Paul Leland Haworth.

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fore his death he returned thence (1875) to
Washington as a United States senator. His
failure on the Reconstruction question has tended
to obscure two diplomatic triumphs of his ad-
ministration. One of these was the purchase
from Russia in 1867 of the vast territory of Alaska
for the modest sum of $7,200,000. The other was
a vindication of the Monroe Doctrine against
European aggression. In order to exact the pay-
ment of debts, some of them of doubtful char-
acter, France, Spain, and Great Britain had in
1861 united in sending a naval and military ex-
pedition to Mexico. Spain and Great Britain
soon withdrew their forces, but Napoleon III.
kept his troops in the country, conquered it,
and erected a monarchy, to the throne of which


he invited the Archduke Maximilian of Austria.
Influenced by his ambitious young wife* Carlo tta,
daughter of the king of Belgium, Maximilian ac-
cepted. While our Civil War continued our gov-
ernment could undertake nothing more drastic
than to protest against Napoleon's action. With
the return of peace, however, a large force of
troops under General Sheridan was massed on
the Rio Grande, aid was given the patriot party
under Juarez, and Napoleon was politely but
positively informed that he must withdraw the
French forces. The emperor hesitated, but at
length decided to comply. Carlotta sailed to
Europe and passionately endeavored to dissuade
Napoleon from his purpose, but failed. She then
visited Rome, and while having an audience
with the pope her reason left her. The unfortu-
nate Maximilian was captured by the Mexicans
and put to death (June 19, 1867). His fate
served as a grim warning to other foreign princes
who might in the future feel inclined to set up
kingdoms in America.



IN March, 1867, President Johnson appointed
five military officers to administer the affairs of
the five districts created by the great Reconstruc-
tion Act. The officers proceeded to create a new
electorate and through it new civil governments.
In conformity with the supplementary acts the
registration was so conducted as to secure the
fullest possible enrollment of the blacks and the
completest possible exclusion of disfranchised
whites. The consequence was that the constitu-
tional conventions chosen by this electorate in-
cluded in varying degrees men utterly unfitted
by previous training for the work of constitution
making. Outside pressure and the presence in
each convention of a few men of ability served,
however, to make the constitutions much better
than could have been anticipated. In many
respects they were modeled after those of certain
Northern states. Particularly laudable were their
provisions for public education, a matter in which
the constitutions they superseded were, as a
rule, lamentably deficient. As a matter of course,
they guaranteed entire equality, both civil and
political, regardless of race or previous condition.


Before the summer of 1868 all the constitutional
conventions had completed their work except
that of Texas. The electorates of the two Caro-
linas, Florida, Louisiana, and Georgia ratified
the new constitutions and chose state executives
and legislatures before the long session of the for-
tieth congress adjourned, and that body read-
mitted these states into the Union. In all these
states the mass of the white people had vainly
raised the issue of "Caucasian civilization" vs.
"African barbarism," but in Alabama they suc-
ceeded by systematic abstention from voting in
preventing the constitution's receiving the re-
quired majority of registered voters. Neverthe-
less, the Radical leaders in congress proceeded to
saddle Alabama with the constitution and to
readmit her with the rest. In Mississippi the
constitution was rejected by a majority of the
votes actually cast. This state, with Virginia
and Texas, in which the work of Reconstruction
had proceeded more slowly, remained out for
some time longer. The readmitted states all
ratified the Fourteenth Amendment, and it was
proclaimed a part of the constitution in July, 1868.
In Georgia race prejudice soon overcame the
dictates of prudence, and the Democratic members
of the legislature, aided by a few white Repub-
licans, proceeded to expel the twenty-seven
colored members on pseudo-constitutional grounds.
As a result of this impolitic act, congress denied
Georgia representation, counted her electoral
vote conditionally, and subjected her to a new
process of Reconstruction. The legislature was
purged of twenty-four Democrats who labored


under disabilities, the negro members were re-
stored, and the state was compelled to ratify the
new Fifteenth Amendment.

This amendment provided that "the right of
citizens of the United States to vote shall not be
denied or abridged by the United States or by
any State on account of race, color, or previous
condition of servitude." It was one of the results
of the election of 1868, and, though it was bitterly
opposed by Northern as well as Southern Demo-
crats, it was proclaimed in effect March 30, 1870.
Not only Georgia but Texas, Virginia, and Mis-
sissippi were required to ratify it as a condition
of readmission. As the price of their obstinacy,
the people of these four states were forced "to
swallow the black dose of negro suffrage" in order
to obtain their own.

Political lines in the South were from the first
tightly drawn. The opponents of congressional
reconstruction, known as Conservatives or Demo-
crats, consisted of most of the white population
and a very few negroes. Their opponents, the
Radicals or Republicans, included the great mass
of the freedmen, some recent Northern settlers
the hated "Carpet-baggers" and a few native
whites the still more hated "Scalawags." The
negroes naturally gravitated into this party,
and the process was hastened by the formation
of Union or Loyal Leagues, under cover of which,
with awe-inspiring rites, the new voters received
political instruction from the white leaders.
With its iron discipline the League held the blacks
together for several years. In some cases its
members resorted to whipping and otherwise


maltreating negroes who became Democrats.
It did much to widen the rift between the races.
A negro might come to his old owner for advice
upon every other subject, but let the subject of
politics be broached and he became " as silent as
a tombstone," for this was "a subject with which
'Old Massa' had nothing to do."

It was not human nature that the whites should
view with equanimity the sudden elevation of
their ex-slaves to a position of full equality
with themselves. The idea that the negro was
divinely created to be a servant to the white
man had so long been instilled into the Southern
mind that it was an article of faith. The possi-
bility of the black man's occupying any other
position was unthinkable. So long as the negro
remained in his "place" as a menial the Southern
white man was in a sense his friend, but any
attempt on the part of "the nation's ward" to
assert equal privileges was not to be borne.
Furthermore, the meeting of the blacks in secret,
the fact that they were armed, and occasional
instances of lawlessness roused grave appre-
hensions among a people who had long lived in
dread of a servile uprising. Everywhere the
threat was made that the white people would not
tamely submit to negro equality and negro rule.
But the new order of things was backed up by
Northern bayonets. Open resistance was hope-
less. Some indirect and hidden means must be
found. The outcome was the formation of such
secret societies as the Invisible Empire or Ku-
Klux-Klan, the Knights of the White Camelia,
the Pale Faces, and the White Brotherhood.


The objects of these orders varied in different
localities, but the one great design was to keep the
negroes "down." In many instances the orders
did laudable work by helping to restrain lawless-
ness. With emancipation, thievery and the burn-
ing of barns and gin-houses had become common;
while crimes of the worst character, such as rape
and murder, were occasionally committed by the
blacks. Too often, however, the societies became
the instruments of private vengeance and political
proscription, and committed outrages as unjusti-
fiable as they were cruel and fiendish. They took
full advantage of the credulous fears and super-
stitions of the ignorant blacks. A common disguise
of the Ku-Klux consisted of " a white mask, a tall
cardboard hat, and a gown that covered the whole
person." A mere meeting with such a being in
the witching hours of night was often enough to
scare an obnoxious negro into obeying the wishes
of the Klan. The language of the warnings was
often mysterious and sanguinary; the paper on
which they were written was likely to be adorned
with "a picture of crossed swords, coffin, skull
and crossbones, owl, bloody moon, a train of
cars each labelled K. K. K." At their worst,
the Klans whipped negroes, burnt their school-
houses and churches, and indulged in brutal
outrage and murder. Notwithstanding the efforts
of Southern novelists and playwrights to palliate
their offenses, the record of these secret orders
is a black one.

The excuse that the whites were goaded into
such outrages by the evils of negro domination
is true only in part, for the Hans displayed


notable activity in opposing the new state con-
stitutions and in the election of state officers
before the blacks were yet in power. In the
presidential election of 1868, stories of brutal
outrages were a potent political argument in the
North. Republican officials, both white and black,
were murdered in several states, and a reign of
terror existed in many sections.

For varying periods of time most of the re-
constructed states were in the hands of the negroes
and their white allies. It was a sinister alliance
which had been made possible only by the plea
that the negro must be given the ballot for his
own protection. The negroes were totally with-
out political experience, and for the most part
illiterate, ignorant, and unmoral. Some of their
white allies were men of character, but too many
of them were mere adventurers who saw in the
situation a splendid opportunity for their own
enrichment. The inevitable result was a carnival
of misrule hitherto unapproached in American
annals, though equalled in the same period in the
metropolis of the country under Tweed.

Probably the most notable instance of such
misgovernment is that afforded by Louisiana.
Wholesale corruption, intimidation of negro
voters by thousands and tens of thousands,
political assassinations, riots, revolutions all
these were the order of the day in Louisiana
politics in the lurid years from 1866 to 1877.

That this was so was partly due to the character
of the population. Many of the white inhabi-
tants were French and Spanish Creoles who had
both the virtues and the vices of their ancestors.


The ante-bellum society of New Orleans had been
polite and even brilliant, yet the state was one
of the least law-abiding of any of the long-settled
communities. The custom of the duello still
lingered, and in New Orleans frequent bloody
encounters took place beneath the moss-hung
"duelling oaks" in what is now the city park.
Occasionally this lack of respect for law revealed
itself in political frauds and riots, and Louisiana
had a widespread reputation as a corrupt state.
The freedmen, despite the presence of a consider-
able number of educated blacks in New Orleans,
were on the average less intelligent than in most
of the former slave states. The number of slaves
had been unusually large, and most of them had
lived on great plantations where civilizing contact
with the superior race was slight. Furthermore,
many of the slaves had been persons of desperate
or criminal character who in punishment had been
"sold down the River."

The white people of Louisiana did not wait to
see the fruits of negro rule before falling upon the
hapless freedmen. In July, 1866, occurred the
bloody New Orleans riot already described, and
in the late summer and fall of 1868 the Knights of
the White Camelia entered upon so vigorous a
campaign of violence and intimidation that a
Republican majority of 26,000 in the spring was
transformed into a Democratic majority of 46,000
for Seymour. This astonishing reversal was
explained by the Republican members of a con-
gressional investigating committee as follows :

"The testimony shows that over 2,000 persons
were killed, wounded, and otherwise injured in


Louisiana within two weeks prior to the Presi-
dential election in November, 18G8; that half
the state was overrun by violence; and that mid-
night raids, secret murders, and open riot kept
the people in constant terror until the Republicans
surrendered all claim. . . . The most remarkable
case is that of St. Landry, a planting parish on the
river Teche. Here the Republicans had a regis-
tered majority of 1,071 votes. In the spring of
1868 they carried the parish by 678. In the fall
they gave Grant no vote, not one while the
Democrats cast 4,787, the full vote of the parish,
for Seymour and Blair. Here occurred one of the
bloodiest riots on record, in which the Ku-Klux
killed and wounded over 200 Republicans, hunt-
ing and chasing them for two days and nights
through fields and swamps. Thirteen captives
were taken from the jail and shot. A pile of
twenty-five dead bodies was found half-buried
in the woods. Having conquered the Republicans
and killed and driven off the leaders, the Ku-Klux
captured the masses, marked them with badges
of red flannel, enrolled them in clubs, made them
vote the Democratic ticket, and gave them a
certificate of the fact."

A Democratic historian, who was then a mem-
ber of congress, thinks this statement "a good
deal exaggerated, especially as to the number
killed," but admits that "the failure of the ne-
groes to vote can be explained only on the theory
that a reign of terror existed."

From 1868 to 1876 the party in opposition,
consisting of most of the white inhabitants,
including almost all the property owners, pursued


a policy of intimidation, even to the extent of
assassination, while the party in power, consisting
chiefly of negroes, with a sprinkling of white
adventurers, resorted to election frauds and to
unblushing misappropriation of public funds.
The value of property greatly decreased, the
payment of taxes fell far in arrears, and the public
debt swelled to enormous proportions. The de-
crease in property value was due in part to the
ravages of war, to the emancipation of hundreds
of millions of dollars' worth of slaves, to the dis-
orders incident to the change from one labor
system to another, to the disastrous panic of the
early '70's, and to misgovernment. The increase
in the debt was not wholly the result of actual
stealing as is often represented, but the amount
stolen was large. Expenditures were increased
as a result of the bad condition of the Mississippi
levees, of subsidies to companies (fraudulent in
some cases) engaged in undertakings which it was
hoped would help the development of the state,
and of the establishment of a system of public
education. Tax receipts fell off as a result of the
decrease in the value of property, while the state
bonds were floated far below par. Financiers
had little faith in Southern bonds, partly because
of unsettled conditions existing there, partly
because in the period before the war so many
of the states in that section had repudiated their
debts. What faith they had was misplaced, for
when the states were "redeemed," a large pro-
portion of Southern bonds were repudiated.

In 1872 the Radicals quarreled among them-
selves. Governor Warmoth, one of their least


scrupulous leaders, went over to the Conserva-
tives, and a period of great confusion followed.
The election was claimed by both parties, but the
Radicals were able through the complaisance of a
Federal judge, who issued a " midnight restraining
order" of doubtful legality, to obtain the all-
important aid of the Federal troops and to install
William Pitt Kellogg as governor. McEnery,
the Conservative candidate, was also inaugurated,
but was presently obliged temporarily to abandon
all efforts to assert his authority. On September
14, 1874, however, the White League, an armed
quasi-secret organization, rose against the Kellogg
government. A battle ensued in the streets of
New Orleans, and Kellogg and his supporters
took refuge in the custom-house. Once more the
president interfered, and reinstated the Radicals
by Federal bayonets. During the ensuing two
years a state of anarchy existed in parts of

Rarely have a proud people drunk deeper of
the cup of humiliation than did the white in-
habitants of South Carolina in the sixteen years
following the suicidal ordinance of 1860. Forced
during four years of mingled triumph and defeat
to endure the vexation of a blockading fleet which
cut off well-nigh all commerce with the world
outside, they had at last recognized the end when
an invading army, bent on vengeance, had swept
through the land consuming and destroying
everything in its path and leaving the capital in
ruins. At intervals for more than a decade there-
after troops wearing the hated blue were stationed
here and there about the state, but no such


reminder was required to make it apparent that
the old order had passed away. The fact was
brought home in a far more tangible form. The
pyramid of society had been turned upside down.
Those who had been the slaves were now the
rulers. In the government, in the places of the
ruined aristocracy, stood black and brown freed-
men, led by hated Yankees and equally hated

In 1873 three-fourths of the state legislature,
according to a traveler, " belonged to the African
race. They were of every hue from the light
octoroon to the deep black. . . . Every negro
type and physiognomy was here to be seen from
the genteel serving man to the rough-hewn cus-
tomer from the rice or cotton field. Their dress
was as varied as their countenances. There was
the second-hand black frock-coat of infirm gen-
tility, glossy and threadbare. There was the
stove-pipe hat of many ironings and departed
styles. There was also to be seen a total disre-
gard of the proprieties of costume in the coarse
and dirty garments of the field; the stub jackets
and slouch hats of soiling labor. In some in-
stances, rough woolen comforters embraced the
neck and hid the absence of linen. Heavy
brogans and short torn trousers it was impossible
to hide. . . . Seven years ago these men were
raising corn and cotton under the whip of the
overseer. To-day they are raising points of order
and questions of privilege."

Radical Northerners may have seen poetic
justice in the situation just described, but the
overturn was unquestionably bad for the economic


interests of South Carolina. However good his
intentions and the intentions of some were the
best an untutored black man, fresh from slavery
in the Sea Island cotton fields, could not possibly
be a satisfactory legislator or even citizen. A
reign of misgovernment followed enfranchisement
a period not quite so replete in pitched battles,
but in its financial aspects fully as deplorable as
that in Louisiana. During the six years from 1868
to 1874 the public debt was increased by about
$14,000,000, while in the period from 1860 to
1874 the total valuation of property decreased
from $490,000,000 to $141,000,000. Much of
this decline was due to causes similar to those
obtaining in Louisiana, yet unquestionably a
large part was the result of misgovernment.

In refurnishing the state house the legislature
replaced $5 clocks by $600 ones; $4 looking glasses
by $600 mirrors; $1 chairs by $60 chairs; 40
cent spittoons by $14 imported china cuspidors.
A free restaurant and bar for the use of members
and their friends was kept open day and night,
while included in "legislative supplies" were
such items as baskets of champagne, hams, oysters,
suspenders, perfumes, bonnets, corsets, palpita-
tors, chemises, garters, and a metallic coffin.
These were some of the petty steals. State bonds,
the public printing, railroad charters, and public
lands figured in the larger ones. The public
printing bills during eight years of Radical rule
exceeded the total cost of printing for the seventy-
eight preceding years by $717,589. The total
taxes paid by all the members of one of the legis-
latures is said to have been only $634 annually;


67 of the 98 negro members paid none at all.
Little wonder that such a legislature had no fear
of public extravagance.

Although the negroes and their white allies
held the offices and were the beneficiaries of this
reign of corruption, the state was far from being
an Elysium for the freedmen. The Ku-Klux
early became active, and against them the negroes
were powerless to protect themselves. In some
instances the operations of the Klans were justi-
fiable; in others the outrages were not only with-
out extenuation but were brutal and fiendish
beyond description. Says a Democratic histo-
rian of the period:

"Murders, or attempts to murder, are numer-
ous. Whippings are without number. Probably
the most cruel and cowardly of these last was the
whipping of Elias Hill. He was a colored man
who had, from infancy, been dwarfed in legs and
arms. He was unable to use either. But he
possessed an intelligent mind; had learned to
read; and had acquired an unusual amount of
knowledge for one in his circumstances. He was
a Baptist preacher. He was highly respected for
his upright character. He was eminently reli-
gious, and was greatly revered by the people of
his own race. It was on this ground that he was
visited by the Ku-Klux, brutally beaten, and
dragged from his house into the yard, where he
was left in the cold at night, unable to walk or
crawl. After the fiends had left, his sister brought
him into the house. Although this man was a
Republican, his testimony gave evidence of the
mildness and Christian forbearance of his char-


acter, as well as his freedom from ill-will toward
the white race. In answer to a question as to his
feelings toward the whites, he replied that he
had good-will, love, and affection toward them;
but that he feared them."

As a result of such outrages and also of an ever
present fear that a Democratic victory would
mean a return to slavery, the negroes, despite
flagrant misgovernment, remained Republicans
almost to a man. As they outnumbered the
whites about five to three, they invariably
elected the Republican candidates for state
office, no matter how dishonest or disreputable.
In 1868 R. K. Scott, an Ohio carpet-bagger,
was elected governor, and in 1870 was re-elected.
In 1872 he was succeeded by F. J. Moses, a
notorious Jew, who, it is said, had won the favor
of the blacks by dancing at their balls.

In 1874, however, Daniel H. Chamberlain, a
man of different character, was elected. Cham-
berlain was a native of Massachusetts and a
graduate of Yale. He had studied law at Harvard
and had served as a lieutenant in a colored regi-
ment. He soon made it evident that he meant
to preserve "the civilization of the Puritan and
the Cavalier, of the Roundhead and the Hugue-
not." He set his face like flint against the cor-
rupt schemes of the unscrupulous element of his
party, and by a series of courageous acts won the
admiration of the North and high encomiums
from many Southerners. Though opposed at
every step by ignorant and corrupt associates, he
put an end to the carnival of misrule and began
the regeneration of South Carolina.


In most states the period of Radical govern-
ment was shorter than in those just described.
Where the white population was largely pre-
dominant, the negroes and their white associates
were never in control. The carpet-bag govern-
ments would quickly have been overthrown by
force of arms had it not been for the protecting
hand of the Federal government. The blacks,
even when constituting most of a state's militia,
showed themselves totally unable to hold their
own in physical conflicts with the more master-

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Online LibraryPaul Leland HaworthReconstruction and union, 1865-1912 → online text (page 3 of 20)