Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Recon. part 4
Redistribution of Wealth
To break the power of the Southern elite, the Roosevelt administration designed a two-prong attack. First, the plantations and land holdings of all slave owners (i.e. the wealthy who ruled the former Confederate States) was confiscated without compensation. Afterwards, the slave were freed and the land divided among several groups of people. The first choice to prime land was rewarded to veterans of the United States Army, or in the case of Cuba the United States Marine Corps. The parceling of land to veterans not only rewarded them for years of service but it also placed a very loyal demographic into the heart of the Deep South.
The second group to be rewarded land were the former slaves. In effect, those who worked the land now owned it. Parcels of land ranging from forty to one hundred sixty acres were rewarded to each slave family, depending on the number of dependents. The plots were smaller than those granted to veterans but equal to the size of the land granted to the third group; poor Southern Whites. This was simply buying the loyalty of the previously disposed poor voters of the Confederacy. It turned out to be a poor political tactic as most of Southern Whites voted for the Democratic Party once elections were restored.
The final party happens to be the most controversial at the time. Roosevelt and the Progressive Party decided to extend the offer to the Five Civilized Tribes. The Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole once lived in the Deep South. In April 1917, after safely re-elected, Roosevelt pushed for the repeal of the Indian Removal Act. It was strictly a symbolic act as United States law allowed Indians to live wherever they chose.
The Democratic and Republican Parties openly accused the Progressive of ‘stacking the electoral deck’ in the Deep South. The Labor Party made similar protests, though partly because they were unable to employ the tactic. Nonetheless, more than twenty thousand families with ancestral ties to the Five Tribes departed Oklahoma to take their forty or one hundred sixty acres of prime Georgia, Florida or Alabama land.
All this redistribution left the former plantation owners penniless and homeless, which was precisely what Roosevelt had intended. The punishment of the Southern aristocracy was more popular than what some viewed as socialist redistribution of wealth in more conservative and reactionary circles. A great many of the disposed left North America altogether, with more than half choosing Brazil as a place to begin a new, with another thirty percent opting for South Africa. The diaspora was not intended but nor did anyone in Washington try to stop it.
The States themselves were also wealthy land-owners. Unlike the Union, where politics and economics tend to be separate, the Confederate States partook in state capitalism. The individual States owned industries, and often monopolies within their borders. For the most part, these businesses were industrial in nature, such as munitions plants, foundries, shipyards and other strategically vital industries.
In the case of Cuba, the State owned a monopoly on liquor distribution (though manufacturing of alcohol was privately owned). The state-controlled rum industry was caused not by strategic necessity but for political reasons. The temperance movement was big in the Confederate States, with the Deep South (with the exception of Louisiana) outlawing the selling, manufacturing and transportation of alcohol within their borders. As Cuba was the largest producer of alcohol in the C.S.A., it was necessary for the State to control its flow as to not have it end up in Florida or Mississippi.
Starting in 1917, the Federal Government began to privatize the state-owned businesses. Unlike land redistribution, privatization was a process rife with corruption. In a repeat of the 19th Century spoils system, businesses were turned over to political favorites. The Southern arms industry was quickly partitioned between the largest weapons manufacturers in the United States, with Colt and Remington reaping the biggest rewards. The Norfolk Shipyards ended up in the pocket of U.S. Steel while notorious privateer Joseph Kennedy used his influence to gain control of Cuba’s liquor distribution network.
Kennedy was viewed as somewhat of a war hero in New England. The wealthy man purchased an old destroyer in 1913, a three-stacked, three hundred ten tonne ship. Kennedy, as well as a number of other wealthy adventurers, managed to convince Congress to grant them Letters of Marque. In 1856, European powers signed the Paris Declaration which outlawed privateering. To Britain, Kennedy and the like were little more than pirates and would hang if ever captured. As the United States and the Confederate States were not signatories to the agreement, privateering was still a legal activity by the time of the Great War.
Kennedy captured several Confederate and British freighters, hauling their prizes back to Boston to the cheers of the crowds. Kennedy, though he hated the British, focused mostly on Confederate commerce. They were softer targets and the Confederate Navy would view a privateer more as an enemy combatant and not an outright pirate. Confederate privateers preyed upon Union shipping throughout the war. Kennedy’s biggest success was in a duel with the Confederate raider Chicken Hawk. In a two hour duel, his ship crippled the Hawk, forcing the ship to surrender at a great cost to his own crew. Kennedy himself received wounds in the battle when pieces of shrapnel ricocheted around the bridge, scarring his face for life.
The business men swooped down on the South like a flock of vultures. The Southern press, once restored, labeled these Northerners Vulture Capitalists. Southern workers lost jobs as the new owners either fired them and replaced them with more politically reliable employees or sold off their grant for scrap, making themselves that much wealthier. The military governors in the South tried to stem the corruption as the rise of Southern unemployment was a cause of tensions. Generals argued that employed civilians were less likely to cause trouble. Unemployed civilians had nothing better to do with their time and tended to gravitate towards anti-restoration groups.