Benson John Lossing.

Harper's encyclopdia of United States history from 458 A.D. to 1905 (Volume 3) online

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against the negro. They believe that the Massachusetts, wrote:
law threatens the disappearance of the

race issue on which they found their power No form of government can be based on

and the fall of the narrow oligarchy which systematic injustice: least of all a repub-

for so many years has ruled with iron He. All governments partake of the im-

hand in the Southern States and in the perfections of human nature, and fall far

national conventions of the Democratic short not only of the ideals dreamed of by

party, good men, but even of the intentions of

The real objection to the bill, in other ordinary men. Nevertheless, if perfection
words, comes from the fact that one of be unattainable, it is still the duty of
the two great parties believes that free every nation to live up to the principles
elections imperil their power. They know of simple justice, and at least follow the
that by this bill the United States officers, lights it can clearly see.
taken from both parties, are appointed by Whatever may have been the intentions
the courts, the body furthest removed of our forefathers, the steady growth of
from politics. They know that these United our government has been towards a
States officers will be held in check by democracy of manhood. One by one the
local officers and be utterly unable to in- barriers which kept from the suffrage the
terfere with the proper conduct of the poor and the unlearned have been swept
election. But they know also that the away, and, in the long run, no majority
result will be publicity, and they believe has been great enough, no interest has
that in consequence of publicity many dis- been strong enough, to stand up against
tricts will be lost to them. This law is as that general public opinion which con-
fair to one party as another ; but if one tinually grows in the direction of larger
party is cheating that party will suffer, liberty. That public opinion has never
and where the cry against the law is loud- known a refluent wave. What democracy
est it is the best evidence of its necessity, has gained it has always kept. If you
and proves that those who resist it profit suppose that the progress of democracy
by the wrong-doing which it seeks to cure, among white men has been pleasant for

The Constitution of the United States those gentlemen who were at ease in their

promises equal representation to the peo- possessions, you have not read history,

pie, and it makes the negro a citizen. It is not an agreeable thing in any day

Equality of representation has been de- or generation to distribute power which

stroyed by the system in the South which any set of men have always had exclu-

makes one vote there overweigh five or sively to themselves among those who nev-

six votes in the North, and the negro has er had it before. It lessens one and exalts

been deprived of the rights the nation the other.



We of the North have by no means late the laws relating to close time de-
reached the perfection of self-government, barred from complaining of murder else-
Our apportionments of congressional dis- where when its own families suffer by it?
tricts are by no means utterly fair; but Must we ourselves reach absolute perfec-
there is a limitation to injustice beyond tion before we ask others to treat us de-
which no party does to go, except in In- cently? Is robbery by violence to be tol-
diana, where 4,000 majority in the State crated and approved until we have utterly
gives Republicans but three out of thir- abolished petty larceny? The difference
teen Congressmen. Our voters are not between the nation of highest and the
entirely free from undue influence, but nation of lowest civilization is only in
there is a point beyond \vhich no employer degree.

dares to go; and the votes in manufact- But, after all, have we any right to

uring districts show how sturdy is the complain of bad actions in the South?

defiance of most workingmen to even a Why should not the citizens of each State

dictation which is only inferred. Many be allowed to manage their own affairs?

a man seems to vote against his own and If you have any confidence in a repub-

his employer s interest to show that he lican form of government, why not show

is in every way his own master. But it? Let them wrestle with their problem

whichever way he votes, his vote gets alone. It is theirs; let them manage it.

counted, and his will, whether it be feeble If it were founded on fact, this would be

or sturdy, gets expressed. a powerful appeal to one who believes as

It often happens that when debate does the writer of this article, in democ-
springs up about the condition of affairs racy which is to say, in government by
in other parts of the Union, when in- all the people; who believes that no com-
timidation with shot-guns and mobs, when munity can permanently dethrone justice;
systematic falsifications of returns, are who believes that all the laws of this uni-
made subjects of comment, the errors and verse are working towards larger liberty,
shortcomings in the North are dragged greater equality, and truer fraternity,
in as a justification for all that has hap- But so far as federal elections are con-
pened of illegal action elsewhere. This cerned, this appeal is founded on no fact
kind of answer is so common, and so re- whatever. When he goes to elect a mem-
minds one of the beam and the mote of ber of Congress, the man from Missis-
Scripture, that it is worth analyzing, sippi or the man from Maine does not go
It is founded on the axiom of geometry to the polls as a citizen of Mississippi or
that things which are equal to the same of Maine, but as one of the people of the
thing are equal to each other. This is United States. All meet on common
undoubtedly true, if you are sure of the ground. They are citizens of one great
first equality. All things are not equal republic one and indivisible. Each one
because they have the same names, votes for the government of himself and
When an employer intimates to some of of the other. The member from Missis-
his workmen that he cares most for men sippi whom the one elects and the mem-
who look after his interests, and that his ber from Maine whom the other sends to
interests are with such and such a party, Washington must unite in making the
that employer is guilty of intimidation, laws which govern both. The member
When the interesting collection of gentle- from Mississippi has the same right to de-
men in a Southern district go forth to fire mand that the member from Maine shall
guns all night, in order, as the mem- be elected according to the law of the
ber from that district phrased it in open land as he has to demand the same thing
House, " to let the niggers know there is of a colleague from his own State,
going to be a fair election the next The object of assembling the Congress
day," they also are guilty of intimidation, together is to declare the will of the peo-
Nevertheless, there is a difference; espe- pie of the United States. How can that
cially if there be an honest eye to see it. will be declared if there be more than
Murder and catching fish out of season twenty men returned to the House who
are both crime*; but there are odds in never were elected, whose very presence
crimes. Is a community where men vio- is a violation of the Constitution of the



United States and of the law of the land? press his negro and have him also? Among

Still less will the will of the people be all his remedies, he has never proposed

declared if those twenty men shift the to surrender the representation which he

control of the House from one party to owes to the very negro whose vote he re-

the other. All free countries are gov- fuses. The negro is human enough to be

erned by parties. They can never be gov- represented, but not human enough to

erned any other way. If, then, fraud have his vote counted,

changes the very principles on which a Suppose it were a fact that negro domi-

country be governed, how can it be justi- nation and barbarism would follow from

fied? honest voting in the Southern State elec-

The attempted justification is this: tions; suppose it were a fact that disre-
We in the South, inasmuch as you have gard of law and complete violation of the
conferred the right of suffrage on the rights secured to the negro by the Con-
negro, and inasmuch as he is in the ma- stitution were absolutely necessary to pre-
jority in many of our States, are in grave serve the civilization of the South ; what
danger of being overwhelmed by mere has that to do with federal elections?
ignorant numbers. We white people who Violation of law and disregard of statutes
pay the taxes will never permit these bar- are not needed to save the United States,
barians to rule over us. When we Evidently, then, the question of race
thought it necessary to prevent their supremacy and of good government in the
domination, we swarmed around their South has nothing whatever to do with
cabins by night; we terrorized them ; we that other question which concerns our
showed them by examples that to be a whole people, whether the Republican
politician was dangerous that it led to party of the United States shall receive
death even. Those things have in great and have counted the votes which belong
measure passed away now, and we simply to it by virtue of the Constitution of the
falsify the count; we stuff the ballot- country. If you tell us that these are
boxes. That makes less trouble and is ignorant votes and ought not to be
just as effectual. Finding that their counted, we answer and the answer is
votes do not count, the negroes have lately conclusive that ignorance is everywhere,
ceased to vote. Whether clothed in the and that the Democratic party never
fervid eloquence of the late Mr. Grady or failed to vote its ignorance to the utter-
in the strange language of the governor most verge of the law. Why should they,
of South Carolina, which will be quoted of all partisans, claim that only scholars
further on, this is the justification. should vote? Is the high and honorable

But this justification does not in the esteem in which the chief officers of the
least touch the subject of federal elec- greatest Democratic city the city of New
tions. Every Southern man knows that York are now held among men an ex-
there is no possibility of negro domination ample of what intelligence will do for a
in the United States. No federal taxes community? If a man thinks the same
will ever be imposed by the negro. No thing of the republic that I do, must
federal control is within his power. If there be an inquest held over his intelli-
all this wrong at the ballot-box be needed gence before I can have his vote counted
to preserve a proper local State govern- with mine in the government of the
ment, to keep the Caucasian supreme in United States?

the State, not a living soul can dare to Or, to put it more directly, in the Ian-
say that the same wrong, or any other, guage of ex-Governor Bullock, of Georgia,
is necessary for Caucasian supremacy in which is quoted in the Atlanta Constitu
tive United States. In fact, transferred to tion. " It is now generally admitted with
the broader arena, the struggle is between us that there is no more danger to the
the proud Caucasian and the Caucasian body politic from an ignorant and vicious
who is not so proud. If it be a race ques- black voter than from an illiterate and
tion, is there any reason why the white vicious white voter."

man in the South should have two votes This system of false counting is not in
to my one? Is he alone of mortals to eat dulged in with impunity. Its baleful in-
big cake and havr it too? Is he to sup- fluence has nowhere more clearly shown



itself than in its effects upon the sense of
justice of Southern men. Where else on
earth would you get such a declaration
as came from John P. Finley, of Green
ville, Miss., for twelve years treasurer of
his county a declaration made in the
presence of his fellow-citizens that he did
not consider ballot-box stuffing a crime,
but a necessity; that in a case of race
supremacy a man who stuffed a ballot-
box would not forfeit either his social or
business standing; and that ballot-box
stuffing, so far as he knew, was looked
upon by the best element in the South as
a choice between necessary evils? You
would search far before you would find
the parallel of what Watt K. Johnson
said in the same case (Hill vs. Catchings).
" I would stuff a ballot-box," said he, " if
required to do it, to put a good Republi
can in office, as I would a Democrat, as
my object is to have a good honest gov

" Good honest government " by ballot-
box stuffing! Think of the moral condi
tion of a community where a man would
dare openly to make such an avowal. In
saying this there is no purpose to speak
unkindly, but only to point out the inevi
table effect upon public morals of con
tinued violation of law. No community
can encourage systematic disregard of
law, even for purposes deemed justifiable,
without injury to all other laws and to
its own moral sense. It only needs to
have the fence broken down in one place
to have the bad cattle range through the
whole garden.

While this state of things exists in Mis
sissippi, a glance at South Carolina will
give even more food for reflection. In
that State, by law there was but one reg
istration at the home of the voter (at the
polling precinct), which took place in
1882. Since that time all additions to the
list have been made at the county seats.
Whenever a man moves not merely from
county to county, not merely from town
to town, not only from precinct to pre
cinct, but whenever he removes from house
to house in the same precinct, he
must have a new certificate from the
supervisor of registration, who, nomi
nally at least, has his office at the county
seat. Without this changed certificate, he
is disfranchised. If he travels to the county

seat and cannot find his supervisor, he
has no remedy. Even among the most
intelligent and alert politicians it is easy
to see what a vast chance there is for mis
behavior, and it needs no specification to
show how it works in South Carolina
among that part of the population which
has just struggled to manhood. But in
order that the work of government by the
minority may be complete, the law decrees
that there shall be eight different ballot-
boxes, so that those who can read can
know where to put their tickets and those
who cannot read can exercise their ingenu
ity. The law also provides that the officials,
who alone are present with the voter,
shall read to him the inscriptions on the
ballot-boxes ; but as the governor provides
that all the officials shall be of one party,
it is easy to see how valuable this provi
sion is. In order that the negro shall
have no advantage from the position of
the boxes becoming known, the boxes are
shuffled from time to time, and if a ballot
gets into a wrong box it cannot be count
ed. In the Miller and Elliott case, Mr.
Elliott s counsel, unable to deny the shift
ing of ballot - boxes, justifies it on the
ground that there is no law against it,
and on the further ground that it is in
the spirit of the law; which last defence
is true.

With this preliminary statement the
reader can enter into the grim humor of
the reply of the governor of South Caro
lina, himself a candidate for re-election,
when the Republicans asked that among
the judges of election should be some Re
publicans. It would seem not unreason
able that one of the great parties to the
political contest should have a " sworn
official " to see that the voter was correct
ly told which box to put his vote into, and
to see that the vote was rightly counted.
The governor, however, rose above party,
rejected the Republican request, put none
but Democrats on guard, and in his reply
used, among other similar things, the fol
lowing words:

" To the eternal honor of our State and
the Democratic party, it can now be said
that our elections are the freest and fairest
in the world, and that not a single citizen
of hers, no matter what his rank, color, or
condition, can, under her just and equal
laws, impartially administered, as they are,
be by any perversion or intimidation barred



at the polls from the free and full exercise which it did after waiting for the death

of his suffrage. There is not only perfect o f ^ Q contestant
freedom in voting, but the amplest protection

afforded the voter." lf anv man replies, as sometimes peo
ple do, " You are assuming that the

These words were in his letter of Sept. colored man will vote your ticket, and

29, 1888. On July 30 preceding, just that is not so," the plain answer is: "It

two months before, that same governor is either so or not so. If it is so, then

said, in a public speech, which you will we are deprived of a vote which belongs

find in the Charleston News and Courier to us under the Constitution of the

of the 31st, the following: United States. If it be not so, and the

negro is voting the Democratic ticket

"We have now the rule of a minority of f rom choice, where is your race issue?

a^atZ^urr^rrU^ <* white man ^ negro are agreed

burg could ever be wielded like that mass of on white supremacy, why do you send

600,000 people. The only thing which stands so much Southern eloquence North to

to-day between us and their rule is a flimsy touch our Caucasian hearts?"

statute the eight-box law which depends , . ,. ., . , ,

for its effectiveness upon the unity of the This s . tate of thm g s cannot be good for

white people." this nation, either North or South. Re
member that this is not a question of

Of course, the utterance of July 30 was outcries and epithets, of reproaches and
for the home market, and the letter of hysterics. It is a plain question of jus-
September for export. But when you tice and fair-dealing. Both sections of
consider that both these statements were this country can afford to be fair and
made to the same community, by the open with each other. If you say that
governor of the State, you can form you have a right of local self-government
some idea of the effect which this system which we have no business to interfere
of action at the polls has had on the with, and that, unless you are allowed
morale of the people. to go on in your own way, you fear

This course of utterly riding over the disaster most foul, the next thing for
will of the voter has been carried to such all of us to do is to find some plan
excess as was never dreamed at the out- which will give us the votes of the whole
set, even by those who planned the first people of the United States, and leave
great wrongs. When South Carolina, by you your local self-government.
a gerrymander which remains up to date To put this whole matter in a nutshell,
the greatest spectacle that has ever been the Republican party alleges that it is
put upon a map, and which to this day deprived by all manner of devices differ-
almost defies belief, put 31,000 colored ing in different States, but having one
people in one district with only 6,000 common purpose of votes which under
whites, the framers of the act meant at the Constitution of the land that party
least that that district should have .the is entitled to. To this the parties offend-
representative of its choice. But, en- ing reply that the suppression of votes
couraged by the success of the Southern and voters is necessary to prevent the
plan elsewhere, even that district has threatened destruction of local self-gov-
been taken away. It is well known that ernment by the numerical superiority of
in the South itself this was regarded as race ignorance in very many States. We
an outrage, but the voice of those so re- have a right, say they, to prevent, by vio-
garding it has fallen into the silence of lence or by fraud, if need be, the control
consent. of the ignorant in our own States.

In Alabama the 4th district was so Suppose all that to be so; suppose that

made that 27,000 colored men were all you are doing is needful for your pres-

packed in with 6,000 whites, and at every ervation, and that you must keep on at

election the Democratic candidate is re- all costs: how does that give you the

tvirned. So flagrant was one of the in- right to govern us by your methods?

stances that the Forty-eighth Congress, If you have the right of local self-govern-

Democratic by ninety-five majority, was ment, have we not the right of national

obliged to disgorge the sitting member, self-government? If you of the States



are willing to take all hazards to save over, the exercise of this supervisory

yourselves from ignorant negro domina- power is to be called into being by

tion, are you going to blame us of the petition, thus singling out by their own

United States if we refuse to submit to signatures those persons who are respon-

fraudulent domination ? You think negro sible for the claim that the elections need

domination unbearable. We think fraudu- supervision, and who thereby become ob-

lent domination a crime. noxious to the very violence which they

But we need not quarrel. There must are striving to avoid.

be some remedy consistent with the Con- In some States, like North Carolina
stitution, which was intended to provide and Virginia, a supervisor law would be
for this very local government, and for very helpful; but there are States and
this very federal government. Each was communities with regard to which it is
to be respected within its sphere, and each said that it would be assuming a terrible
was to subsist side by side with the other, responsibility to enact it. Against such
So far as the election of members of Con- a law the South urges sectionalism and its
gress was concerned, the Constitution pro- interference with local self-government;
vides for the very condition in which we for no supervision which does not examine
find ourselves. In the first instance, the all the boxes and count all the votes is
legislature of the State may make the worth the trouble of enacting. It is true
regulations for the election of members, that in New York City, under the able and
but Congress may make or alter them in thorough management of the chief super-
accordance with its own will. It may visor, great results have been accom-
alter them by providing for federal super- plished by this law, and elections are held
vision, or it may make such new regula- so satisfactory to both parties that there
tions as will assume the entire election have been no contested elections from that
from registration to certification. city in my remembrance. Whether in

We have, then, two kinds of remedy other regions, among a different people, in
the alteration of State regulations and the sparsely settled places, this could be so
making of new ones of our own. As to well done is the point at issue.
the first method, so far as it was ex- In what we call theory, no really valid
hibited in the proposed Senate bill for su- objection can be urged against federal
pervision, the Senator from Alabama, Mr. supervision, for an honest count can hurt
Pugh, when the bill was presented in the no one. Even if all the boxes are sub-
Senate, rose and declared: jected to the supervision of a second set

of men, the result in New York proves

" If the bill becomes a law, its execution ,-. . , established it is a solid

will insure the shedding of blood and the tn , wne

destruction of the peace and good order safeguard satisfactory to honest people,

of this country. Its passage will be resisted So easily does the system now move, and

by J: v !T y ,, parl lfT nt l ry eth ? d s and ? ve J7 so free is it from friction, that it is doubt-
method allowed by the Constitution of the f T - f -i f ,-, ,-, . ,.,
United States." ful " a ten * the readers of this article

even remember that the system is fully

This declaration, made at a time when established. Many contests, however,

debate is not usual on a bill, will attract were necessary to thus establish it in New

attention to the objections which are urged York City. But this is a practical world,

against the supervisor law. Some of where all unnecessary difficulties ought to

them are worth reproducing in order that be avoided, and where the middle way is

people may carefully consider all parts often the best because it is the middle

of a question which must have a settle- way.

ment, and can never have any final settle- In this case the middle course is ap-

Online LibraryBenson John LossingHarper's encyclopdia of United States history from 458 A.D. to 1905 (Volume 3) → online text (page 31 of 76)