The Clansman: A Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan is a novel published in 1905. It was the second work in the Ku Klux Klan trilogy by Thomas F. Dixon, Jr. that included The Leopard’s Spots and The Traitor. It was influential in providing the ideology that helped support the revival of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK or The Klan). The novel was twice notably adapted, immediately by its author as a play entitled The Clansman (1905), and a decade later by D. W. Griffith in the groundbreaking 1915 silent movie The Birth of a Nation.
The Clansman, an Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan:
Thomas Dixon, Jr., 1864-1946
Illustrated by Arthur I. Keller (Arthur Ignatius), 1866-1924
Text encoded by Natalia Smith and Jamie Vacca
First edition, 1997.
Academic Affairs Library, UNC-CH
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,
This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
Call number PS3507.I93 C5 1905 (Davis Library, UNC-CH)
TO THE READER
“THE CLANSMAN” is the second book of a series of historical novels planned on the Race Conflict. “The Leopard’s Spots” was the statement in historical outline of the conditions from the enfranchisement of the Negro to his disfranchisement.
“The Clansman” develops the true story of the “Ku Klux Klan Conspiracy,” which overturned the Reconstruction régime.
The organisation was governed by the Grand Wizard Commander-in-Chief, who lived at Memphis, Tennessee. The Grand Dragon commanded a State, the Grand Titan a Congressional District, the Grand Giant a County, and the Grand Cyclops a Township Den. The twelve volumes of Government reports on the famous Klan refer chiefly to events which occurred after 1870, the date of its dissolution.
The chaos of blind passion that followed Lincoln’s assassination is inconceivable to-day. The Revolution it produced in our Government, and the bold attempt of Thaddeus Stevens to Africanise ten great states of the American Union, read now like tales from “The Arabian Nights.”
I have sought to preserve in this romance both the letter and the spirit of this remarkable period. The men who enact the drama of fierce revenge into which I have woven a double love-story are historical figures. I have merely changed their names without taking a liberty with any essential historic fact.
In the darkest hour of the life of the South, when her wounded people lay helpless amid rags and ashes under the beak and talon of the Vulture, suddenly from the mists of the mountains appeared a white cloud the size of a man’s hand. It grew until its mantle of mystery enfolded the stricken earth and sky. An “Invisible Empire” had risen from the field of Death and challenged the Visible to mortal combat.
How the young South, led by the reincarnated souls of the Clansmen of Old Scotland, went forth under this cover and against overwhelming odds, daring exile, imprisonment, and a felon’s death, and saved the life of a people, forms one of the most dramatic chapters in the history of the Aryan race.
THOMAS DIXON, jr.
“We fought no war of conquest,” quietly urged the President, “but one of self-preservation as an indissoluble Union. No state ever got out of it, by the grace of God and the power of our arms. Now that we have won, and established for all time its unity, shall we stultify ourselves by declaring we were wrong? These states must be immediately restored to their lights, or we shall betray the blood we have shed. There are no ‘conquered provinces’ for us to spoil. A nation cannot make conquest of its own territory.”
“But we are acting outside the Constitution,” interrupted Stoneman.
“Congress has no existence outside the Constitution,” was the quick answer.
The old Commoner scowled, and his beetling brows hid for a moment his eyes. His keen intellect was catching its first glimpse of the intellectual grandeur of the man with whom he was grappling. The facility with which he could see all sides of a question, and the vivid imagination which lit his mental processes, were a revelation. We always underestimate the men we despise.
“Why not out with it?” cried Stoneman, suddenly changing his tack. “You are determined to oppose Negro suffrage?”
“I have suggested to Governor Hahn of Louisiana to consider the policy of admitting the more intelligent and those who served in the war. It is only a suggestion. The state alone has the power to confer the ballot.”
“But the truth is this little ‘suggestion’ of yours is only a bone thrown to radical dogs to satisfy our howlings for
the moment! In your soul of souls, you don’t believe in the equality of man if the man under comparison be a negro?”
“I believe that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which will forever forbid their living together on terms of political and social equality. If such be attempted, one must go to the wall.”
“Very well, pin the Southern white man to the wall. Our party and the Nation will then be safe.”
“That is to say, destroy African slavery and establish white slavery under Negro masters! That would be progress with a vengeance.”
A grim smile twitched the old man’s lips as he said:
“Yes, your prim conservative snobs and male waiting- maids in Congress went into hysterics when I armed the negroes. Yet the heavens have not fallen.”
“True. Yet no more insane blunder could now be made than any further attempt to use these Negro troops. There can be no such thing as restoring this Union to its basis of fraternal peace with armed negroes, wearing the uniform of this Nation, tramping over the South, and rousing the basest passions of the freedmen and their former masters. General Butler, their old commander, is now making plans for their removal, at my request. He expects to dig the Panama Canal with these black troops.
“Fine scheme that—on a par with your messages to Congress asking for the colonisation of the whole Negro race!”
“It will come to that ultimately,” said the President,
firmly. “The Negro has cost us $5,000,000,000, the desolation of ten great states, and rivers of blood. We can well afford a few million dollars more to effect a permanent settlement of the issue. This is the only policy on which Seward and I have differed—”
“Then Seward was not an utterly hopeless fool. I’m glad to hear something to his credit,” growled the old Commoner.
“I have urged the colonisation of the negroes, and I shall continue until it is accomplished. My emancipation proclamation was linked with this plan. Thousands of them have lived in the North for a hundred years, yet not one is the pastor of a white church, a judge, a governor, a mayor, or a college president. There is no room for two distinct races of white men in America, much less for two distinct races of whites and blacks. We can have no inferior servile class, peon or peasant. We must assimilate or expel. The American is a citizen king or nothing. I can conceive of no greater calamity than the assimilation of the Negro into our social and political life as our equal. A mulatto citizenship would be too dear a price to pay even for emancipation.”
“Words have no power to express my loathing for such twaddle!” cried Stoneman, snapping his great jaws together and pursing his lips with contempt.
“If the Negro were not here would we allow him to land?” the President went on, as if talking to himself. “The duty to exclude carries the right to expel. Within twenty years, we can peacefully colonise the Negro in the tropics, and give him our language, literature,
religion, and system of government under conditions in which he can rise to the full measure of manhood. This he can never do here. It was the fear of the black tragedy behind emancipation that led the South into the insanity of secession. We can never attain the ideal Union our fathers dreamed, with millions of an alien, inferior race among us, whose assimilation is neither possible nor desirable. The Nation cannot now exist half white and half black, any more than it could exist half slave and half free.”
“Yet ‘God hath made of one blood all races,’ ” quoted the cynic with a sneer.
“Yes—but finish the sentence—’and fixed the bounds of their habitation.’ God never meant that the Negro should leave his habitat or the white man invade his home. Our violation of this law is written in two centuries of shame and blood. And the tragedy will not be closed until the black man is restored to his home.”
“I marvel that the minions of slavery elected Jeff. Davis their chief with so much better material at hand!”
“His election was a tragic and superfluous blunder. I am the President of the United States, North and South,” was the firm reply.
“Particularly the South!” hissed Stoneman. “During all this hideous war, they have been your pets—these rebel savages who have been murdering our sons. You have been the ever-ready champion of traitors. And you now dare to bend this high office to their defence—”
“My God, Stoneman, are you a man or a savage!” cried the President. “Is not the North equally responsible
for slavery? Has not the South lost all? Have not the Southern people paid the full penalty of all the
crimes of war? Are our skirts free? Was Sherman’s march a picnic? This war has been a giant conflict of principles to decide whether we are a bundle of petty sovereignties held by a rope of sand or a mighty nation of freemen. But for the loyalty of four border Southern states—but for Farragut and Thomas and their two hundred thousand heroic Southern brethren who fought for the Union against their own flesh and blood, we should have lost. You cannot indict a people—”
“I do indict them!” muttered the old man.
“Surely,” went on the even, throbbing voice, “surely, the vastness of this war, its titanic battles, its heroism, its sublime earnestness, should sink into oblivion all low schemes of vengeance! Before the sheer grandeur of its history, our children will walk with silent lips and uncovered heads.”
“And forget the prison-pen at Andersonville!”
“Yes. We refused, as a policy of war, to exchange those prisoners, blockaded their ports, made medicine contrabrand, and brought the Southern Army itself to starvation. The prison records, when made at last for history, will show as many deaths on our side as on theirs.”
“The murderer on the gallows always wins more sympathy than his forgotten victim,” interrupted the cynic.
“The sin of vengeance is an easy one under the subtle plea of justice,” said the sorrowful voice. “Have we not had enough of bloodshed? Is not God’s vengeance enough? When Sherman’s army swept to the sea, before
him lay the Garden of Eden, behind him stretched a desert! A hundred years cannot give back to the wasted South her wealth, or two hundred years restore to her the lost seed treasures of her young manhood—”
“The imbecility of a policy of mercy in this crisis can only mean the reign of treason and violence,” persisted the old man, ignoring the President’s words.
“I leave my policy before the judgment bar of time, content with its verdict. In my place, radicalism would have driven the border states into the Confederacy, every Southern man back to his kinsmen, and divided the North itself into civil conflict. I have sought to guide and control public opinion into the ways on which depended our life. This rational flexibility of policy you and your fellow radicals have been pleased to call my vacillating imbecility.”
“And what is your message for the South?”
“Simply this: ‘Abolish slavery, come back home, and behave yourself.’ Lee surrendered to our offers of peace and amnesty. In my last message to Congress, I told the Southern people they could have peace at any moment by simply laying down their arms and submitting to National authority. Now that they have taken me at my word, shall I betray them by an ignoble revenge? Vengeance cannot heal and purify; it can only brutalise and destroy.”
Stoneman shuffled to his feet with impatience.
“I see it is useless to argue with you. I’ll not waste my breath. I give you an ultimatum. The South is conquered soil. I mean to blot it from the map. Rather
than admit one traitor to the halls of Congress from these so-called states, I will shatter the Union itself into ten thousand fragments! I will not sit beside men whose clothes smell of the blood of my kindred. At least dry them before they come in. Four years ago, with yells and curses, these traitors left the halls of Congress to join the armies of Cataline. Shall they return to rule?”
“I repeat,” said the President, “you cannot indict a people. Treason is an easy word to speak. A traitor is one who fights and loses. Washington was a traitor to George III. Treason won, and Washington is immortal. Treason is a word that victors hurl at those who fail.”
“Listen to me,” Stoneman interrupted with vehemence. “The life of our party demands that the Negro be given the ballot and made the ruler of the South. This can be done only by the extermination of its landed aristocracy, that their mothers shall not breed another race of traitors. This is not vengeance. It is justice, it is patriotism, it is the highest wisdom and humanity. Nature, at times, blots out whole communities and races that obstruct progress. Such is the political genius of these people that, unless you make the Negro the ruler, the South will yet reconquer the North and undo the work of this war.”
“If the South in poverty and ruin can do this, we deserve to be ruled! The North is rich and powerful—the South, a land of wreck and tomb. I greet with wonder, shame, and scorn such ignoble fear! The Nation cannot be healed until the South is healed.