FACTS, PHASES AND COLORINGS OF RECONSTRUCTION
Besides trying to bring the law before the supreme court, prominent citizens in every State protested against the infamy. Among them may be mentioned H. V. Johnson, B. H. Hill, and others. When Governor Jenkins of Georgia issued an address to the people of the State, advising against acceptance of the Sherman bill, General Pope, the military commander of the district, issued an order forbidding officials to influence the people on reconstruction, and quickly and peremptorily notified him that State officers would not be permitted to denounce the act of Congress. The general soon after relieved Governor Jenkins, the State treasurer and comptroller-general, and appointed army officers to execute their functions. Governor Throckmorton, of Texas, and the governor of Alabama were also removed.
The judiciaries were subjected to the rule of the sword. All judges held their places by sufferance. Even superior court judges were summarily ousted from the bench. The same was true of county officers, and mayors and aldermen of cities. Citizens were arrested, and the only authority given was that of the soldiers who made the arrests. Then citizens were confined at Fort Pulaski and other most convenient fortresses, generally under false and malicious charges urged by irresponsible parties. Two thousand Federal arrests were made in Louisiana, mostly during the Republican rule of eight years. When the people of a State evinced a disposition not to comply with the severe conditions given, a new act of Congress was passed, as in the case of Georgia, December 22, 1869: "An act to promote the reconstruction of Georgia," imposing still more stringent conditions.
The Alabama constitution was submitted according to the reconstruction law to the registered voters, which required a majority of registered votes should be cast. At the election it was defeated, because it lacked the support of this majority. The conservatives registered, but did not vote and thus caused the defeat of the constitution. General Meade, commanding the district, reported, "The registered voters do not desire to be restored under the Constitution." He reported that the Constitution failed of ratification by 8, 114 votes, yet Congress took the matter entirely in its control. It lumped Alabama and its odious constitution in the general bill admitting the other States, and thus made a constitution which the people had refused to ratify. The same thing was done in the case of Arkansas.
A correct idea may be had of the officeholders of Alabama from the State ticket put out by Republicans for election in February, 1868, including the following members of the Freedmen’s bureau: Applegate, of Ohio, for lieutenant-governor; Miller, of Maine, for secretary of state; Reynolds, of Maine, for auditor; Keifer, of Ohio, for commissioner of internal revenue. For legislators, from Montgomery county, Albert Warner of Ohio; Shoeback of Austria. For probate judge, Early of New York. The same rule was followed in the county and local offices in every State and municipality. Illiterate negroes, also, were elected or appointed to highly responsible positions.
The State militia, as organized, was composed mainly of negroes to enforce the odious State laws enacted by a legislature even more radical in legislation than the examples given by Congress. To illustrate: In the election in Alabama, in November, 1869, for governor and members of the legislature, the Republicans asked Governor Smith to call out the negro militia to protect the courts. For political purposes, complaint was made, in 1870, that there were violent measures used by Democrats in courts and at the polls. Governor Smith, the Republican governor, denounced Sibley and others as agitators "who would like to have a Ku Klux outrage every week to assist in keeping up strife between the whites and the blacks, that they might be more certain of the votes of the latter. He would like to have a few colored men killed every week, to furnish semblance of truth to Spencer’s libels upon the people of the State generally." (Noted Men of the Solid South.)
The legislature of Alabama, put in by Congress, contrary to law, "sat nearly the entire year. As soon as it got fairly down to business, it increased the former State aid to railroads by authorizing endorsements to the extent of $16,000 per mile. Bribery and corruption became common to pass these pernicious grants of the State’s credit. Only one road was completed. Five were built a few miles and abandoned. Fraudulent bonds were demanded and issued. The bond brokers and railroad schemers conspired to rob the State of many millions of dollars. The legislature also authorized cities, towns, and counties to issue bonds to railroad builders, and many were fleeced, as these same organizations were controlled by the same element elected in the same way as was the legislature."
"The North Carolina legislature authorized the governor to proclaim martial law in every county, to arrest and try all accused persons by court-martial… to raise two regiments to execute his will… one regiment of negroes and the other of renegades . . . and proceeded to arrest honorable citizens to be tried by court-martial in time of peace. With rare patience, the people of North Carolina restrained their indignation and resolved to await the election of 1870." This procedure was general in all the States under the reconstruction law.
The Republican party accomplished its object, in preserving its power, but only for a time. In the Forty-first Congress, beginning March 5, 1871, the twelve Southern States were represented as follows: Twenty-two Republican senators, 2 Democratic senators. 48 Republican representatives, and 13 Democratic representatives. Most of the members of Congress were from the North. President Lincoln had made a supposed case of this kind in 1862, and thus criticised it: "To send a parcel of Northern men here as representatives, elected as it would be understood and perhaps really so, at the point of the bayonet, would be disgraceful and outrageous." (Noted Men of the Solid South.) Under the iron hand of military government, both Federal and State, the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments were ratified and the credit of every State exhausted, but at the sacrifice of every principle of local self-government.
South Carolina is a sample of the other States (in 1873). "But the treasury of South Carolina has been so thoroughly gutted by the thieves who have hitherto had possession of the State government, there is nothing to steal. The note of any negro in the State is worth as much on the market as a South Carolina bond. It would puzzle even a Yankee carpet-bagger to make anything out of the office of State treasurer under the circumstances." Governor Chamberlain, a Republican, said that when at the end of the Moses administration, he entered on his duties as governor, "two hundred trial justices were holding office by executive appointment, who could neither read nor write the English language." (Noted Men of the Solid South.)
This Page last updated 01/26/02