Senatorial Deceptions and Conjures
Northern Republicans and local scalawags made every effort to frighten voters against Democratic rule in postwar North Carolina. The Republican press gave assurances that should Democrats win they would levy a tax to pay for lost slaves, abolish public schools and Jefferson Davis would be made president of the university with the obscene annual salary of ten thousand dollars. In a campaign speech, black Republican candidate from Chowan County named Page said “If we get control of the convention, we will give the white folks hell, damn them.” (Hamilton, Reconstruction in North Carolina, pg. 633)
Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
Senatorial Deceptions and Conjures
“The [North Carolina] Constitutional Convention of 1875 may be likened, not inaptly, to the Mecklenburg Declaration. But the new assertion of independence did not need any Bill of Rights precedent to incorporate the causes of discontent in the hearts of North Carolinians or to catalogue the rights for which they yearned. It was a protest against actual wrongs inflicted; against malicious bonds fastened on a people held in the grip of unrestrained military power.
The [Mecklenburg] Resolves were to right wrongs and even those were expressed in moderate tone. The Republicans were reinforced by a body of well-trained black voters, enfranchised ostensibly for freedom’s sake, really to keep a standing political army in the Southern electorate.
Banking on the Negro disposition, the schemers in the Republican party planned to amuse them with baubles. Not even this was necessary. No colored man voted with a sure-enough white man. If he did, he was a son of Belial and an outcast from his color.
[At the convention were] Negroes of education and no education [and] a carpet-bag writer of agnostic pamphlets who believed in all the isms except the isms of the Bible. There was a particularly contentious radical Negro, a boaster of his mulatto blood. Another as black as the Duke of Hell’s boots, whose newspaper name was “Archives of Gravity.”
Also, there was a contest in Robeson County where the Republicans tried to overturn a Democratic victory by herding and voting a number of Negro laborers working on railroad construction. Then there was William H. Moore, a coal-black Negro from New Hanover County, conjure doctor. Think of the wealthiest constituency in the State having such a senator!
But that is what Reconstruction meant. When [Moore] left the senate he became what is called a conjure doctor and prospered sufficiently on the ignorance of his patients to maintain a handsome horse and buggy and many other comforts with which his victims had no acquaintance.
On one occasion an unusually ignorant woman believed she had swallowed a spring lizard and that he could cure her. That was an easy matter. The next day after procuring a small lizard and bringing it along with him together with a harmless emetic, he threw her into a spasm of nausea and by an adroit bit of legerdemain produced the lizard which he had bought.
This almost miraculous feat added greatly to his prestige and his pocketbook. I asked him if he were not ashamed to practice such deceptions. His answer was very frank.
“There was no way to deal with a fool who thought she had swallowed a lizard but by getting the lizard. I did it and she was cured. No other doctor could have done any more.”
(Southern Exposure, Peter Mitchel Wilson, UNC Chapel Hill, 1927, pp. 97-110)