The Control Networks
Custom, & the Ports
Nat Turner, & Others
The Southern Slopes
The Mission Coasts
Mills & Planters
Silver & opium
Alamán & Calhoun
Rancheros & Pilots
The War of the South
Siege & Contagion
A Note on Then and Now
What They Called "Civil War"
Outcomes, and Vision
|Yes, there really were "control circuits," by which some people regulated
the circulation of goods, ideas, and other people. These networks
were not always the accidental outcomes of an innocent commerce.
Their key ingredients were not only the will of some people to build
connections, but the knowledge that an improved system would tighten
controls. This knowledge and this will were conscious in the minds
of individuals who operated independently of any simple party distinctions
between liberal and conservative.
The most visible form of any networking was transportation. And the one individual who best understood how the reshaping of transportation would reshape control over people, was General Edmund P. Gaines, of the United States Army.
As of 1830, the U.S. Army had less than 7,000 soldiers. It had two big jobs: to "defend" against Indians on the southern and western borders, and to defend against Europeans who might invade over the coast, from the east. This tiny Army might be big enough for both, if it could move quickly from one challenge to another. The main parts of the transportation system, though, were:
But Gaines proposed a whole national system of military railroads.
There already existed, throughout the country and extending into other parts of the world, elaborate systems of credit, distribution, militias and slave patrols, legal enforcement, and religious agitation. If anything, these systems were more fully worked out than the technology of transportation. Proposals like Gaines's, or more practical proposals to build short local lines, were efforts to bring the physical network up to the kinds of control for which many people were reaching.
Even without the central planning that Gaines urged, such a system grew
up anyway, over the years, under the control of corporations that began
as local business collectives, then emerged on a national level in the
1850s as private, trans-regional management systems. The main outlines
converged into much the form that Gaines had envisaged. Banks and
other institutions underwent parallel transformations. By the 1870s,
the networked movement of troops, messages, and funds was enabling national
managers to exert a rapidly shifting control over indigenous forces on
the frontier and worker unrest in Eastern cities. This unrest was
the new form of "European invasion."
The transportation system, either in its earlier waterway version, or its later rail elaboration, was only the physical channel for a whole series of actions and institutions.
The actions consisted of all the military and police measures used either to:
The Anglo regions of the continent kept much more rigid and formal the line between exclusion and consensus. This was mostly a matter of race. In the United States, and eventually in Canada, this wall around the consensus sector made it easy for a two-party system to develop, seeming to guarantee peace.
In Mexico and Central America, on the other hand, there was real leakage across the boundary, even while convention divided people between "civilized" and "uncivilized" (de razón and sin razón). It was easier for some leaders there to participate in the consensus sector at the same time that they kept up followings among the excluded. Of course, these same leaders could easily be attacked as traitors to civilization. Wars to eliminate them from the system (such as the War of the South, in Mexico) overlapped with "Civil War" within the consensus sector.
When "Civil War" came to a head in Mexico in 1832-1835, it was a military confrontation between two elite groups who had rival styles for exerting discipline over the poor:
As the networks evolved, focal points emerged in certain commercial
cities: Boston, Philadelphia, New York, and Charleston, within the
United States; Mexico City, Veracruz, Guadalajara, and Zacatecas, within
Mexico; Montreal and Toronto, in Canada; Guatemala, San Salvador, San José,
and an array of smaller places in Central America. Each of these,
from the point of view of "liberal" competition, could look like a bastion
of mercantile conservatism, to be attacked and broken down. But each could
also act as a center for "liberal" movements directed against its "conservative"
rivals. The rivalry among commercial centers spilled over into
politics, and into military action. It was the vehicle for much of
the actual play of signals through the whole criollo network. Since
cities, like politicians, could shift between conservative and liberal
identities, their interaction was one more way that conservative and liberal
pressures were balanced off against each other, throughout the system.
With such a system, the small dispersed army units could always concentrate superior forces against Indian raiders. Without it, he said, the U.S. population would be vulnerable to any European forces that might concentrate a surprise attack on some Atlantic port. In the absence of the railroad, the whites would be pushed toward the Rocky Mountains. With steam power, they could achieve not only an almost magical concentration of forces, but could project influence overseas, and eventually send back to Africa the blacks whose presence seemed a constant threat to the country.
His proposal reflected the vulnerability of a society that, at that time, had no great technical advantages over the indigenous peoples, except in its medical immunities and in the manufactures by which whites provided quantities of arms and powder to their soldiers. The Indians had much the same arms, although they had to keep up relations with white traders in order to be sure of a regular supply. Because traders competed among themselves to meet this demand, in spite of legal prohibitions, Indian military techniques differed from white mostly in degree of complexity, or in the means of production used to keep up supplies, not in weapons system or underlying concept. Because there did not yet exist any absolute military distinction between the civilized and the indigenous, Gaines could visualize a defeat of Americans by Europeans, quite similar to the pressure that whites were exerting against Indians.
Gaines's idea was an abstraction, as were all the long-range plans for criollo victory. Railroad construction had barely begun then in the East, and "steam power" was a phrase to conjure with. There were still no railroads in Mexico, and none in the western U.S. In the 1830s it was in Canada, and that only for a short distance out from Montreal, that government troops used a rail line to deploy against rebels.
To Gaines in the 1830s, steam was the kind of wonder that atomic power would be in 1945, before much blame attached to its developers. Wondrous new potential lay, not for 1835 in some new source of explosive power, but in the rapid transport of weapons, supplies, and soldiers. That potential would be fully realized only in the 1860s and 1870s.
Yet there was a silent practicality in Gaines's thought. The infrastructure of the country was already moving in his direction in the 1830s and 1840s. He saw, far more clearly than most people then, the emerging link between industrial mobilization and military mobilization. No matter that canal and early railroad construction was only in progress, and navies still relied on sail for ocean voyages. The transportation network was growing in its ability to move people and goods, each year a little more efficiently, a little deeper into the countryside. The logistic potential of the economy was improving faster than "realistic" leaders yet appreciated.
Site Map | About
Copyright 1999 The Intermountain History Group, email@example.com.
All rights reserved.