Once the Republican party established itself as a political monopolist during Reconstruction, it immediately went to work expanding all the planks of the old Whig platform. It is important to recall that protectionist tarriffs and corporate subsidies were outlawed by the Confederate Constitution and that it was a Southerner, Andrew Jackson of Tennessee, who abolished the Bank of the United States and temporarily put an end to central banking.
With the Confederate army out of the way and virtually no one making principled, constitutional arguments against such vast expansions of state power, the Republicans began creating a highly centralized, mercantilist state that they hoped would keep them in power indefinitely. They were also imperialists, in the tradition of the party’s political inspiration, Henry Clay.
By the middle of 1865, General Ulysses S. Grant was itching to invade Mexico. Just one month after General Robert E Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Grant sent General Philip Sheridan to Texas with orders to “assemble a large force on the Rio Grande” for a possible invasion of Mexico to expel the French from that country. The planned invasion never did materialize however.
The U.S. government next began antagonizing the British, who had just traded with the Confederate government during the war. Led by Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner, the government began demanding “reparations” for the damage to the Union that such trade supposedly caused. On July 26, 1866, Congress modified the neutrality laws to permit warships and military expeditions to be fitted out against friendly powers, such as England. Several bands of Irish Americans, with the implicit approval of the U.S. government, invaded Canada but were quickly driven back, further antagonizing the British. It is fortunate that a third war with England was averted.
President Grant proposed the annexation of Santo Domingo, another expansionist venture that ultimately failed. Before being elected president, and while still commander of the U.S. Army, Grant gave General Sherman the assignment, in July of 1865, of conducting a campaign of ethnic genocide against the Plains Indians to make way for the government-subsidized railroads. “We are not going to let a few thieving, ragged Indians check and stop the progress of the railroads,” Sherman wrote Grant in 1866. “We must act with vindictive earnestness against the Sioux, even to their extermination, men women and children.”
The eradication of the Plains Indians was yet another subsidy to the railroad industry, albeit an indirect one, Rather than paying for rights of way across Indian lands, as James J. Hill’s nonsubsidized Great Northern Railroad did, the government-subsidized Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads got the government to either kill or place on reservations every last Indian by 1890.
Sherman instructed his army that “during an assault on an Indian village the soldiers can not pause to distinquish between male and female, or even discriminate as to age. As long as resistance is made, death must be meted out.” As Sherman biographer John Marszalek wrote, “Sherman veiwed Indians as he veiwed recalcitrant Sounterners during the war and newly freed people after: resisters to the legitimate forces of an orderly society.” Of course, the chaos of entire Indian villages, women and children included, being wiped out by federal artillery fire is hardly an “orderly” scene. There was “order” in the totalitarian societies of the twentieth century, too, but no freedom. Lincoln, Grant, Sheridan, and Sherman provided an ominous precedent for the willingness to mass-murder dissenters, whether they be “recalcitrant Southerners,” Mormons, or Indians.