Browsing "Reconstruction"

Black Legislators and Northern Racism

Grant won his 1868 presidential victory by a 307,000 vote margin enabled by the 500,000 enfranchised freedmen organized by Republican organizations like the Freedmen’s Bureau, Union League and Loyal League, and using black militia to suppress white votes in the South. In North Carolina, former Northern general and notorious carpetbagger Milton S. Littlefield had been elected president of North Carolina’s Union League, making him “Chief of Black Republicanism” under scalawag Governor Holden and charged with delivering the State to Grant, which was done.

Bernhard Thuersam,www.circa1865.org

 

Black Legislators and Northern Racism

“Most Reconstruction legislators in South Carolina – white as well as black – were political novices when they first arrived in Columbia. Democrats who had held State office before and during the war shunned any association with the new regime and left the field largely to less-experienced men. The northern white Republicans were former army officers, teachers and missionaries.

In one sense or another they were men on the make and, as such, not likely to have left successful political offices in the North for an uncertain competition in the war-torn South. And of course the Negroes had had little opportunity to gain experience in partisan politics . . . in most northern States they had not been able to vote, much less run for political office.

The Freedmen’s Bureau . . . was simply another patronage job [for many Northerners] to which they were attracted for strictly pecuniary reasons. Not only were many of them not moved by abolitionist sentiments, but some were described as being “more pro-slavery than the rebels themselves. Doing justice seems to mean, to them, seeing that the blacks don’t break a contract and compelling them to submit cheerfully in the whites do,” complained one northern teacher.

[For most black Reconstruction] legislator’s military service had bestowed benefits other than the glory of battle and the red badge of courage. Sergeant Richard H. Humbert sought to apply his expertise for direct political advantage during the postwar years. After his election to the lower house in the summer of 1868, Humbert wrote to the newly-inaugurated Governor Robert K. Scott to inform him that he had organized two militia companies in Darlington County, and that he planned to form several others in preparation for the presidential elections that fall.

He saw his previous military experience as essential to this enterprise and requested [an officer’s] commission from the governor. Humbert did not mince words when he stated that “the organization of the militia will be of great benefit to the Republican Party in this district.”

When [slave] Prince Rivers [enlisted] in the [Northern] First South Carolina Volunteers [he] was made first sergeant of the regiment and taken to New York City by General David Hunter in an attempt to gain support for his policy of enlisting black troops.

There was considerable antiwar and antiblack feeling in New York City, which would be the scene of the bloody draft riots in [July] 1863. White New Yorkers were incensed at the sergeant’s chevrons on the arm of the tall, proud, “jet-black” ex-slave; as he walked down Broadway, they attacked him viciously. However, Rivers managed to hold off the mob until police arrived to escort him away.

Robert Smalls had a somewhat similar experience with northern racism when he took his ship to Philadelphia for repairs. He became involved in that city’s . . . segregated public accommodations when he refused to surrender his seat on the streetcar to a white rider and move to the platform reserved for blacks.”

(Black over White, Negro Political Leadership in South Carolina During Reconstruction, Thomas Holt, University of Illinois Press, 1977, pp. 72; 78-79)

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)

Executive Orders a Form of Extremism

The last of the conservative news magazines was the US News & World Report under the leadership of Editor David Lawrence. In 1962 he wrote about the illegality of the presidential executive order which circumvented the United States Constitution, the people, Congress, and the rule of law.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Executive Orders a Form of Extremism

“We hear a good deal nowadays about “extremists” – those who brand as Communists other persons who are not Communists. Name-calling, while deplorable, doesn’t do as much harm to the American people as a whole as do the “extremists” in public office who would disregard the Constitution.

For there is a trend today toward circumvention of the Constitution. Scarcely a month goes by that some new legislative measure or executive order isn’t proposed which seeks to “get around” the Constitution. The argument recently espoused in all seriousness as an alibi by some people inside and outside Government is that amending the Constitution is a laborious and slow process. The point is made that “times have changed” and that some of the doctrines of past decades in the field of law have become obsolete.

Oddly enough, that‘s exactly the excuse Nikita Krushchev gives for abrogating the allied agreements made in 1945 to insure unrestricted access to Berlin. He says these agreements are outmoded. Is it right for one party to an agreement to declare arbitrarily that he will no longer abide by its terms because he decides it is obsolete?

The people of the 13 original States, by a compact with each other, gave up certain rights and delegated them to a central government. All powers not enumerated in the Constitution as having been delegated to the Federal Government were specifically “reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” This is the language of the Tenth Amendment. Why is this agreement so persistently violated?

If the people at any time wish to change the Constitution, it can be amended by a two-thirds vote of Congress followed by acts of ratification by three-fourths of the States. But we hear today that this is “too cumbersome” a method and that “it takes too much time.” Yet some amendments have gone through from congressional action to State ratification in less than a year. The truth is that where there is substantial opposition to an amendment, it naturally isn’t approved.

Unfortunately, our record as a nation is not clean. The Fourteenth Amendment was not legally inserted in the Constitution. The same Southern States which were considered eligible members of the Union when – after the Civil War was over – they ratified the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery were then punished by Congress for refusing to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment. “Ratification” was accomplished by legislative coercion of the States by Congress and at the point of a bayonet by armed forces stationed in the State legislatures.

Yet this same Fourteenth Amendment is the basis of most of the executive orders on “civil rights” today. The Supreme Court has never consented to pass upon the validity of the method used to “ratify” the Fourteenth Amendment, though the Court has accepted cases challenging the validity of other amendments.

Recently a new trend toward usurpation of power has arisen. It seeks by executive order, or by the passing of new laws, to thwart or ignore the plainly written provisions of the Constitution. President Kennedy sent a bill to Congress a few weeks ago proposing a far-reaching change in the handling of tariffs. The Executive would fix the duties and commodity quotas – a power granted by the Constitution only to Congress.

The bill, now before the House Ways and Means Committee, provides, moreover, that presidential determinations “shall be final and conclusive and shall not be subject to review by any court.” Why should the people be deprived of judicial review when they are the victims of illegality in the application of trade laws?

Also the Kennedy Administration has just signed treaties with 24 countries on trade relations, but does not intend to submit these agreements to the Senate for ratification by a two-thirds vote. Executive orders have been issued, moreover, in “civil rights” matters, on many of which Congress itself has refused to pass laws. Thus, by executive order, purchase contracts for goods and services can be withheld by the Government from any business which refuses to accept the Government’s dictation as to the number of employees of a particular color that the contractor or subcontractor may hire. It certainly is a form of “extremism” to substitute executive orders for the laws of Congress.

Extremism is bred by extremism. We would have less trouble with the malcontents in our midst if the spirit and letter of the Constitution were observed.

If the method of amending the document is too cumbersome, let the people by the constitutional method change it. But let’s face the fact that new “extremists” have arisen who believe that the executive order can circumvent the Constitution if the stated objective merely has “popular appeal.” This is government by emotion – by extremism. It is not a government by a written Constitution.”

(US News & World Report, Editorial, David Lawrence, April 2, 1962, page 108)

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)

Republican Political Bosses and Layers of Graft

Accidental presidents like Chester Alan Arthur were the result of the war, the marriage of government and big business, the predictable Gilded Age, and rampant political corruption in the North. Conservative Southern statesmen in prewar Congresses were an impediment to the Republican revolutionaries bent on power.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Republican Political Bosses and Layers of Graft

“Chester [Alan] Arthur was an accidental president at an inopportune time, but he is part of the tapestry of who we are more than most ever have been or most of us will ever be. He was president in an un-ideological era. The Senate would shortly be dubbed the “Millionaires’ Club,” and the House of Representatives was an unruly place of loose coalitions and influence trading.   State and local politics were controlled by party machines that prized loyalty. Politicians genuflected to the concept of the public good, and they occasionally spoke of public service. But they didn’t seem to hold either very dear.

The politicians of the Gilded Age, perhaps mirroring the mood of the public, turned away from troubling intractable like freedom, democracy, equality, and attended instead to order, stability and prosperity.

Though the Republican party continued to “wave the bloody shirt” at each presidential convention, hoping to dredge up Civil War passions and eke out an advantage against the better-organized though less popular Democrats, that yielded diminishing returns. In a Gilded Age version of what-have-you-done-for-me-lately, the voting public demanded more than nostalgia for the glorious battles of Gettysburg and Antietam.

Cities were kept together by political machines, which were tight-knit organizations that corralled votes, collected a percentage of profits, and kept the peace. The machine was epitomized by Tammany Hall in New York City and its majordomo, William Marcy Tweed, a Democrat boos surrounded by a sea of Republicans. More than any mayor, “Boss” Tweed ran New York.

His men greeted immigrants as they stepped ashore in lower Manhattan, offered them money and liquor, found them work, and in return demanded their allegiance and a tithe. Supported by Irish Catholics, who made up nearly a quarter of New York’s population, Tweed held multiple offices, controlled lucrative public works projects (including early plans for Central Park), chose aldermen, and herded voters to the polls, where they drunkenly anointed the Boss’s candidates.

Tweed was gone by 1872, forced out and prosecuted, but the system kept going. Every [Northern] city had its machine, and counties did as well. National politics was simply the apex of the pyramid that rested on local bosses and layers of graft.”

(Chester Alan Arthur, Zachary Karabell, Henry holt and Company, 2004, pp. 5-6)

Making the South a Political and Social Inferno

Famed historian Douglas Southall Freeman edited the Richmond News Leader from 1915 to 1949 and lived by the maxim prominently displayed in his office: “Time alone is irreplaceable. Waste is not.” He lived to regret supporting Woodrow Wilson’s war in 1917, feeling that he had been swept up in the psychosis of war hysteria. In his commentary on the Republican party below, Freeman mentions the notorious GOP method of ballots being “distributed wholesale to rascals who were divided into “blocks of five” and paid to cast them illegally.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Making the South a Political and Social Inferno

“On the political front, Freeman was writing his first partisan editorials on behalf of [Woodrow] Wilson’s reelection. Virginia was reliably Democratic . . . [and] Freeman lashed the Republicans with gusto and turned loose his most vicious attack with a history-laden philippic. “Yes, the country knows” about the Republican party he wrote:

“It knows that during the forty-seven years and more of power of their party since the close of the war between the States the Republicans, in 1876, stole the presidency, and in 1880 bought it with their “blocks of five.” It knows that they forced upon the South the reconstruction additions to the Constitution in violation of that instrument; it knows that they turned loose upon the South an army of alien cormorants to prey upon what little substance was left us after the wreck of the war.

It knows that they made parts of the South political and social infernos, and that in malice and envy they aimed to uproot and destroy the very foundations of Southern civilization. The country also knows that they, the Republicans . . . retarded Southern industrial recuperation and Development . . . bound the nation to a juggernaut of robber protection . . . and perpetuated a banking and currency system that entrenched a currency monopoly.”

Freeman tended to be more restrained in his attacks on the Republican nominee for president, former Supreme Court justice Charles Evans Hughes. “We have had in previous years a high respect for Mr. Hughes,” he wrote, “and we have believed him a man of courage and capacity.” Now that he was the leader of “the party responsible for the most criminal class legislation the United States has ever seen,” Freeman dismissed him as a “camp-following wagon-driver.”

(Douglas Southall Freeman, David E. Johnson, Pelican Publishing, 2002, pp. 120-121)

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”

 

"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)