A review of Yankee Empire: Aggressive Abroad and Despotic at Home (Shotwell Publishing, 2018) by James Ronald and Walter Donald Kennedy
The Kennedys have fired a well placed shot across the bow of the Yankee Empire designed to illuminate the history of the past 150 years. This book is a bonfire in the night, shedding light on some of the dark corners of United States history.
Lord Acton, the British historian and philosopher, and General Robert E. Lee, corresponding in 1866, both saw States’ Rights as an essential component of free government. Lord Acton “saw in States’ Rights the only availing check upon the absolutism of the sovereign will.” He mourned over the defeat of the Confederate States and what it meant for liberty. General Lee,responding, feared:
“Whereas the consolidation of the states into one vast republic, sure to be aggressive abroad and despotic at home, will be the certain precursor of that ruin which has overwhelmed all those that have preceded it.”
Lord Acton and Lee have certainly been proven prophets, and the Kennedys offer proof, well documented with extensive footnotes. The Yankee empire’s interventions abroad and the despotic treatment of its subjects at home are exposed and can no longer be ignored. The book moves between chapters devoted to the origins of “Yankee Go Home,” 150 years of adventures abroad, and the invasion and destruction of the Southern nation.
Before the Middle East, before Southeast Asia, before Latin America and Hawaii, before the Yankee Empire had coalesced into a power eyeing the world, the North cast its eyes Southward. The development of different cultures, economies, even views of government by the North and South from colonial times through the early republic eventually led to political stress between the two. The commercial and big government interests of the North were not compatible with the South’s conservative agrarian lifestyle, secured by their love of states’ rights and strict construction of the Constitution. Increasingly the North saw the South as an obstacle to the continued growth of government which the North needed for their commercial and economic prosperity. The republic of the Founders had to be destroyed and all power centralized in the Federal the government was the view of those elites who sought political and economic power.
There were warnings from some during the Constitutional Convention that a union between the North and the South was unwise. They saw the differences between the people, especially their views of government and economic policies, as incompatible and eventually leading to conflict. Events were to prove them only too correct.
Raphael Semmes described the Yankees, “He [the Yankee] is ambitious, restless, scheming, energetic, and has no inconvenient moral nature to restrain him from the pursuit of his interests, be the path to these never so crooked. In the development of material wealth, he is unsurpassed… “ JudaH P. Benjamin, Confederate Secretary of War, stated, “If they had behaved differently; if they had come against us observing strict discipline, protecting women and children, respecting private property…But they could not help showing their cruelty and rapacity, they could not dissemble their true nature, which is the real cause of this war. If they had been capable of acting otherwise, they would not have been Yankees, and we should never have quarreled with them.”
The showdown between the burgeoning economic empire and the constitutional republic was inevitable, according to most historians. It would also be unlike other conflicts with the savage invasion, plunder and destruction of the South. Atrocities and retaliation against the native population were seen in the South. Southern infrastructure was in ruins. Reconstruction continued the plunder and destruction. Eventually a reign of terror and even attempts to depopulate areas and repopulate them with loyal subjects of the empire. Carpetbag governments, puppets of the empire, exploited the South. Bayonet constitutions took away rights of former Confederate soldiers. The empire’s policy of divide and rule pitted the black and white populations against each other, putting further stress on Southern culture and society. Eventually a system of debt peonage, or sharecropping, brought a different kind of slavery to the majority of the South, both black and white. The South had gone from riches to rags. Empires plunder. Like Rome, the United States had become a shell of a republic on the outside, but the inner workings were no longer that of a government of principles.
We have seen the South, being an obstacle to Northern commercial and economic growth, became the first victim of the Yankee Empire. Brutal war, crushing invasion, destruction of property, propaganda used to destroy culture and imposition of puppet governments (carpetbaggers, who carried off what was left from the war’s destruction). This exploitation of a captive nation set the pattern that would build the Yankee empire. Instead of carpetbagger exploitation of the South, Native Americans were ruled by the Empire’s bureaucrats, and in countries far and wide, “our man’ in whatever capital did the bidding of the Empire’s elites.
A pretext for invasion usually hides an economic benefit or protects a commercial interest of the Yankee Empire or its allies. Policies such as retaliation against native populations, extermination and repopulation in areas of resistance, divide and rule, cultural genocide, and reconstruction along lines which favour the Yankee Empire’s interests all help keep the empire’s puppet governments in power. “Our man” and his elites allow the empire to exploit the local resources or labour. The newfound ‘prosperity’ also creates new markets for the empire’s products, though most of the ‘prosperity’ ends up in the hands of the elite at the expense of the common people of a country. These policies make the common people second class Yankees, good for cheap labour.
Destruction of a culture, control of government institutions, especially education, and using the media for propaganda purposes are all components of the reconstruction of a society. Before attempts to reconstruct the Philippines, Cuba, Hawaii, and Native Americans, the South was the object of this imperial tactic.
Propaganda was used extensively to alter perceptions about the war. Opposition to the war was great in the North, and much of Europe. The cry that the Union must be preserved was used to rally the North to the war effort, though the Union was in not danger. When war fortunes were running against the North, the issue of freedom for Southern (not Northern) slaves was used as a moral cause to stall efforts to gain European recognition of Southern independence. The fact that the South had led efforts to end slavery, and often it was Northern votes which perpetuated the African slave trade did not matter. Wild cries from Northern press about prison atrocities, massacres, and crimes committed by Southern troops had no foundation.
Republics avoid foreign entanglements and are not aggressive. The destruction of the Founders’ republic led to the creation of the Yankee Empire, and with the South destroyed, there was no force left in America to stop it. The Kennedys point out that before the War for Southern Independence, the United States influenced the world through missionaries and merchants-after the defeat of the Confederate States of America, the United States influenced the world via its military, its gunboats, and more recently, its missiles and drones. Native Americans in the West, the Kingdom of Hawaii, Western powers in China during the Boxer Rebellion, Columbia, Honduras, Guatemala-all were part of the march of the Yankee Empire. Later Southeast Asia and the Middle East would feel the imperial influence.
The chapters might seem random at first glance, but they flow seamlessly from overseas adventures, back to the invasion and destruction of Dixie. Southerners have tried to be good citizens, and the altar of freedom is bathed in Southern blood. But reconciliation can only go so far when Southern heritage, Southern culture and the rights of a people to live under a government of their unfettered consent is constantly under attack by the elites and crony capitalists who run the empire. Southern independence would have meant two republics in North America. The defeat of the Radical Republicans might have led the United States to retain its republican government and avoided both the despotism at home and adventurism abroad.
Andrew Lytle wrote “The mercy of God did not bring independence. Nor was the war over. One phase was done…The avowed purpose of [Northern policy] was the destruction of Southern civilization.” We now see the fruit of such policies. Yet polls of Southerners still show substantial support for Southern heritage, the right of a state to secede, and a desire to see a return to constitutional government. This persistent desire to honour Confederate heritage, States’ Rights, and the Founders’ vision of limited government, after generations of Yankee Empire propaganda, may offer hope for the future. Does the South have the will to be free? Is she just waiting for leaders of vision and courage to lead a movement for government by the unfettered consent of the governed?
The Kennedys tackle these questions and offer hope for regaining a government representing the consent of the people. This work belongs on the shelf of all unreconstructed Southerners.