Browsing "Aftermath: Racial Conundrums"

No Sanity in Reconstruction

Raised in poverty in Reconstruction North Carolina, Thomas Dixon became a State legislator before he was old enough to vote, practiced law, was a noted minister, and author of “The Clansman” at age thirty-eight. He was determined to one day write the story of Reconstruction to let the truth be known.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

No Sanity in Reconstruction

“[Many] corrupt [Northern] leaders sought means to give vent to hatreds that had been aroused by the war. William G. Brownlow, better known as “Parson Brownlow,” a preacher who became Governor of Tennessee during the Reconstruction era, had declared in a speech to a convention in New York in 1862:

“If I had the power, I would arm every wolf, panther, catamount and bear in the mountains of America, every crocodile in the swamps of Florida, every Negro in the South, every fiend in hell, clothe them all in the uniforms of the Federal army and turn them loose on the rebels of the South and exterminate every man, woman and child south of the Mason Dixon line. I would like to see especially the Negro troops, marching under Ben Butler, crowd the last rebel into the Gulf of Mexico and drown them as the Devil did the hogs in the Sea of Galilee.”

Such fanaticism from influential leaders was not conducive to soothing the wounds of the war. In Dixon’s native State of North Carolina, as a result of proceedings brought by Dixon’s uncle, Colonel [Lee Roy] McAfee, William W. Holden became the first governor to be impeached in an American commonwealth when his corrupt practices could no longer be borne by the people.

Many sane, responsible men, such as Dixon’s father and Colonel McAfee, took part in the Ku Klux Klan in an effort to bring some sort of order out of the tragedy of Reconstruction. These men did not tolerate injustice, and when they saw that the Klan had served its purpose, they immediately wanted to disband it.

In later years, Dixon wondered how any person could have lived through Reconstruction and still have retained his sanity. Lawlessness was, for a period of many months, the rule rather than the exception.

One of the brightest periods in Thomas’s childhood began on the day a young Negro boy, bloody, unconscious and almost dead, was brought to the home of the Dixon’s. The boy’s father, in a drunken fit, had tried to kill him with an axe. [The Dixon’s legally adopted him] and from that day forward young Dixon and little Dick were inseparable companions.”

(Fire from the Flint, The Amazing Careers of Thomas Dixon, Raymond Allen Cook, John F. Blair, Publisher, 1968, pp. 13-14)

Republicans Instilled Lessons of Hatred and Hostility

Acclaimed historian Dr. Clyde Wilson has written that the Republican party was solely responsible for carrying out the bloodiest war in American history against the American South, to destroy self-government. In South Carolina, a Republican-rigged postwar convention erected a corrupt political regime kept in power by Northern bayonets, carpetbaggers and freedmen.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Republicans Instilling Lessons of Hatred and Hostility

“When the war came to an end, and the Southern States lay prostrate at the feet of their conqueror, they experienced the bitterest consequences of the humiliation of defeat. There were no revengeful prosecutions (a few judicial murders in the flush of the victory excepted). The Congress devoted itself to the work of reconstruction . . . on the principle of equal rights to all men . . . there seemed to be no reason why the States should not proceed harmoniously in the career of peaceful progress.

But there was an element in the population which rendered such a principle fatal to all peaceful progress. In many of the States, and in South Carolina particularly, a majority of the people had been slaves. All these were suddenly elevated to the rank of citizens. Were this all, even then there might have been hope.

The slaves had always lived well with their masters, bore no resentment for past injuries, and if they were let alone in their own mutual relations, the two races might, and doubtless would have harmonized and soon discovered the art of living together in peace. But this was not to be.

With the progress of Northern arms grew up an institution founded ostensibly, perhaps really, for the protection of the rights of the newly emancipated slaves. This institution, known as the Freedmen’s Bureau, became for the time the ruling power in the State. It interfered in all the concerns of whites and blacks, its officers were generally men who not only had no love for the South, but who made it their mission to foster in the minds of the blacks a bitter hatred and mistrust of the whites.

They were, on all occasions, the champions of the Negroes rights, and never failed to instruct them that it was to the Republicans that they were indebted for all the rights which they enjoyed. In the train of the Bureau came the schoolmistresses who instilled into the minds of their pupils the same lessons of hatred and hostility.

The consequence was, that though the personal relations between the races were friendly, though the blacks invariably addressed themselves to the whites as to true friends for all offices of love and kindness, of which they stood in need, they would never listen to them, if the latter wished to talk about politics.

This feeling was intensified by the introduction of the Union League, a secret society, the members of which were solemnly bound never to vote for any but a Republican. By such means, the Negro presented a solid phalanx of Radicalism . . . a new business arose and prospered in Columbia, a sort of political brokerage by which men contracted with speculators to buy the votes of members when they were interested in the passage of any measure. Here was a corruptible Legislature under the influence of men utterly corrupt.

In South Carolina . . . Society was divided into the conquered whites, who were destined to satisfy the voracious appetites of the carpetbagger, and the needy and ignorant Negro, directed by his hungry teachers. The whites had no rights which they were bound to respect; if they paid the enormous taxes which were levied upon him, the Negro was satisfied; he had done all that it was necessary for him to do in the degenerate State.”

(Last Chapter of Reconstruction in South Carolina, Professor F.A. Porcher, Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume XIII, pp. 76-79)

Freedmen Fleeing Northern Race Prejudice

To quell the fears of Northerners who feared emancipated slaves flooding their way in search of employment and wages, Northern leaders began advancing interesting theories. Giving the freedmen political control of the defeated South would “drain the northern Negroes back to the South” as they fled the race prejudice common in the North. Lincoln and other Republicans advanced ideas of colonization; Grant as president gave serious thought to deporting freedmen to Haiti.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Freedmen Fleeing Northern Race Prejudice

“As the war for the union began to take on the character of a war for freedom, northern attitudes toward the Negro paradoxically began to harden rather than soften. This hardening process was especially prominent in the northwestern or middle western States where the old fear of Negro invasion was intensified by apprehensions that once the millions of slaves below the Ohio River were freed they would push northward – this time by the thousands and tens of thousands, perhaps in mass exodus, instead of in driblets of one or two who came furtively as fugitive slaves.

The prospect of Negro immigration, Negro neighbors, and Negro competition filled the whites with alarm, and their spokesmen voiced their fears with great candor. “There is,” [Illinois Senator] Lyman Trumbull told the Senate, in April, 1862, “a very great aversion in the West – I know it to be so in my State – against having free Negroes come among us.”

And about the same time [Senator] John Sherman, who was to give his name to the Radical Reconstruction Act five years later, told Congress that in Ohio “we do not like negroes. We do not disguise our dislike. As my friend from Indiana [Congressman Joseph A. Wright] said yesterday, the whole people of the northwestern States are, for reasons correct or not, opposed to having many Negroes among them and the principle or prejudice has been engrafted in the legislation of nearly all the northwestern States.”

So powerful was this anti-Negro feeling that it almost overwhelmed antislavery feeling and seriously imperiled the passage of various confiscation and emancipation laws designed to free the slave. To combat the opposition Republican leaders such as George W. Julian of Indiana, Albert G. Riddle of Ohio, and Salmon P. Chase advanced the theory that emancipation would actually solve northern race problems.

Instead of starting a mass migration of freedmen northward, they argued, the abolition of slavery would not only put a stop to the entry of fugitive slaves but would drain the northern Negroes back to the South. Once slavery [was] ended, the Negro would flee northern race prejudice and return to his natural environment and the congenial climate of the South.

One tentative answer of the Republican party to the northern fear of Negro invasion, however, was deportation of the freedmen and colonization abroad . . . the powerful backing of President Lincoln and the support of western Republicans, Congress overcame [any] opposition. Lincoln was committed to colonization not only as a solution to the race problem but as a means of allaying northern opposition to emancipation and fears of Negro exodus.

(Seeds of Failure in Radical Race Policy, C. Vann Woodward, New Frontiers of the American Reconstruction, Harold M. Hyman, editor, pp. 126-129)

Lincoln's Party of White Supremacy

The freedmen did not receive the franchise because of their political maturity and judgment as the clear intent was to simply keep the Republican party in power. The Republican party’s Union League organization taught the Southern black man to hate his white neighbor, and to vote for Northern men whose own States had initiated Jim Crow laws. An excellent source for Northern antebellum racial views is “North of Slavery: The Negro in the Free States, 1790-1860,” Leon Litwack, Chicago, 1961.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Lincoln’s Party of White Supremacy

“The Republican leaders were quite aware in 1865 that the issue of Negro status and rights was closely connected with the two other great issues of Reconstruction – who should reconstruct the South and who should govern the country. They were increasingly conscious that in order to reconstruct the South along the lines they planned they would require the support and the votes of the freedmen.

And it was apparent to some that once the reconstructed States were restored to the Union the Republicans would need the votes of the freedmen to retain control over the national government. While they could agree on this much, they were far from agreeing on the status, the rights, the equality, or the future of the Negro.

The fact was that the constituency on which the Republican congressmen relied in the North lived in a race-conscious, segregated society devoted to the doctrine on white supremacy and Negro inferiority.

“In virtually every phase of existence,” writes Leon Litwack with regard to the North in 1860, “Negroes found themselves systematically separated from whites. They were either excluded from railway cars, omnibuses, stagecoaches, and steamboats and assigned to special “Jim Crow” sections; they sat, when permitted, in secluded and remote corners of theaters and lecture halls; they could not enter most hotels, restaurants and resorts, except as servants; they prayed in “Negro pews” in the white churches . . . Moreover, they were often educated in segregated schools, punished in segregated prisons, nursed in segregated hospitals, and buried in segregated cemeteries.”

Ninety-three per cent of the 225,000 Northern Negroes in 1860 lived in States that denied them the ballot, and 7 per cent lived in the five New England States that permitted them to vote. Ohio and New York had discriminatory qualifications that practically eliminated Negro voting.

Ohio denied them poor relief, and most States of the old Northwest had laws carrying penalties against Negroes settling in those States. Everywhere in the free States the Negro met with barriers to job opportunities, and in most places he encountered severe limitations to the protection of his life, liberty and property.

[Many Republican leaders], like Senator Lyman Trumbull of Illinois, the close friend of Lincoln, found no difficulty in reconciling antislavery with anti-Negro views. “We, the Republican party,” said Senator Trumbull in 1858,” are the white man’s party. We are for free white men, and for making white labor respectable and honorable, which it can never be when negro slave labor is brought into competition with it.” [And] William H. Seward, who in 1860 described the American Negro as “a foreign and feeble element like the Indians, incapable of assimilation”; [and], Senator Henry Wilson of Massachusetts, who firmly disavowed any belief “in the mental or intellectual equality of the African race with this proud and domineering race of ours.”

(Seeds of Failure in Radical Race Policy, C. Vann Woodward, New Frontiers of the American Reconstruction, Harold M. Hyman, editor, pp. 125-12”

 

States' Rights Lyndon Johnson

Lyndon Johnson was said to be a political chameleon who craved power at any price. Despite the self-serving conservative rhetoric below, it was Johnson who presented black socialist A. Philip Randolph with a United States Medal of Freedom in September, 1964. Randolph was a former president of the Communist Party USA-supported National Negro Congress (NNC) and who later teamed with black communist Bayard Rustin to organize mass marches on Washington.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

States’ Rights Lyndon Johnson

” [W]ith the waning of the [Franklin D.] Roosevelt influence, [Democrat] conservatives had consolidated their political power in Texas. If Johnson was ever to run for the Senate, he needed their support, and needed to erase from their minds the impression that he was a New Dealer.

In these post-war years, Harry Truman submitted to Congress an impressive new liberal agenda to end the wartime hiatus in social reform: increased Social Security benefits, a higher minimum wage, federal aid to education, prepaid medical care, health insurance, and — in what would, if passed, be the first major civil rights legislation of the century — laws against lynching and against segregation in interstate transportation and laws ensuring the right to vote and establishing a permanent Fair Employment Practices Commission [FEPC].

Speaking out as he had never before done in Congress, Lyndon Johnson in 1947 opposed most of Truman’s “Fair Deal.”  The proposed civil rights program, he was to say, was a “farce and a sham — an effort to set up a police state in the guise of liberty.” It is, he was to say, “the province of the State to run its own elections. I am opposed to the anti-lynching bill because the federal government has no more business enacting a law against one form of murder than another. I am against the FEPC because if a man can tell you whom you must hire, he can tell you whom you cannot employ.”

(Means of Ascent, The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Robert Caro, Vintage Books, 1991, page 125)

 

Rochester's Spirit of Hate

The vigilante justice of lynching was not confined to the South as is commonly believed, and race relations in the North, before and after the war, were not as harmonious as abolitionists and accounts of the mythical underground railroad claimed.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865

 

Rochester’s Spirit of Hate

“After his Rochester, New York, home was burned to the ground by incendiary on June 1, 1872, Frederick Douglass expressed his anger in his weekly New National Era: “Was it for plunder, or was it for spite? One thing I do know and that is, while Rochester is among the most liberal of Northern cities, and its people are among the most humane and highly civilized, it nevertheless has its full share of the Ku-Klux spirit . . . It is the spirit of hate, the spirit of murder.”

Race relations were often contentious in Rochester due in part to Douglass’s strong civil rights voice. By 1870, although Rochester’s African-American population was minute – just 427 out of a total population of 62,386 – racial tension, especially over employment, prompted concern by whites.

On Saturday, December 30, 1871, the [Rochester Daily] Union’s third edition published the city’s first report of the rape of an eight-year-old German girl by a black man after she had returned from a church event. News of the crime “spread like wild fire” after the child was returned to her parents. She had been brutally beaten but described her attacker to the police who began a frantic search for him.

Early Monday morning officers arrested William Edward Howard, and he was identified as the rapist by the girl at her home. Her father later “apologized to [a] reporter for not having killed the Negro when he was in the house.” Howard was not a stranger to the city’s police. In early 1871, he was arrested for voting illegally, and he served six months in jail. At the time of his arrest for rape, there was a warrant for his arrest for stealing from a local German woman.

Douglass’s son, Charles, who worked with his father on New National Era, wrote to his father on January 20: “That Howard boy was in my company in the 5th Cavalry. He came to the regiment as a [paid] substitute, and asked to be in my Co. I had to tie him up by the thumbs quite often. His offence was stealing.”

Outside the jail an agitated mob assembled . . . composed mainly of Germans, was intent on taking the law into its own hands, and the jail became Howard’s fortress. The [Rochester Daily] Union’s reportage was most descriptive: “Threats were made to lynch him and matters looked serious . . . four or five hundred people in the assemblage . . . [and cries of] “kill the nigger, give us the nigger” were loud and frequent.” [Judge R. Darwin Smith pronounced] “The sentence of the Court is that you be confined to Auburn State Prison for the period of twenty years at hard labor. The law formerly punished your crime with death.”

At the prison entrance, Howard turned toward [an angry crowd of several hundred men] and with his free hand placed his thumb on his nose and waved his fingers to mock them. Once in jail, Howard renounced his guilty plea, and professed his innocence.”

(The Spirit of Hate and Frederick Douglass, Richard H. White, Civil War History, A Journal of the Middle Period, Volume 46, Number 1, March 2000, pp. 41-47)

Forebodings of Unequal Equality

Alexander H. Stephens of Georgia thought African slavery “one of the greatest problems of this interesting age,” and wondered “what is to be the fate of the poor African God only knows. His condition as a slave is certainly not a good one” though far better in the American South than in “his own barbarous clime.” Stephens believed the problem of Africans selling their own people into slavery to be a Christian nation’s duty to solve, and this was something European nations fairly accomplished in the late 19th century.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Forebodings of Unequal Equality

“I see in the Boston Herald that there was a riot yesterday in Washington, D.C., between Federal soldiers and Negroes; attack by the former upon the latter; 150 or 200 soldiers engaged. The military, or provost guard was called on to suppress it. Several were wounded and some killed on both sides.

Is this but the beginning of deplorable conflicts hereafter to be enacted between the races, until one or the other is extinguished? Sad forebodings haunt me. I apprehend intestine strifes, riots, bloodshed, wars of the most furious character, springing from antipathies of castes and races.

Equality does not exist between blacks and whites. The one race is by nature inferior in many respects, physically and mentally, to the other. This should be received as a fixed invincible fact in all dealings with the subject. It is useless to war against the decrees of nature in attempting to make things equal which the Creator has made unequal; the wise, humane, and philosophical statesman will deal with facts as he finds them. In the new order of things, I shall hope and, if permitted, strive, for the best; yet I cannot divest myself of forebodings of many evils.

My own judgment was that those who elected to go to a free State would not be so well off as those who should remain at home with masters of their choice. Still, that was a matter for their own decision and which I did not feel at liberty to control.

So far as my own Negroes are concerned, there is nothing now that would give me more pleasure, under the changed order of things, than to try the experiment and see what can be done for them in their new condition.

(Recollections of Alexander H. Stephens, His Diary, Myrta Lockett Avary, LSU Press, 1998 (Original 1910), pp. 207-208)

Free Colored People Unhappy in Rhode Island

As in the postwar South, the Republican party believed the votes of Rhode Island’s colored population were for sale – the following early 1880s resolution was apparently aimed at black Republican voters: “Resolved: That we will hold in contempt, as a traitor to mankind and his race, that man who will permit his vote to be influenced by a tender of money or any other corrupting influences.”  It should be remembered that Providence, Rhode Island was the highly-profitable center of the slave trade in North America in 1750.

Bernhard Thuersam, ww.circa1865.org

 

Free Colored People Unhappy in Rhode Island

“Colored Voters: The colored voters of Rhode Island, who have long complained of the treatment which they have steadily received at the hands of the Republican party in the State — they being unrecognized as citizens, neglected and totally ignored in regard to their political rights, excepting that of suffrage, which is eagerly sought for — assembled in convention at Newport on the 18th of October, 1882, to express and make known their sentiments.

Several public speakers of high repute among them addressed the convention, set forth in plain language, besides other causes of complaint, that the colored voters were highly insulted by the [Republican] party in power, as they were not considered worthy being voted for, for any public offices in the gift of the people; declaring also that henceforward they intended to act independently of the Republican party on all occasions, but vote for the person, whatever the party to which he might belong, who would recognize them as citizens.

The colored people of the State numbered 6271 in 1875, and 6592 in 1880.”

(Rhode Island, Appleton’s Annual Cyclopedia, 1882, Appleton & Company, pp. 791-792)

"There is No Fourteenth Amendment"

The following was a September 27, 1957 editorial by US News Report editor David Lawrence.  An activist Supreme Court had just used questionable sociological reasoning, not law, to call for the desegregation of schools in the United States.  Lawrence reviewed the alleged constitutional basis for the Court’s decision, and the illegality of that basis.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

“There is No Fourteenth Amendment” 

“A mistaken belief—that there is a valid article in the Constitution known as the “Fourteenth Amendment”– is responsible for the Supreme Court decision of 1954 and the ensuing controversy over desegregation in the public schools of America.

No such amendment was ever legally ratified by three-fourths of the States of the Union as required by the Constitution itself.

The so-called “Fourteenth Amendment” was dubiously proclaimed by the Secretary of State on July 20, 1868. The President shared that doubt. There were 37 States in the union at that time, so ratification by at least 28 was necessary to make the amendment an integral part of the Constitution. Actually, only 21 States legally ratified it. So it failed ratification.

The undisputed record, attested by official journals and the unanimous writings of historians, establishes these events as occurring in 1867 and 1868:

Outside the South, six States—New Jersey, Ohio, Kentucky, California, Delaware and Maryland—failed to ratify the proposed amendment.

In the South, ten States—Texas, Arkansas, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana—by formal action of their legislatures, rejected it under the normal processes of civil law.

A total of 16 legislatures out of 37 failed legally to ratify the “Fourteenth Amendment.”

Congress—which had deprived the Southern States of their seats in the Senate—did not lawfully pass the resolution of submission in the first instance.

The Southern States which had rejected the amendment were coerced by a federal statute passed in 1867 that took away the right to vote or hold office from all citizens who had served in the Confederate army. Military governors were appointed and instructed to prepare a roll of voters. All this happened in spite of the presidential proclamation of amnesty previously issued by the president. New legislatures were thereupon chosen and forced to “ratify” under penalty of continued exile from the union. In Louisiana, a General sent down from the north presided over the State legislature.

Abraham Lincoln had declared many times that the union was “inseparable” and “indivisible.” After his death and when the war was over, the ratification by the Southern States of the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery had been accepted as legal. But Congress in the 1867 law imposed the specific conditions under which the Southern States would be “entitled to representation in Congress.”

Congress, in passing the 1867 law that declared the Southern States could not have their seats in either the Senate or House in the next session unless they ratified the “Fourteenth Amendment”, took an unprecedented step. No such right—to compel a State by an act of Congress to ratify a constitutional amendment—is to be found anywhere in the Constitution. Nor has this procedure ever been sanctioned by the Supreme Court of the United States.

President Andrew Johnson publicly denounced this law as unconstitutional. But it was passed over his veto.

Secretary of State Seward was on the spot in July 1868 when the various “ratifications” of a spurious nature were placed before him. The legislatures of Ohio and New Jersey had notified him that they rescinded their earlier action of ratification. He said in his official proclamation that he was not authorized as Secretary of State “to determine and decide doubtful questions as to the authenticity of the organization of State legislatures or as to the power of State legislatures to recall a previous act or resolution of ratification”.

He added that the amendment was valid “if the resolutions of the legislatures of Ohio and New Jersey, ratifying the aforesaid amendment, are to be deemed as remaining of full force and effect, notwithstanding the subsequent resolutions of the legislatures of these States.”

This was a very big “if.” It will be noted that the real issue therefore is not only whether the forced “ratification” by the ten Southern States was lawful, but whether the withdrawal by the legislatures of Ohio and New Jersey—two northern States—was legal.

The right of a State, by action of its legislature to change its mind at any time before the final proclamation of ratification is issued by the Secretary of State has been confirmed with other constitutional amendments.

The Oregon Legislature in October 1868 — three months after the Secretary’s proclamation was issued—passed a rescinding resolution , which argued that the “Fourteenth Amendment” had not been ratified by three-fourths of the States and that the “ratifications” in the Southern States “were usurpations, unconstitutional, revolutionary and void” and that “until such ratification is completed, any State has a right to withdraw its assent to any proposed amendment.”

What do the historians say about all this? The Encyclopedia Americana states:

“Reconstruction added humiliation to suffering . . . Eight years of crime, fraud and corruption followed and it was State legislatures composed of Negroes, carpetbaggers and scalawags who obeyed the orders of generals and ratified the amendment.”

W.E. Woodward, in his famous work “A New American History” published in 1936 says:

“To get a clear idea of the succession of events let us review [President Andrew] Johnson’s actions in respect to the ex-Confederate States.

In May 1865, he issued a Proclamation of Amnesty to former rebels. Then he established provisional governments in all the Southern States. They were instructed to call Constitutional Conventions. They did. New State governments were elected.

White men only had the suffrage (the Fifteenth Amendment establishing equal voting rights had not yet been passed). Senators and Representatives were chosen but when they appeared at the opening of Congress they were refused admission. The States governments however continued to function during 1866.

“Now we are in 1867. In the early days of that year Thaddeus Stevens brought in, as Chairman of the House Reconstruction Committee, a bill that proposed to sweep all the Southern State governments into the wastebasket. The South was to be put under military rule.

“The bill passed. It was vetoed by Johnson and passed again over his veto. In the Senate it was amended in such fashion that any State could escape from military rule by ratifying the Fourteenth Amendment and admitting black as well as white men to the polls.”

In challenging its constitutionality, President Johnson said in his veto message:

“I submit to Congress whether this measure is not in its whole character, scope and object without precedent and without authority, in palpable conflict with the plainest provisions of the Constitution, and utterly destructive of those great principles of liberty and humanity for which our ancestors, on both sides of the Atlantic, have shed so much blood and expended so much treasure.”

Many historians have applauded Johnson’s words. Samuel Eliot Morison and Henry Steele Commager, known today as “liberals”, wrote in their book “The Growth of the American Republic”:

“Johnson returned the bill with a scorching message arguing the unconstitutionality of the whole thing and most impartial students have agreed with his reasoning.”

James Truslow Adams, another noted historian writes in his “History of the United States”: “The Supreme Court had decided three months earlier in the Milligan case…that military courts were unconstitutional except under such war conditions as might make the operation of civil courts impossible, but the president pointed out in vain that practically the whole of the new legislation was unconstitutional….There was even talk in Congress of impeaching the Supreme Court for its decisions! The legislature had run amok and was threatening both the Executive and the Judiciary.”

Actually, President Johnson was impeached but the move failed by one vote in the Senate.

The Supreme Court in case after case, refused to pass on the illegal activities involved in the “ratification”. It said simply that they were acts of the “political departments of the government”. This of course was a convenient device of avoidance. The Court has adhered to that position ever since Reconstruction days.

Andrew C. McLaughlin, whose “Constitutional History of the United States” is a standard work, writes: “Can a State which is not a State and not recognized as such by Congress, perform the supreme duty of ratifying an amendment to the fundamental law? Or does a State — by congressional thinking — cease to be a State for some purposes but not for others?

This is the tragic history of the so-called “Fourteenth Amendment” — a record that is a disgrace to free government and a “government of law.” Isn’t the use of military force to override local government what we deplored in Hungary?

It is never too late to correct an injustice. The people of America should have an opportunity to pass on an amendment to the Constitution that sets forth the right of the federal Government to control education and regulate attendance at public schools either with federal power alone or concurrently with the States.

That’s the honest way, the just way to deal with the problem of segregation or integration in the schools. Until such an amendment is adopted, the “Fourteenth Amendment” should be considered null and void.

There is only one supreme tribunal — it is the people themselves. Their sovereign will is expressed through the procedures set forth in the Constitution itself.”

 

 

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)