Friday, August 1, 2014

The Mad Course of Reconstruction


Robert E. Lee wrote after the war that: "Every brave people who considered their rights attacked and their Constitutional rights invaded would have done as we did. Our conduct was not caused by any insurrectionary spirit, nor can it be termed rebellion . . ." The carpetbag Mississippi senator Revels (of North Carolina) was elected with freedmen votes in a State controlled by Northern bayonets.

Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman

North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission

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The Mad Course of Reconstruction

"[Jefferson Davis] spent the last days of his voluntary exile in London, where, shortly before starting back to America, he received a letter from A. Dudley Mann, now in Paris, with the important suggestion: "that you will, at your earliest convenience, prepare your book. This is a requisition which the world of enlightened mankind makes upon you."

[Mann continues] "My thoughts still linger . . . round the homes of the faithful sons and daughters of the South. Often if the stillness of the night, in my little chamber do I fancy that I can behold, in the not far distant future, a high destiny for their native land: when the States over which you preside will again be States . . . examples for the emulation of those in the North . . . "

The method which Mann suggested to bring about this result was "for all true patriots to commence . . . and to wean themselves from Federal attractions and to resist Federal temptations -- to consider Federal office as disreputable and the Federal capital as the abode of murderers and robbers . . . As the Federal Government . . . forced black equality upon the South, the South in return should force black political and social equality upon the administrators of the Federal Government.

Let Negroes be sent, exclusively by her to both branches of Congress and enjoy every Federal office within her limits. Let the white citizens, thereof, solemnly resolve . . . to view every Federal place of trust or profit as too much dishonored for their acceptance. Let not a solitary State position be conferred upon a Negro. In a word, let the Federal Union, under the operations of its own monstrous deeds, be brought into such palpable disgrace, in its own esteem, that it will have no alternative but to return to the original compact."

[The letter from Mann] found Davis smarting under what seemed to him a deliberate affront. A Negro named Revels, had recently been chosen to occupy the [Mississippi] seat in the United States Senate, which he had himself occupied; and the announcement of that fact caused the curious to pack the visitor's gallery to see him take his seat, an incident which [Radical Charles] Sumner characterized as "an historic event, marking the triumph of a great cause."

A few Senators had vigorously protested, but when the vote was taken, forty-eight had voted yea [to seat Revels], and only eight nay. Senator [Henry] Wilson [of Massachusetts], after some remarks about the swan-song of slavery, and God's hand in affairs of state, had conducted Revels to the bar, to take the prescribed oath; and the Republican senators had, as a resentful Southerner wrote, fallen "over each other to shake Revels hand and congratulate him. Poor Mississippi! And Revels is not even a native. General [Adelbert] Ames of Maine is her other Senator. Poor Mississippi!"

Jefferson Davis, Joseph McElroy, Smithmark Books, 1995 (original 1937), pp. 614-620)