In April 2011 I built on my previous posts concerning Republicans and race in the North to offer a reminder of why they advocated the Fifteenth Amendment, as you can see here.
All too often we hear rather simple descriptions of North and South, especially when it comes to political perspectives. It’s the internal divisions within each section that did as much to determine the outcome of events as it was the divisions between the sections.
Grant’s appeal was not just as the Hero of Appomattox. He was the first President from west of the Appalachians who was entirely unashamed of his origins. (Neither Lincoln nor Johnson ever stopped feeling that they had to prove something to the “educated” Easterners.) Grant also had the rarest of all attitudes: (1) he was completely at peace with the North having fought a war to defend the Union, (2) he did not hate Southerners, and (3) he thought race itself a stupid notion. He did not think that slavery alone was worth the costs of the war. For that very reason he thought Lee, like all the patrician Southerners before him (except Washington and, possibly, Marshall) were fools to have ever threatened secession, let alone acted on it, in the name of keeping black-skinned people as legal chattel.
Not one in a hundred people in 1868 believed in the absolute “equality” that is current test for being certified as “non-racist”. This should hardly be as shocking as it still seems to be. In 1868 not one in a hundred people in the United Kingdom, who were not themselves Catholics, believed that the Irish majority were entitled to “equality”. Grant and Washington, our two greatest Presidents, will never be forgiven for their ability to be political realists and good men. Both thought the Federal government, and specifically the Army, could stand as a check against open rebellion against the Constitution and the Bill of Rights; both thought that time alone was the only possible cure to the folly of racialism. Neither would have been in the least bit surprised to see that journalists and their favorite political figures still find profit in arguing that the country is less than perfect and, therefore, needed another good soaking in Jeffersonian rhetoric and other people’s blood.