Diversity Chronicle sent me a link to the PDF version of Authentic History Ku Klux Klan, 1865-1877. It was written by Susan Lawrence Davis, who came from an old Ku Klux Klan family, and recalled playing chess with Nathan Bedford Forrest, first grand wizard of the original Klan, upon whose death in 1877, the Klan disbanded.
Due to the length of the book, and of my review, I’ve decided to break it up into several posts.
The book is clearly biased in favor of the Ku Klux Klan, and the South in general, but I’m inclined to believe several of its most basic claims. For example:
a) That imposters would frequently masquerade as Klansmen and commit atrocities in order to sully its name. I believe this because similar tactics are used today, and because it makes a lot of sense within the context of the day; such a tactic would be effective in inciting anti-white Southerner hatred among local blacks, and among Northern whites.
b) That the crimes, committed by the Republicans against the South during Reconstruction, actually happened. I believe this because the political heirs to the Republican radicals of Reconstruction, today’s Democrats, commit similar crimes.
c) That Southerners were justified in forming the Ku Klux Klan (even though it was initially formed as a joke, and only later took on political meaning), and that the Ku Klux Klan was necessary to restore the rule of law, to present a united front against widespread injustice, and to remove certain corrupt politicians from power. I believe that many, if not most, of its members were honorable men with honorable intentions. I say this because we see similar circumstances in our own time, and a similar organization might soon be necessary for the protection of innocent lives and the execution of justice.
d) That the Original Ku Klux Klan was not, in principle, opposed to Jews, Catholics or any other demographic. I believe this because today’s equivalent of the Ku Klux Klan (IE. people like myself and most of my readers) are also falsely accused of ignorant bigotry.
The book was published in 1924, when racial-egalitarianism had not yet taken hold. Therefore, I’m not inclined to view it as a form of apologetics, where the author is attempting to justify outdated attitudes in the eyes of modern readers. Rather, she appears to be faithfully conveying the attitudes of Southern whites during reconstruction, and shortly thereafter… with the possible exception of slavery itself, which the book barely addresses.
Mrs. Davis mentions “white supremacy” many times throughout the book, for example (pg. vi of the preface):
I realize that the period covering reconstruction and reestablishing white supremacy in the States which seceded from the United States in 1861 is a “sleeping volcano and a Vesuvius at rest,”
and (pg. 37):
At this meeting at “The Cove” they discussed “white supremacy” and decided they would make it the chief business of the Ku Klux Klan.
I think it’s important to understand what is meant by “white supremacy” in this book, especially considering the fact that it was one of the primary goals of the Ku Klux Klan.
Mrs. Davis does not actually explain it, probably because the meaning was considered self-evident to most of her contemporaries. However, I’ll impart to my readers my own understanding of this phrase.
The book makes it abundantly clear that there was never any intention to perpetrate a genocide upon Southern blacks, or to commit any random acts of violence against them, and I’ll go into racial attitudes in a later post. The Ku Klux Klan wanted to maintain a system where all Southerners, white and black, could benefit from the rule of law. At the same time, it was determined to maintain a white-dominated political system, and ensure that miscegenation would never take place.
Just as there was “white supremacy” in the South, so too was there “negro supremacy.” This is brought up a couple of times. For example (pg. 56):
but they saw nothing but a perpetuation of negro supremacy in Alabama, should Republican leaders be allowed there.
When we look at today’s American cities, which exist under “negro supremacy,” a pattern emerges. Chicago, Baltimore, New Orleans, East St. Louis and Philadelphia all have certain traits in common – and those are exactly the conditions that the Ku Klux Klan opposed. This is the “negro supremacy” Southerners of the Reconstruction suffered under, and that they sought to replace with “white supremacy.”
The book makes it abundantly clear that the negro was, under no circumstances, to be considered equal to the white man, and we cannot reconcile the view of this book with current dominant views, but we can adopt the Establishment Left’s definition of “supremacy” to bridge the gap – if we want to be creative.
When blacks earn less, on average, than whites, we’re told that it’s because of “white-supremacy.” When blacks are incarcerated at higher rates than whites, we’re told that it’s because of “white-supremacy.” When black academic achievement lags behind that of whites, we’re told that this is because of “white-supremacy.” Very well then. We have “white-supremacy” now, and we’re aware that this state of affairs is actually due to biological differences; there’s actually nothing to complain about, since this is the way things are supposed to be – and this is what the Ku Klux Klan wanted, and a bit more, of course. To the extent that we have a meritocracy, it is “white-supremacy.” A state of “equity” where progressives are satisfied can never be achieved. Therefore, “white-supremacy” is the natural order. Opposition to this, by forcing “negro-supremacy,” can only be done through tyranny.
… and tyranny was exactly what the South endured during Reconstruction. Had this not been the case, the Ku Klux Klan would never have arisen. Following are the grievances that led to the formation of the Ku Klux Klan and its popularity:
Forced racial integration of schools:
Another necessity for regulation by the Ku Klux Klan at Athens grew out of the rumor that the military authorities controlling Alabama, had determined to force the white citizens of Athens to send their children to a school which had been opened in the Baptist Church for the negroes, and was being taught by the above-mentioned white woman, who advocated social equality of the races, and who had said that the white children would be forced by bayonet rule to attend this school (pg. 38 and39).
Out of control black crime:
So once more, necessity which knows no law led to correcting one of the worst habits of the restless negroes who had been freed and had the idea that freedom meant license. Many of the older negroes were using their judgment and trying to assist in every way, the white people, to control the younger negroes who were a menace to all communities by their petty depredations and irresponsibility, though they were often led by mean white men whose own lawless deeds they hoped might be credited to the negroes (pg. 40).
The murder of Mr. Tanner and other outrages by the negro soldiers was the means of strengthening the Ku Klux Klan in their determination to press on
towards some form of relief from such outrages, and caused the augmenting of their numbers by many thousands (pg. 43).
Unfair, and ruinous, taxation:
Many people in the South who were the victims of this tyranny “taxation without representation” still hope that the United States Government will yet refund this illegal tax.
Fifty million dollars worth of cotton was shipped to Simeon Draper, and the United States government only got fifteen million of it. Thus the Southern people were impoverished and their property turned over to these unscrupulous scoundrels.
One duty of the Ku Klux Klan for many years was to build gins in the dense forests, haul the cotton there, gin it, hide it and guard it. Had it not been for the Ku Klux Klan who saved what cotton they could secretly, the people would have died of starvation (pg. 54).
It was said that the radical government had resorted to a rate of taxation under which the people suffered and every branch of industry was crippled. These taxes were not determined by the owners but by a very incompetent body. The election frauds were a matter of grave concern and depended upon the skill of a board of canvassers who would count into office any radicals that they wished. From the period of 1868 to 1877 was only record of extravagance and corruption. Crime had gone unpunished, no schools or public buildings had been built since before the war, and yet millions of money had been extorted from the people by these extravagant “carpet-baggers (pg. 280).”
Interference with freedom of religion:
Many things had happened previous to these parades which had aroused the entire south and caused bitterness and resentment such as had never been engendered by the War, and the people felt that the Ku Klux Klan was a serious organization and that their power would be invaluable to them in correcting these conditions.
The most important of these unjust acts was the interference of the general government with public worship in the State of Alabama. This had been a subject of great excitement and controversy since June 1865, when the Right Rev. Richard Hooker Wilmer, Bishop of Alabama, in a letter to the clergy and laity issued his famous pastoral circular which is quoted in General Order No. 38, the Order which struck at the foundation of religious liberty by the United States Government (pg. 98).
“It is therefore ordered, pursuant to the instructions of Major General Thomas, commanding military Division of Tennessee, that said Richard Wilmer, Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the Diocese of Alabama, and the Protestant Episcopal clergy of said diocese, be, and they are hereby forbidden to preach or perform divine service, and that their places of worship be closed until such a time as said Bishop and clergy show a sincere return to their allegiance to the Government of the United States, and give evidence of a loyal and patriotic spirit by offering to resume the use of the prayer for the President of the United States and all in civil authority, and by taking the amnesty oath prescribed by the President.
“This prohibition shall continue in each individual case until special application is made through the military channels of these headquarters for permission to preach and perform divine service, and until such application is approved at these or superior headquarters.
“District commanders are required to see that this order is carried into effect.
“By order of Major General Charles R. Wood.”Fred H. Wilson, A.A.G.” (pg. 101 and 102)
The consensus of opinion of all the most influential Ku Klux whom I have interviewed, was, that had not the Churches of the South, in their separation… been interfered with in their worship, and bitterly criticized by the Northern branch from which they had severed themselves, there would not have been such strength developed in the Ku Klux Klan… (pg. 104).
The passing of the Alien and Sedition Act, and the Anti-Ku Klux statute:
This unconstitutional legislation began in 1865, in the passage of the Alien and Sedition Act, and culminated in the passage of the Anti-Ku Klux statute in 1868, a statute directed against any secret organization, disguised or otherwise. This statute was unconstitutional, anarchistic and was one of the chief reasons for the spread of the Ku Klux Klan, as it aimed at the very life and liberty of the people of the South (pg. 110).
General persecution of white Southerners, and a refusal to promptly allow the Southern states back into the Union, with all the accompanying rights:
The Ku Klux Klan was not organized for political purposes as some unfair Northern writers contend to this day, but it was driven into this role by the persecution of the Southern people by the Republican party in power, which misrepresented conditions in the South (pg. 139).
The history of the country from 1865 to 1877 will show positively that the Ku Klux Klan restored these states to the Union when the United States Government intended to keep them out…
The chief executive of the United States had recognized the government of seceding states as legal and many of the men engaged in the war received executive pardon, but Congress ignored all of these facts and proceeded to dissolve the Union. Every form of deviltry that the mind of man could conceive was invented and charged against the people and it is well to note that as this injustice increased the organization known as the Ku Klux Klan rose in power (pg. 215).
Encouraging Southern blacks to commit hostilities against whites, and sowing distrust between the populations:
The Freedmen’s Bureau established in Georgia began to sow seeds of mistrust between the negroes and their former owners and this accounts for the hostility which ensued between the races and made the organization of the Ku Klux Klan a necessity and led that state to become one of the “Solid South” against the Republican party (pg. 222).
The denial of suffrage to Southern whites:
“But to say to our people, ‘You are unworthy to vote ; you cannot hold office ; we are unwilling to trust you; you are not honest men; your former slaves are better fitted to administer the laws than you are’ — this sort of dealing with our people has emphatically alienated us (pg. 224).
The unnecessary imposition of martial law, and acts of violence against Southern whites, while refusing to punish said criminals:
the governor upon the flimsiest pretext declared martial law in many of the counties in the state. Negro militia marched and maurauded and murdered at will through these counties.
The legislature passed at this time an amnesty act forbidding the punishment of any of the murders or outrages committed by this negro militia. It protected a multitude of wanton crimes. In the face of these outrages what was there then about the republican party as our people know it to commend it to self-respecting, patriotic men of the South? Surely, after reading these facts it will not be hard for our fair-thinking fellow citizens of the North to account for the solidity of the south and the organization of the Ku Klux Klan… (pg. 270 and 271).
Excessive government spending and corruption:
The Governor who was inaugurated was General R. K. Scott from Ohio, and was one of the agents of the Freedmen’s Bureau in the State and they began the reconstruction of South Carolina. Their first act was to refurnish the halls of legislation in the State House, replacing chairs that cost one dollar with crimson plush gothic chairs, for four-dollar benches, two-hundred dollar crimson plush sofas.
The whole finishings cost $50,000, but they appropriated $95,000 to pay the bill for sundries, supplies and such debts. $350,000 were appropriated, thus the State was plunged into needless debt by these unprincipled men.
During this time a threat was made to impeach Governor Scott, and he paid Speaker Moses $10,000 for his rulings against it. During the six years 1868-1874 Scott was the governor, F. J. Moses was the Speaker of the House of Representatives, whose chief mode of plundering the state was to issue illegal pay certificates and this was known as the “Legislative Ring.”
There were ten messengers employed and he issued one hundred and forty certificates one session. He issued this session $1,168,225 worth of certificates, all of which except $200,000 was robbery of the State. Yet this F. J. Moses, Jr., was elected to succeed Scott and the robbery continued.
As Speaker of the House of Representatives, the debt of the State had increased from $5,407,306 to $18,515,000. The taxpayers of the State had no voice in legislation and were reduced to trying some form of relief (pg. 297 and 298).
The national election depended on the vote of Louisiana in 1876 and therefore the whole country watched it with great interest and the methods of the Returning Board became known throughout the country and the people learned that the entire election machinery was in the hands of adventurous “carpet-baggers.” There had been ballot box stuffing, falsification of returns and other crimes were clearly shown but this did not impress the government at Washington sufficiently to see the legally elected officers seated. The democrats had carried the state by 8000 majority but when the Returning Board got through with its work it had made a 9000 republican majority (pg. 305).
Most of these tactics continue to be used today. If we copied and pasted some of them into a news report of current events, nobody would notice anything amiss.