The Tragic Era - The Revolution After Lincoln
Read Books, 2008 - 608
THE TRAGIC ERA The Revolution after Lincoln ANDKW JOONHON PREFACE IF Hilaire Belloc is right IB his opinion that readable history is melodrama the true story of the twelve tragic years that fol lowed the death of Lincoln should be entertaining. They were years of revolutionary turmoil, with the elemental passions pre dominant, and with broken bones and bloody noses among the fighting factionalists. The prevailing note was one of tragedy, though, as we shall see, there was an abundance of comedy, and not a little of farce. Never have American public men in responsi ble positions, directing the destiny of the Nation, been so brutal, hypocritical, and corrupt The Constitution was treated as a door mat OB which politicians and army officers wiped their feet after wading in the muck. Never has the Supreme Court been treated with such ineffable contempt, and never has that tribunal so often cringed before the clamor of the mob. So appalling is the picture of these revolutionary years that even historians have preferred to overlook many essential things. Thus, Andrew Johnson who fought the bravest battle for constitutional liberty and for the preservation of our institutions ever waged by an Executive., until recently was left in the pillory to which un scrupulous gamblers for power consigned him, because the un varnished truth that vindicates Mm makes so many statues in public squares and parks seem a bit grotesque. That Johnson was maligned by his enemies because he was seeking honestly to carry out the conciliatory and wise policy of Lincoln is now generally understood, but even now few realise how intensely Lincoln was Kated by the Radicals at the time of his death A completeunderstanding of this period calls for a reappraisal of many public men. Some statesmen we have been taught to rever ence will appear in these pages in sorry rdles. Others, who played conspicuous parts, but have been denied the historical recognition due them, are introduced and shown in action. Thus the able lead ers of the minority in Congress are given fuller treatment than has been fashionable, since they represented more Americans, North VI and South, than the leaders of the Radical majority, and were nearer right on the issues of reconstruction-Thus, too, the brilliant and colorful leaders and spokesmen of the South are given their proper place in the dramatic struggle for the preservation of Southern civilisation and the redemption of their people, I have sought to re-create the black and bloody drama of these years, to show the leaders of the fighting factions at close range, to picture the moving masses, both whites and blacks, in North and South, surging crawly under the influence of the poisonous propaganda on which they were fed. That the Southern people literally were put to the torture is vaguely understood, but even historians have shrunk from the un happy task of showing us the torture chambers. It is impossible to grasp the real significance of the revolutionary proceedings of the rugged conspirators working out the policies of Thaddeiift Stevens without making many journeys among the Southern people, and seeing with our own eyes the indignities to which, they were sub jected. Through many unpublished contemporary family letters and diaries, I iave tried to show the psychological effect upon them of the despotic policies of which they were the victims. Brutal men, inspired by personal ambition or party motives as sumed the pose of philanthropists and patriots and thus deceived and misguided vast numbers of well-meaning people in the North. lot the effort to re-create the atmosphere mid temper of the times I have made free use of the newspapers of those times In valuable for this purpose has been my access to the unpublished diary of George W. Julian which covers the entire period. Through him we are able to sit in at important conferences that hitherto have been closed to the historians...