbolic potential. As
intimidating as an incensed monkey or chimpanzee can be, they hardly evoke a sense of
1866, p. 3; and “Central Africa and its Inhabitants,” Enquirer of Columbus, Georgia, 19
September 1866, p. 4.
43
Meyer, The Farther Frontier, pp. 56-8, 61-2; Donnarae MacCann, White Supremacy in
Children’s Literature: Characterizations of African Americans, 1830-1900 (New York &
London: Garland Publishing, 1998), 197-98.
44
No title, San Francisco Bulletin, 19 April 1871, p. 1.
45
Du Chaillu’s in fact rejected the idea that humans were descended from apes; see, for
example, “The News,” New York Herald, 4 January 1861, p. 1.
127
raw physical terror. Unlike earlier references to primates, therefore, equating “negroes”
with Du Chaillu’s gorilla not only gave expression to popular pseudo-scientific beliefs,
but merged these with presumptions concerning the aggressive and menacing nature of
barbarians. Third, this new symbol was well-suited to Democrats as they confronted
emancipation and congressional Reconstruction. As the stereotype of the docile “negro”
naturally suited for slavery gave way to claims that radical Reconstruction had let loose
hordes of barbarians, it is hardly surprising that references to gorillas proliferated.
Through a singular symbol, white supremacists could encapsulate ideas about both “the
negro’s” biological inferiority and his allegedly barbaric nature.
At first, however, the gorilla was invoked to represent the allegedly despotic
character of the northern Republicans prosecuting the war against the South. In under a
year of Du Chaillu’s first public lectures in the United States in 1861, one writer for the
Charleston Mercury, working under the pseudonym “Hermes,” described Union loyalty
oaths in Baltimore, Maryland as part of the North’s new “Gorilla despotism.”46 A
pioneer of such rhetoric, “Hermes” continued to hurl the epithet at northern Republicans,
including Secretary of State Seward, Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase, and President
Lincoln, for over a year.47 Such claims apparently stuck, especially to Lincoln. At the
end of the war, William Lloyd Garrison’s The Liberator ran a piece demonstrating that
several statements by leading Democrats at their 1864 national convention echoed those
of Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth. Its concluding quotation came from Reverend
46
“Our Richmond Correspondence,” Charleston Mercury, 15 October 1861, p. 1.
47
“Our Richmond Correspondence, Charleston Mercury, 4 December 1861, p. 1; ibid.,
17 December 1861; “Richmond News and Gossip: Our Own Correspondent,” 3 February
1862, p. 1; “Letters from Richmond,” 22 January 1863, p. 1.
128
C. Chauncey Burr, who remarked on how incredible it was that the Union had found men
who had been willing to enact “the infamous orders of the gorilla tyrant that usurped the
Presidential chair.”48 Because Democrats and Confederates labeled northerners like
Lincoln “Black Republicans” to mock their support, however qualified it actually was,
for African American rights, these references were not without racial undertones.
By the middle years of congressional Reconstruction, however, the potential of
the gorilla as a racial epithet for African Americans had become commonplace. Take, for
example, but one instance that underscores the ways in which the gorilla became both a
commodity for popular consumption and a symbol for white supremacists. When a
gorilla recently imported by P. T. Barnum died in New York City, the Richmond
Enquirer ran a short editorial lamenting the death of “the most distinguished native of
Africa who has ever visited this country.” Although the visitor had been born outside of
the country, the paper suggested, he might still have easily become president since the
radical Republicans seemed to have no Constitutional scruples. The gorilla had, the
paper continued, “resisted in a most savage and violent manner all the efforts which were
made to reconcile him to the manners and customs of our people,” suggesting by
implication that African savagery could not coexist with American civilization. Perhaps,
the paper suggested in an explicitly racial jab at African American ex-slaves, the gorilla
would have come to feel more at home if it had made “a more intimate acquaintance with
the black Radicals of the South.”49
48
“The Pupil and his Teacher,” The Liberator, 12 May 1865, p. 1.
49
“Death of a Distinguished African,” Richmond Enquirer & Examiner, 5 March 1868,
p. 2.
129
No one, however, appears to have held Du Chaillu accountable for the racial
imagery that developed around his fearsome gorilla. Instead, when Du Chaillu returned
to the United States after his second voyage, it was his own judgment of “the negro” that
embroiled him in the ongoing debates over race. It was not, however, Du Chaillu’s
generally derisive but sometimes ambivalent discussions of social and cultural life in
equatorial West African that prompted reaction. In fact, in one instance, the San
Francisco Elevator actually borrowed from a passage by Du Chaillu in which he
discussed the compassionate nature of West African women. Reprinting the excerpt on
its front page, the readers of the paper could see Du Chaillu reflect, based on his own
period of illness while on expedition, that women in West Africa responded
sympathetically to suffering just as they did “in our more civilized lands.” Although the
piece was hardly glowing, it did grant Africans at least a modicum of humanity, noting
that “even under the black skin of the savage and benighted African” one found that God
had placed “something of His own compassionate love.”50 When Du Chaillu turned to
broader claims about the future of “the negro,” however, he found himself in more
contentious territory.
Du Chaillu laid out his argument in a final chapter of his A Journey to AshangoLand, entitled “Ethnology,” which he began by stating, as he had in his introduction, that
in the interior of equatorial West Africa one found the African “shut up from the world
around him.”51 There, Du Chaillu believed, one could see the inherent tendencies of the
race, and concluded that all the evidence he encountered pointed to a population that had
50
“African Women,” San Francisco Elevator, 21 August 1868, p. 4.
51
Du Chaillu, A Journey to Ashango-Land, 424; see also, xiii.
130
never been civilized and was dying off. To Du Chaillu, this could hardly be the fault of
European slave raiders and merchants, as some humanitarians claimed. In fact, Du
Chaillu, claiming to speak “in defense of the white man,” argued that he had noticed a
population decline even among those tribes “who had seen no white man and his fiery
water.”52 Based on his observations, Du Chaillu asserted that it was disease, the
“barrenness of women,” and, even more so, the Africans themselves that were to blame.
While certainly alcohol and the slave trade, the latter of which he argued was perpetuated
only by “negroes” operating out of nearby Portuguese-controlled islands, took their toll in
some regions, the greatest culprit was the popular belief in witchcraft. This, he claimed,
took away “more lives than any Slave Trade ever did.” Arguing, without citation, that
travel accounts from other parts of Africa offered similar conclusions, Du Chaillu
asserted that the population was declining across the continent, assumed that “the negro
race has run its course,” and added that the “Southern States of America,” were “the only
country in which the negro is known to have increased.”53
The root cause of these problems, according to Du Chaillu, was “the negro’s”
inability to change. Here, Du Chaillu noted that equatorial West Africans worked iron
and used looms, but concluded that their methods were so simple and ore so abundant in
the region that everything “tends to show that the negro is of great antiquity, and has
always remained stationary.”54 When it came to “his [the negro’s] future capabilities,”
Du Chaillu professed himself to take a stance between those who believed “the negro will
52
Ibid., 434.
53
Ibid., 434-35.
54
Ibid., 436.
131
never rise higher than he is,” and those who believed “he is capable of reaching the
highest level of civilization.”55 Du Chaillu believed that “the negro” could in fact be
made “a more useful member of mankind,” but that it would take constant effort on the
part of whites.56 “The negro,” he argued, in fact had positive characteristics, including
being “the most tractable and the most docile” of the “uncivilized races of men.”57 If left
alone, however, one had to conclude that “he will soon fall back into barbarism, for we
have no example to the contrary.”58 Yet, if “the negro” could be uplifted, thought Du
Chaillu, he could not, ultimately, be saved from extinction. Given the inevitability of this
outcome, Du Chaillu suggested that whites should nonetheless “be kind to [the negro]
and try to elevate him.”59
Such an argument clearly drew on and spoke to theories of white supremacy that
had been developing in Europe and America, and seemed uncannily in tune with
Democratic arguments about congressional Reconstruction. As a result, those who
rejected such stringent forms of racism were prone to take exception to Du Chaillu’s
work. Among the first to respond were the northern missionaries who had long worked
to evangelize and “civilize” Africa. One writer, reviewing A Journey to Ashango-Land
shortly after its release in the monthly publication of the American Colonization Society,
The African Repository, suggested that not only were the major themes of the work stale,
55
Ibid., 436.
56
Ibid., 436.
57
Ibid., 437.
58
Ibid., 436.
59
Ibid., 437.
132
but its ethnographic conclusions were wrong.60 If the region’s population was scattered
and sparse, as Du Chaillu argued, this no doubt reflected the dense forest that covered the
area and perhaps the short-term impact of a recent small pox epidemic that Du Chaillu
had mentioned. The reviewer also suggested that recent emigrations to equatorial West
Africa, another topic discussed by Du Chaillu, actually indicated a “redundancy of
population in Central Africa,” and not the race’s coming extinction.61 At any rate, if the
African beliefs and social customs were really responsible for the decline of the
population, the reviewer pointed out, Africans surely would have perished long ago. The
reviewer did, however, commend Du Chaillu for his “sympathy with the native tribes,”
and agreed with his judgment that “the negro is tractable, docile, and has many excellent
qualities.”62 A subsequent review, also published in The African Repository, took a
different approach. It simply ignored Du Chaillu’s ethnographic argument and claimed
that his book demonstrated that “All of this country… is populous and healthy,” that “the
cessation of the slave trade is having a favorable effect on the natives,” and that the
region had a “capacity for civilization and intercourse, for agriculture and trade, much in
advance of what has been dreamed.”63 The writers in the African Repository, however,
were concerned more with evangelizing Africa and less with America’s Reconstruction.
60
“Du Chaillu’s Travels in Equatorial Africa,” The African Repository, May 1867, pp.
143-6.
61
“Du Chaillu’s Travels in Equatorial Africa,” The African Repository, May 1867, p.
146.
62
“Du Chaillu’s Travels in Equatorial Africa,” The African Repository, May 1867, p.
146.
63
“Researches in Equatorial Africa,” The African Repository, August 1867, p. 231-236,
quotations from 236.
133
Other evangelical publications, however, took on Du Chaillu to defend not only
missionary efforts in Africa, but the principle of black equality in America. Zion’s
Herald, a Methodist paper from Boston with radical Republican politics, was one such
critic. Its particular concern was a scientific lecture by Du Chaillu in which he had
argued that the “admixture of distinct races,” as had already happened in Santo Domingo
and Mexico, violated the law of nature and “poisoned” entire populations.64 Mocking the
“purblindness of modern science,” Zion’s Herald argued that Du Chaillu’s theories failed
to fit the facts, which instead demonstrated not only that admixture in general
strengthened populations, but that it had, for example, given Maryland its most gifted
son, Frederick Douglass. As to Du Chaillu’s argument that the African race was heading
toward extinction, the paper had just as little sympathy. It was absurd, it suggested, to
talk of a vital white race that included “the Irish semi-savage from the bogs of Allan,”
while placing “the negro outside of the fold of races that are to be physically saved.”
Indeed, if one only looked to the South, the paper suggested, one would find that while
“The poor whites of that section have never risen above the condition of the serfs of the
Middle Ages,” the “negroes” had proven themselves intelligent when given the chance
and were, moreover, “an emotional race” naturally inclined toward Christian sentiments.
“[N]ot the extinction of inferior races,” the editorial concluded, “but the unification of all
races, is the destiny of mankind.”65
64
Du Chaillu, as quoted in, “Du Chaillu as Prophet,” Zion’s Herald, 18 March 1869, pp.
126-27, quotation from p. 127. For the political view points of Zion’s Herald, see Victor
B. Howard, Religion and the Radical Republican Movement, 1860-1870 (Lexington: The
University Press of Kentucky, 1990), pp. 25, 54, 82, 91, 93, 96, 108, 143, 156, 160, 161,
183, 197, 198, 205.
65
“Du Chaillu as Prophet,” Zion’s Herald, 18 March 1869, p. 127.
134
Similarly, the editor of Hours at Home, an evangelical literary magazine founded
after the Civil War, could not let a seven-and-a-half page review of Du Chaillu’s A
Journey to Ashango-Land pass through his journal without inserting his own concluding
parenthetical.66 The editor’s concern was to rebut Du Chaillu’s views on the “future of
the negro,” which the reviewer had quoted in length. The editor argued that, contrary to
Du Chaillu’s “very superficial” view, not only was “the negro” going to survive, but the
“uniform testimony and experience” of scores of missionaries with more extensive
experience in Africa was positive. In fact, he continued, “The negro in this country, in
the West Indies, and on his native soil,” had “proved himself to possess” what Du Chaillu
had called “’the power of progression.’” All of this, he added, stood in contrast to “the
Indian, who seems to have but little capacity for the higher state of civilization.” Making
a link to Reconstruction explicit, the editor concluded by arguing the evidence indicated
that “the elevation of the negro race to the rank of civilized and enfranchised manhood,
and the ultimate civilization and Christianization of Africa” would meet with success.67
But criticisms were by no means limited to purely evangelical publications. The
most prominent critique, in fact, came from Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune,
arguably the most important editorial voice of the Civil War era, in response to Du
Chaillu’s summary of his ethnographic arguments in his speech before the Cooper
Institute in New York City. Although not going as far as Zion’s Herald, the Tribune was
unwilling to take the contemplative stance of the conservative Republican New York
66
On Hours at Home, see Frank Luther Mott, A History of American Magazines, 18651885 (Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press, 1957), 32-33.
67
“Du Chaillu’s African Explorations,” Hours at Home, June 1867, pp. 179-186;
quotations from p. 186.
135
Times, which had concluded its review of A Journey to Ashango-Land by suggesting Du
Chaillu’s ethnographic claims certainly warranted attention. As the Times argued, before
offering a block quotation containing Du Chaillu’s dismal appraisal of “the negro’s”
future, “The views regarding the capacity and capabilities of the negro entertained by one
who has had such extensive opportunities as Du Chaillu for studying his character,
certainly deserve consideration.”68 The Tribune, in contrast, claimed that, as talented an
explorer as Du Chaillu was, “philosophy [was] not his forte.” For the Tribune, the point
of contention was not whether “the negro” was incapable of progress, a point it was
willing to grant, but that it did “not follow as a consequence that he must ‘finally
disappear’ from the face of the earth.” Noting that theories about the disappearance of
lower races were popular “with a certain class of ethnologists,” the paper contended that
there was in fact “nothing… in either history, or nature, or Providence to warrant the
conclusion that such a catastrophe is inevitable.” The paper argued instead that while
“Inferior races” were “disappearing in certain parts of the world,” this occurred where
“superior races” sought to take aboriginal lands, and in the process exposed native
populations to “the vices of a civilization imperfectly controlled by moral and Christian
influences.” However “fashionable” Du Chaillu’s “flippant philosophy” was among some
self-professed experts, the paper argued, it could not in fact do away with an entire race,
especially one that was “especially fitted for labor in the burning tropics.” Not only
would Du Chaillu’s theory, if true, give “immense tracts” of land “over to the wildness of
nature,” the paper continued, but it made little sense in the face of the “notorious”
population growth that had taken place in the British West Indies after emancipation.
68
“Du Chaillu’s African Explorations,” New York Times, 28 April 1867, p. 3.
136
While allowing that Du Chaillu was “entertaining enough when he tells us about his
adventures with gorillas and chimpanzees, and cannibal Fetich worshippers,” the editorial
concluded by arguing that “he is simply intolerable when he begins to philosophize about
the appointed fate of the negro race.”69
Given that Du Chaillu’s popularity as a public speaker stemmed mostly from his
anecdotal stories, it is perhaps not surprising that he did exert himself, in print or in
public, attempting to refute his critics. The Democratic press in the North and South,
however, both criticized the Tribune, reprinted Du Chaillu’s speeches, and integrated his
descriptions of Africa into their assault on Reconstruction. The News of Charleston, for
example, in an article reprinted by the Enquirer of Columbus, Georgia, offered a short
but derisive summary of the Tribune’s editorial that focused on its contemptuous tone.
Claiming that the Tribune “lectures M. Du Chaillu on his lecture,” the News offered a
brief excerpt of Du Chaillu’s talk at the Cooper Institute that underscored that he was
actually paternalistic towards “the negro.” Immediately following the excerpt, the
editorial again underscored, however briefly, what it took to be the Tribune’s arrogance,
stating that the paper “tells M. du Chaillu that he may be a very good hand at telling
travellers’ tales, but should confine himself to that, and not deal in generalization.”70
A lengthier critique came from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, which lambasted the
Tribune as a radical Republican organ. Contrary to the Tribune’s own statements, the
Eagle argued, the Tribune’s problem was actually with Du Chaillu’s facts. By seeing
“the negro in his native land as he is, and not as the friends of the black man think he
69
“Du Chaillu on the Negro’s Destiny,” New York Tribune, 18 May 1867, p. 4.
70
See Editorial, Daily Enquirer, Columbus, GA, 24 May 1867, p. 3.
137
ought to be,” Du Chaillu had, according to the Eagle, demonstrated that “the negro has
been saved from the most odious barbarism through slavery.” Showing this, the Eagle
argued, would “dampen considerably the ardor of those who never saw anything but
unmitigated evil in that institution.” Granting that slavery degraded most races, the Eagle
argued that “the negro alone had been elevated through it,” to the point where slaves in
the United States “had been civilized and Christianized and stood higher in the scale of
civilization than any four millions of their race the world ever saw.” Describing radicals
as a mixture of “sentimental dreamers and political schemers,” the Eagle suggested that
the Tribune “revenges itself on the traveler because what he saw in Africa does not suit
its notions.” On the coming extinction of the negro race, the Eagle suggested that the
Tribune’s critique of Du Chaillu stemmed from the fact that the Tribune “cannot possibly
imagine a world in which the black man is not the central figure.” Such a world, the
Eagle elaborated, would mean “No great reformers, no upholders of the eternal verities,
no abolition societies, no opportunity for vindicating the inherent sovereignty of
manhood!... A world without sun and life without purpose!” Seeing radicals as both selfrighteous and calculating, the Eagle suggested that, for all their rhetoric over African
Americans, they cared little for voteless Native Americans. Ultimately, the paper argued,
radicals would go so far as to “Up-turn the fairest fabric of government the world ever
saw” by enfranchising barbarous “negroes” for the sake of their own power and
conceits.71
It hardly took a critique by the Tribune, however, for Democrats to begin
integrating Du Chaillu’s claims about Africa into their rhetorical assault on
71
“Du Chaillu, the Negroes and the ‘Tribun,’” Brooklyn Eagle, 18 May 1867, p. 2.
138
Reconstruction. A close look at the Richmond Enquirer, an influential Democratic
newspaper, suggests that Du Chaillu’s work was quickly incorporated by white
supremacists in both the North and South. Here, as during much of the postbellum
period, information and opinions spread as newspapers borrowed freely from each others’
columns. The first paper to be of service to the Enquirer on this topic was the racist
Journal of Commerce in New York, which discussed Du Chaillu’s arguments in an
editorial published a week before his controversial speech at the Cooper Institute. The
Journal of Commerce took Du Chaillu’s statements to be but the latest affirming a
remarkable consensus among explorers that “there is no evidence of present or past
civilization among the negro race in Africa.” Du Chaillu, the editorial reported, “found a
total absence of civilization,” and abundant evidence that “there has been no progress in
the race for thousands of years.” In fact, “Unlike any other race of men,” African
negroes had “lived in the same barbarism from the remotest times of which we have any
record,” and their land was “the only land occupied thus long by mankind” that offered
no evidence of having ever hosted an advanced civilization. The necessary conclusion,
the Journal of Commerce believed, was that the hopes that exploration might show that
“this miserable degradation and debasement had not been the characteristic of the black
man in all times,” and was not its inescapable future, “must be abandoned.” Echoing Du
Chaillu, the editorial noted that travelers to Africa found the “negro” population to be
declining and added that the same was now true in the United States. With a clear turn
towards America’s Reconstruction, the Journal concluded by suggesting that “By the
time that philanthropists have established the doctrine of the equality of the races, it will
139
not be strange if there are no negroes left to enjoy the new status.”72 It is hardly
surprising that the Enquirer subsequently printed Du Chaillu’s ethnographic arguments
once they became widely available through his speech at the Cooper Institute.73
A newspaper like the Enquirer welcomed such arguments because they spoke to
its belief, central to white supremacist critiques of congressional Reconstruction, that “the
negro” had an inherent and unchanging tendency to degenerate towards barbarism. This
belief was encapsulated in the refrain that congressional Reconstruction was going to
“Africanize” the South and the habit of referring to freedpeople as “African,”
“Senegambian,” “Ethiopian,” and “Abyssinian.” Not surprisingly, Du Chaillu’s work
became embedded in these claims, prompting references to the man himself, equatorial
West Africa, cannibalism, Ashango-Land, and African religious fetishes.74 If not the
most vicious labels applied to African Americans, these geographic misnomers were
nonetheless effective in expressing Democratic beliefs that emancipation, citizenship, and
voting rights would actually make former slaves less and not more American. It was
these negative connotations that led some Republicans to advise southern freedpeople
against appropriating the term “African” for their own purposes. The radical Republican
New Orleans Tribune, for one, ran a short editorial, later reprinted by the similarly radical
72
“Africa,” Richmond Enquirer & Sentinel, 11 May 1867, p. 1.
73
“Equatorial Africa,” Richmond Enquirer & Sentinel, 17 May 1867, p. 1.
74
See, for example, “The Crisis and our Duties,” Richmond Enquirer & Examiner, 21
September 1867, p. 2; “What the Secret Societies are Doing,” ibid., 5 October 1867, p. 2;
“A War Declared Against the White Men of Virginia,” ibid., 5 November 1867, p. 2;
“The Vandals in Possession of the Capitol,” Richmond Enquirer & Sentinel, 3 December
1867, p. 2; “The Coming Conservative Convention,” ibid., 6 December 1867, p. 2;
“Negro and Mongrel Insolence,” ibid., 14 December 1867, p. 2; “The Arabs Pillaging the
Pyramids,” ibid., 9 January 1868, p. 2; and “Cannibalism in Africa,” ibid., 29 February
1868, p. 2.
140
American Union of Macon, Georgia, warned against precisely this. Titled “African,” the
editor began by explaining that “We have never understood why so many of our people
apply to themselves, their churches, and their schools, the above term.” Such a label, it
continued, was not only inaccurate but suggested that freedpeople were unpatriotic,
which was an “unwarrantable concession to our enemies.” Arguing that African
Americans were thoroughly American and had no real ties to Africa, the paper urged its
readers to simply abandon the term.75
The specter of African barbarism remained central to Democratic thinking when
they turned their attention to the higher volume of news arriving from the former slave
colonies of the Caribbean. Here, a number of scholars have already explored interest in
the Caribbean on the part of proslavery ideologues, African Americans, abolitionists, and
others within the United States. Yet, because Democratic critiques were racial in nature,
their arguments about the connections between the post-emancipation societies of the
Caribbean and the future of the South should not be examined in isolation from their
claims about Africa. The New York Herald, for example, could, in just two editorials,
describe Jamaica as “sinking to the fearful barbarism of Central Africa,” label the
President of Haiti as “an unadulterated negro of the Congo breed,” deride the people of
Haiti as “unwashed Africans,” and refer to “savages” of the island’s interior as “about as
75
“African,” The American Union, 29 January 1869, p. 1; see also Bernard A.
Weisberger, “The Dark and Bloody Ground of Reconstruction Historiography,” The
Journal of Southern History 25 (Nov., 1959): 427-447, 437.
141
near the status of the gorilla as anything of the genus homo discovered by Du Chaillu in
Equatorial Africa.”76
***
Arguments concerning the status and identity of former slaves in the American
South were at the heart of the sectional and partisan debates over congressional
Reconstruction. For postbellum Americans, this topic had to be addressed within the
context of what nearly all took to be the differences between people with African
ancestry and those who traced their ancestry exclusively to Europe. Yet, while most
Reconstruction partisans believed in and concerned themselves with the racial categories
of “black” and “white,” they disagreed over their precise nature. Within the political
context of Reconstruction, disagreements focused on whether formers slaves, once freed,
would assimilate into America’s republican civilization or, as the white supremacists in
the Democratic Party argued, degenerate into barbarism. Northern Republicans, although
themselves usually skeptical about the capabilities of “the negro,” were far less inclined
to believe that the division between civilization and barbarism was either rigidly or
uniformly racial. Because of this, Democrats, like the Republicans they abhorred, looked
for evidence both at home and abroad that they could use to advance their interpretations
of the sources of, threats to, and possibilities for freedom and progress. Since theirs was
a racial argument that asserted that “negroes,” wherever they were, manifested an
inherent tendency to lapse into abject barbarism, Democrats had to turn not only to the
Caribbean but also to Africa. Republicans, although demonstrating the same curiosity
76
“Negro Barbarism—Experience of the West Indies,” reprinted in Richmond Enquirer
& Sentinel, 22 November 1867, p. 2; “Negro Supremacy in Hayti—Salnave a Specimen
Brick,” Richmond Enquirer & Sentinel, 28 December 1867, p. 1.
142
about gorillas, “dwarf negroes,” and cannibalism as other Americans, did not, in all cases,
presume that conditions in Africa were necessarily relevant to Reconstruction. Still,
allegations of the immutable nature of African barbarism were so common to Democratic
criticisms of Reconstruction that, at times, Republicans openly countered their
arguments.
Into this fray stepped Paul Du Chaillu, a charismatic and ambitious Frenchspeaking émigré who had left the coast of equatorial West Africa in search of greater
opportunity. His embellished yet genuinely novel accomplishments as an explorer, the
controversy they generated in scientific circles, and his skill at capitalizing on them made
him one of the most prominent explorers of his day and probably the most popular
authority on Africa in the United States during the 1860s and 1870s. Returning to the
United States from his second expedition during the critical years of congressional
Reconstruction, Americans were primed not only to welcome his anecdotes but to
integrate his writings and public lectures into their sectional and partisan arguments over
the future of “the negro” in the United States. Given his generally negative appraisals of
indigenous societies in equatorial West Africa and his pessimistic views about the future
of “the negro,” radical Republicans, along with a handful of missionary evangelicals,
were quick to criticize his claims. Democrats, not surprisingly, eagerly drew on his
descriptions of equatorial West Africa to substantiate and elaborate their understanding of
civilization and invoked his name to bolster their rhetorical assault on congressional
Reconstruction. At the heart of their efforts was an impulsive defense of a racial
hierarchy that held that those with African ancestry should be subordinate to those of
purely European extraction.
143
Paul Du Chaillu concluded his A Journey to Ashango-Land with a macabre sort of
paternalism: “That he [the negro] will disappear in time from his land I have very little
doubt; and that he will follow in the course of time the inferior races who preceded him.
So let us write his history.”77 But the history of race is, as we now know, one of
misperception and delusion, not certainty and science. It is understandable, therefore,
that to make a future for himself, Du Chaillu managed to obscure his own past. It was
not until 1916 that Edward Clodd, Du Chaillu’s English friend, revealed to the public
that:
Like more than one eminent man, [Paul] invented more than one birthplace
for himself. One day it was New York; another day it was Paris, while
according to the obituary notice of him in The Times (May 1, 1903), it was
New Orleans. The truth is that he was born in the island of Bourbon or
Reunion. His father was a Frenchman, clerk to a Gaboon trader, and his
mother was a mulatto.78
Farfetched though this story may seem, the detailed research of Henry Bucher, Jr. has
confirmed that Paul’s father worked on the island, located off the coast of Madagascar, in
the early 1830s and then, after a hiatus of uncertain length, returned in the 1840s before
moving to equatorial West Africa. While Paul’s father appears to have never listed Paul
as his legal child in French records, the two arrived in Gabon at approximately the same
time.79 Although many who knew Du Chaillu believed he was born in 1835, when his
father would not have been on the island, his first biographer – unaware, incidentally, of
Du Chaillu’s mixed ancestry – found evidence to suggest otherwise. Flawed though it is,
Michel Vaucaire’s Paul Du Chaillu: Gorilla Hunter (1930) points out that Du Chaillu, in
77
Du Chaillu, A Journey to Ashango-Land, 437.
78
Clodd, Memories, 71.
79
Bucher, “Canonization by Repetition.”
144
a passage available only in the French version of his first book, described celebrating his
25th birthday while on his first expedition in equatorial West Africa, on July 31, 1856.80
It is a fitting testament to the subjectivity of perception and the illusory nature of race that
audiences in the United States attended his talks and suspected little, while Clodd,
knowing Du Chaillu’s story, could believe that “Paul’s diminutive stature, his negroid
face, and his swarthy complexion, made him look somewhat akin to our simian
relatives.”81
80
Vaucaire, Paul Du Chaillu, p. 4.
81
Clodd, Memories, 72.
145
Figure 4.1: Photograph of Paul Du Chaillu, in Edward Clodd, Memories, facing page 70.
146
CHAPTER 5
RACIAL EQUALITY AND THE PROMISE OF PROGRESS
If the majority of northern Republicans were ambivalent and uncertain about the
principle of African American equality, there was an active minority within the Party
who considered it integral to any definition of freedom and progress. These Republican
racial egalitarians, including a small number of white northerners and most northern
African Americans, constituted a distinctive and important wing of the Party. Yet, if
situated at the far end of the spectrum of racial thought in the United States, these
Republicans nonetheless shared much in common with their fellow party members. In
particular, they greeted Union victory, and even more so congressional Reconstruction,
with a positive sense about the possibilities for America, republicanism, and civilization.
As with others, moreover, the interplay of these ideas led Republican racial egalitarians
to think both nationally and internationally as they confronted postbellum developments.
Of particular concern to them were systems of bound labor and racial oppression in
Europe and the Americas. Yet, because they shared a range of presumptions about the
nature of progress with other northern Republicans and, to a lesser extent, some
Democrats, their interests hardly stopped there. To recapture the extent to which these
racial egalitarians, like other Reconstruction partisans, looked outwards from their own
conflicts, this chapter explores the editorial opinions of three newspapers. It suggests that
the popular optimism about America, republicanism, and civilization common among
147
northern Republicans could both bolster racial egalitarian faith in the future, and yet
qualify their understanding of what equality meant and who it should apply to.
The relationship between progress and equality in the worldviews of Republican
racial egalitarians was readily apparent in three weekly newspapers active during
Reconstruction: the Nationalist of Mobile, Alabama, which is available for the period
from December of 1865 to November of 1868; The New Era, subsequently re-titled The
New National Era, published by Frederick Douglass and his sons from January of 1870
until October of 1874; and the San Francisco Elevator: A Weekly Journal of Progress,
which ran from April of 1865 into the 1890s, but for which only scattered editions exist
after December of 1874. These papers, it should be noted, were not of one mind on every
issue and, like others, altered their tone and opinions over time. The racial dynamics
within these papers, moreover, varied. The ownership and management of the
Nationalist changed repeatedly during its lifetime, in part because of factionalism and
racial tensions within the local Republican Party, although the paper was persistently
committed to African American political equality.1 Frederick Douglass’s The New
National Era, sought to distinguish itself from other anti-slavery newspapers by
representing the perspectives and concerns of African Americans, yet also promised to be
of interest to all who loved justice, to address the nation at large, and to defend the cause
of universal humanity.2 The San Francisco Elevator, owned and edited by Philip A. Bell,
1
See Michael Fitzgerald, Urban Emancipation: Popular Politics in Reconstruction
Mobile, 1860-1890 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2002); Kimberly
Bess Cantrell, “A Voice for the Freedmen: the Mobile Nationalist, 1865-1869,” (M.A.
Thesis, Auburn University, 1989), especially 5-17, 86-88.
2
See “Our Journal” and “A Few Words to Our Friends,” New Era, 13 January 1870, p. 2;
“Salutatory of the Corresponding Editor,” New Era, 27 January 1870, p. 2; “The Place
We Fill,” New Era, 10 February 1870, p. 2; “The Change in Our Name,” and
148
an African American who immigrated to the city from New York, defined itself as an
opponent of caste distinctions everywhere, but not those based on class, and called for
African Americans to uplift themselves.3 These differences noted, these papers were
unified by their commitment to African American equality, their allegiance to the
Republican Party, and their interest in the causes of civilization and republicanism at
home and abroad.
***
As these papers looked outwards, they demonstrated a persistent interest in bound
labor and racial oppression across the globe. In doing so, they often drew on the
coverage offered by other papers, at times critically, but at times without offering their
own editorial asides. Working with these reprinted editorials and articles is inherently
difficult, especially in those cases where the editors provided no commentary of their
own. In those cases where it is necessary, this chapter will venture its own educated
guesses about whether the editors of these papers agreed with the editorials and articles
they were reprinting without losing sight of a broader point. In both drawing on other
papers and in their discussion of events from beyond the key theaters of Reconstruction,
these papers formed a part of a political culture or public sphere of postbellum federal
politics. Distinguished among most of their peers for their commitment to the rights of
“Salutatory,” New National Era, 8 September 1870, p. 2. On the paper, see also the brief
but helpful description in Roland Wolseley, The Black Press, U.S.A. (Ames, I.A.: Iowa
State University Press, 1990, 2nd ed.), 34-35; and the similarly brief but helpful
information on the paper in Benjamin Quarles, Frederick Douglass (New York: Da Capo
Press, 1997), 110, 271, 281.
3
On Bell, see Wolseley, The Black Press, U.S.A., p. 26-7. On the paper’s principles, see,
“Our Name,” “Our Motto,” and “Our Position,” San Francisco Elevator, 14 April 1865,
p. 3.
149
African Americans, these papers nonetheless shared points in common with their political
rivals. These included not only the presumption that developments and conditions from
across the nation and the globe would substantiate views about the South, but also certain
aspects concerning the nature of progress itself.
In the wake of Union victory, the curious parallels between United States and
Russian emancipations elicited a number of interpretations, a point readily apparent in the
pages of the San Francisco Elevator. The paper, for one, was struck by the ways in
which these countries, “the two mightiest Empires in the world,” had come to
emancipation from such different routes and to such different effects. Certainly, the
paper thought, both developments were momentous, constituting the two greatest
developments in a period of history marked by dramatic change. All the more odd, then,
that it was Czar Alexander I, “ruling despotically” over an “ancient Empire” that was
“just emerging from barbarism,” who had, upon ascending to the throne in 1805, started
Russia on the course towards emancipation. At approximately the same time, argued the
paper, Thomas Jefferson, despite his “almost prophetic vision” concerning slavery’s
“incompatibility with a Republican form of Government,” had devoted himself to
preserving and extending the institution of slavery through the Louisiana Purchase. It
was, ironically, a country that was the “embodiment of despotism” that had confronted
directly a feudal barbarism that had long “sunk her and checked her progress” and that
was “now enjoying the blessings of that act.” The United States, in contrast, which even
as an “infant Republic” had astounded the civilized world with its rapid progress, was
“now reaping the fruit of her sin.” Writing in the first days after Appomattox, the
Elevator was less than impressed by the Union’s slow movement towards African
150
American equality, a point evident when it pointed out that the Union government had
declared emancipation out of expediency.4 The Elevator clearly differed in its analysis
from the Philadelphia Press, which took a more triumphal tone in an editorial reprinted
by the Elevator in the same edition. For a paper like the Press, which was far more to the
center of Reconstruction’s spectrum of racial politics, the shortcomings of the Union’s
policies towards African Americans were perhaps less glaring.5 Certainly, the Press was
glad to see these two emancipations, and thought it a “remarkable historical coincidence”
that they received their death blows at the same time – 1861. Yet, in contrast to the
Elevator, the Press largely absolved the United States of any guilt over the persistence of
slavery and racism, and found that the course of events in Russia and the United States
had been fairly similar. It was not until after the Crimean War, the Press suggested, that
Alexander II had started to channel his energies into abolishing serfdom, at which point
“The nobility, after the manner of the boasted ‘Southern Chivalry’ of our own South,”
refused to accept change. Far from being introspective, the Press concluded by lauding
Alexander II for being “as much in advance of the other sovereigns of Europe in liberal
views, as the city of Philadelphia is ahead, in civilization, of the miserable capital of
Sonora.”6 The Elevator’s more critical tone should not, however, be taken to mean that
its editor was without optimism. Two months later, when the Folsom Telegraph ran a
less chauvinistic but nonetheless upbeat editorial on Russian and U.S. emancipations, for
example, the Elevator appeared content to reprint it without adding any qualifications or
4
“Serfdom and Slavery,” San Francisco Elevator, 14 April 1865, p. 2.
5
On the political views of the Philadelphia Press, see Brayton Harris, Blue & Gray in
Black & White: Newspapers in the Civil War (Washington, D.C.: Brassey’s, 1999), 308.
6
“Emancipation of Slaves and Serfs,” San Francisco Elevator, 14 April 1865, p. 4.
151
rebuttals. Linking freedom and material progress, the Telegraph argued that, with
serfdom abolished, Russia was now “increasing in wealth and power.” Abraham Lincoln
had accomplished a similar feat in 1863, claimed the Telegraph, and the paper could only
wonder at the rush of developments. “Freedom is marching onward with rapid strides,” it
argued, and “the events of ages are almost condensed into days.”7 To conjecture from the
paper’s own editorial and its excerpts from others, the Elevator was both unwilling to
absolve the United States for slavery, and yet was confident that the expansion of
freedom in Russia and the United States would bring prosperity with it. It is perhaps less
surprising, then, that the Elevator’s tone was far more muted and its articles shorter when
news began to arrive that parts of Russia were suffering from famine and that half of the
serfs nominally freed remained “in their old relations.”8
The same qualified optimism was apparent when racial egalitarians turned to
news from the Caribbean and South America. It is hardly surprising that, when the
Mobile Nationalist heard reports in May 1867 that the Emperor of Brazil had decreed
postnatal emancipation, and that all slaves in Brazil would be emancipated in twenty
years, it happily ran with the news. The paper celebrated what it took to be the expansion
of the area of freedom, mocked Confederate slaveholders who had fled to Brazil at the
end of the war, and assured its readers that Cuba, their last asylum, would soon abolish
slavery.9 Perhaps because most moderate Republicans, like the less equivocal proponents
of African American equality at the radical end of their party, condemned slavery, a
7
“Freedom’s March,” San Francisco Elevator, 23 June 1865, p. 1.
8
Untitled, San Francisco Elevator, 23 June 1865, p. 3; and “Famine in Russia,” San
Francisco Elevator, 25 August 1865, p. 1.
9
“Brazil Abolishes Slavery,” Mobile Nationalist, 9 May 1867, p. 2.
152
paper like the Nationalist could at times borrow from more centrist papers without any
apparent need to add its own comments. This appears to be exactly what happened when,
two days later, the Nationalist reprinted an editorial from the New York Times that
expressed similar sentiments about the future of slavery in the remnants of Spain’s New
World Empire. Here, the Times argued, popular sentiment in Spain and its New World
possessions were rising against slavery, all of which, it asserted, “may be regarded as one
of the consequences of the war in this country.”10 Likewise, in March of 1871, Frederick
Douglass’s New National Era could draw from the New York Tribune when it ran a long
editorial analyzing Brazil’s failure to enact its proposed 1867 emancipation. It was, the
New York Tribune argued, and one imagines the New National Era concurred,
“Conservative reactions” on the part of wealthy slaveowners that had, until now,
“defeated the sound policy of liberal statesmen and philansthropists.” As a result, Brazil,
otherwise “so proud of her material progress, enterprise, and enlightenment,” remained,
on this issue, “more barbarous than even Spain.” If only, the New York Tribune believed,
Brazil would allow fair and open elections, its people would move for immediate
emancipation. As it was, however, it would probably take a slave rebellion to bring about
change, an event that was becoming all the more likely, the New York Tribune thought, as
Brazilian slaves “learned what has been done for their race in the Northern
hemisphere.”11
Wrapped up with slavery, of course, was race. Here, Brazil occupied a peculiar
spot, from a North American vantage point, for it both continued to practice slavery and
10
“Spain and Slavery,” Mobile Nationalist, 10 January 1867, n.p.
11
“Slavery in Brazil,” New National Era, 30 March 1871, p. 1.
153
yet, in some circumstances, allowed people with African ancestry to ascend the ranks of
social and political distinction. In one exchange, the Democratic Mobile Tribune accused
the Brazilian people of vice but cheered the Brazilian government for fighting a war
against Paraguay only to have the Mobile Nationalist flip its argument on its head. In the
Nationalist’s view, by siding with the Brazilian government the Mobile Tribune was
implicitly abandoning its commitment to white supremacy. For if Brazil was a
slaveholding empire, the Nationalist argued, perhaps with some exaggeration, its
government was “composed largely of full-blooded Africans and mulattos.” Indeed, the
Nationalist continued, “the most perfect political and social equality between the races
has always existed there.”12 The New York Tribune, in its editorial excerpted by the New
National Era, had been similarly ambivalent about Brazil. Despite its critical stance
concerning the persistence of slavery there, the New York Tribune had started its editorial
by alleging that, relative to the United States, Brazil should find emancipation to be “one
of the easiest of tasks.” There, the New York Tribune suggested, a long history of
intermixing and a near absence of rigid racial prejudice made “distinctions of caste”
impractical. All Brazilians, it thought, enjoyed “at least potentially a complete social
equality.” As a result, New York Tribune believed, the country could escape slavery
without “the prospect that domestic disorder or industrial prostration would follow an
immediate emancipation of the slaves.”13
Looking south was not, however, always a cheering experience when it came to
race relations. Particularly compelling to African Americans confronting racial violence
12
“The Tribune and Brazil,” Mobile Nationalist, 21 June 1866, p. 2.
13
“Slavery in Brazil,” New National Era, 30 March 1871, p. 1.
154
in the southern states was the Morant Bay Rebellion in Jamaica, a brief episode of AfroJamaican political protest that was followed by a brutal repression on the part of island’s
governor, Edward John Eyre. When the South Carolina Leader, an African American
newspaper from Charleston, South Carolina, punctuated an extended remonstrance
against the racial injustices confronted at home with a discussion of the Rebellion, the
Mobile Nationalist reprinted it in full on its front page. Even in Jamaica, the Leader’s
editorial argued, where emancipation had taken place thirty-four years ago, and “where
the government boasts of its liberality to the black man, we see… the same hell-fiend
prejudice leaping forth, after being chained so long, and devouring thousands of innocent
people.” “Is the Negro a man?” asked the South Carolina Leader rhetorically. “In
America, he is a thing; in England, he is a tool of power for renegade Englishmen.”14 On
the West Coast, the Elevator focused on letting the facts of the rebellion speak for
themselves by drawing on an article from the New York Tribune and excerpts from
Jamaican and English papers. The “rebellion,” these sources suggested, had seen limited
violence on the part of Afro-Jamaicans followed by a barrage of sham trials, floggings,
and executions.15
Similarly disappointing was the limited form of Brazil’s first act of emancipation
when it finally did come in November of 1871. When the New National Era got hold of
the law, it offered an abstract of it accompanied by a celebratory article from the Times of
Rio de Janeiro. The New National Era’s own view, however, published in its editorial
page, was sharply critical. Irked by the limited nature of the emancipation act, which
14
“Is the Negro a Man?” Mobile Nationalist, 27 December 1866, p. 1.
15
See “The Jamaica Insurrection,” San Francisco Elevator, 19 January 1866, p. 1, and
“Jamaica Affairs,” ibid., 2 March 1866, p. 1.
155
applied only to children born after the law passed, as well as the system of apprenticeship
it required them to go through, the paper adjudged that “this kind of emancipation is
rather an excuse for slavery than a grant of freedom.” Yet, writing after the passage of
the 14th and 15th amendments, the New National Era could express far more confidence
and optimism than the Elevator had in the immediate wake of the Civil War. In fact, to
the New National Era, the failures of Brazilian emancipation only underscored that it had
always been republics that had undertaken “the great reformatory movements by which
the cause of liberty and progress is promoted.” Granted, the paper argued, monarchical
and aristocratic governments could sometimes initiate reforms, but they almost inevitably
went only as far as exigencies required and were all too often undone by subsequent
waves of reaction. Such, the paper argued, was the case with the limited reforms Britain
had made concerning suffrage, state-sponsored religion, and New World slavery, the
history of religious toleration in France, Joseph II’s struggle to promote “freedom,
progress, and enlightenment” in Austria, and Victor Emanuel’s leadership in Italy. In
contrast, the editorial suggested, it was republican governments in Latin America and
France that had undertaken the deliberate abolition of slavery and, in the case of the First
French Republic, recognized the rights of Jews. Granted, the editorial admitted, Russia,
“the most strictly monarchical state,” had created a striking counter-example by ending
serfdom. This, however, the paper dismissed as an aberration stemming from Russia’s
idiosyncrasies – a point the paper declined to elaborate on. There was, the paper
concluded, “no reason to wonder” at the failings of Brazilian emancipation, “this latest
piece of monarchical liberalism.”16
16
“Emancipation in Brazil,” New National Era, 9 November 1871, p. 2.
156
***
Yet it was hardly a concern for emancipation and racial equality alone that led
these papers to look outwards in the years immediately following the Civil War. Like
other northern Republicans, they expected to see freedom and progress advancing across
the globe, and presumed that the United States, now purged of slavery, would both
embody and advance those causes through a broad array of institutions and values.
Of particular interest to many racial egalitarians were the technological and
infrastructural developments they associated with commercial progress. The Mobile
Nationalist, when it caught word that the Suez Canal was within a year of completion,
assured its readers that, along with the transcontinental railroad, it would “become one
more link to bind the nations together in the bonds of commerce,” and therefore was “the
precursor of a higher civilization.”17 Proponents of African American equality were, of
course, hardly the only people within the United States, not to mention Europe, who
believed that commerce was a force of progress. It is perhaps less remarkable, therefore,
that the Nationalist could reprint an editorial on a similar subject from a far more
conservative paper like the New York Herald. This was precisely what happened when
the Emperor of Brazil declared that the Amazon and several other rivers would be opened
to international trade. The Herald, and one imagines The Nationalist, saw Brazil as a
“vast and productive territory” now “thrown open to the commerce and enterprise of this
country,” and an underdeveloped land with the potential to prosper “Under the thrifty
17
“The Suez Canal,” Mobile Nationalist, 1 November 1866, p. 1.
157
hand of American enterprise.” Both, in short, appeared to take the expansion of
American commerce as benefiting the country and the world at large.18
For Republican racial egalitarians optimistically awaiting the advance of freedom
and progress abroad, Japan represented and interesting point in case. The Mobile
Nationalist, for example, ran a long piece on its front page devoted to describing “The
Japanese Government and its People.” The article addressed a number of topics,
including the nature of family life and government authority in Japan. When it came to
characterizing the Japanese people it struck an ambivalent tone. On the one hand, as the
article noted towards its end, the Japanese, because they had “a great respect for
Americans and Europeans,” and desired knowledge, contrasted sharply with the Chinese.
On the other hand, the Japanese often justified their social customs and government
regulations “on the ground of their antiquity,” making them, in the paper’s view,
antithetical to America’s progressive inclinations. As the Nationalist argued, “The very
ground of attack by a Yankee would be the ground of defense for a Jap.”19
Another view of Japan came from Peter K. Cole, an African American who
worked in the European and American merchant community in Yokohama, Japan, and
wrote repeatedly as a correspondent for the San Francisco Elevator.20 While much of his
writing focused on relaying advice and information for potential businessmen, Cole also
took time to describe Japan, discuss its relations with Europe and the United States, and
celebrate America for promoting freedom and progress. For Cole, like many others, it
18
“Opening of the Amazon,” Mobile Nationalist, 21 March 1867, p. 1.
19
“The Japanese Government and People,” Mobile Nationalist, 24 October 1867, p. 1.
20
Cole also later worked for the paper after returning to San Francisco. See the untitled
subscription information in San Francisco Elevator, 23 August 1873, p. 3.
158
was America’s technological ingenuity and commercial enterprise that made it a
benevolent force in the world. Of special concern for Cole was the Pacific Mail Steam
Ship (P.M.S.S) Company’s newly established line, which included stops at San Francisco
and Yokohama. This new route, Cole argued in one of his letters to the Elevator, proved
that had it not been for the Civil War, “American commerce, ideas, and inventions would
now have the leading position in this great and valuable eastern field of daily progress,
now so freely offered to American enterprise.” After discussing recent steamship traffic,
Cole went on to explain that there was currently nothing so appealing to the Japanese as
the “industry perseverance and prolific inventive genius of the American people.”21
Although in one letter Cole described how anti-foreign sentiment in Japan made it
difficult to explore beyond the isolated merchant settlement in Yokohama, he still felt
comfortable expounding on Japanese amazement with America. “The enterprising
faculty of the American people is,” he suggested in one letter, “something so puzzling to
the people of this Empire that it will be some time before they will recover from their
wonder.” Cole also believed, however, that continued American influence would,
ultimately, “make Japan in a few years the leading country of the East.”22 Similarly, he
described the China, the last American steamship to visit Yokohama in 1867, as the “the
third of the mighty, grand and beautiful of the masterpieces of American energy and
unshrinking perseverance” connecting Japan to the United States. The arrival of this
symbol of technology and commerce, in fact, led Cole to gush “Oh! what a people; what
21
Peter K. Cole, “Letter No. 2 from Japan” San Francisco Elevator, p. 2, 20 September
1867.
22
Peter K. Cole, “Letter No. 3 from Japan” San Francisco Elevator, p. 2, 29 November
1867. On Cole’s difficulty exploring Japan, see also ibid., 6 December 1867, p. 2.
159
a progress.” He then asked who, “twenty years hence,” could ponder what would be a
still more magnificent, humanitarian, and free America and “not say that the force of thy
ever onward progress” had united the “uttermost nations of the world” together in
friendship.23
Yet, to maintain such optimism about America’s influence in the East, one had to
account for the anti-foreign violence that Europeans and Americans regularly
encountered in Japan. When eleven French sailors were massacred after making landfall
in Japan, therefore, Cole took time to address the topic in a letter to the Elevator.
Believing the attack to be “horrible” and “atrocious” but all too common in Japan, Cole
admitted that it seemed to call for “speedy and summary vengeance” from “the strong
arm of the mighty men of Europe and America.” Here, however, Cole urged caution,
arguing that certain factors “must be brought to bear on behalf of the nation.” In
particular, he pointed out that westerners had only recently arrived on the island, that the
Japanese had been raised to believe that “Japan was made for the Japanese alone,” and
lived in a society built around strict obedience to the land’s ruler. Changing “these deep
23
Peter K. Cole, “Letter No. 4 from Japan,” San Francisco Elevator, p. 2, 10 January
1868. The other steamships were Colorado and Great Republic, see ibid., and “Letter
No. 3 from Japan” ibid., p. 2, 29 November 1867. Nor was Cole alone in celebrating
commercial connection that were, in actuality, little more than a few steamships running
between San Francisco and a couple of ports in East Asia. When one of these steamers,
the Colorado, arrived in San Francisco from its maiden voyage to Hong Kong and
Yokohama, the New York Tribune, in an article reprinted by the Mobile Nationalist,
celebrated it as promising “to open to our country a new era of commercial greatness.” If
focusing less on the development of the East, as did Cole, and more on New York City’s
future, the paper nonetheless understood the P.M.S.S. line, along with one running
between Panama and Australia, as having broad historical significance. Envisioning the
world’s trade passing between San Francisco and New York via the developing
transcontinental railroad, the paper suggested that the steamship trade was merely one
more step toward New York fulfilling its destiny of becoming “the central city of the
world.” See, “The New Route to the East,” Mobile Nationalist, 4 April 1867, p. 4.
160
rooted ideas,” he suggested, “is a work of time.” He also stated, however, that “the minor
classes of people,” as opposed to the political elites, had already started to realize the
advantages of trade with the foreigners, and in the process “have gradually fallen into the
views of the western world, notwithstanding the dangers that surround them.” It was
precisely this change, he believed, that so frightened the traditional elites of Japan and
prompted them to exert whatever means they could to confront westerners with violence.
Here, exactly in the resistance to western incursion, Cole found evidence that progress
was eroding hierarchical and antiquated relationships. It was, he thought, “The
impossibility of stopping the onward march of civilization,” which would in time bring
equality between “prince and peasant,” that so animated Japan’s ruling caste. Cole,
although suffering from social isolation in Yokohama, and although living in a hostile
and war-torn land, remained optimistic.24 In perspective, he claimed, it was hardly
surprising if a few lost their lives “in an attempt to force upon this people the innovations
of western civilization.” In fact, he argued, the tumultuous events sweeping Japan were
merely “preludes to the final scenes in the last act of the opening of entire Japan.”25
Though racial egalitarians like Cole considered equality to be a necessary part of
the onward march of civilization, they could at times defend commercial progress even
when it entailed destruction and inequality. Indeed, when it came to commerce, even a
radical paper like the Mobile Nationalist could, without offering any qualifications or
24
For Cole’s comments on life in the merchant community in Kanagawa, which include
some brief comments about the social isolation of African Americans in the East, see
Peter K. Cole, “Letter No. 6 from Japan,” 21 February 1868, p. 2, and “Letter No. 7 from
Japan,” 10 April 1868, p. 2, San Francisco Elevator.
25
Peter K. Cole, “Letter No. 8 from Japan,” San Francisco Elevator, 22 May 1868, p. 2-
3.
161
comments, draw from a rabidly racist newspaper like the New York World. When the
World ran a piece that discussed the commercial potential of the Sandwich Islands and
flippantly suggested that the disease-ravaged native population of the islands would
benefit from an infusion of American blood, the Nationalist simply reprinted the piece.26
Two weeks later, when the Nationalist printed a letter from one Rev. J. S. Green
concerning the rapid decline of the islands’ indigenous population, its segue into its own
commentary was hardly marked by concern for human equality. “The climate of these
islands,” the paper noted, “is delightful—almost a perpetual summer.” From there, the
paper turned its attention not to the suffering of the native population of the island but
rather the islands’ relationship to America. With a steamship line running between San
Francisco and Honolulu, the paper argued, American emigration would increase,
hastening an already inevitable annexation.27 In Japan, Cole also took it for granted that
some peoples would lose out before the onward march of progress. When the Japanese
government, upon the request of resident Europeans and Americans, opened already
cultivated lands for public auction only to see them grabbed up by speculators, Cole was
neither surprised nor outraged. Instead, he noted, if with sympathy, that:
the native here, like the poor Indian of America, must leave the spot of his
childhood and the land his forefathers tilled from time immemorial, to make
room for the European civilization which while it enriches at the same time
impoverishes.28
Progress, moreover, could be a harsh standard by which to judge people, as was
clear when these papers turned to Native Americans. Certainly, some were not without
26
“The Sandwich Islands for Sale,” Mobile Nationalist, 25 July 1867, p. 1.
27
“Sandwich Islands,” Mobile Nationalist, 8 August 1867, p. 2.
28
Peter K. Cole, “Letter No. 2 from Japan,” 20 September 1867, pp. 2-3.
162
their sympathy. In at least two cases, however, Native Americans were taken as a
paradigmatic example of a people who could not survive in the face of progress. When,
for example, Native Americans north of Texas manifested what the Mobile Nationalist
took to be opposition to the construction of the transcontinental railroad, one of the great
symbols of American progress, it was direct in its verdict. It mattered little to the paper
that “White scoundrels” were in part responsible for provoking these Native Americans.
Granted, if the Native Americans involved would make peace, a benevolent and genuine
settlement would be preferable. But the paper disavowed any certainty that such a deal
would be possible, and concluded by calling on the government to “conquer a peace
immediately” and offering its own tactical recommendations.29
In another article, the Elevator considered the origins and meaning of preColumbian civilization in the Americas, passing judgment, along the way, on all of
Native American history. The Native Americans, the paper postulated, had originated
from a primitive branch of humanity that was responsible for the great early civilizations
of Asia and Egypt, but that had since assimilated into other populations everywhere else
in the globe. The distinguishing characteristic of these early civilizations, the paper
believed, was that they subjected all of their institutions to the control of a “priesthood.”
The result, it believed, was that while these societies avoided “a rapid decline into
barbarism,” they also suffered from an “utter absence of all progression and
improvement.” This “continued religious subjection” had, moreover, imprinted itself on
the character of these people, a fact the paper claimed was still evident in “the savage
Indian” of North America. These people, the paper alleged, suffered from “An
29
“The Indian War,” Mobile Nationalist, 26 September 1867, p. 2.
163
inflexibility which adhered tenaciously to old forms and customs and despises change.”
In North America, the paper thought, where this pure embodiment of the “old era of
civilization” had been free to develop uninhibited only to populate it with “savage
hordes,” one could see its inevitable fate after discovery. Even in Mexico and Peru, the
paper argued, the Native Americans had reached their limits of progress quickly and then
sunk into decadence. “The old system,” in short, “had thus been fairly tried and tested,
and the time had arrived when a new race and the Christian religion were appointed to
take possession of this soil.”30
Catholicism was also targeted for criticism, especially by Frederick Douglass’s
New National Era. The paper did, it should be noted, defend the principle of religious
freedom, including for Catholics and free thinkers.31 It is nonetheless the case that
negative sentiment towards the Catholic Church was one of the more persistent and
potent themes in its pages. In part, this no doubt reflected the open racism of many
Catholics in the United States, especially the Irish, as well as their allegiance to the
Democratic Party. It also reflected, however, a belief in the superiority of American
civilization to that of Europe, and a general sense that the Catholic Church embodied the
forces of hierarchy, ignorance, and intolerance. In its first issue, in fact, the paper ran an
editorial, written especially for it by Reverend J. E. Rankin of Boston, that defended the
“Bible Civilization” of Protestant America against inroads from Catholic Europe.
Reacting to the ongoing struggle on the part of American Catholics to create a separate
30
“When and by Whom was America Peopled?” San Francisco Elevator, 26 June 1868,
p. 1.
31
For the paper’s defense of religious freedom, including for Catholics, see “The Bible in
School,” New National Era, 4 January 1872, p. 2; and “Erroneous Notions about
Religious Liberty,” ibid., 27 December 1872, p. 2.
164
system of schools, Rankin argued that Catholics ultimately were aiming to destroy the
foundation of America’s free and progressive civilization. This foundation lay in the
existing system of common schools, which, Rankin argued, may not have taught religious
beliefs per se but did raise American children to have ethics that derived from a proper
understanding of the Bible. Such ethics, Rankin continued, were in harmony with and
critical to the existence of “American institutions,” while the “civilization of Catholic
Europe” tended to sink “The individual man, the free man,” under the distinctions of
“class, grade, and caste,” and leave him “overridden by king, noble, priest.” Happily
acknowledging the principle of liberty of conscience, Rankin argued that “This is no
question of religions,” but instead one “of civilizations,” and argued that “Bible ethics”
should be taught to American children, regardless of the prerogatives of parents and
churches. Tying his arguments more directly to Reconstruction, Rankin argued that
“European civilization, whether represented by the nobility of England, the Empire of
France, or the Pope in Rome,” had welcomed the prospect of Confederate independence.
“Bible civilization,” in contrast, “is progressive,” had been on the side of the slaves and
seen the Union to victory, and looked forward to a coming millennium “when man,
individual man, shall have all his rights accorded him.”32
Some Catholics were themselves no lambs, and often passed harsh judgments on
African Americans. In one instance, the New National Era’s ire was piqued by a priest in
St. Louis who, in response to the emotional nature of African-American Baptist and
Methodist services, argued that “Only the Catholic Church can control the fiery passions
of the negro.” While the editors of the New National Era hardly exerted themselves to
32
Rev. J.E. Rankin, “Bible Civilization,” New Era, 13 January 1870, p. 2.
165
defend the Baptists and Methodists, they did suggest that Catholics were no better suited
than Protestants to serve as moral guides. In fact, describing Catholics as “bigots” with a
long history of slaughtering Protestants, the paper suggested that it would behoove them
to remember that “there is quite as much morality, religion, civilization, and prosperity in
the United States, England, and Prussia,” which had recently defeated the forces of
Napoleon III, “as in Mexico, Spain, and France, to say nothing of Italy and Austria.”
Statistics from New York City, the paper added, demonstrated that “very much the
largest portion” of crime was “committed by Roman Catholics.”33
When, several months later, a riot against Irish Protestants took place in “that
extremely Catholic and Democratic city” of New York, the New National Era suggested
that, while the local clergy had condemned the violence, they did so only to advance their
own power. Instead of “denouncing the foul spirit of intolerance” that had led to the
riots, the paper argued, the local clergy had “turned the occasion to the service of their
ghostly superstitions” by warning their parishioners against following false teachers. In
doing so, the paper averred, the local clergy were “forcing their divinity and infallibility
into things political as well as spiritual.” Ultimately, the paper concluded, the “Celtic
Catholics” of New York were merely following the principles of their religion by
enacting the retrograded philosophy of religious bigotry “in accordance with ancient
divine example.”34 When, several months later, the Irish People of New York City
encouraged Catholics to consider using violence against Irish Protestants if they ever
dared to parade through the city, the editors of the New National Era were again happy to
33
“What Roman Catholics Propose,” New National Era, 15 September 1870, p. 3.
34
“Too Late for the Past and Not Quite Fit for the Future,” New National Era, 20 July
1871, p. 2.
166
underscore the prejudiced extremism of Irish Catholics.35 Similarly, when a writer for
the Catholic World, a leading Catholic publication in America, accused early Protestants
of being heretics who had fabricated a false version of the Bible, the paper shot back.
“This Romish bigot,” the paper argued, like his co-religionists, was deluded into thinking
that Catholics were the only true Christians. Yet, the paper countered, it was the
Protestant translation of the Bible that came from careful readings of the Greek and
Hebrew texts, and, of course, was accompanied by “progress, morality, intelligence,
liberty, and general prosperity” as it spread.36
The paper in fact took it for granted that its readers would look down on the
Catholic Church, as was clear when the editors attempted to put a positive gloss on the
growing rift in the party over the President Grant’s proposal to annex Santo Domingo.
The problem, the paper suggested, was that, because it valued ideas, progress, and open
discussion, the Republican Party lacked the iron discipline of its opponents. As the
editors explained it, “The difference between the Republican party and the Democratic
party very considerably resembles the difference between the Catholic Church and the
Protestant denominations—one has the best ideas, and the other the best organization.”
While this might seem to pass as at least a half-hearted compliment, the editors
elaborated the point by suggesting that the Democratic Party, and by implication the
Catholic Church, “would be nothing without its rigid discipline and party domination
over the individuals composing it.”37
35
“Imported Patriotism,” New National Era, 2 November 1871, p. 2.
36
“Papist Self-Righteousness,” New National Era, 5 January 1871, p. 2.
37
“’Let Us Have Peace,’” New National Era, 5 January 1871, p. 2.
167
The New National Era was every bit as interested in documenting and discussing
the retrogressive nature of Catholicism in Europe. Of particular interest was the
Vatican’s decision, via an Ecumenical Council, to pronounce the Pope infallible. The
sheer idea that the Catholic Church was considering a decree stating that its head was
incapable of misjudgment was enough to irk the editors of the paper. When reports
arrived suggesting that the advocates of the decree within the Ecumenical Council were
preventing their opponents from voicing criticisms, therefore, it only added icing to the
anti-Papal cake. The paper not only published a brief note explaining that those opposed
to the decree had remonstrated against their marginalization directly to the Pope, but
editorialized on the continuing divisions within the Council a week later. According to
the editors, the supporters of Infallibility now sought to secure to the Pope solitary
control over a substantial sum of money. The opponents of Infallibility, wisely in the
paper’s judgment, worried that this would only make the Pope’s fallibility all too
apparent to onlookers.38 When the Ecumenical Council finally declared the Pope
infallible, the paper reprinted the Council’s statement, noting that “We are left to the
alternative of swallowing its enormities with unquestioning credence, or being cursed
after the usual popish fashion.”39 Over a year later, when a press in Wurzburg, Germany,
published a collection of passages by Frederick the Great on the topics of infallibility, the
paper demonstrated its continuing interest through some short excerpts.40
38
“Progress of the Infallibility Discussion,” New Era, 16 June 1870, p. 1; “The
Infallibility Dogma,” New Era, 23 June 1870, p. 2.
39
“Anathema,” New Era, 7 July 1870, p. 2.
40
“Frederick the Great on Papal Infallibility and the French Nation,” New National Era,
24 August 1871, p. 3.
168
The Vatican’s inability to defend itself from Italian nationalists, the paper
believed, made a mockery of the Council’s assertions of Papal authority, and in August of
1870 it was happy to report rumors that the Pope was anxious over the possible departure
of the French forces defending Rome.41 When Rome fell less than two months later,
completing the unification of Italy under King Victor Emanuel, the paper hailed it as a
triumph, provided a description of the Papal Territories, and offered a lengthy editorial.42
The significance of the fall of Rome, the paper argued, lay not in the final collapse of the
Pope’s temporal power, which it thought already geopolitically irrelevant. Nor did it
stem from the Italian nationalists’ newfound control of Rome, which appeared to the
paper to be “but of little consequence when compared to the gigantic struggle now raging
between the two greatest nations of Europe,” the Franco-Prussian War. Instead, since the
real power of the Pope had long been his spiritual authority, what was remarkable was
that none of the Catholic powers of Europe attempted to come to his aid. The paper took
their inactivity to be a “cheering symptom of the times,” and argued that it demonstrated
that the “Church itself, the hereditary and ancient enemy of liberty, enlightenment, and
science, is fast declining, and that it must go down in spite of the most desperate efforts
of its votaries.” In fact, argued the New National Era, Pope Pius IX, “that amiable and
illustrious fossil of by-gone ages,” had hastened the Church’s decline by attempting to
defy the spirit of the age by declaring infallibility and, to boot, excommunicating Victor
Emanuel. All of this, it added, paralleled the foolish attempts of America’s retrograde
41
“Bayonets a Better Protection than Infallibility,” New Era, 4 August 1870, p. 2.
42
See “Italian Unity Secured,” New National Era, 29 September 1870, p. 3; “RomeSketch of the Papal Territory,” New National Era, 6 October 1870, p. 1; and “The
Temporal Power of the Pope Overthrown,” New National Era, 6 October 1870, p. 2.
169
slaveowners to make slavery “the absolute power” in the United States during the
Antebellum Period. Progress, the paper thought, might be slow, but it would nonetheless
be steady, and the editorial concluded that, “in the natural and inevitable course of events,
in some centuries, sooner or later, the Vicar of Christ will be a tradition of by gone
days.”43
The paper’s interest in the Catholic Church’s doings in Europe, however, hardly
stopped with Italian Unification. When the Pope excommunicated a Catholic professor
and leading historian of the Church, Doctor Doellinger of the University of Munich, for
refusing to renounce his earlier criticisms and adhere to the doctrine of infallibility, the
New National Era again condemned the Church. The root of the problem, the paper
believed, was that the Pope was one of a number of “venerable mummies” who, oblivious
to their own antiquated nature, failed to understand “that the world had outgrown them
and does not mean to step out of the track of progress in order to meet their demands.”
The Vatican was, it thought, much like the Democratic Party, which it deemed unable to
come to terms with “the necessary results of the enlightenment and civilization of the
nineteenth century,” and move beyond its commitment to slavery and white supremacy.
As such, it thought, both the Church and the Party might make mischief still, but they
could hardly preside over developments that were running well beyond them.44
The New National Era also cheered Otto von Bismarck, normally associated with
European conservatism, when he pressed the Prussian Chambers to end the Catholic
clergy’s control over education in parts of the newly unified German Empire. In fact, the
43
“The Temporal Power of the Pope Overthrown,” New National Era, 6 October 1870, p.
2.
44
“Living Mummies,” New National Era, 27 April 1871, p. 2.
170
paper accepted without any hesitation Bismarck’s assertion that the Catholic clergy and
their allies had begun a conspiracy to destroy Germany, which the paper judged “the
greatest Protestant power in the world.” Yet, energetic though these Catholic
conspirators might be in their attempts “to arrest the march of progress and
enlightenment,” they ultimately had little hope in what was, the New National Era
thought, a century defined by advancing civilization. As the editorial claimed in
conclusion, “If this priestcraft, superstition, fanaticism, and reactionism should come in
conflict with the enlightenment, the knowledge and the progressive tendencies of the
century, the triumph of the latter is certain,” especially when backed by an ascendant
Germany.45 The paper was similarly certain of the inevitable defeat of the Catholic
Church when the German government began to consider expelling the Jesuit Order from
the country. In a subsequent editorial, the paper argued that the Church had succeeded in
manipulating France and Austria into an anti-German alliance, while ensuring the
neutrality of Russia, a country that, as a representative of “political and religious
absolutism,” was a natural ally with Rome. Ultimately, however, the paper found such
maneuvering pointless. Even if without a talented leader like Bismarck, who was acutely
aware of the conspiracy against his country, “the progress,” and “the growing
enlightenment of the nations of Europe,” made a restoration of Catholic supremacy
impossible. The only question, for the paper, was why Bismarck and the German people
could not see the necessity of going beyond the mere expulsion of the Jesuits to declare a
formal separation of Church and State. Believing that “the beneficent working of our
system, which has stood the trial of nearly a century, must have become manifest to the
45
“Ultramontane Plots,” New National Era, 18 April, 1872, p. 2. See also “The Clerical
War in Germany,” New National Era, 2 May 1872, p. 1.
171
whole world,” the paper could only express amazement that the Germans, “as progressive
a people as any other,” rejected by large majorities proposals to separate Church and
State.46
If the New National Era was unmatched among these papers in its concern with
and focus on Catholics in America and Europe, it found some company in the San
Francisco Elevator. The Elevator’s fullest statement along these lines came when a local
Catholic lawyer, Zach Montgomery, spoke in defense of Catholic education in San
Francisco. Whether the Elevator’s account of Montogomery’s speech is completely
accurate is difficult to determine. Neglecting to explain how it came upon the content of
the speech, the paper did, in passing, acknowledge that Montgomery had already accused
his critics of misrepresenting his statements. What is clear, however, is that, based on the
Elevator’s account, Montgomery conformed to popular beliefs that the Catholic Church
was the antithesis of freedom and progress. According to the Elevator, Montgomery had
warned his audience against “inroads made upon Catholicism by railroads, steamboats,
the telegraph, and the printing press” before declaring that “’there is no such thing as
personal freedom in religion or morality; the whole power lies with the Pope.’” From
there, apparently, Montgomery went on to pronounce that “The institutions of this
country must be made the institutions of the Church,” starting with public schools. The
Elevator, arguing that Catholicism was in retreat even in the “priest ridden countries of
46
“Machinations of the Jesuits,” New National Era, 27 June 1872, p. 2. For anti-Jesuit
sentiment in the paper, see also “A Miracle in Alsace,” New National Era, 10 October
1872, p. 1; and “The Jesuit Oath,” New National Era, 24 October 1872, p. 1.
172
Europe,” implored its readers to save “Republican America” from placing “her neck
beneath the foot of the Pontiff at Rome.”47
***
As this chapter argues, even those postbellum newspapers that ranked among the
most passionate advocates of radical Reconstruction found it both natural and necessary
to attend to the world beyond their own immediate conflicts. In part, this reflected a
concern about systems of bound labor and racial oppression that were all too familiar
from their own history. These interests of these papers, however, also reached much
further. Not unlike their more moderate fellow Republicans and, for that matter, their
Democratic opponents, these papers articulated a worldview centered on the concepts of
civilization and republicanism. If their interpretation of the relationships between these
ideas and African American equality were different from those of moderate Republicans
and Democrats, this should not obscure some important commonalities. These papers,
like those from across the spectrum of Reconstruction politics, took the causes of
freedom and progress to both define what the United States was supposed to be and yet to
transcend its own history. Like others, moreover, these papers believed that “commerce”
and technology would be key agents of human advancement. At points, in fact, faith in
the onward march of civilization could attenuate their concerns for the oppressed. In
those cases, moreover, where these papers judged peoples or institutions to be incapable
of progress or opposed to it, they could be as quick to express their contempt as their
sympathy.
47
“The Roman Catholic Schools and the Public Schools,” San Francisco Elevator, 9
August 1873, p. 2.
173
CHAPTER 6
CONCLUSION
In the wake of Union victory and, even more so, the advent of radical
Reconstruction, the Republican racial egalitarians discussed in the previous chapter
expressed a profound faith in progress that could both inspire and qualify their
commitment to the principle of equality. In doing so, they were much like Democrats
and other northern Republicans who, although most often either ambivalent or outright
disdainful about the prospect of African American equality, could not think about
Reconstruction without considering what it meant to be American, republican, and
civilized. Far from prompting accord, however, the pervasiveness of these concepts in
Reconstruction politics served to create a particular dynamic to polemical and intellectual
exchanges. Together, the core meanings of these contested ideas suggested to Democrats
and northern Republicans that the forces at play within the South and North operated
across the globe and, for that matter, most of history. This widely shared presumption
made it seem perfectly natural to believe that evidence from across and beyond the
United States could bolster arguments within it about Reconstruction. These
Reconstruction partisans, moreover, saw little reason not to believe that they understood
peoples, places, and events that, in reality, they had limited contact with or knowledge of.
As Democrats and northern Republicans squared off over Reconstruction, therefore, they
routinely turned their attention outwards in search of the means to articulate and affirm
their rival understandings of what was possible and what was good within the realm of
174
society and politics. Often, in fact, they devoted their time and, in some cases, their
energies to issues that had no palpable connection to their own immediate conflicts.
Consuming though the reconstruction of the South was, it by no means delimited the
landscape of postbellum political and social thought, and in fact fired interest in the world
beyond its central battlegrounds.
With the Cretan Insurrection against Ottoman imperial rule, both Democrats and
northern Republicans found a geopolitical development that spoke to their understandings
of civilization, republicanism, and America. For northern Republicans, the Cretans were
struggling not only for union with Greece proper, but for freedom from a barbaric
despotism marked most clearly by the absence of institutions and values familiar to an
idealized version of their own section. Yet if, as northern Republicans believed, the end
goal of independence was to advance civilization and republicanism, on what grounds did
the Cretans’ Greek identity matter? Certainly, it served to distinguish them from the
barbaric and despotic Turks, but beyond that the value of national identity became
ambiguous. For some, the Cretans, as a distinctive people, could only find fulfillment
through union with Greece. For others, however, there seemed to be little wrong if the
United States, now purged of slavery, made the island its own. Whichever side northern
Republicans came down on, their attitudes towards Crete were marked with a sense of
urgency and optimism. Democrats, including ex-Confederates, were also sympathetic to
the rebels, but were far less sanguine about their own prospects or those of the Cretans.
In fact, it was precisely the overwhelming force with which the allegedly barbarous and
despotic Ottoman Empire confronted the insurrection that made it so compelling to
Democrats, especially ex-Confederates. Contributing to the symbolic power of the
175
insurrection among Democrats, moreover, was the galling fact that northern Republicans
proclaimed concern for the rebels despite their own conquest of the South. According to
Democrats, northern Republicans, by subordinating a part of their own race and nation to
a class of biologically inferior former slaves, had actually proven themselves to be
harsher than the infamous “Turk.”
Not all peoples, places, and events, however, drew equal interest from Democrats
and northern Republicans. Few Democrats, for instance, were willing to exert
themselves to defend Mormon society in the Utah Territory, although some did proclaim
the Mormons’ right to manage their own domestic institutions. Instead, attention to
Mormon polygamy and the temporal power of the Mormon Church stemmed
overwhelmingly from northern Republicans. Here, northern Republicans believed they
were crusading against a patriarchal, and therefore inherently exploitative, institution and
the priesthood that sustained it. Fresh from Union victory, many northern Republicans
believed, as they had in their discussions of the Cretan Insurrection, that their own section
was the purest embodiment of what America could and should be, and that the forces of
freedom and progress were radiating outwards from it. These forces included not only
free labor, democracy, and Christianity, but also telegraph lines, free schools, the
transcontinental railroad, the affective bonds and gendered norms of sentimental family
life, and a humanitarian sympathy for the suffering weak. Because northern Republicans
grounded their understandings of freedom and progress in an idealized version of their
own society, it was easy for them to find barbarisms, whether looking to the South, the
West, or abroad. In fact, northern Republicans, with both Crete and Mormon Utah,
176
routinely compared and equated disparate groups of people together in ways that both
defied national borders and yet underscored their own sense of national purpose.
The exploration of Africa drew attention from across the political spectrum in the
United States for a variety of reasons. Associated with adventure and scientific
discovery, most Americans found explorers of Africa to be captivating and important
figures. Within the United States, the works of these explorers could, in certain
circumstances, become wrapped up with Democratic claims about Reconstruction. In
particular, Democratic critiques of Reconstruction centered on a belief that, by granting
southern slaves freedom and political rights, northern Republicans would cause “the
negro” to inevitably lapse into abject barbarism and, many added, extinction. Because
this argument held that “the negro” was incapable of independent civilization wherever
he was, Democrats welcomed negative depictions of not only the post-emancipation
societies of the Caribbean, but also of Africa. Stereotypes about and imagery of Africa,
in fact, served as a starting point for their rhetorical assault on Reconstruction, as was
evident in their constant warnings that northern Republicans were going to “Africanize”
the South. In making these claims, Democrats turned to the works of Paul Du Chaillu, a
controversial but popular explorer of Africa who excelled at appealing to audiences in the
United States. Here, Democrats found a new symbol, Du Chaillu’s gorilla, that
encapsulated their beliefs that “the negro” was both biologically inferior and barbaric.
They also found, based on Du Chaillu’s writings and lectures on his second expedition,
ethnographic arguments that spoke directly to their claims about Reconstruction.
Northern missionaries dedicated to evangelizing Africa, as well as those northern
Republicans who believed “the negro” was capable of civilization or, minimally,
177
survival, took exception to Du Chaillu’s work. Here, however, responses were often
mixed and sometimes muted. In part, this reflected the ambivalence of many northern
Republicans concerning “the negro.” Yet, even the most adamant proponents of African
American equality could, if they chose, accept arguments about barbarism in Africa
without necessarily vitiating their claims about “the negro’s” ability to be civilized,
republican, and, ultimately, American.
In the years following the Civil War, few northern Republicans or Democrats had
the privilege of touring the United States or traveling abroad. Most, with the important
exception of recent immigrants, could not speak multiple languages with fluency. Few
participated in transnational economic networks in ways that led them beyond familiar
store counters, farm plots, or shipyards. No more than perhaps a handful of people
exerted considerable force on the making of official U.S diplomacy, which was mostly
sequestered away within congressional committees and federal bureaucracies. Democrats
and northern Republicans did, however, read about, interpret, and argue over the meaning
of developments from across and beyond the United States on a daily basis. In doing so,
they constituted a lost world of Reconstruction politics that was at once transatlantic in its
origins, parochial in its perspectives, national in its mindset, and global in the scope of its
vision. This world, moreover, did not depend for its existence on those very real
economic, geopolitical, and social ties that connected Reconstruction partisans to the
wider world. These connections, whether fueled by European demand for cotton,
immigration, or diplomatic relations, were distinctive in the nature of their influence from
the outward focus inspired by the core and contested meanings of civilization,
republicanism, and America. As scholars continue to look, as they have for the last two
178
decades, for ways to redefine history by moving beyond the nation-state, it will be of
service not to lose sight of how popular understandings of the idea of the nation have
themselves changed.1 For postbellum Democrats and northern Republicans, it would
have made little sense to argue over the proper course of southern reconstruction or, more
broadly, the future of “America” by referring exclusively to developments within the
South or the United States. For these groups, in fact, looking outwards was integral to
contesting the meaning of “America,” and thereby worked to affirm the significance of
the idea of the nation.
1
On the drive to move beyond the nation-state and to “internationalize” history, consider
especially Ian Tyrrell, “American Exceptionalism in an Age of International History,”
American Historical Review 96 (Oct. 1991): 1031-55; David Thelen, “Of Audiences,
Borderlands, and Comparisons: Toward the Internationalizing of American History,”
Journal of American History 79 (Sept. 1992): 432-62; Jane C. Desmond and Virginia R.
Domínguez, “Resituating American Studies in a Critical Internationalism,” American
Quarterly 48 (Sept. 1996): 475-491; Thelen, “Making History and the Making of the
United States,” Journal of American Studies 32 (Dec. 1998): 373-97; Robert A. Gross,
“The Transnational Turn: Rediscovering American Studies in a Wider World,” Journal of
American Studies 34 (Dec. 2000): 373-393; Thomas Bender, ed., Rethinking American
History in a Global Age (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press,
2002); John Carlos Rowe, “Postnationalism, Globalism, and the New American Studies,”
in Donald E. Pease and Robyn Wiegman, eds., The Futures of American Studies
(Durham: Duke University Press, 2002), 167-82; and Shelley F. Fishkin, “Crossroads of
Culture: The Transnational Turn in American Studies,” American Quarterly 57 (Mar.
2005): 17-57; Marcus Gräser, “World History in a Nation State: The Transnational
Disposition in Historical Writing in the United States,” Journal of American History 94
(Mar. 2009): 1038-52.
179
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