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, 




Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Paying for the Black and Tan Convention—Part 3

This post is number twenty-one in a historical series discussing Mississippi’s Whig/Republican governor and senator, James Alcorn, following the War Between the States and is the third in a subset discussing the Mississippi Constitutional Convention of 1868, known derisively as the “Black and Tan” Convention. For the two earlier posts on this topic see 8 May and 10 June 2015 respectively.

The other genuine matter the delegates needed to address was how to pay for the convention, a valid matter rendered ludicrous given the focus on matters not in the convention’s charter, most significantly its attempts at role playing as a legislative body, which it was not.

The United States government, under the demands of the Reconstruction Acts, paid for the registration of Mississippi’s electorate (see my 24 Feb 2015 post below) and the cost of the November election which called for a constitutional convention. At that point, costs reverted to the bankrupt state government.  

Lest the reader think that the destitute South was being supported by an overly burdened Northern tax base, understand that subsidizing the tyrannical bureaucracy created by the present occupiers of the South, and maintained in place by military force, came from the South’s hide. Payments made to support a displaced populace that refused to return to work and the day-to-day operation of institutions such as our insane asylum and penitentiary (nominally provided for by the Federal government) were offset by the sale of abandoned land and conscripted property. The biggest complaint the North could make toward the tax burden, is that Federal application of such confiscation toward maintaining Southern civil governments left the North with less of the plunder to put toward the “internal improvements” reserved for itself.   

One white democratic delegate at the convention motioned that a $2.50 poll tax be applied to every voter. That would have netted $348,317.50. Since the convention assessed, at the start, that $100,000.00 would be required to carry out its duties, this sum should have been more than adequate. However, the delegates (including the fella who made the motion, no doubt) realized the voters, at least the ones whose votes the Radicals needed, would not pay that poll tax—just like they didn’t pay it for generations after this period passed. The dominate party at this convention had no intention of “hitting up” those who benefited from the process. 

Other schemes included: 

-the issuing of state warrants to be made receivable in payment of taxes and other dues made to the state  

-send a committee of three to meet with the President, present the true state of affairs, and ask for a loan of $100,000 (Really, folks?)

The “committee” finally decided on a “finance committee” to frame an ordinance for levying a tax on the real and personal property in the state, thereby shifting the burden onto the shoulders of Mississippi’s taxpayer who received little consideration at the hands of this group. Those, who members referred to as “loyal” citizens, did not contribute enough to pay doorkeepers and pages hired to open the doors for these pompous delegates making up the convention. On 26 January, 1868, the chairman of the finance committee asked General Gillem if such a tax was proposed by the convention, would civil authorities be prevented from collecting it. General Gillem responded such a tax would not be prohibited as long as it conformed to the Reconstruction Acts. 

Perhaps a little time would have been saved if General Gillem had set forth more qualifiers or if the finance committee had been more forthright with him as to what it regarded as real and moveable property. What the convention produced was an elaborate tax ordinance made up of 36 sections taxing everything and everyone imaginable:  

-Auction stores, distilleries, livery stales, coal yards, carriage factories, bounty agents, gun smiths, banks, exchange brokers, street vendors, express and telegraph offices, grist mills, cotton gins, ferries, bridges, turnpikes, billiard tables, photograph galleries, insurance agencies... 

-Newspapers (a daily, $50.00; tri-weekly, $30.00; weekly, $20.00; printing offices, $25.00 each).  

-Five of Mississippi’s railroads were taxed $200.00 each; three $50.00 each; and all others $10.00 each). However, by virtue of their state charters, all railroads were exempt from taxation until 1874. 

-Every bale of cotton was taxed 50 cents. As of the time the Finance Committee proposed this tax, the federal tax on cotton was still in effect. It was repealed in March of this year (1866). 

-A special tax equivalent to one-third of the state tax was levied on all real and movable property. In other words, folks were taxed a third again on what they were already paying to the state. 

To collect these taxes, the convention proposed special tax collectors, one for each county (the counties already had sheriffs for that), who would be compensated five percent of all the money they collected. Gibbs pushed through a motion exempting these collectors from placing bonds. Anybody else reading the truth in the objective here? This group of special collectors was vested with extraordinary powers:
--to take oaths

--if not satisfied as to the amount of the taxpayers’ assets, the collector could assess and collect whatever he deemed just. There was no limit on his “judgment” and the taxpayer was given only five days to come up with the required assessment. 

The convention passed the code, and a committee of taxpayers immediately confronted Gillem, claiming the code violated the Reconstruction Acts . The Reconstruction Acts had authorized the constitutional convention to lay a tax on the property of the state for defraying the cost of the convention.  

General Gillem took no action, but told the taxpayer committee to seek redress in the U.S. District Court. The taxpayer committee applied to Judge R. A. Hill, an old-line Whig from Tishomingo County who was elected probate judge in 1858 and continued in that capacity until Provisional Governor Sharkey in the spring/summer of 1865 appointed him chancellor of his district. Judge Hill opposed secession, but supported his people. He was respected and trusted by Unionist and Secessionist alike. In 1866, President Johnson, who knew him personally, appointed him a U.S. District Judge for Mississippi. He is technically considered a scalawag, but since the Unionists and Secessionists (and I’m talking Mississippi’s Unionists and Secessionists here) both continued to respect and trust him throughout Reconstruction, the approbation might be considered unfair. That aside, the taxpayer committee asked Judge Hill for an injunction to prohibit collection of the tax. The judge said he had no jurisdiction—I’m assuming he considered it a “state” matter between the taxpayer and the “constitutional convention”, though obviously the taxpayer is claiming violation of Article 8 of the Reconstruction Acts, which was most definitely federal. My limited research on Judge Hill indicates he played an active role in the convention of 1868, but that information does not state how he leaned. His refusal here to help the Mississippi taxpayer may or may not be telling. Perhaps, he really didn’t  have jurisdiction—it was, after all, the army officer who sent the taxpayer in his direction. 

Failing in the federal court, the taxpayer committee applied to a state circuit judge who granted the injunction. At this point, the state’s taxpayers (everybody with property) made it known, they would not pay these taxes unless the military under General Gillem approved the collection under the Reconstruction Acts. On 12 February, the convention made a resolution regarding the action of the state court and the hostility of the people and the press and requested Gillem publish an order forbidding action by the state court and direct the people to pay their taxes.  

Committee delegate, General McKee (carpetbagger), approached General Gillem on 13 February. General Gillem needed time to study the code. The delay prompted the constitutional convention to draft a resolution to General Grant requesting he direct General Gillem to enforce the convention’s tax code. This particular telegram took up 13 full lines of typed text in the journal, so goodness only knows what that telegram cost the Mississippi taxpayer, made all the more obscene in that it was petty, belittling, and beneath a group of individuals who had come together to write a state constitution. The action spoke volumes about the statesmanship of these small men.  

I’m not sure if Grant ever said anything to Gillem. Certainly he backed his general, who responded on 19 February that his review of the convention’s tax code found it in violation of the guidelines set forth by the Reconstruction Acts. The convention had not restricted itself to levying taxes on property, but had resorted to taxing persons, privileges, and franchises; it had made some taxes retrospective; and had created a new tax-collection system for the state by establishing collectors unfamiliar with the laws of the state, who were not required to make bonds, and created a special treasurer who was to receive and disburse the money collected. Gillem said that this tax code would net $300,000 for a matter only requiring $100,000. General Gillem blessed only that special “one-third-again” state tax; specified the county sheriffs would be responsible for collecting the taxes; and directed the state treasurer to distribute the money (to the convention). 

The additional state tax would have been bad enough, but the convention, now aware of Gillem’s boundaries, on 27 February proposed a special tax of fifty percent of the 1867 state tax on all property and a special tax of one and a half percent on the value of stock belonging to all dry goods stores, groceries, drug stores, and all other personal property regardless of nature and a fifty cent tax on every bale of cotton in the state. The convention gave sheriffs ten days to collect the tax. Gillem approved these taxes, but gave the sheriffs thirty days to carry out their duties. So in essence, the convention got a large percentage of what they originally proposed, short of actually getting their hands on the money.

At this point, the state’s railroads (The Meridian-Vicksburg took the lead) strode in and pointed out to General Gillem an 1854 state charter that exempted them from taxation until 1874. General Gillem, on the advice of his Staff Judge Advocate, Colonel Goodfellow, and the Mississippi High Court of Appeals, honored the state charter.  

Benjamin Orr was appointed by the committee to broach the railroad issue with General Gillem, and on day 113 (of the 115 day convention), Orr told Gillem the constitutional convention did not recognize state laws granted by the state legislature. The convention, according to Orr, had the same power to tax as did the Congress of the United States and if the railroad tax was not collected the deficiency would amount to roughly $50,000 (I’m thinking this figure is more bluff than fact) and the convention would have to delay its “contemplated adjournment” or meet again in ten days, which would greatly increase the expense of the convention. [What a wholly unsubtle attempt at goon-like extortion.] Gillem stuck by his guns regarding the railroads, but he’d already blessed the rest of the tyranny. Naturally, most county sheriffs did not want to collect the additional tax on people already struggling and some proved hesitant to do so. The convention supplied Gillem with a list of recalcitrant sheriffs, and he put the word out to do their jobs or lose them. The taxes were collected.
Near the closing day of the convention, the majority of the delegates resolved that at its first regular session, the new legislature, under the “new” constitution, would provide payment for all outstanding warrants. Further, it gave to the new legislature (which they foresaw would be comprised primarily of themselves, since most of the delegates’ names would shortly thereafter appear on the Republican ballot in some capacity) the power to enforce the collection of all outstanding taxes levied by the convention that remained unpaid. This group had no doubt it would be elected to govern Mississippi under the new constitution it had framed. And why not? It had enfranchised a constituency consisting of the majority of “new” citizens and disfranchised the taxpayer who it now intended to bleed dry in the name of democracy and freedom for all—all the while making Mississippi at least modestly worthy of occupying a place within the glorious Union. Of course, that could only be accomplished under Radical Republican leadership spawned in the North, because Southerners were not fit to govern a state. 

For earlier posts on Alcorn, (best read in sequence from oldest to most recent), start with 17 February 2014, 24 March, 16 April, 17 July, 24 July, 18 September, 9 October, 23 October, 5 November, 22 November, 15December, 29 December 2014, 13 January, 24 January, 9 February, 24 February, 9  March, 31 March, 8 May, and 10 June 2015 all provided below.



Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Making Mississippi a Real “American” State Like Those in the North, The “Black and Tan Convention”, Part 2

This post is number twenty in a historical series discussing Mississippi’s Whig/Republican governor and senator, James Alcorn, following the War Between the States and is the second in a subset discussing the Mississippi Constitutional Convention of 1868, known derisively as the “Black and Tan” Convention.

President of Mississippi’s Union League Allston Mygatt opened the Reconstruction constitutional convention on 9 January 1868. According to the 1860 census, Mygatt had been born in New York and was at that time a “preacher” residing in Vicksburg. He also had a nineteen-year-old daughter who had been born in Wisconsin from which one might deduce he moved his family to Vicksburg sometime after 1841. He feebly supported the Confederacy until the fall of Vicksburg (4 July 1863) at which time he apparently became a born-again “Union” man.  

Eighty-three delegates answered to the roll call. A Negro delegate representing Harrison County, Benjamin H. Orr, Esq., was unable to produce evidence of his appointment, however, he was allowed to take his seat and a committee was formed to validate his credentials, which it did—uncovering that Mr. Orr had become a candidate for delegate under General Order #196 issued by General Ord. Subsequent research revealed that back in May 1867, Orr had been appointed one of General Ord’s original registrars in Harrison County, when, under the Reconstruction Acts, General Ord had registered the electorate of “loyal”, oops, excuse me, “qualified” voters. (See my 24 Feb 2015 post below.). Harrison County on the Mississippi Gulf Coast was not one of the counties with a Negro majority.  

Mr. Orr’s use of the title Esq., once exclusive to the English gentry, is interesting. At first blush, it could indicate he was a lawyer (unlikely given the time period and place—that being the United States of America of the 1860’s), since it is primarily that group which still uses the archaic title in the United States. Subsequent research indicates hostellers also used the title. Mr. Orr was very active in the convention and years later, after the Reconstruction period ended, he was shot in Pass Christian (Harrison County). I’ve tried, but so far have been unable to turn up any information regarding the “who” and “why” surrounding his demise.

After the roll call, Mr. Mygatt made his introductory remarks—and I paraphrase here—the long-looked-for hour has come bringing to a close a period of Mississippi history which the disloyal press has long sought to suppress and loyal men now hasten to bring about. He then ticked off the offensive items attributed to the Democratic Party (and the old slave power) that enriches the few at expense of the many, hindered the growth of cities and towns, built large landed aristocracies, discouraged agricultural improvements and mechanic arts, destroyed free schools, and lastly demoralized church and state.  

Now I’m not sure what he meant by demoralized church and state, but him being a preacher, I’m sure he had his opinions. As far as the other points, he’s speaking of the state’s refusal to embrace the progressive Northern agenda. That agenda requires taxes. Taxes feed government, which gets hungrier, then fatter with every initiative it takes to “improve” the lot of its people by controlling, eventually, every aspect of their lives. It was a system that produced large industrialized, filthy, crime-ridden cities seeded with poor immigrants who didn’t have “free” housing or “free” medical provided by employers who paid them just enough to live in squalor and manage to eat, while high tariffs protected Northern industry at the expense, not only of the South, but also Northern workers forced to pay higher prices for goods. The affluent enjoyed the benefits of taxation in the nicer parts of town or in the suburbs—talk about enriching the few at the expense of the many! There’s an argument to be made against the growth of big cities, and I can’t help but wonder why Mygatt left the North and came to Vicksburg when things were so much better back where he came from.

And that part about Southerners discouraging agricultural improvements has always stuck in my craw. This senseless and hateful criticism of the South predates the Republic and is not an original thought on the part of Mygatt. As time crawled forward, it became linked to slavery—the wealth created by slave power allowed the waste. What waste? Southerners cleared and farmed land for more than a century and a half before the Revolution. The story is we moved west after we depleted the land. Well, yes, depletion happened for one crop, but it was replaced with another. Oh wait! Perhaps I’ve been hasty in my rebuttal. That probably explains the deserted seaboards and ghost “cities” of Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia! Of course, what was I thinking?  

Yes, that’s sarcasm you “hear” in my writing. The answer isn’t complicated. The South, by virtue of its agrarian economy was successful. Mother England did so appreciate success in her colonies. Success brought the South influence, which translated to some degree of power, and the colonies to the north didn’t like it. That land didn’t become fallow for pity’s sake. If they in the North were so enlightened when it came to agricultural improvement, what was their reason for moving west? Growth? Why is the term “growth” used for the North while we in the South are depicted as a bunch of locusts? Is it because with our expansion we continued to “deplete” fertile land when we could have been polluting it with industry like our Northern neighbors? The truth is the Puritans crash-landed in Massachusetts and didn’t have much in the way of soil to work with from the git-go. The “friendly” natives blocked rapid expansion west (not to mention the seaboard was their tie to the motherland). They had no choice but to figure out ways to keep their soil producing or they’d have starved. All that is commendable, but petty jealousies of the South’s agricultural success are not. We had the fertile land, and we farmed it; we had cities and ports that met our needs; and we had a society rich in culture and history that reflected it. Those who were unable or unwilling to make a living from the land, turned their pursuits elsewhere. 

I know I’m beating a dead horse here, but what prompted the above diatribe is the insufferable attitude flaunted by men such as Mygatt. What it boiled down to was the kind of government the respective people chose to live under. Southerners wanted little government interference in their lives—safety and defense and managing trade, and most especially a government that left the fruits of folks’ labor in the hands of the folks themselves to make their own damn improvements as they saw fit. Such improvements as the people chose were decided in state legislatures, composed of men chosen by the taxpayers. For this we were denigrated as backwards and ignorant.  

Northerners chose state governments that gave elected officials the power to provide for internal improvements constructed and/or organized and paid for by the “state”. That meant taxation and a cache of “everybody’s money” (and a greater potential for malfeasance that comes with it—I have no delusions regarding such occurrences in Dixie, but the less money available for exploitation by politicians, both legal and illegal, the less the chance of misuse). There’s a price to be paid for all that “progress and enlightenment” and the “backwards and the ignorant” knew it. States were sovereign and their choices were their own, but by 1868, choice had been taken from the South by an unjustified war and a central government, blessed by the Northern voter in the elections of 1866, that regarded the Constitution as putty to be reformed according to its will. 

These points as causes for the violent struggle waged by Southerners to wrest control of their states from the profligate usurpers who pillaged the Southern populace during Reconstruction are, for the most part, missing from the popular dialogue on the subject today, causes being relegated to the denial of civil rights for the freedman. But that denial of civil rights was and is a smokescreen to deny the Constitutional rights once afforded sovereign states.  

Malfeasance and corruption were legion during that time period [like now], but one doesn’t even have to address them—except, perhaps, to point out that corruption (legal and illegal) is one of the consequences of a “progressive” agenda—to see that what was at stake was much greater than pilfering the taxpayer’s money. It was the Republic itself. Even laying that to one side, the holier-than-thou attitude that Northern self-righteousness be foisted upon the Southerner because he was too stupid to know how un-American he was is reason enough, in my opinion, to justify the Southerner’s push back against such self-aggrandizing tyranny. Racism and civil rights are merely watchwords to mask the underlying battle between a strong central government and state rights, the now decaying cement of our lost Republic. These are the truths advocates for a strong central government want forgotten, thus the emphasis on racism/civil rights to the near total omission of state sovereignty, constitutionality, and federalism. 

On a less opinionated note, I’d like to make another comment regarding Mr. Mygatt’s introductory remarks, “...and loyal men now hasten to bring about.” That would be a follow-on reference to the long awaited hour for disposing of the “disloyal” men. The majority of delegates making up that convention were in no hurry to complete their new, progressive constitution. Their focus was on taking over the state’s civil government, and every wasted day of their “elaborate” convention was paid for by struggling taxpayers—the very people they were hell-bent to rule for the good of all.  

Subsequent to Mr. Mygatt’s remarks, General Eggleston, U.S.A., was elected president of the convention, Thad P. Sears, another “ex” of the Grand Army of the Republic, the secretary. The convention’s first order of business was to determine the compensation to these delegates for their role in reconstructing Mississippi into a state worthy to reside in a United States now freed from the onerous Southern pestilence.  

Mr. Field, of Lowndes County, suggested that, “in order to expedite business and quicken consciences,” delegates pay their own expenses. That was tabled. [From perusing more of the journal pages, I’ve deduced that Mr. Field was probably a Democrat or ex-Democrat turned conservative scalawag.  

[The make-up of Mississippi’s Republican “scalawags” between 1867 and 1875 runs the gamut from Radical to ex-Democrats/Union Whigs who, like Alcorn, believed economic recovery could only be achieved through the Republican Party now in control of the national government. Scalawags are, in fact, an interesting group and will make a nice subject for a separate post or two down the road, as well as fodder for fictional tales.]   

At that point a vote was taken to form a committee to fix salaries for the convention delegates. This was eventually fixed at $10.00 a day ($166.67 in today’s money*) for each delegate plus 40¢ per mile for gas (Just kidding. The term used was “mileage” and that 40¢ computes to $6.67, by the way). Some delegates ended up collecting up to $240.00 ($4,000.00 today) for mileage. The average was $160.00 ($2666.67 today). Having some idea as to the distances to the capitol from various points in the state, I’m thinking this payment would have been compensation for one round trip only. 

Less than 12 of the delegates who voted themselves this compensation were landowners (therefore taxpayers) in Mississippi. There were 47 yea votes and 29 nays. If one gives this group the full benefit of 12 taxpayers [I got that figure from James Garner’s Reconstruction in Mississippi. How am I supposed to take ‘less than 12’?] that leaves 35 non-taxpaying delegates deciding how much their services were worth to the tax-payers of the state.  

A quick aside here: I know 47 + 29 does not add up to 100 delegates (the number of delegates allowed by General Ord, see my 8 May 2015 post immediately below), but perusal of the journal indicates attendance averaged seventy-five percent (give or take) daily. 

Compensation for the convention was not the problem, neither was it unprecedented nor unjustified. The problem was its being paid to men who were not representative of the people paying taxes and who displayed a decided lack of frugality in their expenditures and lack of responsiveness in quickly carrying out the duties assigned in their charter. This was pointed out by Dr. W. M. Compton, a Democratic delegate (do recall there were 30 such representatives there) from Marshall County. He resolved: “ as much as a large and influential class had been disfranchised, and a large class who had never been citizens were enfranchised, a majority of the delegates on the floor were not entitled to their seats, and therefore the assembly was illegal and not entitled to compensation.” His resolution, of course, was voted down amid shouts Dr. Compton be expelled. Undeterred he offered that after 20 days, no delegate should receive more than $5.00 per day per diem. Amid cries of insult to the convention, a counter resolution was offered asking Dr. Compton to withdraw and pay his own expenses. He was then censured and granted a leave of absence of 14 days. With the exposure of such discord in the midst of this “long awaited hour”, a committee was formed by the afflicted “aspirants for the new age” to ascertain if any member was opposed to Reconstruction or who believed the convention unconstitutional.  

Really, they needed a committee for that? The convention pursuant to the actions of Congress that forced it upon the state of Mississippi was unconstitutional, plain and simple. But what did constitutionality have to do with the price of tea in China? The Constitution had not mattered since 1861. Still, there can be little doubt such motions made to counter ones which Democrats believed in excess of the convention’s charter or frugality (and there were plenty of them) were purposefully disruptive. 

In addition to the delegates’ pay, the convention hired thirty employees to “support” the genius behind Mississippi’s new constitution. Here is a partial list of additional employees—and their per day salaries:  

Reporter ($15) ($250.00 today)

Secretary ($15—I’m not sure if this is a “different” type secretary from Mr. Sears or a duty added to his “delegate” status thereby netting him $25 a day—or maybe simply $5 tacked on to his $10 as delegate—I opt for that one)

2 Assistant secretaries ($10 each)

Sergeant at Arms ($10)

2 Assistant Sergeants at Arms ($5 each)

1 Printer ($10)

1 Warrant clerk ($10)

2 Enrolling clerks ($10)

1 Reading clerk ($10)

1 Minutes clerk ($10)

1 Auditor ($10)

1 Treasurer ($10)

1 Auditing clerk ($10)

1 Chaplin (a new feature of the Reconstruction Convention-$10) 

1 Postmaster ($8)

1 Hall porter ($4)

And a number of committee clerks (ranging from $5-$15 per day)  

I thought of adding it all up—for 115 days, the delegates and their “staff”, but I can’t believe all those positions were required for every day of this thing—the “enrolling” clerk, for example, and the committee clerks would have been used only when committees were formed, right? Well, maybe. But to further counter my own argument, there might have been several committees functioning simultaneously over days and days. And no, the convention journal does not clarify this question. 

These were lucrative jobs at the taxpayers’ expense. All of these support positions were given to Northern men or Negroes—“men of known loyalty.” When a native white Republican put forth a resolution that some of the clerkships be given to loyal Southern whites, it was voted down. Anybody other than me get the feeling that Southern Republicans (the scalawags) are regarded with some disdain by the Northern Republicans (carpetbaggers)? [This divide among jackals will grow over the next seven miserable years, and Alcorn will be swept up in it]. 

Before leaving the extravagance of this group behind, I’d like to point out a few other expenses. One was a demand for stationery from the Secretary of State, who promptly informed them he had none and no means to procure any (the Treasury was broke let me reiterate). So, the convention appointed a committee of three to appraise the stationery situation. The committee suggested sending an agent to New Orleans to purchase a supply. The proposal was agreed to, and the agent purchased stationery for a grand total of $1458.80. ($24,313.33 today). 

This purchase included not only paper, but pens, penholders, etc.—yep, they got themselves all tooled up. What’s missing here, and I think would be interesting to know, is from whom in New Orleans the purchase was made. The Northern printing industry made a killing in the South during this time. I know that during the years of carpetbag rule in Mississippi (that’s coming up), the legislature’s routine purchase of printing paraphernalia (presses, type, ink, etc.) along with completed print projects from the North/Northern agents would be part of the fuel stoking the fire of resistance to Republican rule. 

Along that same vein, convention delegates felt an “official” need to be informed, supplying themselves with up to five copies of any daily—primarily newly established Republican papers, but they did pay $1123.53 ($18,725.50 today) for the Clarion, which most certainly was not a Republican paper. It’s just my opinion, but I would think keeping up with the other side’s analysis of what you’re doing is more important than rereading what you’re spewing out. Anyway, regardless of what they “each” did with all those copies, the convention spent $3670 ($61,166.67 today) dollars on newspapers, the majority of which were owned and operated by and for members of the Republican Party in Mississippi. 

Finally, a not inconsiderable sum was spent sending telegrams to Washington and “committees” to various places, but primarily over to Vicksburg to “consult” with General Gillem, who, as you will see, routinely told them to quit mucking in legislation, go back to Jackson, and write a new constitution. More on that next time. 

Thanks for reading,


*I used Dave Manuel’s “Inflation Calculator” online in order to give the reader some appreciation for how much money these men were actually expending during the course of this convention. I don’t know how “pin-point” accurate it is, but I figure it’s providing a good “ball-park” figure.

For earlier posts on Alcorn, (best read in sequence from oldest to most recent), start with 17 February 2014, 24 March, 16 April, 17 July, 24 July, 18 September, 9 October, 18 October, 5 November, 22 November, 15 December, 29 December 2014, 13 January, 24 January, 9 February, 24 February, 9 March, 31 March, and 8 May 2015, all provided below.


Friday, May 8, 2015

Detailing the “Black and Tan” Convention of 1868 Part 1—Republican Interlopers and Mississippi’s Taxpayers’ Money

This post is number nineteen in a historical series dealing with Mississippi’s Whig/Republican governor and senator, James Alcorn, following the War Between the States and is the first in a subset discussing the Mississippi Constitutional Convention of 1868, known derisively as the “Black and Tan” Convention.

As of my last post, the Mississippi taxpayer had defeated not only the “progressive” state constitution resulting from the “Black and Tan” Convention but also the Republican ticket, which would have seized control of the civil government. In the wake of their stunning defeat, the Radicals counterattacked by sending a “committee of sixteen” to Washington to compel Congress to vacate the Democratic victory and declare the Republican agenda approved. Alcorn was a member of this “committee of sixteen”. 

I skimmed over the convention that created the detested progressive constitution because James L. Alcorn did not participate in it. In retrospect, I made a mistake. The actions of the majority of delegates comprising the Mississippi Constitutional Convention of 1868 speak volumes about the dubious quality of men determined to gain control of Mississippi and in so doing clarify not only the gamble Alcorn took in aligning himself with them but also how egregious was Alcorn’s betrayal of Mississippi’s taxpayer. Before the “committee of sixteen”, there was the “committee of five”. This “committee of five” derives directly from the Constitutional Convention of 1868. Over the next several posts, I will discuss in some detail this convention’s antics and abuses in conjunction with framing Mississippi’s “new” constitution.  

To quickly rehash: The reconstruction/constitutional convention demanded under Congress’s Reconstruction Acts of 1867 was approved by a majority of registered voters in a November 1867 referendum. In the Reconstruction Acts, Congress stipulated that a “majority” of the registered voters had to agree to the convention. Failure of the measure would leave Mississippi under martial law. White Democrats strove to defeat the measure by ensuring a majority of registered voters not take part. The risk in boycotting the election lay in the winners’ determining representation at the convention. The Democrats lost their initiative by 151 votes, which assured a new constitution would be drafted primarily by Republican Radicals. (See my 9 March 2015 post below). 

The convention convened 9 January 1868 by authority of General Ord, who was, per his request, in receipt of orders to the command of the Department of California. Nevertheless, it was Ord who apportioned the convention’s 100 seats among the delegates to give the “reconstructionists” a large majority. Thirty-two of the state’s sixty one counties had Negro majorities. That’s a majority of 52 percent. However, delegates representing the Republican Party received 70 percent of the seats. I offer as evidence: At the time the apportionment was made, the state had 106,000 registered voters, which computes to one delegate for every 1100 voters. General Ord apportioned two delegates to Tippah County with 901 voters; Panola County two delegates for 1233 voters; Holmes County two delegates for 877 voters; Washington County three delegates for 2231 voters. These counties had Negro majorities. Tishomingo County (primarily white) had only two delegates for 3273 voters. 

This is the first political body in Mississippi in which the Negro participated. There were 17 black delegates (Representative James Beck from Kentucky, a token Democrat on the Congressional Reconstruction Committee and a crusader for the Southern states, later stated there were 25 Negroes at the convention), eight of whom were educated ministers, the most prominent being J. Aaron Moore of Meridian, Lauderdale County; C. W. Fitzhugh representing Wilkinson County; and T. W. Stringer, a Northerner who had come south with the Freedman’s Bureau and represented Warren County. The other black delegates were uneducated. None had held public office. 

The remaining 83 delegates were, of course, white. Roughly 20 of these delegates composed the “carpetbag” element of whom nearly all had served in the Union army during the war. Twenty-nine native Republicans composed the “scalawag” element, and there were four Northern-born Republicans who had lived in the South before the war, two of whom had served in the Confederate army. That left thirty Democrats. 

Among the more prominent ex-Union soldiers were General Beroth B. Eggleston (Ohio); Colonel A. T. Morgan (Second Wisconsin Volunteers); General H. W. Barry (Commanded a Negro regiment raised in Kentucky); General George C. McKee (an attorney from Centralia, Illinois); Major W. H. Gibbs (15th Illinois Infantry); Judge W. B. Cunningham (Pennsylvania); Captain E. J. Castello (Seventh Missouri Infantry); and Thad P. Sears. For regular readers of my blog, you will recognize the most prominent names of white Republican delegates from the Republican ticket for the summer 1868 election (see my 31 March post below). These men would remain prominent in state politics until the election of 1875 sent them scrambling back to their Northern dens. 

An individual’s never having held public office might not be considered the end of the world, but individuals partaking in a matter as important as drafting a state constitution should bring some civil experience/historical and legal knowledge to the table, and one must consider (and the agenda followed by the convention would validate) the illiterate lacked such qualifications. In regards to the ex-Union soldiers, they were not, for the most part, career army. These men had been part of militia units formed in their locales to support the war effort. They had lives before the war—some were lawyers, and we know Cunningham had been a judge. Those men would have been familiar with law, which certainly would qualify them to broach the creation of written constitutions—preferably back wherever it was they came from. And as regards the framing of constitutions, this aside should interest some: 

In anticipation of Mississippi’s drafting a new “progressive” constitution, thereby making the state “fit” for re-incorporation in the Union, the Executive Committee of the Union Republican Party (think of them as “establishment” Republicans) presented the convention with a copy of the New York Constitutional Manual, containing the constitutions of the 37 states of the Union then “constituted.” In 31 of those states, the word “white” appeared as a qualification as an elector, and of the remaining six, three had educational and property qualifications for the franchise. So let’s do a little math here. Thirty-seven states in the Union—that includes the thirteen (I’m counting Kentucky and Missouri here) that briefly made it out and were, in 1868, perceived by the North as determined to deny the Negro his vote. Shoot let’s even throw in Maryland, which didn’t make it out, but truly is a Southern state, and say the number is 14 recalcitrant “disloyal” states incapable of percieving what this nation stands for. From that, subtract the three totally democratic states with no voting restrictions at all and that leaves 20 self-righteous “loyalists” constitutions disfranchising the Negro, the poor, and the uneducated compared to 14 of the bad guys.

Upon review of the manual, the Mississippi convention resolved to set an example for the other 34 states restricting the franchise. Well, folks, as you will see, this group of dogs wrote the proverbial book on disfranchisment, but of course, what they were referring to here was the liberal enfranchising of the Negro, whose vote would keep them in power. So I ask, if they really wanted  “enlightened” constitutions in a brave, new Union, why didn’t they haul their butts back  “to wherever it was they came from” and amend their own states’ constitutions? Let me take a stab at that—how about those slots for malfeasance were already taken and the Negro vote wasn’t significant enough in those places to dislodge the incumbents. In other words, they didn’t have a prayer of grasping power back home, but with a corrupt Congress hell bent on centralization, backed by a military drunk on victory, they could have their way with Mississippi. 

In addition to the dearth of qualifications residing in the group, the majority of delegates did not own property in Mississippi and did not pay taxes, and for those of you not already aware—and the present state of the United States is all the evidence one really needs—upcoming posts will show why the fate of any city, state, or nation should not be placed in the hands of people determined to live off a system they do not pay in to.
Finally, the vast majority of delegates were ignorant of history—and my focus here is federalism, once the soul of our Republic. The latter alone would disqualify not only the illiterate black delegates, but the majority of white Republicans making up that “august” body, who were less ignorant of the federal system than they were opposed to it—if they considered it at all beyond their quest for power and remuneration. 

Subsequent actions indicate this group of delegates considered itself the ruling legislature of Mississippi then constituted, despite General Gillem’s repeated cautioning them that they were not. Remember, Mississippi was technically under martial law, though civil government did continue to function under General Ord’s heavy hand and later under General Gillem. This misconstrued self-perception of it’s authority under the Reconstruction Acts probably explains, in part, the convention’s abuse of its charter. Over the next 115 days, these delegates far exceeded the bounds of legislative frugality and good taste—even by that of the legislatures back in the dark lands from which they hailed. The price of their ignorance and excess was paid by an unrepresented taxpayer, already struggling to survive, much less recover, in a land laid waste by some of the very men now demanding tribute.  

Lots more coming on the “Black and Tan” Convention, thanks for reading.


For earlier posts on Alcorn, (best read in sequence from oldest to most recent), start with  17 February 2014, 24 March, 16 April, 17 July, 24 July, 18 September, 9 October, 18 October, 5 November, 22 November, 15 December, 29 December 2014, 13 January, 24 January, 9 February, 24 February, 9 March, and 31 March 2015, all below.


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Alcorn’s Final Option: Joining the Republican Team in Mississippi

This post is number eighteen in a historical series dealing with Mississippi’s Whig/Republican governor and senator following the War Between the States and is a continuation of my 9 March post immediately below discussing Alcorn’s activities under the Reconstruction Acts of 1867.

Not only was the “progressive” constitution defeated in the summer of 1868, so was the Republican ticket expected to make up Mississippi’s legislature as well as her governor and four of five representatives who would represent her in the U.S. House. The men who wrote that constitution and chose the Republican ticket were primarily white and were from the North and ex-Union soldiers to boot. Representative examples include General George C. McKee (Illinois)’, Jonathan Tarbell (New York), L.W. Perce (New York), and H.R. Pease (Connecticut). T.W. Stringer was a Negro minister from Canada who came to the state with the Freedman’s Bureau. Newly “initiated” Mississippi Republicans included R.W. Flourney (ex-slave holder and Confederate, who was one of four men who represented Pontotoc County at the secession convention, voted for secession, raised a military unit for the Confederacy, and after the war turned Republican and became one of the most radical in the state), J.L. Wofford (ex-Confederate turned conservative Republican. I believe he was from South Carolina, but had settled in the Corinth, Mississippi area after the war), J.S. Morris (a Vicksburg attorney, who later became state attorney general), and the Reverend James Lynch, a Negro preacher from Mississippi.  

Before moving on, I’d like to toss out a brief anecdote in regards to Reverend Lynch, who came to Mississippi in league with the Methodist Episcopal Church, North and would become Mississippi’s secretary of state. During the Mississippi Republican Party’s first convention in September 1867, H.R. Pease moved to add the word “colored” to the name of each Negro delegate. Reverend Lynch moved to amend, suggesting the color of each delegate’s hair be added also.

In her autobiography of Alcorn, Lillian Pereyra described the Republican ticket as all-white, but I found one broadside in a July, 1868, Columbus, Mississippi newspaper that lists a freedman, R.O. Gleed, as running for the state house of representatives. The Republican nominee for governor was ex-brevet general, Beroth B. Eggleston (ex-U.S. Army), of the 1st Ohio. He came replete with an impressive record and honorable discharge from the Grand Army of the Republic. Eggleston had accepted the surrender of Atlanta from Colonel Glenn in July of 1864 and there proceeded to establish martial law within the city, or what was left of it.  

As of December 1868, only three “insurrectionary” states still remained outside the Union, Texas, Virginia, and Mississippi—they’d yet to be “reconstructed”—meaning they’d failed to do what Congress directed them to do under the Reconstruction Acts. What it boiled down to was Mississippi and Texas had managed to keep the Republican Parties in their respective states from winning at the polls and putting puppet governments in their stead. Virginia’s Republican Party suffered massive polarization between its conservative and radical factions from the “git-go,” implying the party itself prevented issues from even making it to the polls. Her people finally approved a “blessed” constitution in 1869.  

James Lusk Alcorn took no part in the constitutional convention of 1867 or in choosing the Republican ticket that followed, but his cousin, Robert J. Alcorn, who had come to Mississippi from Kentucky in 1852 and whose name appears on receipts for purchasing cattle for the Confederate Army in the late fall of 1863, appears on the ticket as the nominee for secretary of state. (Hmmm—think a case should have been make for perjury there?) Robert Alcorn represented Yalobusha County and urged adoption of the constitution noting the more obnoxious of its features could later be modified. That would have been a reference to the wholesale proscription clauses disfranchising Confederates and all those who supported the Confederacy. In her work, Pereyra indicates redemption by an oath of allegiance put one back in the voting rolls. General Ord’s registration requirements (see my 9 March post below) do not validate that, but I’ve run across so many clear contradictions I can’t help but think the determination was made at the discretion of whichever tyrant was in charge, his decision predicated on his perception of how the voter would cast his ballot. Certainly Alcorn gave his oath of allegiance, which returned his property to him, but he not only voted, he ran for office (and won) under the Reconstruction did his cousin who, without a doubt, also swore an oath to the United States.  

In early 1868, at the time Robert Alcorn would have been running his campaign for secretary of state and stumping the “Reconstruction” constitution, he was busy in Coahoma County founding a newspaper which supported his cousin’s appeal for a new hybrid party. The presence of the newspaper in James’ home county suggests the two cousins were already on the same sheet of music, and James reciprocated support by speaking on behalf of the Republican ticket only days before the 10 July 1868 election. 

By the summer of 1868, politics within the state had polarized into Republican and Democratic camps. If Alcorn’s hybrid party of Douglas Democrats and old-Whigs ever had a chance, it had passed. Since Alcorn believed Mississippi’s road to salvation was through representation in Congress, the Democrats’ determination to resist the Reconstruction Acts and remain under martial law would not have been an option for him. 

Alcorn’s support for the Republican Party widened the gap between him and those who had supported participation (acquiescence in, vice capitulation to) the Reconstruction Acts the year before. The difference, of course, is that with the constitutional convention behind them, the opportunity for participation had passed and the constitution created by those who did attend meant wholesale proscription and rule by those who had little or nothing invested in the state. Now, the reticent purveyors of acquiescence had no recourse for maintaining constitutional liberty except to defeat the Republican agenda at the polls. Alcorn, without a doubt, still clung to the belief that salvation lay with representation in congress. 

As stated in my 9 March post below, to everyone’s surprise, the reinvigorated Democratic Party defeated the Republicans. It is at this point when Alcorn’s name appears on the list of party leaders within the state of Mississippi,  and the party’s first move is an attempt to vacate the Democratic victory, to declare the Republicans victors, the constitution approved, thereby “reconstructing” the state in the image of Northern progressivism, and bring Mississippi back into the Union with her other Southern sisters so betrayed. The fight was on with James Lusk Alcorn clearly aligned on the side of Republican tyranny. 

I’m going to end this post here because the ensuing fight speaks so much to the true agenda of the Radicals not only in Congress, but also in Mississippi (of whom I’d suggest Alcorn was not one—but you know the old adage, if you lie down with dogs you’re gonna get fleas on you). It was a risk he took and fleas he got. He never fully redeemed himself in the eyes of Mississippi, and he never will. That Democratic victory in the summer of 1868 stands as one of the great efforts of political triumph that a people have ever put forth to peacefully thwart tyranny in their own defense, yet Alcorn aligned himself with outsiders, who, once the reality of their unbelievable defeat became known cried foul despite the prior presence of additional U.S. army forces and strict supervision by registrars belonging to those now crying foul. Together, he and his new friends would travel to Washington with reams of “x” marked affidavits declaring intimidation and fraud and fear for their lives (really—who was protecting them then who hadn’t protected then on Election Day?) in an effort to have Congress declare a Republican victory. James Lusk Alcorn thought it was all for the best, of course—salvation lay in representation.

For earlier posts on Alcorn, best read in sequence from oldest to most recent, see 17 February, 24 March, 16 April, 17 July, 24 July, 18 September, 9 October, 18 October, 5 November, 22 November, 15 December, 29 December 2014, 13 January, 24 January, 9 February, 24 February, and 9 March 2015 below.