Browsing "Carpetbag Crimes"

Suppressing Conservative Votes in Texas

The carpetbagger class was not the only alien fixture of postwar Texas. Edmund J. Davis was a former district judge in Texas who raised a regiment of Texas cavalry for the enemy and led the postwar “radical faction” of blacks and Texas scalawags. Davis was widely despised and one who, in the words of one loyal Texan, “led armies to sack and pillage their own State.”  The North’s Union League organized freedmen into a solid political bloc to support Republican candidates for office; the Ku Klux Klan was organized to oppose the Union League.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Suppressing Conservative Votes in Texas

“Passed over [President Andrew] Johnson’s veto on March 2, 1867, the First Reconstruction Act divided the former Confederate States, except [Johnson’s home State of] Tennessee, into five military districts and declared the existing civil governments in these States to be only provisional. Congress combined Texas with Louisiana into the Fifth Military District under the command of General Philip H. Sheridan.

The advent of Congressional Reconstruction shocked and angered Texas conservatives. Disregarding the four years of Civil War just ended, the Conservatives, or Democrats, now charged the northern Republicans with unleashing with “fanatical malignity” a “stupendous revolutionary scheme.” [To add fuel to the fire] Freedmen’s Bureau agents throughout the State continued to chronicle the many “sad complaints” of the freedmen and the routine “fearful state of things” in their respective districts.

[Texas freedmen and] often influential, newly arrived northerners (mostly former or current United States soldiers or officers whom Conservatives called “carpetbaggers”) held mass meetings of blacks and formed secret local Union Leagues for mobilizing the black Republican electorate.

Republican fortunes depended squarely on the leadership of the most stouthearted of the freedmen. Republican hopes also hinged on excluding from the voting lists every unqualified ex-Confederate. [Republicans leaders] denied that problems had arisen in some counties in finding competent registrars who could take the required “ironclad oath” that they had never voluntarily supported the Confederacy. (The vast majority of Texas white men in 1867 would not have been able to take this oath.)

[By] the end of January 1868, local boards throughout the State had registered about 89 percent of the black adult males, or 49,550 freedmen. A common charge made by Conservatives . . . was that blacks had been “registered with little regard for age.”

[Republican mobilization] of the freedmen had been a success. Texas blacks flocked to the polls and voted in large enough numbers to validate the holding of the constitutional convention. On the days of the election when blacks arrived en masse to vote, many county seats had the look of what one observer called an “African settlement.”

In Travis County, a group of Webberville blacks, dramatically led by their leader holding a sword and the national flag, came to the polls armed and on horseback. Upon their arrival, the local postmaster handed their leaders “Radical” ballots stamped on the back with “the United States Post Office stamp” so that the illiterate among their followers would be able to identify them as genuine Republican tickets.

White registrants avoided the polls in droves: over two-thirds i=of them sat out the referendum balloting. The turnout showed that most Texas whites did not consider that they had a genuine voice in the election or that they simply did not care.

(The Shattering of Texas Unionism, Politics in the Lone Star State During the Civil War Era, Dale Baum, excerpts, pp. 161-163; 172; 175)

Experimenting with Government Social Programs

Former Alabama Governor George Wallace recalled: “My father used to tell me that poverty and illiteracy in the South resulted from the way in which we were treated after the war when they burned the schools down, burned the railroads, just desecrated the South. We are just now overcoming the effects of that tyranny and of the iniquitous Thaddeus Stevens [the Radical Republican leader in Congress], who wanted nothing but vengeance.” Wallace felt himself as one of the South’s “rural proletariat,” and committed himself to “rid the region of what he considered a Northern-imposed inferiority.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Experimenting with Government Social Programs

“Most Southerners of the [postwar] – and their progeny, including George Wallace – viewed the period of military occupation as cruelly harsh . . . [but] for Southerners, “the unforgiveable reality was not that military rule was unbearably strict or unreasonably long but that it had been imposed at all; what mattered was that the bayonets had glittered among a people who had complied, whatever their reluctance and misgivings, with the Lincoln program for Reconstruction, only to find that the rules had changed as the political winds shifted.

Military rule (but not military occupation) ended in most States in 1868. By then, however, the federal Reconstruction Acts had placed the South’s political structure firmly under the control of [Republican] Radicals who, in practice if not in law, hand-picked governors, legislators, judges, tax collectors, and postmasters.

Many of the jobs were lucrative political plums that lent themselves to graft and payoffs. Legislators were bribed to sell railroad holdings to speculators for next to nothing. An Alabama editor of the time complained that “inside the State capitol and outside of it, bribes were offered and accepted at noonday and without hesitation or shame,” which helped “to drive capital from the State, paralyze industry, demoralize labor, and force the [best] citizens to flee Alabama as a pestilence, seeking relief and repose in the wilds of the distant West.”

Bribes and frauds notwithstanding, Reconstructions greatest dollar cost to the South came from enormous (and frequently wasteful) legislative spending on new programs fostered by the novel and, for the time, somewhat extraordinary notion that social responsibility was a function of the government.

These programs involved not only the establishment of free public school systems for white and black children but also the construction of insane asylums, hospitals, roads, and bridges. Despite extravagances and often misused funds, America’s first integrated governments – [Southern] legislatures comprising blacks, carpetbaggers and scalawags – were experimenting with social programs that State governments in the North had never before financed.

But these largely noble experiments were undertaken at the expense – financially and psychologically – of Southern white landowners, who saw the American republic’s traditional rights and values being overturned by what seemed to them a motley collection of blacks, Northern usurpers and Southern traitors.

In formal as in common speech . . . “the United States are” became “the United States is.” But to Southerners, the end of the war – the War Between the States, as most Southerners would refer to it for at least the next 125 years – meant encroaching federalism and government involvement in theretofore private sectors.

Thenceforth, at least well into the heyday of George Wallace, Alabamians would distrust and often detest the federal government, or at best, view it with deep misgivings.

In Barbour County, the defeated whites told their children and grandchildren horror stories of Reconstruction that would burn into their memories: black constables “paraded the streets,” administering “powers of sovereignty” over whites; federal troops carried off or killed farm animals, burned cotton, and plundered stores and homes; once-wealthy families were reduced to penury; local leaders were arrested on trumped-up charges; most whites were prohibited from voting in local and State elections while blacks, induced by threats, money or liquor, were permitted to vote two or three times each for candidates sympathetic to the Radicals.”

(George Wallace, American Populist, Stephan Lesher, Addison-Wesley, 1994, pp. 10-12)

Industrial Machines and Political Machines

The triumph of Northern arms in 1865 ensured the political supremacy of the New England industrial elite over the agricultural South — the South that presided over the republic’s “classic years,” defended its political conservatism and produced most of the presidents. With the South in ruins, industrial interests with unlimited funds and government patronage had won the second American revolution.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Industrial Machines and Political Machines

“What Charles Beard has called “the second American Revolution — the revolution that assured the triumph of the business enterprise — had been fought and largely won by 1877. In four great lines of endeavor — -manufacturing, extractive industries, transportation and finance — business marched from one swift triumph to another.

In 1860 about a billion dollars was invested in manufacturing plants which employed 1,500,000 workers; but in less than fifty years the investment had risen to 12 billions and the number of workers to 5,000,000.

A bloody and riotous year, violence was everywhere evident in the America of 1877. The great railroad strike of that year was the first significant industrial clash in American society. “Class hatred,” writes Denis Tilden Lynch, “was a new note in American life where all men were equal before the law. The South was in the turmoil of reconstruction, sand-lot rioters ruled in San Francisco; and 100,000 strikers and 4,000,000 unemployed surged in the streets of Northern cities.

At a cabinet meeting on July 22, 1877, the suggestion was advanced that a number of States should be placed under martial law.

Once triumphant, the industrial tycoons discovered that they could not function within the framework of the social and political ideals of the early Republic. To insure their triumph, a new social order had to be established; a new set of institutions had to be created of which the modern corporation was, perhaps, the most important . . . [and with] the Industrial machine came the political machine.

Dating from 1870, the “boss system” had become so thoroughly entrenched in American politics by 1877 that public life was everywhere discredited by the conduct of high officials. The simplicity of taste which had characterized the “classic” years of the early Republic gave way to a wild, garish, and irresponsible eclecticism. “The emergence of the millionaire,” writes Talbot Hamlin, “was as fatal to the artistic ideals of the Greek Revival as were the speed, the speculation and the exploitation that produced him.”

In one field after another, the wealth of the new millionaire was used to corrupt the tastes, the standards, and the traditions of the American people.”

(A Mask for Privilege, Carey McWilliams, Little, Brown & Company, 1948, pp 8-10)

Duress and Trophies of the Victor

The United States Constitution provides that States cannot be forced, invaded, or their republican form of government changed; and the Constitution itself cannot be amended unless three-fourths of the States freely ratify the change or changes. The three postwar amendments which tremendously increased federal authority were forced upon subjugated States – ironically by the same federal agent they had granted strictly limited power to in 1787.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Duress and Trophies of the Victor

“Time had indeed shown – a mere decade of it, from 1858 to 1868 – a Civil War and an attempted overturn of the American form of government. The South had been charged, she would “rule or ruin”; but it is shown the North, “taking over the government,” as [South Carolina Senator Hammond] stated, did “rule and ruin” nigh half a great nation.

As the truths of 1861-65 emerge, we see but a barren Pyrrhic victory won on false pretenses, and memorialized on labored perversions and obscurities, a Lincoln of fabulous creation and facultative dimensions, a false god of idolatrous devotees, and “Olympian” that never was!

In his last address Washington had cautioned against “any spirit of innovation upon the principles of the Constitution, however specious the pretexts . . . Facility in changes upon the credit of mere hypothesis and opinion exposes to perpetual change from the endless variety of hypothesis and opinion; and, in any event, should a modification of the Constitutional powers be necessary, it is to be made in the way the Constitution designates . . . but no change by usurpation.”

What but “usurpation” of the rights of three fourths of the States by making such changes were those three postwar amendments? Eleven States had no say whatever, except the raw pretenses of seizure of power, about their own ratifications; and these States were those most intimately and immediately affected. It would seem as if efforts to abolish republican forms of government or to destroy equality (e.g., in the Senate) should not be subject to deliberation.

Three unconstitutional amendments, incorporating the final results of the so-called “Rebellion,” are in summary the treaty between the belligerents – a duress. In them are the trophies of the victors, but no mention of the cause, the real cause, of the conflict – States’ rights. One observer commented that “. . . of the war waged ostensibly to maintain the integrity of the Union, and in denial of the dogma of State sovereignty, the future historian will not fail to note that the three amendments are silent on this subject . . .

What was to be the government and who were to comprise the constituency – hence the sovereignty – in 1866, of eleven American States? Was it proposed to take these endowments away and to install the tyrant’s whim and rule? No wonder chaos reigned in all departments of the federal government in 1865! Nothing was said then about the right of secession; if that right existed, it exists now, so far as any declaration in the organic law is concerned. It has not been renounced, and the supremacy of the “nation” has not been affirmed in the Constitution. Truth crushed to earth will rise again . . .

Determination of such a constitutional question as the permanence of the Union can never be decided by four justices [Texas vs White, 1869] of the Supreme Court, leaving unheard about forty million citizens. By the Constitution, seven men could not abolish the States of the Union, but three-fourths of those States could abolish that court and all its judges. And, along with it, all the Lincolns that ever sat in the White House and all the Sumner’s and Stevens that ever sat in the House or Senate.”

(The Constitutions of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, A Historical and Biographical Study in Contrasts, Russell Hoover Quynn, Exposition Press, 1959, pp. 45-49)

Postwar Whiskey, Beer and Dollar Bills

In 1880, the shooting war had been over for 15 years though a conflict raged for political control of the South until 1877. James Garfield and Chester Arthur eked out a slim victory in 1880, and the New York Times wryly observed that so many [Republican] factions were convinced that they had been promised cabinet positions that “if all reports are true, President Garfield’s Cabinet will contain about one hundred and twenty-five persons.” The elimination of Southern conservative influence in Congress led to the corruption of the Gilded Age.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Postwar Whiskey, Beer and Dollar Bills

“The [presidential] campaign of 1880 is notable mostly for what it lacked. It was a contest of organization and will, not a battle over the future direction of the country. The Republican factions in Chicago were divided by personalities, not by beliefs, and the [Northern] Democrats did not offer a dramatically different vision.

But the main attraction had all the ideology of a horse race. That fact did not escape the disgusted intellectuals who sat on the sidelines wondering what had happened to the once noble republic of Washington [and] Jefferson . . . [and] . . . What was the election about, really, other than who would win?

[Republicans and Democrats] voted because of party loyalty or because some local organizer sweetened the pot. They voted because a Republican precinct boss in New York Boston or Buffalo or St. Louis or Nashville invited them to a picnic on a fine Sunday on September, trucked out a few respected and/or dynamic speakers, and handed out whiskey, beer and dollar bills.

Yet if you had collared [James] Garfield and Arthur or [Winfield Scott] Hancock . . . and asked them if they stood for anything, they would of course had said yes. They would have said they stood for good government, for the hopes and dreams of the common man, for the expansion of trade, for orderly cities and prosperous farms, well-managed railroads, solvent banks, stable currency, and the settlement of the West.

Having served the Union during the Civil War, they felt the North’s victory had closed the last great fissure that had threatened a country founded on principles of liberty, freedom and the pursuit of happiness. It wasn’t that they eschewed ideology . . . They believed, simply, that everyone would be best served by a government led by their faction. Political appointments and party discipline helped ensure order nationally, and if party leaders stood to gain from electoral success, all the better.

Most politicians of the era saw no inherent conflict between government service and personal gain. They would have looked at later generations of Americans, at the reformers of the twentieth-century who created one box for public service and a separate one for private advancement, and scoffed at the naivete. Most politicians of the 1870s and 1880s looked a government as a vehicle for both.

Accusations that they were feeding at the public trough made minimal sense to them. Government was an institution for the public good that was meant to reward those who entered it.

[To win] the pivotal State of Indiana, Arthur delegated Stephen Dorsey, the former carpetbag Arkansas senator. Dorsey was the ablest fund-raiser the [Republican] Stalwarts had, though it was understood that he was a political operator not afraid to push beyond the limits of law and propriety. He was the type of operative who gives politics a bad name. Dorsey went to the land of the Hoosiers, got some votes legally, and paid for others.

In 1880, not a single State south of the Mason-Dixon Line went Republican, and not a single State from the North went Democratic. A banquet was held by the Union League Club at Delmonico’s to honor Stephen Dorsey for delivering Indiana to the Republicans.

Reform-minded editors like E.L. Godkin sighed that the episode confirmed the venality of politics . . . Dorsey had already been the target of a congressional investigation into the “Star Route” scandals, a scheme that had made a number of Republican loyalists rich from postal route concessions at the federal government’s expense.”

(Chester Alan Arthur, Zachary Karabell, Henry Holt and Company, 2004, excerpts, pp. 45-47; 50, 54)

Vandals and Goths at Chapel Hill

The University of North Carolina survived the war but found itself in desperate condition when Northern carpetbaggers and local scalawags assumed control of State government in 1868. Historian Hugh Talmage Lefler wrote: “Lack of public confidence, financial support, and students closed the University in 1870. A student expressed it graphically when he wrote of a classroom blackboard: “Today this University busted and went to hell.” The University was reopened in 1875 after North Carolinians regained political control of their State.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Vandals and Goths at Chapel Hill

“Of the seventy-eight new Trustees of the University, only four had been members of the former Board, and they were men who had seldom attended meetings of the Trustees and really cared very little about the fate of the University. At the meeting of the new Board in Raleigh, in June 1868, several names were brought forward for the presidency.

After several days of travail the Board brought forth Mr. Solomon Pool, a native of Elizabeth City, North Carolina . . . To be sure, he had no “established reputation” for scholarship, though he was a man of some ability. Immediately after the close of “The War” in 1866, Mr. Pool had resigned his position as Tutor in the University to take a job as a Deputy Appraiser in the Revenue Service of the hated Reconstruction Government, allying himself with the Republican party.

The word “opportunist” had not been invented, but “traitor,” “renegade,” and “apostate” were freely hurled at his complacent head. Mr. Joseph [Engelhard], editor of the Wilmington Journal, said in one issue of his paper that the University was “infested with pismires” (termites?) and the very next week he wrote that it was “presided over by nincompoops.”

The Board of Trustees had its own troubles in forming a new faculty. Mr. S.[S]. Ashley, a Massachusetts Yankee, who was Superintendent of Public Education, placed a relative, James A. Martling, in the “Chair of Belles Lettres,” whatever that means. The Martling family occupied the house recently made vacant by my grandfather’s death, and June Spencer and I, living next door, watched with scornful eyes the daughters of the family . . . with their village beaux on the piazza or strolling in the moonlight, but there was no communication between us.

George Dickson, Professor of Agriculture, was a Friend from Philadelphia who came South as a missionary to the Negroes. He brought Bibles, Testaments, and hymn books from the good Quakers of his city, a fine and generous gesture – if only the recipients had been able to read. Friend Dickson went to England to inquire into some new ideas in agriculture for the benefit of the South. He never came back.

During the first year of the Reconstruction Administration there were thirty-five students in attendance . . . just little bare-foot boys from the village and the adjoining country, with their home-made breeches held up by a string across one shoulder, and their dinner in a little tin bucket. Now and then a small black face appeared among them. None of them knew what it was all about. It was just a grand frolic for them to be “goin’ to college.”

Nor were the pupils altogether appreciative of their advantages. We find one A.J. Banks haled before the faculty for non-attendance upon his classes. His excuse was that he did not want to study Greek, nor did he want to stay in college with “them Yanks.”

The grim record shows that the Archives of the Literary Societies were broken into and their contents scattered. A box of Siamese curios presented to the University by the Reverend Daniel McGilvary, a Presbyterian missionary to Siam, was broken, and objects of rare beauty and great value stolen or destroyed. Scientific apparatus was smashed into bits, and great damage was done to the buildings and libraries of the University . . . owls and bats flew in the broken windows of the buildings, the campus was a jungle of weeds, cattle and hogs roamed the unlighted streets at night.

From a charming, dignified home of cultured people, who enjoyed a gracious society, Chapel Hill had become a desolate, silent wilderness. Even the strangers who composed the puppet faculty disliked each other, the village, the State, and the institution they were expected to serve.”

(A Rare Pattern, Lucy Phillips Russell, UNC Press, 1957, pp. 45-49)

Reconstruction, the Most Shameful Period of Our History

The following is an excerpt from an 1892 address by Lt. Col. Alfred Moore Waddell to the Alumni Association of the University of North Carolina. He served as a United States Congress 1871-1879.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Reconstruction, the Most Shameful Period of Our History

“[Reconstruction] constitutes the one indelible and appalling disgrace of the American people — the one chapter of their history which contains no redeeming feature to relieve it from the endless execration of the civilized world.

A distinguished orator from a Northern State declared in Congress in 1872 that one-third of the boundaries of this Republic had been filled “with all the curses and calamities ever recorded in the annals of the worst governments known on the pages of history,” and attacking the [radical Republican] authors of these calamities, he exclaimed,

“From turret to foundation you tore down the governments of eleven States. You left not one stone upon another. You rent all their local laws and machinery into fragments, and trampled upon their ruins. Not a vestige of their former construction remained.”

And again he said:

“A more sweeping and universal exclusion from all the benefits, rights, trusts, honors, enjoyments, liberties, and control of government was never enacted against a whole people, without respect to age or sex, in the annals of the human race. The disgraceful disabilities imposed against the Jews for nearly eighteen hundred years by the blind and bigoted nations of the earth were never more complete or appalling.”

Those old enough to remember that most shameful period of our history will readily recall the degradation, the crimes against civilization, and the terrorism which then prevailed, and how, amidst the general dismay, the faint-hearted stood helpless and silent before the arbitrary and reckless power exercised over them.”

(The Life and Character of William L. Saunders, address to the Alumni Association of the University of North Carolina, Tuesday, May 31, 1892, Col. Alfred Moore Waddell of Wilmington)

War of Conquest, Not Emancipation

Following the War Between the States, the freedmen were exploited by the infamous Union League to help ensure the election of Northern radical Republicans who exploited and bankrupted the exhausted South.  The emergence of the Ku Klan Klan was a predictable result.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

War of Conquest, Not Emancipation  

“Reconstruction” is a curious name to apply to the period following the war. Indeed, the war had left widespread destruction, but the government in Washington had no policy of reconstruction.  The South was left to its own economic devices, which largely amounted to being exploited by Northern interests who took advantage of cheap land, cheap labor, and readily available natural resources. This exploitation and neglect created an economic morass, the results of which endure into the twenty-first century.

Not surprisingly, governments based on the leadership of carpetbaggers, scalawags, and freedmen, groups that represented a minority of the population, met widespread and violent opposition. This attempt to create a government based on racial equality was made even more ludicrous when many of [the] Northern States rejected the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments to the U.S. Constitution, creating a situation where the States that said they had worked to free the slaves failed to grant equality to people of color.

(Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Escort and Staff, Michael R. Bradley, Pelican Publishing Company,

Carpetbaggers in the Philippines

The entrance of the United States into the game of imperialism came after an unnecessary war with Spain and the seizure of the latter’s former imperial possessions of Cuba and the Philippines. The promise of independence for the natives was soon realized to be empty, and the standard procedure of installing US-friendly regimes in conquered regions began — and continues today.

As articulated below, it is worth pondering if exploitation by the dominant Tagalogs after the US military departed was worse than exploitation by American carpetbaggers. The latter believed, and still seem to believe, that all people of the world are really hard-working New England Puritans in native clothing and if taught to master the art of democratic town hall meetings they could be left alone.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Carpetbaggers in the Philippines

“The problem of giving self-government to the Filipinos was made difficult by the existence of several distinct tribes speaking different languages and cherishing race enmities among themselves. The most important tribe was the Tagalogs, numbering 1,466,000 out of a population of nearly 8,000,000. They exceeded the others in culture and in the will to dominate the islands. If left to themselves it was believed that they would establish supremacy over the islands both political and economic. This policy has weighed down our policy in the islands.

Whatever the reasons why the United States should withdraw from the conduct of government there, it would be against the spirit of our promises to all the people if by so doing the large majority of the natives were left to the exploitation of the Tagalogs.

[In 1900], a governmental commission was appointed, with William H. Taft at the head, with instructions to introduce civil government as far and as rapidly as possible. The commission itself was at the top of the system with wide executive and law-making powers. It was directed to establish schools and create courts of justice.

Provision was made that the language of the United States should be taught in the schools, and that the officials should be taken from the natives as far as possible. These instructions were written by Secretary of War [Elihu] Root after a careful study of conditions in the Philippines.

The next step in developing government for the Philippines was McKinley appointing Taft Governor] and made him with the other members of his commission a Council to assist him in governing. At the same time three of the ablest natives were added to the membership of the Council, in which they were a minority.

Taft’s first care was to establish local self-government in the provinces . . . The suffrage for this process was awarded to persons who had held office in the islands, or owned a specified amount of property, or who spoke, read, and wrote Spanish or English. Elections were held in 1907, and the Assembly fell at once into the hands of a nationalist party.

The natives, that is, the Tagalog ruling class, were disappointed that no larger share of the government of their own country was given them, and they likened themselves to the [American] South when it was ruled by carpetbag officials from the North.

When President [Warren] Harding came into authority he sent General [Leonard] Wood and Lieutenant-Governor General Forbes to investigate and give advice on the withdrawal of the United States from the islands. They reported, in 1921, that the natives were not ready for self-government and advocated the continuance of the existing system. The natives were disappointed at the decision of the commissioners and continued to protest against the continuance of United States authority over them.”

(Expansion and Reform, 1889-1926, John Spencer Bassett, Kennikat Press, 1971 (original 1926), pp. 103-107)

Governor Holden’s Corrupt Promised Land

After the military overthrow of North Carolina’s government in 1865, political opportunist and scalawag William W. Holden was appointed provisional governor by Northern President Andrew Johnson. An organizer of the Republican party in the State, Holden was elected governor in 1868 via election corruption and the disqualification of white voters. Holden biographer William C. Harris wrote: “Most contemporaries characterized Holden as a bitter, unscrupulous, and arrogant demagogue who frequently changed his political stripes to advance his own ambitions.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Governor Holden’s Corrupt Promised Land

“Governor Holden in his inaugural address laid down the doctrine that no part in government should be played by those who had opposed reconstruction. He then advocated and threatened the use of force by the State administration. These two ideas, with his defense of the carpetbaggers, were prophetic of the character of his administration, for it was bitterly partisan throughout, force was employed to uphold it, and it was entirely controlled by carpetbaggers.

With the one exception of John Pool, who was, throughout his administration, his evil genius, no one had any such upon him as was exerted by the corrupt gang of aliens who infested the State and surrounded him. All played on his ambition, and there lay his most fatal weakness. Into their hands he committed his future, believing that high national honors were soon to be his, and the result was not only disastrous to himself, but well-nigh ruinous to the State.

The first matter to receive the attention of the governor was, as was to be expected, the filling of such offices as lay within his gift. [The] governor busied himself with the appointments, keeping clearly in mind their political value, and taking care that the Negroes obtained their full share of these cheap honors.

The office of magistrate in North Carolina had always been one of honor and importance. It now became a by-word and a reproach. Governor Holden’s appointments were notoriously poor and, in the main, the white men appointed were not much more fitted to discharge the duties of the office than were the Negroes. Hundreds of them could not read or write and prisoners often had to make out the papers to which the justice laboriously affixed his mark. Much of the later trouble in the administration of justice was due to these ignorant and often corrupt appointees of the governor.

The towns next won the governor’s attention and, without any authority, he commenced the appointment of mayors and commissioners of the various towns of the State. The municipal officers of Raleigh refused to yield to the new [city] administration which was headed by the governor’s brother-in-law. The governor then telegraphed to General Canby for a military force to seat his appointees. The next day he wired for the necessary force to oust the sheriff of New Hanover who had also declined to recognize an appointee of the governor. The sheriffs of Granville, Randolph, and other counties refused to and in every case military force was employed.

It was not a favorable outlook for North Carolina, though the real evils of Reconstruction were scarcely dreamed of. The leaders of [Holden’s Republican] party were holding back until the presidential election should be won, when they would be safe from unfriendly interference by the national government. To that time they looked forward with more eagerness than any slave had ever hoped for freedom and with more longing than any weary Hebrew had ever felt for the Promised Land.”

(Reconstruction in North Carolina, Joseph G. deR. Hamilton, 1914, excerpts, pp. 343-349)

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