The Freedom Party was founded by Anthony Dresser in Richmond, Virginia in 1917, immediately after the Great War. Its rather vague ideology, which was made Party policy after Jake Featherston took control, encompassed extreme Confederate nationalism and white supremacy, and hatred for blacks, socialists, the United States, and the Southern aristocracy that dominated the political and military establishments.
While Jake Featherston had initially scorned Dresser and company as being too amateurish, he joined the Party as the seventh member in the second half of 1917. He quickly became the head of propaganda after he discovered he could speak better in public than any other member. Featherston drew in members by the score, and it was clear that the Party's future lay in his skills and talents. Dresser worried that the Party was looking to Featherston as its leader rather than himself and his committee. He attempted to have a floor vote of confidence for his abilities, but he was defeated. He was then voted out of his own organization by Party Secretary Ferdinand Koenig. Featherston became the Party Chairman, and never forgot Koenig's loyalty.
Under Featherston's direction, the Freedom Party rose quickly to national prominence, electing several Representatives to the Confederate Congress in 1919. It was not the only such organization in the postwar Confederate States: the Redemption League, the Red-Fighters, the Tennessee Volunteers, the Knights of the Gray, and others all had similar ideas, but the Freedom Party rose further and faster than any of its rivals (excluding the Tin Hats, a veterans' organization which did not contest political offices). The freedom party forged a political alliance with the Redemption League under its leader Willy Knight and agreed not to field candidates in the same district to avoid splitting the vote. In the 1919 Congressional election, the Freedom part won 11 seats (including Richmond) whilst the Redemption league won 4. In Congress, its members often came into political and even physical conflict with the Whigs, the traditional ruling party, and the Radical Liberals, the main opposition. It was around this time that the Freedom Party acquired its main newspaper the Sentinel which followed the party line. Most notably was its denunciation of Tom Brearley and its defense of Roger Kimball sinking the USS Ericsson.
The Party pioneered political warfare in the Confederacy, using war veterans and young men as shock troops to break up meetings of other parties. These troops, called "stalwarts," dressed identically in "uniforms" of white shirts and khaki (butternut) pants. Its members also comprised a substantial amount of the Confederate volunteers who fought in the Mexican Civil War for Emperor Maximilian III of Mexico against the republican rebels.
The Freedom Party National Convention of 1921, held in New Orleans, illustrated both Featherston's simultaneous weakness and strength. On one hand, he had been forced to move the convention to the Mississippi River as a concession to westerners, especially Willy Knight of the Texas-based Redemption League, who had agreed to endorse the Freedom ticket despite his own ambitions. On the other, he won the support of Amos Mizell, leader of the Tin Hats, and easily captured the nominations of both himself for President and his protégé Ferdinand Koenig for Vice-President.
The Whigs nominated Wade Hampton V of South Carolina, a scion of one of the Confederacy's richest planter families, and the Radical Liberals chose Ainsworth Layne, a Harvard-educated lawyer. The 1921 campaign is well-noted for violence: several dozen people were killed as the Whigs and Rad Libs attempted to emulate Freedom tactics, and political rallies degenerated into pitched battles.
In the election itself the Freedom Party performed above most observers' expectations by outpolling the Radical Liberals and taking Texas, Florida and Tennessee. Featherston lost, however, to the Whig nominee Hampton, who took every other state but the Radical Liberal strongholds of Cuba, Chihuahua, and Sonora. The Party improved its standing in the Confederate House of Representatives and picked up its first Senator and Governor, from Florida and Tennessee respectively.
The Hampton Affair
Bitter over this defeat, Featherston nevertheless resolved to concentrate on the 1923 and 1925 midterms and build up strength for the 1927 Presidential election, which he believed would be a certain Freedom Party triumph. (The messianic aspects of Featherston's personality had already begun to assert themselves.)
Featherston's mentality aside, the Party had great momentum and eventual victory appeared likely. This likelihood evaporated in June 1923, when President Hampton was assassinated by a deranged Freedom Party member named Grady Calkins in Birmingham. The Party's protestations of innocence, no matter how truthful, fell on deaf ears: their reputation for political violence was well-earned, and the stalwarts had in fact been preparing to raid Hampton's rally the night he died. Freedom Party fortunes began to rapidly fall across the nation.
Burton Mitchel was sworn in as President of a grieving nation: it was the first assassination of a national leader in the history of either the CSA or the USA. The heretofore little-known Arkansas Senator quickly took advantage of the new climate and asked US President Upton Sinclair to end the war reparations that were so damaging to the Confederate economy. Sinclair agreed, and the Socialist-majority United States Congress forgave the remainder of Confederate reparations that year. The Confederate government was finally able to end the hyperinflation that had plagued the country postwar, and full recovery finally began, further taking the wind out of the Freedom Party's sails. The Freedom Party had always relied in the discontent of the white Confederate masses and the ensuing times didn't yield, resulting in a lack of Freedom Party support.
The Post-Hampton Years
The Freedom Party spent the next six years "wandering in the desert." The Hampton-inspired backlash, the recovering economy, and newly-harmonious relations with the United States combined to bring the Party to its lowest point since 1918. The Party lost several seats in the 1923 midterm elections, mostly to Whigs, and common members and prominent backers alike fled.
Not all was dark: this period marked the beginning of the Party's use of wireless communication (radio broadcasting), which would prove so effective in later years. The Party continued its support of Imperial forces in the Mexican Civil War, which resulted in eventual victory over the republicans. The Freedom Party Guards, troops who were better-trained than the stalwarts and dressed in uniforms similar in color and cut to that of the Confederate Army, gained prominence at this time.
The 1925 election did little to raise the faithful's spirits: though it won the Governor's house in Texas, the Party fell further in the House. It suffered another blow when the Confederate Supreme Court decided that Burton Mitchel, elected Vice-President in 1921 and serving as President since 1923, could run for the office in his own right in 1927, despite the provision in the Constitution limiting the President to one six-year term. Mitchel easily won the election against Featherston and the Radical Liberal candidate, despite the Whigs' lethargic response to the damage caused by the Mississippi floods that year, which destroyed the homes of over half a million people. The Freedom Party seemed doomed to third-party status, like the Republicans in the USA.
The Economic Collapse
Late in 1928, a consortium of Austro-Hungarian banks called for repayment of a loan to the Russian imperial government. Tsar Nicholas II's government, bankrupted by the long socialist revolution which had finally ground to a halt a few years before, defaulted, sending shockwaves through the European banking community. They teetered for a few months into spring of 1929, when the entire debt structure in Europe collapsed, taking banks and stock exchanges with it. The crisis slowly crossed the Atlantic, and in June the New York exchange finally crashed.
Perversely, bad economic news had always lifted the Freedom Party, and this year was no different. As the Mitchel Administration stood by and watched helplessly as the economy collapsed, the Freedom Party stormed to victory in the Congressional elections, elbowing the Radical Liberals out of second place. Freedom was once more on the march.
The Freedom Party disappointed some of its optimists by failing to win a majority: such was its prospects that capturing slightly more than a third of the House seats and winning several Senate and gubernatorial races was seen as a defeat. They could take heart, however, from the US's Democratic Party, whose nominees Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover defeated the Socialist incumbents Hosea Blackford and Hiram Johnson in 1932. (Coolidge died of a heart attack less than a month before he could be sworn in, and Hoover took his place.)
The Party greeting of "Freedom!" was on every other set of lips. Its symbol, a reverse-colored Confederate flag (blue with red cross and stars), was posted on every other wall and telephone pole. Featherston was nominated unanimously on the first ballot at the FNC in Nashville. Ferdinand Koenig, two-time vice-presidential nominee and a Virginian like Featherston, was put aside in favor of the Texan Willy Knight, in order to ensure success in western states. (The actual motive was to sideline the ambitious Knight by placing him in the nigh-useless Vice-President's office.)
They needn't have worried: The Freedom Party won every state but Arkansas and Louisiana, routing the respective Whig and Radical Liberal nominees, Samuel Longstreet and Cordell Hull, and captured a majority in the House of Representatives. On March 4, 1934, Jake Featherston was inaugurated as President of the Confederate States of America.
Almost as soon as the Inauguration ceremonies were finalized, the Freedomization of the Confederacy began. Stalwart squads patrolled the streets, making sure the population saluted the Party's new-found authority by hanging up patriotic banners. The Stalwarts also began settling accounts with the Party's enemies, arresting Whigs and Radical Liberals on trumped up charges and hauling them into prison, or else just killed them. To drum up support, and also to remind everyone who was sitting in the Gray House, the Party instigated race riots which would deflect white attention from the Freedomization process by turning their energies against the blacks.
The Supreme Court was abolished after a vague loophole was found in the Confederate Constitution, even though Featherston and Koenig had no constitutional authority to do so. Featherston was certain the public would have no objections to his act, and he was proved right. As soon as Chief Justice James McReynolds was forcibly retired, the Confederate people cheered Featherston (albeit some of it being compelled by the presence of Stalwarts in every aspect of society). With a major check and balance to his future abuse of executive authority removed, and a personal score settled (McReynolds had allowed Burton Mitchel to run in 1927, defeating Featherston's chances that year), Featherston could move about more freely.
To keep up the pretense that the Confederate States remained a free constitutional republic, the opposition parties were allowed to continue existence, though any attempt to go beyond simple place-holding was ruthlessly suppressed by the Stalwarts and policemen (all of them to a man being Freedom Party members) acting on orders from the Governor, who in turn would get his orders from Attorney General Ferdinand Koenig. Whig meeting halls were closed; prominent opposition leaders were arrested for false reasons and sent to concentration camps. Polls continued to be open on every Election Day, but Stalwarts would guard the entrances and allow only Freedom-voters admittance, ensuring perpetual Freedom control of the state and national legislatures. In 1935, the states gained Freedom electors, who sent only Freedom Party Senators to the Senate in Richmond. This, and the one-party control of the House allowed an amendment to the Confederate Constitution to be passed in 1938, which removed the provision limiting the President to a single term; this effectively made Featherston president for life.
Dissenters Within the Party
The constitutional amendment offended several veterans of the Party, who felt that other members should be given a shot at the Presidency. Chief among these dissenters was the Vice President of the Confederate States, Willy Knight, who had aspirations for the Gray House since before he joined his Redemption League party to the Freedom Party ticket in the 1920s. Knight realized that he had been sidelined by Featherston and Koenig, and sought revenge, soliciting the help of Stalwarts who had formerly belonged to the Redemption League. Featherston survived the assassination attempt the group had put together and almost immediately discovered the extent of Knight's role. The Vice President was impeached, made to resign, and upon departing his office was arrested by Freedom Party guards led by Chief Assault Band Leader Ben Chapman, who escorted him to Camp Dependable. Knight was murdered by Jefferson Pinkard on the personal order of Ferdinand Koenig in 1941.
The Party was purged of Stalwarts who'd shared Knight's views, and Featherston never fully trusted the Stalwart Squads again. It was the Knight Purge that allowed the Freedom Party guards to become a more prominent force in Southern society.
Under Anthony Dresser and his Executive Committee, the Freedom Party was organized as a normal political organization. There were about 7-10 men on the committee, with newcomer Jake Featherston as its Chief of Propaganda. The rest of the Richmond Party was made up of regular members who attended weekly meetings, with its parliamentary form of rules.
Jake Featherston remade the Freedom Party into a paramilitary-style organization, with himself as its undisputed chief. (His self-proclaimed title of Sarge reflects this uncompromising megalomania.) His authority filtered down to each tier of leaders. Regular Party members, the Stalwarts, were required to wear the white-and-butternut uniform to meetings and public rallies and assault squad actions, and to accept as Party law any decree coming from Featherston's office.
The Freedom Party had control of the C.S.A., and exercised its authority into most aspects of everyday life. Confederate officials in the government who were almost all Whig before 1934 were replaced by Freedom men, as were the police and public officials. Director of Communications Saul Goldman coordinated members of the press and other media channels into his department, with most newspapers and radio stations being bought by (or "convinced" by Stalwarts to selling to) Freedom Party members. With the chief instruments of power in their hands, the Freedom Party coordinated Confederate society into a force reflecting their own designs, with Jake Featherston still the Boss of the country and the Party, which had become intertwined.
The Freedom Party's ideology was categorized as essentially far right-wing populism, the centerpiece of which was anti-black racism. Its core beliefs were Confederate nationalism, white nationalism/white supremacy, anti-black racism, anti-socialism (though this is not to say it was a pro-capitalist party), and revanchism. The core base of the Freedom Party were the Confederacy's poor to middle-class whites (and in the west, poor Latinos), who were angry at the loss of the Great War and the resulting loss of territory; angry at the socialist uprising of the Confederacy's blacks during the war; angry at the generational Whig aristocracy which had been in charge during the war; and angry at the stock market crash.
The Freedom Party proved quite pragmatic, or perhaps inconsistent, in its adherence to its ideology. For instance, though the Party was hostile to radical socialism, when in power it greatly expanded the role of the state in national economic planning (far more so than the Socialist administrations which came to power in the United States at the same time). The Freedom Party spearheaded the building of hydroelectric dams in the Tennessee Valley. It also encouraged the growth of manufacturing for agricultural vehicles such as tractors. The latter had less to do with mechanizing agriculture as an end in itself than it did with two hidden agenda. The first was that these factories could eventually be modified with relative ease into producing military vehicles to re-arm. The second was that it would circumvent the economic importance of the nation's black population as a source of labor in the agrarian sector.
The Freedom Party paid lip service to the old staple of Confederate history, commitment to "states' rights." Once in power, however, the Freedomites greatly strengthened the central government at the expense of the states. For instance, the above-mentioned hydroelectric dams aggregated to Richmond the heretofore unconstitutional power to legislate navigation on waterways for purposes other than interstate commerce--a power which had always been retained by the states. Even more severely, the Featherston administration embarked on a systematic campaign of political intrigue and ultimately terrorism to isolate, then eliminate, the administration of Governor Huey Long in Louisiana--a move that would certainly have had John C. Calhoun spinning in his grave.
Ultimately, what ideology the Party had was applied inconsistently as a matter of convenience. Through the Featherston Administration's very effective control of mass media outlets--and the draconian police tactics which made public questioning of the party line highly dangerous--Freedom Party propagandists couched whatever policy Featherston had already decided to follow into language which served now one tenet of the state's official ideology, now another. In the end, however, ideology always took a back seat to the shifting political whims of the party's only noteworthy leader.
Freedom at War
Unlike most other modern leaders, Featherston preferred to lead from the front, or at a spot not too far away. He spent much of his time near the First Richmond Howitzers, his army alma-mater from the Great War, and even yanked the lanyard of the guns a few times. He also enjoyed firing at US airplanes with the new automatic rifle Confederate soldiers used, a reckless feat that greatly alarmed his bodyguards. The propaganda value of being at the front was also used to his advantage: Saul Goldman's media crews filmed him visiting the troops and shooting at the enemy, and then circulated the footage to boost morale at home. Jake Featherston would never be shown to be a shirker at home, not when he shared the same risks as his soldiers.
While the president played artilleryman at the front in northern Virginia, Ferdinand Koenig and General Nathan Bedford Forrest III ran the administration in the capital. Koenig directed domestic civilian and Party affairs, such as rooting out saboteurs and running the camp system while Forrest directed the war from his headquarters in the War Department at Mechanic's Hall. But not everything could be done by flunkies; Featherston did devote a fair amount of time to paperwork, often wishing he could ditch the presidency and return to being a sergeant of artillery. But he also knew that without him at the helm, the Confederate States would lose a most valuable asset to the war effort.
The Machinery of Death
Featherston insisted that the blacks of the Confederacy be exterminated. This, as he stated to his aides on numerous occasions, was as important as prosecuting the war with the United States, for it would make the Confederacy a better place to live. Mechanization of agriculture had lessened the need for black agricultural workers, and Mexicans from the Empire would replace blacks as service workers.
On occasion, Featherston ordered the deportation of entire specific black communities, such as that of Jackson, Mississippi, in 1943, following a people bombing by a black waiter there. After the end of the war the U.S Army estimated that as many as 8 to 10 million blacks had been murdered by the Freedom Party.
Freedom Party Guards
- See main article: Freedom Party Guards
Confederate Veterans Brigade
- See main article: Confederate Veterans' Brigades
National Assault Force
- See main article: National Assault Force
The occupation authorities of the United States banned the use of the Confederate flag as well as the employment of Freedom Party members in public institutions. Confederate POWs who were released were required to swear an oath of loyalty to the United States and deny the Freedom Party.
Several prominent Freedom Party members were placed on trial for crimes against humanity in their roles in the Population Reduction. Among those executed for their crimes were C.S. Attorney General Ferdinand Koenig, Director of Communications Saul Goldman, commandant of Camp Determination and later Camp Humble Jefferson Pinkard, Camp Humble second-in-command Vern Green, and Camp Dependable commandant Mercer Scott.
Prominent Members of the Freedom Party
- Jake Featherston
- Ferdinand Koenig
- Saul Goldman
- Willy Knight
- Lulu Mattox
- Roger Kimball
- Anne Colleton
- Amos Mizell
- Ben Chapman
- Caleb Briggs
- Anthony Dresser
- Jefferson Pinkard
- Robert Quinn
- Donald Partridge
- George Patton
- Nathan Bedford Forrest III
Sayings, Slogans, and Mottos
- "WE NEED A NEW REVOLUTION"- A slogan printed on a poster with George Washington
- "Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!" - A chant used by members and supporters at rallies.
- "Featherston and Freedom!" - Freedom Party Stalwarts' battle cry during street-fights.
- "I'm Jake Featherston, and I'm here to tell you the truth." - The Freedom Party made much use of the word "truth," often using it as a cover to project lies and false justifications for their actions.
- "Repeal the seven words!" - A slogan used during the campaign to amend the part of the Confederate Constitution limiting the president to a single-term, the last seven words of the aforementioned section. Once amended, the Confederate Constitution allowed Jake Featherston to run multiple times. This, combined with his strong-arm control of Confederate politics, effectively made him president for life.
The Freedom Party used the Confederate Battle Flag, with colors reversed, as their party symbol. (Red St. Andrew's cross over a blue background). It can be seen at the top of this page.
The Freedom Party stalwarts wore white shirts and butternut khaki trousers as their paramilitary uniform. The origins of this semi-official uniform remains unclear, but Confederate veterans came home in a butternut uniform and wore the trousers as a reminder of their military service. Featherston wore it often before becoming President, and this is probably where the stalwarts got their uniform from. The Freedom Party guards copied their dress from Army uniforms, even sharing the same color until 1940 before switching to gray uniforms as their presence in Confederate society became more pronounced. For everyday Party business (such as guarding Party big-shots or guarding concentration camp inmates), the F.P. guards wore their regular Party uniforms, but for special occasions (such as attending Jefferson Pinkard's wedding in the Autumn of 1942) dress uniforms were worn.
Jake Featherston wore an Army sergeant's uniform as his outfit starting on Inauguration Day, March 4, 1934, and every day since then. For official events, such as greeting visiting heads of state (i.e. U.S. President Alfred Smith's visit to Richmond in June 1940), Featherston donned a Freedom Party guard uniform, probably to look more modern and sleek but also to intimidate those around him. During a speech in Louisville in 1941, Featherston vowed that he would not change his outfit until every Confederate territory in U.S. hands was returned to the CSA.
Featherston's first Vice President, Willy Knight, wore a European field marshal's uniform for Inauguration Day. This irked the chairman of the Freedom Party, not least because it drew attention away from him and towards the ambitious and politically-dangerous Knight.
Members of the Freedom-controlled government wore Freedom Party uniforms, such as members of the State Department. For some reason, though, both Ferdinand Koenig and Saul Goldman continued to wear everyday business attire in their meetings with Featherston, perhaps wearing Party uniforms at rallies and public appearances.
- Nazi Party, which ruled Germany, 1933-1945 in OTL. Harry Turtledove has acknowledged that the Freedom Party is based on the Nazi Party. More details can be found in Parallelism in Southern Victory.