The editors of The Atlantic Monthly have received from a South Carolina contributor the following paper, to the striking statements of which the fact that the writer is by birth, education, traditions, associations, and residence a Southerner ought to give additional value. Their interest in the present political juncture it is believed will amply justify the devotion of these pages to them. The writer’s name is withheld for obvious reasons.
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The appearance of the Northern armies in the South during the late war was everywhere hailed with rejoicings by the negroes, and on the full achievement of their liberty through the defeat of the South their exultation was unbounded. The carpet-baggers came here in the army, in the service of the Freedmen’s Bureau, and as agents of Northern churches and benevolent associations. They at once took the negro by the hand, and told him that the Northerners had freed him and intended to keep him free, give him property, and educate his children. The negro listened eagerly, and, well knowing his old masters were anything but satisfied with the new order of things, blindly followed the guidance of his new friends. Supplies were distributed, colored schools were founded, and the blacks were induced to leave the white churches and worship apart. Many colored men from the North, superior to their Southern brethren in culture, also came to help on the work.
A few of the carpet-baggers were pure men, zealots and philanthropists; but many were dishonest, adventurers who had left their country for their country’s good. Reconstruction came. The enfranchised freedmen were utterly at sea in politics; they needed leaders. The Southern whites refused the opportunity, though it is doubtful if they could have secured it, with scorn. The carpet-baggers seized it. Their authority over the blacks was already assured, but to make it doubly sure the Union Leagues were established. Every negro joined them, and was awed by their mystic rites. Free political use was also made of the churches. The negro went to the polls, took a ballot from a carpet-bag friend, and without looking at it (with reason, for he could not read) dropped it in the box. He did not know what voting meant; he had only a vague though all-absorbing idea that it would bring him great good and avert great evil.
The constitutional convention of this State was held early in 1868. It was composed of carpet-baggers, scalawags (native white republicans), and a moiety of the brightest field-hands, ignorant of the alphabet. A constitution was framed—with a bill of rights prefixed which would have made Calhoun gasp and satisfied Jefferson and Sumner themselves—with clauses by which the State that originated nullification and secession is officiously made to declare that its citizens owe paramount allegiance to the constitution and government of the United States, and that the “State shall ever remain a member of the American Union; and all attempts, from whatever source or upon whatever pretext, to dissolve the said Union shall be resisted with the whole power of the State.”
The constitution was adopted and the first legislature and administration were chosen. The composition of the legislature was like that of the convention; the governor, attorney-general, and state treasurer were carpet-baggers; the lieutenant-governor and secretary of state were negroes; the house selected a scalawag for speaker. Then began those fantastic tricks which for six years made the government of South Carolina the worst mockery of the name ever seen on earth. In the legislature no bills, unless of a purely legal character, could be passed without bribery, and by bribery any bill whatever could be passed. A formidable lobby sprang up, and presently organized depredations were commenced on the public; I will merely summarize the main performances. In the cases of the Greenville and Columbia Railroad and the Blue Ridge Railroad, the State had guaranteed railroad bonds to the extent of $6,000,000, reserving mortgages on the roads sufficient to cover the amount. Rings composed of carpet-baggers and native speculators paid the legislature to enact laws by which the State released her mortgages, still retaining her liability for the $6,000,000, and authorized the roads to pledge their property anew. In the case of the bank of the State, whose notes the State was bound to redeem, fraudulent notes to the amount of $750,000 were approved and assumed. The state-house was gorgeously fitted out: there were clocks at $480, mirrors at $750, and chandeliers at $650 apiece; elegant toilet sets were placed in the rooms of officials; there were two hundred fine porcelain spittoons at eight dollars apiece; and costly carpets, mirrors, sofas, etc., under the pretense of fitting up committee rooms, were furnished members for their apartments at boarding-houses. The real debt thus incurred was $50,000, but the contractor by sharing the spoil procured an appropriation of $95,000. Contingent funds became a notorious leak in the treasury; during the six years preceding 1875 they aggregated $376,000. During the same years the expenses incurred for the public printing ran up to the astounding figure of $1,104,000. During 1871, 1872, and 1873, they amounted to $900,000, or a thousand dollars a day.
The bonded debt of the State, amounting to $5,800,000 when the new régime began, was run up to $27,900,000; and as the State was also liable for $6,000,000 of railroad debts, as above explained, its total debt was well-nigh $34,000,000. Most of the money raised on the bonds was deliberately stolen; and the legislature in 1873, alarmed by the clamor of the people and grudging the money paid for interest, repudiated about half the debt. The rate of taxation was almost incredibly heightened. Before the war the taxable value of property in the State was $490,000,000, and the taxes averaged $400,000 a year, the highest ever known being $515,678 in 1851. The valuation of taxable property since the war has been $184,000,000, and the annual taxes, state and county, have averaged $2,000,000! This is confiscation, pure and simple; and besides this the assessments have been outrageous. It is doubtful if the property assessed at $184,000,000 would bring $100,000,000 in market. Men were appointed auditors (assessors) whose figures would increase the amounts sent to the treasury to be stolen. I am personally familiar with seven or eight instances in which, owing to over-assessment, the tax amounted to five per cent. of the real value of the property; and complaint on the subject was general. Municipal taxes, too, were extravagant. Such distress was engendered that at times half the real estate in a county would be advertised for sale for delinquent taxes.
The officials in Columbia grew fabulously rich. Men, white and black, of no property went there, and, with no perceivable or conceivable means of honest living beyond a moderate official salary, would soon build palatial residences and support landaulets and blooded horses, worth more than their pay for a year. The state administration exceeded the legislature in corruption. They made stupendous over-issues when an issue of bonds was authorized, and pocketed the proceeds. In connection with the financial agency in New York, they perpetrated some of the boldest swindles that were undertaken. A commission had been appointed to buy $700,000 worth of lands to sell to freedmen, who met with difficulty at first in persuading their old owners to sell them land. This commission, by charging the State five or six times as much as they paid for lands, succeeded in stealing over a half million of dollars. The treasury was annually rifled of the taxes till it became bankrupt.
The executive of South Carolina has unusual powers. With the approval of the senate he appoints the justices of the peace (called trial-justices here), county auditors, county treasurers, and many other local officers. The appointees for six years were corrupt whites, or equally corrupt and far more ignorant blacks, all rabid partisans. The colored justices could rarely read or write, and sent out their warrants signed with cross-marks. These officers were paid by fees, and were eager to listen to trivial complaints against whites, or to stir up litigation. The treasurers of the counties were often in default; and as they owed their appointment generally to the state senator from their county, they were compelled to supply him with the public funds whenever he called for them. The local officers elected by the people were on a par with the appointees of the governor.
To make matters worse, the fountains of justice were corrupted. The supreme court was composed of one carpet-bagger, one scalawag, and one negro. The circuit courts, however, were not degraded. There were only two or three white or colored republicans competent to exercise judicial functions; and the whites, it was well understood, would not allow a perversion of power in this direction. So native white lawyers were generally selected for circuit judges—men who, retaining their honesty, would consent to keep quiet on politics, or openly profess republicanism. But to offset this there were juries composed chiefly of illiterate and degraded negroes, who thought their only duty was to find no bill or not guilty in all cases of blacks prosecuted by whites. Negro felons sent to the penitentiary were pardoned out by the wholesale. The highest number of prisoners in the penitentiary at Columbia (our only state prison) at any one time since the war has been four hundred and eighty. Yet in 1870 two hundred and five convicts there confined were pardoned. Pardons were granted as freely to men sentenced to serve for life or a term of years as to felons of a less degree of built. Negro convicts were generally pardoned, for political purposes, but money could obtain pardons for undeserving whites.
The demoralization became inconceivable. Larceny was universal. If a man hung up his coat at one end of a field, before he could plow to the other end and back it was stolen. Cows turned loose to browse came home milked dry. Live stock of all kinds was killed in the woods in the day-time. Cotton was picked from the fields at night, and corn “slip-shucked.” Gardens and orchards were stripped, and water-melons actually became a rarity on white men’s tables. Burglary, especially of smoke-houses and barns, was common. Everybody had dogs and guns, and thousands kept watch at night over their property.
In short, from 1868 to 1874 inclusive, the government of South Carolina was a grand carnival of crime and debauchery. After a year or so, the oppression grew so grinding that in many counties Ku-Klux Klans were organized. But their excesses soon carried the score over on the other side, and drew down the just indignation of the national government. They existed chiefly in counties where the whites outnumbered the negroes, and which had escaped the ravages of the war.
All these matters were aggravated by the management of the state militia. The militia officers appointed by the governors were all blacks, and the negro population eagerly enlisted. The whites scornfully refused to enlist under colored officers. The governor had power to receive any organization of private individuals, as part of the militia; but if he refused them, it was made highly penal to continue the organization. In several places the whites formed companies of their own, and offered themselves to the governor, who invariably refused them, and caused them to disband; but for the negro militia, one thousand Winchester and nineteen thousand Springfield rifles, with plenty of ammunition, were purchased. Armed with these, they drilled in a manner highly insulting and alarming to the whites. The military companies were used to tickle the negro’s taste for martial pomp, and keep the negro vote consolidated.
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It is now time to contemplate the other side of the picture.
For years after the fall of the Confederacy the people could not hear a renewal of war mentioned without a shudder. Politics fell into abhorrence. The leaders of secession lost their influence. We had been told that the Yankees would back up against the North Pole before they would fight; that one man could drink all the blood which would be shed. But the North had warred promptly, aggressively, and successfully, and rivers of blood had run; consequently, the commands of the North were obeyed, the ordinance of secession was repealed, the constitutional amendment abolishing slavery was ratified, reconstruction was not resisted. The old leaders, indeed, were not disposed to submit. They bitterly protested against the enfranchisement of the freedmen, railed at the military government and the constitutional convention, tried to stir np enthusiasm for Seymour and Blair and a white-line democratic state ticket in 1868, and in every manner to rouse up the people; but their exertions were but ill-seconded. There were state conventions of the democracy, indeed; but it is a remarkable fact that, for nearly eleven years after the war, there were, except here and there, no democratic primaries—precinct clubs—in South Carolina. Efforts were repeatedly made to form them, but the people would not join them, or, having joined, attend. It became the custom to elect delegates to the state conventions by calling mass-meetings of the county democracy at the county courthouse. These meetings elected the delegates, or made county nominations. Their only attendants, generally, were ten or a dozen gentlemen who had been our statesmen before the war.
The people regretted their defeat, and looked with hostility on both the emancipation and the enfranchisement of their slaves. The war and its results had cost them blood, property, and liberty; “But,” said they, “it’s no use trying to resist the current; the North is too strong for us, and is bound to have its way.” To the solicitations of their more sanguine leaders they replied, “You have misled us once; we will be more prudent in the future.” The course of President Johnson inspired them with hopes, but these fled when the unity of the North was perceived. The prospect of electing Seymour animated them to some extent, but events soon chilled them again. For years, voting was regarded as a mournful and onerous farce, and thousands refrained from it.
Even the new régime, with all its horrors, was submitted to, the sporadic outbreaks of the Ku-Klux forming the one exception. The leaders tried a change of tactics. In 1870 they dubbed the state democracy the Citizens’ Reform Party, and, in the hope of catching part of the negro vote, nominated a Northern-born republican resident for governor, who accepted because dissatisfied with the party corruption. They hoped through success to make a step towards regaining power. But the negroes remained solid, and the regular republican ticket was again elected. The leaders of the whites now acquiesced in the do-nothing policy. For four years the whites kept almost altogether out of politics. The nomination of Greeley, indeed, excited their hopes powerfully at first, but his election was soon perceived to be impossible. No state ticket was run in 1872. There were two republican tickets in the field: the regular nominees supported by the corrupt element—and consequently the bulk—of the party, and a bolting ticket supported by some republican leaders, with their followers, who were in favor of reform. The few whites who turned out to vote for Greeley also voted for the bolting candidates, who, however, were defeated. The tax-paying democrats met once or twice after this to consult over their grievances, but confined themselves to temperate remonstrances, petitions, and non-partisan investigations.
In the election of 1874 there was again a split among the republicans. The party convention nominated a ticket at the head of which was Mr. Daniel H. Chamberlain, for governor. He was supposed to be corrupt, as he had been attorney-general and a member of various important commissions at the time when corruption was greatest. The honest element again bolted. The whites met in convention, and resolved to support the bolting ticket. In return the bolters divided many local nominations with the democrats. The whites almost to a man voted for the bolting candidates, — county, legislative, and state, — although many of them (even the nominee for lieutenant-governor) were colored; so desperate at last had they become under governmental oppression. Mr. Chamberlain and the other regular candidates for state officers were elected; but the bolters and democrats elected about two fifths of the legislature.
The whites now expected the oppression to be redoubled. But when Mr. Chamberlain was installed, a curious spectacle was presented. He had made the usual promises of reform on the stump, amidst the smiles of his supporters, who had nominated him because they thought him a congenial spirit. He now announced that he had spoken in earnest. He made wholesale removals of the corrupt officers appointed by his predecessors, and replaced them by honest and competent men, in large part democrats. The corrupt schemes of the legislature were relentlessly vetoed. It was as bad as any preceding body, and elected two infamous men as circuit judges. Terrible excitement arose, which the governor quieted by refusing to commission the judges on a legal quibble; and by his threatening to veto the usual extortionate tax-bill, the most reasonable one known since 1867 was procured. The corrupt regular republicans went into vehement opposition to the governor, while the bolters and the democrats rallied to sustain his vetoes.
The reforms in justice, however, were most widely, deeply, and immediately felt. The wholesale pardoning at once stopped; the penitentiary began to fill up; good jury commissioners (the executive names them), who would select decent blacks for jurors and give the whites half the panels, were appointed. The whites began to take interest in the courts, and to look with less disfavor on colored jurors; the corrupt justices walked the plank by scores; a great decrease of crime was perceptible in a few months; race hatred greatly subsided. It is impossible to express the immense feeling of relief experienced at the restoration of confidence in the government.
The whites were unable to make too much of their savior. He was admitted into the most aristocratic society. He was elected orator by the colleges, called on by fashionable associations to respond to toasts, and lionized everywhere. The white leaders and the papers called loudly for his reëlection, and though the corrupt element of his party were determined to nominate another man or bolt should he carry the convention, a large section was in favor of renominating him. The whites shuddered at the terrible ordeal they had gone through, and seemed ready to recognize the rights of the negro and do anything in the way of compromise to avert such evil in the future. In several municipal elections (noticeably in Charleston) mixed tickets, half democrats and half blacks or republicans, were elected. It seemed as if a political millennium were about to dawn.
The motives of the governor have been variously construed. The belief became common that he was a pure man and had been slandered in the past. Many, however, believed him to be talented, ambitious, and unscrupulous; declaring that he had been a corruptionist while it suited his designs, but that on becoming governor he had determined to turn over to the whites, get socially recognized, procure an election to the United States Senate, and go there with such a powerful Southern support behind him that he could play an important part in national politics. This is the belief of the whites at present. Governor Chamberlain is a cold, elegant man, a graduate of Yale, and a lawyer. He is a student of comparative literature, and is thoroughly familiar with the course of modern thought. Some cultivated men in the State say that he went with the current till he gained power to control it; that then, out of pure love of political science, he undertook to bring about a reconciliation between the races and solve the great problem of Southern reconstruction and harmony. That he has ambition they do not deny; but they look on it as the ambition of a statesman, not of a politician. They recall the cold, judge-like neutrality with which he presided over the people. He did not truckle to the whites, as has been charged. He associated with them professedly as a republican, but avoided insulting their prejudices. He always gave the blacks strict justice. In his appointments he preferred republicans, when fit ones could be found; but where none were fit, he would select democrats.
The governor of South Carolina is elected every two years. Mr. Chamberlain was elected in November, 1874, simultaneously with the democratic national House of Representatives. The election of that house was hailed with thanksgiving in South Carolina, as an indication that the North had determined to protest against the oppression of the Southern whites by their old slaves and the carpet-baggers. But, after a time, the fact began to attract attention that a majority of the democratic congressmen were Southerners, and many of those Southerners ex-Confederate generals. A wild hope seized our old political leaders that the palmy ante-bellum times were about to return, that the democracy was again to control the national government, and that the South was again to rule the councils of the democracy. Every Southern State was now democratic except South Carolina and Louisiana, and Louisiana was on the verge of a change. Even Mississippi, than which only South Carolina was worse Africanized, had been carried by the white-liners. Good government, indeed, was now restored in our State and by their assistance could be maintained. But it was not a government under their own auspices, or those of the democratic party; and while it continued they could hope neither to be heard at Washington nor to practice their cherished traditions at home.
From the beginning of 1876 they set themselves to the task of arousing the people. A violent cry was raised against the governor, and the whites were called on to follow the example of their brethren in the other Southern States. Social pressure was brought to bear, an energetic canvass begun, and newspapers were bought up or new ones founded; for the main body of the whites were still disposed to hesitate. “We had better wait,” said they, “and see how things go in the North. If the democrats carry the elections there in November, and get control of the national government, why, of course, we can rise up and throw off republican rule in the State. But we have a good government now, and had best let well-enough alone, for fear our old oppression might be reestablished.” But the work went on. At the Fort Moultrie centennial thousands of Confederate soldiers, once more under arms, were paraded before the people of the State. Wade Hampton was their captain. Hot Southern speeches were made, and the troops in attendance from Georgia, disgusted at the unwonted spectacle of negroes in office, rode rough-shod over the colored police of Charleston. Mr. Tilden had just been nominated at St. Louis, and the brilliant prospects of electing him were triumphantly paraded. Then came race conflicts: the killing of a colored legislator in Darlington County, the lynching of two negroes in Marlboro’ and six in Edgefield, and finally the Hamburg massacre. This last and the governor’s action concerning it were followed by appeals to the whites, made with all the old vehemence of Carolinians. Everybody was urged to buy arms; rifle clubs and mounted companies were everywhere formed, the young men being cheered on to join them; and the old system of browbeating and challenging all non-conformists to the duello was vigorously put in operation.
The whites in the old Ku-Klux counties, where the negroes are in the minority, turned over en masse to the revolutionary policy; in the other counties they held back for a long time, discouraging violence as inexpedient, as likely to hurt Tilden in the North, as being, in short, premature. But gradually they half fell, were half driven, into line; though not all; for when the state democratic convention met on August 15th there was still a powerful minority (about two fifths) in favor of postponing action until it should be seen what the republicans would do about Chamberlain. It is useless to say, however, that the majority carried their point. General Wade Hampton, the Murat of the Confederacy, in whom are strikingly crystallized all the arrogant old plantation qualities of the South, was nominated for governor with a corresponding ticket. It was determined to carry the State by the method known as the Mississippi Plan.
I will merely summarize the means used; I was in the State during the whole campaign, and know whereof I speak. The plan was, first, to arouse the white population to secession or nullification madness; next, to get as many negroes as possible to vote the democratic ticket, and prevent as many as possible from voting the republican; and finally, to put such a face on their doings as to work no harm to the democratic cause outside the State.
In the first matter they thoroughly succeeded. General Hampton, an orator of no mean order, an accomplished gentleman sprung from the best Carolina stocky our greatest and most celebrated soldier, in company with numerous other ex-Confederate generals and officers (among whom were some from other States, including Toombs, Hill, and Gordon), began a systematic canvass of the State, speaking at every county town and at other places of size. Such delirium as they aroused can be paralleled only by itself even in this delirious State. Their whole tour was a vast triumphal procession; at every depot they were received by a tremendous concourse of citizens and escorts of cavalry. Their meetings drew the whole white population, male and female (for the ladies turned out by tens of thousands to greet and listen to the heroic Hampton), for scores of miles around, and had to be held invariably in the open air. They were preceded by processions of the rifle clubs, mounted and on foot, miles in length, marching amidst the strains of music and the booming of cannon; at night there were torch-light processions equally imposing. The speakers aroused in thousands the memories of old, and called on their hearers to redeem the grand old State and restore it to its ancient place of honor in the republic. The wildest cheering followed. The enthusiasm, as Confederate veterans pressed forward to wring their old general’s hand was indescribable. Large columns of mounted men escorted the canvassers from place to place while off the railroad. They were entertained at the houses of leading citizens, held receptions attended by all the wealth, intelligence, and brilliance of the community, and used all the vast social power they possessed to help on the work.
Besides this, the fearful memories of the ante-Chamberlain days were revived. The governor’s participation in them was maliciously asserted. The acknowledged fact that the mass of the negroes had opposed his reforms was skillfully paraded. His attempts to secure United States troops were denounced as a damning outrage; “South Carolina should be ruled by South Carolinians” was repeated from mountain to sea-board.
The work of buying arms and organizing democratic primaries and rifle clubs was energetically pushed on, till every democrat in the State had a gun and was enrolled in a primary, and three fourths of the whites belonged to the military. The ostracism and dragooning of all who hung back was carried to the last extreme, until the whites were as consolidated as in 1860.
The negroes saw these portentous movements; they saw the soldiery drilling, and every white man spending hours daily at the target. Rumors of Hamburg reached them. Their former masters urgently importuned them to vote for Hampton. Every republican meeting was interrupted by armed multitudes of democrats, half the time demanded for democratic speakers, the republican orators jeered at, interrupted, vilely insulted, and hissed down, while the intruding speakers plainly announced that the whites were going to carry the election at all hazards and that the negroes had better vote the democratic ticket to save themselves trouble. Long lines of cavalry were kept constantly parading and proved particularly effective. Then another holocaust took place at Ellenton, and was talked about by the whites all over the State in the presence of the negroes. The whites, furthermore, suddenly assumed a dictatorial demeanor in their daily intercourse with the colored people, knocked them down or shot them on the slightest provocation, and by free use of menaces prevented indictments. Prominent republicans, white and colored, were threatened with ambuscades or followed by crowds of bullies if they left towns to canvass in the country; the negroes and white republicans were insulted on the streets; if troublesome, they were forced into fights by bravoes or picked off by “chance” shots during the course of pretended drunken rows got up near them. Terrorism soon reigned supreme.
To conceal these things systematic deception was used. Hundreds of false affidavits were procured, charging the negroes with aggression at both Hamburg and Ellenton, and justifying the whites in everything, even in the murder of prisoners; the responsibility for every deed of democratic violence was fixed on republicans; reconciliation to the results of the war was loudly professed. For over a month hardly any negroes turned democrats, yet large accessions were triumphantly claimed in the papers ; ten colored democrats were nominated for the legislature in counties sure to go republican; the negro majority) which the last census gives as thirty-five thousand (seventy-five thousand white voters and one hundred and ten thousand colored), was boldly asserted to be only ten or fifteen thousand; and the judges (mostly democratic whites who had professed republicanism, or consented to preserve silence) were induced to declare for Hampton and Hayes (the latter for effect North), and denounce Chamberlain; though a few months before, each and every one of them had been the very loudest supporters he had in the State.
So few colored men joined the democratic clubs during the earlier weeks of the campaign that, to make the matter sure, there came proposals in the press and resolutions by the precinct and rifle clubs to employ no colored republicans as laborers, and to give no patronage to republican brick-layers, blacksmiths, carpenters, hack-men, market-men, etc., when democratic negroes were accessible. Thousands of republicans at once had ruin or democracy staring them in the face as alternatives; and hundreds of them finally began to turn.
For election day a coup d’état was contemplated. The members of the rifle clubs informally agreed among themselves to guard the polls and systematically patrol the public roads in a menacing manner, so as to frighten off the negroes and keep them at home.
But suddenly the governor came out with his proclamation. In the earlier part of his administration he had accepted ten or a dozen rifle clubs as militia; but the hundreds that had been organized since the opening of the campaign had asked no permission and were clearly illegal. So he ordered them to disband, and (as commander-in-chief) he disbanded those he had accepted, they too having been turned into political machines. The papers announced a day or two beforehand that the order was to be issued, and added, falsely and maliciously, that the arms of the clubs would also be demanded, although private property, each member having purchased his own gun. It would have taken but a wave of Hampton’s hand to cause a frightful outbreak; but he counseled submission, especially when the president’s proclamation came out, as the more expedient course, and the clubs ceased drilling and parading, though, of course, retaining their arms; it would have taken but a drum beat to make most of them fall into ranks. Then United States troops were poured into the State, and a garrison was stationed at every important town. The interference with republican meetings was immediately stopped.
When the democrats first began their demonstrations the negroes were cowed all over the State. They kept remarkably quiet, and it seemed as if their old fear of their masters would so reassert itself as soon to force them into the democratic ranks. But after a while, in some of the counties where they pre dominate—noticeably Charleston, Darlington, and Orangeburg—they became intensely excited at what they judged this evident blow at their liberty. They purchased guns and ammunition as fast as they were able, burnished the arms the State had given them, had broken or rusty weapons repaired, got knives, clubs, and torches ready, consulted together secretly, and evinced a stern determination to resist aggression to the death. They furthermore, alarmed at the daily defections from their ranks on account of work taken from republicans, began in the most fearful manner to maltreat and intimidate every colored man who gave promise of turning democrat. The excitement over this matter in Charleston resulted in a terrible riot, during which the city for one night and practically for several days was in the hands of black savages, who shot or beat every white who appeared on the streets. Indignant at the breaking up of their meetings by democratic soldiery, they began to attend armed. The bloody collision at Cainhoys was the consequence of this policy. After the arrival of the garrisons, the negroes all over the State broke out into extravagant expressions of joy and thanksgiving, appeared under arms on every occasion, and acted in the most alarming manner everywhere. Their orators advised them to cut the throats of white women and children, if the shotgun policy were continued, and to apply the torch to the dwelling of any man who discharged them on account of politics. In a week or two the increase of crime was positively appalling. The whites had conjured up a spirit which threatened to tear them in pieces.
The republican convention met on the 12th of September. Governor Chamberlain used all his official power and personal influence to pack it with his adherents and the honest element of the party; but the corrupt element was in the majority. The governor was a candidate for renomination, and he urged as candidates for the other high offices men of acknowledged integrity and uprightness. But so bitterly had the corruptionists come to hate him that they made a violent onslaught on him; and although they knew that without his interference the whites would out-Mississippi Mississippi in the election, they gave him plainly to understand that they must no longer be trodden on by him. That it was necessary to success to renominate him they bitterly admitted; but beyond this they resolutely refused to go. The governor had either to stoop, or to turn over the State to the strongest and fiercest spirits of the section which had tried to tear the Union asunder. A compromise was effected, and the governor was renominated; a few of the highest offices were given to his adherents, and the rest were given to the corruptest men in the corrupt section of the party. It was a sorry ticket; but, thanks to his efforts, it was the best put forward by the party convention since reconstruction. Similar compromises in the nominations were effected afterwards in many localities; but in a majority of counties the corruptionists broke out in open rebellion, put up their own men, and refused to give the Chamberlainites a showing; and the Chamberlainites and Mr. Chamberlain acquiesced.
The coming of the troops was a terrible backset for the democrats; but they had gone too far to recede. The troops were loudly welcomed, and their gentlemanly West Point officers entertained at formal but polite dinners to keep up appearances; although the furious deportment of the negroes soon made the whites, now unorganized, really glad that the troops were among them to prevent overt violence. A day of prayer and fasting for democratic success was appointed by the central committee of the party, and, at their request, religious services with the same object (an unknown thing) were held in every church—even Episcopal and Catholic—in the State. The “preference policy” was sternly pursued. Thousands of colored republicans lost their situations. Negro tenants (republican) were everywhere warned to leave. On trying to rent new lands they were coldly asked, “Are you going to vote for Hampton?” Republican craftsmen were everywhere idle. The papers and orators unintermittingly declared that every democrat should make it his duty to secure at least one negro to vote for Hampton, by fair means or foul, and watch him deposit his ballot. This was the famous one man apiece policy. In consequence, all the whites, especially gentlemen of property emulated each other in purchasing voters. Thousands of negroes had liens on their crops released, land rented them at nothing, supplies promised for next year, or money paid them outright in consideration of their turning democrats, or of staying away from the polls. In consequence of the discharge of colored laborers, the torch began its terrible work all over the country, and the whites were compelled to keep watch over their property at night. The streets of every village were patrolled. All the more bravely did the whites face the torch, all the more zealously did they work, after the significance of the democratic victory in Indiana began to appear. It was well known that the republican party there had made the issue on the “bloody shirt” and the “solid South,” and on that issue had been defeated. Grant was furiously denounced from one end of the State to the other, and the people loudly called on to aid in electing a democratic president who would keep his hands off the South in the future. And the leaders, thinking everything was going for Tilden and the democrats, became absolutely frantic with the desire, which had been strong enough before, to participate in the victory, to get back to Washington, and to restore Palmetto ascendency in the national councils.
As the election day approached, there were signs that the republicans, frightened at the immense depletion of their strength, would attempt performances in repeating unparalleled in the history of elections; and the democrats began on all sides to say that if the republicans tried that game the democrats should try it too. The rowdies and fire-eaters among the lower classes of whites were worked up with the notion, and made ready for anything.
The election passed off amid terrible excitement, but, on the whole, peaceably. United States troops were posted at a large proportion of the polls and places where trouble or overt intimidation was apprehended, and were called on frequently to repress incipient tumults. Both parties turned out in full force, and stayed at the polls all day. Guns were brought by both parties, and concealed in houses near many polls, but the troops would not allow any to be shown. The whites, though, to a man, wore pistols as usual, as did all the negroes, few in number, who had been able to buy them. In Barnwell County, however, the ballot-box at a rural poll in a negro section, where no troops were posted, was fired on by an unknown party (supposed of course to be whites) from a neighboring swamp, and a stampede occurred. The poll was closed. Afterwards the managers reopened it in an adjoining place, and the negroes were rallied, inspired with mob courage, and deposited 2027 votes. The democrats afterwards protested against the counting of these votes. In Charleston County the colored militia turned out at rural polls under arms, stood on guard near such as had no troops near them, and prevented scores of colored democrats from voting, or intimidated them into “voting right.”
The election itself was one of the grandest farces ever seen. In counties where the negroes had terrorized affairs, streams of colored republicans poured from poll to poll all day, voting everywhere. The largest vote ever cast before in Charleston County had been twenty thousand. Yet on election day, although three or four thousand negroes were bribed or led by fear of starvation to refrain from voting, and although five or six hundred who did vote cast the democratic ticket, the total vote thrown reached the amazing figure of 23,891 and the county went republican by 6391 votes—six thousand having been the average majority in the past. In counties terrorized by the whites, white bravoes rode from poll to poll, and voted time and again. Hundreds of Georgians and North Carolinians crossed the borders and joined in the work. In Edgefield County the influx of Georgians and the repeating were simply tremendous. The total number of voters in that county, according to the recent state census (which was denounced as exaggerating the population by the democratic press, because the census takers were paid by a fee of five cents for every name recorded instead of by a salary), is 7122, and the county has always, hitherto, gone republican by one thousand votes; yet, although a thousand negroes certainly, and an unknown number above that, were induced by money or fear of starvation to refrain from voting, the total number of votes cast was 9289, and the democrats carried the county by the astounding and tell-tale majority of 3225! Similarly startling in most of the counties were the changes as compared with the census or past elections. Every democrat with whom I have talked since election day has something of this sort to say: “Why, the negroes at my precinct repeated and voted their minors on a tremendous scale; for their total vote was almost as high as ever before, although we kept away fifty or sixty from voting and got about a dozen to vote with us. Why, I carried one negro to the polls myself, and saw him put in his ballot all right, and his two brothers stayed at home all day, for I told them if they voted against us I would turn them off.”
The ballots were undoubtedly counted fairly at the polls. Through Governor Chamberlain’s influence, one democrat and two republicans had been appointed managers at every precinct. The board of county canvassers, appointed to aggregate the returns for each county, was similarly composed. But in compiling the vote they made some changes of the precinct returns; for instance, the names of some candidates of each party had been misspelt on the tickets by country printers, and in several cases candidates running for certain offices had by mistake received votes for other offices. The precinct managers returned the votes as cast, but the county boards credited the candidates really intended to be voted for with the erroneous votes. The returns were awaited amidst the most intense excitement. They were exceedingly close, but at last it became apparent that, according to the precinct returns (excluding the Barnwell box where the voting was interrupted), the democratic ticket was ahead. But presently it was ascertained that the returns of the board of county canvassers would put the result in doubt, and that if the Barnwell box were received the republican ticket would prevail. This caused wild excitement, for the hoard of state canvassers, composed of the secretary of state, attorney-general, state treasurer, etc., has power to decide when there are variations in the returns, as well as to determine contested elections; and, of course, the republicans contested Edgefield and Barnwell—the latter, because the democrats had carried the county through the exclusion of the votes at the poll, so often referred to by the county canvassers—as well as Laurens County, where foul play was alleged. The whites had had great distrust of the state board from the start, for it had been a corrupt body always, and at present is not above suspicion, besides the fact of all its members being republicans and half of them candidates for reëlection.
When the board met, democratic counsel appeared before it, and, though the above-named powers were undoubtedly conferred on it by law, and had been exercised without question for eight years, the board’s authority under the law to hear contests was objected to, the constitutionality of the laws constituting it were objected to, the right of the members to sit was objected to, and, in short, everything was objected to on contemptible quibbles (though it must be owned that the man who drew up our election laws might have made them clearer). Finally the board was dragged before the notorious supreme court. The chief-justice is F. J. Moses, Sen., father of the world-famous Robber-Governor who preceded Governor Chamberlain, and who was one of the corrupt pair whom Chamberlain refused to commission as judges. Father and son are alike inimical to Chamberlain.
I can safely predict one thing: if the ultimate decision be in favor of the republicans, we shall have in South Carolina all the transactions so common in Louisiana—rival governors and legislatures, Penn insurrections and Wiltz coup d’états; the democrats are aroused to the last degree, and with difficulty can be held in by their leaders, who are, of course, diplomatic. In the mean while, there is almost a reign of anarchy: the negroes are burning and stealing, the whites are shooting and beating; the papers are filled with reports of crimes and affrays. The races here are so worked up that anything may cause a bloody conflict; the whites could probably defeat the negroes easily, and slaughter them like dogs, but—the torch! The negroes would fire Charleston in a thousand places if driven to bay; the whites know this and restrain the young men; the negroes know it too, and are accordingly insolent and malevolent.
If Chamberlain be installed, he will undoubtedly try to do right; and as the legislature will have its lower house democratic or republican by a few votes only (if the democrats in the latter case will sit), with his aid good government is possible; but it is improbable, for the democrats are now in the mood to rule or ruin, and are likely to refuse to have anything to do with a government of republicans.
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The popular terms, “the North” and “the South,” the “Confederacy” and the “Union,” are, as usual, descriptive of an underlying truth. There is and always has been a difference in national characteristics between the inhabitants of the old free, and those of the old slave States. The Southerners used to look on the Northerners as coarse, money-getting people, given to fanaticism on certain social, political, and religious questions. Their contempt for the commercial character of the North originated, of course, in the aristocratic training of the plantations, and their hatred for the liberty and equality doctrines of Northern philanthropists arose from the intolerance natural to all aristocracies, and from the dread of a servile insurrection or of losing their slave property. There was, undeniably, much antipathy felt by the people of the South towards the Northerners before the war. Now the war has not diminished, it has intensified this antipathy; the chivalric South, which had borne itself so haughtily and boisterously at Washington, was conquered by the commercial North; the doctrines of the fanatics were triumphant; cherished institutions were revolutionized. The master was made slave, and the slave made master. The hatred of the humiliated Southern people was absolutely unfathomable; and it yet continues. The talk about the healing of the recent wounds, the filling up of the bloody chasm, the reconciliation of the sections, etc., is opposed to common sense, reason, the experience of ages, and the facts in the case. The South is a conquered land, and the Southerners, still retaining their disgust for the commercial and equalizing spirit of the North, have had national hatred added to national antipathy by their defeat. They have been quiet and submissive since the war, through pure exhaustion and animal fear, but ostracism of Northerners has been universal, and intermarriage is forbidden on the pain of social death. Sometimes, it is true, Northern settlers of unimpeachable antecedents, men of tact, who would keep out of politics and set themselves to the task of conciliating and sympathizing, have made some progress towards affiliation; but the main fact is as I have stated it. It is also true that pacific utterances have been heard, that courtesies have been interchanged with Northern military companies, and that Northern visitors (especially newspaper correspondents or distinguished men) have met with hospitality. But all these things have been merely formal, except in the case of the military, who have been actuated not by friendship or reconciliation, but by the chivalric sentiments of soldiers for gallant foes. These things have been done in the hope of obtaining relief from our bandit governments, or of gaining ascendency in the national councils.
Indeed, this leads me to observe that hatred for the North is often largely modified into hatred for the republican party; but the party attachment of the whites for Northern democrats is too much like that of hard-pressed soldiers for mutineers in the enemy’s camp, to be a healthful sign of reconciliation. The lost cause, our trials during the war, our brilliant deeds in arms, our reverses, our grievances since the peace, form the staple of fireside and social conversation in every Southern family, and will do so for generations. Every child at its mother’s knee is told of the brave old days; how, its father used to own troops of slaves and counties of land; how he or some other honored relative fell under the banner of Morgan, of Lee, of Stonewall Jackson, or of Hampton; and into its mind is instilled hatred of their slayers and a resolution to avenge their death some of these days. Shafts to the honor of the Confederate dead are thick in every grave-yard and cemetery, covered with tear-moving inscriptions; and once a year, on Memorial Day, the whole white population turns out, — suspending all business, — amidst the tolling of bells, to decorate the graves of their fallen heroes, and listen to eulogies and poems on them and the cause they died for. I do not reprobate the custom; it is only as natural as it is undeniable.
The Southern press teems with publications relating to the war—with the histories of Pollard and of Alexander H. Stephens (which are found in every white school as text-books), the rabid memoirs of Admiral Semmes, and lives without number of Lee and Jackson. The historical societies, since the great speech of General Hill, have been busily collecting statistics justifying the prison management of the Confederate government, and proving that Confederate prisoners were worse used than Unionists.
It is true that democratic conventions and democratic leaders in the South have pledged themselves to abide by the issues of the war. But these utterances are worth no more than platforms and diplomatic professions in general. Beyond all things would Southerners rejoice to be free, to achieve their independence of the nation which has conquered them, of which they, nolens volens, must form a part. But they have tested the strength of the North, and learned to dread it. Nothing could induce them to engage the North single-handed again; and the more so, that they now have a possible intestine foe, the negro, to deter them. But contingencies may be easily imagined which would tempt them to rise: for instance, should they get the South solid, put the negro down at home, get him sufficiently intimidated or pacified to use as a Sepoy force, and a war should break out between the United States and some foreign power with which the South could side.
There is another kind of contingency which seems likely to occur at no very distant period. The excitement in the South over the presidential contest is literally frightful. Should it be adverse to Mr. Tilden, the national House of Representatives and Mr. Tilden have it in their power to cause an explosion in the South so terrific that the outbreak of 1860-61 will be almost forgotten. The most dangerous hopes and emotions are agitating the bosom of every Southerner. At every street corner and fireside, on the steps of every store, you may hear men saying that the hour of the republicans is striking, they have got to submit, the North is split, and “We’ll try them this time with Tilden and New York to help us.”
Next to separation from the Union, the South would relish ruling the Union. Her representatives would be as intolerant as of old. Once solid, she will always remain solid. Mr. Nordhoff is in error with regard to the probability of a whig revival in the South. As he says, there were, undoubtedly, thousands of men in the South before the war who were conservative and opposed to secession; but they were dragooned into conformity by the fire-eating element then, and can be dragooned again; and, besides, many of them have become alienated from the North in consequence of having participated in Southern reverses, and they could hope to do nothing in the face of the popular animosity engendered by the strife. The fire-eaters would rule and keep the white vote consolidated, and thus hope to govern the Union through divisions in the Northern vote; for they are confident that the North cannot be kept as solid as the South.
Three evils are to be chiefly dreaded under Southern ascendency at Washington. The first is a tremendous rush of office seekers and bonanza jobbers from the South. Thousands of Southerners, not reared to exertion, have been compelled to struggle hard for a living since the war, and would, of course, naturally abandon uncongenial or ill-paying avocations for the delights of office; and from the willingness to get all the spoils possible there would be a great clamor all over the South for internal improvements. The second is the much-talked-of danger of the payment of Southern claims, compensation for the slaves, assumption of the Confederate debt, etc. The Southerners, I know, would undoubtedly be overjoyed could these things be accomplished; but they fear that any attempt to accomplish them might rouse the North so powerfully that they would be put down decisively, and kept down. They consider the attempt unsafe; but here, again, the question is one of expediency, not of principle. Attempts would probably be made to carry the same points indirectly. The third, and, in my opinion, the most formidable evil would be the danger of a warlike foreign policy. The spirit of the South—and especially of the leading element, the aristocracy—is at present dangerously martial. The Southerners, naturally spirited, fond of hunting and the turf, and devotees of the code, took astonishingly Well to war; reared as gentlemen, relieved from labor by their slaves, and utterly unaccustomed to steady exertion, they have repined much against the hard fate which has forced them to work like other people for a living; and the vast majority of them, bursting with impatience under their restraint, would gladly hail the excitement and dangers of a campaign as a refreshing intermission, a picnic as it were, in the dreary monotony of the remorseless struggle for existence. The Southern papers were vehement for war with Spain about the Virginius matter, and have been hitter against the president on account of his non-aggressive policy towards Mexico. “Tilden will stop these incursions on the border” has been a frequent editorial remark. In social intercourse, I have heard dozens of influential Southern gentlemen exclaim, “Wouldn’t it be glorious if we could have two new Southern States—another Texas from the Mexican territory, and Cuba from Spain!” There is, furthermore, the hope that in the event of war the South could secede if she chose, or confirm her sway over the Union by threatening to join the enemy.
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The hostility with which the whites regarded the enfranchisement of the negro has made itself felt in the sternest ostracism of Southerners who have turned republican, even if they were sincere and shunned office. In this State the negro legislature is called the menagerie, and is never referred to without a malediction. It is true that the whites have at times (noticeably in 1874) voted for negroes for office, and even high office; but it was done only to escape confiscation. Large numbers of irreconcilables refused outright to do it, and were secretly admired by those who yielded, and openly applauded by the ladies. When the bolters in 1874 spoke at one time of nominating a negro for governor, the only daily journal then in Charleston, the leading democratic paper of the State and the South, said that South Carolinians might contrive to put up with a colored lieutenant-governor, but could not stomach a colored executive; there was a line which might God forbid they should ever pass.
Colored politicians, who can be distinguished by their shiny, dressy appearance, have always been held in detestation; their appearance is the signal for wrathful silence, scowls, and derisive winks; if one of them, in the open air, passes a group of young white men, either silence falls on them till he is past, or they burst into laughter and jeer him as long as he remains in sight.
The intimidation and killing of negroes during election campaigns is a lamentable but significant sign. Negro citizenship rests solely on the very insecure support of United States bayonets; in this matter; again, the whites are guided by expediency alone. Whenever they dare, the whites in the Southern States will disfranchise the negro outright and by law; and in the mean while they will, in States they control, practically disfranchise him. For instance, the negro always evades paying taxes—even a poll-tax—as long as he can, and is notoriously given to roost-lifting, stealing cotton by night, killing hogs, etc., in the woods; accordingly, I am not surprised to see that in Georgia non-payment of taxes—even the poll-tax—is made to disfranchise a voter, that half the negroes are already disfranchised for non-payment, and that every man in Alabama convicted of larceny is disfranchised. White employers object to their hands taking time to vote, and one discharged for this reason cannot obtain reëmployment. Young bravoes turn out upon election day, and jeer at, bully, or force negroes coming to vote into fights. In some riotous districts of Georgia, which the democrats now carry by the significant majority of eighty thousand, not a negro vote is polled; the increase of the democratic majority in Alabama since the State fell into democratic hands is well known. In Georgia there are no colored state officers, not even constables or police, and a negro has not been summoned to serve on a jury there for years; there is only one colored man in the legislature. An educational qualification, which is loudly clamored for in some Southern States, would disfranchise ninety-five negroes out of a hundred; and though many poor whites would murmur at such a measure, the fire-eaters would quickly bring them round by a judicious use of the cane and the pistol. So I should not be surprised to see that plan adopted in the Southern States before long.
The whites, I believe, will never attempt to reënslave the negro, even should they get out of the Union, or the North refuse to interfere. The matter is often in people’s minds, as may be judged by the recurrence of such remarks as “I wonder what will be the end of this thing?” “What must we do with the negro?” etc. But reënslavement presents great difficulties and dangers. The negroes would resist it to the death: kill women and children, use the torch freely, flee to the swamps, and thence sally out to fight and ravage, so dearly have they come to prize their liberty. And even should they be ultimately subjected, there would be daily and nightly outbreaks, keeping the whites in constant suspense. But it is unmistakable that the inexpediency, not the wrong of the measure, would constitute the obstacle. The whites clearly regard subordination in all things as the natural condition of the negro.
Should the North ever grant free play, or a separation occur, I should look for the whites to go as far as they dare in restricting colored liberty by black codes or detached laws, without actually reëstablishing personal servitude. For instance, from the irritation felt in consequence of the stealing and selling of cotton at night, and their incursions into chicken, meat, and potato houses, and barns, we may expect negroes to be prohibited from stirring from home at night after some curfew hour, save under patrol or police regulations. From the animosity evinced towards their Union Leagues, political clubs, mass-meetings, etc., we may look for the prohibition of all colored assemblages; their churches would probably be put under police espionage, to prevent the discussion of political themes. From the great irritation felt at colored men who support their wives in idleness, or send their children (needed to work on the plantation) to school, we should anticipate stringent vagrant laws, and laws forbidding colored children to attend school during work hours, if at all. From the exasperating disposition of the negro to quit employers before his time is out, and to work unsteadily while employed, we may predict laws prescribing the manner in which they shall hire themselves (perhaps requiring strict contracts, holding them to labor for stated periods at stated wages), severely punishing idleness and making the violations of contract by a negro a penal offense. Bills of that purport have been introduced into the Georgia legislature, and voted down as premature. Finally, from the delight with which the killing of a negro leader is hailed who shows any signs of becoming “dangerous” through his intelligence or culture, it is easy to foresee that whites would be lightly punished (if juries would ever convict them) for crimes against blacks, while the criminal law would he severe on black offenders, and convictions easy.
The Union Leagues gave the negroes their first notions of parliamentary law and debating. They were encouraged to attend courts as spectators, were inducted into jury and militia service, and their prominent men were elevated to office. For several years—until 1872—in this State they unresistingly followed the guidance of their white friends. There was little debate at their meetings, and most measures were passed unanimously. On juries, in the legislature, etc., they were sheepish, quiet, awkward, and docile. But gradually they began to pick up hints and to see things for themselves. They became ambitious for office and distinction, acquired confidence, joined in debate, and criticised the measures proposed by their white leaders; and for a few years past they have been growing the most irrepressible democrats it is possible to conceive. They delight in attending, either to mingle in or to look on at, all sorts of assemblages, — church services and meetings, political clubs and conventions, mass-meetings, the courts, — as well as to serve on juries or in the militia. They are astonishingly quick at imitation, and are a mere second edition of the whites. At their gatherings all have something to say, and all are up at once. They have a free flow of language, and their older men exhibit a practical, get-at-the-facts disposition (narrow-minded of necessity, yet intense from that very circumstance) which is a near approach to that sterling English quality, hard common sense. They are to the last degree good-humored unless persistently opposed, when they become excited, demonstrative, and violent, in both demeanor and language. While they are speaking, their orators are subjected to all kinds of interruptions, — questions, impertinences, points of order, etc. Consequently much disorder prevails at their meetings. In the legislature knives and pistols have been drawn, and members have been expelled for disorderly conduct.
The negroes undoubtedly have a genius for intriguing. They understand all the arts of the lobby. They are quick with points of order—tack on riders, hurry jobs through under the previous question, etc. They understand well how to make corporations pay for bills, and candidates for nominations. Rings are well known in their politics. They have gerrymandered the congressional districts so as to deprive the whites of two representatives they might fairly elect. To insure the elections, they have refused to pass laws providing for registration, as the constitution directs; and under this safeguard (every voter being allowed to vote at any precinct whatever in his county, if he swears that he is voting for the first time) they have rivaled in repeating any feats of Tammany or Philadelphia roughs. Charleston County has been chiefly the theatre of these deeds. Negroes in swarms go voting from poll to poll in the country, and then enter the city and vote at several precincts there. Negroes do this all over the State on a smaller scale, and they frequently cross from county to county to vote; while the voting, or attempts to vote, of boys under twenty-one is notorious. Until 1874 their managers also proved, themselves adepts in packing ballot-boxes, or in manipulating returns; such frauds being easily detected by keeping lists of how many negroes and how many whites voted, the voting having generally been on the color line. The meetings of bolting republicans are frequently packed by regulars, their orators hissed, resolutions voted down, and their opposite carried.
The negroes moreover are as intolerant of opposition as the whites. They expel from the church, ostracize, and, if they can, mob and kill all of their own, though not of the white race, who would turn democrats; and they have done so ever since the war. The women are worse than the men, refusing to talk to or marry a renegade, and aiding in mobbing him. They treat bolting republicans in the same way. But in some counties the bolters at times, happening to outnumber the regulars, have proceeded to reverse the game, and intimidate the regulars into conformity. Charleston County for many years has had two republican factions waging relentless mob war on each other, the division originating in the rivalry of two noted white leaders. When a negro does turn democrat, he surpasses the most rabid fire-eater in violence, and on every occasion delights to banter, insult, or bully republican negroes, if white men are near to protect him.
On national questions the negroes, as is well known, implicitly follow the dictation of Northern republicans; but in home matters they are more independent. For three or four years they have displayed great dissatisfaction with their white leaders. “Our votes keep the party in power,” they say, “and we ought to have the offices.” In consequence, many white leaders have been discarded, and those who yet retain prominence have had to use money and official patronage freely to retain their influence. Out of about one hundred and twenty-five republicans in the two legislative houses last session, about one hundred and ten were colored. I speak from memory, but am substantially correct.
The negroes have been accused of being easily led by demagogues; but they really rule the demagogues, not the demagogues them. Let the politicians do anything which is distasteful, and opponents spring up in every quarter. They are extremely jealous of any one’s assuming to dictate to them. They are impatient of trespasses and domiciliary visits to a degree only exceeded by the English races, and often resist search-warrants. They also resist arrests, and have to be vigorously clubbed. One thing, though, must be mentioned. Their fear of being reënslaved offers a means by which dexterous politicians can often impose on them. If you can prove to their satisfaction that any measure will tend to give the whites any advantage over them, it is instantly quashed and its opposite forthwith carried, nem con. The intense love the negro has acquired for liberty was conspicuously manifested in the recent canvass, when it became apparent that the whites were determined to carry the election on the Mississippi Plan, and, as the negroes thought, rob them of liberty. As to the negro’s capacity for government, I must say frankly that he is no more fit for it than a crowd of Irish roughs picked up promiscuously in the streets of a Northern city.
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