In the early 1900s , Will Rogers quipped: “I only know what I read in the papers.” Although newspapers had agendas in those years, their news reports were largely reliable. Over the years, technical advances improved how news is reported, but the reliability of reports has dissipated. Television transformed newscasters into celebrities and their inflated self-importance encouraged opinion-based reporting with little regard for veracity. This trend has continued, and news reports are not only purposely distorted but frequently dishonest.
Mainstream media maintains that rioting, burning, and looting by Black Lives Matter and Antifa are actually “peaceful protests” against a grossly unfair society. But the public doesn't view American society as grossly unfair. Contrariwise, most think mob violence is destroying the substance and civility of our cities.
Elites hope continual rioting will eventually convince the public that American society must be overturned and replaced. That is the establishment's goal. But the public doesn't agree that society is so flawed that it must be eliminated, nor does the public believe that mob violence is benevolently motivated. So elites must either alter the public's negative opinion of rioting or convince the populace that other problems are more important.
To increase the importance of a social problem, the Left usually claims it is racist; that has been the tried-and-true public manipulator for decades. But most of the specious racism stratagems have been thoroughly exploited. However the bigotry of Confederate monuments still has traction.
Most of us think the destruction of our cities by mobs is a more timely and significant issue than Confederate monument removals. But not CNN. To hype the need to remove Confederate monuments, CNN's Chris Cuomo has resurrected Leftist filmmaker Ken Burns. Cuomo's interview-probe into Confederate monument removals elicited these responses from Burns:
“I think we’re in the middle of an enormous reckoning right now in which the anxieties and the pains and the torments of injustice are bubbling up to the surface. It’s very important for people like me, of my complexion, to it be as quiet as possible and to listen. What I know from my reading of history is that the Confederate monuments have to go.”
“They’re an attempt to rewrite history and to essentially celebrate a false narrative about what happened during the Civil War and to send the wink-winks, the dog whistles, as we are fond of saying today, across the generations about what the Civil War was about. It’s so interesting that we’re even having this argument because the people that we memorialize, the nation's forts that are named after Civil War generals ... these are people responsible for the deaths of loyal American citizens.”
Obviously, this so-called interview was simply a venue for Burns to reiterate the Left's prescribed view of the Confederacy. Ken Burns claims his opinions come from his “reading of history.” Based on his comments, I don't get the impression that Burns has actually read history. But if he has, he obviously has only read selective versions. And if Chris Cuomo had demanded valid historical data that supported his opinions, Burns would be hard pressed to supply it.
Burns further states that Confederate monuments “celebrate a false narrative about what happened during the Civil War.” By “false narrative” he means one that deviates from the establishment's interpretation of that era using today's socio/political standards. It would be hard to find a respected historian who would claim that, in the mid 1800s, people risked their lives on battlefields because of their moral opposition to slave labor. However, there is a general consensus among historians that the War was the outgrowth of years of economic and cultural differences between Northern and Southern regions.
Burns's heyday was during the national television era when programming was dominated by the big three networks and PBS. In that era, there was an absence of dissenting views, and programs rarely featured professional historians. Like most TV programs, Burns's films were designed for the masses - and essentially avoided complex issues.
Hopefully, in this age of the Internet, with countless websites, and divergent ideologies, Burns's opinions won't go unchallenged.
Like most countries, the United States has flaws that need to be addressed. But a determination must be made regarding which flaws are doing the greatest harm and should be the primary focus of remedial efforts. For too long, mainstream media, academia, and the entertainment field have made that determination without consulting the public. And they have been able to convince a skeptical public of the correctness of their decision. One of the reasons they've had success manipulating the public is the phenomenon known as “dumbing down.” This term is not a recent creation, but actually was coined in the early 1930's movie industry. To attract a larger viewing audience, scriptwriters were told to “dumb down” screen plays “to appeal to those of little education or intelligence.”
When I say the public has been dumbed down, I don't mean they're stupid, but are easily manipulated by media. Since the late 1950s, dumbing down and media hype have had too much influence on the public. To sell an unacceptable social change to the populace, the establishment will claim the change is necessary to accomplish a virtuous goal.
The classic justification for an unwelcome societal change is that it combats “racism.” Over the years media has conjured up numerous forms of racism and finally hit the apex with “systemic racism” - racism so deeply embedded in all aspects of our culture that our entire society must be dismantled and restructured.
Can the establishment dismantle society against the public's wishes? The colonies broke with England to escape rule by a monarch. Consequently, for years the Jeffersonian principle of strong local governments and a weak central government prevailed. In the chaos following the War Between the States, the Lincolnian ideology replaced the Jeffersonian model with a strong central government which has gradually gained more control over the populace than King George ever had over his subjects.
The Founders thought three co-equal branches of government and public elections of congress members would prevent the development of a ruling class. But the government structure and the Constitution the Founders created didn't anticipate the circumstances of the War Between the States and its aftermath. Radical Republicans scrapped Presidents Lincoln and Johnson's minimal conditions plan for readmission of seceded states. And, with the defeated South under military rule, they attempted to punish the region and make it Republican while furtively describing their goal as granting rights to freed slaves..
Contrary to Left-wing historians, Reconstruction accomplished very little, did great harm to the Southern region, and barely survived a dozen years. Local citizens, like subjects under King George, were not allowed any voice in the reconstruction of their region. Eventually, Northern liberators lost enthusiasm and began returning to the Northeast, abandoning freed slaves. The callous treatment of the region by Radical Republicans made the recovery from the dismal war-torn conditions in the South even more difficult. Establishment historians are in something of a quandary. They are obligated to claim that Reconstruction was successful, but they also have to insist that “much more needs to be done.”
That has become the standard rationale of the Left regarding so-called reconstruction efforts - what was done was successful but much more needs to be done. And Leftist media, not the public, decides what “needs to be done.” Media tells us that opportunities for minorities are being hindered by lingering vestiges of Southern heritage. So Confederate monuments must be demolished. But tearing down Confederate monuments has gotten so out-of-hand that states had to pass laws protecting these memorials.
To get around these laws, activists use a semantic device described as “contextualizing.” Plaques are placed at the base of statues that “contextualize” them - explain their true meaning.
Consider these excerpts from a proposed contextualizing of a Confederate memorial in Georgia:“… this monument … bolstered white supremacy and faulty history, suggesting that the cause for the Civil War rested on southern Honor and States Rights—instead of its real catalyst—American slavery. This monument and similar ones also were created to intimidate African Americans and limit their full participation in social and political life of their communities. It fostered a culture of segregation…”
We see that contextualizing actually disparages the meaning of the monument – effectively tearing it down verbally.
Legislative and other societal changes during the civil rights movement (Second Reconstruction) were the most widespread and comprehensive societal corrections in our nation's history. But they didn't prevent Leftists from maintaining that individual racist incidents had worsened into systemic racism – racism so all pervasive that a third and more comprehensive version of Reconstruction is needed to correct it.
Third Reconstruction addresses the entire nation, so “White Privilege” has replaced “Southern bigotry” as the root cause of discrimination. Although we are told that minorities are being held back, we see them as surviving fairly well. We even see minorities highly successful and thriving. So we question the need for additional corrective measures - especially measures that would essentially replace the Founder's vision of America with a Marxist-Leninist structure that will level wealth and resources, creating an egalitarian society without class distinctions.
For most of our country's existence, Americans have been proud of the United States. But during the social upheavals of the 1960s, things began to change. These changes influenced how history was reported. Remember that history is not an exact science like mathematics where 2 plus 2 always equals 4 . The history of events varies depending on the prevailing sentiments of the time, and the ideology of the person doing the reporting. For example, when two nations are at war, each will report events in the way that favors their cause and each will claim that God is on their side.
Current versions of history do not portray America favorably or honestly. Some historians imply that in our entire 244 year existence only two significant things occurred : slavery and racism. These historians rarely mention that slavery existed for thousands of years before the birth of Christ and only began to be eliminated in the last 200 years. It was inevitable that thousands of years of slavery all over the globe made its way to the American colonies.
In early America there were few objections to slavery where it existed as abolitionists were only a small percentage of the population. There were, however, objections to slavery's expansion into the Western territories, and these objections were economic rather than moral. The territories wanted to keep out slave labor because it could produce and sell products more cheaply than small family-owned farms. Although the territories opposed slave labor, they often had black codes that excluded blacks from settling there
Today's Left claims that the Confederacy committed acts of rebellion and treason against the United States. But in the mid-1800s, there were only about 30 states, and not the 50 we currently have. ( All states were essentially located east of the Mississippi River, and slavery was legal under the Constitution.) When the Civil War ended, Confederate President Jefferson Davis was arrested, accused of treason and imprisoned. But, after two years of legal wrangling , Union forces begrudgingly admitted that treason couldn't be proved. So Jefferson Davis was released from prison and treason charges were not brought against any other Confederate leaders.
Some current historians wants us to believe that the North was so morally opposed to Southern planters using slave labor that Northern husbands and grown sons were willing to risk their lives on battlefields to prevent it. But if you study history you know that wars are never fought for moral reasons nor are they fought over a single issue. Wars usually occur after economic or territorial conflicts have lingered and festered for long periods.
Midway through the War, as Union forces were not doing well, President Lincoln became concerned that Britain and France might aid the Confederate war effort. Hoping to avert such action was one of the reasons for his issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation. It gave the appearance that freeing slaves was a goal of the War which appealed to the anti-slavery sentiments in those two nations. For whatever reason, Britain and France decided to remain neutral.
The Emancipation Proclamation was simply a war measure and actually didn't free any slaves. The four slave states that fought on the side of the Union were exempted from its edicts, and Confederate states were allowed to keep their slaves if they would agree to stop fighting. Also, the issuance of the Proclamation provoked indignation among Union soldiers who felt deceived. They were told they were fighting to “Save the Union” which they were willing to do, but they were reluctant to risk their lives to prevent Southern planters from using slave labor.
The Northeast not only imported the slaves to America, its commercial organizations financed Southern plantations, and Northern textile mills were one of the largest consumers of slave grown cotton. Yet the North is absolved of any culpability with slavery, and the Confederacy is held solely responsible for it. So the North can honor its ancestors, while the South cannot.
Today Confederate memorabilia is being eradicated not just by anti-American terrorists but by self-anointed ideologues who only present one side of the story. So the Confederate Flag can only be interpreted as representing hate and the word “Dixie” is forbidden and the song “Dixie” cannot be played or sung. These are just two examples of innocuous aspects of Southern heritage that have been banned.
These cancel culture zealots want us to believe that this is what the black community wants. Actually blacks are primarily concerned with practical issues like jobs, healthcare, food, and shelter, - not symbolic cultural cleansing.
The Left portrays the Confederate States of America as only plantations and slaves, despite the fact that most ante-bellum Southerners did not own slaves. In fact, before the War there were several hundred thousands of freed slaves in the South, earning their living as tailors, carpenters, barbers, butchers, shoemakers and more. After the War, freed slaves and former masters reunited and negotiated sharecropping arrangements that lasted well into the mechanization of the 1950s.
Descendants of the Confederacy take pride in their ancestors and should be allowed to honor them as New England and other regions honors their ancestors. But the Confederacy is being unfairly disparaged by today's cultural genocide that is also degrading the Founding Fathers and other once-esteemed aspects of American heritage.
Although rioting, looting, burning, and demolition of our cities have seriously damaged our physical structure, it can be rebuilt. But the ongoing dismantling of our cultural values and traditions might not be salvageable. The loss of our cultural values has happened gradually over the years as a result of our continuous acquiescence to demands from grievance groups. We thought these groups would be appeased. But every time we made a concession, rather than being placated, a new demand was made. And each new demand has the full support of media and academia.
Advocacy organizations of the past have done great harm to our American culture, but if the recently created Black Lives Matter has its way, the country envisioned by our founding fathers will no longer exist. This is no exaggeration. Black Lives Matter also has activists successfully trashing centuries-old cultures of European cites, literally threatening the continued existence of Western civilization. And that is no exaggeration. How could this have happened ?
In the 1970s, Democratic Senator Patrick Moynihan publicly expressed his concern over the excessive focus on racism and the exorbitant actions being proposed to eliminate it. Moynihan felt that the obsession with racism was not healthy for society and might even encourage additional claims of racism.. Moynihan encouraged a period of “benign neglect” regarding racial issues. Instead of “benign neglect”, the decades following Moynihan's prophetic warning have been inundated with continual accusations of racial discrimination. Racism has become the raison d´etre for every real or imagined conflict involving a minority.
To make racism an ongoing media subject through all those decades, new forms of racial bias had to be found. Sociologists and media obliged by “discovering” previously unknown versions of racial discrimination. Racist claims by media were not always verifiable and questions have been raised about the diagnoses of racial discrimination by sociologists. These sociologists use a concept known as “self-reporting.” After subjecting the complainant to numerous questions to determine their truthfulness, the therapist would ask: “ Have you ever been treated unfairly or badly because of your race or ethnicity?” Their answer was obviously based on their perceptions which could not be scientifically verified.
Establishment projects to eliminate racism and other societal flaws have become overblown and do not enjoy widespread popularity. To make them more amenable to the public they are often renamed. Consider the concept of “Leveling”, eliminating economic and social differences to achieve equality. Leveling was not viewed favorably because it conflicted with private enterprise and individual responsibility. Clever semantics were employed to make the leveling of society sound like a moral endeavor. Hence Leveling was renamed “Social Justice.”
Media has made the concept of “Social Justice” an essential cog in our societal apparatus. Universities have even made Social Justice a field of study coequal with history, literature, geography, economics and so forth. College students who major in Social Justice take courses cataloging society's injustices; courses that blame these injustices on White Supremacy. In fact, many of these courses are simply anti-White proselytizing - universities are actually offering an undergraduate course called “The Abolition of Whiteness.”
Widespread television coverage has allowed media and academia to characterize America's White population as thoroughly racist; so inbred with racism for so long that Whites are no longer aware of it. As large segments of society are too intimidated to question media and academia, they have manipulated much of our thinking. Their strategy is to take isolated incidents, blame them on race, and portray them as a national phenomenon; “systemic racism.” The death of one black man at the hands of white Minneapolis police is explained by “systemic racism.” So the “pain” is nationwide which justifies nationwide rioting, looting, burning, and destruction of property.
Once an lone incident has been converted into a coast-to-coast racial problem, it can be used against against other Leftist targets. An example is Virginia's Democratic Governor, Ralph Northam. Citing the “pain” caused by the Minneapolis incident, the Governor stated “... the pain can’t go on... it’s a time for this country to heal.” And what healing action does Governor Northam propose for the callous killing of a black man in far away Minneapolis? The Governor will remove the Robert E. Lee statue that has adorned Richmond's Monument Avenue for over a century.
Media often blames Confederate memorabilia as the underlying cause of racial violence regardless of where the violence occurs; Minneapolis being the latest example. Of course, media and academia have long been driving forces behind the campaign to discredit the Confederacy. But what if all Confederate symbols are actually eliminated? Will advocacy groups discontinue their protests? Will Black Lives Matter end its mission to “eradicate White supremacy?” Will we have years of racial harmony?
To answer these questions we need only consider the outrageous vandalism on the Jefferson Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and other non-Confederate relics.
Over the years, the United States, like other nations, has experienced changes in its structure and its system of government. Some of these modifications were helpful while others have not been favorable. It was felt that the advent of television would be beneficial for our society and to a certain extent it has been. But it has also exacerbated differences in social and political opinions.
When the Constitution replaced the Articles of Confederation, states became less independent and the Federal government took over some of their powers. But the Framers of the Constitution never intended for the Federal government to become as powerful and controlling as it is today. Although the Constitution placed no limits on terms of Congress members, it was intended that elected officials would donate a few years to Congressional duties, retire, and resume their private lives. Congress members were paid a modest per diem allowance for actual time spent working in Washington; looking after the needs of citizens.
Being a member of Congress is no longer a temporary affair but a lifetime career during which countless Congressmen use their legislative connections to acquire personal wealth. Television appearances enhance their already bloated egos, and favorable media coverage can give the appearance of success where there is none.
Nancy Pelosi is a classic example. As the first female Speaker of the House, Pelosi is fawned over by the media and her Speaker-ship is depicted as exceptional regardless of the absence of any accomplishments. She placates the national media while doing nothing for her constituents.
Rep Pelosi's California district is one of the dirtiest, unhealthiest districts in the country. It includes the once celebrated city of San Francisco whose streets are now littered with trash, discarded drug needles, rats, and human feces. During Pelosi's years representing this district, its hazardous conditions have consistently worsened. But well aware that national media will never fault her regardless of her actions or inactions, Pelosi ignores the worsening conditions in her district. She has chosen the support of the National Press Corp over the welfare of her constituents.
Today, a Congress person's salary is $174,000 but being House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi is paid over $223,000; four and a half times the income of the average American family. Ms. Pelosi decides on her own whether to leave her lavish ocean-side mansion and return to Washington to do her job. She receives her hefty pay check whether she shows up for work or not; a pay check which American taxpayers fund.
In the glare of television cameras and with an arrogance that knows no bounds, Speaker Pelosi ripped up President Trump's State of the Union speech. With this childish stunt, Pelosi trashed “decades of tradition, decorum, and civility.” Although her gaucherie incurred minimal criticism from media, and no punitive consequences, large segments of the public were repulsed. Many viewed it as an attack on American values; values that Pelosi and the Left dismiss as the worn-out ideology of dead White guys, the Founding Fathers.
With media spin in her favor, Pelosi is not concerned that Heartland America doesn't approve of her petulant partisan politics. The media even refuse to criticize her botched impeachment efforts and other failed attempts to eliminate President Trump. As a result of these fiascoes, the president's approval ratings actually increased. Although Pelosi's missteps continue, it is unlikely that she will be removed as House Speaker any time soon.
Andrew Johnson, our 17th President, has become little more than a statistic of history: the first president to be impeached. But his impeachment trial was a crucial test for the viability of the U.S. Constitution and the story of his ordeal contains important lessons for contemporary society. It also contains the elements of high drama: a script filled with skullduggery, and a cast that includes a victim, a hero and assorted villains.
First, a brief look at the defendant and the prosecution.
The defendant, Andrew Johnson, the man Lincoln chose as his running mate for his second term, overcame poverty and illiteracy to attain the highest office in the land. He never attended school and reached his 14th birthday unable to read or write. However, his powerful ambition motivated him to educate himself and when only 19, he opened his own tailor shop. As a very young man, Andrew Johnson began dabbling in local politics and by age 44, he was elected Governor of Tennessee.
The prosecution, the Radical Republicans, were similar to today’s liberals: smug, elitist and "control-oriented." They viewed themselves as the preeminent authority on how society should be structured. Accommodating newspapers not only upheld the Republicans political positions but also vilified anyone who opposed them. These Radical Republicans were the driving force behind two of our worst congresses: the 39th and 40th.
On April 15, 1865, Andrew Johnson, an unsophisticated man without Lincoln’s oratorical and political skills, had to replace a martyr — a martyr whose death was blamed on Southern sympathizers. Inexplicably, although Johnson had opposed secession, publicly denounced slavery, and remained loyal to the Union throughout the War, the Radical Republicans still viewed him as a Southern supporter.
The Radical Republicans’ problem with Andrew Johnson had actually begun with President Lincoln: a disagreement on the conditions for re-admitting Southern states back into the Union. Lincoln favored a "malice toward none" approach which basically meant that Southern states should renounce secession, take an oath to support the Constitution and abolish slavery. Because he had been Lincoln’s Vice-President, Johnson felt obligated to continue Lincoln’s policies.
However, Congress considered these re-admission policies too lenient. They insisted that the existing governments of the Southern states be abolished. Also, to the Radical Republicans, the defeated Southern states offered a unique opportunity for a large-scale social experiment. They viewed the population of the South as simply a human chessboard. Central planners in Washington could micromanage the region and Federal troops would force compliance with their dictates. It was a bureaucrat’s dream come true.
Radical Reconstruction laws, which were passed over Johnson’s vetoes, consolidated the 10 excluded Southern states into 5 "military districts." The responsibility for most civic functions, including elections, was removed from local communities and assumed by military governors. These governors were appointed by the Federal government and given unheard of powers. Registered voters, suspected of having aided or abetted the Confederate war effort, could be removed from voting lists at the discretion of the appointed governor. He could also add voters to the list if he believed they had been incorrectly omitted.
Entrances to polling places were controlled by Federal troops. When voting was complete, ballots were sealed and transported to military headquarters to be counted. Next, the ballot tally had to be certified behind closed doors by the military governor and his appointees known as a "returning board" who would determine the "intent" of the voters. Needless to say, the Republican ticket carried every election in the occupied Southern states.
These extreme Reconstruction laws dramatically indicate Congress’ obsession with converting the South into a populist Camelot. To the press and public these bills were promoted as "humanitarian" laws to redress inequities. But the Radical Republicans inserted provisions that neither Johnson nor the South would accept. For example, although the 14th Amendment was publicized as protecting voting rights of freed slaves, it could deny the right to vote or hold public office to anyone who had participated in or aided the Confederate war effort. In other words, Southern states were asked to ratify an amendment that would exclude the majority of white Southerners from the political process.
But the crafty Republicans didn’t leaving anything to chance. After passing the 14th Amendment over Johnson’s objections, they created another law requiring ratification of the Amendment as a condition for a state’s readmission to the Union. This placed the majority of white Southerners in a no-win situation. Under Reconstruction restraints, most were not permitted to vote, and if their State ratified the 14th Amendment, its restrictions would also prevent them from voting. This clever ploy insured that only the military, Carpetbaggers, Scalawags, and freedmen could vote. The Republicans had cleverly legislated their perpetuation in office.
Andrew Johnson’s presidential vetoes were based on his belief that the extreme measures contained in these Reconstruction bills violated the Constitution and concentrated too much power in the Federal government thereby usurping rights reserved to the states. Although Congress had the voting strength to override Johnson’s vetoes, they began to view the President as an obstruction that must be removed. However, the President couldn’t be impeached unless he committed a high crime or misdemeanor and Johnson had done neither. So, as incredible as it may sound, the House Judiciary Committee was instructed to do two things: 1. Conduct a covert investigation of the President for the purpose of finding an offense that could be construed as impeachable, and 2. Begin drafting Articles of Impeachment.
Like most elitists, the Radical Republicans underestimated the shrewdness of their opponent. The supposedly secret proceedings of the Judiciary Committee were closely monitored by the famous detective, Allan Pinkerton, who kept President Johnson informed of all developments.
On March 2, 1867, Congress passed, over Johnson’s veto, the Tenure of Office Act. This dubious piece of legislation, which was later declared unconstitutional, forbade the President from removing a cabinet member without the approval of Congress; a violation of the act would constitute a "high misdemeanor." Secretary Edwin Stanton now became more obstreperous during cabinet meetings, openly defying the President and publicly criticizing Johnson behind his back.
It must have taken immense willpower for Andrew Johnson to control his temper in the face of Stanton’s escalating abuses. But Johnson knew firing Stanton would trigger an impeachment trial. Finally, however, Johnson was pushed over the brink when he learned that Stanton had committed an act that can only be described as despicable.
In the rush to judgement following Lincoln’s assassination, suspected conspirators were hastily convicted by a military tribunal and sentenced to death by hanging. A controversy continues to this day concerning the guilt of Mrs. Mary Suratt who owned the boarding home where some of the conspirators had occasionally stayed. Although the case against her was weak, Mrs. Suratt was nonetheless convicted along with the others.
Five of the nine members of the military commission that conducted the trial sent a written request to President Johnson pleading, because of her age and sex, for a commutation of Mary Suratt’s sentence from death to life in prison. This letter, possibly because it was transmitted via the War department, was withheld from the President by Edwin Stanton. So Mary Suratt was hooded and publicly hanged along with the others. When Johnson learned about the intentional concealment of this written appeal, he flew into a rage, and on February 21, 1868, fired Secretary Stanton.
This is what the Radical Republicans had been waiting for. Now the impeachment machinery could begin in earnest. Three days after Stanton’s dismissal, the House passed the Articles of Impeachment that it had been compiling for over a year. The charges, other than the violation of the Tenure of Office Act, revolved around petty offenses such as bringing Congress into disrepute by inflammatory speeches. To the original ten Articles, an eleventh one was added at the last minute as a "fail-safe" device. It was a composite of all the other charges, written in such a way as to almost compel a guilty vote.
Reports of Johnson’s impeachment were carried on front pages of newspapers across the nation. At that time there were no movies, TV or radio and no professional sports teams. Essentially, political figures were the celebrities of the day and the shenanigans of Washington’s elite provided material for many gossip columns.
To the Radical Republicans, the trial was simply window-dressing for the press and public. They felt they had the votes necessary to oust Johnson. However, before the trial began they held a caucus to take a straw vote. There were 54 members of the Senate; twelve of them were Democrats who had publicly stated that they would not vote to remove the President. But it only took a two-thirds majority, 36 votes, to convict the President and there were 42 Republican senators. The initial straw vote indicated that 35 would vote for removal and six would vote to acquit, and these six could not be moved.
In his 1955 book, "Profiles in Courage", the young Senator from Massachusetts, John F. Kennedy chronicles the brave acts of eight United States Senators, including Edmund Ross, who placed integrity above career. Kennedy describes the pressure Edmund Ross endured from the Radical Republicans in their efforts to coerce him into voting to dismiss President Johnson. At first there was amicable persuasion but that gradually evolved into threats. The threats came not only from Senators but also from Ross’ constituents in Kansas. Others tried to bribe Ross and members of his family. The demagogic Senator from Massachusetts, Ben Butler exclaimed, "There is a bushel of money! How much does the damned scoundrel want?"
But Edmund Ross, although an outspoken opponent of Andrew Johnson, made it clear that he would not decide until he had heard the evidence, the testimony and rebuttals, and considered the legal arguments put forth by both sides. He told an acquaintance that a president shouldn’t be removed simply because of his political opinions.
The six Republicans who stated that they would vote for acquittal gave the newspapers high-sounding moralistic reasons for their stance. But other motivations came out in off-the-record discussions. At least three were concerned about Andrew Johnson’s successor. At that time, there was no provision for a selection of someone to serve as a vice-president to a president who assumed office upon the death of his predecessor. This circumstance was not corrected until the ratification of the 25th Amendment decades later.
Should Johnson be removed from office, the Senate President Pro Tem, Ben Wade of Ohio, would become President. Senator Wade had alienated almost all the Republican Senators with his arbitrary decisions and abusive behavior. One of the dissenters said, "I would rather have the President than the shallywags of Ben Wade."
Because none of their threats and inducements had caused Ross to abandon his undecided stance, the Radical Republicans began investigating Ross’ personal life hoping to find some indiscretion that could be used as blackmail. They thought they had struck gold when they found an attractive 20-year-old girl who was rumored to be romantically involved with the 41-year-old Ross, a married man with a family. Vinnie Ream was far different from most females of her age and her time. She was an independent young woman who, at age 18, was awarded a $10,000 federal commission to sculpt a marble statue of Abraham Lincoln for the Capitol Rotunda.
Ross had known the Ream family in Kansas and when they moved to Washington for Vinnie to sculpt the Lincoln statue, Ross became a boarder at the Ream house. Vinnie was subjected to intense scrutiny by investigators but she insisted that she and Ross were good friends and nothing more. But her interrogators implied that there was a relationship and even claimed that Vinnie was using her female wiles to influence Ross to vote for Johnson’s acquittal. Although they continued to badger and threaten her, Miss Ream was unflappable. She calmly denied all their allegations. Unable to break her story, the Republicans eventually tried to evict her from her Capitol studio where she was working on the Lincoln statue. But calmer heads prevailed. She was allowed to finish her work and her statue of Lincoln stands today in the Capitol Rotunda.
As the trial neared its end, the level of tension was taking its toll on the participants. The frustrated Republicans had run out of options. Now they could only hope for the best. After all, an undecided Senator could vote either way.
Although the trial had produced nothing that hadn’t already been covered in newspapers, it had, nonetheless, become a sensational media event. The courtroom galleries were packed with newspaper reporters and ordinary citizens who had paid exorbitant prices to scalpers for standing-room-only space. The voting was scheduled for May 16, 1868 and the Republicans chose to begin with Article number eleven because it would be the most difficult one for Ross to vote against.
Senators were unusually somber as they took their places in the Senate Chamber on May 16th. Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Salmon Chase, called the session to order and cautioned spectators against unruly outbursts. Chase issued preliminary instructions and then asked the clerk to call the roll. Each Senator stood as his name was called, and responded to the Chief Justice’s request for his verdict. The first 24 Senators voted "Guilty!" These votes provided no suspense. In fact, the only vote that was not known in advance was the next one.
When the clerk called, "Mr. Senator Ross," many Senators abandoned decorum and turned to get a clear view of the legislator from Kansas. Senator Ross stood and faced the Chief Justice. It was reported that Justice Chase’s voice trembled slightly as he asked: "Mr. Senator Ross, how say you? Is the respondent Andrew Johnson guilty or not guilty of a high misdemeanor as charged in this Article?"
Later, Senator Ross would write that at this moment every person in the room appeared larger than life. He realized that "Friendships, position, fortune, everything that makes life desirable to an ambitious man were about to be swept away by the breath of my mouth." As these thoughts rushed through his mind, he was temporarily unable to speak.
The awkward silence must have been excruciating to the Senators and spectators. But finally Ross pulled himself together and pronounced his verdict. However his voice was too weak and wavering to be heard throughout the room. Some Senators were now standing; "What?" "What did he say?" The Chief Justice asked Ross to repeat his verdict. Senator Ross cleared his throat, took a deep breath, and spoke in as a firm a voice as he could muster, "Not guilty."
Senators slammed against the backs of their chairs, some banging their fists on their desks. Newspaper reporters stampeded out of the galleries and telegraph lines began humming. The rest of the legal proceedings were a mere formality. Andrew Johnson had been acquitted. The checks and balances between branches of government provided by the Constitution had survived a serious threat. Congress was unable to oust a president simply because it disapproved of his political opinions.
Newspapers excoriated Edmund Ross and Kansas rejected his Senate re-election bid. Former friends and associates spurned him and members of his family were often subjected to verbal abuse during public outings. Eventually Ross had to relocate his family from Kansas to the developing New Mexico territory.
Although Andrew Johnson had been acquitted, newspapers continued to slander him, and Democrats refused to nominate him for a second term. The discredited Johnson returned to Tennessee and ran for State Senator but was defeated.
Radical Reconstruction of the South was one of the Federal government’s first experiments with social engineering and, like the others that would follow, it caused more problems than it solved. The use of Federal troops to coerce a restructuring of Southern society did not have widespread support in the North. Also, the worsening of the national economy caused citizens to question the efficacy of the government’s investment of time and money in the Reconstruction effort. When reliable reports of the corruption and disastrous effects of Reconstruction began reaching the North, all support ended, not only from citizens but also from newspapers and politicians.
This article previously appeared on LewRockwell.com on November 22, 2002.
The dozen films listed below, in no particular order, are among my favorites. Although they might not be outstanding cinematic achievements, most were well received by both critics and the public. Admittedly, some might be little more than escapist entertainment but are still worth watching. I've presented their basic plots with an occasional bit of trivia. Most are American films from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, the era before trendy social issues began to dominate film-making, and a time when Southerners were portrayed more fairly. Film settings and characters are now more stereotyped. In fact, Hollywood seems to be atrophying, the quality of actors and actresses has declined, and films are promoting socio/poltical agendas that are not in the best interest of our country. Actually, the best movies are being produced in other countries. Luckily, these recommended films from the past have been preserved.
1. Lady in the Lake – 1946
The interesting thing about this film version of a Raymond Chandler novel is its unusual filming technique. The lead character, Phillip Marlowe, is only seen in the opening and closing scenes and occasionally in a mirror. Throughout the film the camera is always behind him, and the cast speaks into the camera. This involves the viewing audience more directly. You would think this approach to filming wouldn't work but it does. Marlowe is hired by the chief editor of a crime magazine to find the missing wife of her boss who has disappeared from her small California town. The film features a complicated plot as well as an outstanding performance by one of Hollywood's most underrated actresses, Audrey Totter.
In one scene, Marlowe is confused when the missing woman's ex-lover, a transplanted Southerner, uses the word “embrangle.” In the 1940s, the South's culture hadn't been altered by migration from other regions or the influence of TV. Words like “embrangle” might still be heard in the South although they'd fallen into disuse elsewhere. The Southerner informs Marlowe that he doesn't understand the word because he is a Yankee.
2. Shane – 1953
This Western film is quite different from standard Westerns – as one reviewer stated “It has more dialogue than gunfights.” It takes place in largely unsettled Wyoming in the 1880s, where farms and fences of homesteaders impede cattle ranchers from driving herds to railroads for shipment to stockyards in the East. Cattle ranchers have driven their herds unhindered across these lands for years and so they resent homesteaders. But those families are meeting the conditions of the Homestead Acts and legally occupying land granted them by the government. A powerful cattle baron decides to intimidate the homesteaders into leaving, even recruiting a gunslinger. Around the same time, a former gunfighter seeking a new life, has wandered into the region and is hired by one of the farmers. The conflict between cattle ranchers and homesteaders builds to a powerful climax.
Although President Lincoln's Homestead Acts excluded former Confederates from being granted Western land, records of that time made it difficult to determine a person's true regional background. So this film portrays one homesteader as an ex-Confederate from Alabama. He is killed by the cattle men's hired gun and at his burial, one of the farmers plays a slow mournful version of “Dixie” on his harmonica.
3. The Uninvited – 1944
In films involving a ghost, the strange phenomenon is often explained away logically, thus resolving spooky conflicts it has caused. In this case, the ghost is real, accepted as such, and has to be eliminated. Deciding to leave London and resettle on the Cornish coast, a brother and sister find the ideal residence; a remote house on a cliff overlooking the ocean. They wonder why its elderly owner will sell it for a price well below its market value. After taking possession, they encounter bizarre phenomena and a curious noise that sounds like a sobbing woman. The former owner's 20 year old granddaughter was strongly opposed to the sale of the house and she has a troubling emotional attraction to it. The new owners gradually piece together the strange history of their home and are able to purge its sinister spirit.
The background music for this film was one of the many screen scores composed by Victor Young. The thematic melody caught the public's attention, words were added, and it became the popular song “Stella by Starlight”; the title taken from a line in the film.
4. The Southerner – 1945
The title of this film is misleading. Its not actually about Southerners per se. It concerns a poor Texas couple, with children and grandmother, trying to overcome adversities and survive by picking cotton, farming, sharecropping, or whatever is necessary. Actually it doesn't have a storyline in the traditional sense, but simply depictions of various difficulties and catastrophes that have to be overcome. Unfortunately,you might detect a slightly leftist political slant, but the quality of the film is not lessened. The plot might not sound very interesting, however it is a compelling film, highly regarded by critics.
This film is a creation of French director, Jean Renoir, son of the famous Impressionist painter. It is one of five films he made during his six year exile in America when Germany occupied France.
5. Cyrano de Bergerac – 1950
Hollywood wasn't sure how a 20th century American audience would react to a film version of Edmund Rostand's famous play from the 1800s, so they opted for a low-budget black-and-white picture. Indeed, the film was not a box office success, losing a substantial amount of money. But Jose Ferrer's performance as Cyrano, for which he won an Academy Award, has made this movie a classic. Rostand's hero is a writer, poet, and accomplished swordsman who is infatuated with a cousin, the beautiful Roxanne. Self consciousness over his prodigious misshapen nose restrains him from professing his feelings to her. Instead he provides words to a handsome, inarticulate suitor to use in courting Roxanne.
The dialogue is more interesting than the storyline. A soliloquy about independence occurs when Cyrano refuses to allow an influential nobleman edit his writing. Excerpts from this soliloquy : “...To sing, to laugh, to dream. To walk in my own way and be alone, free, to cock my hat where I choose, with a voice that means manhood...” Sadly, today's Feminists are maligning manhood, demeaning it as “toxic masculinity.”
6. Jezebel – 1938
With help from famed director William Wyler, Bette Davis' performance in this film won her an Academy Award. But my focus is neither the acting nor the direction. This is one of the few screenplays involving ante-bellum Southern plantations that portrayed amiable relationships between some slaves and some members of their owners families. This film is set on a Louisiana plantation located on the outskirts of New Orleans. Miss Davis portrays Julie Marsden, an obstinate Southern belle whose disdain for the decorum of her time causes her to lose the man she loves. Even though he has wed another, Julie is determined to get him back using whatever unscrupulous stratagems are necessary - an epidemic of yellow fever curtails her efforts .
Complaisant relationships between some slaves and their masters were also allowed in the 1935 film of Stark Young's novel “So Red the Rose” and “Gone With the Wind”, released in 1939 . But Hollywood depictions of plantation life eventually became rigidly formulaic – all slaves were oppressed and all masters were tyrannical.
7. Till We Meet Again – 1940
You may wonder why this film is on my list of favorites when admittedly the plot is contrived and trite. But it is representative of many films of its time – you enjoy watching it without analyzing it too closely. A couple has their first brief meeting in a bar in Hong Kong. He is an escaped convict, soon to be recaptured and returned to the States to be executed, and she has a fatal illness with only a short time to live. They meet again on a luxury liner and neither informs the other of their hopeless fate. A typical shipboard romance ensues and they plan to meet again, each knowing it cannot happen.
This 1940 movie was a remake of the 1932 version “One Way Passage.” Both films share basically the same script, as well as the same musical theme, the wistful song “Where Was I” , hauntingly rendered. These two films still have a following with fans disagreeing over which is better.
8. White Cargo - 1942
This film was preceded by the popular novel “Hell's Playground” by Ida Simonton, which was also made into London and Broadway stage productions. There had even been a 1929 silent film adaptation with spoken dialogue added later. The operator of a 1910 African rubber plantation is frustrated with the constant turnover of European managers imported to supervise workers. These Europeans seem unable to adapt to the mores and work habits of the workers or the sweltering climate. To complicate matters, a sultry, provocative native girl uses her wiles to exploit these lonely men. A newly arrived manager is beguiled by this local femme fatale, and to prevent her from being banned from the region, he naively marries her. Soon bored with married life, she resorts to perilous extremes in order to be free again.
9. The Scapegoat – 1959
This is a film adaptation of Daphne du Maurier's novel, “The Scapegoat.” Indeed, it would take someone with du Maurier's writing skills to make this offbeat story work. While vacationing in France, a reclusive British university teacher stops at a bar for a drink and is startled to discover a stranger who is his exact double. The teacher and the stranger, a wealthy nobleman, spend the evening drinking and decide to share a hotel room. The next morning, the teacher awakes to find that his clothing, his passport, and his look-alike are all missing. The nobleman's chauffeur arrives and assumes the teacher is his employer, driving the confused man to an estate. The wife, daughter, sister, and mother accept him as genuine and he becomes comfortable in his new lifestyle. However, the nobleman's mistress in the village realizes he is not her former lover but she is content in her relationship with the bogus man. Things move along fairly smoothly until the original master returns and demands his identity back.
Some clever film techniques allow the talented actor Alex Guinness to play both men.
10. Black Narcissus – 1947
This screen adaptation of Rumer Godden's 1939 novel is one of those rare cases where the film is better than the book. The rather odd story-plot is set in the remote Himalayan mountains of India where the son of a deceased ruler donates his father's palace, formerly a harem, to a Calcutta convent of nuns in order to create a school and clinic for local inhabitants. The sisters selected for the project are ill-equipped to deal with the strange environment or the casual lifestyle of the locals. The assistance of the local government agent, one of the few British males in the region, helps them through rough spots until the challenges become too intense. When tragedy takes the life of one of the sisters, the others abandon the project and return to their former convent.
This film is the product of the talented team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressberger.
11. Swept Away – 1974
Filmmaker Lina Wertmuller, who began her career as Frederico Fellini's assistant, not only directed this film, but also wrote the script. A deckhand on a Mediterranean yachting cruise is mistreated by the wealthy Italian socialites he has been hired to serve. One afternoon he is ordered to lower a boat and take one of the insolent ladies to join others who are visiting a nearby island. The boat's motor soon fails and the couple begins hopelessly drifting. After a long fearful night, the motor begins working, but daylight reveals nothing but a wide empty sea. An island is finally spotted but after landing on it, they find it is uninhabited. The deckhand can catch fish, build a fire, and construct a rudimentary shelter, but his female companion is helpless. Their roles are now reversed. He gives the orders and to survive, she obeys. Over time they develop a passionate love relationship and when they are eventually rescued by a passing ship, they vow to rejoin each other after family and friends are assured of their survival. However, exposed again to the luxury and glamour of her former life, the lady reneges on her vow. Her distraught island lover waits in vain for her to join him.
12. Young and Innocent – 1937
Any collection of popular films should include at least one by Alfred Hitchcock, and this one is my choice. Although this film was made early in his career, Hitchcock places himself in it, fumbling with a small camera outside of the local courthouse. The picture follows a plot-theme Hitchcock would often use; someone is accused of a crime they didn't commit and has to solve it on their own while simultaneously avoiding capture by law enforcement. A man is arrested by police after being found on the beach near the body of a murdered actress with whom he was acquainted. A courthouse mix up allows him to escape the authorities and try to discover the real murderer, assisted by a young lady who ironically is the local police constable's daughter.
The female lead is played by the talented British actress Nova Pilbeam. She first appeared on the stage while still a small child and was given important film roles in her early teens. But this rising star retired from the screen before her 30th birthday and lived a private existence until her death at age 95.
Gail Jarvis is a Georgia-based free-lance writer. He attended the University of Alabama and has a degree from Birmingham Southern College. As a CPA/financial consultant, he helped his clients cope with the detrimental effects of misguided governmental intrusiveness. This influenced his writing as did years of witnessing how versions of news and history were distorted for political reasons. Mr. Jarvis is a member of the Society of Independent Southern Historians and his articles have appeared on various websites, magazines, and publications for several organizations. He lives in Coastal Georgia with his wife.