The irrevocable change brought about by the Civil War

From the Harvard reunion book entry of Edward Learoyd Cutter ’06, a coal dealer in Boston, concerning his vacation trips to Charleston, SC:

We have been extremely fortunate in knowing a few of the old plantation families, and in having been included in some of their good times, which has given us a viewpoint that few Northerners can ever have.  When one sees and understands a little the irrevocable change brought about by the Civil War, one cannot escape the sensation of guiltiness for having been born a Yankee.

Was this a respectable view to assert in public in 1931?  If so, when it it start being respectable to talk this way (surely it took some time after the end of the war) and when did it stop?

Possibly relevant is the testimony of Cutter’s classmate, Floyd Andrews Brown, of Deposit, NY:

I am now in the my thirteenth year as clerk of the Board of Education, a matter in which I take some pride by reason of having survived the period when every other elective or appointive officer in the village, township, and school district was at least in sympathy with, if not an active member of, the Ku Klux Klan.  This domination of a community by the Klan, now happily past, is a fair measure of the benightedness of the section of rural New York in which I seem fated to spend my declining years.

Aside, directed mainly at Harvard coevals:  Whatever happened to Bridget Kerrigan?

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One thought on “The irrevocable change brought about by the Civil War

  1. Frank says:

    If you ever visit Columbia, South Carolina (which you should do sometime! PANTS is looking for outstanding plenary speakers), you will not fail to notice the large Confederate flag flying high on the State House grounds. It used to fly on top of the State House (it was intitally put there to protest the passage of the Civil Rights act), but it was moved so that it is now merely in front of the state house — a form of compromise, I suppose.

    While you walk around the State House grounds, don’t fail to notice the statues. You will notice a prominent statue of Strom Thurmond (1902-2003) who is most famous for his advocacy of segregation, and for addressing the U.S. Senate for 24 hours and 18 minutes continuously in a filibuster against the Civil Rights Act. If you ever look at the statue, look at the inscription on the side, where it lists his five children. Looking closely at the word “five”, you can see that it used to read “four”: it was corrected when, after his death, it was revealed that he had fathered a child by a Black woman.

    There is also a statue of Ben Tillman (1847-1918), who was a famous advocate for white supremacy and lynch law. He became famous in South Carolina when he played a leading role in the so-called “Hamburg Massacre”, the more-or-less indiscriminate slaughter of black South Carolinians who had the audacity to hold a parade in their hometown. This endeared him greatly to white South Carolinians. After he helped to suppress the Black vote through fraud and violence, he was able to launch a successful political career where he served as a South Carolina governor, and later, senator.

    Also see the statue of J. Marion Sims (1813-1883), the “father of American gynecology”. He conducted a variety of groundbreaking experiments, purchasing Black slaves at auction and then performing surgery on them without anesthesia. Does one see statues of Josef Mengele in modern Germany? Nope, didn’t think so.

    Is there bitterness here over the loss of the Civil War? Is there anger that Northerners obliged Southerners, starting in the 1860s and running through relatively recent memory, to treat Black people as humans? Can you have any doubt?

    I hope that you will forgive the rant above. And I should hasten to add that I have seen very little overt racism and bigotry here in South Carolina. Indeed, many people are still angrier about this than me, and by a large margin.

    But, anyway, to not quite answer your question, there are *still* apologists, at least in the South, for a cause for which I cannot fathom any defense.

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