Monday, February 1, 2016

James Burnie Beck: Prelude to Countering the Butler Bill

This post is number thirty-three 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 Alcorn-driven series, (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, 30 August , 13 September, 27 September, 11 October, 25 October 2015, 8 November25 November 201514 December, 27 December 2015, and 18 January 2016.
The Honorable James Burnie Beck was a native of Scotland who came to the United States when he was sixteen. As of age twenty-one (1843), he had made Lexington, Kentucky his home. He studied law and was a law partner of John C. Breckenridge, future U.S. vice president and Confederate General. In the fall of 1866 his neighbors in Kentucky chose Beck to represent them in the 40th Congress (March 1867-March 1869). He was immediately chosen to serve as one of two token Democrats on the House’s reconstruction committee. It is suspected the Radicals considered the junior congressman would give them little opposition on the committee.  

Here, recall my imaginary musing on what Senator Conkling of New York thought of the Radicals in the House? This whole thing with Beck may support that thought. Why would they assume Beck wouldn’t be a problem? Even today the two houses look at the background of who they allow to take their seats—I mean, really, they’d made a premium of such perusal since 1866, so House Republicans had to have been aware of who Beck had partnered law with? Of course, the other possibility is Beck ended up on the committee in return for a democratic favor—they still do things like that today, too. That would imply, of course, that the Democrats knew what the man was capable of. For whatever reason he ended up where he did, James Burnie Beck was one of the few bright stars that lit up the Southern sky during this darkest of nights. He served Kentucky well, too, through four successive Congresses. In 1876, the Kentucky legislature elected him to the Senate and then it elected him again—he died in office in 1890. James Beck’s speech on the floor of the U.S. House rebutting the Butler Bill provides an excellent understanding of what the Radicals in Mississippi were perpetrating and is the primary source for James Garner’s presentation of these events in Reconstruction in Mississippi. I’ll hit the highpoints here. Gee, I love Google, and I love James Burnie Beck. 

Now we know there had to be some debate of Butler’s Bill at the committee level, so Beck’s speech is for the benefit of the entire House, not Butler, who had already heard Beck’s arguments. 

On the House floor, James Beck stated he was resigned Mississippi’s constitutional convention would be reassembled, though he was against it. He believed, simply, that the obnoxious clauses should be removed and the commanding general should resubmit the constitution to the people for ratification.* Beck then drew Benjamin Butler in with two simple, proposed amendments to the latter’s bill. Those were that the President of the United States, that being Grant, be the person responsible for appointing the provisional governor for the state of Mississippi as well as the registrars and judges for the election. That was no more than what the other Southern states readmitted to the Union under the Reconstruction Acts had received, he said, and Grant, who was a Republican and, therefore, their man, was certainly as capable of appointing a governor as President Andrew Johnson, who the Radicals opposed, had been.   

Beck went into all the reasons why the Mississippi Constitutional Convention could not be trusted for the appointment. I have already elaborated on the convention’s abuses and attempted usurpations of the commanding general’s authority—Beck’s speech was, in fact, the primary source, so I’m not going to rehash them here. For a refresher, see my posts of 8 May 2015, 10 June 2015, and 30 June 2015. My primary reason for this particular post is to counter the accusations of white Southern intimidation and fraud against the freedmen being the reason the Republicans lost the July 1868 election. Ku Klux Klan terror and intimidation today are as quickly cited (by rote) as the reason for the failure of the noble struggle for civil rights during Reconstruction as slavery is cited as the cause of the war. Reconstruction, in the form of civil rights, failed because there wasn’t the first damn thing noble about it or the men perpetrating it. Reconstruction as the bane of our Founder’s Republic, the destroyer of that concept of limited government and sovereign states, did not fail. It accomplished exactly what it’s perpetrators wanted it to—the Reconstruction of the Republic, the skewing of the relationship between the states and the federal government, and you can bet the men perpetrating that metamorphosis didn’t care a bit more about civil rights than the Klan did, if for different reasons.

In response to Butler’s support of the bill, which if you recall, granted omnipotent authority to the president of the Reconstruction Convention in the state, Beck pointed out that in July of 1868 there was scarce doubt on the part of any member of the House Reconstruction Committee that the proposed constitution and the Republican ticket had been fairly defeated by the people of Mississippi. What doubts there were (or hopes I should say in speaking of the Radicals) of fraud and intimidation, General Gillem’s report quickly dispelled. What Butler was proposing was basically the Bingham Bill of the past summer, and Beck told the House, as he’d told it eight months earlier, the Bingham Bill puts the people of Mississippi and her property in the hands of men who had perpetrated a fraud and a lie, not only at the state level, but in Congress—before the Reconstruction Committee, no less, because in December of 1868, when this group first showed up, everyone on the committee knew they were lying. Beck points out that if Butler had been on the committee in December, he wouldn’t be standing on the floor, pushing this bill. I think Beck was being gracious. Butler was in the House when Bingham’s Bill was submitted; he spoke in favor of it—he didn’t vote one way or the other. Now, here they are, eight months later, and Butler is pushing a bill which, at least as regards Mississippi, duplicates the Bingham Bill. 

Beck elaborated on the abuses of the progressive constitution—primarily the proscription clauses, and he emphasized my pet peeve regarding the proscription. The bulk of the people disfranchised were the state’s taxpayers. And in regards to proscription, that constitution went over and beyond the requirements set forth in the 14th amendment, denying ex-Confederates not only the right to hold office, but also the vote into perpetuity. It further denied the right of the U.S. Congress to ever remove the disability (unless of course the Mississippi Radicals requested they do it, but I would think once the Radicals had control and their constitution in force, they wouldn’t need Congress to “bless” anyone. Of course, if you had a democratic administration in ten years, and a democrat wanting his encumbrances removed, and a Republican legislature/governor in Mississippi, they could just say “no” and Congress would have no say. This, of course, is all oxymoronic supposition because that Republican Congress was striving for complete subordination of the states and wasn’t about to cede that power to anyone, including its minions in Mississippi. This brings us back around to Mississippi’s Republican Party being in the hands of “idiots.”  Beck’s purpose in all this was pointing out the fallacy of putting the fate of Mississippi in the hands of such men by exposing their true character. This he did in tearing apart their allegations of fraud and intimidation against the Freedmen. Next time. 

Thanks for reading,


*I footnoted that point on proscription, because it highlights an observation that is becoming more and more obvious as we move through Reconstruction, that being the compromises being made by the Democratic leadership at the expense of principle. There was a lot more wrong with Mississippi’s Constitution than the proscription clauses (i.e. increase in civil offices, increase in executive powers, progressive programs to be funded at taxpayer expense, taxpayer funding of private initiatives, just to highlight a few). The rank and file that busted a gut to defeat that constitution in the summer of 1868 knew that, and they knew a vote against it meant continuation of martial law, which was, I must assume in their mind, preferable to representation in an unconstitutional Union. But now it begins to appear that the Democratic “leadership” across the South (not just Mississippi), desperate to return to the Union in hopes of votes in Congress and the end of military rule, is now willing to cast principle to the wind (along with the Cause its people sacrificed so much for). I will return to this thought later, because such concessions by the Democratic Party leadership will come back to bite them in the butt in a couple of years.


Monday, January 18, 2016

Smoke and Mirrors and Civil Rights During Reconstruction

This post is number thirty-two 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 Alcorn-driven series, (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, 30 August , 13 September, 27 September, 11 October, 25 October 2015, 8 November25 November 201514 December, and 27 December 2015.

When last we looked at the 41st Congress and the “Mississippi question” before it, Benjamin Butler of Massachusetts and James Burnie Beck of Kentucky were in debate on the House floor over the “Butler Bill” and its proposed methodology for returning Mississippi to the new, revised United States.  

Beck’s argument kept the issue churning for days. The stated reason for Congress’ creation of first the Joint Committee on Reconstruction back in 1865 with the 39th Congress and the House Select Committee on Reconstruction during the next two Congresses was to ascertain the conditions in the former insurrectionary states and to ensure the protection of life and property within them. That was all smoke and mirrors designed to allow a Republican Congress to get control of Reconstruction and leave itself in a position to dictate to the Southern states, to ensure loyal “Republican” administrations within those states, and guarantee the presence of “loyal” representatives in both the U.S. House and Senate which they would use to mold the entire United States into their vision of what it, in their opinion, should be. Certainly the election of such loyal individuals would not happen if the Confederate taxpayer had control of his state, and the easiest, perhaps the only way, to wrest control from those people was to manifest the aforementioned threat to life and property in the region, thereby justifying Federal interference (martial law). 

I will not rehash Southern resistance to using government funds for internal improvements and the high tariffs required to generate those funds (Henry Clay’s American System). I’ve covered them extensively throughout this series. I also won’t elaborate more at this time on the Republican and/or New England Utopian plan to make the conquered South the proving ground for a new, enlightened, United States. That again would be beating a dead horse. Suffice it to say, Southerners resisted both. Social experimentation has never been a Southern thing and when it came to taxpayer funding internal improvements, the South still had a war to recover from and bigger priorities than progressive programs. Yet the Republican interlopers poised to take control of the Southern states were determined both would happen and the Southern taxpayer would fund them. To get control, the Republicans needed the freedman’s vote.  

The elephant in the room was civil rights, which tied directly to Republican votes. Civil rights is not one of the responsibilities the Founders gave to the central government. The former colonies did, however, insist on state rights. Civil rights, in fact, wasn’t even a big issue at the time of the founding, and what issues there were fell under the purview of the states. The states wouldn’t have had it any other way and would not have ratified the Constitution.
Moving forward through the decades, one sees the developing misuse/abuse of the general welfare clause in the Constitution’s preamble—and the oblique attack on those resisting that abuse—that being on the South through its slave-based economy. By the eighty year mark, Utopians, who by their own admission believed the Constitution unfit to govern the nation, assumed all citizens should have access to all services and rights including the vote, and those rights (to include the definition of a citizen) should be dictated by the central government over the will of all the states. Teaming up with the zealots were the more pragmatic and greedy who recognized the potential of Republican hegemony in the South (or all over for that matter)—think of Ben Butler as an example. Also, and probably most ruthless of all, were those shady industialists (beneficiaries to the American System) pulling the strings of their political puppets in Washington.

For the Republicans in the South, the right to vote loomed greatest of all, because they planned for the Negro vote to keep them in power. The Radicals had no qualms in denying the Confederate taxpayer his “civil rights,” however, so ask someone like me what she thinks of those expounding on “civil rights” during that period. Those who supported the Confederacy and believed small, local government best identified the needs of those footing the bill had again become ex post facto traitors, continuing their treachery by not embracing this post-Constitutional concept of “civil rights.”  

Southerners knew how things were in the pre-war South and they knew how matters stood in 1868. They’d never had a reason to concern themselves much with “civil rights” because they hadn’t created an environment requiring a need. Now they were faced with not only the excesses of funding internal improvements, but also with managing the baggage that accompanied the unwanted expenditures, and a few white interlopers intended to enforce it—by ensuring heretofore unneeded “civil rights” for a voting block they have just defined as citizens in need of civil rights—all in overt violation of the Constitution.  

One day soon I’m going to start a study on the effects of all this anti-Constitutional civil rights legislation in the Northern legislatures, because it was a problem. But those states were in a better position to fight back—their electors hadn’t been mucked with for one thing—they could still vote the dogs out—hence Butler’s reference to losing six Northern states.

Ah, but let’s not forget that with the Southern legislatures in the hands of puppets, and their illegal Congressional delegations “loyal,” the traitors fomenting this skewed concept of the United States were permanently altering the Constitution, and the Northern states might not have had the numbers to stop it, even if they’d wanted. 

A non-issue for individual states had been made an issue and, as the Radicals tried to sell it, it was an issue to be resolved by a benign [sarcasm intended], yet all-powerful central government, which had proven, by force of arms that the Union was inviolable. That same government would from this point enforce the principles of...what? Oh, yeah, The Declaration of Independence while ignoring the charter that had brought it into existence. It was a government composed of a cabal of men, who cared nothing for the Constitution, who were, in fact, hostile to it, but were willing to twist, manipulate, pervert, and subsequently permanently alter it in order to do lip service to it and keep themselves in power.

The role of the House’s Select Committee on Reconstruction was to justify congressional interference in those recalcitrant states refusing to “move toward the light.” Interference required justification. Fair elections did not justify interference, so, in the wake of the Senate’s tabling the Bingham Bill on 27 July 1868, the committee of five, back home in Mississippi, decided to make that 10 July 1868 conservative victory one which had been achieved by fraud and intimidation of the freedmen.

Now, let’s go back to the summer of 1868 and expound on the voter numbers again. Then I’ll weigh those numbers against charges of fraud and intimidation that no longer just echo through the past century and a half, but for all intents and purposes shout the truth down.

The “progressive” Republican state constitution was rejected, 63,860 votes against, 56,231 votes for. Four of the five members elected to Congress were Democrats. All the Republican nominees had been Northern, and George C. McKee was the only Republican winner. Humphreys defeated Eggleston by 8000 votes and in the state legislature, 66 of the 138 chosen were democrats, and there were 12 Negroes elected, one was a state senator, the Reverend Stringer of Vicksburg.

From the figures given, one surmises that 120,091 votes were cast. As of September 1867, General Ord had registered 106, 803 voters of which the majority, 60,167 were Negro, leaving 46,636 whites. As of November, when the decision for a new constitutional convention was required of the citizens, there were 139, 327 registered voters of which 76,016 actually cast a vote. Of those, 69,739 voted for a convention (and thereby a new constitution). Recall that the democrats sat out that election hoping that the requirement set by the U.S. Congress that the majority of “registered” voters must opt for a convention. This accounts for the large number of votes not cast.

Now in the summer of 1868, 120,091 votes were cast (meaning the Democrats were back in the game) and roughly 17,000 more votes than there were white voters registered as of the past November had voted down the new Constitution (and the Republican ticket). Well, of course it must have been fraud and intimidation—except that the 56,000+ votes for the Constitution would account for all but roughly 4,000 votes from the Negro population. So the brutal Democrats were only able to intimidate seven percent of the registered Negroes. Of course, this is all absurd. Truth is, many of those 56,000 votes were other white voters—many of whom were interlopers who didn’t have a vested interest in Mississippi, but others who did. And many of those near 64,000 votes who rejected the new Constitution were black, they had to have been.

That fraud and intimidation occurred, I would not argue, but fraud and intimidation went both ways. Threats allegedly attributed to the Democrats were: Threats of job loss (Hmmm—labor was in pretty big demand, so even if a man lost his job, a new one would have been available the next county over. Now, if he were working for his old master on the plantation he was born and raised on, he might not want to be put off, but for that very reason—he liked his home and people—he voluntarily voted along with the old master, anyway); visits by the “Klan” (there was the “Klan” and then there was the “Klan” and then there were “threats” made by, and more likely “on behalf” of the Klan by those not Klan); ostracism by the “white” community (that would have worried only those who had a vested interest in the “white” community I would think, and those whites would have been Republican or, again, the old folks with whom they would have voted freely). But, tongue now out-of-cheek, those threats may have swayed a few votes, but the Negro was in the majority and the U.S. army was all over the state in force and under the thumbs of Republican interlopers who were themselves active in every black community. To say that threats of the Klan, job loss, or rejection by whites accounted for the sway of the circumspect 17,000 votes is bullshit. Besides, ostracism and threats of job loss are “boilerplate” when it comes to crying “fraud” in elections.

Additionally, there were threats made by the other side to those considering voting against the proposed “progressive” constitution: For example, if the Negro didn’t vote Republican, the Northern populace would allow the white Southerners to oppress them or even return them to slavery; and the following threat was reported to have come out of the Fourth Military District: The offender would be led to Vicksburg in chains and sold back into slavery in Cuba. Such threats coming out of the Republicans or their Grand Army of the Republic phalanx is evidence that they did not have control over every Negro in Mississippi, some of whom were quite capable of thinking for themselves and others who were still under the influence of former masters—and you know that had to have frosted their Republican “saviors” and colored their approach to the Negro voter. But I maintain that was a lot of folk to be bullied into voting the way either party wished. More than likely, many of those votes were simply bought [quite probably on both sides].

Stage now set for the civil rights boogieman and its application to the House Select Committee on Reconstruction and the Butler Bill, I will, with my next post, return to the House floor in the spring of 1869.

Thanks for reading,





Sunday, December 27, 2015

Behind the Scenes and Butler’s Bill

This post is number thirty-one 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 Democrats’ victory over the Republican “reconstruction” constitution framed during the Black & Tan Convention in the winter/spring of 1868. For earlier posts in this Alcorn-driven series, (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, 30 August , 13 September, 27 September, 11 October, 25 October 2015, 8 November25 November 2015, and 14 December 1015.

This post continues discussion on the bill Benjamin Butler, chairman of the House Committee on Reconstruction, introduced in the spring of 1869 to bring Mississippi back into the loving arms of the Union (yes, that is sarcasm you hear in my words). Butler’s bill authorized the Mississippi constitutional convention to be reassembled upon the call of the president of the convention. If the president hadn’t called the convention back into session within thirty days, the commanding general (that would be Adelbert Ames, Butler’s son-in-law) would do so. At the time this bill was sent to the House, the president of Mississippi’s constitutional convention (Alston Maggot—oh, I do apologize, I’m letting my true feelings show again—that should read Alston Mygatt) was in town lobbying to have the rejected constitution declared in force and would have been only too happy to reconvene the convention. Under the Butler Bill, the reassembled convention was to have the power to appoint a provisional governor and remove and appoint registrars and judges of the election.

Excuse me? Where did those powers—once exclusive to the commanding general—come from? Mine is a rhetorical question, and I will here share my educated guess. On the surface it would appear they originated the previous summer with Bingham’s bill, but these are the very powers the constitutional convention presumed to usurp from General Gillem during the winter/spring of 1868 while framing the constitution. The change wouldn’t have made much difference with Ames, the Radical’s man, now the commanding general, as well as the provisional governor, but it is telling. 

And why the devil did Grant give Ames command of the Fourth Military District to begin with? You are not going to convince me it was an independent decision on his part. This takes us back to Ames’ appointment as provisional governor by General McDowell during the latter’s one-month tenure as commander of the Fourth District.  

Succinctly put, Butler’s Bill meant turning over control of Mississippi to the Black and Tan Convention, and that’s where control would remain, even if the people of Mississippi defeated the constitution again and again and again. And if they ratified the constitution—power would still be with that same group. Passage of the Butler Bill meant no way out. Butler’s heavy-handed prejudice in deferring to the convention hierarchy is indicative of overt tyranny that, it would seem, the man didn’t believe he needed to disguise. The other thing that’s interesting to note here is that when the 40th Congress closed on 4 March 1869, Ben Butler was not on the House Committee for Reconstruction. Two weeks later, he’s not only on the committee, he’s chairing it. The Massachusetts contingent had been switched out. The proof is in the pudding, folks. Butler had been part of that wheeling and dealing that winter meant to resolve the reentry of Mississippi, Virginia, and Texas on terms favorable to the Radicals. 

Henry L. Dawes, Butler’s colleague in the House and also from Massachusetts, is on record for saying he’d as soon leave the choice of the warden of the state prison at Charlestown to the convicts as to leave the choice of provisional governor of Mississippi to the Mississippi Reconstruction Convention. (It was the constitutional convention, but players were pretty much one and the same, so why split hairs?) Dawes was a conservative Republican, not a Radical. Not only that, but in Butler’s bill, the same constitution—irrespective of the proscriptive clauses—was to be presented to the people. This meant that the Mississippi constitutional convention of 1868 would have full control of all registrars—no other input required—and Butler’s son-in-law would be the commanding general should military support be required (or desired) during the election. As said earlier, the election was to be repeated exactly as before, only this time the scenario would be “orchestrated” to ensure the constitutional convention achieved the results it desired. 

James B. Beck, the Democratic Representative from Kentucky referenced above, took the floor and argued that President Grant appoint the provisional governor for Mississippi. It is at this juncture that Butler takes the time, apparently for the benefit of his fellow Republicans, like the skeptical Dawes, because the Democrats surely already had it figured out, to explain his rational for bestowing so much power in the constitutional convention: He said, and I paraphrase, that the president of the Mississippi Reconstruction convention (Eggleston), who had been the Republican candidate for governor in Mississippi, would now appoint himself governor. As he’d taken the surrender of Atlanta, so he’d accept the surrender of Mississippi. Butler called the act merely good politics to accept the radical schemes. If you don’t reconstruct Mississippi, he continued, you can’t get the loyal legislature and consequently two “loyal” senators. Without those two “loyal” senators you can’t pass the Fifteenth Amendment and you lose six Northern states. Okay, Dawes probably had it figured out, too, but he wouldn’t have been particularly in favor of radical schemes. 

This is all so telling and dovetails nicely with my thoughts on the Radicals being in trouble in the North and determined to maintain control in the South (and hence overall). The other thing is Butler—what the devil was his motivation? Greed would be my guess. He’d been a Democrat during the course of his political life. Now he was a Republican working hand in hand with the Radicals, but from his reference to the Radicals in the paragraph above, he clearly didn’t consider himself a Radical. There were rumors at the time discussed in my narrative he would return to the Democratic Party, so one must surmise it wasn’t ideology driving the man. I have little doubt that his son-in-law’s being the commanding general of the Fourth Military District as well as the provisional governor of Mississippi piqued his interest regarding events in Mississippi—or maybe the reverse is true, and he got Adelbert the job in order to further a preexisting interest. His subsequently finagling his way into the chair of the reconstruction committee testifies to his power, influence, and the corruption of all. 

Representative Beck countered that the President in his appointment of the provisional governor would ensure a free and fair election, and that the Mississippi constitutional convention would permit neither.

I’d like to elaborate further on the Butler Bill and James Beck’s rebuttal on the House floor next time. In lieu of Butler’s frank reasoning (or arrogant dearth of discretion, if you’d rather), the debate is particularly enlightening and does much to explain the insurmountable (and unsubstantiated) allegations of fraud, persecution, and sundry atrocities that continue to be attributed to the white Southerner over the past century and a half regarding electioneering in the post-war South. 

Thanks for reading, 



Monday, December 14, 2015

Hold On Says the Senate to the House, Let’s Think About This

This post is number thirty 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 Democrats’ victory over the Republican “reconstruction” constitution framed during Mississippi’s Black & Tan Convention in the winter/spring of 1868. For earlier posts in this Alcorn-driven series, (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,30 August , 13 September, 27 September, 11 October, 25 October 2015, 8 November, and 25 November 2015.
On 24 July 1868, immediately following Mississippi’s defeat of the proposed Republican constitution (10 July), Representative John Bingham (Republican from Ohio and traitor extraordinaire who was the primary author of the Fourteenth Amendment and was a member of the House Select Committee on Reconstruction) introduced a bill from said committee for the “speedy readmission of Mississippi, Virginia, and Texas.” Recall that in the summer of 1868, these were the three “unreconstructed” states still outside the Union and lacking representation in Congress (and until the Radicals were sure they had the kind of representation they wanted the people of those states to have—that being representatives to support the Radicals—they would remain unrepresented). In the case of Mississippi, Bingham’s bill called for the reassembly of the “Black and Tan” convention, giving more power to the convention in carrying out the election and subordinating the commanding general to a support role. Polling booths firmly in Radical hands, the constitution was to be resubmitted to the new voting elite for ratification. Benjamin Butler, representing Massachusetts, spoke in favor of Bingham’s bill on the House floor, but did not record a vote. Nevertheless, plenty of other Republicans (of course, that’s mostly what there was to vote) did. The bill passed by a huge majority and went to the Senate. On 27 July, the Senate tabled it. New York Senator Roscoe Conkling, himself a Radical, said basically that there was too much to consider to pass a hasty bill.

Ah, to have been a fly on the wall back then. Indeed, the Radicals were apparently taking stock. Cracks had started to appear in the foundation of their tyranny. They were being pretty presumptuous, not to mention heavy-handed, with their “centralization/Utopian schemes.” Forcing social and educational “enlightenment” on the defeated South was one thing, but, self-righteous, assuming %@$+@rds that many of them were (the balance being power-hungry thieves), they were pressing the envelope a little too hard north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Less enlightened Northerners, or I should say more practical ones, were paying attention. In tandem with that, the radicalization of Tennessee and Georgia was going to hell in a handbasket, so yes, it had probably dawned on Mr. Conkling that he and his colleagues needed to tread carefully regarding the reentry of Mississippi, Virginia, and Texas. To maintain and grow their powerbase, the Radicals had to have control of those Southern states to offset the Northern ones they could not so easily wield their tyranny over and were actually in jeopardy of losing (not only to the Democrats, but to conservative Republicans who did not see the future with their perverted vision). One more thing, and this is just my opinion, but I suspect that the Radical powers in Washington, unable to recognize mirror images of themselves in the provinces, suspected they had idiots in control of the Radical wings down in Dixie. If they wanted to ensure a Radical Republican Mississippi they had to get the right people in place—not only to increase power, but to keep it, hence Conkling’s caution.

The Senate’s tabling the Bingham Bill was a major setback for the Eggleston clique down in Mississippi. Understand that in the summer of 1868, no one doubted that the proposed progressive constitution and the Republican ticket had been fairly defeated. Only after the failure of Bingham’s effort to simply vote again—after ensuring the Radicals had full control of the voting booths—did schemes surface to vacate the conservative victory based on alleged fraud and intimidation. Hence, the “committee of five’s” subsequent assembling in Jackson for four months and concocting its affidavits of fraud and its premature findings to offset General Gillem’s report (see the Committee of Five Comes Alive). The committee subsequently cast out the votes from select counties, recounted the remaining votes, and declared the new constitution ratified and the Republican ticket elected. I can just imagine General Gillem’s smirk—okay, I actually imagine him saying some things, but what he said publicly was, no, that didn’t happen.

The Radicals’ declaration of victory failing with the general, off they went to Washington, (James Alcorn in company), to see what they could accomplish with Congress. But as we already know, the committee of five (blossomed now into the committee of sixteen) was not the only group from Mississippi that descended on the House Select Committee on Reconstruction that winter. The conservative Republicans and a Democrat contingent did, too.

The 41st Congress assembled on the 19th of March 1869 at which time Benjamin Butler, Representative from Massachusetts and now chairman of the House Select Committee on Reconstruction, introduced a bill in the House for organizing a provisional government for Mississippi. Butler’s bill went to committee, and on the 24th of March, the chairman of said committee (that was Butler) recommended its approval. It was basically the Bingham Bill with which I introduced this post—at least that part of the Bingham Bill dealing with Mississippi.

A brief aside here, if I may, on the history of the House Select Committee on Reconstruction. It started out as the Joint Committee on Reconstruction (also known as the Committee of Fifteen) on 13 December 1865 (39th Congress, March 1865 to March 1867). It was the brain-child of the fanatical Radical Republican representative from Pennsylvania, Thaddeus Stevens, and was the organized beginning by Congress to get President Andrew Johnson under control, or more specifically, get Reconstruction under congressional control. Nine House members sat on the committee along with six senators. Senator William P. Fessenden (Maine), Salmon P. Chase’s brief successor at Treasury, was the committee’s chairman. Twelve Republicans and three Democrats comprised the group. It was this committee that drafted the Fourteenth Amendment and established the requirement that the Southern states ratify that desecration to the Constitution before being readmitted to the Union. Apparently believing it had accomplished its job of summarily destroying the Founders’ Republic, the Senate opted out of further participation and with the 40th Congress (March 1867-March 1869), we see only a House Select Committee on Reconstruction chaired by Thaddeus Stevens, whom the grim reaper collected in August 1868, much too late for the South or for the Republic.
No matter, another Radical in the form of George S. Boutwell from Massachusetts succeeded to the chair. It is Boutwell’s group, meeting during the 40th Congress’ third session (December 1868-March 1869), that the contenders for power in Mississippi descended upon. Nine men, seven Republicans and two Democrats comprised the House committee at that time. The two Democrats were James Brooks of New York and James Beck of Kentucky, who was the only true Southerner on the Committee. Alabama (having been blessed with reentry) also had a representative on the committee—Benjamin W. Norris, a former U. S. Army paymaster from Maine who settled in Mobile, Alabama and continued to work with the Freedmen’s Bureau after the war. He was a puppet carpetbagger, y’all, at the apex of his short-lived political career—representative of Alabama he was not.

By the time Butler had assumed the committee chair during the 41st Congress’ first session (March 1869), membership had grown to thirteen (nine Republicans and four Democrats). Though the presence of more Democrats on the committee implies increased Southern sympathy (Fernando Wood of New York, the Tammany Hall fellow whose cotton interest led him to advocate New York City’s secession back in 1861, was now on the committee), Beck remained the only true Southerner. By the time the second session had rolled around in December 1869—and yes, I know I’m ahead of myself in the historical narrative—committee membership had grown to fifteen, meaning two more bodies had been added, both Republican—both carpetbaggers, one representing Virginia and one representing Mississippi. Their careers’ would be short, too, but not short enough to undo the damage they and others like them did to the Republic. For future reference, that Mississippian was George McKee, the only Republican on the 1868 ticket that won his congressional seat. Of course, he had to win it a second time, but that was later...and easier the second time around, and he wouldn’t be the lone winner in that second round, either. I’ll elaborate more in a future post, and I’ll continue with Butler and his bill in my next post.

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

President Grant Says Mississippi’s Reentry is in the Hands of Congress—Not a Good Place to Be

This post is number twenty-nine 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 Alcorn-driven series, (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,30 August , 13 September, 27 September, 11 October, 25 October 2015, and for a quick refresher most related to the following post, see 8 November 2015.

Ulysses S. Grant was sworn in as president on 4 March 1869. On that date, General Gillem, an Andrew Johnson appointee, was relieved of command and Brevet General Adelbert Ames, son-in-law to “Beast” Butler of New Orleans’ fame and new chairman of the Reconstruction Committee, assumed command of the Fourth Military District (Arkansas and Mississippi, if the reader recalls) headquartered in Vicksburg.

The choice of Ames as the new commanding general was certainly not designed to promote good will among the populace of Mississippi. Recall that Ames was the man who General McDowell, during his brief tenure as commanding general (June-July 1868), appointed Mississippi’s provisional governor. Ames subsequently removed duly-elected Governor Humphreys from the statehouse under point of bayonet, then the governor and his family from the governor’s mansion under similar circumstances. And yes, he’s now (1869) the Commanding General, Fourth Military District and the provisional governor of the state of Mississippi.

On 24 March, the committee of sixteen met with the president and requested his influence for a bill allowing Mississippi’s readmission to the Union without the constitution’s being ratified. Grant said the matter was in the hands of Congress, but he thought the constitution should be resubmitted to the polls to enable electors to vote on the obnoxious clauses separately (those clauses dealing with the proscription of the Confederates, who just happened to make up the bulk of the Mississippi taxpayers).

At this point in time, a committee of “conservative” Republicans from Mississippi arrived Washington, its goal to defeat the “Eggleston Clique.” Eggleston, if the reader remembers, was the president of the Reconstruction convention, which drove the vote for a new constitution and was the nominee for governor on the Republican ticket following the Black and Tan convention. Eggleston and his clique are Radicals.

This newly-arrived group of dissenting moderate Republicans painted themselves up to represent a large body of respectable and influential Republicans within the state. Before the Reconstruction Committee, they protested the state’s Radicals’ attempt to force the constitution on the people. Here are their recommendations:

--declare all offices vacant

--provide for the appointment of a provisional government authorized to fill those vacancies

--divest the constitution of the proscriptive measures

--resubmit the constitution to the people for ratification

To name a few of these individuals: A. Warner, A. C. Fiske, Judge Jeffords, J. L. Wofford, and Frederic Speed. Fiske and Speed were associated with the Vicksburg Republican. None of these men had been members of the Black and Tan Convention and all but one were Northern and remained more or less prominent in the state through the Reconstruction period. I know that Alcorn is on record for blaming J. L. Wofford for the defeat of the constitution in 1868.

Here I need to make a correction to an earlier post regarding Jefferson L. Wofford. The more I learn about Southern Scalawags, the more interesting they become. Wofford was from Tishomingo County in the northeast corner of the state. As I confusedly “thought” in that earlier post, his distinguished ancestors did hail from South Carolina, but Jefferson Wofford was a Mississippian as was his father before him. Jefferson Wofford was also a Confederate hero who won accolades for bravery while commanding the 1st Mississippi Light Artillery, Company D, during the war. Obviously, he is the one Southerner to whom James W. Garner refers in Reconstruction in Mississippi and “obviously” he was not on the Republican ticket defeated in 1868 as my earlier post implied. He was one of the movers and shakers who led to its defeat. He appears to have created, along with the above referenced group of Northern Republican moderates, an alliance similar to what Alcorn envisioned way back in 1865. I surmise this, because the defeat of that 1868 constitution and its Republican ticket took a combined effort on the part of both the moderate Republicans and the Democrats. Wofford was the editor of the Republican Corinth News and later in 1869 he ran for Congress on the Lewis Dent ticket. This is the ticket Alcorn and the Radicals would defeat—the subject of a future post. Here, I merely want to give the reader an idea of who the players were converging on Washington in the winter/spring of 1869.

Okay, so far we’ve got the defeated Republican Radical contingent trying to goad Congress and the president into just declaring them victors. At the same time, we’ve got the military saying they are full of hogwash. Then we’ve got a disaffected group of “moderate” Republicans attempting to carve out a place for itself among the ruins of a shattered state. Now enter the meagerly victorious Democrats determined to hold onto their victory. Among this group were ex-governor A. G. Brown, who had been Jefferson Davis’ colleague in the U. S. Senate and who had taken an oath of allegiance to the United States along with William Sharkey in August of 1863 after the fall of Vicksburg. If nothing else, the actions of these men at that time, and their early re-alliance with the glorious “Union,” should have given them credibility before the Reconstruction Committee. They did wield enough influence to obtain the Reconstruction Committee’s agreement to hold the hearings open until their arrival, when, having made it as far as Lynchburg, Virginia, they learned the hearings were about to close and telegrammed Washington requesting the hearings remain open. The Reconstruction Committee waited on them—note that there were token Democrats on the committee who may or may not have influenced that decision. We have these nice tidbits because as of the time Garner was writing Reconstruction in Mississippi, Judge H. F. Simrall, another member of the Democratic group, was still among the living. Simrall states that during his group’s stay in Washington, prominent members of both Houses were anxious to confer with them at their homes. Unfortunately, Garner, and perhaps Simrall before him, does not make it clear if these prominent members were Republican or Democrat, but possibly both. Access to anyone they wished to confer with was easy—in other words, they weren’t shut out.

The Democratic representatives had two interviews with President Grant (we might assume they’d known the man since at least August 1863). The first meeting was in the oval office where they appealed to him to use his influence with Congress to defeat the Radical agenda. Now I’m assuming they were referring to the Radical agenda in the state and not within the general government. The latter would have been particularly delusional, but shoot, depending on how friendly they’d become with the occupying forces back in ’63 it might not have hurt to ask. Their second meeting with Grant was also at the White House at which time members of the committee of sixteen were present. At this latter meeting, Grant allowed comments from two spokesmen from each side and listened, pokerfaced, to their comments. Then he reviewed a printed copy of the proposed Mississippi constitution. He told the group that the proscriptive clauses needed to go. He said they would always be a source of trouble and bloodshed and too often that would be between the races.

Grant’s remedy? He told the assembled group he’d been down to Mississippi—no kidding? The place was poor, he said, and not fully recovered from the war. He could have made the same observation in 1969 had he still been around. He said he could order the commanding general (that was Adlebrain, oops, excuse me, Adelbert Ames by that time) to reconvene the convention, but he wasn’t sure that would really accomplish anything and would be expensive (another understatement, assuming it would consist of the same group of spendthrifts). Then Grant turned to Brown and Simrall (the Democrats) and asked what they would think about striking out the objectionable clauses and resubmitting the constitution for ratification. Those two, at least, thought that would be the best bet for getting the thing ratified and Mississippi back in the Union. Note, this suggestion is being made before Grant’s support of Gilbert Walker in Virginia was known and his subsequently being read the riot act by the Radicals in Congress.

But as the president had already said, the matter was with Congress, and to do justice to what happened in Congress will prove a lengthy post, so I’m saving it for next time.

Thanks for reading,


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,