Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Participants Gather, and the Plot Thickens

This post is number twenty-eight in a historical series discussing Mississippi’s Whig/Republican governor and senator, James Alcorn, following the War Between the States and continues the “saga” resulting from the Democratic victory over the Republican “reconstruction” constitution framed during the Black & Tan Convention in the winter/spring of 1868. For earlier posts in this long series centered on Alcorn, (best read in sequence from oldest to most recent), start with 17 February, 24 March, 16 April, 17 July, 24 July, 18 September, 9 October, 23 October, 5 November, 22 November, 15 December, 29 December 2014, 13 January, 24 January, 9 February, 24 February, 9  March, 31 March, 8 May, 10 June, 30 June,  3 August30 August , 13 September, 27 September, 11 October  and 25 October 2015.

In my last three posts, I have attempted to give the reader some idea of events elsewhere in 1868 influencing the decision on Mississippi’s acceptance back in the Union. With this post, I return to where The Committee of Five Comes Alive...  ended. As of that post, the committee of five, an outgrowth of the Black and Tan Convention that had framed a progressive “reconstruction” constitution subsequently rejected by the people of Mississippi (10 July 1868), had appointed a committee of sixteen, on which James Lusk Alcorn represented the state’s first congressional district. The purpose of the committee of sixteen was to go to Washington and lay a memorial before Congress requesting redress in the wake of the rejection of both the constitution and Republican ticket at the polls.

Mississippi’s committee of sixteen arrived in Washington in December of 1868, shortly after the opening of the 40th Congress’ third session. Before the Reconstruction Committee, the chairman of the committee of five, W. H. Gibbs, now representing Mississippi’s fifth congressional district on the committee of sixteen, repeated his conversation with Gillem regarding the committee’s proposed investigation into the July election and the general’s refusal to conduct (further) inquiry. Gibbs told Congress he had a right to make arrangements for the election and appoint commissioners at the polls—I’m not sure of Gibbs’ point here, unless prior to Gibbs’ testimony, Gillem had pointed out to the Reconstruction Committee that he had allowed the committee of five such liberties before the election—exceeding the requirements set forth in the Reconstruction Acts—and therefore the committee of five had no valid reason for complaining about the army’s conduct during the election. Gibbs further told the Reconstruction Committee that a large number of members elected to the legislature in July would be unable to take the oath required by the Reconstruction Acts. For weeks after, the committee of sixteen continued to badger the Reconstruction Committee to ignore General Gillem’s report and either declare Mississippi’s propose constitution ratified or revive the convention.

On 16 December 1868, William Sharkey, the old-line Whig who had opposed secession and served as Mississippi’s provisional governor immediately after the war and who had been elected Senator along with Alcorn back in ’65 when Southern representatives had been denied their seats in Congress, and against whom not even a whisper of disloyalty could be lodged, testified to the Reconstruction Committee that the election had been as fair an election as he’d ever seen, and that many Negroes had voluntarily voted with the Democrats. The feelings between the races were good, he thought, and though the Freedman did want his right to vote, he did not wish to deny the vote to whites. Sharkey told the Reconstruction Committee that the constitution had been fairly defeated and if another were submitted, with the proscriptive clauses removed it would be ratified. It was the whole-scale proscription of white Confederates from the polling booth that was the cause of the constitution’s rejection, not the admittedly unpopular inclusion of Negro suffrage. This same point was made in Georgia. [Truth is, that point was being made across the South.]

When Gillem made his appearance before the Reconstruction Committee, he reiterated the precautions he’d taken to ensure a fair election and that he had investigated every reported violation made before and during the election. In response to an accusation that both sheriffs and soldiers had electioneered against the constitution, he stated that most of the sheriffs were “loyal” men appointed by him or his predecessor, General Ord, and there were not twenty soldiers who had enlisted from Mississippi. In other words, the soldiers in Mississippi were Northern men and if they voted against the constitution, which he said they had a right to do, it was because they, too, found it obnoxious. If the constitution had been framed, he reiterated, according to the Reconstruction Acts, it would have been adopted. Remember, the Reconstruction Acts denied the right of ex-Confederates to ever hold office—unless, of course, the individual became a turncoat and supported Reconstruction—but did not deny the vote to such individuals into perpetuity. This proposed state constitution did.

The Republican “engine” in the state maintained that General Gillem’s administration had not taken the Reconstruction Act of ’67 in the spirit it had been intended. Since Gillem hadn’t orchestrated a Republican victory, they were probably right. There’s getting into the “spirit” of tyranny and then there’s being the spirit of tyranny. The general stated the Republican opposition came from (1) disgruntled individuals who had failed to get appointments they sought, (2) those he would not allow to enter upon their duties because they could not give requisite bonds, and (3) those whose schemes of plunder he thwarted.

J. W. C. Watson from Marshall County, Mississippi and that county’s representative at both the 1865 and 1868 Constitutional Conventions told the Reconstruction Committee that he had finally resigned from the 1868 convention when the majority of delegates managed to force the proscriptive clauses into the constitution. Based on those clauses, he campaigned against the constitution. He frankly admitted that the people were opposed to Negro suffrage, but were willing to live with it, but not the disfranchisement of the white voter on top of it.

Wheeling, dealing, dickering, and bickering, as well as testimony continued through the winter months of 1869. Then March ushered in a new administration along with spring—sounds poetically hopeful doesn’t it? It didn’t prove to be. I’ll elaborate next time.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Shoot, Who Needed the Fourteenth Amendment? There Had Always Been the Guarantee Clause to Subjugate the States

This post is number twenty-seven in a historical series discussing Mississippi’s Whig/Republican governor and senator, James Alcorn, following the War Between the States. It continues my analysis of the national political situation around the time Mississippi’s taxpayers  rejected the progressive Radical constitution of 1868. For earlier related posts see  3 August30 August , 13 September27 September and 11 October 2015.

My last post dealt with the Southern taxpayers’ resistance to the public education programs forced upon them by the puppet regimes put in place by the unconstitutional acts of Congress. I ended that post by introducing one of the most extreme  framers of the dogma that public education was synonymous with patriotism. It was a qualified, Yankee patriotism, to be sure, and the program promoting such national devotion just happened to be a lucrative one for the patriots supporting it/supported by it.  

For you not familiar with Charles Sumner, the senior senator from Massassachusetts, let me say that he was an abolitionist and an idealist, who focused on two things, the equality of man and the importance of education in compelling everyone to recognize that equality. He was rabidly anti-slavery. His father had also been anti-slavery, but told his son it would do no good to end slavery, because the Negro would not be treated equally and nothing would be accomplished. Okay. Well, young Charles, through a series of life-time opportunities, evolved the theory that the reason the Negro was not recognized as an equal was due to a lack of education for everyone. This theory evolved while he was relatively young and still knew everything. His wisdom did not “lessen” with age. I’m speeding up the scenario here, but I do believe Sumner thought integrated education for all would solve the problem—after slavery ended, of course. His goal of a utopian “United” States did not begin with the war or during Reconstruction. For more than a decade prior to the South’s secession, Charles Sumner had been a major agitator of sectional conflict and, in my opinion, played a willing role in causing the war. Oh, and for you Southerners out there despairing of folks printing out or linking you to the Southern states’ various articles of secession and screaming “see, see—it was about slavery”—do not despair. Not even Lincoln believed it was about slavery. Charles Sumner and those of his ilk made it about “slavery,” and those individuals manipulating selected data to the contrary need to crack the covers on a few more books or in some cases just read the entire articles of secession. 

What drove Lincoln was keeping the Union together—slavery was the issue driving Northern fanatics to foster increasingly debilitating requirements and economic impediments on the South. The South’s secession was a reaction to the latter. Further, let’s not forget what many today appear to have forgotten, the tacit approval and subsequent “martyrdom”  of John Brown, a fanatic who intended a bloody assault upon the Southern people followed by the tacit failure of the law in bringing the powerful men supporting that lunatic to justice. There were a number of compelling reasons that finally drove even reasonable Southerners to believe they’d be better off, peacefully, separated from the North’s increasingly skewed concept of the Founder’s Republic.  

At the time of Fort Sumter’s surrender, Lincoln’s goal was to save the Union in order to collect tariffs due from Southern ports and eliminate the specter of free-market Southern ports that would work havoc with those competing in the North. But in May, Senator Sumner counseled Lincoln to make the war over slavery. In Sumner’s mind, there was no way to save the Union without abolishing slavery. What that computes to is there was no way to save the Union as Charles Sumner conceived it should be without abolishing slavery. But the Union Charles Sumner envisioned did not incorporate the Republic our Founders had framed, but a utopian state where all men looked upon one another as equals. For Saint Peter’s sake! Other whites don’t even look at one another as equals—and if anyone should have known that, Charles Sumner should, because he considered himself superior to everyone.

In October 1861, Sumner stated publicly at the Massachusetts’ Republican Convention that the Civil War’s sole cause was slavery and the primary objective of the Union government was to destroy it. It’s not entirely clear to me if he meant the reason we revolted against mother England was to end slavery (you know that old civil right’s deflection that our guiding document is the Declaration of Independence vice the Constitution) or if he’d narrowed the time frame to his contemporary period and continent. But the Declaration did not a Republic make, the Constitution did, and even then that agreed-upon union was conditional on the will of sovereign states except where the Constitution specified otherwise. 

During the summer of 1869, Virginia met all requirements for readmission under the Reconstruction Acts—including ratification of a “progressive” constitution and the election of a conservative Republican (Scalawag) ticket. However, the conservative candidate for governor, Gilbert Walker, had promised the Virginia taxpayer during the course of the tightly contested race that he would not enact the unpopular public school system outlined in the new constitution. Now, that had Sumner slobbering at the mouth. 

The tool Sumner used to repair the cracks in the Radical dam in Dixie was the Guarantee Clause, Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution guaranteeing each state a republican form of government. I’ve used this play on words in earlier posts—what this traitorous Congress meant to ensure, not for the states, but for itself, was a “Republican” form of government. The disreputable congressional majority then took it upon itself to pervert that clause so they could use it to accomplish their objectives. Just as there’d been no definition of what a citizen was (the determination made by the individual states), there was no specific definition of what a republican constitution was. The Founders did provide a general set of criteria, that being popular rule by the voters (and voting rights were established by each individual state); protection from monarchy—meaning no governor would be allowed to gain control of a state and rule as a king; and protection from civil disorder, meaning no mob rule/direct democracy. Beyond that the central government had no say in state governance, nor was it intended to. It was not a “guarantee” that Congress would interfere with the rights of majority rule within a state because a Congress dominated by one section and one party was failing in its overbearing attempts to enforce its will on another. It was not a guarantee to the people. It was a guarantee to the states. All this civil rights rhetoric came well after the Founders had passed to glory, and it came with the Republican Radicals as part of their determination to impose their will on others by employing the power of the general government, power which first they had to appropriate from the states and pass to the central government.

Guarantee Clause thus invoked, Sumner proposed to make the “unreconstructed” states reentry conditional above and beyond the already unconstitutional Reconstruction Acts. The first Reconstruction Act (1867) only required a new constitution be drawn up by usurpers after the disfranchisement of the taxpayer. By default, everything outlined in Virginia’s constitution should have gone forward since the Republicans had control. What the Radicals had not anticipated was the fissure with the conservative Republicans within the state and the Democrats’ supporting the conservatives who sided with the taxpayer regarding a public school system the state could not afford.  

But Sumner’s utopia could not evolve without that school system indoctrinating the uninformed that all men were equal. State rights meant nothing to Charles Sumner, in fact, neither did the Constitution, and I quote, “...the states have no power except to do justice. Any power beyond this is contrary to the harmonies of the universe.” Hmmm, the harmonies of the universe? With the ghostly wails of 650,000+ echoing around him—in a war he welcomed—Sumner had a lot of nerve. Ah, but what are minor hiccups in imposing utopia on people too stupid not to realize such things really can exist in real life, if only everybody else is taught to think just like me.

Citing governor-elect Walker’s promises during his campaign against his Radical opponent, Sumner stated the new governor of Virginia would break down the proposed public school system. “How can you organize Reconstruction,” Sumner railed, “except on the everlasting foundation of education?” Sumner stated the Virginia election was a fraud and carried by an appeal to the “rebel people throughout the state that they should take the control of the state and in that way nullify the constitution and trample out the system of common schools.” I do think the constitution to which he refers is the new state constitution—after all, the only people nullifying the United States Constitution were Charles Sumner and those of his ilk. And the everlasting foundation of education? Education is only as valuable as what’s being taught. Am I the only one seeing “evil” here?
Oliver Morton of Indiana agreed. The states could not be free to go their own way once admitted to the Union. On 21 January 1869, Congress readmitted Virginia to the Union, conditionally, imposing suffrage and educational restrictions upon her sovereignty, setting a precedent that the now misused Guarantee Clause remained alive even after a state was readmitted. Not that it mattered, state sovereignty had been violated since 1861. What’s amazing is that Northern states failed to shout the alarm in the wake of these egregious congressional overreaches.  

In debating the Mississippi bill and application of the “Guarantee Clause” to her, a state rights advocate asked John Howard, senator from Michigan, if he would like Congress to regulate the public school system of Michigan. “Oh yes,” said he, and I will paraphrase, in part—if his state ever did anything as reactionary as to discontinue public education he’d be the first one to appeal to Congress to “apply the corrective and to exercise this great power of guarantying a republican form of government”. Set Michigan straight, in other words, under the newly revised meaning of the Guarantee Clause.  You want my opinion as to what would have “set Michigan straight” at the time? The state legislature’s calling Senator Howard’s ass home and putting him to pasture, that’s what. Such men were saying the Guarantee Clause allowed Congress to dictate public education to the states because such education is necessary to insure a republican form of government (and any other prerequisite they determined was necessary to insure a republican government).  

Howard went so far as to say that the Guarantee Clause was “without limitation.” Senator Richard Yates from Illinois pooh-poohed interference from the Supreme Court regarding the constitutionality of such application of the Guarantee Clause [so somebody had brought it up]. The precedent had been set on the Guarantee Clause long before the war. The Supreme Court had rarely agreed to look at it, the clause wrapped up in (I’m speaking for myself here, not being a lawyer) legal mumbo jumbo such as “non-justiciable,” and its being a political matter belonging in the Congress. It includes the legal concept of “standing,” meaning the plaintiff wouldn’t be hurt by the law, therefore nullifying the reason for the suit. In other words, there was/is nothing a court can do, and if it did anything it would be nothing.

I’m sorry? In Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution, it is the state being discussed—the state’s guarantee for a republican form of government, right? If the state brought suit against Congress for abusing the clause, doesn’t that make the state the plaintiff and Congress is indeed hurting the state, for all intents and purposes, by terminating its sovereignty? Couple that with a horse’s behind making a comment that the Guarantee Clause “is without limitation.” What those traitors had done was taken a benign clause in the Constitution, twisted it into a lie, then made that lie omnipotent. Giddy with the possibilities, they intended to use it at their will, forever. No one who knows anything about the history of the Constitutional Convention and the states’ subsequent ratification of the Constitution could possibly believe that clause was intended to be used in the manner that group of fanatics were using it. There would have been no reason for a Tenth Amendment, because the states (those thirteen original) would have never ratified the Constitution. What hogwash spouted by despicable men!  [Recall, too, that Salmon P. Chase is Chief Justice at this time, so I doubt the good guys would have found any satisfaction with the Supreme Court. It was the Northern states that needed to act, and they failed to do so.]

Speaking of which, Yates, that pathetic excuse of a U. S. senator from Illinois, went so far as to imply that the behavior of some Northern states might be in need of remedial “Guarantee Clause” action, too (especially those allowing parochial schools to have too much say). I think Illinois’ legislature, like Michigan’s, was remiss in not calling its senator home. 

Readers, I trust you now have a better picture of the backdrop against which the fight for Mississippi’s government was being carried out in Washington that winter of 1868-1869, then beyond. Next post I will return specifically to the Mississippi question. 

Thanks for reading,  





Sunday, October 11, 2015

Ah, Public Education, The Great Unifier of the “Union”

This post is number twenty-six in a historical series discussing Mississippi’s Whig/Republican governor and senator, James Alcorn, following the War Between the States and continues with the background against which Mississippi’s rejected progressive “reconstruction” would ultimately be decided in Congress. My last post, 27 September 2015.  related specifically to this matter. For earlier posts on Alcorn, (best read in sequence from oldest to most recent), start with 17 February, 24 March, 16 April, 17 July, 24 July, 18 September, 9 October, 23 October, 5 November, 22 November, 15 December, 29 December 2014, 13 January, 24 January, 9 February, 24 February, 9  March, 31 March, 8 May, 10 June, 30 June,  3 August30 August , 13 September, and 27 September 2015.
One of the most onerous (and by way of enactment, offensive) programs the “progressive” usurpers implemented in the South was that of public education. It was a proven program in New England, the rest of the North was taking it up, and in order for the backward South to be “proper” Americans, their betters in the North expected Southerners to accept it as a price for re-entering the Union. Indeed, Southerners, given their ignorance, should consider themselves honored to be blessed with the beneficent guidance of the North’s expertise on matters of public education. Yes, that is sarcasm you’re reading in my words.

There were a number of problems with enacting the program the North expected (at least those up there pushing the program). One, it was very expensive and the “overhead” for it was purchased in the North at the expense of the already tapped-out Southern taxpayer. Much has been said about the South’s resistance to public education during this time—the primary assumption being Southerners didn’t want the Negro educated. Well, I won’t argue that one point, but I sure the devil will put it in proper context. The South had major priorities for its money in the aftermath of a devastating war, and spending money on “bones” cast to a polity being manipulated against her taxpayer wasn’t how Southerners wanted it spent, particularly when the spending was done in a prodigal manner by self-aggrandizing people who were not representative of said taxpayer.

Two, public education was used by “enlightened” spirits to prove what wonderful things integration could accomplish for both races in the South—this from the mouths of many of the “movers and shakers” in the North. This is downright belittling, folks—to be used for social experimentation by assuming people who had little knowledge of the Negro or for that matter, the white Southerner. Shoot, they might as well have used us both for medical research considering the value put on our intelligence. As of 1868, blacks and whites in the South had, on many levels, been intimately integrated for two and a half centuries, and both races were capable of deciding how and where to mix if they so desired.  

Three was the curriculum. Don’t be misled. We are not talking simply reading, writing, and arithmetic—we’re talking indoctrination to a centralized state—“Union”. Odes to the glory and the bright, arrogant future of a forcibly unified, consolidated state under the benevolent guidance of a wise central power dominated by the intelligently superior North was not to Southern taste—certainly not then, and it still repulses this Southron today. But that was the vision of those strong proponents of public education in the North. To the more fanatical of those people up there, in the wake of victory and the destruction of the state right’s doctrine, public education was the “sure-fire” way to create one, gigantic homogeneous nation, where faith and allegiance were offered first and foremost to the general government. To oppose a national system of public education in the minds of those people was treason. [There was resistance to such heterodoxy in the North, too, but opponents there were in a better position to fight back.] The vanguard of indoctrination believed it could force public education (as it conceived it to be) on the politically impotent South. Besides, the South was where the proven traitors resided, and Southerners needed that patriotic understanding imposed on them so much more than those resisting north of the Mason-Dixon Line. 

Supposedly, there had been no congressional guidance regarding this public education system, but there was plenty of influence and lobbying to the “right” men, who had been “placed” in Congress. It is telling that the first head of the school system in “reconstructed” Tennessee was John Eaton, Jr., who started his career in education as a school principal and later became the Superintendent of Public Education in Toledo, Ohio. He resigned the latter position to attend Andover Theological Seminary. Ordained a minister in 1861, he enlisted as a chaplain with the 27th Ohio Regiment of Volunteers. In 1862, when both men were in Tennessee, then Major General Ulysses S. Grant placed Eaton in charge of incorporating contraband slaves into the Union war effort. In November of 1863, Grant appointed him Superintendent of Negro affairs for the Department of the Tennessee. In 1863 he was also promoted to colonel of the 9th Regiment of Louisiana Volunteers (Negro), which became the 63rd Regiment of Colored Infantry—this was all occurring in the area of Vicksburg. In 1865 Eaton was promoted to brevet brigadier general. In his management of Negro “contraband” and the establishment of the loyal farms during the occupation of the Mississippi River areas in Mississippi and Louisiana from 1863 on, Eaton set the precedent for what became the Freedmen’s Bureau. He served as the assistant commissioner of that bureau between March and December 1865 at which time he resigned his commission and settled in Memphis, Tennessee where from 1866-1869 he served as editor of the Memphis Daily Post (or the Memphis Morning Post) a Republican paper. In 1867, he was elected as Tennessee’s superintendent of public instruction on the Republican ticket (Brownlow’s administration). In 1869, after the “redeemers” dismantled the fiefdom he’d built in Tennessee, Eaton moved to Washington, D. C. where in 1870 his old friend, now president, Ulysses Grant appointed him the second United States Commissioner of Education.  

Back in Tennessee, the new constitution (1870), written to replace the “reconstruction” constitution framed under Brownlow, outlawed mixed schools. Tennessee, which before 1869 had stood as the shining example of what Republican Reconstruction could accomplish in the South, by 1870 was an example of what Republican tyranny had wrought once a proud people were able to throw off the shackles.

Uh-oh, time for Congress to revise the requirements in the Reconstruction Acts, and the still “unreconstructed” states would feel the impact. But Republican Reconstruction in the South could not be forged by unconstitutional legislation—it could only be prolonged and harmful for all concerned. 

In the North, the traitorous bogyman to the “indoctrinated state” was the parochial school system—and the controversy of religion in public schools. The Catholic Church wasn’t ready to lower religious education of its children to the standard of a public school system, and Catholics were fed up paying taxes to a school system it didn’t use. Parochial schools were demanding their share of the “school fund” and they’d teach their kids as they saw fit. Ah, but the fomenters of “Union” didn’t want two systems—it wanted one to teach all our children to worship at the altar of the Federal government and a united nation. For further reading on the public school issue in the North, I refer the reader to Religion, Race, and Reconstruction by Ward M. McAfee, which was my source. I imagine there are others.  

The collapse of the great Republican example in Tennessee impacted directly the outcome of the Radical/conservative struggles in Virginia, Texas, and Mississippi. Virginia was a fait accompli with Grant’s (and Lee’s) discreet backing of the conservative candidate, Gilbert C. Walker—a Northerner favored by the state’s old-line Whigs and toward whom the Democrats leaned as the lesser of two evils (see Bob Pollock’s Yesterday...and Today post of 3 February 2015 regarding my remarks on Grant and Lee). During his campaign, Walker had made an issue of disapproving the unpopular public education plan outlined in the new constitution—placed there, as was the case in Mississippi, by the Radicals composing the state constitutional convention. Oh my, oh my. Everyone was paying attention to these events—guess somebody should have informed President Grant that Walker presented a threat to the Radicals before word got out that Grant found him preferable to the “Radical” candidate. 

Enter the senior senator from Massachusetts, Charles Sumner. He’ll tell him, by George! [A little play on George Boutwell, Sumner’s House colleague from Massassachusetts and by then, Grant’s Treasury Secretary.]

They’ll both tell him—set that soldier straight as to what a Republican president is supposed to be doing—next time and thanks for reading, 



Sunday, September 27, 2015

Oops! Those Untrustworthy Scalawags

This post is number twenty-five in a historical series discussing Mississippi’s Whig/Republican governor and senator, James Alcorn, following the War Between the States. This post continues with the fate of the progressive constitution framed by the Republican-dominated Constitutional Convention in 1868. It is a direct follow up to my 13 September post below. For earlier posts on Alcorn, (best read in sequence from oldest to most recent), start with 17 February, 24 March, 16 April, 17 July, 24 July, 18 September, 9 October, 23 October, 5 November, 22 November, 15 December, 29 December 2014, 13 January, 24 January, 9 February, 24 February, 9  March, 31 March, 8 May, 10 June, 30 June,  3 August30 August, and 13 September 2015.

Before delving further into the blow by blow evolution that would lead to the ratification of Mississippi’s “reconstruction” constitution and the election of James Alcorn as the state’s first Republican governor, I want to inform the reader of events in Georgia and Tennessee that would impact the re-entry into the Union of Virginia, Texas, and Mississippi.

It’s my personal belief that a detailed history of the carpetbag-scalawag dichotomy in every state undergoing “Reconstruction” during this period and some that, technically speaking, were not (Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, and even Maryland) would make a compelling study in tandem with the struggle between the so-called conservative and regular (the euphemistic term the Radicals used to describe themselves) Republicans at the national level. The issues would be somewhat skewed depending on region, of course, just as the interests between the political parties had been skewed in the decades leading up to the war.

The Republican Party was a regional party—a Northern Party, the demon child of Northern Whigs spawned from the disintegration of the Whig party artfully (or not so artfully) orchestrated by the Democrats’ Stephen Douglas (Illinois) with his tactfully masterminding the nullification of the Missouri Compromise fracturing the already strained union of Northern and Southern Whigs over the expansion of slavery. The Whig party had strong enclaves in the South. In Mississippi, her legislature was never more than a third Whig, but North Carolina’s assembly was roughly split 50-50 between Whigs and Democrats in the years leading up to the war, and Georgia was a predominantly Whig state. Perhaps that helps explain the number of “Southern-minded” Republicans that ended up in Georgia’s Republican Party. Certainly the platform for those men would have been more palatable to that of the hated Democratic Party, but as in days of old, when the Whig Party ruled the roost, interests took on a decidedly pro-Southern flavor, Northerners neither desired nor in many instances even required. When allied with the Democrats, the conservative Republicans were in a position to neutralize the “superior Northerner” who had come south to teach Southerners how states should be governed and ensure their proper place vis-a-vis the national authority. The Republican conservatives could also ally with those same Carpetbag “colleagues” should the conservative stance veer greatly from the Democrats. No matter what, they weren’t under Radical control and that was problematic. 

By April 1868, Georgia had ratified a new “progressive” reconstruction constitution and elected a bare majority Republican assembly headed by a Radical governor, Rufus B. Bullock, a man who had moved from New York to Augusta, Georgia in the late fifties, served the Confederacy, and found profit in Republican politics in the years immediately following the war. That new legislature subsequently ratified the Fourteenth Amendment. As a result, Georgia met the requirements for readmission to the Union under the Reconstruction Acts. Problems existed with that election, however, that did not escape the attention of either governor-elect Bullock or Congress. Georgia had elected a slate of Democratic electors—meaning Grant wasn’t going to carry her in the fall—and four of the five representatives she’d elected to the U. S. House were Democrats. Then there was still the matter of her assembly. Though the Republicans had what appeared to be a commanding advantage in the Georgia senate, 37 to only 17 Democrats, 10 of those Republicans were conservative Scalawags who did not like Bullock. The Democrats had a slight majority in the house, 88-84, but of those 84 Republicans, nine were conservative Republicans and their vote could go either way.  

The threat this legislature posed to Bullock’s (and therefore Congress’) Radical agenda came to a head in July when a combined vote of Democrats and conservative Republicans elected Unionist Joshua Hill to represent Georgia in the U. S. Senate over Bullock’s choice of Joseph E. Brown. Brown had served as Georgia’s Democrat war governor. He had invoked a state-rights doctrine, routinely defied Jeff Davis’ efforts to consolidate Southern assets in prosecuting the war, then appeared to play grab-ass with everyone else who violated the state in the wake of the Confederacy’s defeat. Brown had started political life as a Whig, became a fire-eating secessionist Democrat, then found profitable solace in the Republican Party during Reconstruction. The Democrats hated him, plenty of the old-line Georgia Whigs hated him, and a good chunk of the Georgia population hated him. The anti-secessionist Joshua Hill had been a Georgia representative in the U. S. House when the state seceded. He’d quietly resigned his position and come home, but he had run against Brown for governor in 1863 on a Union ticket. The Democrats despised him as a traitor, but he was no Radical and preferable to Brown whose defeat had the added perk of thwarting Bullock. Yep, the Radicals had a problem in Georgia. Giving lip-service to “republican” governments guided by “progressive” constitutions only worked in reality if said governments countenanced the Radical agenda. The “promise” that had been Georgia in the spring, by the summer of 1868, was highly suspect and Bullock had to take steps to rekindle that “promise.”  

When General John Pope, first commander of the Third Military District (Georgia, Florida, and Alabama) registered the electorate back in ’67, he did not impose (or not strictly enforce) the test oath required under the Reconstruction Acts, a point Bullock pointed out to Pope’s relief, General George Meade. Meade resolved the problem by turning over eligibility determination to the respective house members, a traditional prerogative in every state and the national government since the birth of the nation. Given the makeup of the assembly and the determination committees derived there from, both houses eventually reported to Meade that all legislators were eligible to take their seats. I do not know what wheeling and dealing and subsequent compromises took place, but without a doubt they occurred. There were 29 Negroes in the house and three in the senate, many illiterate (which could effect their determination, if challenged), countered by a significant portion of ex-Confederates who couldn’t meet the test oath. They dickered, no doubt in my mind—and that is simply my opinion—and Bullock fumed. The conservative alliance that thwarted Brown for the U.S. Senate proved Bullock’s breaking point and his allies in the assembly broached the subject of the test oath. The gloves were off. 

Milton A. Chandler, the Democratic leader in the Senate pointed out that Joseph E. Brown himself had campaigned (probably to ensure its passage) that Georgia’s new “reconstruction” constitution disqualified the Negro from public office, and there were more than enough conservative Republicans in the assembly to back up the sentiment.  

Opponents fired those first salvos in July 1868, and though nothing more appeared to happen regarding the Negro legislators for another two months (not counting the 13 August expulsion of A. Alpeoria Bradley for a felony conviction in New York), it’s my opinion plenty was happening behind the scenes. Given the ratio of Democrats/conservative Republicans to the Radicals, the removal of the ex-Confederate Democrats under the Fourteenth Amendment was the Radicals’ only chance for reducing opposition numbers and replacing them with their own, thus enabling them to enforce their “progressive” agenda on the Georgia taxpayer. The reverse was also true. The only real option the Democrats had to secure their seats was unseating the vulnerable Negro and replacing him with a Democrat. The reader should be reading between the lines at this point—what we see here is what was being played out across the South at the time: The conflict is less about Negro suffrage than it is about Negro suffrage plus disfranchising white Confederate taxpayers. 

In September the Democrats and conservative Republicans expelled all remaining Negroes from the legislature based on race declaring them ineligible for office according to the new constitution and the laws of Georgia—and according to the Constitution and the laws of the United States. I can’t quite get my arms around that last one, given the Fourteenth Amendment had been declared ratified on 9 July, and the Georgia legislature itself, albeit under duress as a requirement for re-entry to the Union, had ratified it on 21 July 1868—with some Democratic votes. [Of course, the nasty thing was never legally ratified and perhaps that was what the Georgia Democrats/conservatives were banking their argument on.]

Democrats in Georgia were operating on borrowed time, damned if they did and damned if they didn’t. As of January 1869, Congress had yet to seat Georgia’s elected representatives. [This is the same time Mississippi’s committees were showing up in town. See my 13 September 2015 post.] Bullock took the issue of the expelled Negroes, along with the standard tales of intimidation and violence, before the Reconstruction Committee in Congress. In the end it was Georgia’s refusal to ratify the Fifteenth Amendment—an ex-post facto requirement to the Reconstruction Acts as a prerequisite for entry in the case of those states still “out”—that did Georgia in. And shock of shocks: It was Bullock’s Radical surrogates in the Georgia senate who orchestrated the thing’s rejection. If Georgia re-entered the Union with the legislature elected in April 1868, Bullock was done for. With the states’ rejection of the Fifteenth Amendment, Congress acted, remitting Georgia to “under construction” [my words] on 22 December 1869. In January 1870, the new commanding general of the Third District, Alfred H. Terry, with the treacherous Bullock in attendance, reassembled the April 1868 legislature, reseated the 29 Negro delegates and administered the test oath to all those Democrats—22 of whom he ended up removing and replacing with their runners-up, Republicans.  

I’ll make short shrift of what happened next for those readers who don’t know, but are curious. With the re-imposition of martial law in his state, it was Bullock now operating on borrowed time. He’d gotten rid of the recalcitrant Democrats, but there wasn’t much he could do about the Scalawags but outvote them, and there were too many of them. In order to continue his antics, he had to maintain military rule. He found an ally in the new chairman of the Reconstruction Committee in Washington, Benjamin “Beast” Butler (who came in with the new Congress in March 1869). By the summer of 1870, however, conservative Republicans (and Democrats) in Congress had grown weary of the delay in readmitting Georgia. Those men teamed up against Butler and seated Georgia’s elected representatives and the two senators elected before the Negroes were expelled (that meant Hill vice Brown). Civil law once again functioning in Georgia, the Democrats swept the December 1870 legislative election (the gubernatorial election was not scheduled until ’73). The new legislature would not meet until 1 November 1871 giving Bullock a year to complete his plunder, then face certain impeachment. On 23 October 1871, his time almost up, he secretly tendered his resignation and fled the state. On 30 October his Radical cohort, senate president B. F. Conley, was sworn in as governor. The Radicals had planned to hold the executive seat until ’73, however, the new legislature drew up a bill calling for a special gubernatorial election in December. Conley vetoed it. The legislature promptly overrode the veto, and in January 1872 James M. Smith, an anti-secessionist who had nevertheless stuck by his state and served gallantly as a Confederate officer through a number of major battles, was sworn in as Georgia’s 33rd governor, ending Reconstruction in Georgia.  

Tennessee, for those of you unfamiliar with the history of this period, was the home state of Vice President/later President Andrew Johnson. By virtue of that unfortunate connection and the state’s early occupation by too many Yankees, the central government foisted a provisional Republican government upon her, under William G. Brownlow, before the war ended. Brownlow’s government ratified the Fourteenth Amendment in 1866 and as its reward, Tennessee was exempted from the Reconstruction Acts of 1867. Tennessee was the first state to return to the Union with all her rights, those being to present the “right” representatives to Congress, where they would be blessed with their seats and proceed to vote the Republican agenda. So, the same dark year the rest of the South had the Reconstruction Acts forced upon it, Tennessee had the dubious honor of “electing” the Radical administration under “Parson” Brownlow, validating that puppet government’s right to exploit its taxpaying citizens and waste their money on liberal programs the people did not sanction. At the same time, the Radicals in Congress, across the North, and infesting the South were patting themselves on the back for the “success” of their program in Tennessee.  

The Tennessee government under Brownlow is the one that Nathan Bedford Forrest allegedly donned ghostly habit to fight in the dead of night. In early 1869, Tennessee’s Radical legislature elected Brownlow to the U. S. Senate, and DeWitt C. Senter succeeded him as governor. In August of 1869, the Republican Party’s conservative rivals—note this, dear reader—Republican Party’s conservative rivals captured the legislature and repealed much of the onerous legislation enacted under five years of “Brownlowism.” Subsequently, the legislature called for a new constitutional convention, which met in January 1870 and framed a new state constitution in less than six weeks. In August of 1870, Republican conservatives and ex-Confederates won the judicial elections and three months later (November) won the gubernatorial and legislative elections, putting former Confederate general John Calvin Brown in Tennessee’s executive mansion. Thus ended the Reconstruction era in Tennessee.  

So, at the time Mississippi’s committee of sixteen was stalking Congress in search of redress, Congressional Radicals had one eye on events on-going in Georgia and Tennessee. Clearly they needed to apply caution to their decisions regarding the yet-to-be “reconstructed” states of Virginia, Texas, and Mississippi, and they needed to apply it prior to the states’ being deemed “reconstructed.”

Next time I’ll briefly look at the impact of “public education” on the course of Reconstruction—and Congress’ new requirements toward the “unreconstructed” states. 

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Black and Tan’s Committee of Five Comes Alive--Like Dr. Frankenstein’s Monster

This post is number twenty-four in a historical series discussing Mississippi’s Whig/Republican governor and senator, James Alcorn, following the War Between the States and continues the “saga” resulting from the Democratic victory over the Republican reconstruction constitution framed during the Black & Tan Convention in the winter/spring of 1868. For earlier posts in this long series based on Alcorn, (best read in sequence from oldest to most recent), start with 17 February, 24 March, 16 April, 17 July, 24 July, 18 September, 9 October, 23 October, 5 November, 22 November, 15 December, 29 December 2014, 13 January, 24 January, 9 February, 24 February, 9  March, 31 March, 8 May, 10 June, 30 June,  3 August, and 30 August 2015.

The investigation promulgated by the committee of five to prove fraud in the June/July 1868 election (see my 30 August post) continued its work for four months. On 3 November its chairman, W. H. Gibbs, ex-major, 15th Illinois Infantry, issued a proclamation from “the rooms of the committee of five, of the Mississippi constitutional convention” reiterating the convention’s processes in framing the rejected constitution under the Reconstruction Acts and concluding that the constitution submitted to a vote of the people that past summer had been duly ratified and the Republican ticket elected. Gibbs and cohorts came up with his “legal” votes cast by throwing out the results of Copiah, Carroll, Chickasaw, De Soto, Lafayette, Rankin, and Yallobusha Counties on account of threats, intimidation, fraud, and violence. He even went so far as to declare five Republican representatives had been elected to the 41st Congress even though elections for that Congress had not been held. Shoot, if you’re writing up your own election results, why not go for broke? The report also declared that a large number of the Democrats elected to the legislature won their seats through fraud.

The provocative statements were modus operandi of the Radicals across the South. Today they are accepted as gospel. Fraud and intimidation occurred on both sides, but given the skewed population at the time and the overwhelming presence of Federal troops and registrars at the polls (and the countryside where trouble was reported), I believe that much of what the Democrats/Conservatives were accused was fabricated, a prevailing thought often alluded to in the Democratic papers at the time. But no matter what the committee of five attempted to hatch, the rejected constitution left Mississippi under military rule. At home, General Gillem was in charge and the case of the rejected constitution, along with allegations of tyranny and fraud against it, were in the hands of a Radical Congress. 

Emboldened by that partisan Congress, Mississippi’s Radicals called for a convention in Jackson on 25 November 1868 and drew up a memorial requesting Congress declare the new constitution ratified, presented causes for the present “embarrassment” of Republicans within the state, and requested permanent relief from Congress—that translated to “remove the disloyal citizens from civil positions and put us in their place.” To justify this takeover of state government, members asserted that a large class of Mississippians was in defiance of authority and the wishes of Congress and that class had rejected all terms for restoration to the Union and assumed the right to dictate the terms under which its members would agree to reenter the Union—the one we supposedly never left.  

In tandem with framing this memorial, the committee of five appointed a committee of six persons from the state at large and two from each of the five congressional districts to proceed to Washington and lay the memorial before Congress and urge readmission of the state. This was the committee of sixteen:

1. State at large:  

R.W. Flourney*
Jonathan Tarbell
Abel Alderson
Alston Mygatt
E. Stafford
F. Hodges 

2. Congressional district representatives: 

First: U. Ozanne, J. L. Alcorn**
Second: W. W. Bell, J. G. Lyons
Third:  George F. Brown, G. W. Van Hook
Fourth:  T. W. Stringer, H. W. Barry
Fifth: E. J. Castello, W. H. Gibbs 

*Flourney was a Southern secessionist who was, by 1867, reputed to be the most Radical Republican in the state.
**Yes, the man who started this series long ago is now a “card-carrying” Radical Republican, at least, in the official sense.

In the meantime, the Republican Party offices in almost every county in the state held mass meetings/conventions and drew up resolutions for the committee of sixteen to set before the Reconstruction Committee in Washington to support Congressional interdiction. In lieu of declaring an all-around Republic victory that past July, options offered were setting up a provisional government in Mississippi (Republicans in charge, of course) or reconstituting the constitutional convention. All these resolutions were printed in the state’s (Republican) newspapers and transmitted to the committee of sixteen in Washington for inclusion with the other material set before the Reconstruction Committee. Doubtless the Democratic newspapers put the word out, too, with fiesty comments, but doubt they sent them to the Reconstruction Committee—to Democratic Representatives in the “loyal states”, perhaps, who did have their seats? 

And with that last comment, it is important to note that events in Mississippi were not occurring in a vacuum. The tyranny wrought by Congressional Reconstruction was no longer meeting simple resistance across the late “insurrectionary states”. Legal recourse for justice to the Southern taxpayer had been routinely thwarted by the powers now residing in Washington, and the result was evolving into a backlash. Events in Georgia and Tennessee had taken such turns that the Radicals in Congress were forced to re-evaluate the terms for readmitting the last three “unreconstructed” states of Virginia, Texas, and Mississippi back into the Union and are important for understanding what happened in Mississippi. Oh what a tangled web casting aside the Constitution had wrought, and the Radicals had no intention of returning to “the law of the land” to sort it all out and repair the situation. To them, the Constitution was a worthless piece of paper to be circumvented and altered (so they could give public homage to it without allowing it to affect their agenda). I will continue with this adjunct in my next post.  

Thanks for reading,



Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Republicans Sort Out the Election of ’68

This post is number twenty-three in a historical series discussing Mississippi’s Whig/Republican governor and senator, James Alcorn, following the War Between the States and picks up with the election in July of 1868 in which Mississippians rejected the progressive constitution framed by the Republican-dominated state constitutional convention. For earlier posts on Alcorn, (best read in sequence from oldest to most recent), start with 17 February, 24 March, 16 April, 17 July, 24 July, 18 September, 9 October, 23 October, 5 November, 22 November, 15 December, 29 December 2014, 13 January, 24 January, 9 February, 24 February, 9  March, 31 March, 8 May, 10 June, 30 June and 3 August 2015 below.


On the eve of Mississippi’s decision on the new state “reconstruction” constitution framed by the Black and Tan Convention in 1868, President Andrew Johnson directed General Irwin McDowell to assume command of the Fourth Military District from General A. C. Gillem. McDowell served from 4 June to 4 July 1868 and issued only one general order of note. That was the removal of Governor B. G. Humphreys and Attorney General Charles E. Hooker from their civil positions. The reason given for their removal was alleged resistance to the Reconstruction Acts, the specific charge being they campaigned against the proposed constitution. 

McDowell appointed Brevet-Major General Adelbert Ames, a lieutenant colonel of the Twenty-fourth Infantry, United States Army, provisional governor and Captain Jasper Myers, United States Army, Attorney General. Ames proceeded immediately to Jackson and sent word to Humphreys asking when the governor could conveniently receive him. Humphreys delayed his response a week, in the interim telegraphing President Johnson and informing him of events. Johnson responded that he did not approve of the governor’s removal and directed Humphreys to inform Ames he disapproved the order. An odd line of communication for the Commander in Chief, don’t you think?  

Based on Johnson’s reply, Humphreys refused to give up the state house or the archives. At this point (23 June 1868) Colonel Biddle, Commander of the military post at Jackson, sent a detail of soldiers to the state house. They took possession and with bayonets refused to let the duly-elected governor enter.  

For some days after his removal from the executive office, Humphreys and his family continued, with Ames’ blessing, to share the governor’s mansion with the new provisional governor. Then the political situation developing as it did (we are now into July and approaching the final day of balloting on the new constitution, and Humphreys was, no doubt, out there stumping against it), the living conditions became untenable for General Ames and he requested the Humphreys family vacate the mansion. Again Humphreys refused stating the Mississippi taxpayer had legally elected him governor to live in a home built with taxpayer money and he’d vacate it once said taxpayer/electorate had chosen a governor. Stubborn old coot wasn’t he? God bless him. [I really think he was trying to make a “justified” scene.] But alas, the military was again called in and the family forcibly removed from the mansion. It was Humphreys’ persistent hostility to the proposed “Republican” constitution that drove Ames’ desire to enforce his perceived right to sole occupancy of the mansion. He wrote his final letter to Humphreys on 10 July, the final day of the election. The announcement of the glorious Republican defeat doubtlessly colored Ames’ mood. Recall that he was married to Benjamin Butler’s daughter—“Beast” Butler, infamous for his tyrannical and/or sloppy and corrupt occupation of New Orleans (and other places from where he routinely gave Lincoln cause to remove him). Also, with the rejection of the constitution, it looked like Ames would be provisional governor for a while. 

But answer me this, if any of you out there have an answer. Why was Gillem replaced for a month by Irwin McDowell who issued the order to remove Humphreys from the executive office? Remember, this is occurring after Johnson has lost the power struggle with the Radicals in Congress over the direction of Reconstruction. Then McDowell, the man Johnson put in place, orders Ames into the governorship and Humphreys out. But when Humphreys queries Johnson on the matter, Johnson tells the governor—not either of his subordinates (well, I guess he might have told McDowell by other correspondence—like through his Commanding General of the Army, Grant, or his new Secretary of War, (General) John Schofield, both of whom were not only in positions to, but were quite capable of telling Irwin McDowell to countermand the order had they been so inclined). Theoretically, Johnson as Commander in Chief should have been able to straighten this mess out with a word, but he was a lame duck, and I’m not convinced anyone in the military was listening to him any longer. I only point all this out, because it is so telling of how great the tyranny wielded by Congress when the Radicals appear to be in control of the military. At least that’s how I’m seeing it. Grant, of course, is their choice to be the next Republican nominee for president. No doubt he knew which side of the bread his butter was on. 

Then suddenly, on 4 July, Gillem (Johnson’s man apparently, and I do know Gillem was from Tennessee) is back in the commander’s chair in time for the defeat of the constitution/Republican ticket in the state election. Ha, maybe the dark, shadowy figures pulling whatever strings were being pulled should have left McDowell there longer—but a good part of the polling happened under McDowell’s watch.
We know that as of November 1867 there were 139,327 eligible voters in Mississippi. In June/July 1868, 56,231 votes were cast in favor of the new progressive constitution and 63,860 votes against. That’s a total of 120,091 votes cast or an 86% turnout rate, which is a good turnout by any period’s standards I would think. 

Humphreys defeated the Radical contender B. B. Eggleston for governor by 8,000 votes and the Democrats won 66 of the 138 legislative seats (48%), 12 of the victorious legislators were black. Only one of them, Reverend T. W. Stringer, a minister with the African Methodist Episcopal Church from Ohio, via Canada, who at the time of his election resided in Vicksburg, was elected to the Senate.  

As soon as it recovered from the shock of defeat, the constitutional convention’s self-appointed committee of five , the chairman being W. H. Gibbs, ex-major, Fifteenth Illinois Infantry, went to work to ascertain the results and vacate the Democratic victory. The committee directed the commissioners it had appointed at each polling booth to obtain reports and concluded that fraud and intimidation had occurred in a number of counties and appointed a sub-committee to confer with General Gillem from whom they requested a full investigation. General Gillem responded he had already had an army officer—with troops—investigate each reported incident of fraud before and during the election. In addition, the army had been present at each polling booth along with the constitutional convention’s commissioners assigned to “oversee” the election (see my 3 August post near the bottom). Gillem reported to the Secretary of War (Stanton had resigned and the aforementioned John Schofield had assumed the post) that fraud had occurred on both sides, but under the circumstances, incidents were minimal given the situation in Mississippi. I will discuss the rebuttal to the Radicals’ charges of fraud and intimidation in my future discussion of the Butler Bill before the House during which James Beck of Kentucky conducts a detailed defense of Mississippi’s defeat of the onerous constitution. 

In the wake of Gillem’s refusal to investigate further—read that as “in the wake of Gillem’s refusal to declare fraud where there was none,” the frustrated “committee of five” decided to perform its own investigation and to withhold its proclamation until the results were known. In the interim, it forwarded a long report to the congressional Reconstruction Committee in Washington two days before Gibbs’ registrars had completed the initial investigation. The committee of five was apparently attempting to head off Gillem’s report. What did the facts matter? The party line was the same across the Southern states, and the investigators cited the same-ole, same-ole threats of job loss, intimidation, murder, social proscription, and so forth. They planned to create the supporting documentation for their allegations in the near term. 

After putting the report in the mail, the committee of five opened its own investigation—remember, they’d given themselves this “right” in wrapping up the Black and Tan Convention. This is the point in time members meant to come up with the documentation to support the “validated” allegations they’d just sent off to Congress. They rented rooms in the capital, acquired stationery at state expense and gave themselves $10.00 a day per diem for their self-imposed services. General Gillem wasn’t pleased with the committee. First, he’d already investigated, and second, prior to the election he’d countenanced their insistence of having three commissioners of their own at each polling place during the election even though the Reconstruction Acts had specified the commanding general would appoint officers or persons to act as commissioners. 

Needless to say, the committee was overwhelmed with disappointed office seekers claiming fraud and terror. Hundreds of affidavits were given—most marked with an “x” —claiming intimidation had swayed their vote or kept them from the polling booth completely. These affidavits were made by Negroes from all over the state. The affidavits were drawn up behind closed doors, and the Democrats were not given the opportunity to cross-examine, rebut, or even see the reports subsequently forwarded to Washington.  

What the committee of five hoped—indeed, they went so far as to request—was that Congress declare a Republican victory, approve the Constitution, and bring Mississippi back into the Union with them and their cohorts in charge. For days before Gillem’s report arrived in Washington, men claiming to represent the committee of five hung around the doors of the Reconstruction Committee offices advocating just that.  

Who these individuals were, I do not know—probably part of the Republican mob set in place for such occurrences. They didn’t necessarily even have to be from Mississippi or the South—just agents in waiting to support the puppets in place throughout the South. All of this is just my opinion and based on nothing but the fact they were there immediately in the wake of the defeat at a time that predated air travel. Telegrams were speedy, though, as was prior planning. 

I will continue the efforts of the committee of five in my next post. 

Thanks for reading. 



Monday, August 3, 2015

“Insuring” Self-Aggrandizing Progressivism at the Taxpayer’s Expense

This post is number twenty-two in a historical series discussing Mississippi’s Whig/Republican governor and senator, James Alcorn, following the War Between the States and is the fourth and final installment of a subset discussing the Mississippi Constitutional Convention of 1868, known derisively as the “Black and Tan” Convention. For earlier posts, jump forward to “Detailing the Black and Tan Convention of 1868” and scroll up.


Well into its second month, Mississippi’s 1868 Constitutional Convention formed a committee of fifteen to write a new constitution for the state of Mississippi. The committee was to report back in three days. A motion was made to annotate the old constitution to allow for the abolition of slavery and civil rights. Since the abolition of slavery had been addressed in the 1865 constitution this suggestion may be the result of the Thirteenth Amendment and looming Fourteenth both of which the state had rejected as unconstitutional infringements by Congress on state rights. It didn’t matter, the motion was laid on the table, the consensus being Mississippi’s new constitution should be as different from the old as possible. 

As regards the written constitution itself, the subjects of greatest importance were qualifications for office and suffrage. I have previously established that the primary objective of the majority making up this convention was to secure state civil government positions for themselves and their adherents. Eventually, they would get them and for seven long years this group of mostly non-taxpaying usurpers, sustained by the vulnerable and uneducated...and the downright corrupt, would pilfer the public coffers and force legitimate Mississippians from their homes and their history. Yes, such is the misfortune of war, but do not attempt to justify it under the Constitution of the United States as a holy quest for equal rights to the long aggrieved, and do not countenance the bloody counter-offensive as the objective of white supremacists. The struggle was nothing less than a prolonged and bloody determination on the part of the South to rid itself of a contagion determined to wipe it out. In that, at least, the North failed. 

Off my soapbox.

Discussions on the new constitution would continue from the end of February until the end of April. On 29 February (45 days into the convention—they didn’t work Sundays) the delegates began to hold night sessions. On day 66, Aaron Moore, a Negro delegate from Lauderdale County suggested that since the body was made up of generals, majors, captains, farmers, lawyers, ministers, blacksmiths, and preachers they needed to get to work and frame a constitution or go home.  

On day 86, a franchise article was adopted by the majority delegates. The Democratic majority did make a strong effort to disfranchise the majority of illiterate black voters and actual physical fights occurred during the course of the framing. The majority of delegates on both sides were armed, but to the best of my knowledge, no shootings/killings took place—not then anyway. But despite the assumption that it was the minority Democrats’ failure to disfranchise what they perceived as ignorant, non-taxpayers as not qualified to vote, it was the odious, wholesale disqualification of taxpayers who had supported the Confederacy that was the root cause of discord. The clause entered into Mississippi’s “progressive” constitution by the Republican majority at the convention was more binding and ever-lasting than what was in the unconstitutional Fourteenth Amendment. That amendment may have disqualified men from forever holding office in Mississippi, but at least did, eventually, return their vote to them. The clause in the proposed constitution stated they would never hold office or vote again, unless they had supported the Reconstruction Acts or were from the North—and to show their fealty they had to take the iron-clad oath. In other words, those who supported the Reconstruction Acts of 1867, becoming by that distinction card-carrying scalawags, and took the oath could vote and hold office—ignoring the fact that their taking the oath was perjurious. A Democrat, or anyone for that matter, who did not support the Reconstruction Acts (meaning he did not support the Republican Party) could not vote or hold office, whether or not he took the oath of allegience to the United States; in fact, his perjury would have been noted, and he would have been disqualified. [See the eighth point below under the “wrapping-up phase of the convention.”]

Really? No one fit to call themselves American should have supported the patently unconstitutional Reconstruction Acts. This disqualification is the “odious” portion of the constitution that Alcorn would shortly after say, while stumping in favor of this thing, “we can change that part later.”  

Among the more significant of many resolutions made during the wrapping up of the convention were: 

-All acts of the 1865 constitutional convention were null and void. 

-Appointment of a committee of fifteen to consider moving the state capitol from Jackson to Kosciusko (a lovely little hamlet in Attala County situated, at the time, 25 miles from the nearest railroad). The committee voted to leave the capitol at Jackson until 1875, then move it to Kosciusko. That never happened, of course, and I’d hazard to guess that Kosciusko is forever thankful, because today it remains a lovely little hamlet. 

-Forbade forever the adoption of property qualifications for suffrage. 

-Forbade slavery or servitude except for crime. 

-Denied the right of a state to withdraw from the Union. 

-Denied the distinguishing between classes of people for anything. 

-Forbade the denial of folks for travel on public conveyances. 

-And memorialized to Congress for the removal of political disabilities on 130 persons because they were needed to fill positions in the “party.”  One of Mississippi’s radical delegates subsequently wrote to Indiana’s Radical Speaker of the U.S. House, Schuyler Colfax, who was soon to be President Grant’s vice president, clarifying the matter: “...[I]t is of great importance to us that their disabilities be removed so that the reward of loyalty may be seen and felt. They have all done us great service, and are still at work fighting valiantly side by side with the best and truest radicals of the party. We want them for office.” Though this was the largest number of names submitted at one time, such requests to Congress for the removal of disabilities on “new-born” Southern scalawags pepper the journal. 

The constitutional convention of 1868 was in session for 115 days, adjourning 18 May. Its cost proved exorbitant at a time when the people of the state could least afford the extravagance of self-aggrandizing politicians. The costs given below are in 1868 dollars. See the table below comparing the costs of Mississippi’s other constitutional conventions for a clearer cost of what was forced on the taxpayer by today’s standards. 

Per diem for the delegates: $116,150 

Pay for employees and hangers-on: $150,000 

Payments to four newly formed Republican newspapers used to print proceedings: 

  -Mississippi State Journal  $13,924  

  -Vicksburg Republican  $6,910 

  -Meridian Chronicle  $5428 

  -Mississippi Pilot  $2255 (Jackson)

This does not include the printing of the 800 pages comprising the convention journal, of which 2500 were ordered. I wondered why so many were printed, goodness knows such things do not make entertaining reading, but as it turns out the things were/are distributed to pertinent conservatories nationwide and to libraries across the state, (and then the delegates get their honorary copies and archives gets its copy, etc., etc.) I’m assuming, therefore, this is standard procedure for all states throughout the history of the nation. In further defense of these delegates, the order appeared to be the standard for all Mississippi’s prior convention journals. In 1890, only 1000 copies were ordered of which 250 were leather bound. 

And here’s that comparative review of Mississippi’s other Constitutional conventions (less the 1817 convention when Mississippi entered the Union):

Year                                        Days in Session                         Cost (today’s money) 

1832                                               29 

1861                                               23

1865                                               11                                       $14,050 ($203, 623) 

1868                                              115                                      $275,500 ($4,591,667) 

1890                                                71                                      $53,760 ($1,414,737)

In all conventions listed above, the cost of printing the journal proceedings is excluded. 

On top of the convention cost in 1868, the taxpayers of Mississippi were now responsible for the upcoming expense of registering the electorate and the subsequent election that would deny or ratify this “progressive” constitution—as it turned out, not once, but twice.

Before adjourning, this convention made elaborate provisions for the upcoming election (the first one. The delegates hadn’t expected the need for a second one): 

The election was to begin 22 June and would go for several days in order to give every man the opportunity to cast his ballot. General Gillem was responsible for determining the duration of the election (as we now know it ended 10 July). 

At the same time the electorate made a decision on the constitution, it would elect new state officers, a new legislature, and members of Congress. 

The new legislature was to meet on the second Monday following promulgation of the Constitution and immediately ratify the 14th Amendment. (This was a prerequisite to reentering a Union we didn’t want to be part of and the North/Federal government said we never left). Not only was/is the amendment unconstitutional, so is the requirement a state had to ratify it prior to “readmission.” The legislature would have no power until that requirement was met—and the legislators would not be paid. How’s that for incentive, folks! 

Getting into the nitty-gritty, this group gave itself general supervision of the arrangements for holding the upcoming election on the new constitution/government for the state (22 June – 10 July 1868): 

   (1) It would ascertain the result 

   (2) It would make a proclamation regarding the result 

   (3) It was empowered to sit during the adjournment of the convention and exercise all powers “necessary to carry into effect the purposes of the Reconstruction Acts.” 

   (4) It provided to itself the authority to appoint three commissioners for each county to attend the election and be present at the counting of the votes. (That’s three commissioners for 61 counties and their pay was $6 per day for 17 days.). That comes out, by my calculations to $9,764 to be paid from that convention fund created by the pillaging of Mississippi’s taxpayers. 

   (5) And the committee of five was herein empowered to reconvene the convention in the event of defeat. 

Read those five points again, paying special attention to (4) and (5). These men had full control of the election, and the army stood behind them (General Order #19 signed by Brevet Major General Alvin C. Gillem, U.S.A.). Only when the votes were counted and they’d actually lost did they cry foul and go back to their “so-called” constituents, beating the bushes in order to create a litany of “abused” voices crying the same rehearsed words and collecting hundreds of “x-marked” affidavits from the same, who now claimed threats and intimidation kept them from freely casting their votes. 

And now, point (5), which brings us full circle to that “committee of five” that started this sub-series. The committee did not “reconvene” the convention, it convened itself and ultimately created the infamous committee of sixteen, the purpose of which was to lobby Congress to vacate the Democratic victory in Mississippi and put the Republican agenda in motion. James Lusk Alcorn was a member of the committee of sixteen. It is his first official participation as a member of the Republican Party in Mississippi.  

As we shall see, the great and wise Republican leaders in Washington couldn’t just “vacate” the results of an election over which their minions had complete control...and lost. That would smack too much of tyranny. No, what was needed here was “finesse.” 

I will pick up with Alcorn and the “committee of sixteen” next time.  

Thanks for reading,