Frederick Douglass on Chinese Immigration

Another great article from the reliably great Immigrant’s Civil War blog. Here’s Frederick Douglass speaking on the post-bellum efforts to curb Chinese immigration.

Douglass declared that the people of the United States were not racially, ethnically, or religiously homogeneous. Americans, he argued, are a “composite nation,” a people made up from many peoples. In recognition of this fact, he declared, “we should welcome to our ample continent all nations, …tongues and peoples; and as fast as they learn our language and comprehend the duties of citizenship, we should incorporate them into the American body politic. The outspread wings of the American eagle are broad enough to shelter all who are likely to come.”

Source: When a Ban on the Chinese Was Proposed and Frederick Douglass Spoke Out – Long Island Wins

Stevens’ Wit

I’m rehashing the Thaddeus Stevens links I shilled earlier on the blog, but fans of Lincoln’s wit will enjoy this particular article.  Lincoln wasn’t the only one in his day with a sharp tongue.

When he served as a lawyer in Gettysburg, Stevens greeted an adverse judicial decision by shuffling papers and grumbling loudly. The judge said he could fine Stevens for “manifesting contempt of court.”

“Manifesting contempt of court, your Honor?” exclaimed Stevens. “Sir, I am doing my best to conceal it.”

I was particularly gratified to see this quote, which I’ve long known but been unable to attribute. It’s positively Shavian:

Stevens did not like all Republicans, however. He thought poorly of fellow Lancastrian Simon Cameron. He told Abraham Lincoln to watch out for Cameron after the president made him Secretary of War.

Lincoln protested: “You don’t mean to say you think that Cameron would steal?”

“No,” said Stevens, “I don’t think he would steal a red-hot stove.”

The remark got back to Cameron, who demanded a retraction.

So Stevens went to Lincoln and offered this “retraction”: “I believe I told you he would not steal a red-hot stove. I will now take that back.”

via Caustic wit: Anecdotes of Stevens’ sarcasm are abundant – News.

Debunking Lincoln Quotes

Looking through my daily alerts, I was set to post an article that contained a Lincoln quote that seemed very apropos in this election year of have and have-nots. As I’d never heard it quoted before, though, I thought I’d look into it to see how I could’ve missed such a great line. I’m glad I did – turns out this Washington Post reporter did the research for me, 5 years ago.

Moreover, the point of the passage is very un-Lincolnian. A corporate lawyer whose long and cunning labor on behalf of the railroads earned him a comfortable income, Lincoln was a vigorous champion of market capitalism, even when it drifted (as it tends to do) toward large concentrations of wealth. Many of his administration’s signal initiatives — the transcontinental railroad, for example — amounted to what liberals today would condemn as "corporate welfare." Lots of speculators got rich under Lincoln, as Gore notes. As Gore does not note, Lincoln seemed not to have minded.

Unless, of course, Gore’s quote from a trembling Abe was evidence of his real thinking.

It isn’t, though. It’s a fake.

via What Al Wishes Abe Said.

General Sherman is a Hog!

In yesterday’s post on Bunny Breckinridge, I mentioned his great-grandpa’s fury at Sherman’s whiskey-based neglect. It’s a great story, and I’ve copy-pasted a version here. It’s taken from the memoirs of John S. Wise, son of the Virginia governor Henry A. Wise. Through him Wise Jr. had apparently told him by Joe Johnston – the other General in the room during the negotiations.

” You know how fond of his liquor Breckinridge was?” added General Johnston, as he went on with his story.

“Well, nearly everything to drink had been absorbed. For several days, Breckinridge had found it difficult, if not impossible, to procure liquor. He showed the effect of his enforced abstinence. He was rather dull and heavy that morning. Somebody in Danville had given him a plug of very fine chewing tobacco, and he chewed vigorously while we were awaiting Sherman’s coming. After a while, the latter arrived. He bustled in with a pair of saddlebags over his arm, and apologized for being late. He placed the saddlebags carefully upon a chair. Introductions followed, and for a while General Sherman made himself exceedingly agreeable. Finally, some one suggested that we had better take up the matter in hand.

“Yes,” said Sherman, “but, gentlemen, it occurred to me that perhaps you were not overstocked with liquor, and I procured some medical stores on my way over. Will you join me before we begin work ?

General Johnston said he watched the expression of Breckinridge at this announcement, and it was beatific. Tossing his quid into the fire, he rinsed his mouth, and when the bottle and the glass were passed to him, he poured out a tremendous drink, which he swallowed with great satisfaction. With an air of content, he stroked his mustache and took a fresh chew of tobacco.

Then they settled down to business, and Breckinridge never shone more brilliantly than he did in the discussions which followed. He seemed to have at his tongue’s
end every rule and maxim of international and constitutional law, and of the laws of war, international wars, civil wars, and wars of rebellion. In fact, he was so resourceful, cogent, persuasive, learned, that, at one stage of the proceedings, General Sherman, when confronted by the authority, but not convinced by the eloquence or learning of Breckinridge, pushed back his chair and exclaimed: “See here, gentlemen, who is doing this surrendering anyhow? If this thing goes on, you ll have me sending a letter of apology to Jeff Davis.”

Afterward, when they were Hearing the close of the conference, Sherman sat for some time absorbed in deep thought. Then he arose, went to the saddlebags, and fumbled for the bottle. Breckinridge saw the movement. Again he took his quid from his mouth and tossed it into the fireplace. His eye brightened, and he gave every evidence of intense interest in what Sherman seemed about to do.

The latter, preoccupied, perhaps unconscious of his action, poured out some liquor, shoved the bottle back into the saddle-pocket, walked to the window, and stood there, looking out abstractedly, while he sipped his grog.

From pleasant hope and expectation the expression on Breckinridge s face changed successively to uncertainty, disgust, and deep depression. At last his hand sought the plug of tobacco, and, with an injured, sorrowful look, he cut off another chew. Upon this he ruminated during the remainder of the interview, taking little part in what was said.

After silent reflections at the window, General Sherman bustled back, gathered up his papers, and said: “These terms are too generous, but I must hurry away before you make me sign a capitulation. I will submit them to the authorities at Washington, and let you hear how they are received.” With that he bade the assembled officers adieu, took his saddlebags upon his arm, and went off as he had come.

General Johnston took occasion, as they left the house and were drawing on their gloves, to ask General Breckinridge how he had been impressed by Sherman.

“Sherman is a bright man, and a man of great force,” replied Breckinridge, speaking with deliberation, “but,” raising his voice and with a look of great intensity, ” General Johnston, General Sherman is a hog. Yes, sir, a hog. Did you see him take that drink by himself?”

General Johnston tried to assure General Breckinridge that General Sherman was a royal good fellow, but the most absent-minded man in the world. He told him that the failure to offer him a drink was the highest compliment that could have been paid to the masterly arguments with which he had pressed the Union commander to that state of abstraction.

“Ah!” protested the big Kentuckian, half sighing, half grieving, ” no Kentucky gentleman would ever have taken away that bottle. He knew we needed it, and needed it badly.”

The story was well told, and I did not make it public until after General Johnston s death. On one occasion, being intimate with General Sherman, I repeated it to him. Laughing heartily, he said: “I don t remember it. But if Joe Johnston told it, it s so. Those fellows hustled me so that day, I was sorry for the drink I did give them,” and with that sally he broke out into fresh laughter.

Grant, Man of Peace

This Christmas, I treated myself to a few wonderful items from the PBS online store‘s bumper sale. (Caveat emptor: They will spam you endlessly if you buy anything. Spam is the pledge break of the digital age.) Ken Burns box set, his excellent Lewis & Clark series, American Experience’s Abraham & Mary Lincoln series (also fabulous), and the AE’s Lee & Grant box set, which I threw in on a whim because it was deep-discounted. The Grant set was terrific; broken into two discs for Grant the Soldier and Grant the President, they really gave you a feel for the quiet, retiring and kindly (if wholly inept as a politician) man.

My favourite quote was from a pre-war play-wrestling ritual with his young sons:

“Mister, do you want to fight?” Fred would ask, when his
father came home from the store.

“I am a person of peace; but I will not be hectored by a person
of your size,” Grant would reply.

I found the citation, oddly, in a “free book” which probably shouldn’t be free, as it was published in 1959. Still, it looks to be an excellent read, so take advantage: The General’s Wife: The Life of Mrs Ulysses S Grant

More Mac Bashing

I sometimes feel sorry for McClellan, given how his reputation has suffered in the past 150 years. Then I remember that he earned this reputation, and I don’t feel sorry at all.

I found a Lincoln quote last night that was brand new to me, and I’m enjoying it immensely:

Gen. McClellan and I are to be photographed… if we can be still long enough. I feel Gen. M. should have no problem. – A. Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln and George McClellan after Antietam

It appears he didn't.

EDIT: To commemmorate this awesome zinger, I’ve created a quote print.