An aspect of preserving the Southern tradition is rescuing books of wisdom that have been lost and forgotten. That is the case with The United States Unmaskedpublished in 1879 by Gabriel Manigault (1809—1888).

Manigault was born in Charleston to distinguished patriot families on both sides and married into another such family.  After serving in the defenses of Charleston and the fall of the Confederacy, he moved his family to Canada and remained there permanently.

His book was a strong and eloquent critique of United States’ decline as a result of The War and Reconstruction. It could not find an American publisher, and  was published in London. You need to look at the historical context of 1879 to appreciate Manigault’s subtitle, A Search Into The Causes Of The Rise And Progress Of These States, And An Exposure Of Their Present Material And Moral Condition.

The Panic of 1873-1879, the longest depression in American history, was still in full sway when Manigault wrote. It had been caused by failed massive and immoral speculations of New York bankers and stockbrokers.  Unemployment reached one million.  Wages for the employed declined by one-quarter, according to official statistics. Thousands of businesses failed, leaving more than a billion dollars in debt.  Labour strife was larger and more violent than ever before.

In 1876-1877 President Grant had militarized Washington to prevent the installing of the Democrat Samuel Tilden, who had won the presidential election. The standard mainstream American historian, Allan Nevins, described this period:  “Various administrations have closed in gloom and weakness . . . but no other has closed in such paralysis and discredit as (in all its domestic affairs) did Grant’s.  The President  was without policies or popular support” and incompetence and corruption marked his Cabinet.

According to Manigault the North had prosecuted the war against the South in expectation of acquiring a cornucopia of Southern riches with its natural resources and by replacing with “free labour” the costs of inefficient and lifelong care of slaves.  This was done after a long history of exploitation of the South by  tariff abuse.  Northerners had set their hearts on control of the national government by which they would get power and money.  By distortion of the Constitution with “necessary and proper” national banks and conversion of a revenue tariff to a protective tariff, the federal government, a child of the States, had eaten up its parents.

Southerners had erred by thinking they could win a war of independence: “Now it is flying in the face of all history and all experience in human nature to suppose that any people or government, with large means of waging war, will abandon possession of  rich tributary territories without first striving to retain them by force of arms. . . They will fight rather than give it up.”

By the War and Reconstruction Northerners had outsmarted themselves.  They had impoverished the South and the regime they installed did not work,  fostered immense corruption,  and created a government controlled by the rich. They had perpetrated a new regime that was despicable compared to the noble Old Union. He writes:

“The rich men in the United States are not the proprietors of the fields, meadows, and pastures, the broad acres, the visible and tangible property of the country. They do not much care for this kind of property.  Its annual yield is too moderate and comes in too slowly for them. . . . The rich men of the country, or the reputed rich, are bankers, merchants, manufacturers, and above all, successful gamesters in in stock-jobbing of all kinds, in government, and State, and municipal bonds, and railroad corporation stocks, in government contracts got by official favouritism for a high fee . . . Most of these millionaires have lately been raised into notice by some lucky speculation or peculation . . . .  But they are the leading spirits of the day—the objects of envy and admiration . . . .”

Manigault comments that the Republican government of by, and for the people has “been very successful in making the fortunes of those who could obtain office under it, or exercise influence over those who are in office.  It has made many men rich;  but it has increased, not diminished the number of the poor, and deepened their poverty.”  The victory of the Northern regime  has “utterly failed to elevate the material and moral welfare of the country.”

Perhaps even better evidence of decline was in the moral area:  corrupt big city machines, an increased rootless population,  crime greater than ever before, “society” composed of vulgar new rich.  The loss of Southern republican and Constitutional ethics had turned the government into the plaything of those seeking profit. The prosperity of the country was now dependent on debt and paper rather than production, and the gap between the tiny minority of the super rich and the rest had become immense.

Manigault prophetically described the American economy of debt and paper that has been fully consummated in our time and was the inevitable consequence of the outcome of the War between the States.

Clyde Wilson

Clyde Wilson is a distinguished Professor Emeritus of History at the University of South Carolina where he was the editor of the multivolume The Papers of John C. Calhoun. He is the M.E. Bradford Distinguished Chair at the Abbeville Institute. He is the author or editor of over thirty books and published over 600 articles, essays and reviews and is co-publisher of, a source  for unreconstructed Southern books.


  • Harto says:

    Although it is not the purpose of the article, an early line reminded me of something interesting:

    “After serving in the defenses of Charleston and the fall of the Confederacy, he moved his family to Canada and remained there permanently.”

    An unfortunately overlooked aspect of history is the fates of many Confederate citizens after the end of the war. Many stayed, of course, but many others elected to depart the South entirely, rather than remain in a South dominated by Yankees.

    I would encourage folks to read into the fascinating history of the Confederados – those Southerners who left for Brazil – and their descendants, which today number in the hundreds of thousands. In particular, the city of Americana, Sao Paulo, which hosts a Confederate monument to this very day.

    • Gordon says:

      Former president Jimmy Carter has participated in a past Confederado event in Brazil. At the time he expressed great pride in his Confederado ancestors.

  • Karen Stokes says:

    About a month before South Carolina seceded, Gabriel Manigault wrote to James Chesnut about the prospect of war: “Many people believe that we will pass through this crisis without having to resort to physical force in the defense of our rights. I myself believe secession to be a peaceful right, yet am convinced that the people of the North know too well the money value of the cotton states to them to let us go without a struggle.” In his book The United States Unmasked, published in Canada in 1879, he wrote: “The essential nature of the [U.S.] government excludes the possibility of reforming it. It cannot economize in expenditure; the sovereign mob have a communistic property in extravagance; it cannot purify the administration; those in office have a vested interest in corruption.”

  • William Quinton Platt III says:

    The US military officers’ oath from 1830 until 1862 required the prospective officer to swear to defend the United States and protect THEM from THEIR enemies.

    One year into the War, the yankee States let fedgov change the oath to read, “swear to defend the Constitution of the United States”.

    The change to their oath was required to change the duty of the officer from defending his State as part of a group of sovereign States to defending a “piece of paper” which represented subordinate States.

  • Brett Moffatt says:

    Excellent review and comments!

  • THT says:

    “According to Manigault the North had prosecuted the war against the South in expectation of acquiring a cornucopia of Southern riches with its natural resources and by replacing with “free labour” the costs of inefficient and lifelong care of slaves. ”

    Behold, Henry Carey. Lincoln’s ‘economic advisor’.


    • William Quinton Platt III says:

      Thank you. Mr. Carey is one of many who should be studied by the readers of this board.

  • Valerie Protopapas says:

    I believe that it is a mistake to separate supporting and defending the Constitution from supporting and defending the Sovereign States. First, even the most superficial study of the Revolutionary period clearly demonstrates that without a central government with sufficient power to hold any “union” of States together in a way that permitted them to work in “harmony,” the result would have been the eventual conquest by a European power (including Britain) of those same States either individually or by region. Whatever happened afterward, efforts through the use of the Constitution to create such a working federal government while protecting the rights of the States was not a failure. What did fail were the men involved – for not all of those wanted the Constitution to succeed!

    Below are some comments by the only man whom we know did his very best from the beginning to free America from the British yoke, and then to bring forth a working government and finally to do what was necessary to have that government actually work. That man was our First President, George Washington – a Virginian, I might add!

    Washington sounded the warning bell of such dangers as the Constitution could not prevent in many of his writings. To begin with, he eschewed any claim to prophecy when he said:

    I claim to no uncommon prescience into futurity, and subsequently can’t attempt to choose, with sureness what might be its (the Constitution’s) definitive fate.

    In other words, Washington did not harbor any deep belief that the Constitution would be able to overcome all human passions and prejudices. He also correctly pointed out:

    Blessings can become curses when abused . . . The Bible shows human degeneracy can ruin what is great. The favored Religion uncovered in the expression of God will stay a timeless and terrible landmark to demonstrate that the best Institutions might be mishandled by human evil; and that they might even, in certain examples be made compliant to the most disgusting of purposes.

    He then spoke directly to the treatment by Americans of the document itself:

    The Constitution will be disregarded by power hungry legislators assuming languid citizens permit it. (Might), in the future, the people who are endowed with the administration of this administration, instigated by the desire of force and provoked by the Supineness or corruption of their Constituents, overleap the known boundaries of this Constitution and abuse the unalienable freedoms of humanity?

    And finally, this great and good man who oversaw its creation without forcing his own opinions on those who created it, admitted that his beloved Constitution was neither perpetual nor eternal:

    The Constitution is not eternal and will be destroyed by the lust for power aided by the people’s corrupt morals. It will only serve to shew, that no compact among men (however provident in its construction and sacred in its ratification) can be pronounced everlasting and inviolable, and if I may so express myself, that no Wall of words, that no mound of parchment can be formed as to stand against the seeping torrent of boundless ambition on the one side, aided by the sapping current of corrupted morals on the other.

    • William Quinton Platt III says:

      This is valid opinion. Perhaps we need more amendments…and Supreme Court with its own marshals to enforce Supreme Court decisions…

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