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OUR SOUTHERN MASTERS.
THE political control of the United States is now in the hands. of a southern oligarchy as persistent and unrelenting as was that which plunged the nation into the slave-holders' rebellion. Its members own President Cleveland, constitute the majority in the national House of Representatives, and include twenty-four of the thirty-seven Democrats of the Senate, where thirty-eight northern Republicans, aided by one from the South, precariously hold nominal control. This complete southern domination of the government is as evidently founded on the colored people of the South as it was when the cries and groans of the bondmen invoked the vengeance of Heaven on their oppressors. Then, as now, the negroes entered into the basis of representation in Congress and the electoral colleges. Now, as then, the negroes have no voice or vote in the elections; but the white men vote for them and wield their power, and thereby rule the North and the nation. The excuse offered for thus trampling ruthlessly, by murder and fraud, upon the right of suffrage as guaranteed by the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution, is, that negro suffrage would produce negro supremacy, and negro supremacy would curse the country. Is this attempted justification of wrong and crime sufficient?
In an article in the FORUM for June, Senator Wade Hampton attempts to establish the proposition that the "political supremacy of the negro" would involve "total and absolute ruin to the South, and infinite and irreparable loss to the whole country." In proof of this assertion, with which he begins his article, he recounts the history of South Carolina when "turned over to the negroes and their carpet-bag allies," and he makes this recital his whole contribution.
Believing as I do that the bestowal of suffrage upon the negro, whatever the consequences to the South, was an overwhelming and inevitable necessity under the circumstances then
existing, it is not necessary for me to controvert the truth of the charge, that the first civil government established in South Carolina, at the close of the bloody rebellion which that State had begun (which government, solely through the fault and malevolence of the white rebels, was composed of a large majority of loyal negroes) fell into corrupt practices, deserving a portion, at least, of the characterizations which have constituted the sole excuse for a forcible overthrow of that government, by the white Democrats, quite as unjustifiable and cruel in its character as their original secession and war against the Union.
It may be that, in the providence of God, the temporary ascendency of the negro was designed as a special chastisement of the guilty authors of the Rebellion, and that the sins of the fathers were intended to be visited upon the children, even unto the third and fourth generations. Consider the lamentation of President Lincoln:
"The Almighty has his own purposes. 'Woe unto the world because of offenses, for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.' If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through his appointed time, he now wills to remove, and that he gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a loving God always ascribe to him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondmen's 250 years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, so still it must be said, 'the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.'
Any defense of the so-called negro and carpet-bag government of South Carolina may well be left to Daniel H. Chamberlin, its refugee governor. He has meekly kissed the hand which smote him, and is now a New York City Democrat, a maligner of the Republican Party, and a defender or apologist for every crime of the Democratic Party. Another similar outcast, ex-Governor Rufus B. Bullock, has purchased his peace and a safe return to Georgia by publicly advocating, while yet claiming to be a Republican, the deliberate abandonment by the North of the Fifteenth Amendment.
The account given by James S. Pike, of Maine, of the "Black Parliament" of South Carolina, which makes a large share of Mr. Hampton's proofs, was written in the winter of 1872-73, directly after the disastrous defeat of Horace Greeley, whom Mr. Pike had followed into the Democratic Party because of the Republican policy of reconstruction; and his narrative is necessarily intended as a justification of himself and Mr. Greeley, and is an exaggeration and caricature. The redeeming features of "negro rule" he and Mr. Hampton wholly omit. Mr. George W. Cable wisely reminds us that the reconstruction party, though the upper ranks of society warred "as fiercely against its best principles as against its bad practices, planted the whole South with public schools for the poor and illiterate of both races, welcomed and cherished the missionaries of higher education, and when it fell, left them still both systems, with the master class converted to a belief in their use and necessity."*
The constitutions and the governments established in the southern States under the reconstruction policy of the Republican Party have all been torn down by fraud, violence, and murder; and these revolutions have been submitted to by the complaisant northern people, tired of war and controversy, and anxious for commerce and money. The immediate question now is not one of negro supremacy, but of white equality; not whether the negro shall be the political superior of the white man at the South, but whether the white southerner shall be the political superior of every citizen at the North.
It is necessary to look at the case historically. President. Johnson began reconstruction with a proclamation, May 29, 1865, granting wholesale amnesty and pardon, and absolute impunity for their treason, to all the rebels except certain specified classes, who were probably not one-tenth of the southern whites; and he promised special pardons to the excepted persons. At the same time he authorized and directed the re-establishment of the southern State governments. The only conditions which he imposed were, that each State should assent to
* See Mr. Cable's thoughtful, philosophical, and candid article on "The Negro Question," published first in the New York "Tribune." and lately by the American Missionary Society, 56 Reade Street, New York City.
the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery, and should repudiate all rebel war debts. Under these circumstances the southern States made rapid work in reconstruction; and when the thirty-ninth Congress assembled in December, 1865, senators and representatives appeared from the late insurrectionary States, headed by Alexander H. Stephens, the late Vice-President of the southern Confederacy. Legislating for the freedmen, the southern legislatures had enacted infamous labor laws almost as restrictive and oppressive as slavery itself.
Although alarmed at President Johnson's policy and its results, Congress took no hasty action. June 18, 1866, the report from the Committee on Reconstruction was made, signed by W. P. Fessenden, James W. Grimes, Ira Harris, J. M. Howard, Geo. H. Williams, Thaddeus Stevens, Elihu B. Washburne, Justin S. Morrill, John A. Bingham, Roscoe Conkling, George S. Boutwell, and Henry T. Blow. The following extracts from that report show the reason why the loyal North, as a condition of recognizing President Johnson's reconstructed governments in the rebel States, determined to propose and demand nothing less than the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment:
"By an original provision of the Constitution representation is based on the whole number of free persons in each State, and three-fifths of all other persons. When all become free representation for all necessarily follows. As a consequence the inevitable effect of the rebellion would be to increase the political power of the insurrectionary States whenever they should be allowed to resume their positions as States of the Union. . . . It did not seem just or proper that all the political advantages derived from their becoming free should be confined to their former masters, who had fought against the Union, and withheld from themselves, who had always been loyal. Slavery, by building up a ruling and dominant class, had produced a spirit of oligarchy adverse to republican institutions, which finally inaugurated civil war. The tendency of continuing the domination of such a class, by leaving it in the exclusive possession of political power, would be to encourage the same spirit, and lead to a similar result. The question before Congress is, then, whether conquered enemies have the right, and shall be permitted at their own pleasure and on their own terms, to participate in making laws for their conquerors; whether conquered rebels may change their theater of operations from the battlefield, where they were defeated and overthrown, to the halls of Congress, and through their representatives seize upon the government which they fought to destroy; whether the national treasury, the army of the nation, its navy, its forts and arsenals, its whole civil administration, its credit, its pensioners, the widows and orphans of those who perished in the war,
the public honor, peace, and safety, shall all be turned over to the keeping of its recent enemies, without delay, and without imposing such conditions as, in the opinion of Congress, the security of the country and its institutions may demand. The history of mankind exhibits no example of such madness and folly. The instinct of self-preservation protests against it. The surrender by Grant to Lee, and by Sherman to Johnston, would have been disasters of less magnitude, for new armies could have been raised, new battles fought, and the government saved. The anti-coercive policy which, under pretext of avoiding bloodshed, allowed the rebellion to take form and gather force, would be surpassed in infamy by the matchless wickedness that would now surrender the halls of Congress to those so recently in rebellion, until proper precautions shall have been taken to secure the national faith and the national safety. . . . Your committee came to the conclusion that political power should be possessed in all the States exactly in proportion as the right of suffrage should be granted, without distinction of color or race. This, it was thought, would leave the whole question with the people of each State, holding out to all the advantage of increased political power as an inducement to allow all to participate in its exercise. Such a provision would be in its nature gentle and persuasive, and would lead, it was hoped, at no distant day, to an equal participation of all, without distinction, in all the rights and privileges of citizenship, thus affording a full and adequate protection to all classes of citizens, since all would have, through the ballot-box, the power of self-protection."
In accordance with these views the Republican congressional plan of reconstruction adopted in June (by the Senate 33 to 11, by the House 138 to 36) took issue with, and negatived that of President Johnson, by requiring the addition to the latter of the Fourteenth Amendment. That amendment merely provided:
1. That no person who had been in Congress or a United States or State officer, and had therefore sworn to support the United States Constitution, and had afterward become a rebel, should be capable of holding office unless Congress should by a two-thirds vote remove his disability.
2. That if in any State the right to vote should be denied on account of color, its right of representation in the lower House of Congress and in the electoral colleges should be proportionately reduced.
Before March, 1867, the Fourteenth Amendment had been adopted by 21 loyal States, which, with Iowa and Nebraska, afterward acting, made 23 States, five less than the three-fourths of all the States necessary to ratification. It had been negatived by Delaware, Maryland, and Kentucky, and was unceremoni ously rejected by 10 insurrectionary States, as follows: