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 Louis 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 Massachusetts, 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 pointing out or linking you to the Southern states’ various articles of secession and screaming “see, see—it was about slavery”—do not despair. Not even Lincoln believed it was about slavery. Charles Sumner and those of his ilk made it about “slavery,” and those individuals manipulating selected data to the contrary need to crack the covers on a few more books or in some cases just read the entire articles of secession. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading,  





Sunday, October 11, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Sunday, September 27, 2015

Oops! Those Untrustworthy Scalawags

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading,