Monday, March 7, 2016

So, what was that effort in July 1868 really for?

This post is number thirty-five in a historical series discussing Mississippi’s Whig/Republican governor and senator, James Alcorn, following the War Between the States and continues the “saga” resulting from the Democratic victory over the Republican “reconstruction” constitution framed during the Black & Tan Convention in the winter/spring of 1868. For earlier posts in this Alcorn-driven series, (best read in sequence from oldest to most recent), start with 17 February, 24 March, 16 April, 17 July, 24 July, 18 September, 9 October, 23 October, 5 November, 22 November, 15 December, 29 December 2014, 13 January, 24 January, 9 February, 24 February, 9 March, 31 March, 8 May, 10 June, 30 June, 3 August, 30 August , 13 September, 27 September, 11 October, 25 October 2015, 8 November25 November14 December, 27 December 201518 January1 February, and 20 February 2016.

Here I wrap up the known workings, with some opinions regarding the “unknown” workings, in Washington that would lead to the subsequent ratification of the progressive, Republican Constitution already rejected by the Mississippi taxpayer in tandem with the relatively brief, but calamitous period of Radical Republican rule in Mississippi.

Justification for the Butler Bill having been effectively rebuked by James Beck of Kentucky (see my 20 February post), John F. Farnsworth, a representative from Illinois and member of the Reconstruction Committee, offered that the commanding general should resubmit the constitution to a vote with the objectionable clauses (proscription of Confederates) separate and if said clauses were defeated, then remove them from the constitution. Halbert Paine of Wisconsin offered another change to the bill—that being to first offer the constitution as a whole, then with the obnoxious clauses removed. This revised version passed 125-25 and Butler’s bill was sent to the Senate.
Mr. Farnsworth’s version also suggested that judges and chancellors at the voting booths should be elected by the people. (Though I do appreciate the sentiment, wouldn’t that mean another election before the election—neither of which the state could afford?) And a bigger question is why? The people of Mississippi had already rejected the constitution and everyone knew the proscription clauses were one of the primary reasons. This was not a secret.  

[Want my very opinionated opinion? Regardless, I’ll share it. The Radicals had to have another election to get the lion’s share of that awful progressive constitution passed and in force and the state back in the Union under Republican control. This took priority over their minions’ extreme proscription clauses, which were more important to the minions at the state level than the Radicals at the national level, the latter satisfied with the tyranny inherent in the Fourteenth Amendment. Mississippi under martial law, which the people had already said they preferred to that progressive constitution, was not an option for the Radicals—nor apparently for the Democratic leadership/conservative Republicans, who perceived some value in being back in the Union and under the “protection of the Constitution.” Yeah, I don’t know what the Democrats were basing that on, because most everything worth protecting had already been lost, and what wasn’t they were willing to sacrifice in return for the elimination of those proscriptive clauses and—this is a very important and—bringing Mississippi back into the Union—hence, agreeing to another election.

Let me emphasize, these Democrats were the men who had seized the reigns of the Democratic Party in the wake of defeat—the bulk of the old leadership impotent. Though many names were not new, those now in power were those who were willing to make some effort to adjust to the new order. They did not necessarily appreciate the stubborn will of the people they thought they represented and, as time progressed, proved a little too accepting of the “new order” for their constituents’ tastes. But as of the spring of 1869, the impact of their acquiescence has yet to be recognized by the majority outside the old leadership. On the other side, the Radicals in Washington, eager for a second go at ratification and a Republican victory in Mississippi, cast their minions in theater under the carriage wheels on the proscription issue. But here are two important points worth noting. Though the powers that be appear to have sold out the Radicals in Mississippi on the proscription clauses and refused to support them in their November 1868 goon-like declaration that the progressive constitution had been ratified and the Republican ticket elected, the national Republican leadership was hard at work securing both. They got rid of the old commander of the Fourth Military District, General Gillem, who repeatedly thwarted the schemes proposed by the Radicals in Mississippi under the Reconstruction Acts, and replaced him with Ben Butler's son-in-law, Adelbert Ames. Then Congress called for the vacating of all civil positions in the state (recall this was one of the Mississippi Republican’s biggest demands—they wanted those govenment jobs and all the blessings of malfeasance that came with them).

As the district military commander (not to mention he was still the provisional governor at that time), Ames had full authority to choose the registrars for the upcoming election, which would once again decide the fate of the Republican ticket and the already rejected constitution. In other words, Mississippi’s taxpayers (many of whom subsequently would not be allowed to vote) would be forced to hold election after election until the Radical Congress in Washington got the results it wanted, and James Lusk Alcorn was part of the committee of sixteen orchestrating all this with Congress behind the scenes. The objective was to nullify the Democratic victory in July 1868—under seemingly legal conditions.  The failure of the national Repubican leadership to honor the Mississippi Radicals in their November 1868 delaration of victory was mere lip service. Such tyranny needed to be handled with a bit more finesse (covertly)—especially in the face of so much wrong doing exposed by James Beck. As will be seen, the Radicals achieved it.] 

In the Senate, Oliver Hazard Perry Throck Morton, tyrannical ex-war governor from Indiana who emulated Lincoln in his abuse of executive authority—in his case against Indiana’s Democratic legislature—and blessed Indiana with a war it should have never fought—tied the readmission of the then three remaining, unreconstructed states (Texas, Virginia, and Mississippi) to their ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment. Lyman Trumbull, senator from Illinois and chairman of the senate judiciary committee, argued the requirement was a breech of faith at this point. Trumbull was, in my opinion, a breech of faith in and of himself, but I really don’t see what difference it would have made. Perhaps there was a fear at this time that the moderate Republicans (nominally supported by the Democrats), vice the “regular” Republicans (Radicals) would win the day. Did Morton think the nation might fail to ratify the Fifteenth Amendment as suggested by Butler’s earlier warning about failure to pass the Fifteenth Amendment in conjunction with the loss of six Northern states? Maybe so. The Democrats might be leaning toward the more conservative candidates as a place to cast their ballots, but the only way for the Democrats to thwart the state’s ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment would be to win the election, which, of course, they’d already done, effectively torpedoing the Radicals’ hopes for the Fifteenth Amendment, but leaving Mississippi outside the Union, problematic for the conservative Republicans and Democratic leadership in Mississippi (and the South). But this “spirit of capitulation/acceptance” will raise its ugly head again in future posts. No matter, the requirement regarding ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment passed the Senate 30-20.  

Eventually, the revised Butler bill, modeled on the amended Farnsworth substitute, with the Fifteenth Amendment tacked on, authorized President Grant to submit the proposed reconstruction constitutions for Mississippi, Virginia, and Texas to their people and at the same time submit for separate vote such provisions as he might choose (again, that refers to the proscription clauses in Mississippi and Virginia). An adjunct to the revised Butler bill was that the commanding general was empowered to suspend all laws that he might deem unjust and oppressive—with the President’s concurrence. In the case of Mississippi, that is a reference to the poll tax established in support of the indigent and other debt collection laws, which the Republicans deemed unjust. Hmmm, wonder if Ames gave any thought to reviewing the convention’s taxation scheme promulgated to pay for the Black and Tan Convention?

Whatever. Mississippi’s fate was now, nominally, in the hands of her people and the President, and the Fourth Military District in the hands of Adelbert Ames. I’ll begin my next post with an overview of Ames’ military rule, much of which—again I’m forcing my unsolicited opinion on you to accept or reject as you will—was carried out to ensure a Republican victory in Mississippi the second time around, a victory which the Radicals further believed would prove more palatable to the people by having Mississippi’s own James Lusk Alcorn on the ticket for governor.

Thanks for reading,



  1. I understand that the 14th Amendment placed all Americans under citizenship of the United States, taking away their citizenship of their respective States, but I do not understand why the 15th Amendment was so detrimental. I'll read them, though, so as to better understand.

  2. Karen, suffrage was a power that belonged to the states. With the 15th Amendment, Congress usurped it, taking onto itself yet another power the Founders never meant for the central government. What Congress was doing during that period was rejecting the Founders' Republic and creating a "pure" democracy. [What it was really meant to do was give the Republicans power(assuming the Freedmen's vote)in the defeated South.] Even with the 13th Amendment--read Section 2. Though the Southern states did not like emancipation, they accepted it. The reason MS and KY did not ratify the thing at the time was that second paragraph. The remainder passed it while either under puppet Republican gov. or under coercion for reentering the Union. Same paragraph exists with the 15th, section 2, and with the 14th, that egregious para is its section 5. The repercussions are obvious today. And the 14th did more than make everyone born in the U.S. citizens (that was the real damage, Congress deciding on its own who qualified as a citizen. But worse than that, the due process clause in section 1 has been used by the Federal gov to apply the Bill of Rights against the states. Except where clearly stated, the Constitution was meant to apply (set limits on) the Federal gov, not the sovereign states, which had their own constitutions and their own BORs [and their own requirements for voting]. The 14th amendment is, IMO, a desecration to the Constitution. Not one of those above amendments are constitutional nor were they legally passed through Congress or ratified by the states.

    It's not that any of those things are necessarily bad (though I'm hardput to defend the 14th amendment on anything). It's that Congress has taken it upon itself to dictate to the states, something, in the matters concerned, it has/had no right to do. The result is Federal interference in the states.

  3. The federal government is out of control. They do nothing that the constitution calls for them to do. They do a lot of things that is for the state to do.


I encourage you to leave comments. I'll reply to all questions within a week, and errors in the posts will be acknowledged in the comment area. Feel free to answer questions/clarify confusion I express in my posts. Disagree with my points if you believe there is need for disagreement, but keep in mind that all off-topic comments, disparaging comments, comments with more than one link, and comments that include profanity will be deleted.