The 14th Amendment, a German immigrant, and the assault on White Superiority

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This is the first of a four-part series on immigrants and the 14th Amendment.

German revolutionary refugee and Union general Carl Schurz traveled to Washington in late 1865 after completing a tour of the defeated Confederacy. He visited the Gulf Coast states in the months after slavery was seemingly ended, but all around him he saw blacks kept in the positions of slaves by white patrols forcing them to remain on the plantations of their enslavement. In interviews with planters, Schurz heard from the agricultural elite that while slavery was over and blacks could no longer be sold, they must still remain as the underlings of the owners to pick cotton and harvest sugar cane.1

Carl Schurz

Carl Schurz had been a student revolutionary in Germany and a Union general in the United States. A hero among liberal German immigrants, he had advised both Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson. Johnson had risen to the presidency when Lincoln was assassinated.

Schurz described the situation:

In many instances negroes who walked away from the plantations, or were found upon the roads, were shot or otherwise severely punished, which was calculated to produce the impression among those remaining with their masters that an attempt to escape from slavery would result in certain destruction. A large proportion of the many acts of violence committed is undoubtedly attributable to this motive…2

Schurz had been sent by President Andrew Johnson as a special rapporteur on the conditions in the old Confederate states. While travelling through Georgia, South Carolina, and Mississippi he received disturbing news that the man who had sent him was reducing the military presence in these very states and allowing former Confederates to regain political power. White vigilantes seemed free to roam the countryside terrorizing freed slaves and Black Codes were enacted in state after state by legislatures in the South forcing freed slaves to stay on the plantations of their enslavement. In September 1865,  Schurz wrote to his wife that “I have done everything that is possible through reports and telegraphic dispatches” to try to inform Johnson of the dangerous political violence in the South. He warned that if the President did not listen, “he must not be surprised if, later, I bring into the field against him all the artillery I am assembling now.” That artillery was the evidence of abuse he had gathered.3

map

This map shows the position of Union occupation troops in September of 1865. Troops, many of whom were black, played an important role in freeing slaves from “masters” who tried to hold them in slavery even after the Confederate surrender. As troops were withdrawn in the Fall of 1865, new controls were place by Southern legislatures on the freedoms of black people.

As Union troops were withdrawn from the South, all-white militias were organized, ostensibly to keep the peace. Schurz told his wife that the “result will be a sharp and perhaps bloody persecution of the negroes and the Union men.” His research had convinced him that the “proslavery element is gaining the upper hand everywhere and the policy of the government is such as to encourage this outcome.” 4

At the end of November, Schurz filed his report with the president. It laid out the sorry state of black rights in the South.5

After describing the poor position of blacks in the states he visited, Schurz offered his conclusions. He said that for white former slave owners; “The emancipation of the slaves is submitted to only in so far as chattel slavery in the old form could not be kept up. But although the freedman is no longer considered the property of the individual master, he is considered the slave of society, and all independent State legislation will share the tendency to make him such.”6

Florida black code

A section of the Florida Black Code requiring freed slaves to have a white employer or be arrested and sold at auction as vagrants. Such Black Codes were passed in the states of the old Confederacy to control black labor and many other areas of black life.

While the white legislatures had passed laws formally abolishing slavery, the Black Codes they passed at the same time were for “the establishment of a new form of servitude” for black men and women, he wrote. Blacks, some of whom had served in the Union army, were not likely to meekly accept a new form of slavery. “Practical attempts on the part of the southern people to deprive the negro of his rights as a freeman may result in bloody collisions, and will certainly plunge southern society into restless fluctuations and anarchical confusion,” Schurz warned. He argued that rather than withdrawing Federal troops, the army’s role in the South should be expanded to protect African Americans. He believed that Congress should act to protect the long-term interests of the black community against “oppressive legislation” and “persecution” by the whites and that this could only be done if blacks were “endowed with a certain measure of political power.”7

Schurz soon wrote to his wife that “the President is not at all favorable to me.” He informed her that Johnson had hoped for a report showing that further Federal protections of African Americans were no longer needed. Johnson, he said, “wanted to use me as the official support of his policy and he is now angry” that the report was “a great hindrance” to withdrawing troops from the South and allowing for white rule.8

black convention

African Americans began meeting in state conventions to oppose the imposition of Black Codes and to call for equal rights. The 1865 South Carolina convention issued this statement: “Without any rational cause or provocation on our part…we…have been virtually, and with few exceptions excluded from, first, the rights of citizenship, which you cheerfully accord to strangers, but deny to us who have been born and reared in your midst…We are denied the right of giving our testimony in like manner with that of our white fellow-citizens, in the courts of the State, by which our persons and property are subject to every species of violence, insult and fraud without redress. We are also by the present laws, not only denied the right of citizenship, the inestimable right of voting for those who rule over us in the land of our birth, but by the so-called Black Code we are deprived the rights of the meanest profligate in the country—the right to engage in any legitimate business free from any restraints, save those which govern all other citizens of this State…”
Schurz’s Report on the Condition of the South became a battleground between the president and those who wanted to place the United States firmly on the side of the freed slaves. When Congress convened in December, Radicals in the Senate demanded that President Johnson release the report. When he did not do so, powerful Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts introduced a resolution calling for the publication of the Schurz report. It was passed on December 12. Six Days later, the president at last sent the report to Congress. 9

14-charles-sumner

Senator Charles Sumner had been a radical advocate for the rights of African Americans since he first took office. Before the war, he had been attacked on the floor of the Senate by a pro-slavery Congressman and nearly crippled.

When Schurz’s report was delivered, it came with a preface by President Johnson with his own assessment of the situation that was completely at odds with the detailed information in the Schurz report.  Johnson said that; “As the result of the measures instituted by the Executive…the people in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Tennessee, have reorganized their respective State governments, and ‘are yielding obedience to the laws and government of the United States,’ with more willingness and greater promptitude than…could reasonably have been anticipated.” The president claimed that the white governments in those states were implementing state laws to guarantee the “comfort, protection, and security” of the freed slaves and that in the all-white legislatures of the Southern states “systems are gradually developing themselves under which the freedman will receive the protection to which he is justly entitled.”10

Johnson’s message was a dead letter before it was read.11

On the same day that Schurz’s report was delivered to the Senate, Speaker of the House Thaddeus Stevens announced that he intended to use his office to end Federal support for white supremacy.  The Pennsylvania Radical Republican informed his colleagues that the supposedly reformed Confederates whom President Johnson was appointing to offices in the South as well as their Northern Democratic allies were pandering “to the lowest prejudices of the ignorant, repeat[ing] the cuckoo cry, “This is the white man’s Government.”” Stevens warned that the pandering might extend even to the president saying that “Demogogues of all parties, even some high in authority, gravely shout, “This is the white man’s Government.””12

Defiantly, Stevens asked “What is implied by this? That one race of men are to have the exclusive right forever to rule this nation, and to exercise all acts of sovereignty, while all other races and nations and colors are to be their subjects, and have no voice in making the laws and choosing the rulers by whom they are to be governed. Wherein does this differ from slavery except in degree?” This doctrine of rule by one race over all others contradicted the great doctrine of the Declaration of Independence that “All men are created equal””, he insisted.13

Before the Declaration, “it was held that the right to rule was vested in families, dynasties, or races, not because of superior intelligence or virtue, but because of a divine right to enjoy exclusive privileges,” Stevens reminded Americans. With the Declaration, “Our fathers repudiated the whole doctrine of the legal superiority of families or races, and proclaimed the equality of men before the law. Upon that they created a revolution and built the Republic.” Through the compromises necessary to create the new United States, the Founders put off dealing with slavery, thereby creating an imperfect union.  He told these men who had just won the Civil War that “It is our duty to complete their work. If this republic is not now made to stand on their great principles, it has no honest foundation.” Ending slavery would never be enough if blacks were left without the full protections of citizenship.14

impeachment debate

Thaddeus Stevens speaking in the House of Representatives. Stevens was a radical opponent of white supremacy and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Stevens’s speech was the great battle cry of the new revolution to upset the regime of white supremacy that had chained the great American republic for four score and ten years. In a few months Stevens would turn to Scottish immigrant Robert Dale Owen for a way forward in what they both saw as an epochal struggle for the principle of equality. These months were the formative time for the revolutionary 14th Amendment.15

Video: Historian Eric Foner on President Andrew Johnson

Resources:

Reconstruction Speech of Hon. Thaddeus Stevens, of Pennsylvania Delivered in the House of Representatives, December 18, 1865
Report on the Condition of the South by Carl Schurz (1865)

Sources:

1. Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877 by Eric Foner; After Appomattox: Military Occupation and the Ends of War by Gregory P. Downs (2015); A Nation Under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South from Slavery to the Great Migration by Steven Hahn (2005); Final Freedom: The Civil War, the Abolition of Slavery, and the Thirteenth Amendment by Michael Vorenberg published by Cambridge University Press (2001); Report on the Condition of the South by Carl Schurz (1865); The Reminiscences of Carl Schurz Volume 3 by Carl Schurz, edited by Frederick Bancroft and William Dunning published by Doubleday (1917); Advice After Appomattox: Letters to Andrew Johnson, 1865-1866. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1987 edited by Brooks Simpson, LeRoy P. Graf, and John Muldowny; Intimate Letters of Carl Schurz 1841-1869 by Carl Schurz published by State Historical Society of Wisconsin (1928).
2. The Immigrants’ Civil War
3. Intimate Letters of Carl Schurz 1841-1869 by Carl Schurz published by State Historical Society of Wisconsin (1928) p. 349.
4. Intimate Letters of Carl Schurz 1841-1869 by Carl Schurz published by State Historical Society of Wisconsin (1928) p. 351.
5. Intimate Letters of Carl Schurz 1841-1869 by Carl Schurz published by State Historical Society of Wisconsin (1928) p. 349-352
6. Report on the Condition of the South by Carl Schurz (1865); Intimate Letters of Carl Schurz 1841-1869 by Carl Schurz published by State Historical Society of Wisconsin (1928) p. 349-352
7. Report on the Condition of the South by Carl Schurz (1865)
8. Intimate Letters of Carl Schurz 1841-1869 by Carl Schurz published by State Historical Society of Wisconsin (1928) p. 351.
9. Democracy Reborn: The Fourteenth Amendment and the Fight for Equal Rights in Post-Civil War America by Garrett Epps published by Henry Holt (2007) pp. 35-38, 65-72.
10. Report on the Condition of the South by Carl Schurz (1865)  Johnson’s Preface.
11. Democracy Reborn: The Fourteenth Amendment and the Fight for Equal Rights in Post-Civil War America by Garrett Epps published by Henry Holt (2007) pp. 65-72.
12. Reconstruction Speech of Hon. Thaddeus Stevens, of Pennsylvania Delivered in the House of Representatives, December 18, 1865
13. Reconstruction Speech of Hon. Thaddeus Stevens, of Pennsylvania Delivered in the House of Representatives, December 18, 1865
14. Reconstruction Speech of Hon. Thaddeus Stevens, of Pennsylvania Delivered in the House of Representatives, December 18, 1865

The Immigrants’ Civil War is a series that examines the role of immigrants in our bloodiest war. Articles will appear twice monthly between 2011 and 2017. Here are the articles we have published so far:

1. Immigrant America on the Eve of the Civil War – Take a swing around the United States and see where immigrants were coming from and where they were living in 1861.

2. 1848: The Year that Created Immigrant America – Revolutions in Europe, famine and oppression in Ireland, and the end of the Mexican War made 1848 a key year in American immigration history.

3. Carl Schurz: From German Radical to American Abolitionist– A teenaged revolutionary of 1848, Carl Schurz brought his passion for equality with him to America.

4. Immigrant Leader Carl Schurz Tells Lincoln to Stand Firm Against Slavery.

5. …And the War Came to Immigrant America -The impact of the firing on Fort Sumter on America’s immigrants

6. The Rabbi Who Seceded From the South

7. The Fighting 69th-Irish New York Declares War

8. The Germans Save St. Louis for the Union

9. New York’s Irish Rush to Save Washington

10. Immigrant Day Laborers Help Build the First Fort to Protect Washington-The Fighting 69th use their construction skills.

11. Carl Schurz Meets With Lincoln To Arm the Germans

12. Immigrants Rush to Join the Union Army-Why?– The reasons immigrants gave for enlisting early in the war.

13. Why the Germans Fought for the Union?

14. Why Did the Irish Fight When They Were So Despised?

15. The “Sons of Garibaldi” Join the Union Army

16. The Irish Tigers From Louisiana

17. Immigrant Regiments on Opposite Banks of Bull Run -The Fighting 69th and the Louisiana Tigers

18. The St. Louis Germans Set Out To Free Missouri

19. Wilson’s Creek Drowns Immigrant Dream of Free Missouri

20. English-Only in 1861: No Germans Need Apply

21. After Bull Run: Mutineers, Scapegoats, and the Dead

22. St. Louis Germans Revived by Missouri Emancipation Proclamation

23. Jews Fight the Ban on Rabbis as Chaplains

24. Lincoln Dashes German Immigrants Hopes for Emancipation

25. When Hatred of Immigrants Stopped the Washington Monument from Being Built

26. Inside the Mind of a Know Nothing

27. The Evolution of the Know Nothings

28. The Know Nothings Launch a Civil War Against Immigrant America

29. The Know Nothings: From Triumph to Collapse

30. The Lasting Impact of the Know Nothings on Immigrant America.

31. Lincoln, the Know Nothings, and Immigrant America.

32. Irish Green and Black America: Race on the Edge of Civil War.

33. The Democratic Party and the Racial Consciousness of Irish Immigrants Before the Civil War

34. The Confederates Move Against Latino New Mexico

35. Nuevomexicanos Rally As Confederates Move Towards Santa Fe—But For Which Side?

36. The Confederate Army in New Mexico Strikes at Valverde

37. The Swedish Immigrant Who Saved the U.S. Navy

38. The Confederates Capture Santa Fe and Plot Extermination

39. A German Regiment Fights for “Freedom and Justice” at Shiloh-The 32nd Indiana under Col. August Willich.

40. The Know Nothing Colonel and the Irish Soldier Confronting slavery and bigotry.

41. Did Immigrants Hand New Orleans Over to the Union Army?

42. Did New Orleans’ Immigrants See Union Soldiers As Occupiers or Liberators?

43. Union Leader Ben Butler Seeks Support in New Orleans-When General Ben Butler took command in New Orleans in 1862, it was a Union outpost surrounded by Confederates. Butler drew on his experience as a pro-immigrant politician to win over the city’s Irish and Germans.

44. Union General Ben Butler Leverages Immigrant Politics in New Orleans

45. Thomas Meager: The Man Who Created the Irish Brigade

46. Thomas Meagher: The Irish Rebel Joins the Union Army

47. Recruiting the Irish Brigade-Creating the Irish American

48. Cross Keys: A German Regiment’s Annihilation in the Shenandoah Valley

49. The Irish Brigade Moves Towards Richmond-The Irish brigade in the Peninsula Campaign from March 17 to June 2, 1862.

50. Peninsula Emancipation: Irish Soldiers Take Steps on the Road to Freedom-The Irish Brigade and Irish soldiers from Boston free slaves along the march to Richmond.

51. Slaves Immigrate from the Confederacy to the United States During the Peninsula Campaign

52. The Irish 9th Massachusetts Cut Off During the Seven Days Battles

53. Union Defeat and an Irish Medal of Honor at the End of the Seven Days

54. Making Immigrant Soldiers into Citizens-Congress changed the immigration laws to meet the needs of a nation at war.

55. Carl Schurz: To Win the Civil War End Slavery

56. Carl Schurz: From Civilian to General in One Day

57. Did Anti-German Bigotry Help Cause Second Bull Run Defeat?

58. Immigrant Soldiers Chasing Lee Into Maryland

59. Scottish Highlanders Battle at South Mountain

60. Emancipation 150: “All men are created equal, black and white”– A German immigrant reacts to the Emancipation Proclamation

61. The Irish Brigade at Antietam

62. Private Peter Welsh Joins the Irish Brigade

63. Preliminaries to Emancipation: Race, the Irish, and Lincoln

64. The Politics of Emancipation: Lincoln Suffers Defeat

65. Carl Schurz Blames Lincoln for Defeat

66. The Irish Brigade and Virginia’s Civilians Black and White

67. The Irish Brigade and the Firing of General McClellan

68. General Grant Expells the Jews

69. The Irish Brigade Moves Towards Its Destruction At Fredericksburg.

70. Fredericksburg: The Worst Day in the Young Life of Private McCarter of the Irish Brigade

71. Forever Free: Emancipation New Year Day 1863

72. Private William McCarter of the Irish Brigade Hospitalized After Fredericksburg

73. The Immigrant Women That Nursed Private McCarter After Fredericksburg

74. Nursing Nuns of the Civil War

75. The Biases Behind Grant’s Order Expelling the Jews

76. The Jewish Community Reacts to Grant’s Expulsion Order

77. Lincoln Overturns Grant’s Order Against the Jews

78. Irish Families Learn of the Slaughter at Fredericksburg

79. Requiem for the Irish Brigade

80. St. Patrick’s Day in the Irish Brigade

81. Student Asks: Why Don’t We Learn More About Immigrants in the Civil War?

82. Missouri’s German Unionists: From Defeat to Uncertain Victory

83. Missouri Germans Contest Leadership of Unionist Cause

84. German Leader Franz Sigel’s Victory Earns a Powerful Enemy

85. Immigrant Unionists Marching Towards Pea Ridge

86. German Immigrants at the Battle of Pea Ridge: Opening Moves

87. Pea Ridge: The German Unionists Outflanked

88. German Immigrants at the Battle of Pea Ridge

89. The Organization of the “German” XI Corps

90. The Irish Brigade on the Road to Chancellorsville

91. The “German” XI Corps on the Eve of Chancellorsville

92. The “Germans Run Away” at Chancellorsville

93. The New York Times, the Germans, and the Anatomy of a Scapegoat at Chancellorsville

94. An Irish Soldier Between Chancellorsville and Gettysburg

95. Lee’s Army Moves Towards Gettysburg: Black Refugees Flee

96. Iron Brigade Immigrants Arrive at Gettysburg

97. Iron Brigade Immigrants Go Into Battle the First Day at Gettysburg

98. The “German” XI Corps at Gettysburg July 1, 1863

99. An Irish Colonel and the Defense of Little Round Top on the Second Day at Gettysburg

100. A Prayer Before Death for the Irish Brigade at Gettysburg: July 2, 1863

101. The Irish Regiment that Ended “Pickett’s Charge”: July 3, 1863

102. Five Points on the Edge of the Draft Riots

103. Before the Draft Riots: The Cultivation of Division

104. The New York Draft Riots Begin

105. Convulsion of Violence: The First Day of the New York Draft Riots

106. The Draft Riots End in a Sea of Blood-July 14-15, 1863.

107. Pat Cleburne: The Irish Confederate and the Know Nothings

108. Killing Pat Cleburne: Know Nothing Violence

109. Pat Cleburne: Arresting a General, Becoming a General

110. The Immigrant Story Behind “Twelve Years a Slave”

111. A German Immigrant Woman’s Gettysburg Address

112. Pat Cleburne: The Irish Confederate’s Emancipation Proclamation

113. Pat Cleburne: The South Can’t Use Black Soldiers Without Ending Slavery

114. The Suppression of Pat Cleburne’s Emancipation Proposal

115. An Irish Immigrant Colonel’s Warnings Ignored at Chickamauga

116. An Immigrant Colonel’s Fighting Retreat at Chickamauga

117. August Willich: German Socialist at Chickamauga

118. Hans Heg:at Chickamauga: Norwegian Commander on the Eve of Battle

119. Ivan and Nadine Turchin: Russian Revolutionary Aristocrats at Chickamauga

120. German Immigrants Pinned Down at Chickamauga

121. Hans Heg: To Die for His Adopted Country at Chickamauga

122. Patrick Guiney: An Irish Colonel on the Edge of the Wilderness

123. Immigrants March Out of The Wilderness and Into a Wicked Hail of Gunfire

124. Peter Welsh in the Irish Brigade’s Purgatory at Spotsylvania

125. Peter Welsh: What Sacrifice Must the Immigrant Make for His Adopted Land?

126. A Second Irish Brigade’s Catastrophe at a Forgotten Fight Near Fredericksburg

127. An Irish Man and a French Woman Between Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor

128. Two Irish Brigades Swept Away by a Hurricane from Hell at Cold Harbor

129. Petersburg: The Start of a Ten Month Siege that Devoured Men and Disabled the Irish Brigade

130. A Volcano in Virginia: The Battle of the Crater

131. 1864 Election: The Immigrant Voter & Abraham Lincoln

132. August Belmont: The German Jewish Immigrant Who Led the Opposition to Lincoln’s 1864 Reelection

133. Lincoln and the Superiority of the “Negro” over the Irish

134. Lincoln’s Germans and the Election of 1864

135. Lincoln’s German Lawyer Comes Out Swinging in the Election of 1864

136. Lincoln Wins the Election of 1864 With Immigrant Votes

137. American Refugee Camp in Civil War Kentucky Destroyed by Union Soldiers

138. Kentucky Civil War Refugee Camp Reborn and Reconstructed After Expulsions

139. Immigrant German “Hamburgers” Tormented and Captured at Petersburg

140. German General Weitzel and His African Canadians at Petersburg

141. Irish Regiment at the Beginning of the End of the Confederacy at Five Forks

142. Richmond Burning: The German Immigrant and Black Troops Who Saved the City

143. Appomattox: The Capture of a Confederate Army & the Fall from Grace of an Immigrant General

144. Lincoln Assassinated: John Wilkes Booth’s Immigrant Conspirators

145. Immigrants Hunt Lincoln’s Killers and Help Capture the Confederate President

146. Lincoln’s Murder and the New York Irish American

147. Lincoln’s Funeral in Immigrant New York

148. German General Carl Schurz Begins His Investigation of the Post-War South

149. Carl Schurz Warned That a “System of Terrorism” Was Taking Hold in the Post-War South in 1865

150. Immigrants in the Union Navy: Minorities in the Majority

151. How Immigrants Were Recruited into the United States Navy

152. African Canadian Sailors in the Union Navy

153. High School Student Proves Professor Wrong When He Denied “No Irish Need Apply” Signs Existed

154. The Fallout from No Irish Need Apply Article Spreads Worldwide

155. No Irish Need Apply Professor Gets into a Fight With Our Blogger Pat Young Over Louisa May Alcott

156. Professor Behind No Irish Need Apply Denial May Have Revealed Motive for Attacking 14 Year Old Historian

157.  A Scottish Socialist and a German General Work to Help Slaves Become Freedpeople-Robert Dale Owen, Carl Schurz and the founding of the Freedmen’s Bureau.

158. Our Man in Sweden: Recruiting Immigrants to Strengthen the Union War Effort

159. German Immigrants and the End of Slavery in Missouri

160. 13th Amendment: Immigrants and the end of slavery in America

161. Finding Civil Immigrants Where You Wouldn’t Expect Them: The Irish and German Harvard Men

162. Recovering the memories of Jewish Civil War soldiers

163. Kate Cumming Confederate Immigrant Nurse and the Shiloh Disaster

164. Immigrant nurse reports on Civil War hospital organized by Nursing Nuns after Shiloh battle

165. Sarah Emma Edmonds: The Immigrant Woman As “Male Nurse”

166. Immigrant Women Struggled to be Recognized as Nurses After the Civil War

167. Prelude to a Reconstruction Riot: Irish and Blacks in Memphis 1866

168. The Memphis Massacre of 1866: A Race Riot Pits Irish Immigrants Against Newly Freed Slaves

169. The 14th Amendment, the German Immigrant Carl Schurz, and the Assault on White Superiority Part of The Coming of the 14th Amendment

170. Black Citizenship, Frederick Douglass and German Immigrant Professor Francis Lieber Confront President Andrew Johnson Part of The Coming of the 14th Amendment

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