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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
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
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
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.
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 minority 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
-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
-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
-Forbade the denial of folks for travel on public
-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
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
-Mississippi State Journal$13,924
-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
in SessionCost (today’s money)
186511$14,050 ($203, 623)
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
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