Skip to comments.Ken Burns' "Congress" Is Pure Blather
Posted on 06/02/2003 8:14:12 AM PDT by Ronly Bonly Jones
"Ken Burns' "Congress"
May 26, 2003, 9:00 PM --
The most powerful accomplishment of tonight's segment of the PBS program, Ken Burns' "Congress," is that Mr. Burns managed to describe the period of official racism in America from just prior to the Civil War to the post-Reconstruction era, without once identifying a pro-slavery congressman or senator as a Democrat.
When the Republicans outlawed slavery (which is exactly what actually happened), guess who walked out of the House and the Senate. Their party begins with the letter "D." Guess who after the Civil War worked to disembowel the black franchise. You have it. The same bunch.
Not once did Mr. Burns use the terms antislavery congressman or senator, then follow it with the word Republican. To listen to this program, the two terms (antislavery and Republican) didn't go together. The one Republican identified in this whole section of the show was described first as a radical, and then as being antislavery. This, of course, left the impression that the fellow was odd for a Republican. Everybody knows that radicals, regardless of party affiliation, are few in number. Taken in this context, it implied that it was unusual for Republicans to be antislavery. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Nor did Mr. Burns identify the political affiliation of the first black American to be elected to either house of congress. A former slave who attained office during Reconstruction, before Democrats managed to change the rules so blacks couldn't win, Mr. White was a Republican. During my research, I didn't run across a single black Democrat who was elected to federal office during Reconstruction. All I located were Republicans.
The only Democrat Burns identified as such was Lincoln's Vice President, Andrew Johnson, who assumed the residency after the assassination. He was the architect of the first version of Reconstruction. Here's some American history which will shock every black Democrat who reads it.
Radical Republicans in Congress moved vigorously to change Johnson's program. They gained the support of northerners who were dismayed to see Southerners keeping many prewar leaders and imposing many prewar restrictions upon Negroes.
The Radicals' first step was to refuse to seat any Senator or Representative from the old Confederacy. Next they passed measures dealing with the former slaves. Johnson vetoed the legislation. The Radicals mustered enough votes in Congress to pass legislation over his veto--the first time that Congress had overridden a President on an important bill. They passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which established Negroes as American citizens and forbade discrimination against them.
A few months later (led by "Radical" Republicans) Congress submitted to the states the Fourteenth Amendment, which specified that no state should "deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law."
All the former Confederate States except Tennessee refused to ratify the amendment. The Radical Republicans won an overwhelming victory in Congressional elections that fall.
In March 1867, the Radicals effected their own plan of Reconstruction, again placing southern states under military rule. They passed laws placing restrictions upon the President. When Johnson allegedly violated one of these, the Tenure of Office Act, by dismissing Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, the ("Radical" Republicans in the) House voted eleven articles of impeachment against him. He was tried by the Senate in the spring of 1868 and acquitted by one vote.
. This was the Democrat the program said supported the Union side in the war. Historians like the one who wrote the text above frequently describe him as a "decent, honorable man." His acts defy that description At his best, he was a bad executive who lacked the guts to stand firm for the principles attributed to him.
This inability to give credit to the good guys or discredit to the bad guys if the good guys are Republicans and the bad guys Democrats is common practice by liberals in television. (And all other forms of communication, as well.) If they are subtle, people like you don't realize what has happened. A bad guy can be presented as being on the correct side. They can leave behind the presumption of Democrat innocence without actually saying it. If you are ignorant of the facts about the events described, and aren't aware that liberal program producers use these deceptive methods -- hell, if you're just not paying very close attention at the time -- they get away with it.
Summing it up, this program said that congress ended slavery. While describing some of the great personalities involved in the debate, it did not even mention their political affiliations. That way, the audience was not informed that Republicans were against slavery and Democrats for it.
A famous socialist once said that the public will believe any lie if it's a big enough lie. The lie of omission in Ken Burn's Congress is a big one. It is perhaps the biggest coverup in the history of history.
If the situation had been reversed -- if Republicans had supported slavery and Democrats voted to end it -- you may be sure that the program would have been quite different. I am reminded of the time PBS, in a nature program, credited the extinction of the original species of American horse, which lived here before the Spanish arrived, as being due to "climate change and human activity." We know which race of people wiped out the big buffalo herds. PBS identifies that bunch with ten foot neon lights and trumpets. (The evil European white race.) But when the noble original inhabitants of America wipe out an entire species? It is politically incorrect to mention them by name. So it is with those who supported slavery and those who ended it.
If you watched the segment of the PBS series about Jim Crow that ran after Charlie Rose's program on May 28, you saw the lynching of blacks, you heard about the beating deaths of blacks who merely wanted to vote and you cheered when southern blacks finally managed to get enough people registered to take a congressional seat from a white male "conservative," and give it to a white female "moderate." (The "conservative" racist that blacks finally defeated in that election, by the way, was a Democrat. When you hear the term "conservative," you automatically assume the individual is a Republican. The people who make programs for, and work at, PBS know that.)
No mention was made that all of those people who lynched blacks, all of those people who beat blacks to death for trying to register to vote and all of those people who committed all the other atrocities all the way down to forcing blacks to sit in the back of the bus were Democrats. Direct descendants of the Democrats who tried to block all Republican attempts to end slavery in congress, who started the Civil War to defend slavery, who with Andrew Johnson tried to disenfranchise blacks during Reconstruction, who opposed the Republican Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the Republican 14th Amendment -- and who created Jim Crow when they managed to retake congress in the decades that followed the Civil War.
As far as this program was concerned, none of the above happened. Civil rights began in Democrat congresses in the Sixties. And, as far as that goes, no mention of the Democrat resistance to the Sixties civil rights legislation was made, either. Republican votes are the only reason that legislation wasn't defeated, in a Democrat congress with a Democrat Speaker of the House, a Democrat Senate Majority Leader and Democrats chairing all the important committees!!!.. During this section of the program, one brief mention was made of congressional Reconstruction civil rights action -- but, of course, didn't identify which party had initiated it, and which party had fought it.
The congress of Ken Burns' history is a fraud. The Democrat-protecting bias by way of omission here is titanic. The statements made by black historian Barbara Fields, implying that with present-day Republican congresses Democracy no longer exists, were outrageous. The Republicans identified in the later portions of the program were portrayed as bigots, blueblood boobs and bloated business barons. And as felons and warmongers, of course. This is all standard practice at PBS -- the network that tells us they explain the meaning of things.
Do America, Oregon and history a favor. If you usually give these people money, stop it. If your political representatives support public broadcasting, fire them.
© 2003 Oregon Magazine
When will the Republicans DEFUND this travesty?
What? Not fitting the revisionist history you've been taught, eh? Abolition was quite radical, even to the point that less than 1% of northerners even belonged to the Abolition Party. Why don't you give us a little insight about your state's own record, say 1859 and their constitution?